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Excerpt, provided by Dean Benjamin (drb@cs.cmu.edu), from

Stephen Barrett, MD, and William Jarvis, PhD (editors)

"The Health Robbers"

Prometheus Books, Buffalo NY (1993)

Chapter 23, "The Gadgeteers"

by Wallace Janssen

pp. 330-332

Scientology and Its E-Meter

Twenty years after the Spectrochrome trial, the FDA became involved with Scientology, another group that used a supposed healing device in its ntuals The device, a form of galvanometer, is called the Hubbard Electropsychometer (or "E-Meter"). Its inventor, and the founder of Scientology, was a science fiction writer named Lafayette Ronald Hubbard. Hubbard has reportedly said "If a man really wanted to make a million dollars, the best way would be to stad his own religion."

An article by Hubbard in the May 1950 issue of "Astounding Science Fiction" was such a hit that he dashed off a book-length version -- "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Healing." Dianetics quickly became popular, and a Dianetic Research Foundation was established at Elizabeth, New Jersey. Practitioners trained by the Foundation set up offfices in Hollywood, on New York City's Park Avenue, and on Chicago's "Gold Coast." The practitioners were called "auditors" and patients were interviewed while they reclined on couches. After a few years, dianetics declined in popularity, but the invention of the E-Meter and the incorporation of Scientology as a church, revived it. Disarmingly simple, the early version of the E-Meter used small soup cans for its hand-held electrodes.

FDA's involvement with Scientology began in 1958 when it learned that the Distribution Center of the organization was selling a drug called "Dianazine." This product was promoted for "radiation sickness," a condition widely feared at that time as apotential consequence of "fallout" from atomic weapons testing. Dianazine, a vitamin mixture in tablet form, was seized and condemned by the court as misbranded.

A follow-up inspection led to an investigation of the E-Meter. Action against the device began when more than one hundred E-Meters were seized by U.S. marshals at the headquarters of the "Founding Church of Scientology" in Washington, D.C. The court papers charged that the devices were misbranded by false claims that they effectively treated some 70 percent of all physical and mental illness. It was also charged that the devices did not bear adequate directions for treating the conditions for which they were recommended in Scientology literature.

A jury trial resulted in a verdict that the E-Meter was misbranded by the Scientology literature -- hence both the device and its "labeling" were subject to condemnation. The court rejected as irrelevant in this case the defense that the literature was exempt from legal action because it was issued by a "religious" organization. The Court of Appeals, however, reversed the verdict on the basis that the government had done nothing to rebut Scientology's claim that it was a religion. A new trial was ordered, at the close of which Judge Gerhardt A. Gesell issued a fourteen-page opinion. Regarding the practice of auditing, the judge stated:

Hubbard and his fellow Scientologists developed the notion of using an E-Meter to aid auditing. Substantial fees were charged for the meter and for auditing sessions using the meter. They repeatedly and explicitly represented that such auditing effectuated cures of many physical and mental illnesses. An individual processed with the aid of the E-Meter was said to reach the intended goal of 'clear' and was led to believe that there was reliable scientific proof that once cleared many, indeed most, illnesses would successfully be cured. Auditing was guaranteed to be successful. All this was and is false.

Upholding FDA's charges that the E-Meter was misbranded, Judge Gesell ordered that use of the E-Meter be confined to "bona fide religious counseling" and that the device be prominently labeled with the warning notice:

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.

After eight years of litigation, with two complete trials and three rulings of the Court of Appeals, the E-Meters and literature were returned to the Scientology headquarters. Was anything accomplished? Most definitely. The courts saw the necessity to uphold the food and drug law even in a situation that involved the First Amendment. The court upheld the right of believers to believe even in science fiction -- provided that they do not violate the laws that protect the public health.