Claims made by a Church of Scientology advertisement that the group had “salvaged” 250,000 people from drug abuse have been censured by the United Kingdom’s Advertising Standards Authority.
The ASA said the claims were unproven, the Guardian reported.
The move to censure followed a complaint by the Church of England, which called the Church of Scientology’s action “irresponsible, dishonest and harmful to the public interest,” according to the Birmingham Post (UK).
The ASA ruling related to a poster coinciding with a church-run campaign. The poster claimed the church had “saved” all those who had completed the drug programs.
However, the ads did not mention that the group’s definition of drug abuse included an occasional alcoholic drink or prescription medicine, and exposure to chemical toxins, according to Guardian.
“The authority accepted that the … programmes … had enabled many people to overcome a dependency on drugs but was concerned that the advertisers had not proved that all those enrolled were dependent on street or prescription drugs at the time of enrolment, or that as many as 250,000 drug users had stopped … as a direct result of Scientology’s intervention,” read the ASA judgment.
“We are concerned about the claims being made by the Scientology movement, with little or no evidence to support them,” the Ven. Hayward Osborne, archdeacon of Birmingham, told the Birmingham Post. “This naturally places question marks over other statements they make. Scientology is rightly not recognised as a religion by national governments, the Charity Commissioners or by ourselves.”
The Church of Scientology boasts 8 million members worldwide, including such Hollywood stars as Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman and John Travolta, according to the Post.
The disputed drug claims were based on rehabilitation programs in the United States and South America, said Graeme Wilson, Church of Scientology spokesman, in a statement. Wilson also said there was “no shortage” of people willing to testify to their validity.
“Our rehabilitation success is 85 percent,” Wilson told the Post, claiming the rehab process worked by natural detoxification and finding the root of the addiction.
According to the Narconon International Web site, associated with the Church of Scientology, the Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education in Los Angeles, Calif., said responses to the Narconon Drug Education program “clearly indicated a heightened awareness of the adverse effects caused by drug abuse.”
Jodi Mathews is BCE’s communications director.