A High Court case coming down the tracks promises to shed some light on the mysterious internal workings of the Church of Scientology in Ireland, which is being sued for €100,000 by a former member who is alleging 'fraud', 'undue influence', 'misrepresentation,' and 'infliction of emotional distress.' The Scientologists are contesting the allegations and are represented by Dublin solicitors, Noel Smyth & Partners.
The plaintiff, Kevin Stevenson, is a graphic designer originally from County Donegal, who lived in Dublin for a number of years and currently resides in Paris. Stevenson alleges that around 2004, he was offered a copy of the book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, written by Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard and the following year, he attended the Irish headquarters of Scientology, on Dublin's Middle Abbey Street, for 'personality testing'.
Stevenson claims to have been unduly influenced by the organisation to take out a new mortgage on his home with Start Mortgages to free up capital to pay for the auditing courses, including one referred to as the 'purification and objectives' course. (Auditing is a central practice in Scientology in which an interviewer asks the subject a series of questions designed to uncover subconscious memories.) He previously had a relatively small mortgage of his house and received on an annual salary of around €60,000 from the advertising agency he worked for.
One of the Scientology staff allegedly moved into Stevenson's house for about a year, where he lived rent-free. By 2009, it is alleged, Stevenson was running out of cash and claims that the Scientologists (and its servants and agents), became increasingly aggressive in their demands for money, occasionally phoning him at work to seek payment. Stevenson later left the organisation, apparently with the help of his friends and then moved abroad.
The latest accounts available for the company behind the Scientologists in Ireland — the Church of Scientology Mission of Dublin Ltd — showed that it had a deficit in members' funds of €685,000 at the end of April 2010. A note in the accounts said that this "deficit has been funded by members of the Church of Scientology worldwide and other Church of Scientology Missions."
The company directors are listed as Gerard Ryan, an architect with an address in Finglas, D11, and Siobhan Ryan, who lives in Swords, Co Dublin. Two other senior members are Dublin-based chiropractors Gerard Collins and wife, Zabrina Collins. She is the daughter of the Donegal publican, Frank Shortt, who was framed by Gardai in the 1990s who falsely accused him of allowing the sale of drugs in his nightclub, for which he spent three years in jail.
This is not the first time a former member of the Scientologists has taken the company to the Irish courts. In 2003, a case in which one Mary Johnston had alleged conspiracy, misrepresentation, breach of constitutional rights and infliction of emotional harm, was settled on undisclosed terms.