The Mary Johnston – media articles

Irish Times Court Report Jan 15.01.03

A WOMAN told the High Court yesterday she was pursuing a legal action for damages against the Church of Scientology partly because she felt it was her Christian duty.

Mary Johnston (40), who operates a sports equipment centre at Westwood, Foxrock, Dublin, is suing the Church of Scientology Mission of Dublin and three of its members, John Keane, Tom Cunningham and Gerard Ryan.

She is seeking damages for alleged conspiracy, misrepresentation and breach of constitutional right.
The hearing, which started before Christmas, resumed yesterday after a four-week adjournment.
Michael Collins SC, for the defence, suggested to Ms Johnston yesterday that she considered it part of her Christian duty to pursue proceedings against the Church of Scientology.

Ms Johnston said “I suppose I do, ultimately”. She believed in “the remit of Christ” and if there is wrong to “expose it to the light”.

Her main reason for taking the action was, she alleged, because the actions perpetrated against her had damaged her. She would have done so even if she was a Muslim, not just because she was Christian.


Hypnosis sessions ‘upset’ plaintiff

Irish Times, January 16, 2003

A former member of the Church of Scientology claimed in the High Court yesterday that she had been subjected by the church to hypnosis techniques without her permission and had been upset by the procedures. Ms Mary Johnston (40) said that the procedures involved a countdown and prolonged staring for hours to induce a trance. Ms Johnston, who operates a sports equipment centre at Westwood, Foxrock, Co Dublin, is suing the Church of Scientology Mission of Dublin and three of its members, John Keane, Tom Cunningham and Gerard Ryan. She is seeking damages for alleged conspiracy, misrepresentation and breach of constitutional rights.

Yesterday Ms Johnston agreed with her counsel, Mr Michael Cush SC, that she was given no warning that aspects of mind control would be involved arising from her participation in the church. Earlier, cross-examined by Mr Michael Collins SC, for the church, Ms Johnston denied that she had a close connection with a trust which attempted to persuade people to leave Scientology. She said: “I don’t work against Scientology. I simply say what happened to me. When people come to ask for help, I help them when I can.”

She objected to being described by Mr Collins as a “deprogrammer” and said she was not in a conspiracy with anybody to do anything. Because of the length of the litigation and the stress involved in the court action, she said, she hated to see families coming near her. The court was told that in May 1994 the plaintiff was persuaded by her family to leave Scientology. She described this as a major turning point and “a fantastic time in her life”. Elaborating on earlier evidence on why she had not sought medical or psychiatric assistance, Ms Johnston said she believed she had been healed through her relationship with God, which had given her a sense of peace, healing and joy.

Two witnesses gave evidence yesterday of a man so far unidentified by name who spoke to them about Ms Johnston. Ms Mary McKeown, a legal secretary, said that Ms Johnston lived in the same house as her mother-in-law. A man had called to the house on the morning of February 2nd, 2001, looking for the plaintiff, and she had told him that Ms Johnston was probably at work. In the witness-box she was shown photographs which she believed were of the same individual although, she said, he looked younger in one of them. Ms Ann Sexton, a personal trainer at Westwood Gym, also described a man unidentified by name who spoke to her in the restaurant area of Westwood in January 2001.

He had asked her about “Ms Obnoxious Johnston”, remarking that he had seen her sitting with the plaintiff. The man had claimed that Ms Johnston had “diddled” a friend of his out of money. Ms Sexton said she had told him that he should discuss the matter with Ms Johnston if he had a problem. The case continues next Tuesday.


Sociology professor’s evidence admitted in scientology case
Source: Irish Times
Publication date: 2003-01-22

The Church of Scientology has a deep-rooted objection to conducting a debate in court on the merits of religious practices, the High Court was told yesterday.
Mr Michael Collins SC, for the church, objected to the hearing of evidence from a Canadian professor of sociology on the grounds that admitting such evidence could lead to the 11-day case, taken by a woman against his client, continuing until the end of February.

