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Citizens Commission on Human Rights

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Citizens Commission on Human Rights International
Legal statusNonprofit organization
  • 6616 W Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, California
Coordinates34°05′51″N 118°20′02″W / 34.0976°N 118.334°W / 34.0976; -118.334

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights International (CCHR) is an anti-psychiatry lobbying organization established in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and psychiatrist Thomas Szasz.[a][2][3]: 170 [4]: 294  Headquartered in Los Angeles, California, its stated mission is to "eradicate abuses committed under the guise of mental health and enact patient and consumer protections."[5] It is regarded by most non-Scientologists as a Scientology front group whose purpose is to push the organization's anti-psychiatry agenda.[14]


CCHR promotional leaflet, inviting members of the public to "report psychiatric abuse"

The group has organized media campaigns against various psychiatrists, psychiatric organizations and pharmaceutical companies, including Eli Lilly, the manufacturer of Prozac. The campaign against Eli Lilly in 1991 caused Prozac's market share of antidepressants to drop from 25% to 21%.[15][16]

The group campaigned against the use of Ritalin for the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, a disorder which the organization dismisses as nonexistent.[17][18][19] The campaign was part of the Ritalin class action lawsuits against Novartis (the manufacturer of Ritalin), CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), and the American Psychiatric Association (APA); all five lawsuits were dismissed in 2002.[20]

In 2003, the CCHR presented a report with the title "The Silent Death of America's Children" to the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, with case histories of several dozen under-aged psychiatric patients who had died as a result of psychotropic drug treatment and restraint measures in the 1990s and early 2000s.[21]

In 2004, Massachusetts state senators Richard T. Moore and Charles E. Shannon Jr. sponsored a bill requiring doctors to provide parents with information about a psychotropic medication's side effects and obtain their signature before prescribing any psychotropic drugs. Though Moore claimed in an interview to be unaware of CCHR's involvement, Shannon had worked with CCHR on the legislation. Kevin Hall, New England Director for CCHR, claimed to have drafted the bill. The medical establishment widely disagreed with the bill, which it dubbed the "Scientology Bill". Others opposing the bill included the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, the Massachusetts Psychiatric Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Parent/Professional Advocacy League.[22]

On 5 October 2006, National Mental Health Screening Day, the CCHR picketed outside of Riverside Community Care in Wakefield, Massachusetts, holding a protest rally against mental health screening. According to journalist Gary Band in the Wakefield Observer, "The protest fell somewhat flat because Riverside has not conducted these screenings since 2001."[23]

According to a report from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, CCHR has uncovered real cases of faulty psychiatric care, which gave them some credibility; conversely, CCHR has been accused of using pseudo-science and false information to disingenuously validate their claims.[15]

In its early years, the CCHR achieved victory in a 1969 Pennsylvania case involving Victor Győry, a Hungarian refugee who had been committed to a psychiatric hospital against his will in April of that year.[24][25][26] The police officers committing Győry said he had tried to kill himself.[26] Doctors at Haverford State Hospital, failing to realise that Győry spoke very little English and was trying to address them in Hungarian, judged him "incoherent" and diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia.[27] The hospital refused Győry's request for legal representation, and administered drugs and electroshock treatment to him against his will over a three-month period.[25][26][28] An aide at the hospital eventually notified the CCHR, who, under an initiative led by Szasz and lawyer John Joseph Matonis, took the case to court and secured Győry's release.[26]

The CCHR continued to lobby for legislative reform on mental health issues such as the keeping of detailed computer records on involuntarily committed patients and their families, and "drug experimentation" without patients' consent.[26][29] The CCHR would typically request a tour of a psychiatric hospital, issue a public report based on patient testimony and other sources, and then push for legal investigations and reform.[26] The early focus was on involuntary commitment procedures.[26]

Chelmsford Hospital and DST[edit]

