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Since its inception in 1954, the Church of Scientology has been involved in a number of controversies. When mainstream media outlets have reported alleged abuses, representatives of the church have tended to deny such allegations. Many critics have called into question several of the practices and policies that the Scientology organization has in place in regard to its dealings with its critics and detractors.
The church maintains strict control over the use of its symbols, names and religious texts. It holds copyright and trademark ownership over its cross and has taken legal action against individuals and organizations that have quoted short paragraphs of Scientology texts in print or on web sites. Individuals or groups who practice Scientology without affiliation with the church have been sued for violation of copyright and trademark law.
Although U.S. intellectual property law allows for "fair use" of material for commentary, parody, educational purposes, etc., critics of the church such as Gerry Armstrong have argued that the church unfairly and illegally uses the legal system to suppress "fair" uses.
One example cited by critics is a 1995 lawsuit against the Washington Post newspaper et al. The Religious Technology Center (RTC), the corporation that controls L. Ron Hubbard's copyrighted materials, sued to prevent a Post reporter from describing church teachings at the center of another lawsuit, claiming copyright infringement, trade secret misappropriation, and that the circulation of their "advanced technology" teachings would cause "devastating, cataclysmic spiritual harm" to those not prepared. In her judgment in favor of the Post, Judge Leonie Brinkema noted:
When the RTC first approached the Court with its ex parte request for the seizure warrant and Temporary Restraining Order, the dispute was presented as a straight-forward one under copyright and trade secret law. However, the Court is now convinced that the primary motivation of RTC in suing Lerma, DGS and the Post is to stifle criticism of Scientology in general and to harass its critics. As the increasingly vitriolic rhetoric of its briefs and oral argument now demonstrates, the RTC appears far more concerned about criticism of Scientology than vindication of its secrets.—U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema, Religious Technology Center v. Arnaldo Lerma, Washington Post, Mark Fisher, and Richard Leiby, 29 November 1995
Scientology has a reputation for hostile action toward anyone who criticizes it in a public forum; executives within the organization have proclaimed that Scientology is "not a turn-the-other-cheek religion". Journalists, politicians, former Scientologists and various anti-cult groups have made accusations of wrongdoing against Scientology since the 1960s, and Scientology has targeted these critics - almost without exception - for retaliation, in the form of lawsuits and public counter-accusations of personal wrongdoing. Many of Scientology's critics have also reported they were subject to threats and harassment in their private lives.
The organization's actions reflect a formal policy for dealing with criticism instituted by L. Ron Hubbard, called "attack the attacker". Hubbard codified this policy in the latter half of the 1960s in response to government investigations into the organization. In 1966, Hubbard wrote a criticism of the organization's behavior and noted the "correct procedure" for attacking enemies of Scientology:
- (1) Spot who is attacking us.
- (2) Start investigating them promptly for felonies or worse using own professionals, not outside agencies.
- (3) Double curve our reply by saying we welcome an investigation of them.
- (4) Start feeding lurid, blood, sex, crime actual evidence on the attackers to the press.
- Don't ever tamely submit to an investigation of us. Make it rough, rough on attackers all the way. You can get "reasonable about it" and lose. Sure we break no laws. Sure we have nothing to hide. BUT attackers are simply an anti-Scientology propaganda agency so far as we are concerned. They have proven they want no facts and will only lie no matter what they discover. So BANISH all ideas that any fair hearing is intended and start our attack with their first breath. Never wait. Never talk about us—only them. Use their blood, sex, crime to get headlines. Don't use us. I speak from 15 years of experience in this. There has never yet been an attacker who was not reeking with crime. All we had to do was look for it and murder would come out.—Attacks on Scientology, "Hubbard Communications Office Policy Letter", 25 February 1966
In 2007 a BBC documentary on Scientology by reporter John Sweeney came under scrutiny by Scientologists. Sweeney alleged that "While making our BBC Panorama film Scientology and Me I have been shouted at, spied on, had my hotel invaded at midnight, denounced as a 'bigot' by star Scientologists, brain-washed—that is how it felt to me—in a mock up of a Nazi-style torture chamber and chased round the streets of Los Angeles by sinister strangers". This resulted in a video being distributed by Scientologists of a shouting match between Sweeney and Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis. The church has reportedly released a DVD that accuses the BBC of organising a demonstration outside a Scientology office in London, during which "terrorist death threats" were made against Scientologists. The BBC described the allegations as "clearly laughable and utter nonsense". Sandy Smith, the BBC programme's producer, commented that the church of Scientology has "no way of dealing with any kind of criticism at all".
