The Mary Johnson – media articles 2

Irish Times 5/3/03

Scientology is ‘a bona fide religion’

By Mary Carolan

The US Internal Revenue Service determined 10 years ago that the Church of Scientology was a bona fide religion, operating various institutions exclusively for recognised religious purposes, the High Court was told yesterday.

The assertion was made in a signed declaration by Mr William Charles Walsh, an attorney in Washington DC, who said he has represented the church in many legal matters since 1978.

The declaration was read at the resumption of an action for damages taken by Ms Mary Johnston (40), who operates a sports equipment shop at Westwood, Foxrock, Dublin, against the church and three members of its Dublin Mission, Mr John Keane, Mr Tom Cunningham and Mr Gerard Ryan. Ms Johnston is seeking damages for alleged conspiracy, misrepresentation and breach of constitutional rights.

At the outset of the 23rd day of the hearing yesterday, Mr Michael Collins SC, for the church, told Mr Justice Peart his clients had concerns about the judge having previously told the court that, while searching the Internet, he had come across certain material on Scientology. However, on legal advice, his clients had decided not to make an application to stop the case and were happy for it to proceed.

The judge has stressed he retains an open mind on the case and had not read in any detail the material referred to. He also said there was no question that he had read anything that had had the slightest effect on how he had received evidence in the case.

Mr Collins said his clients wished to have the declaration by Mr Walsh read to the court. The declaration referred to a petition concerning the estate of the founder of Scientology, the late L. Ron Hubbard, which was filed in a California Probate Court by a US attorney, Mr Graham Berry.

In his declaration, Mr Walsh said the petition was improperly grounded in law and in fact and was summarily dismissed at the first hearing.

He said the petition raised “identifical false allegations” – that church leaders engaged in illegal conduct and that the church lacks corporate and ecclesiastical integrity – to those raised by “other disaffected Scientologists” in proceedings to determine whether the church was entitled to tax exemption in the US.

In October 1993, the IRS had determined the Churches of Scientology were non-profit organisations entitled to tax-exemption, Mr Walsh said. He added he himself was involved in those proceedings on behalf of the church and the IRS had conducted what it described as “the most extensive and detailed exemption examination in its history”.

Mr John Hennessy, for Ms Johnston, said he was not accepting the document was admissible unless the court determined it was. While he had reservations and was not accepting the content of the declaration, he was not objecting to it being read because of his client’s concern that the case advance speedily. Counsel said the document was not relevant to the issues in the case.

Later yesterday, Mr Collins resumed his cross-examination of Prof Stephen Alan Kent, who had given evidence for Ms Johnston earlier in the case.

Prof Kent said it was his view that when she joined Scientology, Ms Johnston was pressured to do so. He had tried to avoid using the term coercive persuasion because Ms Johnston was not in the context of a group for much of the time. He would say she was actively recruited. He believed she was subject to a form of coercive persuasion which eventually led to her free will being overborne.

He rejected suggestions that the theory of coercive persuasion related to joining cults had been discredited. He accepted Ms Johnston was a very intelligent person and that she read a lot of relevant material. He added that when she asked to see an article critical of Scientology, she was told she’d have to do further courses at more cost before she could do so.


Irish Times, March 6, 2003

Professor says Scientology church tried to isolate him

A professor of sociology who has written books and articles critical of the Church of Scientology and other organisations told the High Court yesterday the church was attempting to isolate him within the academic community.

Prof Stephen Kent, who is based in Canada, made the claim in the ongoing action for damages by Ms Mary Johnston (40), who operates a sports equipment centre at Westwood, Foxrock, Dublin, and who is a former member of the church.

She has sued the church and three members of its Dublin mission – Mr John Keane, Mr Tom Cunningham and Mr Gerard Ryan – for alleged conspiracy, misrepresentation and breach of constitutional rights.

Yesterday, during resumed cross-examination of Prof Kent, Mr Michael Collins SC, for the defendants, referred to articles written by a number of sociologists, psychologists and others dealing with the concepts of brainwashing and coercive persuasion.

Mr Collins suggested the conclusions of some of these writers were at variance with those of Prof Kent, particularly regarding the professor’s view that a person’s free will can be overborne by certain coercive persuasion techniques to such an extent they may undergo a significant personality change and truly convert to whatever ideology it may be sought to persuade them of.

Prof Kent agreed there were some differences between his views and those of some writers referred to but said he was in broad agreement with them on many issues. He said one expert had not referred to religion in discussing coercive persuasion and he believed it was vital to factor in that people are motivated for purposive rewards.

