Church of Scientology

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Church of Scientology
Church of Scientology building in Los Angeles, Fountain Avenue.jpg
Scientology building in Los Angeles, California
Formation1954[1]
HeadquartersGold Base
Location
Chairman of Religious Technology CenterDavid Miscavige
Websitewww.scientology.org
 
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Church of Scientology
Church of Scientology building in Los Angeles, Fountain Avenue.jpg
Scientology building in Los Angeles, California
Formation1954[1]
HeadquartersGold Base
Location
Chairman of Religious Technology CenterDavid Miscavige
Websitewww.scientology.org

The Church of Scientology is an organization devoted to the practice and the promotion of Scientology, a new religious movement. The Church of Scientology International is the Church of Scientology's parent organization, and is responsible for the overall management, dissemination and propagation of Scientology.[2][3][4] Every Church of Scientology is separately incorporated and has its own local board of directors and executives responsible for its own activities and corporate well-being.[5][6][7] The first Scientology church was incorporated in December 1953 in Camden, New Jersey by L. Ron Hubbard.[8][9] Its international headquarters are located at the Gold Base, located in an unincorporated area of Riverside County, California, the location of which is kept secret from most Scientologists.[10]

The highest authority in the Church of Scientology is in The Church of Scientology International (CSI) and the Religious Technology Center (RTC), whose headquarters are in Los Angeles. CSI "is the mother church and has the mission of propagating the Scientology creed around the world." RTC's main function is to "preserve, maintain, and protect the purity of the Scientology technology in accord with Hubbard's original research and to insure its proper and ethical delivery." The Scientology Missions International is under CSI and RTC and functions as "the central church to Scientology missions worldwide."[11]

Although in some countries it has attained legal recognition as a religion,[12] the church has been the subject of a number of controversies, and has been described by its critics as both a cult and a commercial enterprise.[13]

History

L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology

The first Scientology church was incorporated in December 1953 in Camden, New Jersey by[8][9] L. Ron Hubbard, his wife Mary Sue Hubbard, and John Galusha, although the Hubbard Association of Scientologists International (HASI) had already been operating since 1952[14][15] and Hubbard had been selling Scientology books and other items. Soon after, he explained the religious nature of Scientology in a bulletin to all Scientologists,[16] stressing its relation to the Dharma. The first Church of Scientology opened in 1954 in Los Angeles.[17]

Hubbard stated, "A civilization without insanity, without criminals and without war, where the able can prosper and honest beings can have rights, and where man is free to rise to greater heights, are the aims of Scientology."[18]

Hubbard had official control of the organization until 1966 when this function was transferred to a group of executives.[19] Although Hubbard maintained no formal relationship with Scientology's management, he remained firmly in control of the organization and its affiliated organizations.[20]

In May 1987, following Hubbard's death, David Miscavige, one of Hubbard’s former personal assistants and video photographer, assumed the position of Chairman of the Board of the Religious Technology Center (RTC), a non-profit corporation that administers the trademarked names and symbols of Dianetics and Scientology. Although RTC is a separate corporation from the Church of Scientology International, whose president and chief spokesperson is Heber Jentzsch, Miscavige is the effective leader of the movement.[21]

Beliefs

The Church of Scientology promotes Scientology, a body of beliefs and related practices created by L. Ron Hubbard, starting in 1952 as a successor to his earlier self-help system, Dianetics.[22]

Scientology teaches that people are immortal spiritual beings who have forgotten their true nature. The story of Xenu is part of Scientologist teachings about extraterrestrial civilizations and alien interventions in Earthly events, collectively described as space opera by Hubbard.[23] Its method of spiritual rehabilitation is a type of counseling known as "auditing", in which practitioners aim to re-experience consciously painful or traumatic events in their past, in order to free themselves of their limiting effects.[24] Study materials and auditing courses are made available to members in return for specified donations.[25] Scientology is legally recognized as a tax-exempt religion in the United States[26] and other countries,[27][28][29] and the Church of Scientology emphasizes this as proof that it is a bona fide religion.

Scientology describes itself as the study and handling of the spirit in relationship to itself, others, and all of life. According to the Encyclopedia of American Religions, it is “concerned with the isolation, description, handling and rehabilitation of the human spirit.”[30] One purpose of Scientology, as stated by the Church of Scientology, is to become certain of one's spiritual existence and one's relationship to God, or the "Supreme Being."[31]

One of the major tenets of Scientology is that a human is an immortal alien spiritual being, termed a thetan, that is presently trapped on planet Earth in a physical "meat body." Hubbard described these thetans in "The Space Opera" cosmogony. The thetan has had innumerable past lives and it is accepted in Scientology that lives preceding the thetan's arrival on Earth lived in extraterrestrial cultures. Descriptions of space opera incidents are seen as true events by Scientologists.[32]

Scientology claims that its practices provide methods by which a person can achieve greater spiritual awareness.[33] Within Scientology, progression from level to level is often called The Bridge to Total Freedom. Scientologists progress from "Preclear", to "Clear", and ultimately "Operating Thetan".