Hubbard detailed his rules for attacking critics in a number of policy letters, including one often quoted by critics as "the Fair Game policy". This allowed that those who had been declared enemies of the Church, called "suppressive persons" (SPs), "May be deprived of property or injured by any means...May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed". (taken from HCOPL Oct. 18, 1967 Issue IV, Penalties for Lower Conditions )
The aforementioned policy was canceled and replaced by HCOPL July 21, 1968, Penalties for Lower Conditions. The wordings "May be deprived of property or injured by any means...May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed", are not found in this reference. Scientology critics argue that only the term but not the practice was removed. To support this contention, they refer to "HCO Policy Letter of October 21, 1968" which says, "The practice of declaring people FAIR GAME will cease. FAIR GAME may not appear on any Ethics Order. It causes bad public relations. This P/L does not cancel any policy on the treatment or handling of a SP."
According to a book by Omar Garrison, HCOPL March 7, 1969, was created under pressure by the government of New Zealand. Garrison quotes from the HCOPL, "We are going in the direction of mild ethics and involvement with the Society". Garrison then states, "It was partly on the basis of these policy reforms that the New Zealand Commission of Inquiry recommended that no legislative action be taken against Scientology". The source of Omar Garrison for this is most likely the Dumbleton-Powles Report, additional data and quotations are found in this report.
In 1977, top officials of Scientology's "Guardian's Office", an internal security force run by Hubbard's wife, Mary Sue Hubbard, admitted that fair game was policy in the GO. (U.S. v. Kember, Budlong Sentencing Memorandum - Undated, 1981).
In separate cases in 1979 and 1984, attorneys for Scientology argued that the Fair Game policy was in fact a core belief of Scientology and as such deserved protection as religious expression.
In the 1970s, Hubbard continued to codify the policy of "attacking the attacker" and assigned a term to it that is used frequently within Scientology: "dead agenting". Used as a verb, "dead agenting" is described by Hubbard as a technique for countering negative accusations against Scientology by diverting the critical statements and making counter-accusations against the accuser. In other words, "attack the attacker". Hubbard defined the PR (public relations) policy on "dead agenting" in a 1974 bulletin:
The technique of proving utterances false is called "DEAD AGENTING." It's in the first book of Chinese espionage. When the enemy agent gives false data, those who believed him but now find it false kill him—or at least cease to believe him. So the PR slang for it is 'Dead Agenting.'"—L. Ron Hubbard, Board Policy Letter, PR Series 24: Handling Hostile Contacts/Dead Agenting, May 30, 1974.
The phrase comes from a misunderstanding of the chapter on espionage in The Art of War. The Scientology-sponsored website, religiousfreedomwatch.org, features depictions of so-called "anti-religious extremists", most of them critics of Scientology. Featuring photos of the critics and claimed evidence of their personal wrongdoing (sometimes very vague, for example: "Documentation received by Religious Freedom Watch shows that [Kristi] Wachter paid an individual to carry out a specific project for her, and also instructed this individual to lie about what he was doing in case he was caught"). The "Religious Freedom Watch" site is often cited by alt.religion.scientology users as a contemporary example of "dead agenting".
Dead agenting has also been carried out by flier campaigns against some critics—using so-called "DA fliers". Bonnie Woods, an ex-member who began counseling people involved with Scientology and their families, became a target along with her husband in 1993 when the Church of Scientology started a leaflet operation denouncing her as a "hate campaigner" with demonstrators outside their home and around East Grinstead. After a long battle of libel suits, in 1999 the church agreed to issue an apology and to pay £55,000 damages and £100,000 costs to the Woods.
Much of the controversy surrounding Scientology is reflected in the long list of legal incidents associated with the organization including the criminal convictions of core members of the Scientology organization.
