FDA To Take Another Look at Scientology's E-Meter
Citizen's Petition cites lack of compliance by the organization
The E-Meter is a common part of most Church of Scientology public exhibits, inviting the curious to take a stress test. This unit is used for what Scientologists call "auditing" and the validity of any actual measurement has been called into question since its inception in the 1950's. A primitive lie detector, the device, they claim, measures stress.
The E-Meter is one of the tools used by Scientologists in their "counseling," which they call "auditing." A primitive lie detector, the device, they claim, measures stress. Two cylinders that are connected to the unity are held in a person's two hands in order to measure electrical resistance of the skin. Invented in the early 1950's by Volney Mathison, in collaboration with Scientology's founder L. Ron Hubbard, it was first called the "Mathison Electropsychometer." Following a dispute between the two in 1954 the unit was not used again until 1958 when two Scientologists developed a portable battery-operated version.
In March of this year he filed a citizen petition with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to "take enforcement action against the Church of Scientology and its affiliated entities for their unsanctioned use of the 'E- Meter.'" The FDA officially accepted the petition for further investigation.
The E-Meter is one of the tools used by Scientologists in their "counseling," which they call "auditing." A primitive lie detector, the device, they claim, measures stress. Two cylinders that are connected to the unit are held in a person's two hands in order to measure electrical resistance of the skin.
Invented in the early 1950's by Volney Mathison, in collaboration with Scientology's founder L. Ron Hubbard, it was first called the "Mathison Electropsychometer." Following a dispute between the two in 1954 the unit was not used again until 1958 when two Scientologists developed a portable battery-operated version.
Not too long after that, the Food and Drug Administration took an interest, concerned that the group was using the unit to practice medicine. This early attention and a subsequent ruling from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia formed the basis of the recent petition.
The grounds for the petition (which can be found here) state: "In the early 1960s, the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) realized that Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and his acolytes were claiming that "auditing" with a device called the 'E-Meter,' often described as a primitive lie detector, could help to diagnose and treat a variety of illnesses. Auditing, one of Scientology's core practices, is based on the notion that the E-Meter can reveal a person's mental state, past lives, and other odds and ends of the unconscious mind.
"This is done through intensive questioning by an 'Auditor,' as the subject holds the E-Meter and the Auditor leads him or her through a sort of guided hypnagogic fantasizing. Because Scientology believes that illness is caused by the presence of 'suppressive persons,' and not germs, toxins, genetics or other causes, Hubbard and the Scientologists were spreading the word that the E-Meter could help root out the suppressive people in one's life, thereby curing a variety of illnesses and health conditions, raising IQ, and making one successful in every way. This, of course, was completely false."
The Food and Drug Administration seized more than 100 E-Meters from the offices of Scientology in Washington, DC in 1963 and sought condemnation of the units through litigation in U.S. District Court.
In his decision, US District Court Judge Gerhardt Gesell "ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that such condemned E-meters and literature shall be deemed to comply with the law if and only if they are used, sold or distributed in accordance with the following specific conditions:
"1. E-meters shall be used or sold or distributed only for use in bona fide religious counseling.
"2. Each E-meter shall bear the following warning, printed in 11-point leaded type, permanently affixed to the front of the E-meter so that it is clearly visible when the E-meter is used, sold or distributed: The E-meter is not medically or scientifically useful for the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of any disease. It is not medically or scientifically capable of improving the health or bodily functions of anyone.
"3. Any and all items of written, printed, or graphic matter which directly or indirectly refers(sic) to the E-meter or to Dianetics and/or Scientology and/or auditing or processing shall not be further used or distributed unless and until the item shall bear the following prominent printed warning permanently affixed to said item on the outside front cover or on the title page in letters no smaller than 11-point leaded type:
"'Warning The device known as a Hubbard Electrometer, or E-meter, used in auditing, a process of Scientology and Dianetics, is not medically or scientifically useful for the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of any disease. It is not medically or scientifically capable of improving the health or bodily functions of anyone.'"
The petition goes on to explain that Scientology has failed to follow the instructions of the Court and continued to use the E-Meter in public situations that cannot be construed as "bona fide religious settings" and that the warning is placed on the bottom of the unit, out of sight.
After the initial response from the FDA accepting the petition, an interim letter was also sent indicating, "Because of the extent of the issues involved, your petition will require additional review. We expect to issue a final response in the near future."
Randy Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online and the CEO/Associate Publisher for the Northern Virginia Local Edition of Catholic Online (http://virginia.catholic.org). He is a former Archbishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Church who laid aside that ministry to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church.
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