Mental Health awareness week has just come to a close in Brighton and with it the end of the small bursts of protests from Scientologists.
The protesters sprung up outside the Brighton Dome on a Tuesday afternoon during a mental health conference which was attended by young people with mental issues.
They were from East-Grinstead’s Citizens’ Commission on Human Rights, which is linked to the Church of Scientology and where the former global headquarters was located. They were protesting in agreement with Scientologys opinions on psychiatric care and psychology.
Protesters are nothing new around Brighton, with the city being home to such a wide variety of different cultures and backgrounds. It has become known for its gift of giving people the freedom to share there beliefs and opinions on controversial topics, through festivals such as Gay Pride or the countrywide mass ‘sleep-out’ protest.
However so little is really understood about Scientology that the small Dome protest drew attention and begs the question, just how big is Scientology in Brighton?
And is it just a passing fad or is it here to set up residence?
Scientology has been called a ‘dangerous cult’ by the Great-Grandson of its founder, ‘a new-age wonder religion’ by the likes of Tom Cruise and a’ money grabbing organisation’ by sites such as ‘Anonymous’ on the internet, but whatever your opinion, there is no doubt that it is one of the most controversial religious movements to have crept up on us in the 20th century. Currently active worldwide in countries such as the US, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, it was set up by a science fiction writer, L. Ron Hubbard, in 1953, who himself has stated he wanted to ‘set up a religion for financial gain’. The very fact that it is called a religion sparks argument and debate among people, yet still the beliefs and views Scientologists hold are relatively unknown.
Based upon the idea that humans are immortal, spiritual beings called ‘Thetans’ and the body is just a physical host, scientology uses a process called ‘auditing’ to help people reach a stage of ‘enlightenment’.
It calls itself ‘the religion that helps’ and claims to ask you to accept nothing on faith alone, instead it will provide the answers for you. At a price.
Scientology has been widely criticised for charging its members and withholding information about aspects of their beliefs until a certain amount of money has been paid by an individual into the organisation. There are different stages of the scientology auditing process but a rough indication of prices to reach the first level was estimated to be $33,000.
Scientology is regularly called a ‘cult’ by those who oppose it and rumours of brainwashing and physical assault have circled and caused it to have a very divisive reputation.
A book of memoirs titled ‘Beyond Belief’ was released by Jenna Miscavige Hill, who is the niece of Scientology church leader, David Miscavige, telling the story of her harrowing escape. In the book she offers insight on the inner workings of the religion and deeply disturbing details of her life. David Miscavige is at the centre of most of the physical abuse conspiracies that surround Scientology and has been portrayed as the ‘bad guy’ who acts as a dictator and has overtaken the religion.
Scientologists’ views on mental health however may take the lead in its growing list of controversial ideas, certainly within the UK. It is publically and occasionally heatedly against both psychiatry and psychology, taking L. Ron Hubbard’s views, and claiming that it is a barbaric and abusive practice, believing that the brain and the mind are two separate entities. They claim mental health practitioners are damaging the spiritual being. They are outspoken in their disproval of anti-depressants and other psychiatric drugs making Scientologists the enemy of many in the medical field.
The tragic story of Elli Perkins, who was stabbed 77 times in 2003 by her mentally ill son, brought publicity to Scientologists’ views on anti-psychotic medicines. Elli Perkins had been an active and high ranking Scientologist and was advised to treat her son, Jeremy Perkins, who has since been diagnosed with severe schizophrenia, by giving him vitamins instead of seeking medical advice from psychiatrists. Her death resulted in widespread outrage at the church with the general consensus being that her violent murder could have been avoided if her son had received professional help.
It is also not well regarded amongst MP’s and the UK Governments’ 1971 official report into Scientology was heavily critical of the organisation.
Despite this, Scientology does appear to be popular among big influential celebrities in America, including Will Smith, Tom Cruise and John Travolta. Does having money to burn perhaps make a difference in your view of this religion?
Currently in Brighton and Hove there is one church of Scientology located in North Street, Brighton. Scientology claims to have 118’000 members in the UK but the 2001 Census of England And Wales gave a figure of 1’781 Scientologists. Quite a dramatic difference and one might wonder why how this error in figures could occur.
Due to Scientology being such a secretive and challenging to penetrate religion it is difficult to prove or dispel the rumours surrounding it, especially when they refuse to comment to reporters. However it is working hard to make itself a key player in society known for many different, sometimes highly controversial, reasons and people are beginning to wonder, whether there is ever really smoke without a fire.