Scientology and psychiatry

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Since the founding of the Church of Scientology in 1954 the organization has strongly opposed the medical specialties of psychiatry and psychology.[1][2][3] Scientologists view psychiatry as a barbaric and corrupt profession and encourage alternative care based on spiritual healing. According to the Church of Scientology, psychiatry has a long history of improper and abusive care. The group's views have been disputed, criticized and condemned by experts in the medical and scientific community and been a source of public controversy.

The Church of Scientology’s objection to secular ideas about mental health are religious in nature, based on the conviction that humans are essentially divine beings who have been marred by negative experiences acquired over several lifetimes. Scientology also purports that the secular perception of what is mentally normal are not based on science, a contradiction to the claims of psychiatry and psychology.[4]

Hubbard and psychiatry[edit]

In February 1951, L. Ron Hubbard kidnapped his wife Sara.[5] After her release, she filed for divorce, charging Hubbard with causing her "extreme cruelty, great mental anguish and physical suffering". Her allegations produced more lurid headlines: not only was Hubbard accused of bigamy and kidnapping, but she had been subjected to "systematic torture, including loss of sleep, beatings, and strangulations and scientific experiments". Because of his "crazy misconduct" she was in "hourly fear of both the life of herself and of her infant daughter, who she has not seen for two months".[6] She had consulted doctors who "concluded that said Hubbard was hopelessly insane, and, crazy, and that there was no hope for said Hubbard, or any reason for her to endure further; that competent medical advisers recommended that said Hubbard be committed to a private sanatorium for psychiatric observation and treatment of a mental ailment known as paranoid schizophrenia."[6]

Thereafter, Hubbard was critical of psychiatry.[7][8][9] Referring to psychiatrists as "psychs", Hubbard regarded psychiatrists as denying human spirituality and peddling fake cures. He was also convinced that psychiatrists were themselves deeply unethical individuals, committing "extortion, mayhem and murder. Our files are full of evidence on them."[7][8]

Anti-psychiatric themes also appear in some of Hubbard's fictional works.[10] In Hubbard's ten-volume series Mission Earth, various characters debate the methods and validity of psychology. In his novel Battlefield Earth, the evil Catrists (a pun on psychiatrists), are described as a group of charlatans claiming to be mental health experts, who rule the alien Psychlo species (whose name means "brain" or "property of" in the Psychlo language). The vicious and degraded Psychlos of Battlefield Earth are often speculated to be Hubbard's personal idea of what psychiatry would end up doing to humanity if left unchallenged by Scientology.

A number of psychiatrists have strongly spoken out against the Church of Scientology. After Hubbard's book, Dianetics: the Modern Science of Mental Health was published, the American Psychological Association advised its members against using Hubbard's techniques with their patients. Hubbard came to believe that psychiatrists were behind a worldwide conspiracy to attack Scientology and create a "world government" run by psychiatrists on behalf of the USSR:

Our enemies are less than twelve men. They are members of the Bank of England and other higher financial circles. They own and control newspaper chains and they, oddly enough, run all the mental health groups in the world that had sprung up […]. Their apparent programme was to use mental health, which is to say psychiatric electric shock and pre-frontal lobotomy, to remove from their path any political dissenters […]. These fellows have gotten nearly every government in the world to owe them considerable quantities of money through various chicaneries and they control, of course, income tax, government finance — [Harold] Wilson, for instance, the current Premier of England, is totally involved with these fellows and talks about nothing else actually.[11]

Hubbard's efforts to cast the field of psychiatry as the source of all of humanity's problems are exemplified in a policy letter written in 1971, in which he attempted to redefine the word "psychiatrist" to mean "an antisocial enemy of the people":

Psychiatry and psychiatrist are easily redefined to mean 'an antisocial enemy of the people.' This takes the kill-crazy psychiatrist off the preferred list of professions. This is a good use of the technique [of redefining words] as for a century the psychiatrist has been setting an all-time record for inhumanity to Man.[12]

The Church of Scientology and psychiatry[edit]

Scientologists often hold anti-psychiatry demonstrations

A 1969 book, Believe What You Like, described an attempt by Scientologists to secretly infiltrate the National Association of Mental Health in Britain and turn official policy against mental health treatment. Though they were expelled from the organization after their identity and mission were revealed, the Church of Scientology then filed a number of suits against the NAMH.

