RESPONDS TO THE CLAIMS MADE BY GERARD RYAN, THE HIDDEN PUBLIC FACE OF SCIENTOLOGY.
A REPLY TO ONE OF THE MANY DOCUMENTS ABOUT DIALOGUE IRELAND
WHO IS GERARD RYAN?
Gerard Ryan is a practising architect who is also the Public Representative for Scientology, an organisation that is situated on Middle Abbey Street. Recently he has taken to writing his letters and various articles from his home address. This could be to avoid Scientology having to be involved in libel claims. He has had to defend a case taken by Ms Mary Johnston who appeared on "The Late Late Show" in 1995.
In 1999 Scientology claimed that they could not release her confidential files as to do so would lead to damnation, an interesting observation given that they do not believe in hell! Their claim was rejected by the high court and they have now appealed to the Supreme Court.
I have taken legal advice, and await the Court’s judgement in relation to the Mary Johnston case before reviewing my position. In the meantime I propose to put this correspondence on Dialogue Ireland’s Web-page and let the public decide as to the merits of the views of Dialogue Ireland’s and Scientology.
Whereas, I could ignore personal abuse and letters which have been sent to Christian leaders over a period of years by Gerard Ryan. By his entering the public arena, with primitive anti-Christian tracts and the first instalment of his Dialogue Ireland series, I could not stand idly by with him taking my silence as acceptance of his gross distortions. I could not leave his material unchallenged!
This document has been produced
By Mike Garde of Dialogue Ireland © 2000
WHO IS DIALOGUE IRELAND?
Dialogue Ireland is an ecumenical committee made up of clergy and lay people drawn from the Catholic, Church of Ireland, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches.
Gerard Ryan claims that "They employ a ‘field worker’ who carries out the vast majority of the day to day work of the group and who is the driving force of the group" and that "The ‘field worker’ for Dialogue Ireland is Mike Garde". In fact the truth is that they do NOT employ a "field worker". I am self-employed and have no financial connection to the committee.
Purpose of Dialogue Ireland
To work for contact and dialogue among people with different beliefs and philosophies of life. Not all-New Religious Movements (NRMs) are the same; I need to differentiate between the various groups here in Ireland. Some are of Christian origin. Some are of eastern origin. Others again are part of the New Age Movement. I want to keep open communication to all these movements wherever possible.
To promote the study and understanding of NRMs.
To compile and assess current documentation and news reports on NRMs
To provide pastoral support to members and former members of NRMs and their families according to their needs.
To provide information on NRMs for clergy, teachers, the medical profession, government departments and the media.
To provide information and educational services to schools, vocational groups and third level Institutes and Universities. Our approach is based on an informative strategy, which empowers young people, rather than unduly warning them or raising fear.
What is the agenda of Dialogue Ireland?
Gerard Ryan says that "Dialogue Ireland claim to be working for ‘dialogue’ with minority religions" and that as far as he is aware "no such dialogue with any of the minority religions exists". In fact the truth is that in various schools I run a module on NRMs, and in the early days I invited a number of NRMs to participate in the course. Gerard Ryan was invited to make a presentation on behalf of Scientology and instead of replying to let me know whether he would participate or not, he went behind my back and tried to bad mouth me to the school. He also tried to control the educational agenda in the school and in the end they had to withdraw permission for him to enter the school! Fortunately this course continues in two schools with the Hare Krishna’s, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Unification Church as full participants. One of the principal points I make in nearly every presentation are the positive lessons to be learnt from the zeal of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the lifestyle of the Hare Krishna’s and the sense of community in the new churches. Gerard Ryan writes, "There is, to my knowledge, no documented instance where Dialogue Ireland has ever distributed any positive information about the newer minority religions".
In the Irish Catholic of 2/3/00 referring to the presence of new African churches I am quoted in an article as saying, "I should welcome African Born Again churches… Mr Garde would like the new religious movements to open up communication with Dialogue Ireland to help foster understanding and co-operation. He also said dialogue was essential, 'because it is the only way you can understand the truth of the claims that have been made by them' ".
A conversation with any school or third level Institute would soon make it clear that Gerard Ryan’s charges hold no water. When I meet with someone who wants to review their membership of, say, Scientology I give them material produced by Scientology as well as material produced by critics of the movement. This approach is totally unacceptable to Scientology. A member is put under extreme pressure not to read such critical material. In fact they regard all that their founder L. Ron Hubbard wrote to be Scripture. Anyone who opposes them is alleged to be hiding a criminal past! It also means it is difficult to dialogue with them as they consider that they hold the truth and others are wrong. I myself have received a number of letters from several Scientologists outlining this view.
