Exhibit critical of psychiatry is back

Chicago Tribune/January 6, 2004
By John Chase

One month after being kicked out of the Thompson Center, a controversial Scientology-linked exhibit returned to the state government building Monday, describing psychiatry as an evil profession that needlessly feeds drugs to children and has ties to Nazism.

The group was allowed to return after the Blagojevich administration backed off an initial assertion that the Citizens Commission on Human Rights' "Destroying Lives: Psychiatry Exposed" display advanced a religious philosophy. The Church of Scientology founded the group in 1969 and endorses the groups' tenets, but the display does not promote the religion itself, attorneys for the state ultimately decided.

On Monday, officials with the Citizens Commission used last month's dustup to promote the exhibit, saying it was a display that "psychiatrists don't want you to see." "Someone has to show the other side of the story," said Marla Filidei, the group's international vice president.

But Joan Anzia, president-elect of the Illinois Psychiatric Society, said the Citizens Commission's campaign against psychiatry was riddled with distortions.

The group's exhibit, for example, charges that "psychiatry spawned the ideology which fired Hitler's mania" and ties use of psychiatric drugs to a number of high-profile murders in America, including the mass killings at Columbine High School in Colorado. The group implies that Eric Harris, one of the teens who committed the murders, was under treatment for "anger management" and that taking the medication may have caused him to kill.

"The exhibit is extremely misleading and simplistic," Anzia said.

Although some might find the exhibit offensive, officials with the state said the group is currently following the law and therefore cannot be blocked from erecting the display, which is expected to remain in the Thompson Center's first-floor atrium for the rest of this week. .

"Our object isn't to prevent groups from using the display area for any reason we can find," said H. Edward Wynn, an attorney for the state agency that oversees operations of most state government buildings. Wynn said the Citizens Commission was first denied because it didn't clearly disclose its affiliation with Scientology. The state also asked the group to hire a security guard to stand by the display for the week as a precaution, he said.

There were no incidents Monday, though the display did draw a good number of spectators, many of whom didn't know that the group sponsoring the exhibit was tied to Scientology.

"I feel duped," said Steve Selan, an attorney. "I think they should be required to tell people that they are Scientologists. It puts everything they are saying in a different light."

But Filidei said that is not relevant.

"Who delivers the message doesn't matter as much as what the message is," she said.

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