‘You’re likely depressed… you should sign up here now’ – Irish Independent

An undercover reporter was urged to hand over cash on the spot to take up a Scientology course and was told psychiatrists or counselling do not work to combat mental health issues such as depression.

“You’re likely depressed, irresponsible and unstable as a person” – This was the analysis given by a staff member in the Church of Scientology in Dublin after an Independent.ie reporter took a ‘personality test’ this week.

The reporter, who is not experiencing any mental health issues, took the test at the new Scientology centre in Firhouse.

She was asked “how much money do you have on you?” and was told to enrol in a course that would help her “overcome ups and downs” for €75.

With only the ‘personality test’ as evidence of the reporter’s perceived well-being, members of the religion brought the reporter into a private room to urge her to do the course and “do it now”, telling her “things will get worse and worse” if she didn’t.

The new Scientology centre in Firhouse opened in October. A number of protests – organised by ex-members of the religion and south Dublin locals – have taken place in recent weeks due to concerns about its establishment.

Scientology is a religion based on the seeking of “self-knowledge” and “spiritual fulfilment”.

However, it has been surrounded in controversy as ex-members of the religion have made allegations of mistreatment and predatory financial practices, which have been strenuously denied by the church.

Concerns have also been raised that the personality tests could be used to potentially manipulate vulnerable people suffering from mental health problems.

The President of the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland urged anyone concerned about their mental health to get advice from a health source “they trust”.

Dr John Hillery told Independent.ie: “We would recommend that people get information regarding their health from sources they can trust, such as their GP.

“The evidence is there that psychiatry works and the treatments are based on years of training and research. We don’t comment on individual organisations and psychiatrists wouldn’t make such statements [saying certain forms of therapy don’t work] about anyone or any organisation.”

The personality test consisted of 200 questions and the results were calculated by a scientologist in the centre. The entire process took over an hour.

The Church of Scientology has just 87 members in Ireland, according to the 2016 census.

Inside the new south Dublin centre, people can take a personality test which scientologists claim will help a person discover their “true potential”.

Based on the results, the reporter was advised that she is more than likely depressed, is unstable, irresponsible and quite a nervous person.

There are a choice of three columns on the answer sheet and the participant is asked to give a plus (+), middle (m) or minus (-) sign. The plus means mostly ‘yes or decidedly so’, middle means ‘uncertain’ and minus means ‘mostly or decidedly no’.

Some of the questions in the Oxford Capacity Analysis Test included; “Do you intend two or less children in your family even though your health and income will permit more?”; “Is the idea of death or even reminders of death abhorrent to you?” and “Are you in favor of color bar and class distinction?”

The female scientologist advised the reporter to sign up for a ‘Personal Values and Integrity Course’ for €75 to improve her well-being.

The course purports to teach people the “secret” of efficiency and how to turn “bad control” to good.

It takes seven days to complete, with the person attending the centre for two-three hours every day.

In the audio below, the reporter was told that if she didn’t enrol for the course and “make changes now”, her sadness would get “worse and worse”.

After completing the test, the reporter was brought into a room and a female scientologist gave the following advice:

Scientologist: What do you think would happen if you carry on without doing anything about it [the feelings of sadness]… What do you think?

Reporter: I dunno… depression maybe?

Scientologist: Yeah, so if you don’t do anything it won’t be better, it will just get worse and worse. Do you know what I mean?

Reporter: Do you mean suicide?

Scientologist: I wouldn’t say that, but if someone is that sad, it is not just going to jump up by itself. You need to work on it. This is how it is in life. Nothing stays the same, but if you do something about it you can change it, or just leave it as it is and slowly, slowly, slowly get more sad; less light, more darkness.

Reporter: Can I have a think about it [signing up]?

Scientologist: You should do it now because if you think about it, it is not going to happen.

Reporter: It is more the money side, I’m only working as a waitress now so I have to think about it financially.

Scientologist: How much money do you have on you because you can start making payments now?

Reporter: I don’t have cash.

Scientologist: You can pay by card.