Scientologists are taught that a series of events, or incidents, occurred before life on earth.[32] Scientologists also believe that humans have hidden abilities which can be unlocked.[34][35]

Newly built Scientology churches includes a corporate-style office set aside for Hubbard's use, with a plaque on the desk bearing his name.[36]

Headquarters, Bases, and Central Orgs

Locations of major Scientology centers in the United States and the United Kingdom
1. Saint Hill Manor 2. Flag Land Base 3. PAC Base 4. Gold Base 5. Trementina Base 6. Flag ship, Freewinds

Scientology organizations and missions exist in many communities around the world.[37] Scientologists call their larger centers orgs, short for "organizations." The major Scientology organization of a region is known as a central org. The legal address of the Church of Scientology International is in Los Angeles, California, 6331 Hollywood Blvd, in the Hollywood Guaranty Building. The Church of Scientology also has several major headquarters, including:

Saint Hill, Sussex, England

Main article: Saint Hill Manor

L. Ron Hubbard moved to England shortly after founding Scientology, where he oversaw its worldwide development from an office in London for most of the 1950s. In 1959, he bought Saint Hill Manor near the Sussex town of East Grinstead, a Georgian manor house formerly owned by the Maharajah of Jaipur. This became the worldwide headquarters of Scientology through the 1960s and 1970s. Hubbard declared Saint Hill to be the organization by which all other organizations would be measured, and he issued a general order (still followed today) for all organizations around the world to expand and reach "Saint Hill size". The Church of Scientology has announced that the next two levels of Scientology teaching, OT 9 and OT 10, will be released and made available to church members when all the major organizations in the world have reached Saint Hill size.

Flag Land Base, Clearwater, Florida

Main article: Fort Harrison Hotel

The "worldwide spiritual headquarters" of the Church of Scientology is known as "Flag Land Base," located in Clearwater, Florida. It is operated by the Floridian corporation Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization, Inc..

The organization was founded in the late 1970s when a Scientology-founded group called "Southern Land Development and Leasing Corp" purchased the Fort Harrison Hotel for $2.3 million. Because the reported tenant was the "United Churches of Florida" the citizens and City Council of Clearwater did not realize that the building's owners were actually the Church of Scientology until after the building's purchase. Clearwater citizens' groups, headed by Mayor Gabriel Cazares, rallied strongly against Scientology establishing a base in the city (repeatedly referring to the organization as a cult), but Flag Base was established nonetheless.[38]

In the years since its foundation, Flag Base has expanded as the Church of Scientology has gradually purchased large amounts of additional property in the downtown and waterfront Clearwater area. Scientology's largest project in Clearwater has been the construction of a high-rise complex called the "Super Power Building," Scientology's new Flag Building "is the centerpiece of a 160-million construction campaign."[39]

Scientology leader David Miscavige led the opening and dedication of the 377,000-square-foot Flag Building on November 17, 2013. The multi-million cathedral is the new spiritual headquarters of Scientology. The fifth and sixth floor contain the “Super Power Program”, which includes specially designed machines that Scientologists believe allow users to develop new abilities and experience enlightenment. The building also includes a dining facility, course rooms, offices and small rooms for “auditing” purposes.[40][41][42]

Organizations in Hollywood, California

Los Angeles, California, has the largest concentration of Scientologists and Scientology-related organizations in the world, with the church's most visible presence being in the Hollywood district of the city. The organization owns a former hospital on Fountain Avenue which houses Scientology's West Coast headquarters, the Pacific Area Command Base — often referred to as "PAC Base" or "Big Blue", after its blue paint job. Adjacent buildings include headquarters of several internal Scientology divisions, including the American Saint Hill Organization, the Advanced Organization of Los Angeles, and the Church of Scientology of Los Angeles. All these organizations are integrated within the corporation Church of Scientology Western United States.

The Church of Scientology successfully campaigned to have the city of Los Angeles rename one block of a street running through this complex "L. Ron Hubbard Way." The street has been paved in brick.

Scientology's Celebrity Center International is located on Franklin Avenue, while the Association for Better Living and Education, Author Services and the official headquarters of the Church of Scientology International (in the Hollywood Guaranty Building) are all located on Hollywood Boulevard. The ground floor of the Guaranty Building also features the L. Ron Hubbard Life Exhibition, a museum detailing the life of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard that is open to the general public.

Another museum in the area is the Psychiatry: An Industry of Death, located on Sunset Boulevard, which is operated by the church-affiliated Citizens Commission on Human Rights.

