Liberal Democrats have been forced into an embarrassing U-turn after inviting a pressure group founded by Scientologists to exhibit at their Birmingham conference.
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg will issue a rallying cry to party activists in his last major conference before an election date is announced, as his party meets at the ICC this weekend.
But organisers came under fire from party members after an organisation linked to Scientology booked a stall at the conference. The Citizens’ Commission on Human Rights was set up in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and campaigns against what it calls violations of human rights by the psychiatric profession.
One leaflet on the Commission’s website warns: “The pernicious influence of psychiatry has wreaked havoc throughout society, especially in hospitals, education systems and prisons. Citizens groups and responsible government officials should work together to expose and abolish psychiatry’s hidden manipulation of society.”
Liberal Democrats allowed the Commission to book a stall at their conference – and included their stand in a list of exhibitors which was sent to activists as part of the conference agenda.
The listing described them as an “international watchdog in the mental health field since it was co-founded in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and Professor of Psychiatry Dr Thomas Szasz”.
But it led to protests from party activists. As a result, the Lib Dems and the Commission have come to a “mutual agreement” that the stall will not be at the conference.
And the conference programme on the party’s official website has been replaced by a new one – with references to the Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights removed.