When Operation Snow White, a Church of Scientology campaign to purge unfavorable records about Scientology and its founder L. Ron Hubbard, was revealed in 1980, it came to light that Scientology agents of the Guardian's Office had also conducted a similar campaign against the World Federation for Mental Health and the National Association of Mental Health.[13]

Scientology's views are expressed by its president in the following quote:

What the Church opposes are brutal, inhumane psychiatric treatments. It does so for three principal reasons: 1) procedures such as electro-shock, drugs and lobotomy injure, maim and destroy people in the guise of help; 2) psychiatry is not a science and has no proven methods to justify the billions of dollars of government funds that are poured into it; and 3) psychiatric theories that man is a mere animal have been used to rationalize, for example, the wholesale slaughter of human beings in World Wars I and II.[14]

An October 2006 article in the Evening Standard underlines the strong opposition of Scientology toward the psychiatric profession:

Up front, David Miscavige is dramatically — and somewhat bizarrely — attacking psychiatrists, his words backed by clips from a Scientology-produced DVD are broadcast on four giant high-definition TV screens and sensationally called: Psychiatry: an industry of death [...]. 'A woman is safer in a park at midnight than on a psychiatrist's couch', booms Miscavige, backed by savage graphics of psychiatrists — or 'psychs' as he calls them — being machine-gunned out of existence.[15]

Warning sign at Psychiatry: An Industry of Death, a Scientology-run museum in Los Angeles

The group says that they are near victory in their war against psychiatry. In their treatise Those Who Oppose Scientology, it is stated:

Today, there are 500 Dianeticists and Scientologists to every psychiatrist […] while Scientology is more visible than ever, with churches dotting every continent on Earth and millions of parishioners around the world, one is hard pressed to find even a single psychiatrist with a shingle on his door.[16]

Scientology claims a worldwide membership of more than 8 million, the total of people who have taken the Scientology introductory course.[17] The Church of Scientology claims 3.5 million members in the United States,[18] though an independent survey has found the number of people in the United States would state their religion as 'Scientology' is close to 55,000.[19] By comparison, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association, which are composed of psychiatrists and psychologists, have 38,000 and 148,000 members respectively.[20][21]

Mental health care professionals are not concerned that the public will take Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) materials seriously, because of the organization's connection with the church; however, they argue that these materials can have a harmful impact when quoted without attribution.[22]

Except for court trials and media publications and public rallies, published materials have received little notice outside of Scientology and CCHR; of reviews available, few are positive. Psychology professor Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi's short review of Psychiatrists: The Men Behind Hitler states:

Scientology has attracted much attention through its propaganda effort against what it calls psychiatry. This has involved great expense and organizational effort, carried out through a variety of fronts. If the book Psychiatrists: The Men Behind Hitler (Roder, Kubillus, & Burwell, 1995) is a representative example, and I believe it is, it proves decisively that the campaign is rooted in total paranoia and pathetic ignorance. Reading this book, and I will urge you not to waste too much time doing it, makes clear that the authors simply have no idea what psychiatry is.[23]

The American Psychiatric Association's Lynn Schultz-Writsel adds:

We have not responded in any way, shape or form. There has not been a hue and cry from members to respond. And anyway, the publication speaks for itself.[22]

Michael Burke, the president of the Kansas Psychiatric Association, said regarding Scientology, "They aren't really able to support their position with any scientific data, which they tend to ignore. … the public seems to be able to look right past the Scientology hoopla."[24]

