by J Scott Christianson, Columbia Daily Tribune Columnist
On Thursday and Friday, the state Capitol Rotunda will host an exhibit titled “The Industry of Death.” If you’re thinking it’s about time an exposé about corporate chicken farming came to the Capitol, you’ll be sadly disappointed. However, if you believe that psychiatrists and the entire psychiatric profession are part of a secret plan for world domination developed in part by Adolf Hitler, then it’s time to load the kids in the car for a day of fun at the Capitol.
The “Industry of Death” exhibit is sponsored by the Church of Scientology and makes a host of outrageous claims about the field of psychiatry. Twenty-five percent of psychiatrists sexually abuse their patients. Psychiatrists deliberately kill about 10,000 people a year – sounds about right. And for the big surprise, psychiatrists were responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks – guilty by association, at least, since psychiatrists are responsible for the existence of terrorists and suicide bombers. Last year, Tom Cruise famously launched his own attack on psychiatry after learning some of these “facts” about the profession. This exhibit explains a lot about why he seemed so far out when discussing psychiatry with Matt Lauer on “Today.”
The Church of Scientology has always seemed to have it in for psychiatrists. Perhaps it is because psychiatry and psychology are based on science, while Scientology is based on the ramblings of a science-fiction writer from the 1950s. To paraphrase the official view of the Vatican – an institution with a long history of dealing with matters of science and religion – it is science that keeps religion from becoming superstition. This exhibit from the Church of Scientology is just one way Scientologists have clearly shown that they stand on the side of superstition.
In most countries, the Church of Scientology is not even recognized as a religion; rather, it is treated and taxed like the lucrative business that it is. Only after a 25-year battle with the IRS, in which the Church of Scientology allegedly used private investigators to put pressure on the IRS officials in charge of granting not-for-profit status, was it recognized in the United States as tax-exempt.
Regardless of its tax-exempt status, the Church of Scientology is more like a pyramid scheme than a church. A follower of Scientology pays to take classes to receive the wisdom of Scientology, which is not publicly available. The more classes you take, the more enlightened you get. When you have completed the required curriculum, you can start teaching Scientology courses and charge tuition to your students. There are several levels for teachers and students, so there are more courses to take and more levels to achieve. Think Mary Kay Cosmetics with aliens and celebrities.
Besides being full of weird conspiracy theories, the exhibit itself is inspiring conspiracy theories about the Blunt administration: that Matt Blunt and Peter Kinder brought this exhibit to the Capitol to prove that mental health problems are a hoax before slashing Medicaid and mental health funding during the 2007 session. This conspiracy makes great fodder for the blogosphere, but it is about as true as the ideas presented in the Scientology exhibit. The fact is that any organization can schedule an exhibit for display in the state Capitol. It is free speech and is rightfully protected.
But given the current state of mental health care in Missouri, having this exhibit come to the state Capitol does seem like a slap in the face of those who have mental health problems or loved ones who are suffering.
As one Missourian explained, “As a person with a severe mental illness who has been helped greatly by the field of psychiatry” and also a person who has been greatly affected by the cuts in Medicaid made by Gov. Blunt, “this public display of disinformation disgusts me. It literally makes me sick to my stomach.”
The sad fact is that our society still doesn’t see mental illness as a “real” illness. As a result, many people go untreated, and mental health is not given the attention or funding it deserves. The Scientology exhibit is just preying on our societal biases to promote its “religion” as an alternative to real mental health care.