Kevin Hague, drugs spokesman for New Zealand’s Green Party, has alleged in Parliament that the Church of Scientology is using tax-payer money to promote an anti-psychiatry agenda and messages against medication used to treat mental illness through charities disguised as social service organisations.
Mr Hague said he had watched members of the church on Auckland’s Queen Street target vulnerable people.
Using parliamentary privilege, Mr Hague said groups affiliated to the church had been able to receive community grants.
“There’s a bunch of smiling young people with clipboards who approach people who are going past and invite them to do a personality test,” he said in Parliament.
“Those that take the personality test invariably find that the solution to the problem to their personality lies some how with the Church of Scientology.”
Mr Hague claimed 30,000 children had received the leaflets from the group.
He said the church was against the use of medicines used to treat mental illness and psychiatry and targeted vulnerable members in the community.
“It is evil to try to dissuade people with mental illness to avoid proper health professional services that they need.”
“I don’t object to churches providing social services, provided the church is transparent and that the service is not a front for recruiting into the church, but the Church of Scientology fails of both of those fronts.”
Mr Hague said that among the groups acting as a front for the Church of Scientology were Drug-Free World, Drug-Free Ambassadors, Commission for Human Rights, Rehabilitate New Zealand and World Literacy Crusade.
He called for the Minister of Internal Affairs to follow through with an investigation promised by the department in February.
Critics of the Church of Scientology believe it is using its front groups both to try and gain a sense of respectability and to recruit new members into its expensive programs.
One of those front groups, Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) — an ironic name considering Scientology’s record of abusive behavior — engages in an ongoing hate- and harassment campaign against psychiatry and psychiatrists.
Last February New Zealand media reported that the Scientology-sponsored ‘Drug-Free Ambassadors’ received funding from the Government of New Zealand to spread its unorthodox views through schools and community groups.
The cult’s front group circulated 130,000 of the cult’s drug education booklets around New Zealand, paid for in part by the Department of Internal Affairs’ Community Organisations Grant Scheme.
Fairfax NZ News pointed out that “advice offered in the pamphlets is based on research by Scientology’s controversial founder, L. Ron Hubbard, who did not believe in medical drugs or psychiatry but instead in purging oneself of painful experiences to gain immortality.”
Scientology’s medical claims are widely considered to be mere quackery.
The media revelations are said to have sparked a review by New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs.
The Church of Scientology maintains it’s ambassadors’ programme gave out good information about the dangers of illicit drugs.
However, in the USA in 2005 then State Superintendent Jack O’Connell urged all California schools to drop an antidrug education program by Narconon, another Scientology front group, after state evaluation concluded that its curriculum offers inaccurate and unscientific information.
At the time The San Francisco Chronicle quoted O’Connell as saying, “We’ll get a letter out to every school district today, saying this program is filled with inaccuracies and does not reflect widespread medical and factual evidence.”
O’Connell had requested the independent evaluation after The Chronicle reported that Narconon introduced students to some beliefs and methods of Scientology without their knowledge.