From 1988 to 1990 the Australian government held the Chelmsford Royal Commission inquiry into Deep Sleep Therapy (DST). For a decade prior, the CCHR had been pushing for an investigation of the Chelmsford Private Hospital in New South Wales, and its head, Dr. Harry Bailey, who had been practising DST from 1963 to 1979.[30]

The inquiry discovered that deep sleep therapy had killed 24 patients, not counting patients who had killed themselves, and close to a thousand had had brain damage.[31] Of the former patients, 152 received reparations from a fund totaling in excess of 5 million dollars.[32]

Chelmsford Hospital was forced to close in 1990, and two of its psychiatric staff were made to face charges in 1992.[33] Dr. Bailey himself stepped down in 1979 due to the CCHR's protest campaign, and committed suicide by drug overdose in 1985, the night before he was subpoenaed to appear in court.[30] His suicide note read, in part: "Let it be known that the Scientologists and the forces of madness have won."[34]


Rissmiller labels CCHR as a radical antipsychiatry organization. It encourages the arrest and incarceration of psychiatrists for their alleged crimes against humanity because L. Ron Hubbard had written, "There is not one institutional psychiatrist alive who ... could not be arraigned and convicted of extortion, mayhem and murder."[35]

The CCHR is a front group for the Church of Scientology, which sponsors the organization.[6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][36] In 1993, the US Internal Revenue Service granted CCHR tax exemption as part of an agreement with the Church of Scientology International and Religious Technology Center (RTC) under which the RTC took responsibility for CCHR's tax liabilities.[37]

The CCHR has been criticized by journalist Andrew Gumbel for "crudeness" and "paranoia" in its criticism of psychiatry.[38]

In 1988, the CCHR claimed that Professor Sir Martin Roth of Newcastle University had used LSD in tests on mental patients in the 1960s. The statements were publicized in the Northern Echo newspaper, which was ordered by an English court to pay "very substantial" libel damages to Roth after the court found that CCHR's claims were "highly defamatory" and "utterly false."[39]

Jan Eastgate, President of the CCHR and winner of an International Association of Scientologists Freedom Medal award, has been implicated in covering up the sexual abuse of an 11-year-old girl in the Australian branch of the church.[40][41] Eastgate was head of the Australian CCHR at the time and the girl was abused by her Scientologist stepfather between the ages of 8 and 11 years. Eastgate, who denied the allegations, labelling them "egregiously false",[40] was arrested on 30 March 2011 on charges of perverting the course of justice but later released on conditional bail.[42] All charges were dropped against Eastgate after an investigation by the New South Wales Director of Public Prosecution found that there was not enough substantiating evidence.[43]

In the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks, CCHR promulgated a conspiracy theory assigning responsibility for the attacks to Ayman al-Zawahiri, alleging that, as Osama bin Laden's personal psychiatrist (although he is actually a surgeon), he was the principal mastermind behind the attacks and had brainwashed bin Laden using pain, drugs and hypnosis.[44][45]

Psychiatry: An Industry of Death[edit]

Exhibit entrance (2006)

Housed in CCHR's Los Angeles building is the Psychiatry: An Industry of Death exhibit which was opened in 2005.

I was charged with overseeing building a new museum—the Psychiatry: An Industry of Death Museum. The entire presentation was designed to document how psychiatry is "driven by profit" rather than by care for patient well-being. Every video, artifact, and display was an overblown attempt to show how the profession is to blame for the Holocaust, for destroying artists through barbaric "treatments," for hooking children on drugs, and much, much more. There are small kernels of truth contained in the hype—just enough to give it a speck of credibility—while creating the impression that all psychiatrists are conniving monsters out of B movies. I put together a team and approved the design and content of this extraordinary spectacle of over-the-top propaganda.

