Australian of the Year Pat McGorry has backed calls for a Senate inquiry into Scientology, saying its views on mental health are putting lives at risk.
“They are the deniers of the realities of mental illness, which I find incredibly irresponsible and dangerous,” he told ABC Radio on Wednesday.
The renowned mental health expert has joined psychiatry boss Louise Newman and the Brain and Mind Institute’s Ian Hickie in urging senators to vote for an inquiry.
The Senate is expected to vote on the issue, brought forward by independent Senator Nick Xenophon, by the end of next week.
So far, only the Australian Greens have committed to voting for the inquiry and it needs more support if it is to get up.
Senator Xenophon said Scientology had nothing to fear from a transparent inquiry where it would be given the right of reply.
He said he would not abandon any victims of Scientology, adding he could be a “completely stubborn bastard” when it came to pursuing important issues.
Professor McGorry, a world-renowned youth mental health expert, and two other respected Australian psychiatrists are supporting independent Senator Nick Xenophon’s efforts to set up an investigation into the church’s activities and its teachings on psychiatric care.
Professor McGorry says it is time to put the Church of Scientology under the federal parliamentary microscope.
“It’s a bit like they’re the deniers of the reality of mental illness, which is not only incredibly irresponsible and dangerous, but something that has to be challenged,” he said.
Professor McGorry says he has been motivated by his long-time advocacy of early intervention for mental health problems.
The Church of Scientology has strong views about psychiatric medicine, and Professor McGorry says those teachings should be examined in a public forum such as a Senate inquiry.
“I’m concerned that any restriction or any discouragement of access to mental health care will cost lives and result in unnecessary disability for people,” Professor McGorry said.
Professor Ian Hickie, the executive director of the Brain and Mind Institute in Sydney, also supports a Senate inquiry, as does Professor Louise Newman, the president of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.
“I’ve certainly come into contact with people with mental illness who have sought help or assistance from the Church of Scientology, and from many other organisations,” Professor Newman said.
“In their contact with the Church of Scientology they’ve been discouraged from having appropriate treatment.
“Some have been encouraged to cease taking psychiatric medication even when those might be indicated, and there has certainly been no attempt to actually get people in any reasonable form of alternate therapy.
“This is not a trivial issue and I think for far too long, these sort of extremist views have hidden behind a group which describes itself as being an organised religion.”
Professor McGorry says he and his two colleagues are just the tip of a very deep iceberg.
“The whole mental health field would support this call for an inquiry and it’s overdue in fact, in my opinion,” he said.
– Justice Anderson, Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia, quoted at What judges have to say about Scientology