Gold Base, Riverside County, California

Main article: Gold Base

The headquarters of the Religious Technology Center, the entity that oversees Scientology operations worldwide, is located in unincorporated Riverside County, California, near Gilman Hot Springs and north of Hemet. The facility, known as Gold Base or "Int", is owned by Golden Era Productions and is the home of Scientology's media production studio, Golden Era Studios. Several Scientology executives, including David Miscavige, live and work at the base.[43] Therefore Gold Base is Scientology's international administrative headquarters.[44][45][46][47]

The Church of Scientology bought a former resort, which had been popular with Hollywood figures, in 1978; the resort became Gold Base.[48] The facilities at Gold Base have been toured by journalists several times. They are surrounded by floodlights and video observation cameras,[43][49][50][51] and the compound is protected by razor wire.[52] Gold Base also has recreational facilities, including basketball, volleyball, and soccer facilities, an exercise building, a waterslide, a small lake with two beaches, and a golf course.[53]

Trementina Base

Main article: Trementina Base

The Church of Scientology maintains a large base on the outskirts of Trementina, New Mexico, for the purpose of storing their archiving project: engraving Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard's writings on stainless steel tablets and encasing them in titanium capsules underground. An aerial photograph showing the base's enormous Church of Spiritual Technology symbols on the ground caused media interest and a local TV station broke the story in November 2005. According to a Washington Post report, the organization unsuccessfully attempted to coerce the station not to air the story.[54]

Freewinds

Main article: Freewinds

The cruise ship Freewinds was the only place the highest level of Scientology training (OT VIII) was offered. It cruised the Caribbean Sea, under the auspices of the Flag Ship Service Organization. The Freewinds was also used for other courses and auditing for those willing to spend extra money to get services on the ship. In April 2008, the Freewinds was sealed, and work stopped on refurbishments, due to "extensive contamination" with blue asbestos.[55]

Scientology Ideal Orgs

Since 2003, twenty-nine new churches or "Ideal Orgs" as referred to by the church, have been constructed, which are new or revamped buildings that the church has acquired and converted. The church states that the Ideal Orgs "realize the fulfillment of Founder L. Ron Hubbard's vision for the religion and its churches."[56] The Church of Scientology has continued to buy hotels and church buildings, a total of 62 in all in the past five years,[57] under the leadership of the church’s ecclesiastical leader, David Miscavige.[58] Some of the most notable Ideal Org openings are: Johannesburg, South Africa, which was opened on November 2, 2003 and expanded and rededicated on August 3, 2011;[59] Rome, Italy; Malmo, Sweden; Dallas, Texas; Nashville, Tennessee; Washington D.C.[57] Phoenix, Arizona,[60] Inglewood, California,[56] and Santa Ana, California.[61] Other locations where Ideal Orgs have opened are Florence, Kentucky; Clearwater, Florida; Sacramento, California; Melbourne, Australia; Mexico City, London, Quebec, and Seattle, Washington.[62]

Production Facilities

Golden Era Productions

The Golden Era Productions located in the Hollywood Guaranty Building is a Scientology production facility that produces promotional materials for the Church of Scientology, as well as lectures, training films and other materials related to the works of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.[63]

International Dissemination and Distribution Center

Occupying 185,000 square feet, the dissemination center "prints Church magazines in 15 languages."[64] Some of the capabilities of the center is to "address, sort and seal 150,000 pieces in an 8 hour shift that is hard-wired directly into the US Postal Service, with a postal representative on site [and] package ship 500,000 items per week."[65]

Affiliated organizations

There are many independently chartered organizations and groups which are staffed by Scientologists, and pay license fees for the use of Scientology technology and trademarks under the control of Scientology management. In some cases, these organizations do not publicize their affiliation with Scientology.[66][67]

The Church of Scientology denies the legitimacy of any splinter groups and factions outside the official organization, and has tried to prevent independent Scientologists from using officially trademarked Scientology materials. Independent Scientologists, also known collectively as the "Free Zone" are referred to as squirrels within the Church. They are also classified by the Church of Scientology as suppressive persons ("SPs")—opponents or enemies of Scientology.

In 2010, an exception to the rule was made specifically for the Nation of Islam, which is the only officially sanctioned external Dianetics organization and the first official non-Scientology Dianetics org since 1953. Minister Louis Farrakhan publicly announced his embracement of Dianetics, and has been actively promoting Dianetics, while stating he has not become a Scientologist. He has courted a relationship with the Church, and materials and certifications are still required to be purchased from the Church of Scientology, and are not independently produced.[68][69][70]

Sea Org

Main article: Sea Org

The Sea Organization (often simply referred to as the "Sea Org") is an unincorporated fraternal religious order founded in 1967 by L. Ron Hubbard, as he embarked on a series of voyages around the Mediterranean Sea in a small fleet of ships entirely staffed by Scientologists. Hubbard—formerly a lieutenant junior grade in the US Navy—bestowed the rank of "Commodore" of the vessels upon himself. The crew who accompanied him on these voyages became the foundation of the Sea Org.

The Sea Org is described by the church as forming an elite group of the most dedicated Scientologists, who are entrusted with the international management of Scientology and upper level churches such as the Advanced Organization Los Angeles, American Saint Hill Organization, Flag Service Organization and Celebrity Center International.