Reporter: I don’t have my card on me either.

Scientologist: Ok. Do you understand how important it is to change it, and that will be the key for you – to change it?

Reporter: I only live over the road, so I can come back.

Scientologist: When will you be back… Are you working today… Are you walking?

Another female scientologist told the reporter that scientology is the best way to improve yourself and advised that psychiatrists and other forms of counselling don’t work.

The four scientologists the reporter met all had European accents and were likely aged in their early 30s.

“Depressed is a strong word, sometimes it really is the person is very depressed or simply you’re just not as happy as you used to be… Right now seems a very low point. Is that true… You have any particular things happen?” one female staff member said.

“In a nutshell people in the past have tried psychology, psychiatrists and self-improvement books and so on but none of it has been fruitful in terms of results… You don’t want to waste a lot of money because some of these things are really expensive. People come from all walks of life because we have practical solutions so the actual solutions that you can apply to your own life right now.”

Local reaction

Some residents and politicians have raised concerns about the Scientology centre after it opened a “Winter Wonderland” event in December, featuring fairground rides and children’s activities.

“It’s kind of scary now, why would you put a Winter Wonderland there. I don’t like the idea that you put something fun into something that is meant to be a cult,” one local said.

However, some residents said the centre “didn’t bother” them and said it was nice to have a free event for kids in the area.

“I don’t really have any views on it, the building itself is very impressive and the Winter Wonderland looks lovely,” another local said.

A number of protests have taken place outside the 1,200-seat facility since it opened in October.

The facility was previously used by the Victory Outreach Centre as a Christian church before the Church of Scientology bought it for a reported €6m.

While scientology doesn’t have a big following in Ireland, its founder L Ron Hubbard lived in Dublin’s Merrion Square for a short time in the 1950s.

Hubbard was an author best known for his science fiction and fantasy stories.

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/youre-likely-depressed-you-should-sign-up-here-now-dublins-scientology-centre-tells-undercover-reporter-psychiatry-doesnt-work-36401913.html

Scientology Ireland’s schools strategy: ‘A naive teacher would be taken in’ – Irish Times

The controversial church is giving out teaching materials that hide its involvement

When the neat white package arrived at Rosmini Community School, in Drumcondra, three months ago, Chris Gueret was impressed. Inside it the religious-studies teacher found a complete curriculum on how to teach human rights to students, alongside posters, leaflets and a well-produced DVD entitled The Story of Human Rights.

In a job where resources can be hard to come by, teachers usually welcome a gift of good-quality study materials. “The resources were amazing. Really fantastic. It was all very well done,” Gueret says, before adding that he immediately threw it all in the bin.

The material came from an organisation called Youth for Human Rights, one of about 500 organisations operating internationally that are widely regarded as front groups for the Church of Scientology. The Dublin teacher was familiar with the group, having previously taught his class a module on Scientology. He had even used some of the organisation’s own material to illustrate how it operates.

“I was pretty savvy, just because I was aware of it in the past. But, as a teacher, the resource packs are really, really good. I would be afraid that a young, naive teacher would be taken in. “You’re grappling for resources, and when you’re teaching the topic of human rights, which falls into so many different subjects, you would think it’s fantastic.”

Although Youth for Human Rights is staffed and funded almost exclusively by Scientologists, the controversial organisation is mentioned nowhere in the literature Gueret received. The only overt clue to its connection is the mention of the science-fiction writer L Ron Hubbard, Scientology’s founder, who is listed as a “humanitarian” alongside Gandhi and Martin Luther King jnr.

“They embed the ideology into it in a very discreet way. You’d have to really look to see it. It’s kind of a covert way of getting into schools,” Gueret says.

An Irish Times investigation has found that over the past two years the Church of Scientology has made a huge effort to insert itself into Irish society. As well as sending thousands of brochures to schools around the country, the church has attempted, sometimes successfully, to convince government-funded charities – including those working with drug addicts, prisoners and sex offenders – to use its material promoting Hubbard’s world view.