— Mike Rinder [46]: 181 

Of the anti-psychiatry exhibit, Andrew Gumbel of Los Angeles City Beat stated "it is one thing to assert that psychiatry has had its abuses, quite another to say the profession in and of itself is evil ... this is the classic stuff of paranoid conspiracy theory".[47]

CCHR also has a travelling exhibit of the same name, which National Post writer Kevin Libin called "a fright show" where they show the 2006 two-hour film of the same name, Psychiatry: An Industry of Death.[48] Two individuals featured in the film, Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum and bioethics scholar Arthur Caplan, have rejected the attack on psychiatry and psychology. Berenbaum stated that "I have known psychiatrists to be of enormous assistance to people deeply important to me in my life," and Caplan complained that he had been taped without being told what the film was about, and called the producers "smarmy and dishonest."[49]


Demonstration by CCHR

CCHR have produced a number of documentaries promoting their view of modern psychiatry. These include:

  • The Hidden Enemy,
  • Making A Killing,
  • Prescription for Violence,
  • The Marketing of Madness (see chapter below),
  • Dead Wrong, and
  • Psychiatry: An Industry of Death, which was made to accompany the CCHR's exhibit of the same name.

The Marketing of Madness: Are We All Insane?[edit]

The Marketing of Madness is a documentary which alleges that the mental health industry is an unscientific field driven solely by the profit motive, to the detriment of patients.

One of the interviewees is Claudia Keyworth, an advocate of 'Bio-Energetic medicine' who believes that healing is best accomplished using the "energy field of the human body".[50] On the topic of mental illness, she asserts: "they say you have a chemical imbalance of serotonin and dopamine, but there's never been a study to prove that, ever."

Simplistic "chemical imbalance" explanations for mental disorders have never received empirical support; and most prominent psychiatrists, neuroscientists, and psychologists have not espoused such ill-defined, facile etiological theories.[51][52] However, this theory has been widely promoted by the press, advertising and professionals so that the majority of the general western public believes in it.[53]

The documentary claims that psychiatrists have convinced the public that normal negative human experiences are mental illnesses. An example used in the movie is the assertion that psychiatrists seek to label typical shyness as a "social anxiety disorder"; however, patients are diagnosed with a social anxiety disorder only at debilitating levels, where there is an "intense fear in social situations".[54] Unlike a shy individual, a person diagnosed with social anxiety disorder is likely to experience symptoms such as nausea, stammering, and panic attacks.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Szasz was not a Scientologist himself, and he later distanced himself from the church, but he shared the religion's critical view of psychiatry.[1]