He agreed the term brainwashing can be used in two different senses, involving an element of physical force and no such physical element.

He accepted that one expert appeared to be saying that brainwashing did not produce a true change in a subject to the extent that person genuinely came to believe in the ideology they were being coerced to espouse. Much depended on the nature of the study population and how free will was defined.

He also believed there were coercive persuasion techniques capable of truly changing a person’s psychiatric status but added he would not necessarily put a time frame on this.

Mr Collins said one recognised expert had described as a myth the theory that certain techniques could result in a person’s psychiatric status being transformed from normal to pathological. Prof Kent said he believed there could be a change in psychiatric status as a result of coercive persuasion. He agreed hypnosis could be a factor but said there were other factors.

He had not taken a stand on the broader question of brainwashing techniques being applied to get people into cults as opposed to retaining them in such groups.

He was aware of situations which seemed to indicate the use of brainwashing techniques to get people into certain programmes. There were extreme cases where people could not leave cults and the cost was their lives, such as the mass suicide of followers of the Rev Jim Jones at Guyana, he said.

At one point, Prof Kent told Mr Justice Peart the defendants had put in a critique of his work in an attempt to isolate him in the academic community.

Mr Collins said Prof Kent had responded to that critique and he was indicating, in referring to certain articles, was that the professor has been the subject of criticism by reputed scholars.

Mr Collins said he had not explored the matter of whether that criticism was justified.

The hearing continues today.


Irish Times, March 7, 2003

Free will a crucial issue in case against Scientology, court is told

A fundamental issue in the legal action by a woman against the Church of Scientology is whether her free will was overborne or compromised in her decision to take up certain courses run by the church, the High Court heard yesterday.

If the court finds Ms Mary Johnston’s free will was affected, it must then decide whether that has any legal consequences entitling her to damages, Mr Michael Collins, for the church said.

The fundamental point was whether Ms Johnston’s free will was compromised to an extent that was unacceptable in law, counsel added.

His side would be arguing free will is a concept that cannot be measured.

He was clarifying his case after Mr Michael Cush SC, for Ms Johnston, queried the direction of Mr Collins’s cross-examination of Prof Stephen Kent, a Canadian-based sociologist who has written critically about the Church of Scientology and who has given evidence on behalf of Ms Johnston.

Mr Cush had expressed concern that Mr Collins seemed about to embark on a philosophical discussion when, Mr Cush said, Prof Kent was not a philosopher and was not addressing the free will concept in that context.

Yesterday was the 25th day of the action by Ms Johnston (40), who operates a sports equipment centre at Westwood, Foxrock, Dublin, and is a former member of the church. She has sued the church and three members of its Dublin mission – Mr John Keane, Mr Tom Cunningham and Mr Gerard Ryan – for alleged conspiracy, misrepresentation and breach of constitutional rights.

Yesterday, Prof Kent said he had referred to free will in the context of a sociological definition and not in the context of a philosophical discussion.

He agreed that man has a reasoning power that is unique.

Mr Collins suggested that if a person exercises that power free of direction by anyone else, that is an exercise of free will, irrespective of how complete their information is.

Prof Kent said sociologists and psychologists had identified the importance of deception as mitigating a person’s ability to make a decision.

The hearing continues today.

link


12/3/03

High Court urged not to inquire into Scientology

Mary Carolan

The High Court has been urged not to engage in a “wholly impermissible type of religious discrimination” by permitting an inquiry into the truth or falsity of the Church of Scientology’s religious claims.

For the court to admit evidence from a psychologist which was critical of the practice of auditing – described as the core and single most important way in which Scientologists profess and practise their religious belief – would be akin to conducting a judicial inquiry into the legitimacy of the Sacrament of the Mass in Roman Catholicism, it was argued. This was impermissible under the constitutional guarantee of the free profession and practise of religion.

In submissions on behalf of the church, it was argued Scientology had been recognised as a religion by many governments worldwide, and must be treated the same as any other religion here.

There could not be a judicial inquiry into whether the Catholic Church was liable if a member of that church claimed to have suffered some emotional or psychological damage as a consequence of the sacraments of Benediction and Confession, it was argued.

Mr Michael Collins SC, for the church, was objecting to the court hearing evidence from a psychologist, whom it sought to call on behalf of Ms Mary Johnston in her continuing action for damages.

Ms Johnston (40) is a former member of the church. She has sued the church and three members of its Dublin mission, Mr John Keane, Mr Tom Cunningham and Mr Gerard Ryan, alleging conspiracy, misrepresentation, breach of constitutional rights and negligence.

