David versus Hubbard
by Émilie Dubreuil
July 18, 2010 11:30 P.M.
The number was blocked on the call display, but I knew I was speaking with the Church of Scientology's Salman Rushdie.
The first time I heard of David Edgar Love was last fall. The telephone rang at home. A man introduced himself in English: "Hello, my name is Gerry Armstrong ... " The number was blocked on the call display, but I instinctively knew that the person on the other end was the Church of Scientology's Salman Rushdie. Gerry Armstrong is an Anon, a name coined by "anti-Scientology" activists for persons who criticize the activities of the Church and even its very existence. Anons provide the help they have the means to offer to those who wish to leave the ranks of the religious group as well as to those who say they are its victims.
In this community, whose members can be found throughout the world, Armstrong is a star, a true living legend. A former Scientologist who from 1971 to 1981 was a member of the Sea Org, an elite group within the Church, he was in 1980 assigned the task of collecting the personal archives of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. This research was intended to facilitate the work of the writer hired by the organization to write the prophet's biography.
While sifting through the master's papers -- notes, letters, archives -- a seed of doubt was planted in the mind of the faithful Scientologist, and the more he read, the more he doubted the dogma to which he had devoted his life. He asked his superiors to explain the inconsistencies he discovered in Hubbard's writings. This was such insubordination that the Church excommunicated him and declared him anathema. As a result of his questioning of Scientology doctrine, he was subjected to "Fair Game", a policy established by Hubbard in 1960 and which stipulates that any individual or group that threatens his Church will be attacked. This essentially means "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." Thus did Scientology drag its former disciple to court. The pretext: the Church accused Armstrong of handing over confidential papers to his lawyer.
In 1986, after a long court battle, the two parties signed an agreement. Armstrong accepted $800,000 in compensation. In return, he agreed not to disclose privileged information about the Church and not to intervene in other cases related directly or indirectly to the organization. However, for the past 24 years, Armstrong has been doing precisely the opposite. He devotes his life to helping people who sue the Church and speaks openly about the secret documents to which he had access. The upshot has been a proliferation of new lawsuits. These were the circumstances which, last fall, led David Love to find him. If you want to attack Scientology and you're googling in the hope of finding allies, it doesn't take long for Gerry Armstrong's name to pop up ... From a building in Trois-Rivieres, this is what David Edgar Love was searching for.
Knowing about my journalistic interest in the Church of Scientology, Armstrong wanted to tell me about a "case". An employee of Narconon was being held against his will at the detoxification centre which is located at the outskirts of Trois-Rivieres and which is tied to the Church of Scientology. Like the vast majority of Narconon's "intervention workers", there are Narconon centres around the world.
David Edgar Love arrived there as a client. He was suffering from an addiction to medication and had faith in this miracle cure that advertised a 70% success rate. The centre provides treatment for addicts based on Hubbard's teachings, which are disputed by the scientific community. Hubbard believed that drugs, all drugs, settle in the body's fatty tissues and that it is therefore possible to detoxify a person by following what Scientologists call "the purification rundown", which consists of sending a person to a sauna for several hours a day for several weeks.
Like most clients of this miracle cure (which costs a fortune: tens of thousands of dollars), Love hails from English Canada. During his treatment, he claims he was forced to watch a film about Dianetics, Scientology's bible. He also claims to have been sexually harassed by the treatment director and that his bedside books were confiscated so that he could only read books by Hubbard. In spite of this, Love successfully completed the treatment and became an employee of the centre. He was given the responsibility of compiling statistics on success rates ... and he began to call persons who had completed the program, only to realize, he says, that the success rate was closer to 40% than 70%.
Moreover, Love says he witnessed disturbing medical incidents. For example, a diabetic was denied his insulin. Scientologists have, to say the least, a complicated attitude toward drugs and illness, which, according to them -- this is an extremely terse summary -- are caused by surplus particles of extraterrestrial beings that pollute our body. Love also tells the story of a young Ontario woman who broke her arm when she fell on ice and who was not immediately taken to a hospital because someone wanted to cure her with a Scientology-style laying on of hands. We contacted this former Narconon client in Ontario and she confirmed this story.
David Edgar Love became increasingly uncomfortable about his employer and its methods, and he began to think of leaving. However, Narconon, he says, showing us copies of his paychecks, paid him well below the minimum wage. It was then that he contacted Armstrong, who in turn called me. I met Love just as he was leaving the facility with the escort he had requested from the Sûreté du Québec
[Quebec provincial police]. He was strange, hirsute. Since then, he has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome by a psychiatrist from the McGill University Health Centre, he has filed complaints with the Quebec Labour Standards Commission [Commission des normes du travail
] and the Quebec Human Rights Commission [Commission des droits de la personne
], and he has lobbied the Health Department to ban the Scientology treatment. It's a David versus Goliath battle. But not exactly ... because people like Gerry Armstrong and his wide network of Anons provided him a lawyer who has been advising him from Australia to assist him in his efforts.
Narconon denies David Edgar Love's allegations and has paid him his wages. Today, the former addict is working at a call centre in Dorval and he is determined to remain in Quebec until the treatment program tied to the Church of Scientology has been shamed in the public square. Employees of Narconon still lecture about drugs in schools across the province, promoting the gospel of a science fiction writer and of a religion among young people.