The church of Scientology has been brought up under many various controversial claims. Many of these controversial claims take the form of people accusing the church of being a greedy cult. Supporting these accusations include the claim of the churches use of brainwashing, taking their members’ money, and alienation of people from their families and loved ones. It is also evident that The Churches leader L. Ron Hubbard will do a lot to defend himself and the Church. He even will go as far as to conspire against the US government to protect himself and advance Scientology.
Scientology as described by Tommy Davis and David Miscavige in various interviews is a way of improving peoples spirituality and mental health. As they describe many people have problems with their mental imagery that they cannot control which result in their negative feelings and social (particularly communicative) inadequacies. Scientology uses various counseling sessions and exercises to help people control their emotions and to prevent these negative mental emotions from causing them distress. Through Scientology it’s members attempt to rid themselves of their anxieties, communication problems and any other mental setback they might encounter. These purges of negative thought and emotions ideally are done until a person reaches a state called Clear, which allows a person to be unhindered by their negative imagery and take a stronger control over their life.(Hubbard) Their status as a religion is justified by them as described by David Miscavige on nightline, by saying that religion is there to help in people’s spirituality and that is what Scientology does as they believe that persons spiritual presence also known as a Thetans and their mental consciousness are one in the same.
However to many critics of Scientology like BBC reporter John Sweeney this comes off as more of a glorified self help business rather than an actual religion, especially when you consider the exuberant amounts of money a person must pay in order to receive these self help courses. The self help portion of Scientology is known as Dianetics. from this people attend counseling services and perform exercises designed to enhance their concentration and improve their ability to give and follow orders. These “alternative therapy” treatments cost about $20 an hour with access to the upper levels of Scientology ranging from around $300,000-$500,000. The progress of an individual is marked by their Operating Thetan levels which they can only advance in by purchasing more types of improvement and counseling programs designed to rid the subject of bad past memories that cause them pain and discomfort. In an interview on nightline with Ted Koppel, David Miscavige was asked about the nature of spending money on these treatments and asked how far a poor person would be able to advance in the church. Miscavige responded by saying “pretty far… by the time you start getting anywhere near the top you won’t be poor anymore, because generally people in scientology do better.” Miscavige also mentioned that a person who does not have enough money to advance can audit other people and be audited in tern. This is showing that the church generally has their members work to earn enough money before they are allowed to advance in the church. This generally hooks people into spending all of their available money on these self help programs and striving to make more money so they can improve themselves though Dianetics, this is also aided by the fact that the church only recruits people who are actively looking to improve themselves in some way. This strengthens their suggestive power over the person because they are already looking for someone to fix them. This shows that the church specifically targets people who are actively seeking an escape from their current life, they take people who are generally depressed or frustrated with something in their life and offer them salvation, at a cost. Online and literary critics including former scientology members say that the exercises that the church uses on people cause the person to enter in an irrational and lucid state of mind a lot like hypnosis often resulting in a euphoric feeling. After achieving this state of mind they are immediately rushed into an office and are pushed into purchasing more classes. Many people sell many of their possessions and take out huge bank loans so they can attend more classes. While in these mental states they are being told about how much they are improving and getting closer and closer at overcoming their problems. In his book “Inside Scientology” by Robert Kaufman, Kaufman gave the example of his friend and cello partner had found scientology and told him how much it was helping her focus and improve her cello playing however Kaufman in his book Inside Scientology observed in their cello sessions that she was making the same mistakes she always was and that there was no seeable proof to the suspected improvements she was making as she attributed to scientology. (Kaufman, p 31) Many scientologists retort by saying that the treatments of Dianetics truly do help people and if they didn’t people just would not pay the fees, but critics such as Kaufman claim that they are tricked and brainwashed into believing that these treatments are making them into better people.
In terms of separating people from their families and loved ones, that seemed to vary from case to case. According to Tommy Davis the church feels no ill will to a person who does not personally share in their beliefs and he urges everyone to be tolerant of alternative religions. However when any person, including a family member, friend or loved one speaks publicly in any ill manner towards the church (this includes trying to persuade someone from not taking part in the churches activities) they are subject to what they call Fair Game. This is essentially the idea that a person who publicly speaks out against the church is not to be treated with the same ethical standards that they hold for other people. This includes restricting them of any contact with members of the church of scientology, harassment and in some cases numerous background searches in order to discredit anything negative they might have to say about the church. In Terms of people who have left the church this is almost certainly a given and they are almost completely cut off from their former life as many of their friends and sometimes family are firm followers of scientology, and once they leave they are seen as traitors to their beliefs and as a result cut off contact with them. In addition whenever any former members publicly say anything negative about the church they are branded as liars. Even when former members of the church whom have never met each other describe in detail similarly the procedures of scientology and the abuse of its senior members to its subordinates. The church responds by saying that they are all liars and it is only made to seem that their stories all match up.