The commercial motivation of Scientology in questioning psychiatry, with their alternative practice, dianetics, has been questioned by Peter W. Huber.[25]

Legal waivers[edit]

Following legal actions involving the Church of Scientology's relationship with its members, it has become standard practice within the group for members to sign lengthy legal contracts and waivers before engaging in Scientology services. In 2003, a series of media reports examined the legal contracts required by Scientology, which require that, among other things, Scientology followers deny any and all psychiatric care that their doctors may prescribe to them:

I do not believe in or subscribe to psychiatric labels for individuals. It is my strongly held religious belief that all mental problems are spiritual in nature and that there is no such thing as a mentally incompetent person — only those suffering from spiritual upset of one kind or another dramatized by an individual. I reject all psychiatric labels and intend for this Contract to clearly memorialize my desire to be helped exclusively through religious, spiritual means and not through any form of psychiatric treatment, specifically including involuntary commitment based on so-called lack of competence. Under no circumstances, at any time, do I wish to be denied my right to care from members of my religion to the exclusion of psychiatric care or psychiatric directed care, regardless of what any psychiatrist, medical person, designated member of the state or family member may assert supposedly on my behalf.[26]

Citizens Commission on Human Rights[edit]

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), an institution set up by Scientology and Thomas Szasz, also claims that the real nature of psychiatry is that of human rights abuse.

In 1966 Hubbard declared all-out war on psychiatry, telling Scientologists that "We want at least one bad mark on every psychiatrist in England, a murder, an assault, or a rape or more than one." He committed the Church of Scientology to the goal of eradicating psychiatry in 1969, announcing that "Our war has been forced to become 'To take over absolutely the field of mental healing on this planet in all forms.'"[27]

Not coincidentally, the Church of Scientology founded the Citizens Commission on Human Rights that same year as its primary vehicle for attacking psychiatry. CCHR still quotes Hubbard's above-cited statement that all psychiatrists are criminals: "There is not one institutional psychiatrist alive who, by ordinary criminal law, could not be arraigned and convicted of extortion, mayhem and murder. Our files are full of evidence on them."[7][8]

CCHR has conducted campaigns against Prozac, against electroconvulsive therapy, against Ritalin (and the existence of ADHD) and against various health legislations. CCHR has also opened a permanent museum, "Psychiatry: An Industry of Death", in Hollywood.


Tom Cruise[edit]

Tom Cruise has been highly vocal in attacking the use of psychiatric medication, gaining particular attention for becoming extremely animated on the subject during an interview on Today on June 25, 2005. His position has attracted considerable criticism from psychiatrists and other physicians (American Psychiatric Association and National Mental Health Association),[28][29][30][31] and individuals suffering from depression.

Books by Scientologists[edit]

Bruce Wiseman from CCHR published the book Psychiatry: The Ultimate Betrayal (Scientology's Freedom Publications, 1995), in which he portrays psychiatry as creating Adolf Hitler.[32]

The German Scientologists Thomas Roder and Volker Kubillus wrote the book Psychiatrists: the Men Behind Hitler (also published by Scientology's Freedom Publications, 1995–2001), that advances a conspiracy theory of all-powerful psychiatrists to overwhelm the world.[33]

Lisa McPherson[edit]

Main article: Lisa McPherson

Scientologist Lisa McPherson was taken out of a psychiatric hospital because of her ties to Scientology.

Jeremy Perkins[edit]

Main article: Elli Perkins

On March 13, 2003, Scientologist Jeremy Perkins killed his mother, Elli, by stabbing her 77 times. Jeremy, previously diagnosed with schizophrenia, never received treatment after previous incidents with violence and hallucinations. His mother, active in the Buffalo Church of Scientology, felt that vitamins and Scientology routines were better than psychological counseling and anti-psychotic medication.[34]

Linda Waliki[edit]