On the 27th day of the hearing yesterday, Mr Collins presented Mr Justice Peart with lengthy submissions outlining his side’s opposition to hearing evidence from the psychologist.

Mr Collins said Ms Johnston was seeking to adduce evidence which would presumably be primarily directed to the effects of auditing and whether it involved some form of hypnosis and the consequences of auditing for Ms Johnston. He argued such evidence was impermissible and unconstitutional.

Mr Michael Cush SC, for Ms Johnston, argued he was entitled to call the psychologist. He referred to a previous ruling by Mr Justice Peart in relation to such evidence and said Mr Collins was not entitled to reargue the point and “blur” the issue. It was for the judge to decide whether Scientology was a religion and the judge might conclude it was entirely misguided.

Mr Cush said it was Ms Johnston’s case that Scientology was a pseudo-religious cult.
Counsel said the psychologist would, among other things, outline to the court what hypnosis is and his view whether Ms Johnston was hypnotised.

Mr Justice Peart will hear further submissions today on whether the evidence is admissible.

© The Irish Times


Psychologist says church appeared to use hypnosis

Mary Carolan

A woman who is suing the Church of Scientology appeared to have been hypnotised while undergoing an auditing session by a member of the church, a psychologist told the High Court yesterday.

Ms Mary Johnston appeared to have been subjected to “very curious” and “not very good” therapy.
Dr Peter Naish, a chartered psychologist who has written extensively on hypnosis, said it was his view Ms Johnston was very susceptible to hypnosis.

He was giving evidence in the continuing action for damages taken by Ms Johnston (40), who operates a sports equipment centre at Westwood, Foxrock, Dublin, against the church and three of its members – Mr John Keane, Mr Tom Cunningham and Mr Gerard Ryan. She is alleging conspiracy, misrepresentation and breach of constitutional rights.

Earlier yesterday, Mr Michael Collins SC, for the church, concluded lengthy submissions to the effect that the court should not hear the evidence of Dr Naish. Mr Justice Peart held the evidence was admissible. To exclude it would potentially render an injustice to Ms Johnston which outweighed any possible prejudice to the defence, he said.

Beginning his evidence, Dr Naish told Mr Michael Cush SC, for Ms Johnston, of his qualifications, including a doctorate in experimental psychology from Oxford University. He was now engaged in research work for the British Ministry of Defence, lecturing in cognitive psychology for the Open University and providing therapy at Reading Clinic.

He had a particular interest in hypnosis and was one of the few psychologists in England with extensive experience in that area.

Dr Naish said he had no contact with Scientology prior to the case. He had heard most of Ms Johnston’s testimony and read the transcripts of the case and Scientology books and documents.

Asked about hypnosis, he said there was nothing intrinsically harmful in the practice per se. However, when it was used as a vehicle for some kind of therapy, the person using it must be able to deal with the subject’s reactions. There was a concern that if a subject became distressed, the hypnotist might retraumatise them. Not all people were susceptible to hypnosis. In his view, Ms Johnston was highly susceptible.

Mr Cush read extracts from Dianetics – The Modern Science of Mental Health, by the founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, and also outlined extracts from Ms Johnston’s evidence to the court.

He said the extracts from Dianetics indicated that what was involved in auditing was hypnosis. It appeared hypnosis was being used as a vehicle and that material was being developed in an emotional context.

© The Irish Times


From:ireland.com Friday, 14th March, 2003

Scientology case settled out of court

The long-running action for damages by a woman against the Church of Scientology and three of its members came to a dramatic end at the High Court yesterday when the judge was told the case “appears to be settled”.
The costs of the action could amount to €2 million.
The surprise development came on the 31st day of the case taken by Dundalk-born Ms Mary Johnston, who was involved with the church from 1992 to 1994.

A chartered psychologist, Dr Peter Naish, was about to resume his evidence, which had criticised the nature of auditing sessions which Ms Johnston underwent with one of the defendants, Mr Tom Cunningham, when Mr Michael Cush SC, for Ms Johnston, asked Mr Justice Peart for time. Talks then got under way between the sides and at 1.20 p.m., Mr Cush told the judge that he and Mr Michael Collins SC, for the church, “are delighted to tell you the case appears to be settled”.
He asked the judge to list the matter for mention on Tuesday.

Mr Justice Peart thanked the parties for the “professionalism, expertise and courtesy” shown to the court and witnesses. This had made “what has been a very difficult case for everyone more easy”.

No settlement details were disclosed to the court and neither party would comment afterwards. Ms Johnston, who attended every day of the case, said she could not comment and similar statements were made by church representatives. It is believed the settlement involves a strict confidentiality clause.