  1. ^ Carey, Benedict (September 11, 2012). "Dr. Thomas Szasz, Psychiatrist Who Led Movement Against His Field, Dies at 92". New York Times. Archived from the original on November 1, 2012. In 1969, in a move that damaged his credibility even among allies, he joined with the Church of Scientology to found the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, which portrays the field as abusive and regularly pickets psychiatric meetings. Dr. Szasz was not a Scientologist himself, and he later distanced himself from the church, but he shared the religion's critical view of psychiatry. His provocations were not without cost. In the 1960s, New York mental health officials, outraged at his attacks on the state system, blocked Dr. Szasz from teaching at a state hospital where residents trained, according to two former colleagues. Dr. Szasz bristled but had little recourse, and his teaching was curtailed.
  2. ^ Fink, Max (2004). Ethics in Electroconvulsive Therapy. Philadelphia: Brunner-Routledge. pp. 12–13. ISBN 0-415-94659-X. OL 7497250M. Organized lay groups sought to ban the use of ECT by legislation and to encourage patients to charge their physicians with malpractice. In the United States these groups take on the names of [...] and the "Citizen's Commission on Human Rights". The CCHR was founded in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and Dr. Thomas Szasz. [...] Each group attracts members by calling on them to defend individuals against the powers of medicine. They are supported by a small coterie of professionals. The Church of Scientology is a large and well-funded faith-based membership organization led by lay preachers. It directs the members' ire against psychiatric practices, especially ECT, psychosurgery, and the use of psychotropic drugs in children and adolescents. These groups harass legislative committees, disturb public mental health meetings, and intimidate speakers at scientific sessions.
  3. ^ Reitman, Janet (2011). Inside Scientology: The Story of America's Most Secretive Religion. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 9780618883028. OL 24881847M.
  4. ^ Wright, Lawrence (2013). Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 9780307700667. OL 25424776M.
  5. ^ "About CCHR". CCHR International. Citizens Commission on Human Rights International. May 5, 2009. Archived from the original on May 31, 2013. Retrieved July 5, 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Industry of Death exhibition on psychiatry walks a fine line". Canada.com. August 8, 2007. Archived from the original on June 15, 2011. Retrieved September 23, 2012. "A major purpose of Scientology is to destroy psychiatry and replace it with its own pseudo-counselling techniques. And CCHR is one of Scientology's front-group weapons attempting to achieve that goal", says Stephen Kent, a University of Alberta sociologist specializing in new religions and cults. Scientology holds that psychiatrists are "cosmic demons", he says.
  7. ^ a b Kirsten Stewart (July 2, 2005). "Scientology's political presence on the rise". The Salt Lake Tribune. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved September 23, 2012. The church [of Scientology] kept a low profile, paying professional lobbyists to press its cause or relying on CCHR, which skeptics call a front group designed to recruit Scientologists and replace psychiatry with Dianetics.
  8. ^ a b "[ Fence Post ]". Chicago Daily Herald. January 4, 2001. Letters to the Editor. Dangerous program / In a letter to Fence Post (Dec. 12), Susan Stozewski of the Chicago Church of Scientology attempts to promote a drug rehab program called Narconon. I wish to warn readers that Narconon is a front group for the Church of Scientology. I found from personal experience that Narconon is a sham and is, in fact, a slick device to lure unsuspecting people into Scientology. An acquaintance of mine recently discovered that she had serious liver damage from Narconon's bogus "purification" program and she now cannot get health insurance coverage. Another Scientology front group to beware of is the CCHR or Citizens Commission on Human Rights. The CCHR is using tax-exempt funds in a covert campaign to discredit psychiatric-psychology treatment. The CCHR has an extensive network of agents that are distributing distortions about psychiatric treatment and medications such as Prozac and Ritalin. This is a very dangerous thing and people should be aware that it is going on. / Jim Beebe / Northbrook