In 1978, a number of Scientologists including L. Ron Hubbard's wife Mary Sue Hubbard (who was second in command in the organization at the time) were convicted of perpetrating the largest incident of domestic espionage in the history of the United States called "Operation Snow White". This involved infiltrating, wiretapping, and stealing documents from the offices of Federal attorneys and the Internal Revenue Service. The judge who convicted Mrs. Hubbard and ten accomplices described their attempt to plead freedom of religion in defense:
It is interesting to note that the founder of their organization, unindicted co-conspirator L. Ron Hubbard, wrote in his dictionary entitled Modern Management Technology Defined...that 'truth is what is true for you.' Thus, with the founder's blessings they could wantonly commit perjury as long as it was in the interest of Scientology.
The defendants rewarded criminal activities that ended in success and sternly rebuked those that failed. The standards of human conduct embodied in such practices represent no less than the absolute perversion of any known ethical value system.
In view of this, it defies the imagination that these defendants have the unmitigated audacity to seek to defend their actions in the name of religion.
That these defendants now attempt to hide behind the sacred principles of freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and the right to privacy—which principles they repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to violate with impunity—adds insult to the injuries which they have inflicted on every element of society.
Eleven church staff members including Mary Sue Hubbard and other highly placed officials, pleaded guilty or were convicted in federal court based on evidence seized in the raids and received sentences from two to six years (some suspended).
Other noteworthy incidents involving criminal accusations and prosecutions against the Church of Scientology include:
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In 1997, a Sydney, Australia woman was charged with murdering her father and sister and seriously injuring her mother. Her parents had prevented her from seeking the psychiatric treatment she needed because of their Scientology beliefs, a court has been told.
In 2011, Valeska Paris alleged that she had been kept prisoner on a Church of Scientology ship.
In 2012, Debbie Cook, who ran the "spiritual Mecca" for seventeen years, came forward and accused the church of repeated accounts of "screaming, slapping" and being "made to stand in a trash and water's poured over you" in efforts to confess her sins. This was all done in "The Hole", located at Scientology's International base in the California Desert. She claims that she was taken there against her will and forced to stay for seven weeks. The church states that she "voluntarily" participated in their program of "religious discipline".
The most widely publicized death of one of the organization's members was that of 36-year-old Lisa McPherson while in the care of Scientologists at the Scientology-owned Fort Harrison Hotel, in Clearwater, Florida, in 1995. McPherson, at the time, was displaying symptoms suggesting she was struggling with mental illness; in one case, she removed all of her clothes after being involved in a minor traffic accident, later remarking she had done so in hopes of obtaining counseling. The Church, however, intervened to prevent McPherson from receiving psychiatric treatment and to keep her in Church custody. Records show that she was then placed in a Scientology program, the Introspection Rundown, which was forced isolation used to handle a psychotic episode. Weeks later, she was pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital. The autopsy identified multiple hematomas (bruises), an abrasion on the nose, and lesions that were consistent with "insect/animal bites". An autopsy showed that she had died of a pulmonary embolism.
Florida authorities filed criminal charges against the Church of Scientology, who denied any responsibility for McPherson's death and vigorously contested the charges. The prosecuting attorneys ultimately dropped the criminal case. After four years, a $100 million civil lawsuit filed by Lisa McPherson's family was settled in 2004. The suit resulted in an injunction against the distribution of a film critical of Scientology, The Profit, which the Church claimed was meant to influence the jury. The terms of the settlement were sealed by the court.
Noah Lottick was an American student of Russian studies who committed suicide on May 11, 1990, by jumping from a 10th-floor hotel window, clutching his only remaining money in his hands. After his death, a controversy arose revolving around his parents' concern over his membership in the Church of Scientology.
Noah Lottick had taken Scientology courses, for which he paid US$5,000. Lottick's friends and family remarked that after taking these courses he began to act strangely. They stated to Time magazine that he told them that his Scientologist teachers were telepathic, and that his father's heart attack was purely psychosomatic. His parents said that he visited their home five days before his death, claiming they were spreading "false rumors" about him.
Lottick's suicide was profiled in a Time cover story that was highly critical of Scientology, "The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power", which received the Gerald Loeb Award, and later appeared in Reader's Digest.
