The battle for East Grinstead - 2009-08-06
Dithering, stitch-up and dismay within the Government over how to treat the challenge of Scientology emerges from the confidential papers.
L. Ron Hubbard's choice of East Grinstead as the headquarters of his religion made the West Sussex town a Jerusalem for a certain kind of adherent in the 1960s.
Kenneth Robinson, as Health Minister, in 1968 banned followers from entering Britain to study or teach Scientology, which was accused of exploiting the vulnerable. His successor, Richard Crossman, thought the ban excessive and commissioned a report by Sir John Foster, QC, a Conservative MP, who recommended letting them return.
It now emerges that the exercise was a sham. Sir Keith Joseph, as Health Secretary in the early 1970s, had a quiet word with the author, then wrote in confidence: "Sir J Foster would say PRIVATELY that he was appointed to provide an excuse for my predecessor to reverse his predecessor's decision to ban entry." When the Scientologists sued the Government for libel, Whitehall sought proof they were dangerous. In 1976, one health official wrote that the evidence could lead to "a public outcry against the sect and a demand for further action against it".