End Dangerous Scientology Experiments on Gulf War Vets, Says Center for Inquiry (UPDATED)

For Immediate Release: August 14, 2015
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
press@centerforinquiry.org - (207) 358-9785

The Center for Inquiry today challenged the Department of Defense’s funding of dangerous pseudoscientific experiments on veterans suffering from Gulf War Syndrome. These experiments involve the Church of Scientology’s “Purif” detoxifications, a sham treatment based on religious tenets, not science. These experiments not only put desperate veterans’ health at risk, but also blatantly violate the separation of church and state. CFI, which advocates for science, reason, and humanist values, will urge the Department to immediately end these experiments and investigate how they were ever approved.

Journalist Brandy Zadrozny revealed on August 12 in The Daily Beast that the Department of Defense has paid $633,677 since 2009 to fund the experimental study of a so-called “Purification Rundown,” or “Purif,” a religiously based “detoxification” regimen invented by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard — a man with no scientific or medical training whatsoever — as a potential treatment for Gulf War Syndrome (GWS). Involving such risky methods as overexposure to saunas and massive doses of vitamins, Purif programs have in the past also been used by the Church as a recruitment tool, with promises to “remove biochemical factors inhibiting your spiritual freedom.”

The Center for Inquiry expressed its grave concerns about the safety of veterans used in these experiments, and pointed out that government-funded Purif programs violate the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, being grounded in the religious beliefs of the Church of Scientology. As detailed in the Daily Beast report, CFI is also shocked at how thoroughly riddled the study is with financial and promotional conflicts of interest favoring the Church of Scientology, as well as the obvious vested interest in its outcomes by the study’s own Scientology-advocating co-investigator—a conflict unknown to the study’s own lead investigator until revealed by the Daily Beast journalist.

“Veterans suffering from Gulf War Syndrome have been struggling for decades now to find effective treatments,” said Ed Beck, CFI policy analyst and Marine Corps veteran. “Spending public money to use these veterans as guinea pigs to test a pseudoscientific Scientology ritual, in a dangerous, poor-quality study structurally biased in favor of the Church of Scientology itself, does nothing to address their plight. These desperate veterans deserve far better from their government, and that begins with putting an immediate end to this study and investigating how it ever came about in the first place.”

Beck added, ”As it stands, this publicly funded misadventure advances the sectarian interests of the Church of Scientology, not the health and wellbeing of sick veterans.”

CFI’s concerns will be formally presented to the Defense Department and other relevant agencies in a forthcoming communication.


CFI has sent a formal communication to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to urge him to put a stop to these dangerous and unconstitutional faux treatments, and for the Department of Defense to immediately and thoroughly investigate how they came to be. 

CFI’s letter to Secretary Carter states, in part:

The Department of Defense is … allocating taxpayer money to a religiously based program when it funds this research. Public money, which is intended to be spent on improving the well-being of veterans suffering from Gulf War Syndrome, is instead being spent on promoting and furthering the goals of the Church of Scientology. … 

CFI strongly urges the Department of Defense to immediately halt this study and open an investigation into how it ever came about. The American people who have paid for this fiasco, the hundreds of desperate veterans who have suffered and been manipulated through it, and the hundreds of thousands of sick veterans desperately waiting for medically sound, scientific treatments for Gulf War Syndrome deserve nothing less.

The full letter is available at bit.ly/CFI_DoD_Scientology


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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at centerforinquiry.org.