On July 5, 2007, a 25-year-old Australian woman, Linda Waliki, killed her 52-year-old father Michael, 15-year-old sister Kathryn, and injured her mother Sue with a knife.[35] Her name was released in the print edition of the Sydney Morning Herald, on July 7, 2007. It was previously unreleased due to one of the victims being under age. She was diagnosed with a psychiatric illness, but her parents denied her continued psychiatric treatment due to their Scientology beliefs.[36] Instead they replaced this medication with one specially imported from Scientologists in the United States.[37]

Relations with anti-psychiatry movement[edit]

Main article: Anti-psychiatry

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights was co-founded by anti-psychiatrist Thomas Szasz and the Church of Scientology in 1969.[38] Some anti-psychiatry websites and psychiatric survivors groups have sought to distance themselves from Scientology and the CCHR. Lawyer Douglas A. Smith stated in his anti-psychiatry web page:

No Scientologists, please: Volunteers will be asked for assurance they are not affiliated with the 'Church' of Scientology or its Citizen's Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), which have publicized the harm done by psychiatry but which we want no affiliation with.[39]


Mind Freedom attorney David Atkin has provided a letter to clarify and emphasize that MindFreedom has no connection to CCHR or Church of Scientology. This clarification is not to criticize any organization, but to just state the facts.[40]

Despite sharing notable anti-psychiatry views on some issues with the secular critics, Scientology doctrine does differ in some respects. Scientology has promoted psychiatry-related conspiracy theories, including that psychiatrists were behind the Yugoslav Wars[41] and that September 11 was caused by psychiatrists.[42] Scientologists are religiously committed never to take psychiatric drugs and to reject psychology outright.