Ms Mary Johnston (40), a former member of the church, is seeking damages for alleged conspiracy, misrepresentation and breach of constitutional rights against the Church of Scientology Mission of Dublin and three of its members, Mr John Keane, Mr Tom Cunningham and Mr Gerard Ryan.

After almost two hours of legal argument, Mr Justice Peart decided he would hear evidence from Prof Stephen Alan Kent.
Earlier, Mr Collins said many religious practices had the potential for stress but the court could not go into those even if they did cause stress.

Mr Collins said he understood that the plaintiff’s side intended to call about four or five expert witnesses, a total of about 10 witnesses yet to be called on behalf of Ms Johnston. This could mean the case would last several weeks and would not finish until the end of February. He would then be compelled to call upon witnesses to give counter evidence, Mr Collins said.

Responding to Mr Justice Peart on whether he was obliged to accept that scientology was a religion, Mr Collins said the church believed every human being had a soul and an immortal existence. The court was told there were 2,000 churches in 110 countries.

In evidence, Prof Kent said he had studied new religions and cults and had written extensively on the subject. He had interviewed about 50 former scientologists. He described the structure and organisation of scientology as very complicated with “international management” at the top. Ireland and Britain had one joint body while the Dublin Mission would be described as being at the lowest level of the church.

Asked by Mr Michael Cush SC, for Ms Johnston, if there was a general body of complaints about the church’s dianetics auditing policy, Prof Kent said there was and he was also aware of individual testimony about its harmful effects.
Publication date: 2003-01-22

© 2003, YellowBrix, Inc.


Woman’s free will ‘was compromised’

Irish Times, January 25, 2003

A woman former member of the Church of Scientology had her free will compromised because of dependency, intrusion and pressure, a Canadian professor who claims to be an expert on the practices of the church told the High Court yesterday.

Prof Stephen Alan Kent said he was concerned about the nature of dependency which grew from the process of dianetics which, he said, would focus on negative events in a person’s life.

He said Ms Mary Johnston had developed a dependency relationship because, it seemed, a member of the church, Mr Tom Cunningham, had used these techniques, and she was under constant pressure to join Scientology.

He was continuing his evidence in the action by Ms Johnston (40), of Foxrock, Dublin. She is seeking damages for alleged conspiracy, misrepresentation and breach of constitutional rights in her action against the Church of Scientology Mission of Dublin and three of its members.

The case before Mr Justice Peart is expected to continue for several more weeks.


Woman says her sister was ‘changed’ by Scientology

A woman told the High Court yesterday that she had become aware of a change in her sister at about the time the latter became associated with the Church of Scientology.

Ms Margaret O’Kelly, from Edenderry, said she had always been very close to her sister, Ms Mary Johnston, but became aware of a change in her, through “a lot of little things”, in the early 1990s. Ms Johnston was involved at that time in dianetics with Mr Tom Cunningham, a member of the church’s mission in Dublin.

Up to then, her children loved to see Ms Johnston coming to visit, but over a period of time they would say: “Oh no, not Auntie Mary.” She felt that her children did not want Ms Johnston around.

Ms O’Kelly said that her sister had talked a lot about dianetics and had said that it involved auditing. She [Ms O’Kelly] said that she thought it was about self-improvement.

Her sister had talked a lot about dianetics and wanted to use it to do away with Ms O’Kelly’s 10-year- old daughter’s grumpiness. Ms O’Kelly said she felt this was an imposition and she was worried about it.

Ms O’Kelly said that Ms Johnston had acted totally out of character. She would insist that she was right and Scientology would always be brought into it.

In August 1993, her husband’s cousin had died suddenly and, despite the fact that Ms Johnston was close to him, she was apathetic about what had happened.

Ms O’Kelly said she was appalled that her sister did not go to the funeral but rather talked about reincarnation. She showed no empathy with anybody and this was “totally out of character”.