Lottick's father, Dr. Edward Lottick, stated that his initial impression of Scientology was that it was similar to Dale Carnegie's techniques. However, after his son's death, his opinion was that the organization is a "school for psychopaths". He blamed Scientology for his son's death, although no direct connection was determined. After Dr. Lottick's remarks were published in the media, the Church of Scientology haggled with him over US$3,000 that Noah had allegedly paid to the Church and not utilized for services. The Church claimed Lottick had intended this to be a donation.
The Church of Scientology sued Richard Behar and Time magazine for $416 million. Dr and Mrs Lottick submitted affidavits affirming "the accuracy of each statement in the article", and stating that Dr Lottick had "concluded that Scientology therapies were manipulations". They said that no Scientology staff members attended the funeral of their son. All counts against Behar and Time were later dismissed. Lottick's father cited his son's suicide as his motivation for researching cults, in his article describing a survey of physicians that he presented to the Pennsylvania State Medical Society.
The Church of Scientology issued a press release denying any responsibility for Lottick's suicide. Spokesperson Mike Rinder was quoted in the St. Petersburg Times as saying that Lottick had an argument with his parents four days before his death. Rinder stated, "I think Ed Lottick should look in the mirror...I think Ed Lottick made his son's life intolerable."
The controversy about the existence of cultic brainwashing has become one of the most polarizing issues among cult followers, academic researchers of cults, and cult critics. Parties disagree about the existence of a social process attempting coercive influence, and also disagree about the existence of the social outcome—that people become influenced against their will.
One alleged example of the Church's possible brainwashing tactics is the Rehabilitation Project Force, to which church staff are assigned to work off alleged wrongdoings under conditions that many critics characterize as degrading. Some of these allegations are presented in Stephen Kent's Brainwashing in Scientology's Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF). Articles that claim to rebut those charges include Juha Pentikäinen's The Church of Scientology's Rehabilitation Project Force.
Critics of Scientology have also accused L. Ron Hubbard of authoring “The Brainwashing Manual”, but these accusations have not been confirmed. Hubbard did publish a copy of this manual on two technical bulletins, “for the benefit of the auditors who may face victims of brainwashing”. Hubbard discussed brainwashing in several of his works, but these, “expose brainwashing as something that should not be practiced”, and “the practice of brainwashing could only end up in disaster”.
The final results of the Anderson Report in 1965 declared:
"The Board is not concerned to find that the scientology techniques are brainwashing techniques as practiced, so it is understood, in some communist-controlled countries. Scientology techniques are, nevertheless, a kind of brainwashing...The astonishing feature of Scientology is that its techniques and propagation resemble very closely those set out in a book entitled Brain-washing, advertised and sold by the HASI".
The Church of Scientology has been criticized for their practice of "disconnection" in which Scientologists are directed to sever all contact with family members or friends who criticize the faith. Critics including ex-members and relatives of existing members say that this practice has divided many families. The disconnection policy is considered by critics to be further evidence that the Church is a cult. By making its members entirely dependent upon a social network entirely within the organization, critics assert that Scientologists are kept from exposure to critical perspectives on the church and are put in a situation that makes it extremely difficult for members to leave the church, since apostates will be shunned by the Church and have already been cut off from family and friends.
The Church of Scientology acknowledges that its members are strongly discouraged from associating with "enemies of Scientology", and likens the disconnection policy to the practice of shunning in religions such as the Amish. However, there is a consensus of religious scholars who oppose Scientology's practice: “I just think it would be better for all concerned if they just let them go ahead and get out and everyone goes their own way, and not make such a big deal of it, the policy hurts everybody.” J. Gordon Melton, Institute for the Study of American Religion, Santa Barbara, California.