  9. ^ a b "U.S. Food and Drug Administration rejects Scientologists' petition". Business Wire (reprinting Eli Lilly press release). August 1, 1991. The petition sought the removal of Prozac (fluoxetine hydrochloride, Dista) from the market and was filed in October 1990 by the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), a Scientology front group. The FDA is to be commended on its careful review of pertinent scientific data, which led to this most recent reaffirmation of the safety and effectiveness of Prozac. From the start, the campaign against Prozac, of which the CCHR petition was a part, has been a dangerous deception. Scientology's disinformation is a menace to the public health as it attempts to frighten patients away from appropriate medical care and safe and effective medicines.
  10. ^ a b "'Church' that yearns for respectability; Business of religion; Scientology". The Times. June 23, 2007. Hubbard's empire ... Citizens' Commission on Human Rights: assets £4,000; turnover £43,000
  11. ^ a b "The Scientology Church of Hollywood". The Globe and Mail. September 11, 1993. Scientology's physical presence in Los Angeles and Hollywood is massive. It owns at least seven large buildings, staffed by 2,500 members, and is associated with a wide array of local organizations - "front groups" to their detractors. Some are directly affiliated, like the Citizens' Commission on Human Rights, an anti-psychiatry group, and Author Services, which represents Mr. Hubbard's books and hires actors like Roddy McDowall and Bruce Boxleitner to read the Scientology founder's books on tape. Others have Scientologists on staff and use church methods.
  12. ^ a b Chandler, Jo; Macdonald, Jacqui (April 22, 1991). "Scientology's war of retribution on deep-sleep therapy". The Age. Internal documents from the Church of Scientology, the parent organisation of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, indicate that behind the church's public battle to expose abuses of psychiatric patients lies a hidden plan of retribution. (alternative link)
  13. ^ a b "Scientology organizations". Charleston Gazette. July 10, 2005. Scientology operates several drug rehab, education and anti-psychiatry organizations. / · Narconon: The church's drug-rehabilitation program was founded 35 years ago. It has 145 centers in 38 countries. Narconon is based partly on Scientology's belief that drugs accumulate in body fat. / · Crimonon: A prison program founded in 1972 that draws on Scientology principles to rehabilitate prisoners. The program rejects traditional mental-health care. Hubbard believed that Scientology could help rid the planet of crime. / · Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR): Established in 1969 as an anti-psychiatry organization, CCHR promotes Hubbard's teachings against modern psychiatry. It charges that psychiatry has no scientific foundation, that psychiatric drugs cause violent behavior and that chemical imbalances have never been proven.
  14. ^ [6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13]
  15. ^ a b Kent, Stephen A.; Manca, Terra A. (2014). "A war over mental health professionalism: Scientology versus psychiatry". Mental Health, Religion & Culture. 17 (1): 1–23. doi:10.1080/13674676.2012.737552. PMC 3856510. PMID 24348087.
  16. ^ Burton, Thomas M. (April 19, 1991). "Anti-Depression Drug of Eli Lilly Loses Sales After Attack by Sect". The Wall Street Journal.
  17. ^ Sappell, Joel; Welkos, Robert W. (June 29, 1990). "Suits, Protests Fuel a Campaign Against Psychiatry". Los Angeles Times.
  18. ^ Hawleshka, Danylo (May 10, 2006). "A new war over Ritalin". Archived from the original on February 9, 2009. Retrieved February 7, 2009.
  19. ^ Pierce, Emily (May 7, 2003). "Kennedy Takes Aim at Ritalin Provision". Roll Call. Archived from the original on September 7, 2012.
  20. ^ 317 F.3d 1097; 2003 U.S. App. LEXIS 1678; 54 Fed. R. Serv. 3d (Callaghan) 1032; 2003 Cal. Daily Op. Service 970; 2003 Daily Journal DAR 1265.
  21. ^ Marie L. Thompson (December 2006). Mental Illness. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-313-33565-5. Retrieved January 4, 2011.
  22. ^ Benjamin, Gedan (March 5, 2004). "Bill Would Curtail Prescriptions for Mentally Ill". The Boston Globe. p. 29 – via Newspapers.com.
  23. ^ "- Wicked Local". Wicked Local. Retrieved April 6, 2018.
  24. ^ "Gettysburg Times - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com. Retrieved April 6, 2018.
  25. ^ a b Fazio, Marlene (January 6, 1970). "Three Hospital Aides Reinstated". Delaware County Daily Times.
  26. ^ a b c d e f g Ferguson, Larry (July 5, 1974). "CCHR Using Publicity to Improve Mental Care". Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph.