Dialogue is not just the pseudo conversation of everyone agreeing, but the recognition of the confrontation of ideas that really searches out the truth.
Why is Dialogue Ireland so intent on attacking minority religions?
Gerard Ryan feels that I think, "other religions are a threat", and that this is what motivated the formation of Dialogue Ireland. It is true that Dialogue Ireland has been involved in a number of articles, TV and Radio documentaries concerning Scientology. However these have been high profile non-tabloid media and include such prominent programmes as "The Late Late Show", "The Pat Kenny Radio Show" and "Prime Time".
If Dialogue Ireland’s field worker’s goal was to recruit for the four main churches, is it likely that they would use the services of a Mennonite? As someone who is trained in Clinical Pastoral Education and counselling it would be totally opposed to my beliefs to use undue influence in any individual’s personal religious progress.
Who funds Dialogue Ireland?
The churches, along with school fees and individual donations fund my work. At present this does not add up to more than about £15,000 a year!
But it may be that the state should pay for this work as the Council of Europe suggests. That would be preferable, but without the support of the churches I could not have done my work.
How does Dialogue Ireland operate?
I collect information from the media, from academic institutions like NRM centres such as INFORM, an independent centre for the study of NRMs based at the London School of Economics, Fair and the Dialogue Centre in Denmark. Then I get material on nearly a daily basis from the American Family Foundation. Some of this material reports the activities of Scientology - for example, the conviction of the leaders of a French Scientology Organisation for criminal activity in 1999. Last summer there was another example of a heavy defeat for Scientology in the High Court in London. This case had a lot of Irish connections. Richard and Bonnie Woods, two ex-Scientologists, were awarded damages of £50,000 and their costs of £100,000. This was for the libellous comments made in a Scientology publication, "Freedom", in which they were accused, of being fundamentalist bigots and deprogrammers.
Many media outlets have published stories about Scientology but it would be true to say that the tabloids have been more willing to take risks in this regard. There is a very simple reason for this, namely the litigious nature of Scientology.
Gerard Ryan says that "Dialogue Ireland operates a referral service whereby if any clergy come into contact with the newer minority religions it is referred to Dialogue Ireland". This is a very wide-ranging charge, which is based on no presented evidence. In Scientology there exists the notion of a Suppressive Person. This is an individual one of who’s main characteristics is the use of sweeping generalisations. Such a person is considered by Scientologists to be a criminal who is hiding their crimes. It is ironic therefore that Gerard Ryan should display such characteristics. In reality how many clergy know I even exist! Counselling involves the free interplay of ideas, not "indoctrination", as suggested by Gerard Ryan.
I generally meet with the family who is concerned about the involvement of their family member at their request. This happens as soon as possible after they make contact with me. I provide them with alternative information and discuss how best to emotionally detach from the person involved. Sometimes families try to solve the problem internally without being properly informed and the consequence is that instead of being effective in communicating they actually drive the person away. Giving families information and support reduces the stress levels. Naturally I meet the family first because Scientology does not encourage the person to get independent advice about their teaching. I provide them with a wide range of literature, web sites and videos.
The family intervention is planned without the person in the NRM being aware of it for the simple reason that if they knew about it they would not be allowed to hear alternative views. When Mary Johnston met her family she was coached in how to handle them, with Scientologists taking on the role of different family members. Before this process starts I get the permission of the person otherwise I do not go ahead.
It is claimed I do not give balanced information. A few years ago I met a young man from west Cork. After a few hours of discussion he agreed to review his membership of Scientology. He signed an agreement with his family to study both sides for three months. I agreed to provide him with Scientology documentation and also material taking a critical stance. It became clear he would not keep the agreement and he returned to Scientology secretly. Trauma is caused by Scientology because it breaks up the family by not allowing its membership to review both sides of the argument. Families are denied access to their family members who often move to another country unless the family agrees to play ball and keep silent.
Gerard Ryan says that, "Dialogue Ireland often invites former members to attack their former faith in the tabloid media". Generally if someone leaves any group I would advise them not to give an interview until they have processed this decision for a reasonable period of time. I do not prescribe what people do or don’t do. Perhaps this is the way Scientology is used to directing its members?
