Church Pressure Not Raised On Talk Show

Source: Irish Times
Date: December 11, 2002

A woman who is suing the Church of Scientology has been cross-examined at length in the High Court about why she had not spoken about the alleged pressure put on her by the church when interviewed on RT's Late Late Show in February 1995.

Mr Michael Collins SC, for the church, also asked Ms Mary Johnston why she had not spoken about pressure to join the church in a Sunday Tribune article in 1994. In that article, she had stated she was not vulnerable, Mr Collins said.

Ms Johnston (40), who operates a sports equipment business at Westwood, Foxrock, Dublin, is suing the church and three of its members for damages for personal injuries, breach of constitutional rights and conspiracy.

Mr Collins put to Ms Johnston that, at the end of the Late Late Show interview, she had been asked by Gay Byrne why she joined the church and she said it was because she was intelligent and interested in the way the mind worked.

"No allegation there you were pressured into doing something you didn't want to do?" Mr Collins asked. Ms Johnston said: "It wouldn't be one of the best replies I ever gave in my life."

She was quite frightened to be on the show, she added. She denied that she had been briefed by Bonnie and Richard Woods, whom Mr Collins described as members of a fundamentalist church in England opposed to scientology.

She agreed Carr Communications had helped her to prepare for her Late Late Show appearance. She did not have to pay for that preparation as Mr Tom Savage of Carr Communications was a cousin of hers.

She had gone on the show in the hope of discouraging people from getting involved in the church. However she had said very little on the show because she was contemplating litigation.

Asked about a Sunday Tribune article referring to her, Ms Johnston said that at the time she was only out of scientology six months. As an former cult member, she was coming to terms with the trauma she had been through.

Ms Johnston said she had become obsessed with having revealed to Mr Tom Cunningham, a defendant, her secret regarding her having had two abortions. She had never told that to anyone else.

In August 1993, she said, she went to seek further help from Mr Gerard Ryan, another defendant, and subsequently signed up with the church.

About the time of the 1993 abortion referendum, she was distressed and told Mr Cunningham about this. She said Mr Cunningham had told her this was because she had a "withhold" from her boyfriend and advised her to tell the boyfriend.

She had not told her sister about the abortions until she had left the Church of Scientology.

She said she had felt no relief when she had told Mr Cunningham. "I just felt vulnerable and from that point on I felt vulnerable."

The case continues today before Mr Justice Peart.

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