Yet even while Mr. Hubbard successfully told man he could be happy and the numbers of Scientologists mounted, psychiatry was attempting to strengthen its grasp on society.
The plan involved what came to be known as the Siberia Bill, actually named the Alaska Mental Health Bill. The more popular title came from the fact that the proposed outcome of this cherished psychiatric plan was likened to a Siberia-type camp for mental health patients in the frozen wastelands of Alaska. Presumably, this was far enough away from the well-traveled roads of the world to allow psychiatrists to conduct their mind control and other experiments on a captive population, unhindered by the glare of publicity. To ensure a captive population, the measure incorporated a “simplified commitment procedure,” so simple, in fact, that it eradicated such wasteful and costly activities as jury trials and legal defenses and allowed any peace officer, friend, medical doctor and, of course, psychiatrist, to institute commitment proceedings.
But just after January 1956, and the bill’s unanimous, yet barely noticeable, passage through Congress, a coalition of members of the Church of Scientology and civil rights groups launched a campaign to inform the American public just what this bill held in store for them. Under the rallying cry, “Siberia, USA!” a massive letter-writing campaign inspired political opposition.
When it was over, the commitment section of the bill was deservedly dead, leaving merely an act to authorize mental health funding to the territory of Alaska.
A wounded psychiatry struck back, this time utilizing the FDA as its main battering ram. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, Scientologists later uncovered a mountain of documents which well demonstrated the activities of the participants-egged on by members of both the AMA and APA. A veritable beehive of activity took place, with letters and meetings between interested psychiatric parties, the Department of Justice, the Washington, DC police department, the United States Post Office, the IRS, the AMA, of course, and even the US Army’s Criminal Investigation Command-all continuously linked and regularly prodded by a now extremely nervous psychiatry.
The upshot of all these schemes? The first action was a ludicrous failure, the second a waste of time, the third an embarrassment.
The first, based on a psychiatrist’s “tip” that the Church was using illegal drugs, led to a “raid” on the Washington, DC church by a US deputy marshal who seized a few bottles of said drug. When it turned out to be a compound of the commonly available vitamin B1, vitamin C, niacinamide and calcium, that case obviously went nowhere.
Drug dealing proving an unworkable premise, the FDA and other interested agencies decided that Scientology practicing medicine without a license would prove fertile ground for exploration. On March 19, 1959, FDA agent Taylor Quinn infiltrated the church, taped a religious service, and passed the information on to the US Attorney’s Office. Unfortunately, as he reported to the FDA, the church had required him to sign a contract that he was not to learn to cure anyone. Nor was there any evidence of fraud.
With both drugs and illegal healing dead-ended, the only avenue remaining to the FDA was the E-Meter. Perhaps, they theorized, it was used to “diagnose” or “cure illness.” So, on January 4, 1963, US marshals, deputized longshoremen and armed police barged their way into the Founding Church of Scientology in Washington, threatened the staff, and left with two vans of not only E-Meters, but books, scriptures and other materials.
Still, as outrageous as it was, it didn’t match the sheer audacity of what happened in Seattle where the FDA’s fingerprints were figuratively all over the handgun that was used to murder the head of the church there.
A local resident, Russell Johnson, who had heard about the FDA’s actions in Washington, DC, thought they would provide a sympathetic ear to his current problem. He called them to complain about “the practices of a Dr. William Fisk who operates as the Church of Scientology” and claimed Fisk was attempting to seduce his wife.
The enterprising FDA official he spoke to immediately suggested that Johnson join forces with the FDA as an “undercover agent” and infiltrate the church. Johnson dutifully did this, reported in, and was instructed to return and get further information.
Johnson carried his duties as an intelligence agent into tragic and bloody extremes. On September 10, 1963, he walked into the Seattle church and shot and killed the Executive Director before a roomful of horrified congregation members.
The FDA then carried the concept of expediency to new and distasteful heights. Instead of confessing that one of its “agents” had just committed murder, it contacted the Seattle police department and arranged to send its own people illegally into church premises with the homicide team, to further gather information for its “investigation.” As usual, however, the FDA discovered nothing illegal in the church.
Altogether, for more than a decade the FDA would remain obsessed with the E-Meter. With other government agencies, it would repeatedly infiltrate the Church with agents and informants, employ bugging devices, place a “cover” on Church mail, and obtain confidential Church bank account information.
It would get nowhere. In 1969, the Washington, DC Federal Appeals Court ruled the Church a bona fide religion protected by the US Constitution, and that the E-Meter had not been improperly labeled or used.
Still, it was not until 1973 that a reluctant FDA finally returned those stolen church materials: 5,000 books, 2,900 booklets, and the E-Meters.
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