by Craig Branch

The religion known as Scientology is in the press a lot today and is becoming more and more popular in some cir­cles.  Many celebrities have joined its ranks in recent years, including Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, and Greta Van Susteren.  In this issue of Areopagus Journal, we examine this rising religious movement. Was L. Ron Hubbard,  the founder of Scientology, the new Messiah as Scientologists believe, or was he a madman? Is Scientology a religion, or a religious front for business, or is it both?  If a religion, is it worthwhile, or has it proven to be an abu­sive, totalitarian, militant  organization?   The Church of Scientology has one of the most notorious and controversial reputations  of all contemporary cults.  In this “Veritas” col­umn, I will try to explain why.

 

What You May Not Have Heard

Many people have seen Scientology’s book Dianetics on bookshelves or have seen the infomercials on televi­sion. Celebrities such as Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley and Jenna Elfman have helped popularize and glamorize this cult.  However, there is a dark side that is largely unknown to the general public.  Most people seem unaware of the sinister nature of Scientology as revealed in the under-reported abuses of power and even criminal activity by members of the organization .

 

How Many Scientologists Are There?

Scientology’s website and other publications make vari­ous contradictory and wildly exaggerated membership claims. One of the latest claims is that there are more than 2,600 churches in more than 129 countries, and 17,000 staff members at these churches . 1 An example of their obviously bogus claims is that in their pub­lished materials from 1991-2001, they boasted 8 million members each of those years, while claiming to be “the fastest growing church in the world today,” adding 500,000 new converts per year. 2

Yet these numbers just do not match reality.  Not only should we have seen their 8 million membership signif­icantly increase with the addition of 500,000 converts per year, one official Scientology publication stated in 1991 that the Church has a goal to “build a member­ship of 100,000 active members” in the International Association of Scientologists, which is the “official membership system adopted by the Church of Scientology .”3    Which was it?-8 million or less than 100,000?

Currently they claim to have 9 million members. Yet, in 2001 the UK Census polled the population in England and Wales on religious affiliation and found only 1,781 people who claimed Scientology.4  But this figure is only 1.5% of the number Scientology claimed. The US Census affiliation figure for Scientology in 2001 was just 55,000, and America is their largest con­centration.

 

A Criminal Enterprise?

L. Ron Hubbard once said during a science fiction writer’s convention, “Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dol­lars, the best way would be to start his own religion.” 5This statement proved to be prophetic . In 1953, Hubbard incorporated the “church” of Scientology. Not only did he make millions from it before his death in 1986, its empire now claims to have over 200 “mis­sions” worldwide with “reserves of a thousand million dollars.”6  Probably no other contemporary group has earned more sustained criticism and incurred more legal actions from its inception until now than Scientology.

The Internal Revenue Service of the United States only relatively recently (1993) recognized the Church of Scientology as a legitimate religious organization with a tax-exempt status after an intense 40 year battle. Many foreign governments including England, Germany, France, and Russia have continued to refuse such recognition.  There are good reasons for this.

For example, Time magazine ran a major cover story in its May 6, 1991 edition titled,  “Scientology – The Cult of Greed.”  A sub­ heading read, “Ruined lives. Lost fortunes. Federal crimes. Scientology poses as a religion but is really a ruthless global scam-and aiming at the mainstream.” 7  Time was sued by Scientology but Time won the case.

In May 1980, Reader s Digest senior editor Eugene Methvin wrote an article, “Scientology: Anatomy of a Frightening Cult.”  After Methvin became a target of Scientology’s policy of harassing critics, he followed with a sequel, “Scientology: The Sickness Spreads.” He wrote,  “Scientology is far more than mere religion. An analysis of sworn testimony and the findings of official tribunals in 12 nations, plus independent inves­tigation, reveals it to be a multinational racket mas­querading as a religion.” 8