“Some people I've talked to, they just wanted to go on with their lives and they wanted to be in touch with their daughter or son or parent. The shunning was just painful. And I don't know what it was accomplishing. And the very terms they use are scary, aren't they?” Newton Maloney, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California
Andre Tabayoyon, a former Scientologist and Sea Org staffer, testified in a 1994 affidavit that money from not-for-profit Scientology organizations and labor from those organizations (including the Rehabilitation Project Force) had gone to provide special facilities for Scientology celebrities, which were not available to other Scientologists:
"A Sea Org staffer...was taken along to do personal cooking for Tom Cruise and [David] Miscavige at the expense of Scientology not for profit religious organizations. This left only 3 cooks at Gold [Base] to cook for 800 people three times a day...apartment cottages were built for the use of John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Edgar Winter, Priscilla Presley, and other Scientology celebrities who are carefully prevented from finding out the real truth about the Scientology organization ... Miscavige decided to redo the meadow in beautiful flowers; Tens of thousands of dollars were spent on the project so that [Tom] Cruise and [Nicole] Kidman could romp there. However, Miscavige inspected the project and didn't like it. So the whole meadow was plowed up, destroyed, replowed and sown with plain grass."
Tabayoyon's account of the planting of the meadow was supported by another former Scientologist, Maureen Bolstad, who said that a couple of dozen Scientologists including herself were put to work on a rainy night through dawn on the project. "We were told that we needed to plant a field and that it was to help Tom impress Nicole...but for some mysterious reason it wasn't considered acceptable by Mr. Miscavige. So the project was rejected and they redid it".
The nature of Scientology is hotly debated in many countries. The Church of Scientology pursues an extensive public relations campaign arguing that Scientology is a bona fide religion. The organization cites a number of studies and experts who support their position. Critics point out that most cited studies were commissioned by Scientology to produce the desired results.
Many countries (including Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Mexico, Russia, the United Kingdom), while not prohibiting or limiting the activities of the Church of Scientology, have rejected its applications for tax-exempt, charitable status or recognition as a religious organization; it has been variously judged to be a commercial enterprise or a dangerous cult.
Scientology is legally accepted as a religion in the United States and Australia, and enjoys the constitutional protections afforded to religious practice in each country. In October 1993, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service recognized the Church as an "organization operated exclusively for religious and charitable purposes". The Church offers the tax exemption as proof that it is a religion. (This subject is examined in the article on the Church of Scientology).
In 1982, the High Court of Australia ruled that the State Government of Victoria lacked the right to declare that the Church of Scientology was not a religion. The Court found the issue of belief to be the central feature of religion, regardless of the presence of charlatanism: Charlatanism is a necessary price of religious freedom, and if a self-proclaimed teacher persuades others to believe in a religion which he propounds, lack of sincerity or integrity on his part is not incompatible with the religious character of the beliefs, practices and observances accepted by his followers."
While the oft-cited rumor that Hubbard made a bar bet with Robert A. Heinlein that he could start a cult is unproven, many witnesses have reported Hubbard making statements in their presence that starting a religion would be a good way to make money. These statements have led many to believe that Hubbard hid his true intentions and was motivated solely by potential financial rewards.
Editor Sam Merwin, for example, recalled a meeting: "I always knew he was exceedingly anxious to hit big money—he used to say he thought the best way to do it would be to start a cult." (December 1946) Writer and publisher Lloyd Arthur Eshbach reported Hubbard saying "I'd like to start a religion. That's where the money is." Writer Theodore Sturgeon reported that Hubbard made a similar statement at the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. Likewise, writer Sam Moskowitz reported in an affidavit that during an Eastern Science Fiction Association meeting on November 11, 1948, Hubbard had said "You don't get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion." Milton A. Rothman also reported to his son Tony Rothman that he heard Hubbard make exactly that claim at a science fiction convention. In 1998, an A&E documentary titled "Inside Scientology" shows Lyle Stuart reporting that Hubbard stated repeatedly that to make money, "you start a religion."
