Aug 8, 2017

Why are Scientologists officially at London Ribfest offering a type of polygraph?

Travis Desmeules, a Scientologist for nearly 20 years, was using e-meters to give tests to festival-goers and sell 'Dianetics'
Charlie Pinkerton
National Post
August 7, 2017

LONDON, Ont. — The weekend presence of Scientologists at London Ribfest added a new chapter to the city’s tangled history with the controversial organization.

“We don’t discriminate because we don’t agree with you,” Ruby Hillier, a Ribfest organizer, said of giving the U.S.-based Church of Scientology a booth in Victoria Park.

“As long as you’re not doing anything illegal, it’s fine, we don’t exclude you.”

Scientology representatives were offering e-meter tests, a kind of polygraph used in the church — and a focus of criticism, even ridicule, worldwide — whose beliefs and practices were founded in the 1950s by sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard.

Perhaps lost on Hillier, and maybe even the Scientologists themselves, is that the weekend festival was held mere blocks from where Scientology’s most famous dissident, London-raised Oscar winner Paul Haggis, was first attracted to its teachings in 1975.

Haggis was walking to a downtown record store when a young man stopped him at the corner of Dundas and Waterloo streets, he told U.S. journalist Lawrence Wright, who highlighted the filmmaker’s dissent in his book and documentary Going Clear.

“You have a mind. This is the owner’s manual,” Haggis recalled the man telling him as he handed over a book.

Haggis opened the cover and saw it stamped with the words Church of Scientology.

“Take me there,” Haggis said.

Haggis followed Scientology for about 30 years. Now, along with TV actress Leah Remini, he’s one of its most famous opponents — openly criticizing the teachings they once followed.

A much more positive perspective was offered at the Scientology tent in Victoria Park this weekend.

Travis Desmeules was one of three at the group’s official tent. A Scientologist for nearly 20 years, he and other followers were using e-meters to give stress tests to festival-goers and sell a Hubbard book about Dianetics, a substudy of Scientology.

The stress tests are done through typical Scientology practice. The e-meter is used to send a small electric pulse through the subject, which registers a reading in the machine when it leaves the body. Followers of Dianetics and Scientology believe certain readings indicate stress.

“Within the book (of Dianetics) is also a therapy to alleviate those things, so we try to show them that,” Desmeules said.

Haggis won Oscars in back-to-back years, 2004 and 2005, as a screenwriter and producer for Million Dollar Baby and a screenwriter, producer and director of Crash. His 2009 comments to Wright were blunt.

“I was in a cult for 34 years,” Haggis said. “Everyone else could see it. I don’t know why I couldn’t.”

Several governments, including those of Germany and France, have condemned the organization.

To that, Scientology’s website reads, “No. It is a religion in the fullest sense of the word.”

Scientology is recognized as a religion in the United States, giving it tax-exempt status. It is not formally recognized as a religion by the Canadian government.

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