  27. ^ Richard Ruble (June 1, 1975). Christian perspectives on psychology. Ardent Media. pp. 129–. ISBN 978-0-8422-0456-9. Retrieved January 4, 2011.
  28. ^ Nicholas, Julius (July 23, 1969). "Patient Wants Court to Forbid Shock Treatment". Delaware County Daily Times.
  29. ^ "Scientology's War on Psychiatry". Salon. July 1, 2005. Archived from the original on November 10, 2010.
  30. ^ a b "Harry Richard Bailey (1922–1985)". Australian Dictionary of Biography.
  31. ^ "Chelmsford Private Hospital Patient Compensation - 02/12/1991 - NSW Parliament". Archived from the original on September 22, 2007. Retrieved June 20, 2009. Chelmsford Private Hospital Patient Compensation-New South Wales Parliament-22 April 1991
  32. ^ Little, John. "Inside 60 Minutes: The Story Behind The Stories".
  33. ^ "Walton v. Gardiner, Herron and McDonald". High Court of Australia. 1993.
  34. ^ The Melbourne Age, 22 April 1991.
  35. ^ Rissmiller, D.J.; Rissmiller, J.H. (June 2006). "Evolution of the Antipsychiatry Movement into mental health consumerism" (PDF). Psychiatric Services. 57 (6): 863–866. doi:10.1176/appi.ps.57.6.863. PMID 16754765. S2CID 19635873. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 19, 2012. Retrieved February 21, 2023.
  36. ^ "Scientology faces wave of cyber attacks". Cape Times. March 4, 2008. Retrieved September 23, 2012.[permanent dead link]
  37. ^ Touretzky, Dave. "CoS / IRS Closing Agreement". Operation Clambake. Retrieved September 24, 2012.
  38. ^ Gumbel, Andrew (January 12, 2006). "Scientology vs. Science". Los Angeles CityBeat. Southland Publishing. Archived from the original on April 27, 2006. Retrieved June 8, 2006.
  39. ^
    • "Prof's Libel Victory Over LSD Claims". Northern Echo. June 22, 1990. Archived from the original on July 17, 2007.
    • "Libel damages". The Times. June 22, 1990. p. 2. Professor Sir Martin Roth, the distinguished psychiatrist, won "very substantial" libel damages in the high court yesterday over allegations in the Newcastle Times in November 1988 that he used human guinea pigs to experiment with the psychedelic drug LSD.
  40. ^ a b Cannane, Steve (May 20, 2010). "Top Scientologist 'covered up sex abuse'". Archived from the original on May 23, 2010.
  41. ^ "Scientologist Jan Eastgate accused of covering up abuse". May 20, 2010. Archived from the original on February 19, 2017.
  42. ^ Steve Cannane (May 30, 2011). "Senior scientologist arrested over lie claims". Lateline. abc.net.au. Archived from the original on October 10, 2017. Retrieved May 30, 2011.
  43. ^ Alberici, Emma (April 24, 2012). "Charges dropped against senior Scientologist". LateLine.
  44. ^ "Chaos and Terror: Manufactured by Psychiatry" (PDF). cchrstl.org. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 8, 2013. Retrieved April 6, 2018.
  45. ^ Coco, Glen (January 7, 2013). "Scientologists Really, Really hate Psychiatrists". Archived from the original on October 10, 2017.
  46. ^ Rinder, Mike (2022). A Billion Years: My Escape From a Life in the Highest Ranks of Scientology. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781982185763.
  47. ^ Gumbel, Andrew. "Scientology vs. Science : Psychiatry, says L. Ron Hubbard's church, is responsible for Nazism, school shootings, and even 9/11". Los Angeles City Beat. Archived from the original on April 27, 2006.
  48. ^ Libin, Kevin (August 9, 2007). "Torture, or just plain torque? 'Industry Of Death' Exhibition On Psychiatry Walks A Fine Line". National Post. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved September 20, 2007.
  49. ^ "Funny? Yes, And Quite Weird, Too" (PDF). Tampa Tribune. March 22, 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 9, 2007.
  50. ^ "Doctor Claudia Heals website (see Home and About Us pages)". Archived from the original on October 1, 2011.
  51. ^ "Psychiatry's New Brain-Mind and the Legend of the "Chemical Imbalance" | Psychiatric Times". www.psychiatrictimes.com. Retrieved June 24, 2018.
  52. ^ Hindmarch, I (2002). "Beyond the monoamine hypothesis: Mechanisms, molecules and methods". European Psychiatry. 17 Suppl 3: 294–9. doi:10.1016/S0924-9338(02)00653-3. PMID 15177084. S2CID 46674696.
  53. ^ Pescosolido, B. A. (2013). The public stigma of mental illness: What do we think; what do we know; what can we prove?. Journal of Health and Social behavior, 54(1), 1-21. "Furthermore, by 1996, a majority endorsed newer neuroscientific views for schizophrenia (77.8 percent chemical imbalance, 61.1 percent genetics) and depression (68.3 percent chemical imbalance, 50.8 percent genetics; Pescosolido, Boyer, and Lubell 1999)"
  54. ^ "Webmd. Mental Health: Social Anxiety Disorder". Webmd.com. Retrieved April 14, 2010.

External links[edit]