"Church" of Scientology: A "Religious" Mafia?
By Craig Branch
Controversy continues to rage around Scientology, due mostly to the totalitarian and abusive nature of its practices. The evolution and history of Scientology raises serious and fundamental questions about freedoms and protections of religion and even what or who defines a religion. Scientology is an anomaly on even a diverse religious landscape. It does, in fact, involve religious belief (in what most outsiders would regard as science fiction). But that belief appears to have been built chiefly as a cover for exploitive commercial operations.
Scientology's history of terror and abuse appears to be the result of its founder's delusion and paranoia. Evidence of L. Ron Hubbard's delusional character was well documented in court where the trial judge concluded, "The organization [Scientology] clearly is schizophrenic and paranoid, and this bizarre combination seems to be a reflection of its founder, LRH [L. Ron Hubbard]. The evidence portrays a man who has been virtually a pathological liar when it comes to his history, background and achievements." (Church of Scientology v. Armstrong, No. C420153, California Supreme Court, 1984).
Scientology is governed by inviolate policies or "Scriptures" of L. Ron Hubbard which, when followed, have produced an extraordinary record of institutionalized abuse, financial exploitation, harassment, intimidation, civil and criminal convictions of its members, leaders, and even the church itself. One critic, Reader's Digest senior editor Eugene Methvin, experienced serious harassment by Scientology. He has aptly charged, "Scientology is far more than mere religion...[it is] a multi-national racket masquerading as a religion." ("Scientology: the Sickness Spreads," Reader's Digest, September, l981, reprint, p.2). Scientology believes that it alone has the solution to mankind's problems. This is not different from many religions, including Christianity, but the similarity stops there. Scientology officials have repeatedly taunted that "it is not a turn the other cheek religion" (e.g., Leisa Goodman, "New Religions: The Cult Question," MTV News and Specials, June, 1995). Not turning the other cheek may involve subjecting followers or critics to involuntary servitude, hard labor in "rehabilitation" camps, slander, hiring private detectives to harass and intimidate, dirty tricks, and lawsuits.
Scientology has a twisted view of "ethics," believing that anything is permissible which advances the goals of Scientology. Those goals include doing whatever needs to be done "to bring the government and hostile philosophies or societies into a state of complete compliance with the goals of Scientology. This is done by a high level ability to control... to overwhelm. Introvert such agencies. Control such agencies" (HCO Policy Letter of August 15, 1960).
Scientology's objective is to "clear the planet." This can only be accomplished through recruiting people, often by deception, into taking a multitude of expensive "counseling" courses in order to be rid of "aberrations" from present and past lives (reincarnation) and arrive at a state of "clear." One then learns that one must continue to advance through the levels of Hubbard's bizarre science fiction cosmology of "Operating Thetans," in order to survive. The whole process can involve billion-year contracts, but $200,000 - $400,000 in this lifetime. Involvement has proven even more costly for many people. There have been losses of marriages, possessions, life savings, family relationships, and sanity. And, the most tragic from the Christian point of view, Scientology leads to an eternity separated from God.
A recent episode of 60 Minutes exposed some of the corrupt and deceptive tactics of Scientology (CBS, December 28, 1997). Interviewer Leslie Stahl asked former Cult Awareness Network executive director Cynthia Kisser if she still stood by her statement ("Scientology: The Cult of Greed," Time, May 6, 1991) that "Scientology is quite likely the most ruthless, the most classically terrorist, the most litigious and the most lucrative cult the country has ever seen." Ms. Kisser responded, "Oh, more than ever... everything they've done since just proves that quote." (Transcript on file)
Abusing the Legal System Two recent and protracted cases clearly demonstrate how Scientology assiduously carries out the policies initiated by L. Ron Hubbard for intimidating and harassing its "enemies." Scientology's target in the first case was a former Scientologist, Larry Wollersheim. In 1986, Wollersheim won a $30 million jury verdict in compensatory and punitive damages against the Church of Scientology California mother church in a case that began in 1980. This was later reduced on appeal to $2.5 million. The courts found that Scientology was guilty of intentional and negligent infliction of severe emotional harm. They wrote "Any one of these acts [against Wollersheim] exceeds the 'bounds usually tolerated by a decent society' so as to constitute outrageous conduct.... the Church's actions... unquestionably constituted reckless disregard for the likelihood of causing emotional distress. The policy of fair game, by its nature, was intended to punish the person who dared to leave the Church. Here, the church actively encouraged its members to destroy Wollersheim's business. Further, by physically restraining Wollersheim from leaving the Church's ship, and subjecting him to further auditing despite his protests, the Church ignored Wollersheim's emotional state and callously compelled him to continue in a practice known to cause him emotional distress" (Daily Appellate Report, July 1, 1989, p. 9270).