Ms O’Kelly said her sister would telephone her mother four times a day. She would also contact other members of the family regularly, but then stopped coming to Edenderry, saying that she was busy.

”I didn’t know at the time she was going into the [Church of Scientology] mission,” she said.
Ms Johnston is suing the Church of Scientology Mission in Dublin and three of its members, John Keane, Tom Cunningham and Gerard Ryan.

Ms Johnston, who operates a sports equipment centre at Westwood, Foxrock, Co Dublin, is seeking damages for alleged conspiracy, misrepresentation and breach of constitutional rights.

Earlier, a psychologist at University College Dublin, Dr Declan Fitzgerald, said he believed that what was called the Oxford Capacity Analysis, carried out by the church in its auditing process, impinged on people’s self-esteem and was highly manipulative.

He said he was embarrassed that his profession had not got this message across to the public more clearly.

Woman said she was ‘afraid of scientologists’

Family give evidence in Scientology case

While she was with the Church of Scientology, Ms Mary Johnston was “like somebody playing a role in a pantomine”, the High Court was told yesterday. Mr Paul O’Kelly, brother-in-law of Ms Johnston, said he found Ms Johnston was dealing with him in a planned and structured way and there was no genuine effort to engage.

Mr O’Kelly, of Edenderry, Co Offaly, was giving evidence in the continuing action by Dundalk-born Ms Johnston (40), now living in Dublin, who later left the organisation. She is suing the Church of Scientology Mission in Dublin, and three of its members for alleged conspiracy, misrepresentation and breach of constitutional rights.

Yesterday, Ms Margaret O’Kelly, sister of Ms Johnston and wife of Paul O’Kelly, said she and other members of her family made efforts in early 1994 to get her sister to meet them to view material, newspaper cuttings and videos about Scientology. Before she invited her sister to the meeting, members of the family needed time to research Scientology and to gather as much information as they could, Ms O’Kelly said. They contacted Ms Johnston and arranged to meet in Edenderry on May 2nd, 1994. Initially, Ms Johnston wanted to know why and rang every day for two weeks to find out the name of a book they had about Scientology and where they had got the information.

Ms O’Kelly said she and her mother arranged to meet Ms Johnston at 2 p.m. but she did not turn up until 6 p.m. Ms Johnston never apologised for being late. They wanted her to make up her own mind when she saw the information they had.

Ms O’Kelly said her sister was not relaxed and was very tense, with a continuous grin on her face. She was under stress. She refused to read any of the material they had. By 8 p.m., their mother was getting upset because Ms Johnston could not bring herself to read the material.

Ms O’Kelly said she had asked her mother to leave and she did. After that, Ms O’Kelly said, she herself broke down and told Ms Johnston they loved her and did not want her to disconnect from the family. Ms Johnston then said she would read the material. They talked about family matters and the tension was gone. The next morning, Ms Johnston said there was a lot of questions to which she wanted answers.

Ms O’Kelly said her sister told her she was very frightened. Ms Johnston had said there were things that Ms O’Kelly did not know about her but which the Scientologists knew and that she was afraid they might reveal them.

Mr Paul O’Kelly said he found that, over a time, Ms Johnston was dealing with him in a very planned and structured way. He got the feeling that every time she walked into a room, the conversation and the nature of the discussions she was going to have was already prepared. There was family concern about her.


Woman said she was ‘afraid of scientologists’

A WOMAN told the High Court yesterday of efforts she and other members of her family made in early 1994 to get her sister then a member of the Church of Scientology to meet them to view material, newspaper cuttings and videos about the organisation.

Mrs Margaret O’Kelly, Edenderry, Co Offaly, was giving evidence in the continuing action in which her sister, Ms Mary Johnston (40) – who later left the organisation – is suing the Church of Scientology Mission in Dublin and three of its members for alleged conspiracy, misrepresentation and breach of constitutional rights.

Mary was very tense with a continuous grin on her face when they met. She refused to read any of the material they had.

