Christmas Eve 2008
What Would Jesus Do About Forced Electroshock?
An Open Letter to the Lutheran Church [ELCA] from MindFreedom International [MFI]
by David W. Oaks, Executive Director, MFI
I just spoke to Ray Sandford of Minnesota who already received another involuntary electroshock.
As you know, your agency Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota (LSSMN) is charged with being General Guardian for Ray. This is a reply to your recent misleading public statement about the MindFreedom Campaign to End Ray Sandford’s Forced Electroshock (copied at bottom).
Regularly for months — presently every other week — attendants wake Ray up early in his group home, Victory House. He is escorted the few miles to a hospital. Under court order and against his repeated and clear objections, Ray is put under anesthesia, electricity is run through his brain, and he is given another electroshock, also known as electroconvulsive therapy or ECT.
Ray has received about 35 so far.
Ray calls our office most days, and it’s always good to hear from him. He told me yesterday, “It’s a painful, awful experience. Every time. It takes away memory viciously. It is scary as hell every time I go.”
Ray says he always objects. “I say, ‘I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to do this,’ which I’ve known since the first time. Everyone figures I’m totally nuts.”
One day Ray asked his local library about groups working on human rights in mental health, and Ray contacted MindFreedom International. Ray asked us to start a public campaign to support his right to say “no” to electroshock.
I had hoped your church would be an ally in Ray’s campaign. Instead, I have found you to stand by silently with arms folded, or even worse your spokespeople appear to at times oppose Ray’s campaign.
In my 32 years of human rights activism, Ray is one of the most focused individuals I’ve ever encountered in his persistent and reasonable requests to end his forced electroshock. The fact that his forced shock is outpatient and ongoing is especially outrageous. (to continue and take action on this matter)
Ray’s heroism has moved me and many others. Countless people have responded to support the Ray Campaign, and Ray reached millions of people on National Public Radio.
On 16 December 2008, the “Evangelical Lutheran Church in America” [ELCA] issued a reply to a number of people who have expressed concern about Ray as a result of MindFreedom’s human rights alerts. (See below.)
It is significant for ELCA to issue a public statement about a MindFreedom International campaign. With more more than four million baptized members, ELCA is the largest Lutheran denomination and one of the largest Christian denominations in the USA. We at MindFreedom are eager for dialogue with ELCA.
Unfortunately, Miriam L. Woolbert of ELCA’s Communication Services replied to those contacting ELCA that groups like MindFreedom are “misdirecting you and many other people.”
Ms. Woolbert did not provide any example or quote of such “misdirecting.” Her main points appear to be that ELCA is not a “participant” in any involuntary electroshock, and that ELCA cannot speak about Ray because of confidentiality.
MindFreedom’s alerts never claimed that ELCA is in charge of the involuntary electroshock of Ray. MindFreedom International encourages people to contact ELCA to ask you “to stand with Ray.”
Even if ELCA representatives feel you cannot speak specifically about Ray, we ask ELCA to stand shoulder to shoulder with all their agency clients, like Ray, who are receiving involuntary electroshock. ELCA could at least begin by expressing concern or joining in dialogue.
We continue to encourage all people who care to contact ELCA, and ELCA’s local congregations, with strong but civil messages.
Because of ELCA’s misleading statement about the Ray Campaign this action is especially urgent, including for those who have already contacted you.
Most importantly, Ray is asking us all to take this action.
People may e-mail ELCA headquarters at email@example.com or use their web form by clicking on ‘e-mail’ at this web page.
We also encourage all concerned people in the USA to contact local ELCA congregations, which they can find by entering their postal code here.
MindFreedom Suggested Message to ELCA and Local Congregations [your own words from the heart are best]:
I am not being misdirected by MindFreedom International or anyone else.
I am not saying you are in charge of anyone’s forced electroshock.
I am not asking you to break confidentiality of any client.
I am simply asking:
Will you stand now with Ray Sandford, and all those who are oppressed by extreme psychiatric abuse?
What is ELCA’s position on the forced, outpatient, maintenance electroshock of clients you and your agencies are charged to guard?
Why isn’t ELCA expressing concern about these human rights violations, which amount to torture?
How can ELCA use this opportunity to seek dialogue on human right and alternatives in the mental health system?
[your name & contact]
[Please copy your e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; selected e-mails will be published on the web and/or mailed to Ray.]
The MindFreedom Board of Directors includes several individuals who have personally experienced the unimaginable horror of an involuntary electroshock.
The board endorses this public statement to ELCA, and asked me to quote from the famous letter written by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Birmingham Jail on 16 April 1963.
Forty-five years ago, Rev. King was responding to church leaders who discouraged his own activist campaign:
“…I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; and too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained- glass windows…
“So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent and often even vocal sanction of things as they are.”