According to The Visual Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, ed. Brian Ash, Harmony Books, 1977:
The following letter, written by L. Ron Hubbard, was discovered by the FBI during its raid on Scientology headquarters. The letter shows Hubbard turned Scientology into a "religion" for financial reasons:
RE CLINIC, HAS
The arrangements that have been made seem a good temporary measure. On a longer look, however, something more equitable will have to be organized. I am not quite sure what we would call the place - probably not a clinic - but I am sure that it ought to be a company, independent of the HAS [the Hubbard Association of Scientologists] but fed by the HAS. We don't want a clinic. We want one in operation but not in name. Perhaps we could call it a Spiritual Guidance Center. Think up its name, will you. And we could put in nice desks and our boys in neat blue with diplomas on the walls and 1. knock psychotherapy into history and 2. make enough money to shine up my operating scope and 3. keep the HAS solvent. It is a problem of practical business. I await your reaction on the religion angle. In my opinion, we couldn't get worse public opinion than we have had or have less customers with what we've got to sell. A religious charter would be necessary in Pennsylvania or NJ to make it stick. But I sure could make it stick. We're treating the present time beingness, psychotherapy treats the past and the brain. And brother, that's religion, not mental science.
The Church has taken steps to suppress the Free Zone, the term for a variety of groups and individuals who practice Scientology outside the strictures of the Church of Scientology proper, and shut down dissenters when possible. The CoS has used copyright and trademark laws to attack various Free Zone groups. Accordingly, the Free Zone avoids the use of officially trademarked Scientology words, including 'Scientology' itself. In 2000, the Religious Technology Center unsuccessfully attempted to gain the Web domain www.scientologie.org from the World Intellectual Property Organization, in a legal action against the Free Zone. Skeptic Magazine described the Free Zone as: "..a group founded by ex-Scientologists to promote L. Ron Hubbard's ideas independent of the COS [Church of Scientology]." A Miami Herald article wrote that ex-Scientologists joined the Free Zone because they felt that Church of Scientology leadership had: "..strayed from Hubbard's original teachings." One Free Zone Scientologist identified as "Safe" was quoted in Salon as saying: "The Church of Scientology does not want its control over its members to be found out by the public and it doesn't want its members to know that they can get scientology outside of the Church of Scientology."
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Paulette Cooper was falsely accused of felony charges as she had been framed by the Church of Scientology's Guardian's Office. Furthermore, her personal life had been intruded upon by Scientologists who had attempted to kill her and/or draw her to suicide in a covert plan known as Operation Freakout that was brought to light after FBI investigations into other matters (See Operation Snow White).
A prominent example of litigation of its critics is the Church of Scientology's $416 million libel lawsuit s:Church of Scientology v. Behar against Time Warner as a result of their publication of a highly critical magazine article "The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power" by Richard Behar. A public campaign by the Church of Scientology accordingly ensued in an attempt to defame this Time Magazine publication. (See Church of Scientology's response)
Gareth Alan Cales is being harassed by the Church of Scientology, including false charges against him and his friends.
The purpose of the suit is to harass and discourage rather than to win. The law can be used very easily to harass, and enough harassment on somebody who is simply on the thin edge anyway, well knowing that he is not authorized, will generally be sufficient to cause his professional decease. If possible, of course, ruin him utterly.—L. Ron Hubbard, A Manual on the Dissemination of Material, 1955
In 2008 the 20-year-old daughter of Olav Gunnar Ballo, a Norwegian member of parliament, had taken a personality test organized by Scientologists in Nice, and received very negative feedback from it. A few hours later she committed suicide. French police started an investigation of the Scientology church. In the wake of the Ballo suicide linked to the personality test, the spokesman for the church in Norway called the link at accusation deeply unfair, and pointing out that the daughter had previously suffered eating disorders and psychiatric troubles.
The personality test has been condemned by the psychologist Rudy Myrvang. He called the test a recruitment tool, aimed at breaking down a person so that the Scientologists can build the test-taker back up.
Based on the 1993 IRS decision granting Scientology tax-exempt status, the U.S. Department of State formally criticized Germany for discriminating against Scientologists and began to note Scientologists' complaints of harassment and discrimination in its annual Human Rights Reports, starting from the 1993 report. Since then, the U.S. Department of State has repeatedly expressed its concerns over the violation of Scientologists' individual rights posed by "sect filters", whereby potential employees are required to divulge any association with Scientology before they are considered for a job. It has also warned that companies and artists associated with Scientology may be subject to "government-approved discrimination and boycotts" in Germany. Past targets of such boycotts have included Tom Cruise and jazz pianist Chick Corea.
