Scientology and the Travolta Tragedy

A Scientologist explains the church's views on autism, medical care, and life after death.

After the death of Jett Travolta, son of John Travolta and Kelly Preston, Beliefnet interviewed Tommy Davis, a representative of the Church of Scientology International. He answered questions about Scientology's beliefs on autism, medical care, and death. Davis spoke only for the church, not for the family. (Editor's Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

Scientology has been in the news because of the death of John Travolta's son. There have been rumors that Jett Travolta was autistic. I've also heard reports that the Church of Scientology doesn't believe that autism exists or allow for treatment of that condition. Could you clarify?

Sure. First of all, this [idea] that the church has some [position] about autism, that it doesn't exist, is just not true. The church has never made any such statement. The bottom line here is the church does not involve itself in the diagnosis or classification of any medical condition. It's just not something the church does.

We've never stated any such thing, that autism doesn't, you know, [we don't] recognize autism. It's medicine. The church deals with the spirit. If people have a medical problem or a physical ailment, they go to a doctor. It's church policy that they do so and they get that addressed.

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Just to clarify--the church doesn't have any prohibition against prescription drugs or medical treatment?

None whatsoever. Scientologists avail themselves of conventional medical treatment for medical conditions. They see doctors. They use prescription drugs prescribed by doctors. That's church policy. If somebody has a physical ailment or difficulty, it's insisted that the person sees a doctor and get that dealt with, treated, and handled.

But that would not apply to a psychiatric condition, if a person is diagnosed with some sort of mental illness?

That's right. That's a psychiatric condition. That's not a medical condition. They're two different things. Medical conditions are scientific. They're based on biological tests and so forth. Psychiatric conditions are subjective. That's not me saying that. Psychiatrists say that. You ask any psychiatrist, do you have any kind of biological test or scientific test to back up your diagnosis? The psychiatrist will tell you no, no there isn't. Psychiatrists don’t have any such thing.

So, the church would not approve of a member seeing a doctor or taking medication for a psychiatric condition?

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Ansley Roan
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