Experts warn that these efforts are an attempt to normalise the church and to help it obtain charitable status in Ireland, meaning it wouldn’t have to pay tax. They say that despite its social programmes in Ireland it is still the same organisation that has been accused of indoctrinating members while forcing them to donate huge sums of money and to disown any family or friends who object; the same organisation that in the 1970s engaged in a criminal conspiracy to infiltrate the US government to destroy incriminating records on its founder.

Irish Scientology representatives say their organisation is merely trying to help the most vulnerable of Irish society, and deny any ulterior motive. And they claim to be enjoying a huge amount of success.

Only 87 members

Scientology is not new to Ireland. In fact Hubbard set up a facility on Merrion Square in 1956, just two years after founding the organisation. Yet it has never made significant inroads here. The last census showed only 87 Irish members, and up to a few years ago the organisation was deeply in debt and relying on funds from its US headquarters to stay afloat.

But recently Scientology, which has been officially labelled a cult in several countries, appears to have turned its fortunes around in Ireland, as evidenced by the opening of major centres on Merrion Square and in Firhouse, in southwest Dublin, at a cost of millions.

The opening of the centres generated a huge amount of public attention, but the organisation’s more subtle initiatives have gone largely under the radar. The Irish Times has gathered reports from 47 schools around the country that say they have been sent material from Scientology groups.

Two sources who have worked with Scientology in recent months say its Irish national affairs office claims to have distributed some 40,000 Youth for Human Rights leaflets to teachers around the country. Scientology itself claims to have distributed 500,000 Drug Free World booklets in Ireland.

Catherine Barry, a secondary-school English teacher in Fermoy, Co Cork, says she is aware of two teachers at other Irish schools who have used its anti-drug material in class.

She believes the lack of a concrete anti-drug and mental-health syllabus in schools forms “a fertile ground for the Scientologists to infiltrate with their own brand of misinformation. Unlike traditional subjects, where there is an established body of knowledge that has been built up over centuries, the area of wellbeing has no real content from which to form a syllabus,” she says.

Marie Griffin, chief executive of Ceist, an organisation that operates more than 100 Catholic secondary schools, says she is aware of a number of schools getting Scientology material. “It doesn’t appear to be linked to the organisation at first, but when you read into it becomes apparent.”

Most teachers who spoke to this newspaper say they did not use the material when they learned of its connection to Scientology. Others say they found it too US-focused for an Irish class. But there is some evidence of the material finding its way into classrooms; a Scientology spokeswoman says the church is “regularly” invited to speak at schools about its community programmes.

Two Scientology organisations, Applied Scholastics and the Foundation for a Drug-Free World, paid for stands at the Education and Training Board Ireland conference in Kilkenny in September, when they offered to come to schools to speak to the students.

That month Scientology groups also hired stands at the Transition Year Expoin Kildare, attended by 7,000 students. One of the groups was the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, which teaches that psychiatry is an “industry of death” and blames psychiatrists for the Holocaust and the September 11th attacks. The organisers of both conferences said they were unaware of the groups’ connections at the time.

Last May a parent wrote to his daughter’s school, in Howth, in north Co Dublin, to complain about the use of Foundation for a Drug-Free World material during a presentation to the school by the Dublin North East Drugs and Alcohol Task Force, a publicly funded body.

“Their material has been discredited by many healthcare professionals,” the parent wrote in a letter released under the Freedom of Information Act. “I find it quite unsettling that they did not vet the material, which to me, quite apart from the Scientology link, does not seem to be at all age appropriate.”

Like teachers, the taskforce was using the Scientology material because little else was available. A spokesman for the taskforce says it used it “no written Irish-produced drug-awareness materials” were available. The taskforce stopped its use following the parent’s complaint.

Educate Together schools appear to be particularly likely to receive Scientology-backed material. Until recently its online resource bank for teachers featured a link to the Youth for Human Rights website.

An Educate Together spokesman said it was unaware of the group’s connection to Scientology and teachers were under no obligation to use material in the resource bank. The link has since been removed.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education says it is up to the boards of directors of individual schools to decide what external resources they use, although she adds there are regulations about visiting speakers.