This account bears striking parallels to the recent account of Lisa McPherson, whose struggle ended in death (See The Watchman Expositor, Vol. 14, No. 5).
Scientology continues its insistence that the fair game policy was canceled in 1968. But the Daily Appellate Report shows the Court found that, "despite the Church's public rejection of the fair game practice, it continued to use fair game against targeted ex-Scientologists throughout the 1970s" (p. 9274; emphasis added).
Scientology, true to form, attempted every legal maneuver they could to escape this judgment, regardless of merit. The case went up to the California Supreme Court twice and even to the US Supreme Court. Scientology counter-sued Wollersheim and the California appellate court has thrown out that suit and awarded Wollersheim his attorney fees. The judgment now stands at $6,025,857 including accrued interest. Wollersheim's attorneys have won another significant amended judgment. They proved to the Court's satisfaction that the Church of Scientology had conducted a pattern of systematically shuffling their assets between various Church owned or affiliated corporate entities to avoid payment to Wollersheim. The court found that the Religious Technology Center run by David Miscaviage and Church of Scientology International were all "alter egos" of the Church of Scientology California. The court ruled that Scientology "acted in bad faith which would result in an injustice to plaintiff..." (Los Angeles Daily Journal, December 12, 1997).
Attorney Dan Leipold, who has been a very successful litigator against Scientology, observes that Scientology "believes they can do no wrong...that any finding against them is injustice and that everybody is conspiring against them to destroy them...They only use the law as a tool, and it is a tool to 'utterly destroy' their enemies" (Ibid.). The courts agree. The California appellate court found Scientology's counter-suit of Wollersheim was "consistent with a pattern of conduct by the Church to employ every means, regardless of merit, to frustrate or undermine Wollersheim's petition activity...[the church's lawsuit was] (a) in retaliation for his 1980 lawsuit against the church; (b) to punish him economically for bringing that lawsuit, and (c) to obliterate the value of any victories over the Church by forcing him to abandon his efforts..." (Church of Scientology v. L. Wollersheim, Nos. B084686, B086063).
Scientology's target in the second case was David Mayo, also a former Scientologist. Mayo won big in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Mayo was suing Scientology and in typical fashion, Scientology sued him back. The court dismissed Scientology's suit and awarded Mayo $2.9 million in attorney's fees. The court applied the tough sanctions against Scientology saying the Church had been playing "fast and loose with the legal system" by filing countless frivolous motions, employing "evasions, misrepresentations, broken promises and lies... destruction and concealment of documents" (Los Angeles Daily Journal, April 18, 1996, p. 3).
The validity of the courts' findings concerning the continuation of Scientology's fair game policy and other abusive directives was dramatically demonstrated in two other major criminal convictions of Scientology leaders and even the church itself.
The first of these, as reported in The Watchman Expositor (Vol. 14, No. 5), followed a 1977 FBI raid on Scientology headquarters that produced comprehensive evidence of stolen government documents, spies planted in the IRS and Justice Department, planted bugging devices, and 48,000 documents detailing smear campaigns orchestrated against critics of the church. Hubbard's wife, Mary Sue, and ten other Scientologists were convicted and received prison terms.