Scientologists who are qualified to do so are often encouraged to join the Sea Org, which involves a lifetime commitment to Scientology organizations in exchange for room and board, training and auditing, and a small weekly allowance. Members sign an agreement pledging their loyalty and allegiance to Scientology for "the next billion years," committing their future lifetimes to the Sea Org. The Sea Org's motto is "Revenimus" (or "We Come Back").

Critics of Scientology have spoken out against the disciplinary procedures and policies of the Sea Org, which have been a source of controversy since its inception and variously described as abusive and illegal. Former Sea Org members have stated that punishments in the late 1960s and early 1970s included confinement in hazardous conditions such as the ship's chain locker.[71]

In 1974, Hubbard established the Rehabilitation Project Force (or RPF) as a subunit of the Sea Org, in order to provide a "second chance" to members whose offenses were considered severe enough to warrant expulsion. RPF members are paired up and help one another for five hours each day with spiritual counseling to resolve the issues for which they were assigned to the program. They also spend 8 hours per day doing physical labor that will benefit the church facility where they are located. On verification of their having completed the program they are then given a Sea Org job again.[72]

Volunteer Ministers

Main article: Volunteer Ministers

The Church of Scientology began its "Volunteer Ministers" program as a way to participate in community outreach projects. Over the past several years, it has become a common practice for Volunteer Ministers to travel to the scenes of major disasters in order to provide assistance with relief efforts. According to critics, these relief efforts consist of passing out copies of a pamphlet authored by L. Ron Hubbard entitled The Way to Happiness, and engaging in a method said to calm panicked or injured individuals known in Scientology as a "touch assist."

Religious Technology Center (RTC)

Around 1982 all of the Hubbard's intellectual property was transferred to a newly formed entity called the Church of Spiritual Technology (CST) and then licensed to the Religious Technology Center (RTC) which, according to its own publicity, exists to safeguard and control the use of the Church of Scientology's copyrights and trademarks.

The RTC employs lawyers and has pursued individuals and groups who have legally attacked Scientology or who are deemed to be a legal threat to Scientology. This has included breakaway Scientologists who practice Scientology outside the central church and critics, as well as numerous government and media organizations. This has helped to maintain Scientology's reputation for litigiousness (see Scientology and the legal system).

ABLE

Founded in 1989, the Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE) is an umbrella organization that administers six of Scientology's social programs:

CCHR

The Citizens' Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), co-founded with Thomas Szasz in 1969, is an activist group dedicated to classifying psychiatric treatments as human rights violations and furthering the Scientology doctrinal opposition to mainstream psychiatric therapies.

WISE

Many other Scientologist-run businesses and organizations belong to the umbrella organization World Institute of Scientology Enterprises (WISE), which licenses the use of Hubbard's management doctrines, and circulates directories of WISE-affiliated businesses. WISE requires those who wish to become Hubbard management consults to complete training in Hubbard's administrative systems; this training can be undertaken at any Church of Scientology, or at one of the campuses of the Hubbard College of Administration, which offers an Associate of Applied Science Degree.

Celebrities

In order to facilitate the continued expansion of Scientology, the Church has made efforts to win allies in the form of powerful or respected people.[74]

Controversy

Though it has attained some credibility as a religion in many countries, Scientology has also been described as both a cult and a commercial enterprise.[13] Some of the Church's actions also brought scrutiny from the press and law enforcement. For example, it has been noted to engage in harassment and abuse of civil courts to silence its critics, using fair game policies and procedures against people it perceives as its enemies.[75][76]

In 1979, several Scientology members were convicted for their involvement in the church's Operation Snow White, the largest theft of government documents in U.S. history.[77][78] Scientologists were also convicted of fraud, manslaughter and tampering with witnesses in French cases,[79][80] malicious libel against lawyer Casey Hill and espionage in Canada.[81][82]

In his book World Religions in America, religious scholar Jacob Neusner states that Scientology's "high level of visibility" may be perceived as "threatening to established social institutions".[83]

Classification as church or business

From 1952 until 1966, Scientology was administered by an organization called the Hubbard Association of Scientologists (HAS), established in Arizona on September 10, 1952. In 1954, the HAS became the HASI (HAS International). The Church of Scientology was incorporated in California on February 18, 1954, changing its name to "The Church of Scientology of California" (CSC) in 1956. In 1966, Hubbard transferred all HASI assets to CSC, thus gathering Scientology under one tax-exempt roof. In 1967, the IRS stripped all US-based Scientology entities of their tax exemption, declaring Scientology's activities were commercial and operated for the benefit of Hubbard. The church sued and lost repeatedly for 26 years trying to regain its tax-exempt status. The case was eventually settled in 1993, at which time the church paid $12.5 million to the IRS—greatly less than IRS had initially demanded—and the IRS recognized the church as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization.[84] In addition, Scientology also dropped more than fifty lawsuits against the IRS when this settlement was reached. Scientology cites its tax exemption as proof the United States government accepts it as a religion.[85] In January 2009, removal of the tax exemption was rated as number 9 in items for the incoming Barack Obama administration to investigate, as determined in an internet poll run by the presidential transition team soliciting public input for the incoming administration.[86] The U.S. State Department has criticized Western European nations for discrimination against Scientologists in its published annual International Religious Freedom report, based on the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.[87][88][89]

