Scientology wants so badly to have some influence in national politics, but most leaders are smart enough to be wary of it. Our man who watches social media, Rod Keller, updates us on the latest ways Scientologists are being encouraged to influence bills in Washington. (Go here our previous look at the Scientology baggage of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.)
Last week we saw Scientology’s failure to prevent the U.S. House of Representatives from passing the 21st Century Cures Act which authorizes $6 billion in spending on a wide variety of healthcare programs. This week Scientology failed again as the Senate passed the measure, but the church has instead claimed a moral victory in a message to its members.
Scientologists were bombarded with emails and on social media urging them to call their senators to oppose the bill. They were given a new set of talking points, none of which appear to be a fair reading of the actual language of the legislation. These are invented objections. As we saw last week, the true objection is to the use of Electroconvulsive Therapy, or ECT, which Scientologists see as a tool used by psychiatrists to implant false memories. They see devices such as Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) as new and dangerous forms of ECT.
Scientology was joined in opposition to the bill by a number of allied groups. These groups are not part of Scientology and do not share its hatred of psychiatry, but they opposed the act because it will lead to less rigorous testing of drugs and medical devices before they are made available to the public. Dr. Diana Zuckerman is President of the National Center for Health Research, a non-profit organization that provides science-based information to lawmakers to help improve our healthcare system. She tells us, “Many groups including CCHR believe medical devices need to tested more carefully than they have been before they are marketed, and this bill would be pushing the Food and Drug Administration to do less testing before they are sold and used by patients who don’t realize the device hasn’t been proven to be safe and effective.”
Dr. Zuckerman understands what Scientology has been telling her about their position, but in fact they see no need for medical device testing other than as a way to discourage the use of ECT entirely. Their plan is to eliminate the device, the procedure, and all of the Psychiatric profession.
Scientology’s lobbyist on the 21st Century Cures act was former Indiana congressman Dan Burton. Burton served in the House from 1983 to 2013, before retiring citing family health issues. Burton registered as a lobbyist for CCHR in 2015. He attended the opening of Scientology’s National Affairs Office in Washington, DC in 2012. CCHR paid the lobbying firm Dan Burton International $40,000 in 2015 and $60,000 in 2016 for the congressman’s services.
Sources in Congress say that Burton’s argument against the act was anecdotal, based on his personal experience that his mother had received ECT and there were adverse effects of the procedure. Most Senate offices were unaware of Burton’s efforts, and none reported speaking to constituents opposed to the act based on the talking points provided by CCHR.
The act passed the Senate by a vote of 94-5 on Wednesday. Those opposed were Republican Senator Lee from Utah, Independent Senator Sanders from Vermont, and Democrats Wyden and Merkley from Oregon and Warren from Massachusetts. Statements from these Senators show their opposition was unrelated to Scientology’s agenda. Senator Wyden voted against it because provisions to protect child welfare were eliminated from the bill and funding to fight opiate addiction was reduced. “The Family First Prevention Services Act would implement the most significant improvements to the child welfare system in decades and provide real funding to fight the opioid and other drug epidemics. I am infuriated and heartbroken that Republican leaders struck this bipartisan provision to help the most vulnerable among us from the 21st Century Cures Act that passed today.”
Scientology claimed a moral victory to members rather than admit overwhelming defeat.
Thank You for Your Hard Work!
We Created a Huge Impact and Laid a Strong Foundation
While the 21st Century Cures Act did pass the U.S. Senate, all your calls and the work done on Capitol Hill raised awareness about the dangers of the bill and laid the foundation for our next moves. Let’s look at what you did: The first alert we sent out on this bill was around January. You started making calls, and our allies did as well. In spite of the fact that it had already passed the U.S. House, the bill stopped dead in its tracks. And it stayed dead.
Only through intense and complicated maneuvers was the bill revived over the Thanksgiving weekend. And only through intense lobbying and political pressure was final passage achieved. How intense? This was the most lobbied bill since the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare). Over half a billion dollars and 1,400 lobbyists were used in the passage of this bill.