Mrs O’Kelly said she broke down and told Mary they loved her and did not want her to disconnect from the family. Mary said she would read the material.

Mary told her she was very frightened. She said there were things her sister did not know about her but which the scientologists knew and that she was afraid they might reveal them.


Church case told of phone calls to clients

Irish Times, 2003-02-01

A company director and brother-in-law of a woman who is suing the Church of Scientology for damages told the High Court yesterday he was informed that between 25 and 40 phone calls were made by a person with an American accent to his clients and to private individuals.

Mr Paul O’Kelly, Edenderry, Co Offaly, was continuing his evidence in the action by his sister-in-law, Ms Mary Johnston (40), against the Church of Scientology in Dublin and three of its members for alleged conspiracy, misrepresentation and breach of her constitutional rights.

Before Mr O’Kelly resumed his evidence, another witness, Mr Michael Cleary, a director of Rotofab, a plastic moulding company, said Mr O’Kelly’s company, O’Kelly Sutton, marketing consultants, did some work for Rotofab when the latter began business. Later, Mr O’Kelly became a shareholder and member of Rotofab.

In 2002 , he received a phone call from a Tom Bishop, who had an American accent and who said he was doing a due diligence report on O’Kelly Sutton for an American company. He had told Mr Bishop that they were very happy with the work O’Kelly Sutton had done for Rotofab.

The caller asked what Mr Cleary knew about Mr O’Kelly’s other interests. Some weeks later he received a faxed document from Tom Bishop which outlined a series of situations in relation to O’Kelly Sutton but mainly in relation to Mr O’Kelly. The document was headed TR World Corporate Services, Zurich. He knew nothing about this company. He thought the phone call he had received had been from America.

Mr Sen Ryan SC, for Ms Johnston, said the document claimed to be conducting a due diligence and background for the benefit of a large corporation and named O’Kelly Sutton, Paul O’Kelly and Patrick Sutton.

Mr Cleary said the document claimed Mr O’Kelly had been dropped from a FS panel due to his connection with Rotofab as there had been a conflict of interest. Rotofab had had a little involvement with FS but before Mr O’Kelly became a shareholder.

When he read the document, he was surprised and a little worried about some of the stuff in it, Mr Cleary said. His business partner was quite upset. Having spoken to Mr O’Kelly, Mr Cleary said he had told his business partner there was nothing to worry about.

Cross-examined by Mr John Trainor SC, for the church, Mr Cleary agreed that when Mr O’Kelly was acting as a consultant to Rotofab, he was on a FS panel and they had hoped Rotofab could get grant aided.

He agreed that O’Kelly Sutton was a large firm of marketing consultants with a number of prestigious clients.

Mr O’Kelly, in his evidence, said Mr Cleary had contacted him about the faxed document and had been distressed and concerned. He had been delighted to be told about the phone call received by Mr Cleary as it was only one of between 30 and 40 calls received by the O’Kelly Sutton company’s clients.

About 25 to 30 clients and private individuals had told him they had received inquiries – all with American accents – and all the calls gave different “purposes”.

Cross-examined by Mr Trainor, Mr O’Kelly said the first he heard about Ms Johnston’s involvement in scientology was when she told him “it was great”.

Mr O’Kelly said he formed the view that scientology was “hogwash”. He had visited the church’s Dublin mission. Asked what he was doing there, Mr O’Kelly said, because of his concern, he had gone in and did the personality test to which he gave random answers.

The hearing, before Mr Justice Peart, continues on Tuesday.


Irish Times 5/2/03
Church case hears of man making “noisy investigation” of plaintiff

A man photographed while making a “noisy investigation” of a woman who has sued the Church of Scientology was similar to a man in another photograph taken outside a meeting of Families Under Scientology Stress (FUSS), the High Court heard yesterday.

Mr Richard Woods was giving evidence in the continuing action by Ms Mary Johnston against the church and three members of its Dublin Mission – Mr John Keane, Mr Tom Cunningham and Mr Gerard Ryan. Ms Johnston, who operates a sports equipment centre at Westwood, Foxrock, Dublin, is suing for damages. She was involved with the church from 1990 to 1994.