In some countries Scientology is treated legally as a commercial enterprise, and not as a religion or charitable organization.[citation needed] In early 2003, in Germany, The Church of Scientology was granted a tax-exemption for the 10% license fees sent to the US. This exemption, however, is related to a German-American double-taxation agreement, and is unrelated to tax-exemption in the context of charities law. In several countries, public proselytizing undergoes the same restrictions as commercial advertising,[citation needed] which is interpreted as persecution by Scientology.

Although the religious nature of Scientology has been questioned both in the United States and around the world, Scientology has been acknowledged as a new religion as manifested in the Church's court victories and the gain of religious rights and privileges that are exclusive to legally established religious bodies.[90]

Unlike many well-established religious organizations, Scientology maintains strict control over its names, symbols, religious works and other writings. The word Scientology (and many related terms, including L. Ron Hubbard) is a registered trademark. Religious Technology Center, the owner of the trademarks and copyrights, takes a hard line on people and groups who attempt to use it in ways unaffiliated with the official Church (see Scientology and the legal system).

Illegal activities

Under the Guardian's Office (now renamed the Office of Special Affairs or OSA), Church members organized and committed the largest penetration of United States federal agencies ever perpetrated by an organization not affiliated with a foreign government (that is, one such as the KGB). This was known as Operation Snow White. In the trial which followed discovery of these activities the prosecution described their actions thus:

The crime committed by these defendants is of a breadth and scope previously unheard of. No building, office, desk, or file was safe from their snooping and prying. No individual or organization was free from their despicable conspiratorial minds. The tools of their trade were miniature transmitters, lock picks, secret codes, forged credentials and any other device they found necessary to carry out their conspiratorial schemes.[91]

The Church has also in the past made use of aggressive tactics in addressing those it sees as trying to suppress them, known as Suppressive Persons (SPs) first outlined by L. Ron Hubbard as part of a policy called fair game. It was under this policy that Paulette Cooper was targeted for having authored The Scandal of Scientology, a 1970 exposé book about the Church and its founder. This action was known as Operation Freakout. Using blank paper known to have been handled by Cooper, Scientologists forged bomb threats in her name.[91] When fingerprints on them matched hers, the Justice Department began prosecution, which could have sent Cooper to prison for a lengthy term. The Church's plan was discovered at the same time as its Operation Snow White actions were revealed. All charges against Cooper were dismissed, though she had spent more than $20,000 on legal fees for her defense.[91]

On January 22, 2013, attorneys for the organization, as well as some of its members, reacted toward the CNN News Group for its airing of a story covering the release of a book published by a former member, entitled 'Going Clear', published earlier the same year. CNN News Group then chose to publish the reactionary correspondence, with confidential information redacted, on its web site.

Of these activities the current Church laments:

...how long a time is the church going to have to continue to pay the price for what the (Guardian Office) did... Unfortunately, the church continues to be confronted with it. And the ironic thing is that the people being confronted with it are the people who wiped it out. And to the church, that's a very frustrating thing.[91]

Yet it has continued to aggressively target people it deems suppressive. In 1998, regarding its announcement that it had hired a private investigator to look into the background of a Boston Herald writer who had written a series on the church, Robert W. Thornburg, dean of Marsh Chapel at Boston University, said, "No one I know goes so far as to hire outsiders to harass or try to get intimidating data on critics. Scientology is the only crowd that does that."[92] It has apparently continued as recently as 2010. In 2007 when BBC journalist John Sweeney was making Scientology and Me, an investigative report about the Church and was the subject of harassment:

In LA, the moment our hire car left the airport we realised we were being followed by two cars. In our hotel a weird stranger spent every breakfast listening to us.[93]

Sweeny subsequently made a follow up documentary, The Secrets of Scientology, in 2010 during which he was followed and filmed on multiple occasions and one of his interviewees was followed back to his home.[94]

Members' health and safety

Some key activities of the Church of Scientology carry risks for members, and the deaths of some Scientologists have brought attention to the Church both due to the circumstances of their demises and their relationship with Scientology possibly being a factor.[95] In 1995, Lisa McPherson was involved in a minor automobile accident while driving on a Clearwater, Florida street. Following the collision, she exited her vehicle, stripped naked and showed further signs of mental instability, as noted by a nearby ambulance crew that subsequently transported her to a nearby hospital. Hospital staff decided that she had not been injured in the accident, but recommended keeping her overnight for observation. Following intervention by fellow Scientologists, McPherson refused psychiatric observation or admission at the hospital and checked herself out against medical advice after a short evaluation. She was taken to the Fort Harrison Hotel, a Scientology retreat, to receive a Church sanctioned treatment called Introspection Rundown. She had previously received the Introspection Rundown in June of that year. She was locked in a room for 17 days, where she died. Her appearance after death was that of someone who had been denied water and food for quite some time, being both underweight and severely dehydrated. Additionally, her skin was covered with over one hundred insect bites, presumably from cockroaches. The state of Florida pursued criminal charges against the Church. The Church has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and now makes members sign a waiver before Introspection Rundown specifically stating that they (or anyone on their behalf) will not bring any legal action against the organization over injury or death.[96] These charges attracted press coverage and sparked lawsuits. Eight years later, Elli Perkins, another adherent to Scientology's beliefs regarding psychiatry, was stabbed to death by her mentally disturbed son. Though Elli Perkins's son had begun to show symptoms of schizophrenia as early as 2001, the Perkins family chose not to seek psychiatric help for him and opted instead for alternative remedies sanctioned by Scientology. The death of Elli Perkins at the hands of a disturbed family member, one whose disease could have been treated by methods and medications banned by Scientology, again raised questions in the media about the Church's methods.[97]

In addition, the Church has been implicated in kidnapping members who have recently left the church. In 2007, Martine Boublil was kidnapped and held for several weeks against her will in Sardinia by four Scientologists. She was found on January 22, 2008, clothed only in a shirt. The room she was imprisoned in contained refuse and an insect infested mattress.[98][99]

On Friday March 28, 2008, Kaja Bordevich Ballo, daughter of Olav Gunnar Ballo, Norwegian parliament member and vice president of the Norwegian Odelsting, took a Church of Scientology personality test while studying in Nice. Her friends and co-inhabitants claim she was in good spirits and showed no signs of a mental breakdown, but the report from the Church of Scientology said she was "depressed, irresponsible, hyper-critical and lacking in harmony". A few hours later she committed suicide by jumping from her balcony at her dorm room leaving a note telling her family she was sorry for not "being good for anything". The incident has brought forward heavy criticism against the Church of Scientology from friends, family and prominent Norwegian politicians.[100] Inga Marte Thorkildsen, parliament member, went as far as to say "Everything points to the scientology cult having played a direct role in making Kaja choose to take her own life".[100]

Missionary activities

A Scientologist administers a stress test using an e-meter.

Members of the public entering a Scientology center or mission are offered a "free personality test" called the Oxford Capacity Analysis by Scientology literature. The test, despite its name and the claims of Scientology literature, has no connection to Oxford University or any other research body. Scientific research into three test results came to the conclusion that "we are forced to a position of skepticism about the test's status as a reliable psychometric device" and called its scientific value "negligible".[101]

Further proselytization practices - commonly called "dissemination" of Scientology[102] - include information booths, flyers and advertisement for free seminars, Sunday Services in regular newspapers and magazines, personal contacts[103][104] and sales of books.[105]

Legal waivers

Recent legal actions involving Scientology's relationship with its members (see Scientology controversy) have caused the organization to publish extensive legal documents that cover the rights granted to followers. It has become standard practice within the organization for members to sign lengthy legal contracts and waivers before engaging in Scientology services, a practice that contrasts greatly with almost every mainstream religious organization. In 2003, a series of media reports examined the legal contracts required by Scientology, which state, among other things, that followers deny any psychiatric care their doctors may prescribe to them.[106]

I do not believe in or subscribe to psychiatric labels for individuals. It is my strongly held religious belief that all mental problems are spiritual in nature and that there is no such thing as a mentally incompetent person—only those suffering from spiritual upset of one kind or another dramatized by an individual. I reject all psychiatric labels and intend for this Contract to clearly memorialize my desire to be helped exclusively through religious, spiritual means and not through any form of psychiatric treatment, specifically including involuntary commitment based on so-called lack of competence. Under no circumstances, at any time, do I wish to be denied my right to care from members of my religion to the exclusion of psychiatric care or psychiatric directed care, regardless of what any psychiatrist, medical person, designated member of the state or family member may assert supposedly on my behalf.

Membership statistics

It is difficult to obtain reliable membership statistics. The International Association of Scientologists (IAS), the official Church membership system since 1984, has never released figures. Church spokespersons either give numbers for their countries or a worldwide figure.[107] Some national censuses have recently included questions about religious affiliations, though the United States Census Bureau states that it is not the source for information on religion.[108]

In 2007, the German national magazine Der Spiegel reported about 8 million members worldwide, about 6000 of them in Germany, with only 150-200 members in Berlin.[109] In 1993, a spokesperson of Scientology Frankfurt had mentioned slightly more than 30,000 members nationwide.[110]

The organization has said that it has anywhere from eight million to fifteen million members worldwide.[111][112][113][114][115] Derek Davis[116] stated in 2004 that the Church organization has around 15 million members worldwide.[117] Religious scholar J. Gordon Melton has said that the church's estimates of its membership numbers are exaggerated: "You're talking about anyone who ever bought a Scientology book or took a basic course. Ninety-nine percent of them don't ever darken the door of the church again." Melton has stated that If the claimed figure of 4 million American Scientologists were correct, "they would be like the Lutherans and would show up on a national survey".[118]

