My fundamental respect for diversity normally ends whenever the "Church" of Scientology is brought up. First, it is not a church - at least not in my book. Those involved with Scientology have over the years worked to develop a more mainstream image. But I still maintain that their methods and views are dangerous. No where is that more obvious than their work to discredit the work of both mental health professionals and the mental health-related medications that have brought relief to millions suffering from mental illness.
Check out this latest example of their work from The Arizona Republic:
A group affiliated with the Church of Scientology has forged close ties with several influential members of the Arizona Legislature as part of a nationwide battle against the mental-health industry.
The Citizens Commission on Human Rights has courted key lawmakers with trips to glitzy Scientologist events in Hollywood. And, observers say, it has been the force behind more than two dozen bills in Arizona in recent years, including measures to restrict prescriptions of Ritalin and mood-altering drugs.
One of the measures pushed by the group is likely to be approved by the state Senate on Monday.
Senate Bill 1477, the psychotropic-drug bill that received preliminary approval this week, would add more state oversight of clinical trials involving tranquilizers and other drugs that affect the mind at state-funded institutions. Supporters say they do not believe people are always informed of the possible side effects of drugs like Prozac and Ritalin.
Opponents counter that the bill is unnecessary because of strict federal oversight of research programs and warn that it is part of a larger campaign by the religious sect to discredit the field of psychiatry.
"They don't believe there is such a thing as mental illness," said Sen. Robert Cannell, the Legislature's only medical doctor. "They have such an influence on the Legislature it is scary."
Air America's State of Belief program brought this issue in Arizona to my attention.
Most people in the United States remember the bizarre rants from Scientologist Tom Cruise attacking women seeking medical treatment for post-partum depression.
Shortly after 9/11 the Church of Scientology tried to seek out people in crisis by claiming to offer mental health services. "The public needs to understand that the Scientologists are using this tragedy to recruit new members," Michael M. Faenza, President and CEO of National Mental Health Association, said at the time. "They are not providing mental health assistance."
Their actions have been despicable over the years.
After Cruise's high profile comments the American Psychiatric Association (APA), NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill), and the National Mental Health Association (NMHA) released a joint statement that read in part:
FACT: Over the past five years, the nation has more than doubled its investment in the study of the human brain and behavior, leading to a vastly expanded understanding of postpartum depression, bipolar disorder and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Much of this research has been conducted by the National Institutes of Health and the nation's leading academic institutions.
FACT: Safe and effective treatments are available and may include talk therapy, medication or a combination of the two. Rigorous, published, peer-reviewed research clearly demonstrates that treatment works.
FACT: Medications can be an important and even life-saving part of a comprehensive and individualized treatment plan. As in other areas of medicine, medications are a safe and effective way to improve the quality of life for millions of Americans who have mental health concerns.
FACT: Mental health is a critical ingredient of overall health. It is unfortunate that in the face of this remarkable scientific and clinical progress that a small number of individuals and groups persist in questioning its legitimacy.
Keep on the look out for efforts in your local communities (not to mention in DC) that attack mental health treatment. You can bet there is a good chance that Scientologists will be behind any such effort. We know that in Arizona they are buying the politicians. Let's do everything we can to expose and stop them before they damage more lives.