One of the things about working at the party conferences is that you often find yourself too busy to actually do the conference itself. So it was that I didn’t get a chance to visit the Conservative Party exhibition until Tuesday afternoon.
I was therefore very surprised to find, almost as soon as I walked into the hall, a stand for Narconon, L. Ron Hubbard’s programme for drug rehabilitation. The stand also included programmes promoting Applied Scholastics, Hubbard’s education programme, Hubbard’s The Way to Happiness Foundation International and Criminon, Hubbard’s criminal rehabilitation programme.
What was missing from this stand? Any mention whatsoever of Scientology. Indeed, the Way to Happiness booklet that I picked up states that:
“This may be the first nonreligious moral code based wholly on common saense. It was written by L. Ron Hubbard as an individual work and is not part of any religious doctrine. Any reprinting or individual distribution of it does not infer connection with or sponsorship of any religious organisation. It is therefore admissible for government departments and employees to distribute it as a nonreligious activity.”
Inside, it does indeed appear to be based on common sense; indeed the blindingly obvious springs to mind. The first ten tenets for example are “take care of yourself”, “be temperate”, “don’t be promiscuous”, “love and help children”, “honor and help your parents”, “set a good example”, “seek to live with the truth”, “do not murder”, “don’t do anything illegal” and “support a government designed and run for all the people”. Scratch beneath the surface however, and it begins to take on certain religious characteristics. For example, we are encouraged to “respect the religious belief of others” regardless of how reprehensible their beliefs are, while it blandly dismisses “men without faith” as a “pretty sorry lot”. It also exhorts us not to “harm a person of good will” – the clear implication being that people deemed to be of “bad will” are fair game.
The latter is familiar territory for both religions and quasi-scientific self-improvement programmes such as Dianetics. Also rather dianetic-like is the tendency to list definitions of words throughout the pamphlet. Dianetics and Scientology are inseperable, and the quasi-religious tendency of the booklets outlining each programme to include a full page sepia-toned picture of the Great Man, also indicates this is more dogma than scientific research (then again, the Tory conference booklet has a quasi-religious full page picture of Cameron; make of that what you will).
The existance of this stand at a party conference (and apparently they’ve exhibited before at both Tory and Labour conferences), is a bit of a moral quandary for me. On the one hand, no-one is suggesting that the Tories are any more influenced by this stand than, say, the British Humanist Association or the National Union of Teachers. And yet, it is strangely sinister to see them claming to be research and treatment programmes when the links to Scientology are undeniable. It is unclear what they are doing going to party conferences: trying to get councils to invest in such programmes, or evangelising under a veil of respectability? A stand that made its links to Scientology explicit would at least be more honest, but paradoxically would be more controversial. Is calling themselves Narconon designed to spare the Church’s blushes, or the Conservative Party’s?