"Dialogue Ireland are well aware of the family trauma they cause and justify it by saying they have "saved a soul", or some other such excuse. These excuses cannot hide the reality of the pain they cause."
How would the family feel trauma or pain if someone they love leaves a group which they do not like? Perhaps the people experiencing the loss are GR and his fellow Scientologists who have lost a member?
Are Dialogue Ireland Networked Internationally?
Dialogue Ireland does not have a parent body but is happy to associate with Dialogue Centre International (DCI) Denmark. I also have connections with INFORM at the London school of Economics and CESNUR in Italy, who have totally different views from the DCI. They view groups from a more sociological perspective, whereas the DCI has a more theological viewpoint. This provides us with a variety of views and gives our conferences an authentic feel.
What does Dialogue Ireland do in Schools?
According to Gerard Ryan "Perhaps the most irresponsible activity I participate in is to indoctrinate impressionable school children". This conjures up the image of 10-year-olds being forced to hear our message.
Normally I speak to young adults in sixth year who are about to vote and go to third level. This is an informative strategy making them aware and defusing fear. I would provide the most up to date information on the various movements. I also encourage people to respect members of minority groups, whether they agree or disagree with their beliefs.
Our response to Gerard’s comments about the non-constitutionality of our access to schools is that we are fully entitled to enter the schools at the their request. The state does not have a position on religious education except article 44 of the constitution which guarantees the right to believe within the law. This leaves the school to develop its religious ethos in harmony with its beliefs and therefore they are free to invite anyone they wish!
Who is the Dialogue Ireland field worker?
Mike Garde is the field worker for Dialogue Ireland. He is a Mennonite, one of the historic peace churches, which dates from the 16th century. It is neither Protestant, nor Fundamentalist, nor a Sect from the USA. It was founded in Europe, and experienced severe persecution from both Protestants and Catholics. This gives Mike Garde a special understanding of minorities! As I pointed out earlier I do not believe the main issue is danger, though the violent conclusion to "Heaven’s Gate" or the "Solar Temple" should warn us against complacency in regard to NRMs.
Rather the issue is one of people living with difference. GR has been drawing attention for a number of years to an article in the Independent on Sunday, from March 3, 1996 which pointed to some Mennonites from Mexico, not the USA, being involved with a drug cartel. Up until this leaflet this has not been mentioned because it has nothing to do with Mike Garde. Since GR has linked me to it, I mention it all the time as an example of a Black Propaganda campaign to link me, guilt by association. An analogy within the Irish context would be that as Fr. Patrick Ryan was linked to the IRA therefore all Catholics are members of the IRA. These Mennonites of German ethnicity came to Mexico from Russia via Canada. Basically they are fish out of water in a Hispanic culture and the article explains this. They are not in good standing with the church, which is trying to help them. Obviously the Mennonite church opposes their practices.
Mennonites number about a million world wide, with a little less than half living in North America, and the rest scattered more or less evenly in Africa,Asia, Europe, and South America.
In other correspondence to Mike Garde, which has not to date been made public, Gerard Ryan connected me to the crimes of Father Sean Fortune, calling me in correspondence his "colleague" and sending me in the post copies of the charges of buggery he was accused of because I was associated with the Catholic Church. The difference between the crimes committed by Catholics and some of the ones committed by Scientologists are that the Scientologists committed them in the line of duty where as the Christians committed these crimes in contradiction to their beliefs. For example five former senior officials of the Church of Scientology in Southern France were convicted of Fraud on 15th November 1999. Xavier Delamare, leader in the South of France received a jail sentence of two years with 18 months suspended and a fine of £10,000. Four others received lesser-suspended sentences (source: The Times November 16, 1999).
How did Mr Garde link up with Dialogue Ireland?
Mr. Garde attempted to set up a Mennonite Community in Dublin many years ago. It was an abject failure, partly due to the fact that it was attacked by Fr. Martin Tiemey. This priest was in charge of the Dialogue Centre, the forerunner of Dialogue Ireland. Fr Tiemey is currently the Chairman of Dialogue Ireland. Following the destruction of his minority religious community, it is remarkable that Mr. Garde then decided to become an employee of Dialogue Ireland and attack other minorities! This is an about-turn that would intrigue any student of human behaviour, and might even call into question Mr.Garde's motivation?