In 1997, an open letter to then-German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, published as a newspaper advertisement in the International Herald Tribune, drew parallels between the "organized oppression" of Scientologists in Germany and Nazi policies espoused by Germany in the 1930s. The letter was signed by Dustin Hoffman, Goldie Hawn, and a number of other Hollywood celebrities and executives. Commenting on the matter, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of State criticized Germany's treatment of Scientologists and said that Scientologists were indeed discriminated against in Germany, but condemned any comparisons of this treatment to the Nazis' treatment of Jews as extremely inappropriate, an opinion echoed by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights.
German officials sharply rejected the accusations. They said that Germany guarantees the freedom of religion, but characterized Scientology as a profit-making enterprise, rather than a religion, and emphasized that precisely because of Germany's Nazi past, Germany took a determined stance against all "radical cults and sects, including right-wing Nazi groups", and not just against Scientology. According to a 1997 Time magazine article, most Germans consider Scientology a subversive organization, with pollsters reporting 70% popular support for banning Scientology in Germany.
In late 1997, the United States granted asylum to a German Scientologist, Antje Victore, who claimed she would be subject to religious persecution in her homeland. In 2000, the German Stern magazine published a report asserting that several rejection letters which the woman had submitted as part of her asylum application—ostensibly from potential employers who were rejecting her because she was a Scientologist—had in fact been written by fellow Scientologists at her request and that of the Office of Special Affairs and that she was in personal financial trouble and about to go on trial for tax evasion at the time she applied for asylum. On a 2000 visit to Clearwater, Florida, Ursula Caberta of the Scientology Task Force for the Hamburg Interior Authority likewise alleged that the asylum case had been part of an "orchestrated effort" by Scientology undertaken "for political gain", and "a spectacular abuse of the U.S. system". German expatriate Scientologists resident in Clearwater, in turn, accused Caberta of stoking a "hate campaign" in Germany that had "ruined the lives and fortunes of scores of Scientologists" and maintained that Scientologists had not "exaggerated their plight for political gain in the United States". Mark Rathbun, a top Church of Scientology official, said that although Scientology had not orchestrated the case, "there would have been nothing improper if it had".
In an effort to adhere to Wikipedia policy, the Arbitration Committee of the English Wikipedia decided in late-May 2009 to restrict editing from Church of Scientology Internet Protocol addresses, to prevent self-serving edits by editors within CoS-administered networks. A "host of anti-Scientologist editors" were topic-banned as well. The committee concluded that both sides had "gamed policy" and resorted to "battlefield tactics", with articles on living persons being the "worst casualties".
Scientology's response to accusations of criminal behavior has been twofold; the church is under attack by an organized conspiracy, and each of the church's critics is hiding a private criminal past. In the first instance, the Church of Scientology has repeatedly stated that it is engaged in an ongoing battle against a massive, worldwide conspiracy whose sole purpose is to "destroy the Scientology religion." Thus, aggressive measures and legal actions are the only way the church has been able to survive in a hostile environment; they sometimes liken themselves to the early Mormons who took up arms and organized militia to defend themselves from persecution.
The church asserts that the core of the organized anti-Scientology movement is the psychiatric profession, in league with deprogrammers and certain government bodies (including elements within the FBI and the government of Germany.) These conspirators have allegedly attacked Scientology since the earliest days of the church, with the shared goal of creating a docile, mind-controlled population. As an official Scientology website explains:
On the other hand, L. Ron Hubbard has proclaimed that all critics of Scientology are criminals. Hubbard wrote on numerous occasions that all of Scientology's opponents are seeking to hide their own criminal histories, and the proper course of action to stop these attacks is to "expose" the hidden crimes of the attackers. The Church of Scientology does not deny that it vigorously seeks to "expose" its critics and enemies; it maintains that all of its critics have criminal histories, and they encourage hatred and "bigotry" against Scientology. Hubbard's belief that all critics of Scientology are criminals was summarized in a policy letter written in 1967:
Scientology claims that it continues to expand and prosper despite all efforts to prevent it from growing; critics claim that the Church's own statistics contradict its story of continuing growth.
The Church of Scientology has published a number of responses to criticism available online.
Analyses of Scientology's counter-accusations and actions against its critics are available on a number of websites, including the critical archive Operation Clambake.
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