Scientology 'putting lives at risk'

ABC News, Australia/March 10, 2010

Australian of the Year Professor Patrick McGorry has thrown his weight behind calls for a Senate inquiry into the Church of Scientology, saying the church's teachings are putting Australians' lives at risk.

Professor McGorry, a world-renowned youth mental health expert, and two other respected Australian psychiatrists are supporting independent Senator Nick Xenophon's efforts to set up an investigation into the church's activities and its teachings on psychiatric care.

Professor McGorry says it is time to put the Church of Scientology under the federal parliamentary microscope.

"It's a bit like they're the deniers of the reality of mental illness, which is not only incredibly irresponsible and dangerous, but something that has to be challenged," he said.

Professor McGorry says he has been motivated by his long-time advocacy of early intervention for mental health problems.

The Church of Scientology has strong views about psychiatric medicine, and Professor McGorry says those teachings should be examined in a public forum such as a Senate inquiry.

"I'm concerned that any restriction or any discouragement of access to mental health care will cost lives and result in unnecessary disability for people," Professor McGorry said.

Professor Ian Hickie, the executive director of the Brain and Mind Institute in Sydney, also supports a Senate inquiry, as does Professor Louise Newman, the president of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.

"I've certainly come into contact with people with mental illness who have sought help or assistance from the Church of Scientology, and from many other organisations," Professor Newman said.

"In their contact with the Church of Scientology they've been discouraged from having appropriate treatment.

"Some have been encouraged to cease taking psychiatric medication even when those might be indicated, and there has certainly been no attempt to actually get people in any reasonable form of alternate therapy.

"This is not a trivial issue and I think for far too long, these sort of extremist views have hidden behind a group which describes itself as being an organised religion."

Professor McGorry says he and his two colleagues are just the tip of a very deep iceberg.

"The whole mental health field would support this call for an inquiry and it's overdue in fact, in my opinion," he said.

Professor McGorry met Senator Nick Xenophon yesterday.

Forced abortion claims

In Parliament last year Senator Xenophon raised serious allegations of abuse, blackmail and forced abortions within the church.

The church claimed he had abused parliamentary privilege, but the Senator has pushed for an inquiry.

The Greens support the push but as yet it does not have enough support from either the Government or Opposition Senators, who will be voting on it by the end of next week.

"I was heartened by the Prime Minister's statement last year that he was concerned about these allegations," Senator Xenophon said.

"The logical conclusion of the concerns expressed by the Prime Minister is for the Labor Party to support this inquiry.

"These are concerns that need to be dealt with in a transparent and robust manner.

"The way to do that is a Senate inquiry. The Church of Scientology can be represented at that inquiry, they can give their submissions, but it would be an open and transparent process.

"What has the Church of Scientology to fear by having an open and transparent inquiry?"

But Labor is sticking to its position that the Senate is not the right place to investigate the allegations.

And a spokesman for Opposition Senate Leader Nick Minchin says the Coalition is also unlikely to support it.

The ABC has been told that more than half of Coalition senators support the move, but there is resistance "at the top".

A spokesman for Senator Xenophon says discussions are continuing to try and secure the support of the Coalition.

Senator Xenophon would not say if he was obsessed with this issue.

"I've got an obligation to the victims of Scientology, who have come forward with very serious allegations, to see this through," he said.

"To do anything else would be abandoning those victims. To do anything else would be walking away from a very important issue.

"So I guess my message to my colleagues and to the community at large is that if it's an important issue in the public interest, I can be a completely stubborn bastard."

But a spokesman for the Church of Scientology, Cyrus Brooks, says pushing for an inquiry is the wrong way for the professors and Senator Xenophon to go.

"They're getting into the field of religion and they better stay in the field of mental health," he said.

"It's not the role of the Parliament and there are already frameworks in place for people who have made complaints.

"Many dissenters have said that and, I think, that's a true statement."

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.