This is perhaps the most bizarre part of this catalogue of innuendo, half-truths and outright lies. Father Martin Tierney has been a colleague of mine for nearly 20 years, when I worked with the Mennonites and the Catholic Cult Awareness Group, which preceded the Dialogue Centre and Dialogue Ireland. So any suggestion that he had anything to do with the demise of the Mennonite community is pure science fiction.
After 10 years of being a Mennonite community in Ballybough, it was decided to move away from a separate identity as Mennonites to an ecumenical strategy of working with the other churches already present here in Ireland. Obviously, there was a sense of failure in a strategy, which had been tried for over ten years, but as one Mennonite put it, "It was more a mundane failure than an abject failure." My involvement with Dialogue Ireland fits in well with the strategy of working with the other churches. Another Mennonite, Dr Joseph Liechty, is well known for his work in the area of sectarianism with the Irish School of Ecumenics. A Mennonite worker is serving as Minister of Springfield Road Methodist Church and a leader of the Forthsprings cross-community group in west Belfast. The Co-ordinator of Mennonite work in Ireland is a Presbyterian from Holywood, Co. Down, and that since 1989 Mennonite work in Ireland has been shaped by twice yearly meetings of a Support Body for Mennonite Witness in Ireland, which is composed of Catholics and Protestants from North and South. Mennonites meet informally but most have joined or attend other churches. This is indeed an "abject failure" or could it be recognition of the shape of the future of Christianity in Ireland?
How does Dialogue Ireland feel about a multi-faith society?
Perhaps their attitude is best described by their "field worker", Mr. Garde, who is on record as stating that Islam is " anti-Christian". This illustrates that Mr. Garde appears to have an inability to distinguish between " non-Christian" and "anti-Christian". Dialogue Ireland appear to feel that every religion, other than their own, is an obstacle to the "kingdom of god". etc, etc.
Perhaps we could answer that question for ourselves rather than having it answered for us by Gerard. We welcome the multi-faith shape of Irish society at present. We are happy to be a part of this and continue dialoguing with the authentic traditions of Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism and Islam. I am in fact calling for the government to establish a third level institute of Religion, which would give expression to this new multi-faith reality. Specifically, to say that Islam is non-Christian or anti-Christian is meaningless. So Gerard Ryan is misquoting me, as I hold to neither position. Islam is a monotheistic faith like Christianity. Islam views Jesus as a prophet but they regard Mohammed as the central figure of revelation. Christians believe Jesus is the central figure of their revelation. This is not the end of the story, but where the dialogue begins!
What should you do if you come into contact with Dialogue Ireland?
Yes, do check all the information we give you – We would be delighted to improve or correct any information that is inaccurate, that is how one arrives at the truth. Equally ask the Scientology organisation are they willing for you to look at material other than the writings of L Ron Hubbard in evaluating their truth claims. Certainly our finances are open to scrutiny; we have our accounts audited annually.
I disagree with Scientology not with Scientologists. I respect them as people.
As we mentioned before, within Scientology there is the concept of a "Suppressive Person" (S.P.). In Scientology terms these are the bad guys. Such people have certain characteristics, the chief of which is the inappropriate use of sweeping generalisations. Quoting GR, "no minister of any of the newer minority religions has ever been convicted of any crime whatsoever".
A well documented counter example to this claim is the case of Mary Sue Hubbard, the very wife of L. Ron Hubbard and a high ranking Scientology officer herself. In September 1979, nine members, led by Mary Sue Hubbard, of the Guardian’s Office - a core Scientology Organisation – signed a stipulation admitting their involvement in break -ins, infiltration of government agencies, burglaries, thefts and buggings. In December 1979 they were all sentenced to jail terms. So here I see GR making a sweeping generalisation which is patently untrue. Ironically this does not bode well for Gerard Ryan in terms of the Suppressive Person traits alluded to above.
The background of the Dialogue Ireland committee is clear. The various churches that have representatives on the Dialogue Ireland committee support them.
Finally with regard to the Prohibition to the Incitement to Hatred act, you might ask Scientologists why they call non-members "wogs" and new recruits "raw meat" in light of their suggestion that we are promoting sectarianism and intolerance?
I wish GR and all Scientologists well. I disagree with them. Let us learn to live with difference. "Kick the ball, not the man".
Further correspondence will be added to our web page under the Scientology section, www.esatclear.ie/~dialogueireland*
* This has since been moved to here.