Scientology in general is known to keep a lot of church secrets that they do not tell the public and people just starting to get into scientology. In fact the most sacred of church documents are reserved for the more committed and senior members of the church. There is a lot of controversy of the origin story of scientology. The basis of the Origin story of the depression of man according to scientology and L. Ron Hubbard can be attributed to the exploits of Lord Xenu who ran a galactic federation of planets. Millions of years ago. Xenu felt that his world was overpopulated and as a result gathered together countless aliens, had them frozen and thrown into the volcanoes of the primitive planet of earth. In addition to this Lord Xenu trapped the spirits or Thetans of these aliens and fed them misleading information which caused them to wander the earth and attach themselves to the bodies of humans which infect our minds and help cause our negative emotions. This concept is controversial because Senior ranking members of scientology and their spokesmen will neither confirm or deny whether or not their religion actually believes this story. Every time one of their members is confronted with the question they state that the question is offensive to their religion and that they refuse to dignify it with a response, some even saying that it “might” seem ridiculous. However Tommy Davis himself stated in an interview with John Sweeney in a BBC report stated that people who talk about the secrets of the church of scientology and who are not scientologists are offensive to them. This suggests that it is not the idea of this farfetched story being attributed to their religion offensive, rather that they are offended by non-scientologists talking about it. It seems unclear as to why the church would reserve this information only to upper middle to higher ranking members of the church, former upper management Scientology Stacy Brooks says that by the time she was given the passage to read about the history of the universe Scientologist members had already been conditioned for years to believe everything written by L. Ron Hubbard as fact and that she instantly believed it after reading it. This shows how the church is very sensitive about their secrets getting out to the general public. This need for scientology to keep their secrets tightly under wraps as possible along with the continuous allegations towards them was seen as very suspicious to various people and governments during the rise of scientology. After Hubbard received enough heat from the controversy he decided that it was time to take action. (L. Ron Hubbard, SeaOrg. Wikipedia)
During the course of Hubbard’s scientology reign he became a large target for most English speaking nations such as the UK, New Zealand, Australia and Canada, in fact he was completely banned from ever returning to England or Greece. After the controversy surrounding him he took himself and the heads of his Organization to the high seas in what is known as the Sea Organization. The set up of this organization is a good example as to the description of the character and actions of L Ron Hubbard and his church of scientology. This shows that Hubbard and his organization were under so much controversy from people and governments that they were disliked and in some cases banned from certain countries. In a manner the Sea Organization served as Hubbard’s personal pleasure cruse where he could run the church of scientology without being harassed by national governments. While holding the self adorned rank of Commodore on his boat he was constantly surrounded by helpers who were teenage girls who performed tasks that appealed to his every comfort, including having the job of catching his cigarette ashes, in addition to this having a large stockpile of recreational drugs on board his vessel. With all of this it was probably easier for Hubbard to free himself from the laws and confines of State governments, this also probably the best course for him as he was later issued an arrest warrant by the French court for fraud and was sought after by the IRS for embezzling millions of church dollars into overseas bank accounts. However for Hubbard it seemed perfect for him and the leaders of his church as they would treat their subordinate scientology members any way they wanted, including locking them up in smelly galleys and throwing them off of the side of the ship. This also serves to facilitate Hubbard’s need for secrecy of his religion, as only the highest secrets of the church were disclosed on Sea Org boats.
The maintenance of secrecy in Scientology is so important that L Ron Hubbard wrote about it in his Fair Game policy about attacking people trying to attack the church in order to prevent people from leaking negative information about the church in to the public sphere the church goes far to conspire against their potential adversaries even to go as far as Stalking and illegal information gathering in order to black mail or frame those who get in their way. BBC reporter John Sweeney during his report on scientology he produced a segment on the churches efforts to conspire against him and his crew in order to scare or blackmail them into ceasing their activates. He reported on how the church had sent people to spy on them with video cameras and to rummage through their trash in order to find potentially embarrassing information. One of the greatest examples of the churches conspiracies against their public threats was in the case of the Churches Operation Freak out and Operation Snow white.
The church’s biggest conspiracy be attributed to their project in the 1970s to infiltrate government agencies to acquire material that could be harmful to L Ron Hubbard and to the church. L. Ron Hubbard according to documents from the FBI and statements made by people close to him in the 50s and 60s was that he was largely considered mentally insane suffering paranoia against the psychiatric association and the CIA sending out hit men after him. However in some ways he was correct in that he was being investigated by the FBI along with Interpol.(The H Files) In the 1960s Hubbard created the Guardians Office which was charged with the protection of the church and its high ranking members. The church organization had already been the subject of raids by the FBI, FDA and the IRS who claimed that the church owed the government millions of dollars in taxes after tax exempt status was revoked. Originally the purpose of Operation Snow White was to infiltrate Interpol and acquire files that connected L Ron Hubbard to various criminal activities as well as obtaining files that would be potentially harmful to the church. Hubbard himself wrote Guardian Order 732 which requested the Guardians office to remove or change false information about scientology which caused governments to look at the church in a negative light thus resulting in the hindrance on the advancement of scientology in those countries (such as Germany and Greece both being governments that Scientologists claim discriminate against them) and the Prevention of Hubbard’s ship “Apollo” from landing in their countries.(Operation Snow White, xenutv.com) In 1974 the Guardians office took a change of pace in the United States when they learned that the IRS was going to have a meeting regarding the churches tax exempt status.