The proceedings were taken by Ms Johnston (40), who operates a sports equipment centre at Westwood, Foxrock, Dublin, and is a former interprovincial squash player for Leinster, against the church and Mr John Keane, described as a “mission holder”, Mr Tom Cunningham and Mr Gerard Ryan. She alleged conspiracy, misrepresentation and breach of constitutional rights. She also alleged deliberate infliction of emotional harm. The defendants denied the claims.

The case began last December 3rd. Ms Johnston’s case had not concluded, and the church’s case had yet to open, when the proceedings were settled.

Opening the case for Ms Johnston, Mr Seán Ryan SC claimed she suffered a personality change after she was “sucked into the grasp” of the church and subjected to mind-control techniques. He claimed she reluctantly signed up for a number of courses, including a “purification run-down” course. The starting point for her entry into the church was a personality test which, he argued, was not a proper psychological test.

He also claimed Ms Johnston was trained to resist her family and, when she tried to leave, there were efforts to silence and intimidate her and members of her family. It was alleged Ms Johnston suffered psychological and psychiatric injuries.

The court heard extensive evidence from Ms Johnston about her experience with the Scientology religion. It also heard evidence from members of her family, who told of their concerns about Ms Johnston’s involvement.

During her evidence, Ms Johnston said she began auditing sessions with Mr Cunnigham in late 1991 and these continued into 1992. She became very distressed during one session in January 1992 and had recounted an event that no one else knew about – that she had been pregnant and had had an abortion. After the auditing, issues regarding abortion were in her head all the time. It was as if she had “opened a Pandora’s box and I could not shut it”.

She said that after she underwent a Standard Oxford Capacity Analysis Test, comprised of 200 questions, Mr Keane went through it with her and basically told her she was in pretty poor shape and needed some professional Dianetic auditing. She said Mr Keane told her there would be a price. She resigned from the church in May 1994.

In cross-examination, Ms Johnston said her criticism of scientologists was based on things that had happened to her and was levelled against the individual scientologists who did what she claimed they did. She did not criticise scientologists in general.

Her issue was with the coercive and manipulative techniques devised by the founder, L. Ron Hubbard, and used in pursuit of the church’s activities, she said. Mr Hubbard had written that anyone who was antagonistic to Scientology may be tricked, sued, lied to, cheated or destroyed.
The case entered a different phase earlier this month with evidence from Prof Stephen Alan Kent, a sociologist, and, this week, from Dr Naish. Mr Michael Collins SC, for the church, objected to the admissibility of evidence from those professionals.

In objecting to Dr Naish’s evidence, Mr Collins said Ms Johnston’s side were seeking to introduce evidence critical of the practice of auditing in Scientology. He said auditing was the core and single most important way in which scientologists professed and practised their religion and to allow evidence critical of it would be akin to conducting a judicial inquiry into the legitimacy of the Mass in Roman Catholicism.

In his evidence, Dr Naish said material from the book Dianetics – The Modern Science of Mental Health, by L. Ron Hubbard, and Ms Johnston’s account of her auditing experience indicated that, in Ms Johnston’s first auditing session, hypnosis was being used as a therapy. In written submissions, the church denied any use of hypnosis, trance techniques or drugs during auditing and said it disapproved of hypnosis.


Friday March 14th 2003

Woman’s €2m battle with Scientologists is settled

THE marathon action against the Church of Scientology and three members by a sportswoman which has so far run up costs of some €2m came to abrupt end yesterday when the High Court heard it “appears to be settled”.
Lawyers made the announcement to Mr Justice Michael Peart at lunchtime on the 31st day.

Neither side would comment on the settlement terms, believed to involve a strict confidentiality clause, and the case was put back for mention until next Tuesday.

The hearing opened on December 3 last and the plaintiff’s side was expected to go on for some weeks more. With the defence side still to come, the case could have continued until May.
Dundalk-born Mary Johnston (40), a former inter-provincial squash player with Leinster who runs a sports equipment centre at the Westwood Centre, Foxrock, Dublin, sued the church; John Keane, described as a “mission holder,” and Tom Cunningham and Gerald Ryan.

Chartered psychologist Dr Peter Naish was about to resume his evidence yesterday when the settlement talks took place. He had been critical of the nature of “auditing” sessions which Ms Johnston underwent with one of the defendants, Mr Cunningham.

Counsel Michael Cush, for Ms Johnston, asked the judge for time. Talks between the sides began and at 1.20pm Mr Cush told the judge he and barrister Michael Collins, for the church, “are delighted to tell you the case appears to be settled”.

