Scientology swindled him, man's suit says

The Columbus [Ohio] Dispatch, May 28, 1991
by Darris C. Blackford

A civil lawsuit against the central Ohio office of the "Church" of Scientology accuses the group of a number of questionable activities.

Paul G. Anderson of Columbus filed the $291,000 lawsuit against the "Church" of Scientology of Central Ohio and two other groups in February in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

He claims he was the target of "false representations and unconsionable sales practices" from January 1989 to February 1990 by the group, the suit says.

Bennett Parrish, president of the "Church" of Scientology of Central Ohio, declined to comment on specifics of the lawsuit, because it is pending, but said he does not believe that his group has done anything wrong.

According to the 47-page suit:

Anderson's problems with the groups began in 1988 after he saw a television advertisement in Toledo for the book Dianetics: the Modern Science of Mental Health. The self-help book was written by the "church's" founder, L. Ron Hubbard.

Suffering from melancholia, a "pervasive sense of worthlessness, hopelessness and failure," Anderson bought the book, read it and mailed in a reply card requesting more information, the suit says.

He was contacted by representatives of the Hubbard Dianetics Foundation in Columbus, was told that Dianetics was a "new scientific form of mental health treatment" and was sent a 200-question personality test.

The results showed he was suicidal and "thus in danger of losing his life, or else falling into a state of deeper depression from which he would never recover," the suit says.

At the urging of a Dianetics representative, Anderson went to Columbus in February 1989. When he arrived at the Hubbard Dianetics office, he noticed a sign on the door - "'Church' of Scientology."

He was told the two were seperate. However, in 1987, the "Church" of Scientology of Central Ohio filed with the Ohio secretary of state's office to do business as Hubbard Dianetics Foundation.

From February 1989 through February 1990, Anderson took a series of courses, for which he paid, and was registered for a new course as he completed each one.

"...the true purpose of these courses was to attract the plaintiff into the programs of the 'Church' of Scientology of Central Ohio so that the defendant's agents could systematically manipulate the psychological and social influences upon the plaintiff," the suit says.

When Anderson questioned the courses, he was told these feelings were "due to deficiencies in himself" and additional courses would "clear up" his problems.

When he wanted to quit, he was interviewed, told his feelingswere partly the result of his mental illness and was "pressured and manipulated into taking alternate courses."

On Jan. 27, 1990, he attended a sales presentation by the "Church" of Scientology Flag Services Organization, Inc. of Clearwater, Fla., also a defendant in the lawsuit, at the Hyatt on Capitol Square.

A collection of courses called The Bridge was offered for $225,000. Anderson said he was led to believe this "would be greatly beneficial to him and in fact was his only hope for recovery," the suit says.

At his home at 2 a.m., Jan. 29, 1990, he bought the course, writing checks to the "Church" of Scientology of Central Ohio "for all the cash and credit he had and promising to raise additional funds to meet the purchase price the following week," the suit says.

The next day, he went to the headquarters of the Flag Services Organization in Florida, arranged for credit and completed wire transfers into the group's Ohio accounts.

He also sold everything he could and borrowed up to his credit limit to raise money to pay for The Bridge.

From Jan. 30 to Feb. 4, 1990, he was "kept under constant pressure to produce money," while being charged $300 an hour for additional services, the suit says.

Representatives of other Scientology-related groups, including Able International of Los Angeles, another defendant in the suit, sought money from him, "until he had absolutely no money left, no credit left and nothing left to sell."

When Anderson returned to Columbus several days later to continue his work, his family presented him with evidence of how other people had been recruited by these and other groups, the suit says.

Anderson sought counseling in March, 1990 and realized he "had been subjected to a program of deceit and deception," the suit states.

Anderson says he tried to rescind his agreement with the defendants and notified them as required by the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act. The notice was ignored, and repeated requests demanding that the money be returned have been refused, the suit says.

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