The Bill Muehlenberg Trophy: Cyrus Brooks and the Church of Scientology

10 07 2007

The latest Bill Muehlenberg gong is awarded to Cyrus Brooks, vice-president of the Australian Church of Scientology, for taking advantage of a recent double-murder, involving a Sydney woman who stabbed her father and sister to death, to proselytise to the nation his faith-based objections to psychiatry, arguing on ABC radio that “modern psychiatry used many methods that were largely ‘unproven’ and psychiatric assumptions – such as chemical imbalances in the brain – simply did not exist.” The murder suspect is a woman suffering psychosis who was denied psychiatric treatment because of her parents’ Scientologist beliefs. Brooks’ claims were immediately rebutted by Sydney University psychiatrist Chris Tennant:

It’s so sad to hear the Flat-Earthers getting on the radio. The amount of research in terms of both treatment of depression and psychosis is as strong as any other medical of treatment–be it cancer, be it heart disease, be it whatever–it’s the same methods, the same technologies are used in these sorts of studies. There are hundreds of studies that show the effectiveness of these drugs not only in curing symptoms, [. . .] but also in reducing the social impact including, dare I say it, issues of violence and things like assault and homicide when patients with psychosis are treated.

The Sydney case mirrors the 2003 murder of Ellie Perkins at the hands of her son Jeremy, who suffered from schizophrenia: a psychiatric condition the Church of Scientology asserts does not exist. Jeremy’s condition was untreated because his parents–both Scientologists–believed that psychiatrists are evil and psychiatric medicine is poison. According to a website devoted to the case, the church promptly attempted to cover up its connections to the murder.

And yet again we have a clear demonstration of the dangers of magical thinking–of what can go wrong when one checks one’s brains at the door of the “Free Personality Test” booth and embraces religious dogma at the expense of reason and evidence.

What is even more disconcerting is the fact that Scientology appears to be giving the Christian Right a run for its money regarding its theocratic ambitions. A 2005 Salon article documents the church’s attempts to get anti-psychiatry legislation passed in various US states, and its anti-medication dogma taught in US public schools (see also this San Francisco Chronicle article). According to Salon,

you don’t have to rely on critics to show that Scientology’s attack on psychiatry is part of the church’s crusade to rule society. In 1995, David Miscavige, the church’s current leader, addressed the International Association of Scientologists in Copenhagen. He told the faithful that the church had two goals as the new millennium approached, dutifully noted by International Scientology News: “Objective one – place Scientology at the absolute center of society. Objective two – eliminate psychiatry in all its forms.”

Wedge Strategy, anyone?

Meanwhile, a California man languishes in a solitary jail cell. His crime? Protesting Scientology. (More on Keith Henson here.)

South Park on what Scientologists believe:

See also: Pharyngula
, Operation Clambake, Lisa McPherson Memorial Page