Mr Woods told the court he and his wife were involved in a UK organisation, Escape, which was concerned since 1992 with helping people involved in scientology. They had helped about 700 parents.

In 1994/95 he was attending a meeting of FUSS in London when he saw a man standing outside the door of the building with a clipboard and pen in his hand. He looked like a member of the Church of Scientology because of the way he dressed.

Because of litigation with the church lasting seven years, Mr Wood’s solicitor had advised him to carry a camera and he had taken a photograph of the man, Mr Woods said. The man had said he was collecting names and addresses.

Mr Woods said the man in this photograph was obviously similar to the picture of a man who had been making a “noisy investigation” of Ms Johnston and was photographed at Westwood, Dublin, in February 2001.

When Mr Woods had suggested that the man was a member of the Church of Scientology, the man had asked: “What has my religion got to do with anything?”

Cross-examined by Mr Michael Collins SC, for the church, Mr Woods agreed that the fact the photograph had turned up in his home while Ms Johnston was visiting was like the work of a magician.

It had been in a shoebox but had been put into a drawer at his home, he said. His wife had got the photograph out after she had heard Ms Johnston talking about the man concerned and when the photograph was put on the table, Ms Johnston had said, “that is the man”, according to Mr Woods.

Mr Woods also agreed with Mr Collins that he was engaged in a spiritual war against the forces of Satan, which, he said, included the scientology religion.

Earlier, Mr Paul O’Kelly, a brother in-law of Ms Johnston, said he believed she had become almost fixated by scientology while she was involved with it. In continuing cross- examination, Mr O’Kelly, said that, in an ordinary situation with family or friends, she would have great difficulties.

In a family situation, with four or five people at dinner, Ms Johnston would suddenly become very belligerent about a neutral issue. Mr O’Kelly’s wife and others present would feel very uncomfortable. She was increasingly ineffectual interacting with people.

Ms Johnston had subsequently agreed not to contact her former scientology associates but, having done so, she spoke of some distress about the nature of calls she was receiving.

Mr O’Kelly said one of the defendants, Mr Gerard Ryan, had contacted him by phone. Mr O’Kelly said he told Mr Ryan he had no business with him and asked Mr Ryan to leave his sister-in-law alone.

Mr O’Kelly said he had the impression Ms Johnston was behaving like somebody who was brainwashed.


Church’s purification course unsafe – expert
Source: Irish Times
Publication date: 2003-02-06

A “purification rundown” course operated by the Church of Scientology was neither medically safe nor scientifically verified, the High Court was told yesterday.
Prof Michael Ryan, head of the pharmacology department at UCD, said he could not find any evidence to support the claims in the church’s documents about the course.
To suggest it could get rid of radiation and toxic compounds was not supported by scientific facts, he said.
He was giving evidence in the continuing action by Ms Mary Johnston (40), who operates a sports equipment centre at Westwood, Foxrock, Co Dublin, against the church and three members of its Dublin mission for alleged conspiracy, misrepresentation and breach of constitutional rights.
Yesterday the court was told Ms Johnston had experienced a burning sensation as a result of participating in the purification rundown course and had been told this was a clearance of old sunburn.
Prof Ryan said there was no scientific evidence to support that contention.
Mr Michael Cush SC, for Ms Johnston, submitted that the claims made by the church in its documents concerning the purification course were false and the risks involved many and varied.
Prof Ryan said the claims made in the church’s documentation were not scientifically verified, and the programme was not medically safe.
In reply to Mr Justice Peart, he said some of the volumes of vitamins involved would be significantly higher than those recommended for normal nutrition. He said this was the case as regards vitamins A and D. The potential risk for higher levels included acute dizziness and headaches, he added.
Mr John Trainor SC, for the defendants, said they would be producing a doctor to give evidence that hundreds of people go through the course without reporting any adverse effects.
He said more than 290,000 people had undergone the course without any problems.
The case continues today.