The socio-political roots of the movements have different origins. Advocates of the anti-psychiatric world view such as David Cooper, R. D. Laing and Michel Foucault had ties with the political left of the 1960s; Thomas Szasz, with the civil libertarians of the right, as well as an outspoken atheist. Many advocates of the anti-psychiatry movement have stated that they consider the idea of "mental illness" as a convenient and inaccurate label assigned by society rather than an objective biomedical state, rejecting psychiatric terms such as schizophrenia which they may see as stigmatizing. By contrast, Hubbard referred to "schizophrenics" in his writings on Scientology theory,[43] and developed the emotional tone scale to, in part, gauge the health of a person's mental state. Furthermore, in his Science of Survival Hubbard suggested putting people very low on the scale into quarantine,[44] a practice at odds with, for instance, the aim of the American Association for the Abolition of Involuntary Mental Hospitalization: an organization co-founded by Szasz to end involuntary commitment.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1] Scientology's views on the evils of materialism.
  2. ^ Cooper, Paulette (1997). Scientology Versus Medicine in Scandal of Scientology. Web Edition. 
  3. ^ Mieszkowskii, Katharine (2005). "Scientology's War on Psychiatry". 
  4. ^ Neusner, Jacob (2009). World Religions in America (4 ed.). Westminster John Knox Press. 
  5. ^ Wright, p. 72
  6. ^ a b Miller, p. 184
  7. ^ a b c Hubbard, L. Ron (1969). "Crime and Psychiatry". 
  8. ^ a b c Hubbard, L. Ron (1969). "Crime and Psychiatry". Archived from the original on June 19, 2006. Retrieved 2006-06-12. 
  9. ^ Hubbard, L. Ron (1980). "Criminals and Psychiatry". 
  10. ^ Frenschkowski, Marco (July 1999). "L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology: An annotated bibliographical survey of primary and selected secondary literature". Marburg Journal of Religion. 4 (1). Retrieved 2006-07-11. 
  11. ^ [2] Ron's Journal '67 (RJ67).
  12. ^ [3] L. Ron Hubbard, HCOPL (5 October 71) Propaganda by Redefinition of Words.
  13. ^ Beresford, David. "Snow White's dirty tricks", The Guardian, 1980-02-07.
  14. ^ Why is Scientology opposed to psychiatry? The President of the Church of Scientology Answers Your Questions
  15. ^ Cohen, David (October 23, 2006). "Tom's aliens target City's 'planetary rulers'". Evening Standard. pp. 18–19. 
  16. ^ [4] Scientology page on why the world's governments oppose the church.
  17. ^ Flinn, Frank K. (July 5, 2005). "Scientology". Live discussion. Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-02-04. 
  18. ^ Kansas City Star March 17, 2007; article reprinted at Ross Institute
  19. ^ Kosmin, Barry A. et al. American Religious Identification Survey
  20. ^ American Psychiatric Association
  21. ^ American Psychological Association
  22. ^ a b Barlas, Stephen (1996). "Psychiatric Profession Current Target of Citizens Commission on Human Rights". Psychiatric Times. 
  23. ^ Beit-Hallahmi, Benjamin (2003). "Scientology: Religion or racket?". Marburg Journal of Religion. 
  24. ^ Klepper, David (January 25, 2008). "Church of Scientology brings its anti-psychiatry exhibit to Kansas Capitol". Kansas City Star. 
  25. ^
  26. ^ "Scientology release form for the Introspection Rundown". Retrieved August 14, 2005. 
  27. ^ Leiby, Richard (June 25, 2005). "A Couch Tom Cruise Won't Jump On". The Washington Post. The Washington Post Company. p. C01. Retrieved 2006-08-17. 
  28. ^ Neill, Ushma S. (2005). "Tom Cruise is dangerous and irresponsible". Journal of Clinical Investigation. 
  29. ^ "National Mental Health Associates respond to Tom Cruise's Today Show Interview". NMHA. June 27, 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-06-13. 
  30. ^ "APA responds to Tom Cruise's Today Show Interview". APA. June 27, 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-06-13. 
  31. ^ Hausman, Ken (2005). "Cruise Finds Himself at Sea After Antipsychiatry Tirade". Psychiatric News. 
  32. ^ Wiseman, Bruce (1995). Psychiatry, the Ultimate Betrayal. Freedom Publishing (CA). ISBN 0-9648909-0-9. 
  33. ^ Roder, Thomas et a. (1995). Psychiatrists: The Men Behind Hitler: The Architects of Horrory. Freedom Publishing (CA). ISBN 0-9648909-1-7. 
  34. ^ "Scientology – A Question of Faith". 48 Hours. CBS News. October 28, 2006. Retrieved 2006-11-04. 
  35. ^ "Australia (July 2007): Scientology link to murders". Retrieved 2008-03-14. 
  36. ^ "I just butchered my family". The Sydney Morning Herald. July 9, 2007. 
  37. ^ "Scientology cited in killings". The Sydney Morning Herald. July 10, 2007. 
  38. ^ Edward Shorter; David Healy; David Healy (MRC Psych.) (2007). Shock therapy: a history of electroconvulsive treatment in mental illness. Rutgers University Press. p. 184. ISBN 978-0-8135-4169-3. Retrieved October 9, 2011. 
  39. ^ The Antipsychiatry Coalition
  40. ^ Attorney letter about MFI independence
  41. ^ "Bosnia & Kosovo: On The Trail Of Psychiatric Genocide". Psychiatry a Human Rights Abuse and Global Failure. Archived from the original on October 24, 2004. Retrieved April 9, 2007. 
  42. ^ Hubbard Communications Office Bulletin August 26, 1982, "Pain and Sex". Cited in Atack, Jon (1990). A Piece of Blue Sky. New York, NY: Carol Publishing Group. ISBN 0-8184-0499-X. , p. 288. "[The psychs] are the sole cause of decline in this universe ..."
  43. ^ Hubbard, L. Ron (2001). La ciencia de la supervivencia [Spanish translation of The Science of Survival]. Bridge Publications. pp. 42 & 300. 
  44. ^ Hubbard, L. Ron (2001). La ciencia de la supervivencia [Spanish translation of The Science of Survival]. Bridge Publications. pp. 41–48. 

External links[edit]