The two main teaching unions, the TUI and ASTI, both urge teachers and parents to exercise common sense when dealing with external organisations that are looking for access to schools. “If the source of the material is unclear or in any way difficult to ascertain, schools should err on the side of caution and should not use it,” an ASTI spokesman says.

Christmas funfair

Schools are just one part of the church’s push in Ireland. Other initiatives include engaging in drug outreach work, putting on free concerts and lectures, and even setting up a free Christmas funfair at its Firhouse centre.

On the corporate side the church has hired a big advertising firm to publicise its events, as well as the public-relations company CCIPR. The well-known defamation lawyer Paul Tweed has also been retained to deal with negative Irish coverage of Scientology’s international leader, David Miscavige. Tweed has already helped to prevent publication of one negative story about the organisation that was due to run in a tabloid newspaper.

Miscavige opened the Firhouse centre in mid-October to much fanfare. Since then it has hosted a string of events, including a Halloween fair, a variety concert and an “Alice in Wonderland family fun day”. All events are free, and local families are welcome to attend.

During a tour of the facility this week a Scientology official tells The Irish Times that thousands have visited since the centre opened, including local politicians and community groups requesting to use the auditorium.

The church also crops up in more unexpected locations, such the Ideal Home Show, where it had a stall, and the Dublin Marathon, where it offered tired runners massages and literature about Hubbard.

Outside the Firhouse facility the attitude of the locals is wary but not entirely negative. One woman says she will never set foot in the place, “no matter if they’re giving away free cars”.

An older man says he doesn’t know much Scientology but has “no real problem” with their tactics. “They can’t be much worse than the Catholic Church, and we put up with them for long enough.”

The Dublin South-West TD Seán Crowe calls Scientology a cult and is worried the group is attempting to become part of the fabric of the community in Tallaght before starting to recruit people.

He is particularly worried about Scientology’s drug outreach work. Its groups have been distributing anti-drug leaflets widely around Dublin. Last year the mayors of Limerick, Galway and Waterford were photographed with Scientologists from the Drug-Free World campaign who toured the country with a swing band. The politicians later said they were unaware the events were connected to Scientology.

Narconon

One of Scientology’s most controversial anti-drug organisations, Narconon, has yet to be established in Ireland. In Ballivor, Co Meath, there are rumours it has bought the old national-school site to turn into a treatment facility. The site has been bought by a trust, and Scientology and Narconon officials refuse to say if they are behind the deal. A meeting of concerned locals is planned for tomorrow night.

There are also reports of Narconon-style treatments being offered to people here. The main treatment involves subjects spending hours in a sauna while taking huge doses of vitamins. In 2012 Oklahoma authorities investigated several deaths at the state’s Narconon facility before revoking its medical permit.

Fiona O’Leary says a Scientology official offered her a Narconon treatment for her autistic 13-year-old son. Scientology says the official was misunderstood and he never claimed the procedure had a medical benefit.

“We’ve a huge problem in parts of the country in relation to drugs, and I suppose people are desperately looking for solutions or treatments,” says Crowe. “But I wouldn’t be encouraging anyone to go to them. Experts have said their treatments are questionable, to say the least.”

Then there is Criminon, a Scientology group similar to Narconon, which claims it can reform criminals and stop recidivism. Criminon has been examining lists of crime-prevention groups in Ireland before writing to them to offer their services, according to documentation seen by The Irish Times.

“They called in with boxes of materials . . . When you actually look at the materials in any detail you can tell it’s Scientology,” says Lisa Cuthbert of Pace, a State-funded organisation that specialises in sex-offender treatment. “I remember being very alarmed reading it. After that we didn’t let them darken our door again.”

Criminon sent another letter to Pace, offering its services to offenders. She says she wrote back “to tell them to take a running jump”. She also told the Probation Service and asked it to alert other agencies about Criminon’s connections. “I just have issues with a cult trying to access vulnerable people,” she says.