Attorney Michael Flynn and six other attorneys report­ed, “There is substantial, perhaps overwhelming, evi­dence to support the conclusion that, despite Scientology’s attempted religious front, it is in reality a criminal, fraud-ridden, commercial, profit-motivated enterprise engaged in the practice of psychotherapy with a military structure and operational methods designed to accumulate money, information, and power. “9  Even earlier, Christianity Today ran a two­ part cover story titled, “Scientology: Religion or Racket?” The author wrote, “Even if we assume com­plete honesty and sincerity on the part of its practitioners and promoters, Scientology must be viewed as a dangerous menacing cult psychologically, socially, physically, and spiritually.” 10 And the Los Angeles Times ran a major six-part, award winning series expos­ing much of Scientology’s corruption, abuse, secrecy, and criminal activity. 11

In court cases stemming from a 1977 FBI raid on Scientology’s headquarters, eleven of the church’s lead­ers, including the leader’s wife, Mary Sue Hubbard, were convicted of conspiracy and burglary and sen­tenced to federal prison. The raid uncovered hard evi­dence of numerous plots and covert activities designed to intimidate and silence any opposition to Scientology including having planted spies and bugging devices in the IRS and Justice Department. 12

The records also demonstrated that the church for the previous eight years,  “perpetuated a conspiracy involving manufacturing  and falsi­fying records to present to the IRS, burglarizing IRS offices and stealing government  documents,  and subverting government processes for unlawful purposes.” 13

 

Intimidating Critics

As indicated above, some of the abusive and criminal behavior of Scientologists is due to the highly aggres­sive efforts of Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs (formerly “The Guardian’s Office”) to squelch and intimidate anyone who dares to criticize its beliefs and practices.   Scientology has spent $20 million annually in lawsuits, both in defense (because of the many peo­ple who claim to have been abused by Scientology) and because of Scientology’s own misuse of the courts to harass and crush any opposition.   Former high-level Scientologist, now Christian, Margery Wakefield sums up the experience of far too many former members, “What you have in Scientology is a complex, powerful, and effective machine for the complete control of a per­son through sophisticated mind control techniques, existing solely to enslave and exploit innocent people for the purpose of financial gain, and operating com­pletely beyond the reach of any social controls because it happens to be masquerading as a religion.” 14

I have much personal experience with the nefarious tactics of Scientology as well.  I have been unsuccess­ fully sued twice by Scientology.  The first time for helping the dentist and his wife featured in the Time maga­zine piece mentioned above exit Scientology; and the second time for sending a letter to dentists in Alabama warning them of a local Sterling Management  seminar (a recruiting front organization for Scientology).  Also my family and I became well-acquainted with a young woman who was guilty of identity theft and was a Scientology spy planted in the Cult Awareness Network’s office.  She did some volunteer work for my ministry as well.  They also attempted to harass me and disrupt my presentations  at a church in Clearwater, Florida.

 

OUR SACRED TRUST

Why is there such an intensity of controversy over Scientology?  Why do so many characterize Scientology as a dangerous, ruthless cult rather than as a bona-fide religion?  What do they believe and do that generates such deception, destruction, and hostility?   Is it because there is something innately evil about Scientology or is it, as Scientologists claim, only due to the specious claims of apostates, religious bigots, and members of the psychiatric community?

Our world is a marketplace of ideas.  Among those ideas are many conflicting religious philosophies com­peting for the minds and souls of people.   In the United States of America, freedom of thought and freedom of religion are guaranteed by our Constitution and Bill of Rights.  People have the right in these things even to be wrong.  Similarly guaranteed freedoms of speech and press also protect the right to disseminate even false religion.  However, with that broad freedom, abuse and error can and does occur.

Fortunately, all these freedoms not only allow but ensure that competing religious philosophies will be debated and that they will critique each other.  Such debate and critique also makes it possible to expose cor­ruption,  lies,  fraud,  and  exploitation-things  that  are against the law.  Exposing these things helps to protect our right to make free and fully informed religious choices without  coercion,  manipulation  and deception. A quote attributed to Edmund Burke is relevant: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”   Similarly, the Apostle Paul wrote, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them . . .For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers . . .whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake” (Eph. 5:11; Titus 1:10-11).