In spite of that we are more optimistic than ever! As we made visits at the Capitol, it was clear that your message was well received. Offices commented on your calls. Even better, as we discussed the issues, people were genuinely appreciative at having some intelligence on how things are working in the real world. Several expressed areas of psychiatric abuse they are interested in and expressed their wish to stay in touch and attempt to get these areas addressed.
We didn’t go to just make visits on this one bill. We went for the long game. And actually, the long game is looking brighter. For those of you in Florida, there will be a more in-depth briefing at the CCHR Florida Center on Monday, December 12th at 7pm on how this affects us on a locally on a state level.
Thank you for all your help. You made a difference. We will count on you again.
Diane Stein, President, CCHR Florida
Sebastian Egloff, Executive Director, CCHR Florida
Lee Spiller, Executive Director, CCHR Texas
Linda Lagemann, Ph.D., Commissioner, CCHR
Scientology’s next legislative target is the Frank Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, named for the former Virginia congressman who championed religious freedom rights during his time in office from 1981-2015. “This bill will help ensure that defending religious freedom remains at the core of our engagement in even the most repressive parts of the world and that we have the most effective policies in place to be successful,” said Sen. Bob Corker, the main sponsor of the bill in the Senate. The act has already passed the House of Representatives.
The act authorizes a report to be written by the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, an office currently held by Rabbi David Saperstein.
Such report shall include information about:
– severe violations of religious freedom in a country where a government does not exist or does not control its territory;
– identification of prisoners in a country;
– action taken by a government to censor religious content, communications, or worship activities online;
– persecution of human rights advocates seeking to defend the rights of members of religious groups or highlight religious freedom violations, including prohibitions on ritual animal slaughter or male infant circumcision;
– and country-specific analysis of the impact of U.S. actions on religious freedom.
The executive summary of each such report shall include: (1) information about a country in which a non-state actor is designated as an entity of particular concern for religious freedom, and (2) a Special Watch List that shall identify each country that engages in or tolerates severe violations of religious freedom but which the President determines does not meet all the criteria for designation as a country of particular concern for religious freedom.
The bill expresses the sense of Congress that given that the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices no longer contain updated information on religious freedom conditions globally, it is important that the State Department and the Commission on International Religious Freedom work together to fulfill the original intent of the IRFA.
Scientology has long used Department of State human rights reports to complain about government interference in Germany, France and Belgium, among others. This act may provide additional tools in their efforts to avoid prosecution or government restrictions. Placing a country on the new Special Watch List for their actions against Scientology would be a huge accomplishment as they plan for expansion outside the U.S. The act passed the House unanimously, and is expected to pass the Senate with little opposition.
— Rod Keller
Hungary agency raids Scientology
We just got this word from our man in Budapest, Péter Bónyai…
The Hungarian National Authority for Data Protection and Freedom of Information has launched an investigation into the data processing practices of the Scientology Religious Association of Hungary.
The investigation procedure of the Hungarian National Authority for Data Protection and Freedom of Information was prompted by complaints filed by various individuals. According to these reports, data subject’s rights were violated by the data processing practices used by the Association. The purpose of the official procedure is to ascertain whether the data processing practices of the religious association are in compliance with Hungarian data protection regulations or not.
More at Péter’s blog.
Bonus items from our tipsters
Hey, girl. Isn’t it time you came to the Ukraine to go on an E-meter ride with me?
Hey, girl. Forget that Ukrainian guy and come go Clear with me in Colombia!
This is the state of Scientology grooming “celebrities”: Polish “God of Pop” Kuba Ka and Joy Villa, who captioned this with “Stay tuned for a musical collaboration!”
Hey, look, the Unbreakable Miss Lovely and her husband Paul are out in Los Angeles with a bunch of SPs. Can you name them all?
Go here to start making your plans.
E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.
Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.
Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts
Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ
Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield