Free Zone (Scientology)

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The Free Zone, Freezone, or more recently identified as Independent Scientology, comprises a variety of non-affiliated independent groups, organizations, and individuals who practice Scientology beliefs and techniques independently of the Church of Scientology (CoS).[1] Such practitioners range from those who closely adhere to the original teachings of Scientology's founder, L. Ron Hubbard, to those who have adapted their practices far from CoS beliefs and practices.

The term Free Zone was originally only used by a single organization, but the term is now commonly applied to all non-CoS Scientologists, although many dispute the application of the term to themselves. The International Freezone Association, the group whose name became adopted as a generic term for independent Scientology, was not the first independent Scientologist group; the California Association of Dianetic Auditors, the oldest breakaway group still in existence,[2] claims a founding date of December 1950, predating the Church of Scientology itself.[3]

Skeptic Magazine described the Free Zone as: "a group founded by ex-Scientologists to promote L. Ron Hubbard's ideas independent of the Church of Scientology".[4] 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".[5]


The term "Free Zone" or "Freezone" is used for the loose grouping of Scientologists who are not members of the Church of Scientology.[6] Those within it are sometimes called "Free Zoners".[7] Some of those outside the Church prefer to describe their practices as "Independent Scientology" because of the associations that the term "Free Zone" has with Ron's Org and the innovations developed by Robertson;[8] "Independent Scientology" is a more recent term than "Free Zone".[9]

Key to the Free Zone is what scholar of religion Aled Thomas called its "largely unregulated and non-hierarchical environment".[10] Within the Free Zone there are many different interpretations of Scientology;[11] Thomas suggested Free Zone Scientologists were divided between "purists" who emphasize loyalty to Hubbard's teachings and those more open to innovation.[12] Free Zoners typically stress that Scientology as a religion is different from the Church of Scientology as an organization, criticizing the latter's actions rather than their beliefs.[13] They often claim to be the true inheritors of Hubbard's teachings,[14] maintaining that Scientology's primary focus is on individual development and that that does not require a leader or membership of an organization.[13] Some Free Zoners argue that auditing should be more affordable than it is as performed by the Church,[13] and criticise the Church's lavish expenditure on Org buildings.[15]

The Church has remained hostile to the Free Zone,[16] regarding it as heretical.[17] It refers to non-members who either practice Scientology or simply adopt elements of its technology as "squirrels",[18] and their activities as "squirreling".[19] The term "squirrels" was coined by Hubbard and originally referred only to non-Scientologists using its technology.[13] The Church also maintains that any use of its technology by non-Church members is dangerous as they may not be used correctly.[20] Free Zone Scientologists have also accused the Church of "squirrelling",[9] maintaining that it has changed Hubbard's words in various posthumous publications.[21] Lewis has suggested that the Free Zone has been fueled by some of the Church's policies, including Hubbard's tendency to eject senior members whom he thought could rival him and the Church's "suppressive persons" policy which discouraged rapprochement with ex-members.[22]

Free Zone groups[edit]

The term "Free Zone" was first coined in 1984 by Bill Robertson, an early associate of Hubbard's.[23] That year, Robertson founded Ron's Org, a loose federation of Scientology groups operating outside the Church.[24] Headquartered in Switzerland, Ron's Org has affiliated centers in Germany, Russia, and other former parts of the Soviet Union.[25] Robertson claimed that he was channelling messages from Hubbard after the latter's death, through which he discovered OT levels above the eight then being offered by the Church.[26] Although its founding members were formerly part of the Church, as it developed most of those who joined had had no prior involvement in the Church.[27] Another non-Church group was the Advanced Ability Center, founded by David Mayo in the Santa Barbara area. The Church eventually succeeded in shutting it down.[25] In 2012, a Scientology center in Haifa, Israel, defected from the Church.[25]

As well as these organizations, there are also small groups of Scientologists outside the Church who meet informally.[8] Some avoid establishing public centers and communities for fear of legal retribution from the Church.[28] There are also Free Zone practitioners who practice what Thomas calls a "very individualized form of Scientology",[29] encouraging innovation with Hubbard's technology.[30]


The first group to use the term Free Zone was in the organization founded by the captain of the Apollo Flagship and Second-Deputy Commodore of the Sea Org, Captain Bill Robertson, in mid-1982, which is now known as "Ron's Org" in several countries.

