Sunday, 31 January 2010

*Scientology vs. SLW

After the 30th January 10:23 event in London, I had just enough time to nip over to Scientology's shop in Tottenham Court Road.

UPDATE, 24 Feb: ASA say that Scientology can continue to advertise personality and IQ tests; rest of my complaint is still under consideration

UPDATE, 3 Mar: ASA report "
Based on the information you provided, it appears you have a valid point and, with a view to acting quickly, we have instructed the advertiser to remove the claim 'for a limited time'..." Epic win!

UPDATE, 18 Mar: ASA say
"Further to my letter of 2 March, we have now received a response from the Church of Scientology. They have explained to us that the ad did not intend to refer to the OCA tests and noted that the ad did not mention the test specifically. They have told us that the ad was promoting a series of tests that are usually paid for but have been offered for free for a limited period. On that basis we do not consider the ad is likely to mislead and will take no further action. Because the test was offered for free for a limited period, they do not intend to use the phrase "limited time" in future material." (ASA Letter) Epic fail!

I was offered a handout which I think might breach the CAP code for advertising. I'll let the ASA decide...

"I write to complain about a promotional flyer that was handed out to passers-by outside the premises of the Church of Scientology in Tottenham Court Road, London, on 30th January.

The flyer was entitled "Personality and IQ Testing". I suspect it is in breach of two sections of the British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP) Code.

I can provide a copy of the scan by email, or send an original copy of the flyer by post, if required.

1. The Church of Scientology maintains premises at 68 Tottenham Court Road, London W1T 2EZ.

2. Outside this building, there is often a table-top display of books for sale. Especially at weekends, a member of staff can often be seen distributing flyers.

3. On 30th January I picked up one of the flyers. The text on the flyer reads


The Dianetics and Scientology Life Improvement Centre offers for a limited time, free intelligence and personality tests. Your IQ, personality and aptitude determine your future. Know them. No obligations."

4. The reverse side of the flyer identifies one of the tests as the "Oxford Capacity Analysis Test".

5. "The Oxford Capacity Analysis Test" (OCA) has been offered to the public, in the UK and abroad, continuously since at least 1960[1][2].

6. Section 2.1 of the CAP code states “All marketing communications should be legal, decent, honest and truthful.”

7. Given that the OCA has been offered continuously to the public since at least 1960, I challenge whether the claim that the test will be available for a "limited time" is truthful.

8. An official 1971 inquiry headed by Sir John Foster produced a report, "Enquiry into the Practice and Effects of Scientology".

(i) Chapter 5a of the report, "Recruitment", identifies the OCA as the first stage of a sales pitch for Scientology services, which are not free of charge. Innumerable sources[3] in print and in the media support this identification.

(ii) Section 131 of the report concludes "Taking the procedure as a whole, one is forced to the conclusion that the Oxford Capacity Analysis is not a genuine personality test; certainly the results as presented bear no relation to any known methods of assessing personality or of scaling test scores...."

(iii) Section 131 continues "No reputable psychologist would accept the procedure of pulling people off the street with a leaflet, giving them a 'personality test' and reporting back in terms that show the people to be 'inadequate', 'unacceptable' or in need of 'urgent' attention... To report back a man's inadequacies to him in an automatic, impersonal fashion is unthinkable in responsible professional practice. To do so is potentially harmful. It is especially likely to be harmful to the nervous introspective people who would be attracted by the leaflet in the first place. The prime aim of the procedure seems to be to convince these people of their need for the corrective courses run by the Scientology organisations." "

8. Section 3.1 of the CAP code states "Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove all claims, whether direct or implied, that are capable of objective substantiation."

9. In light of Sir John Foster's report, I challenge whether the Church of Scientology holds documentary evidence to prove whether:

(i) the tests it offers are capable of testing intelligence;
(ii) the tests it offers are capable of testing personality;
(iii) the tests it offers are capable of testing aptitude.

10. I confirm that I have never had any connections with the Church of Scientology or any of the groups traditionally associated with it. I confirm that I am not involved in legal proceedings with the Church of Scientology or any of the groups traditionally associated with it.

11. I confirm that I am happy to be identified as the complainant.


[1] L. Ron Hubbard, "New Testing Promotion Section", HCO Policy Letter of 28 October 1960

[2] L. Ron Hubbard, "Testing Promotion Revised", HCO Policy Letter of 24 November 1960

[3] "This test accurately measures the preclear's estimation of ten different personality traits. These rise markedly in auditing, reflecting the preclear's gains. Preclears report being calmer, more stable, more energetic and more outgoing as a direct result of auditing and scores on the OCA furnish corroborative data [...]

A vital tool in Expanded Dianetics is the Oxford Capacity Analysis. An important use of this profile is to inprove specific personality traits with Expanded Dianetics procedures. The OCA helps locate deep-seated pockets of aberration which can then be addressed and erased with these precise auditing techniques."

[What Is Scientology? (1992), pp. 163, 220] "

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