Criminon had slightly more success with other offender groups. It was briefly involved with the Prisoner Support Network, a group that co-ordinates offender-support groups, but was not allowed to join after other members learned of its connections.

PR tool

“It’s called safe-pointing,” says Tony Ortega, an American journalist and author who specialises in covering Scientology and has been monitoring its Irish activities. (A Scientology spokeswoman said Ortega is “a blogger” with a history of “falsifying stories”.) “I’ve seen it so many times, exactly like it’s happening in Ireland,” Ortega says. He explains that, in Hubbard jargon, “safe-pointing” is the creation of a positive public image of Scientology in a community that allows it to grow and thrive.

“This process will likely lead to a push for charitable status in Ireland,” predicts Prof Steve Kent, a Scientology expert from the University of Alberta. “It hopes to use its alleged social-betterment programmes as a PR tool to help in these efforts.”

Diana Stahl, Scientology’s media-relations official in Ireland, says charitable status is not a priority for the church in Ireland. She also insists Scientology is “non-conversionalist”. “As such anyone is free to come in and visit . . . under no pressure that they would be asked to join Scientology.”

She says the church’s social-outreach efforts hide no motive and it is concerned only with the wellbeing of the community, particularly in Firhouse.

“We believe that together we can all accomplish the common dream we all have of a peaceful and co-operative society, free from crime and war, and where people have the freedom and ability to flourish and prosper.”

Scientology’s image has been relentlessly battered over the past two decades. Documentaries showing its members working in slave-like conditions, and comedy shows like South Park skewering its belief in alien overlords and a galactic confederacy, mean it is viewed with a mixture of unease and amusement by many.

It refuses to say how many members it has, but observers estimate it could now be as low as 50,000 worldwide. (Stahl says they don’t keep track of
membership numbers.)

The church says it has had thousands through its doors in Firhouse since its centre there opened. When The Irish Times visited last Sunday it was almost empty. A morose-looking Santa Claus sat in a corner while the Winter Wonderland fairground rides lay idle, although staff said it had been much busier earlier in the weekend.

Part of the church’s problem, according to Ortega, is that it still uses the original strategies Hubbard laid out decades ago. “David Miscavige keeps telling his followers that if they just open these buildings the public will come rushing in. This is a strategy that utterly fails every time, but they just keep doing the same thing over and over again. The one opened in Dublin will become just as empty as everywhere else.”

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/religion-and-beliefs/scientology-ireland-s-schools-strategy-a-naive-teacher-would-be-taken-in-1.3327646

Scientology community activity sparks concern in Firhouse – Irish Times

Residents and politicians in Firhouse have expressed concern about community outreach efforts by the Church of Scientology in the south Dublin suburb.

Last week the controversial organisation, which has been officially labelled a cult in several countries, opened a “Winter Wonderland” event at its new 1,200-seat facility in Firhouse. The event lasts for a month and features fairground rides, Santa Claus and several other children’s activities.

The event, which is free to enter, is the latest in a series of community events hosted by the facility since its opening in October. Other events include a Halloween festival, a variety concert and an “Alice in Wonderland tea party”.

“Nothing’s for free. What is it they’re trying to do?” asked Firhouse resident and local area representative for the Social Democrats Carly Bailey.

She was worried the church was targeting economically deprived communities with a view to recruitment. Ms Bailey, a mother of two, noted that bringing children to see Santa Claus can cost €20 or more in many places but that it was free at the Scientology centre.

“It’s obviously aimed at people who don’t have a huge amount of money who would be absolutely thrilled to bring their kids to something that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.”

Dublin South-West TD Seán Crowe said he was worried Scientology was attempting to become part of the fabric of the community in Tallaght before starting to actively recruit people.

“They’ve made it known local groups can avail of its facilities. And there is a shortage of community facilities in the area. There’s always groups looking for a meeting room or something like that. So that’s their way in,” the Sinn Féin TD said.

“But I’ve huge concerns in relation to the group itself. It is a cult. I wouldn’t be encouraging anybody to be using the facilities,” he added.