The "Scientologists Online" website presents "over 16,000 Scientologists On-Line".[119]

Statistics from other sources:

Finances

The Church of Scientology and its large network of corporations, non-profits and other legal entities are estimated to make around 500 million US dollars in annual revenue.[130]

Scientologists can attend classes, exercises or counseling sessions for a set range of "fixed donations"; however, membership without courses or auditing is possible. According to a sociological report entitled "Scientology: To Be Perfectly Clear", progression between levels above "clear" status cost $15,760.03 in 1980 (without including additional special treatments).[131] Scientologists can choose to be audited by a fellow Scientologist rather than by a staff member.[132]

Critics say it is improper to fix a donation for religious service; therefore the activity is non-religious. Scientology points out many classes, exercises and counseling may also be traded for "in kind" or performed cooperatively by students for no cost, and members of its most devoted orders can make use of services without any donations bar that of their time. A central tenet of Scientology is its Doctrine of Exchange, which dictates that each time a person receives something, he or she must give something back. By doing so, a Scientologist maintains "inflow" and "outflow", avoiding spiritual decline.[133]

Government opinions of Scientology

While a number of governments now give the Church of Scientology protections and tax relief as an officially recognized religion,[134][135][136] other sources describe the Church as a pseudoreligion or a cult.[137] Sociologist Stephen Kent published at a Lutheran convention in Germany that he likes to call it a transnational corporation.[138]

Early official reports in countries such as the United Kingdom (1971), South Africa (1972), Australia (1965) and New Zealand (1969) have yielded unfavorable observations and conclusions.[139][140][141][142]

Australia

There is currently no legal restriction in Australia on the practice of Scientology. In 1983 the High Court of Australia dealt with the question whether the Church of Scientology is a religious institution and as such not subject to payroll tax. The Court unanimously confirmed the Church of Scientology to be a religious institution.[143]

On November 18, 2009 the Church came under fire from an Independent senator in the Commonwealth Parliament, Nick Xenophon. Under parliamentary privilege in the Senate, Xenophon declared that the Church of Scientology is a criminal organisation.[144]

Belgium

In September 2007, a Belgian prosecutor announced that they had finished an investigation of Scientology and said they would probably bring charges. The church said the prosecutor's public announcement falsely suggested guilt even before a court could hear any of the charges. In December 2012, Belgian officials completed their file on Scientology and brought charges of extortion, illegal medicine, various breaches of privacy, and fraud.[145][146]

France

Main article: Scientology in France

In France, a parliamentary report classified Scientology as a dangerous cult.[147] On November 22, 1996, the leader of the Lyons Church of Scientology, Jean-Jacques Mazier, was convicted of fraud and involuntary homicide and sentenced to eighteen months in prison for his role in the death of a member who committed suicide after going deeply into debt to pay for Scientology auditing sessions. Fourteen others were convicted of fraud as well.[148] In 2009, members of the church were sued for fraud and practicing pharmacology without a license,[149] and the Church was convicted of fraud in October 2009, being fined €600,000, with additional fines and suspended prison sentences for four officers.[150]

In an interview on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation current affairs radio program The Current with Hana Gartner, former high-ranking Scientology official Mark Rathbun commented that the decision to convict the Church of Scientology of fraud in France would not have a significant impact on the organization.[151] "On the France thing I don't think that's going to have any lasting impact, simply because they got a nine hundred thousand dollar fine I think - which is like chump change to them. They've got literally nearly a billion dollars set aside in a war chest," said Rathbun.[151]

Germany

In Germany, official views of Scientology are particularly skeptical.[152] In Germany it is seen as a totalitarian anti-democratic organization and is under observation by national security organizations due to, among other reasons, suspicion of violating the human rights of its members granted by the German Constitution,[153] including Hubbard's pessimistic views on democracy vis-à-vis psychiatry and other such features.[154] In December 2007, Germany's interior ministers said that they considered the goals of Church of Scientology to be in conflict with the principles of the nation's constitution and would seek to ban the organization.[155] The plans were quickly criticised as ill-advised.[156] The plans to ban Scientology were finally dropped in November 2008, after German officials found insufficient evidence of illegal activity.[157]

The legal status of the Church of Scientology in Germany is still awaiting resolution; some courts have ruled that it is a business, others have affirmed its religious nature.[158] The German government has affirmed that it does not consider the Church of Scientology to be a religious community.[158]

Ireland

As in most European countries, the Church of Scientology is not officially recognized in Ireland as a charitable organization, but it is free to promote Scientology beliefs.[159] The Irish government has not invited the Church of Scientology to national discussions on secularization by the Religious Council of Ireland. The meetings were attended by Roman Catholic bishops, representatives of the Church of Ireland, Ireland's Chief Rabbi, and Muslim leaders.[160]

