Chapter 9

Scientology attempts a Take-over

On 11 December 1968, a party of young people who told wondering press men that they were the Executive Committee of the Church of Scientology had gone uninvited to the offices of the NAMH at 39 Queen Anne Street. Their spokesman said they wanted a meeting with the NAMH 'Board of Directors'. They were told that there was a Council of Management but that none of its members was in the building. So they departed quietly, much photographed by pressmen as they went, and left behind a list of questions to be answered by the NAMH at an interview 'to be arranged'. Here they are, and it will be observed that none of them deals with mental health or its treatment:

  1. Why do your directors want to ban an American writer from England? [1. Ron? But the NAMH had nothing to do with the banning of Ron.]
  2. What other writers do you intend to have banned from entry into England?
  3. Why do they want to abolish the rights of English scientologists, and are you aware that scientology was mostly developed in England by L. Ron Hubbard with the assistance of English researchers, and therefore scientology is not a foreign 'ology' but an English religious philosophy?
  4. Why were you instrumental in the removal of Robinson as Minister of Health? Is it because he didn't pass legislation banning the rights of scientologists totally and completely?
  5. Besides the human rights of English scientologists, who else's human rights were you attempting to restrict or abolish?
  6. Why would you, as a reportedly charitable group, be interested in restricting or abolishing the human rights of any individual or group of people?
  7. When can we meet with your Directors, as the Church Committee wants to meet them directly?
The NAMH Council of Management decided not to answer this questionnaire and to decline to interview anyone about it.

'In the matter of the suit', said a letter from the scientologists on 5 February 1969, 'all this can be wiped away if some mutual understanding can be reached.' This, which must have been the occasion of some embarrassment to the solicitors advising the scientologists, was addressed to 'the Public Relations Officer', and on legal advice no answer was sent. On 3 March, and again on 17 March, there appeared outside the NAMH offices the groups of demonstrators and the banners described on page 52, informing passers-by that 'Crossman Backs Legal Murder', 'Psychiatrists Make Good Butchers', etc., etc.; and open hostilities appeared to have started.

There was a sudden increase in the numbers of people joining the NAMH, and many of their two-guinea postal orders bore the date stamp of the post office either at East Grinstead or at Store Street, Tottenham Court Road (where the scientologists had a bookshop and a recruiting centre). For some years the average rate of applications for membership had been between ten and fifteen a month. On 7 October 1969, the figure suddenly shot up to 227 - and with the Association's annual general meeting fixed for 12 November there also began to arrive some formal nominations of people not then known to be scientologists for high office in the NAMH, including that of Mr David Gaiman (who was known) for the Chairmanship. The Association promptly took legal advice and called upon 302 recently admitted members to resign their membership. They were all told that they had a right to appeal. On 12 November a representative group of scientologists applied to Mr Justice Megarry in the Chancery Division of the High Court for an interim injunction to prevent the holding of the Annual General Meeting until the Court could have an opportunity of deciding whether the dismissals of those 302 members were valid. Mr Justice Megarry, in granting the injunction, went so far as to say that the 'last-minute action' of the NAMH in dismissing them was 'wrong'; but since he did not, in due course, find it to have been unlawful (the action was ex parte) it must be assumed that he meant that it was in some way wrong as a matter of tactics, or moral propriety, or perhaps both.

Accordingly the NAMH could not for some unspecified time hold their Annual General Meeting, at which Lord Balniel, the retiring Chairman, was to be succeeded by Mr Christopher Mayhew, MP; and the lawyers prepared the numerous and lengthy affidavits by which an 'interlocutory action' could be sustained. Meanwhile, all members of the NAMH (or most of them) received a letter from Mr David Gaiman, the spokesman of scientology, to whom their names and addresses had been perforce supplied by the NAMH. (As a registered limited company, the NAMH was bound by section 113 of the Companies Act 1948 to supply a copy of its register of members within ten days, to anyone willing to pay for it at the rate of ten pence a hundred words; and the scientologists seemed to think it worth the money - it cost them L18.12 1/2.) Mr Gaiman's letter was as follows:

To Membership of National Association for Mental Health

Dear Member,

Concerning the events of the last two weeks, I am taking the unusual step of writing to you, as I have no other means of presenting the facts to you as they are.

250 years ago Pinet opened the doors of the asylums and did away with the then current forms of restraint. Today the restraint is more subtle but just as cruel. This is according to a paper by Kenneth Dewhurst, Consultant Psychiatrist.

Every reform I have called for is based on data and statistics provided by fully qualified medical and psychiatric practitioners. The call for reform comes from throughout the society, I have only verbalised it.

I am not seeking to have Scientology introduced into mental institutions, neither am I looking for converts to Scientology. I have indicated, both publicly and privately, to the Council of Management of the NAMH that I will withdraw my nomination for office, if only they will pursue the road to much-needed reforms. The issue, however, is never dealt with. Their reaction, as a matter of record, has been attacks on my character and my religious philosophy.

To paraphrase one of the greatest and most humble scientists of our time, Einstein: when men of science talk in a language which cannot be understood due to complexity, look at what they do and judge them by their actions.

In any hierarchy there are always two purposes. There is the obvious purpose which is the purpose the organisation is set up to achieve; and as the wealth and power of the organisation increases, those that hold the power can follow a second purpose, that is, use it to build their own empire or kingdom.

The issue is a simple one. If the reforms I have called for are valid then they should be implemented. If the conditions I have referred to are fabricated and untrue, then the present Council of Management are totally right and they should be congratulated. I ask only that you use your own god-given intelligence and adjudicate the truth.

Yours sincerely,
David Gaiman.

A few days later Mr Gaiman wrote to Lord Balniel to indicate how all this might be amicably settled. 'My dear Balniel,' he began chummily:

My Dear Balniel,

I write to suggest a meeting. I have no desire to aggravate the already black financial situation of the Association, nor do I wish to see the present acrimonious and irrelevant exercise of invective and abuse continued. You have more practice of this than I.

I fear you were a little hasty in stating that your aims and mine are inimical. My aims are simply stated:

  1. Improvement of conditions for patients and staff.
  2. Clearly defined safeguards for patients concerning involuntary institutionalisation and involuntary treatment.
  3. An end to iatrogenic treatment.
  4. An updating in the philosophy expressed in the system and buildings of institutions - from prisons to sanctuaries, where the value of the individual is respected.

I cannot believe that you and the rest of the Council of Management are so out of touch with reality that you publicly oppose these reforms. I do assure you there is overwhelming public support for these reforms, and there is broad professional support from both the medical and psychiatric professions.

The recent scandals of Ely - Friern Barnet - South Ockenden - Farleigh, and many others, the soon to be published report by the Church of Scientology Human Rights Commission on Psychiatric Violations, will not make the public nor the general medical practitioner any more anxious to consign patients, relatives or friends to these institutions.

Therefore in the interests of the NAMH patients and the humane members of the psychiatric professions, of whom I'm sure there are many, let us meet and settle our differences.

Yours sincerely,
David Gaiman.

From several members of the NAMH he actually got replies. 'Will you please note', wrote one lady from Cornwall on 3 November, 'that I for one will immediately withdraw my membership of NAMH, and cancel Christmas card orders, advising others to do the same, if the scientologists in any way at all gain control or one of their members is elected Chairman.'

'It seems to me', wrote a member in Bradford, 'that basically your letter is ingenuous and naive. I am well aware of current conditions in mental hospitals and criticisms that are currently made.' And he went on:

It is true that much change is still needed. If NAMH is not aware of these matters then I as a member shall use my small influence to make my own criticisms. To suggest that some sort of 'take-over bid' to assert one's own point of view can be the answer is to suggest a course that is unlikely to do other than destroy a voluntary body of some influence and prestige.

As a layman (I hope a well-informed one) I cannot concur with a blanket criticism of the psychiatric profession and the Council of Management of the NAMH. The introduction of what you call your 'religious philosophy', even if taken at its face value and accepting that it does not inspire your attitude to NAMH, can only create an Alice in Wonderland situation where a member will be unable to understand what anybody at the top of the Association is talking about.

Less charitably, the layman might be excused for thinking that you and your Society are motivated by pure spite because of the Association's published criticism of scientology and because of statements by the former Minister of Health.

A member in Maidenhead (to take one more example) wrote as follows to Lord Balniel, for all members had received copies from Mr Gaiman of his 'My dear Balniel' letter (page 104):

Regarding the proposed Chairmanship of the NAMH by a Mr Gaiman, a 'scientologist', I thank you for the stand you propose to take. I have been a member of the NAMH for six years, and would promptly resign should the scientologists 'take-over'. This event would ruin the hard-won regard in which the NAMH is now held. If the public connects the NAMH in any way with scientology our image will be ruined and all our 'patients' will suffer. May I express regret at your resignation and thank you for the excellent way in which you have chaired the NAMH over the years.

Some of the scientologists had been members of the NAMH since the February of that year; and four of them had come up with 'Resolutions' for the Annual General Meeting. The Council of Management decided not to 'adopt' them as its own (which was barely surprising), but to circulate them to members and put them to the AGM when it took place. Here they are:

  1. That this meeting considers it deplorable that, despite the NAMH being in existence for twenty-three years, the conditions of brutality and squalor in mental institutions currently being exposed were not made public long ago by the Association despite the extensive professional advice and information available to it from its Advisory Council and its local associations. Therefore the proposal embodied in the submission to the Secretary of State for Social Services that the Association should play a part in the nomination of suitable people for an Inspectorate of Hospitals is injudicious and hypocritical and should immediately be withdrawn. As an alternative, this meeting considers that the Minister should be asked to appoint a Royal Commission of Inquiry into all mental institutions and practices.
  2. That this meeting considers the objects of the Association have been interpreted so as to promote the welfare of the mental practitioners and administrators rather than that of patients, and calls upon the Council of Management to henceforth pursue a vigorous policy of exposing cruel or ineffective treatment and administration of the mentally ill and subnormal.

The meeting further requires the Council of Management as a matter of urgency to campaign immediately for the protection of patients' basic rights and dignities as fellow human beings, and to work actively with other bodies with similar objects.

The tail of Resolution 2 contained the sting. Work actively with what other bodies? It looked as though the NAMH was to be asked to work actively with an organisation whose public statements condemned psychological medicine as a system of organised and largely motiveless cruelty. But before the two Resolutions could be presented to members of the NAMH and thus enable it to begin the digging of its own grave, there had to be a meeting for the sole purpose of postponing the AGM in conformity with an order of Mr Justice Megarry, who had said that the transaction of any business other than convening and adjourning the meeting would be in contempt of court. It was held at 2 p.m. on 12 November 1969, in the Victoria Halls, Bloomsbury Square, and Mr Gaiman was outside with about 200 of his scientologists. They were carrying posters which said 'We want humane psychiatry'; and these seemed to be a tentative advance on previous slogans, which had not wanted any kind of psychiatry at all.

'We are demonstrating', Mr Gaiman told the Daily Telegraph [1. 13 November 1969], 'for humane treatment and a bill of rights for mental patients and the protection of their bodies and their well-being. We want an independent enquiry into conditions in mental hospitals. We want no more whitewashing from certain mental health organisations like the one across the road. Our stand is not on being asked to resign but for humane psychiatry.' And while he spoke, people arriving for the NAMH meeting were being carefully screened to ensure that they were members at the appropriate time. The meeting was duly adjourned until an unspecified date, and the stage was set for the High Court action to decide the legality of the expulsions.

But the NAMH also convenes an Annual Conference, a far bigger occasion, attended by upwards of a thousand people - doctors, nurses, mental health workers, etc. The scientologists wanted to go to the 1970 one, on 19/20 February at Church House, Westminster, and applied for five tickets. The NAMH thought the Conference would go better without them. (Indeed the Report of the Conference, whose title 'Impoverished and Ignored' was the phrase in which the Minister of Health and Social Security, Mr R. H. S. Crossman, had described the subnormality hospitals, correctly suggests that the proceedings did not lack for lively controversy.) So the known scientologists (i.e. the plaintiffs) got no tickets, and this was the subject of a further application in the Chancery Division - they wanted an injunction banning the Conference as well as the AGM 'save on terms that the plaintiffs be admitted thereto'.

This was dealt with by Mr Justice Plowman on 6 February 1970 - which happened to be the 'closing date' for applications for tickets. He said the only question was, did the scientologists have any right to Conference tickets whether or not they were full members of the NAMH? (This question was not then decided.) Mr Peter Pain, QC, urged upon him that they had 'a right not necessarily to be issued with a ticket but to take their place in the queue for tickets, and if they are high up in the queue, then to have a ticket issued'.

Mr Patrick Neill, QC, argued, on the other hand, that they had no such rights, and that the pamphlet in which the NAMH had advertised the Conference and described the procedure for getting tickets, which might be regarded as an offer, 'was never communicated to the plaintiffs, and not having been communicated to them is incapable of acceptance by them'. Mr Pain's case of course was that this non- communication was precisely what the scientologists complained of. But 'whether that reply really answers Mr Neill's point', said the Judge, 'it is unnecessary for me to consider. I propose to decide the motion on the ground that the plaintiffs have not established any right which entitles them to the relief they are seeking, and in those circumstances I must dismiss the motion.' So the Conference took place with none of the plaintiffs present.

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