“No, we won’t be going. From what I’ve seen on television and online I wouldn’t be bringing my kids near the place,” said Louise Kenny, a mother of two, while she shopped in the Firhouse Shopping Centre.

When The Irish Times visited the facility on Sunday a security guard followed this reporter before ordering deletion of a photograph. Church management was alerted after The Irish Times refused.

The church’s director of external affairs, Diana Stahl, said the facility was open to all but that members of the press must make an appointment.

She said about 800 people had visited the centre since the Winter Wonderland opened last Friday. When The Irish Times visited at 2.30pm on Sunday there were less than 20 visitors present.

Ms Stahl said members of the community were welcome to come in and discuss their concerns with a member of staff, except for protesters “who only want to cause trouble”.

Asked how many people have joined the church since the Firhouse facility opened, another Scientology official, who identified herself as Janet, said they do not keep track of those numbers.

In a separate emailed statement, Ms Stahl said Scientology is a “non conversionalist” organisation.

“You can meet many people who we have known and worked with for years who will confirm to you that we have never tried to ‘recruit’ them.”

She said “various local councillors and community representatives, local organisations, local media, numerous sports groups, artists and young families” have visited the facility since it opened.

Many of Scientology’s Firhouse events have been accompanied by protests outside the facility by a small but vocal group of anti-Scientology activists.

A protest against the “Winter Wonderland” festival took place last Friday. On Sunday a play titled “Squeeze my Cans” was staged in another community centre in Firhouse which mocked the church. It stars US actress and anti-Scientology activist Cathy Schenkelberg, who was a member of the church for 14 years before she left.

The autobiographical plot features a woman auditioning to be the girlfriend of famous Scientologist and actor Tom Cruise.

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/scientology-community-activity-sparks-concern-in-firhouse-1.3322442

Church of Scientology ‘Drug Rehab Centre Plan’ for Meath – Meath Chronicle

The Church of Scientology is reported to have purchased the former old national school site in Ballivor for use as the location for a controversial drug rehabilitation centre.

The site already has planning permission for a nursing home development. It was sold by the parish some years back following the opening of the new school across the road from the site, and has since been sold again.

Concerns have been raised in the village that the development, beside the local community centre and gardens, is to house the organisation’s Narconon programme, an expensive substance-abuse rehabilitation programme.

Among those who have raised concerns is Fine Gael councillor for the Trim area, Cllr Noel French, who says that such a move would need a change of use planning application, which he will be objecting to.

American science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard founded scientology in 1953, and the Church of Scientology has often been compared to a cult. Its Hollywood supporters have included actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

In October this year, the organisation, which has no charitable or religious status in Ireland, and is a registered company, opened a massive 1,100 seater conference centre in Firhouse, Dublin, and last year, opened a ‘national affairs office’ at Merrion Square in Dublin.

In June 2016, the former primary school in Ballivor came on the market with CBRE, with a half-built nursing home development on the site.

The school building was refurbished and extended to accommodate a modern 15-bedroom nursing home, while on an adjoining 2.26-acre site, some foundations have been laid for a 41-bedroom extension.

CBRE was asking €1 million for the ‘Raspberry Wood Nursing Home’ site. The agents are understood to have sold it to another agent, acting for a client.

Cllr French believes it would need a change-of-use planning application to become an addiction rehabilitation centre.

“I could be objecting to that on a number of grounds,” he states. “I would not be happy that what many have described as a cult being present in our community and I will do what I can to prevent it coming into our community,” he says.

“I believe in everyone having their own religious freedom but cults are something else. I understand that what the scientologists want to use the building for is a substance rehabilitation centre.”

“Again, no problem with those who fall on hard times and I am actually on the board of such a centre, but Ballivor is not the place for such a centre. It is too lsolated and too small for any hope of recovering addicts to re-integrate into society.”

While a number of European countries have recognised scientology as a religion, Belgium recently tried to outlaw the organisation as a criminal one after a 20-year investigation, but failed.

The Church of Scientology’s media relations department in Dublin has been contacted by the Meath Chronicle but has not commented on the reported Ballivor purchase.