The Guardians office, lead by Marry Sue Hubbard (L Ron Hubbard’s wife), set out to bug the meeting and afterwards implement plans to steal or copy documents from the IRS and the department of Justice that would hinder their tax exempt status. Eventually two men of Operation Snow White were caught stealing documents from the US courthouse library, Gerald Bennett Wolfe and Michael Meisner. They fled to LA and were given cover stories but they were eventually picked up by the FBI, after a guilty plea and a confession to infiltrating the federal government lead the FBI to allow a large scale raid on the head office in LA where they found many of the documents and items that they were looking for. While the members of the operation were convicted and sent to jail, many believe that all of this was orchestrated by L Ron Hubbard himself and that he was the one who signed the order for the Guardian Office to infiltrate the government agencies. The church and their Lawyers argue however that Hubbard never sanctioned any of this and that it was all a miss-interpretation of what he had wanted them to do therefore this is all the work of independent parties and Hubbard is blameless in all of it.(Operation Snow White, Wikipedia)
In regards of public harassment against critics of scientology the church takes the same stance on it as they do with all of their illegal activities they simply say that the harassment was carried out by fanatical scientologists and that the church organization has nothing to do with it. But what we gather from Hubbards Dead Agent policy in terms of how to deal with critics of scientology, this is clearly not the case. In it the document states:
Never let entheta [negative thoughts about scientology] pass unhandled. Prevention is better than cure. Handle fast, handle with live communication, handle with documentation, use PR technology including tone scale evaluation. Liaise with your senior and the other divisions/bureau. Maintain ethics presence and see the matter through to a completion including the discrediting of the attacker.” (Dead Agenting, xenu.net) This shows that Hubbard and the church clearly want it’s followers to conspire with their superiors and other church organizations in order to get dirt and discredit their critics from making valid claims. While the church and their lawyers repeatedly claim that it is all individual action, it is clearly a cover up for many church conspiracies against private individuals. A great example of this can be seen in the plight of Paulette Cooper during her harassment and plot against her labeled Operation Freakout.
From the files recovered by the FBI on Operation Snow White lead to the discovery of Operation Freakout. While this operation never went into effect it publicly exposed the church for organizing aggressive conspiracy plots against people who publicly cross them. Paulette Cooper, an American author who was outspokenly against scientology was coming out with a book called “The Scandal of Scientology” which would have done considerable harm to the church’s image. The church tried considerable amounts of harassment in order to scare Cooper into ceasing her criticisms of Scientology. When she previously complained about the churches harassment, church lawyers claimed that these acts were simply the act of radical fanatics and the harassment was in no way connected to the official church of Scientology. However after the FBI raid on the churches LA office proof the churches involvement was discovered in the documents of Operation Freakout.
The Operation contained an elaborate plan to frame Cooper of harassing the Arab Consulates to the point where she was either put in jail or a mental institution until she agreed to stop criticizing the church. After official church involvement was discovered the church agreed to an out of court settlement to Cooper. (Operation Freakout, Wikipedia) These two examples show how far the church is willing to go in order to protect their secrets and to instill fear to anyone willing to speak out against them. Shy of actually committing murder the church and their followers are willing and capable to doing anything and everything to discredit another person or to remove them as a threat or to get something they want, in the Governments case, tax exempt status. Governments are also clearly not free from the fair game policy either Tommy Davis in various interviews accused Germany of Nazi like tactics in order to discriminate against scientologists. It is clear that wither they be an author, reporter or even the United States government, no one is free from the investigations and manipulations of the Church of Scientology.
While there is much controversy surrounding the church of scientology most of the factual evidence seems to indicate that the church of scientology is not what it tries to present itself as in the public eye. While the statements of former members of scientology on religious practices and exercises seem to point to brainwashing which result in the accumulation of their members’ money, there is no solid evidence to support this accusation. As for the church dealings in conspiracy, it very obvious through the various confessions and raids that the Church has conspired against various national governments as well as private citizens in order to protect themselves to being slandered.
The church itself in the past has lied to protect itself and been exposed many times. However under the veil of law the church continues to protect its highest ranking members as the church gradually purges away all negative thought about scientology from governments and all the people around them.