One of the more egregious clandestine attacks uncovered in evidence obtained in the raid was carried out against Paulette Cooper, author of the 1972 book, The Scandal of Scientology. Following Hubbard's directive of, "If possible, of course, ruin him utterly," Scientologists smeared Cooper's reputation, then framed her for a felony. Using stationary she had touched, which therefore contained her fingerprints, they forged a bomb threat against the Church. Upon discovering the plot, called "Operation Freakout," the prosecutors dropped all charges against Cooper. Besides the emotional anguish and disruption of her life, Scientology's outrageous, fraudulent persecution of her cost Cooper $26,000 in legal and psychiatric fees. (Los Angeles Times, June 24, 1990, A39).
Another such "attack and destroy" campaign uncovered by the FBI raid was carried out against the then-mayor of Clearwater, Florida, Gabe Cazares. Documents revealed that "Scientology agents staged a fake hit-and-run accident" against Cazares (Washington Post, April 28, 1978, p. A-1). Furthermore, Scientology attorney Merrell Vanier persuaded Cazares to use his services in a lawsuit against Scientology. From this undercover position Vanier was able to provide inside information to Scientology, as well as gain access to sensitive files in the State Attorney General's office "which was conducting an investigation of the local Scientology organization." After the facts became known Vanier was disbarred by the Florida Supreme Court (Tampa Tribune, November 27, 1986, p. 15-B; Opinion, 498 So. 2d 896; 11 Fla. Law W. 621 [Fla. 1986]).
The Scientologists also planted spies in the Clearwater Sun and St. Petersburg Times newspapers, the Clearwater Chamber of Commerce, and engaged in various efforts to frame their critics (St. Petersburg Times, November 27, 1979; Clearwater Sun, Nov. 27, 1979). Eventually "a federal judge ruled the cult's suit 'frivolous, unreasonable and groundless,' and made the Scientologists pay Cazares's legal costs of $36,022" ("Scientology: the Sickness Spreads," Reader's Digest, September 1981, reprint p. 4).
The second major court case resulting in criminal conviction occurred in Canada where the Church of Scientology and three of its members were found guilty of breach of trust for conducting espionage against the government, similar to what they did in the U.S. It was the first time in Canada that a church had been found guilty of criminal activity. The church was also found guilty of libel against the Canadian prosecuting attorney and was fined a record $2.1 million. (The Globe and Mail, June 27, 1992; Toronto Star, March 12, 1992, p. D26).
According to the Toronto Sun report on the case, Marion Envoy, former Canadian head of Scientology's Guardian Office, was asked "how she reconciled her criminal activities with some of Scientology's statements of principles regarding honesty and freedom." She replied, "'It was the way I was trained... whatever was necessary to protect'... Hubbard and Scientology.... Criminal acts of that kind were 'not considered against any code or moral in Scientology because you were protecting Scientology'" (May 15, 1992). As is so often the case in Scientology, the end (i.e. Scientology's vindication and success) justified the means.
Other Cases of Abuse Harassment and Tragedy Watchman has on file many records of Scientology's institutionalized pattern of harassment and abuse of those it perceives as an enemy, and its tragic consequences - too many to print here, for lack of space. The following are but a few representative examples.
1. Respected British biographer, Russell Miller, wrote a quite revealing book, Bare Faced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard. Following Hubbard's attack policies, Scientology not only sued him in Britain and the United States but hired their chief "private investigator," Eugene Ingram, to discredit him. Miller soon found himself being questioned by the police as a suspect for a murder because of "an anonymous tip-off from someone who used an extensive knowledge of Miller's work and private life to try to frame him" (Sunday Times, October 25, 1987, p. 3).
2. Scientology has a history of using private investigators to pursue and harass critics. Eugene Ingram, fired from the Los Angeles Police Department in 1981, is one of the most notorious. Warrants for Ingram's arrest are still outstanding in Florida and Oklahoma, for impersonating a police officer, and for carrying a concealed weapon (copies of warrants on file at WFI).
3. Scientology claims to "always deliver" through its alleged "total freedom" technology. Yet, Noah Lottick, 24, "jumped to his death from the 10th floor of a Manhattan building," after paying Scientology $3,000, and earlier, most of his savings, for their courses (The Times Leader, May 2, 1991, pp. 1, 12A).