Thus, the Apologetics Resource Center holds that exposing the false doctrines, deceit and criminal activi­ties of an organization such as Scientology is not only a right guaranteed under freedom of religion and the press, it is a sacred responsibility to which we are com­mitted.

 

IN THIS ISSUE

With this in mind, this issue of the Areopagus Journal provides an overview and evaluation of Scientology. We begin with my article,  “L. Ron Hubbard: The Man and His Myth.”  In this piece, I sketch the early career of Scientology’s founder and the occultic influences that led to the forming of his “church.”

Next is an article entitled, “Contrasting Scientology and Christianity,”  co-authored by ARC’s Clete Hux and myself describing the major beliefs of Scientology and how they differ from Christian doctrine.  You will see, despite the claims of Scientologists, that Scientology is wholly incompatible with Christianity.

Third, is another article by yours truly, “Scientology: A Religious Mafia?”  I document in more detail in this article the intimidation, abuse, and deceit that Scientology perpetrates on  those inside and outside the cult.

Lastly, we include a testimonial by Karen Pressley who worked for many years at the international headquar­ters of Scientology, but who escaped in 1998.  She relates her personal experiences with the cultic nature of this organization and her journey to faith in Christ.

 

Some portions of these articles originally appeared in a series I wrote and published in the Watchman Expositor, Vol. 13 #

 

Craig Branch is the Director of the Apologetics Resource Center.

This article was originally published in the Areopagus Journal Vol. 7. No. 5, September – October 2007.

 

NOTES

1 See statistics at www.scientologytoday.org.

2 Church of Scientology International, What is Scientology? (Los Angeles, CA: Bridge Publications, Inc., 1998), xii.

3 See Impact 33 (1991): 33.

4 See Church Times UK (Dec. 1, 2006).

5 Reader s Digest reprint (May 1980), 1.

6 Jon Atack, A Piece of Blue Sky (New York: Carol Publishing Group,  1990), 1.

7 Article online at http://www.cs.cmu.edu/-dst/ Fishman/time­ behar.html.

8 Eugene Methvin,  “Scientology:  The Sickness Spreads,” Readers Digest (September , 1981), 76.

9 Santa Rosa News Herald (22 June 1982), 1.

10 Joseph Hopkins, “Scientology :  Religion or Racket?-Part 2”

Christianity Today (November, 1969).

11 Robert Welkos and Joel Sappell, “The Scientology Story: A Special Report ” Los Angeles Times (June 24-29, 1990). See article online at http://www.apologeticsindex.org/LA%20Times%20 Series.pdf). Additional in depth news stories include those by The Boston Herald in 1998 (http:// www.apologeticsindex.org/ s04a01.html); Salon magazine in 2005 (http:// dir.salon.com/ story/ news/ feature/2005 / 071011sci_psy /); and an extensive 2006 Rolling Stone magazine article (http://www.rollingstone. com/politics / story/ 9363363/inside_scientology/4).

12 Robert Welkos and Joel Sappell, “Burglaries and Lies Paved a Path to Prison ,” Los Angeles Times (June 24, 1990): A39.

13 Wall Street Journal (March 25 , 1997), Al8 .

14 Margery Wakefield, Understanding Scientology (self published, 1991), 9.  Books have been written by former high level Scientologists revealing the true nature of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, the sordid inner workings of Scientology and its cor­ ruptness.  A few of these are John Atack , A Piece of Blue Sky, Bent Corydon and L. Ron Hubbard , Jr. L. Ron Hubbard: Messiah or Madman (Secaucus , NJ: Lyle Stuart, 1987); and Paulette Cooper , The Scandal of Scientology (New York: Tower Publications, 1971). Other books have been written by journal­ists and biographers such as Stewart LaMont, Scientology Inc. (London: Harrap, 1986); and Russell Miller, L. Ron Hubbard : Bare-Faced Messiah (Toronto: Key Porter Books, 1988).