Publication date: 2003-02-06

© 2003, YellowBrix, Inc.

Church science ‘basically rubbish’, says doctor

Source: Irish Times

Publication date: 2003-02-07

The science behind the Church of Scientology was “basically rubbish”, a doctor told the High Court yesterday.
Dr John Fleetwood, a general practitioner in the Blackrock/ Monkstown area of Dublin, told the court Ms Mary Johnnston, who operates a sports equipment shop at Westwood, Foxrock, Dublin, had attended him on October 29th, 1994. She was anxious and distressed.

Giving evidence in the continuing action by Ms Johnston (40), against the church and three members of its Dublin Mission, Dr Fleetwood said Ms Johnston was generally quite healthy but complained of a lot of headaches.
She was an ex-member of the Church of Scientology and he came to the conclusion that most of her problems were caused by membership of the church. There was nothing to indicate anything else. She was agitated and stressed in general.
He saw Ms Johnston again on November 15th 1994 and gave her some mild headache tablets. He held the same conclusion that day as to the cause of her headaches.

Cross-examined by Mr Michael Collins SC, for the church, he said Ms Johnston told him she was trying to leave the church and was under considerable pressure. She had also told him she was engaged in protests outside the church and was contemplating suing it.

Dr Fleetwood said he believed some of the church’s programmes were a “sham” and he had no doubt her involvement in the church was instrumental in causing her stress and anxiety. He said the church did not let its adherents go without a fight. Ms Johnston’s main problem was major headaches.

When it was suggested under further cross-examination that the founder of the church, Mr Ron Hubbard, claimed to be the son of God, Dr Fleetwood objected. He said the dianetics programme had been shown time and time again to be a sham.
The case continues today.

Publication date: 2003-02-07


Scientology Church action is adjourned

Source: Irish Times

Publication date: 2003-02-08

The long-running action by a woman against the Church of Scientology and three members of its Dublin mission has been adjourned at the High Court to next month.

Mr Justice Peart heard yesterday a witness was unavailable to give evidence and, for this and other reasons including the judge’s commitments in other courts, the case, which has been at hearing for 22 days, was adjourned to March 4th.

The action has been taken by Ms Mary Johnston (40) who operates a sports equipment centre at Westwood, Foxrock, Dublin. She is seeking damages for alleged conspiracy, misrepresentation and breach of her constitutional rights. She was involved in the church in the early 1990s and was persuaded by her family in 1994 to leave. Her side of the case will resume on March 4th and the entire action is expected to last several weeks after that.

2 Responses

  1. “Unlike the rest of the United Kingdom the NI Assembly has not enacted the 2013 Defamation Act. Despite the work of the ‘Libel Reform Campaign‘, NI is still governed by a highly conservative law from the 1950’s. Opposed by both major political parties – the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin – Northern Ireland libel laws remain tightly regulated. Yet public opinion is the opposite. A recent petition to change the law brought in over 700 signatures, with the Belfast Telegraph stating that ‘up to 92%’ want the law updated.
    In May 2013, Democratic Unionist Sammy Wilson – who at the time held the position of Finance Minister – took a ‘unilateral decision’ to halt the extension of the Defamation Act.
    Following the recent news that Sky Atlantic was scheduled to show the documentary in the UK – of which the full title is ‘Going Clear: Scientology And The Prison Of Belief – the Church of Scientology issued a statement saying it “will be entitled to seek the protection of both UK and Irish libel laws in the event that any false or defamatory content in this film is broadcast within these jurisdictions.”

    Who do they think they are? They are elected to serve the community yet they refuse to enact a law. Service or dictator, I know which I prefer!

    Like

  2. […] for “alleged conspiracy, misrepresentation and breach of constitutional right”. A number of articles, largely published by the Irish Times, covers the long and detailed court case which stems from the […]

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