4. L. Ron Hubbard's own son committed suicide from a hose hooked from the tailpipe in his car. There are a great number of Scientology associated suicides or attempted suicides listed on the website
5. Many out-of-court settlements have been paid to plaintiffs and defendants in cases involving Scientology. In most of the settlements the parties are barred from disclosing the amount. It has been revealed, however, that Julie Titchbourne received $100,000, Gerald Armstrong received $800,000. Court documents in a U.S. district court also revealed that Scientology had been willing to pay $650,000 to four of at least 10 plaintiffs who all later settled for an undisclosed amount. The church also "settled four multi-million dollar suits" as well as with 11 other plaintiffs and "others with claims against the church" for $2.8 million in 1986 (William Horne, "The Two Faces of Scientology," American Lawyer, July, 1992, p. 5, Cult Awareness Network News, March, 1987, p. 4).
6. Watchman has on file many published accounts of intense harassment and abuse of former members, media reporters, television companies, newspapers and magazines, lawyers, and even trial judges who had anything to do with either criticizing or bringing Scientology to justice. Two American Lawyer articles detail the extraordinary and chilling accounts of consistent harassment and acts of intimidating experienced by various judges assigned to significant lawsuits against Scientology ("Scientology's War Against Judges," December, 1980; "Two Faces of Scientology," July/August, 1992).
One tactic most often used against those who dare to expose abuse in Scientology is a pattern of slanderous information distribution in the critic's neighborhood or workplace. (The Sunday Times [London], April 3, 1994). Recently, when participants in a peaceful demonstration over Lisa McPherson's death at Scientology headquarters in Clearwater arrived home they discovered fliers distributed around their neighborhoods accusing the Scientology critics as religious bigots, a threat to families or worse (Philadelphia Inquirer, December 13, 1997; The Event (Salt Lake City), December 18, 1997).
The respected professional writers journal, The Quill, details the extent of the horrendous intimidation and smear tactics of Scientology against the Los Angeles Times, Time magazine, Reader's Digest, and other major publishers and their reporters (November/December, 1991, pp. 36-39). But some of the most chilling are the stories of personal abuse including people being held against their will unless they complied with more Scientology processing, or being told that they would commit suicide or harm their children if they didn't take more expensive Scientology courses etc. (Gadsen Times, May 4, 1991, pp. A1, A6; Cherokee County Herald, December 12, 1990; personal testimonies on file).
Reader's Digest senior editor Eugene Methvin quotes former Scientology leader Lorna Levett, whose conscience would not allow her to continue in what she came to recognize as "an international conspiracy." "Psychological coercion by dangerous mind-bending cults under cover of religion can only occur, like diseases, when there is no immunization against it," she declared. "In this case, the immunization is freedom speech. The cults, using tax-free dollars, can violate human rights only when the truth is allowed to go unpublished" ("Scientology: The Sickness Spreads," Reader's Digest, September, 1981, reprint, p. 6).
Methvin himself says it well, "Above all, the 20th Century record of leader-cults demonstrates that such collectives need watching. Nothing in our legal tradition requires us to shut our eyes to a racket religion simply because it masquerades and claims immunity under our First Amendment" ("Scientology: Anatomy of a Frightening Cult," Reader's Digest, May, 1980, reprint, p. 6).
Americans rightly appreciate the special Constitutional religious freedoms enjoyed in their country. They should not be deceived, however, by Scientology's repeated efforts to wrap its practices in the cloak of the Constitution and First Amendment protections by claiming bigotry and persecution. Actually, it is Scientology's own heinous and nefarious activities of individual abuse, and abuse of the legal system, which jeopardize everyone's religious and personal freedoms.
It is Watchman Fellowship's biblical mission to warn others to "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove [expose and rebuke] them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light..." (Ephesians 5:11-13). Jesus warns "For everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved [exposed and rebuked]. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God" (John 3:20-21).
Not surprisingly, Scientology policy is "NEVER agree to an investigation of Scientology" (HCO Policy Letter of 25 February 1966).
These issues are brought forward out of love and compassion for those still in Scientology, in hopes that they will escape. But the Scripture also bears a grave warning, "He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy" (Proverbs 29:1). No doubt Jesus had such a penalty in mind when He said, "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28).