Church Pressed Woman To Sell Shop, Court Told

Source: Irish Times
Date: December 6, 2002

A woman who is suing the Church of Scientology has told the High Court she had been encouraged to sell her business to pay for courses which would advance her within the organisation and which would cost about (pounds) 9,200 sterling.

Ms Mary Johnston (40), who has a sports equipment shop in Foxrock, Dublin, said that in November 1993 members of a mission from the organisation came to give a course. She met two of them and was told that she was obviously extremely intelligent and should train to go "up the bridge" on the processing side of the Church of Scientology.

She was told there would be a cost involved, and it was suggested to her that she could borrow from her family or her boyfriend if she did not have the money.

When it was suggested that she should sell her sports shop to pay for the courses, she was shocked because she had spent the previous 12 months trying to prevent it from going under.

She was told she was completely wasted as a retailer and should involve herself with the most ethical group on the planet. They put pressure on her. The cost of the courses was (pounds) 9,200 sterling.

"By the time they had finished with me after five hours had elapsed, I had agreed I was going to sell my business. I was elated," she said. She tried to borrow from her boyfriend at the time, who turned down her request.

As a result of her involvement with the church, she became withdrawn from her family and friends. She tried to recruit people into scientology but was unsuccessful in most cases. She had many rows with her boyfriend in which she "screamed, shouted, ranted and raved". Her short-term memory started to be affected.

Ms Johnston is suing the Church of Scientology Mission of Dublin Ltd and three of its members, Mr John Keane, Mr Tom Cunningham and Mr Gerard Ryan, for alleged conspiracy, misrepresentation and breach of constitutional rights.

Earlier, Ms Johnston said she was told she could not read an article in the Evening Herald which was critical of scientology. She had heard the article had made reference to a person who had left Scientology in California. The article also made reference to Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman having been visitors to that place.

She asked Mr Keane at the Dublin mission if he had a copy of it. He said she could not read it. He said she would need "class-12 auditing" to "repair" her because of what was contained in the article. Class-12 auditing would require "an arm and a leg", added Ms Johnston. She did not see the article.

On another occasion at the end of 1993, she said, she was taken to a downstairs room in the organisation's Dublin premises. There was an ashtray on a chair in front of her and she was told by a man to command it as loudly as she could to get it to stand up. She ended up screaming at the ashtray to stand.

She had to lift it up, acknowledging that it had stood up and say "Thank you" to it. She then screamed at the ashtray to "get down". Then she put it down and said "Thank you." She found what happened extremely confusing. She did not know why she was screaming at an inanimate object.

Ms Johnston said that just before Christmas 1993, a friend died from a massive heart attack, but she did not go to the funeral because sympathy was "low tone" in the Church of Scientology. At the higher end of the scale it was 40 for the higher tone while sympathy was down at 0.5 per cent. She said she resigned from the organisation in May 1994.

The hearing before Mr Justice Peart continues today.

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