Thursday, July 28, 2011

Church of Scientology: Physiotherapist Reprimanded for Proselytism

Church of Scientology: Physiotherapist Reprimanded for Proselytism

by Caroline Touzin

La Presse

July 28, 2011

Église de scientologie: un physiothérapeute blâmé de prosélytisme

A Quebec physiotherapist has been reprimanded by his professional order for promoting the Church of Scientology to his patients.

The Church of Scientology is classified as a religion in Quebec, but as a sect in France and other European countries.

Regardless of whether this is a religion or a sect, the code of ethics of the Order of Physiotherapists prohibits its members from promotional activity that is "likely to unduly influence persons who may be physically or emotionally vulnerable."

It was a patient of Raymond Soucy who complained after she noticed pamphlets about the theories of the Church of Scientology placed in the waiting room of his clinic in Shawinigan.

The physiotherapist also sold some of the church's books to his patients. In addition, he posted a petition asking people to denounce the use of medications prescribed in psychiatry.

At the hearing held last year regarding the complaint, the physiotherapist pleaded not guilty, claiming that the literature was public information because it was already on the web.

"The informational and promotional materials about various theories specific to the Church of Scientology have nothing to do with the profession of physiotherapy. Moreover, it is certain that this literature may have a harmful influence on some patients," wrote the disciplinary board of the Quebec Professional Order of Physiotherapy in its recent ruling [official name: Ordre professionnel de la physiothérapie du Québec].

Raymond Soucy "failed to distinguish between his personal beliefs and his professional role, therefore he is guilty of the infractions charged in the complaint," concluded the disciplinary board. Last month, the physiotherapist was ordered to pay a $3,000 fine. La Presse reached Mr. Soucy by telephone at his clinic yesterday, but he declined to comment on the board's decision.

The spokesman for the Church of Scientology of Montreal, Jean Larivière, said he was "surprised" by this disciplinary decision. The Church of Scientology encourages its followers to promote its teachings, he said. "Those who practice Scientology experience benefits on a personal level. It's normal that they want to tell others about it," says Larivière. Nevertheless, a person must be sure to have the employer's permission, he insists, not wishing to comment on Mr. Soucy's case, whose details he does not know.

A controversial movement

"The Church of Scientology is one of the most controversial movements in the world," says the Executive Director of Info-Cult, Mike Kropveld, "But here in Quebec, we receive few questions and complaints about it."

The fact that the Church of Scientology is classified as a religion here does not mean that the movement is approved by the authorities, says the specialist on new religious movements. "This classification does not guarantee anything," warns Mr. Kropveld.

Canadian film director Paul Haggis, who won an Oscar for his film Crash, was one of the celebrities of the Church of Scientology. He was a member for 34 years, but left in 2009. Last winter, he gave a revealing interview to an American magazine that published a stunning article on the organization's inner workings. He accused his former church of exploitating minors and of justifying violence. He also criticized its opposition to gay marriage and the way it treats its critics.

The movement was founded in 1954 by American science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard and claims 10 million followers worldwide. The Executive Director of Info-Cult questions this. "We do not know what their definition of a member is. Do they count people who are only subscribed to their newsletter? Who took one of their courses? Who bought their book?" asks Mr. Kropveld.

In the latest Statistics Canada census, 1,525 people replied that they are Scientologists. The movement has religious facilities in Montreal and Quebec City.

The Montreal spokesman, Mr. Larivière, believes that the Church of Scientology has many more followers in Canada, including "several thousand" in the province of Quebec. "Many people have read our teachings, but the level of involvement varies. Some come see us every week, others once every three years," he says.

The Church of Scientology bases its practices on Dianetics, techniques that, according to its followers, eliminate illness, anxiety and aggressiveness, among other things.

In the United States, the organization has many public faces, including actors Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Juliette Lewis. In Quebec, singer France D'Amour revealed that she has been a Scientologist for many years on the popular talk show Tout le monde en parle.

Translation: Anonymous, Why We Protest

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