Ms Johnston, who attended every day of the case, said she could not comment and similar statements were made by representatives of the church.

Her action was for alleged conspiracy, misrepresentation and breach of constitutional rights and she also alleged deliberate infliction of emotional harm. Defendants denied the claims.
Counsel Sean Ryan, for Ms Johnston, said she suffered a personality change after being “sucked into the grasp” of the church and subjected to mind control techniques.

She reluctantly signed up for a number of courses, including a “purification rundown” course.
The starting point for her entry into the church was a personality test which, he argued, was not a proper psychological test.

He also submitted Ms Johnston was trained to resist her family and, when she tried to leave the church, there were efforts to silence and intimidate her and family members. It was alleged she suffered psychological and psychiatric injuries.

Ms Johnston said she began auditing sessions with Mr Cunningham in late 1991. She became very distressed during one in January 1992 and recounted an event no one else knew about her – that she had an abortion. After the auditing, issues regarding abortion were in her head all the time. It was as if she had “opened a Pandora’s box and I could not shut it”.

After a “standard Oxford capacity analysis test” with 200 questions Mr Keane basically told her she was in pretty poor shape, needed some “professional Dianetic auditing” and there would be “a price”.
In 1994 she resigned from the church, whose founder L Ron Hubbard said anyone antagonistic to Scientology “may be tricked, sued, lied to, cheated or destroyed”.

Mr Collins, for the church, made lengthy submissions objecting to admissibility of evidence from professionals but Mr Justice Peart ruled the evidence from both sociologist Prof Stephen Alan Kent and Dr Naish was admissible. He also declined as premature an application by Mr Collins for a finding that Scientology is a religion.
In written submissions, the church denied any use of hypnosis, trance techniques or drugs during auditing.

John Maddock

© Irish Independent
& unison.ie

‘Church’ out to control the minds of devotees, court told

Friday March 14th 2003
Mary Johnston was not going to be denied her day in court. The 40-year-old former inter-provincial squash player had waited for years to tell her story.
During one appearance she sobbed and stumbled over her words in trying to explain how Scientologists used her abortion sorrow as a tool to hold her in their power. Asked by the judge if she would like a break, she replied: “No – I’ve waited seven years for this, I’m going to seize the moment.”
Her first steps towards suing the church for damages began in 1999 when she asked the High Court to make available to her all documents over which the Dublin mission of the church claimed sacredotal privilege.
Ms Johnston – who operates a sports equipment shop in Foxrock, Co Dublin – said she needed the documents to prepare for her action for damages against the church and three named persons, John Keane, Tom Cunningham and Gerard Ryan.
They and the church denied her claims.
When she won her application to see her counselling notes, it paved the way for her 31-day action for damages in which she claimed she underwent a personality change after being sucked into the church.
Ms Johnson said her 10-year connection with the church had left her with psychological and psychiatric injuries, panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder, together with short-term memory loss.
Scientology claims 8m followers worldwide and members have included high-profile US movie stars Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Kevin Costner and John Travolta.
Its practices include training courses focused on aspects of people’s personality, and auditing, an amateur form of psychology which aims to get to the root of people’s perceived personal problems. Both cost money. Critics are dismissed as “suppressives”, yet its former members can also prove a thorn in Scientology’s side.
Already this year the church has agreed to pay a former US member $8.6m to resolve a lawsuit filed 22 years ago.
The official website claims Scientology “provides a way to make marriage and family life both satisfying and rewarding.
“Using Scientology principles, husbands, wives, sons and daughters alike have successfully salvaged failing relationships and created stronger and happier families, significantly bettering communication with those they care for,” it says.
But Mary Johnston cared little for those lofty ideals. She has told how she first fell under its spell, how she was constantly pursued for money, how she was encouraged to sell her business and to cut herself off from friends and family.
She has described the c hurch’s often bizarre technology and brutal training methods – and also told how she finally decided to sever all links with Scientology, often called a cult, following an emotional encounter with her sister.
She also told of “intimidation and harassment” which followed, coupled with headaches, flashbacks, dizzy spells, anxiety and sleepless nights.
It was a brave move for Mary Johnston to take on the case. She was dealing with a powerful and frequently litigious body.
Helen Bruce
and Fergus Black

© Irish Independent
& unison.ie

One Response

  1. […] the Mission of Dublin used to own a storefront before hitting financial difficulties (likely due to having to offer a settlement to Mary Johnston). With a little video editing magic and sticking a poster on a window, however, an […]

    Like

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: