(Note: many of the links in this article refer to Scientology websites. If you are concerned, visit them via an anonymiser such as hidemyass.com.)
Scientology’s relationship to psychiatry bears more resemblance to the 9/11 “Truth” movement and other tinfoil-clad basement dwellers than to anything resembling history. The cult has blamed psychiatry for pretty much everything throughout history – from the holocaust and 9/11 to the acts of rival cults such as AUM (the Japanese cult which, in 1995, carried out a sarin gas terrorist attack on the Tokyo underground.) Hubbard believed the psychiatric industry was responsible for most, if not all, of the evils in the world, and that they had declared a covert war on Scientology. The cult still believes psychiatrists to be at the root of all their problems; a page, on their mini-site explaining why the organisation has so many problems, explains:
Although the forty-year assault against Scientology assumed large proportions, the source must be remembered-that small but influential circle of psychiatrists and their government stooges. Nor did the means change over the years: false allegations selectively planted in the media, then seeded into even more federal files as background “fact.”
It is a method, with small adjustments, that also served to cause trouble overseas. The international pipeline left the US, primarily through IRS and FBI links, and discharged among the voluminous dossiers of Interpol.
Interpol (originally designed to coordinate criminal apprehension between countries) was convenient on three counts: First, as a private organization it is not accountable to the people of any country, as are government agencies, and is free to amass secret dossiers and spread them far and wide; second, files bearing the authoritative Interpol stamp are assumed to be true; and, third, it had a decades-old relationship with the IRS and the FBI, the main repositories of false reports on Scientology in the US. In fact, IRS and FBI files contained virtually every rumor ever disseminated about Scientology, further substantiating Congressional findings that these agencies were often used to launch politically motivated attacks against targets that had committed no crimes at all.
What happened was fairly predictable: attacks against Scientology by government agencies in England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Australia-all with fervent media support involving the most outrageous allegations. Still, as usual, in every instance, Scientology prevailed.
So it goes. Key psychiatric figures, their US government allies and psychiatric colleagues overseas-together they have spent untold millions of dollars around the world to stop Scientology.
And they never have.
One early sign of Hubbard’s holy war against psychiatry was recently brought up by Louanna Lee, of scientologymyths.info – a CoS site claiming to counter the accusations made against the cult. Specifically, it concerns the Alaska Mental Health Enabling Act of 1956.
While the article in question has a number of factual errors, its focus is the claim that the bill intended to set up a “Siberia USA,” a series of camps in the Alaskan wilderness to which dissidents would be confined.
They drafted state mental health laws that included the eradication of jury trials and defenses and would allow any peace officer, friend or medical doctor to institute commitment proceedings. Within the ensuing few years, several states began adopting these “model” commitment procedures.
Overholser proposed the Alaska Mental Health Act, supported by the APA and NAMH. It was introduced in the U.S. Congress in 1954. This act would have instituted the Overholser/Felix commitment procedures at federal level, allowing anyone in the US to be picked up and shipped to a mental hospital in Alaska. “Siberia USA.” (H.R. 8009, 1954)
This Bill received scant public attention, and passed unanimously in the House of Representatives in January 1956. (The Daily Alaska Empire, Feb 20, 1956)
It now called for psychiatric facilities to be built in what was then the relatively unpopulated territory of Alaska. The measure included provisions for a national commitment procedure which would have empowered any peace officer to involuntarily commit any individual to psychiatric care – without recourse. The person would then be shipped off to Alaska for confinement and “treatment.” (H.R. 6376, 1956)
There are a number of problems with this analysis, not least the fact that the bill applied specifically to Alaskans, not to “anyone in the USA.” While the bill did provide for land to be allocated for the purpose of mental health provision, allegations that this land would be used for a gulag-style set of detention camps were unproven.
Opposition to the bill began with a variety of far-right groups who identified the proposal, and mental health in general, as a tool for the UN (or the psychiatrists, or the communists, or the Jews, or….) to take control of the US by setting up a series of prison camps disguised as mental health facilities. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Lafayette and his minions decided to follow suit, describing it as a tool for the psychiatric establishment to cement its control over American society.
Eventually, the bill was modified and passed, with some of the more contentious sections removed – not out of a rejection of them, but rather due to their misinterpretation by a number of the bill’s opponents. Scientology continues to this day to over-emphasise both the dangers of the bill itself and its role in having it changed.
Legislative history: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3f/1956_Alaska_Mental_Health_Enabling_Act_legislative_history.pdf