Israel

In Israel, according to Israeli professor of psychology Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, "in various organizational forms, Scientology has been active among Israelis for more than thirty years, but those in charge not only never claimed the religion label, but resisted any such suggestion or implication. It has always presented itself as a secular, self-improvement, tax-paying business."[137] Those "organizational forms" include a Scientology Organization in Tel Aviv. Another Israeli Scientology group called "The Way to Happiness" (or "Association for Prosperity and Security in the Middle East") works through local Scientologist members to promote The Way to Happiness.[161] An Israeli CCHR chapter runs campaigns against perceived abuses in psychiatry.[162] Other Scientology campaigns, such as "Youth for Human Rights International" are active as well.[163] There is also an ultra-Orthodox Jewish group that opposes Scientology and other cults or missionary organizations in Israel,[164] Lev L'Achim, whose anti-missionary department in 2001 provided a hotline and other services to warn citizens of Scientology's "many types of front organizations".[165]

Netherlands

On October 17, 2013, a Dutch court ruled that "the Amsterdam arm of Scientology is a charitable organization and exempt from paying taxes."[166] DutchNews.nl reported that the court ruled "The Scientology Church in Amsterdam be treated in the same way as other church and faith-based organisations and allowed to claim tax breaks." The appeal court also ruled that "Scientology's classes don't differ significantly from what other spiritual organizations do, or can do."[166] The court noted "Scientology movement's training programmes are not the same as those offered by commercial companies because people who cannot afford them pay a reduced fee or get them free" and that "the courses are aimed at spiritual and theoretical enlightenment."[167]

Russia

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in April 2007 that Russia's denial to register the Church of Scientology as a religious community was a violation of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (freedom of assembly and association) read in the light of Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion)".[168] In July 2007, the St. Petersburg City Court closed down that city's Scientology center for violating its charter.[169][170]

Spain

On October 31, 2007, the National Court in Madrid issued a decision recognizing that the National Church of Scientology of Spain should be entered in the Registry of Religious Entities. The administrative tribunal of Madrid's High Court ruled that a 2005 justice ministry decision to scrap the church from the register was "against the law." Responding to a petition filed by the church, the ruling said that no documents had been presented in court to demonstrate it was anything other than a religious entity.[171][172]

United Kingdom

The UK government's 1971 official report into Scientology was highly critical,[173] although concluded that it would be unfair to ban the Church outright. The UK government does not classify the Church of Scientology as a religious institution and it is not a registered charity.[122][174] However, in 2000, the Church of Scientology was exempted from UK value added tax on the basis that it is a not-for-profit body.[175]

In December 2013, the UK Supreme Court officially ruled that Scientology is a religion, in response to a 5-year legal battle by Scientologist Louisa Hodkin to marry at the Church of Scientology chapel in central London. With the new ruling, the Registrar General of Births, Marriages and Deaths now recognize weddings performed within Scientology chapels and redefined religion to “not be confined to those with belief in a supreme deity.”[176][177][178][179]

United States

In 1979 Hubbard's wife, Mary Sue Hubbard, along with ten other highly placed Scientology executives were convicted in United States federal court regarding Operation Snow White, and served time in an American federal prison. Operation Snow White involved infiltration, wiretapping and theft of documents in government offices, most notably those of the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

In 1993, however, the United States IRS recognized Scientology as a "non-profit charitable organization," and gave it the same legal protections and favorable tax treatment extended to other non-profit charitable organizations.[180] A New York Times article says that Scientologists paid private investigators to obtain compromising material on the IRS commissioner and blackmailed the IRS into submission.[181]

The following actions will be considered to be a material breach by the Service: ... The issuance of a Regulation, Revenue Ruling or other pronouncement of general applicability providing that fixed donations to a religious organization other than a church of Scientology are fully deductible unless the Service has issued previously or issues contemporaneously a similar pronouncement that provides for consistent and uniform principles for determining the deductibility of fixed donations for all churches including the Church of Scientology.

In a 2001 legal case involving a married couple attempting to obtain the same deduction for charity to a Jewish school, it was stated by Judge Silverman:[182]

An IRS closing agreement cannot overrule Congress and the Supreme Court. If the IRS does, in fact, give preferential treatment to members of the Church of Scientology—allowing them a special right to claim deductions that are contrary to law and rightly disallowed to everybody else—then the proper course of action is a lawsuit to put a stop to that policy.

To date (2008) such a suit is not known to have been filed. In further appeal in 2006, the US Tax Court again rejected couple's deduction, stating:

We conclude that the agreement reached between the Internal Revenue Service and the Church of Scientology in 1993 does not affect the result in this case.[183]

However, this matter is still ongoing. On February 8, 2008, three judges in the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals "expressed deep skepticism" over the IRS's position that treatment of Scientology is "irrelevant to the deductions the Orthodox Jews, Michael and Marla Sklar, took for part of their children's day school tuition and for after-school classes in Jewish law".[184]

See also

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