Norwegian government considers prosecuting Scientology

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Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services is considering prosecuting and banning some Scientology practices, in particular the use of the Scientology personality test to sell courses. State Secretary Rigmor Aasrud said that the activities in question might be prosecuted as fraud or as violations of existing healthcare regulations. A Norwegian Member of Parliament (MP) whose daughter killed herself after taking such a test, supports the idea of prosecuting illegal practices rather than trying to ban the movement as a whole.

Olav Gunnar Ballo (left) in the Norwegian Storting. File photo by Lars Røed Hansen.
Cquote1.svg Also stupid or clearly false expressions must be allowed as free expressions in a democracy, as long as individuals are not harmed by the expressions. The questionable thing about the Scientology cult is, however, that their operation is harmful for individuals. Cquote2.svg

Olav Gunnar Ballo

The statement was made after three journalists from the online edition of the newspaper Verdens Gang (VG) took the test. The journalists wore hidden recording devices, and did not disclose that they were journalists; VG put the recordings on its website. Scientology staff members told all three that they should buy a course to handle psychological issues. Two of the journalists filled out the 200 questions with honest answers, while the third gave answers consistent with being depressed. The "depressed" journalist was told that he should avoid traditional medicine, while one of the "normal" journalists was told that the course was her only hope for improvement unless she wanted to start taking "chemicals".

Matthias Fosse, spokesperson for the Church of Scientology in Norway, said that the staff members in question were acting individually. He said that the Church of Scientology does not give medical advice, but that it encourages people to focus on the side effects of medications, and is critical of the "over-medication" of psychiatric patients.

Olav Gunnar Ballo, a Norwegian MP and medical doctor whose daughter Kaja suddenly killed herself after a negative experience with the Scientology test in France in March 2008, released a book about Kaja Ballo's life in April 2009. The book debuted on 2nd place in the Norwegian best seller list. Ballo listened to the recorded test result sessions from VG and said that he found the practice "horrible and harmful". He told the newspaper Dagbladet that Norway could have something to learn from the current French prosecution of Scientology corporations and individuals, by prosecuting specific harmful practices rather than banning Scientology as a whole.

Matthias Fosse said that France is a far more secular society than Norway, and that France were going too far in their prosecution. He said that France has a list of 165 organizations considered to be "sects", which not just included Scientology but also covered Baptists such as former U.S. president Bill Clinton. The list which Fosse referred to is a list from the 1995 Parliamentary Commission on Cults in France. Fosse said that the OSCE, the U.S. State Department and the UN had criticised French "violations of human rights".

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