The name came from the "space opera" beliefs of L. Ron Hubbard, which Robertson later expressed in the "Free Zone Decree", which he said was an Official Decree of "Galactic Central – Grand Council" which was "relayed from Mainship Sector 9":

  1. The planet known as Teegeeack – local dialect "Earth" or Terra – Sun 12, Sector 9, is hereby declared a Free Zone.
  2. No political interference in its affairs from any other part of the Sector or Galaxy will be tolerated.
  3. No economic interference in its affairs will be tolerated from any non-planetary agency or power.
  4. All of its inhabitants are hereby declared Free Zone Citizens and free of external political or economic interference.[31]

Perception by German government authorities[edit]

Scientology Commissioner Ursula Caberta in Hamburg said that the Free Zone is a type of "methadone program for Scientologists", and, in any case, "the lesser evil".[32] According to the Free Zone conglomerate, Ron's Org, the Verfassungsschutz Baden-Württemberg (State Office for the Protection of the Constitution) has stated that there is no need to keep Ron's Org under observation "as the Ron's Org has no anti-constitutional goals". There is some cooperation between members of the Ron's Org and state authorities who observe the Church of Scientology and investigate their activities.[33]

The Church of Scientology and the Free Zone[edit]

The CoS labels all practitioners of and believers in Scientology without its sanction "squirrels"—a term Hubbard coined to describe those who alter Scientology technology or practice it in a nonstandard fashion. Among Scientologists, the term is pejorative, and comparable in meaning to "heretic". In practice, the hierarchy of the Church of Scientology uses it to describe all of those who practice Scientology outside the Church.[2]

As of 2016, many of the major courses and publications in the Church have been altered or deleted altogether. This is a main protest and action point for Free Zone Scientologists. Major courses, such as the Class VI and Class VIII auditor training courses, which had very high enrollment in the 1970s, have been shut down. Additionally, Scientology critics in the Free Zone movement have claimed that alterations have been made to Hubbard's original writings in Church policies and even more so in technical bulletins, with parishioners never made aware of the changes to these writings.[34]

The Church of Scientology has used copyright and trademark laws against various Free Zone groups. Accordingly, most of 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 Internet domain name from the World Intellectual Property Organization (one of the 16 specialized agencies of the United Nations) in a legal action against the Free Zone.[35]

The "Ron's Org Committee" (ROC) and the "True Source Scientology Foundation" (STSS, "Stichting True Source Scientology") have documented the argument that Scientology materials written by L. Ron Hubbard are in the public domain if certain assumptions are made.[36][37] In addition the ROC has documented a legal battle over the trademark "Ron's Org".[36]

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".[38]

Portrayal in media[edit]

A 2006 Channel 4 documentary presented by Sikh comedian Hardeep Singh Kohli, The Beginner's Guide to L. Ron Hubbard, explored Scientology with the "Ron's Org" Free Zone group after the Church of Scientology declined to take part.[39]

A 2017 episode of the docuseries Believer hosted by religious scholar Reza Aslan focused on Scientology; however, Aslan was unable to get in contact with any Church officials so instead the episode focused on and featured an array of Independent Scientologists.[40] Aslan has compared the Free Zone to other schisms in religious history, including the Protestant Reformation.[41]

Alternative auditing practices[edit]

Several alternatives to Dianetics were developed in the early years of the Free Zone.

Synergetics is a self-help system developed by Art Coulter in 1954.[42] American businessman, Don A. Purcell, Jr., joined Synergetics in 1954 after he had financially bailed out Hubbard and his Dianetics foundations and was later sued by Hubbard.[43]: 138  In 1976, Coulter published Synergetics: An Adventure in Human Development; he later founded the Synergetic Society, which published a journal through 1996.[44]

Idenics is a personal counseling method not affiliated with any religion, that was developed by John Galusha beginning in 1987. Galusha researched for Hubbard during the 1950s, and was one of the founders of the first Church of Scientology in 1953.[45][46][47] Galusha claimed that all personal issues can be addressed by thoroughly looking over the problem at hand, without judgment. The counselor asks a series of questions until the solution is considered found, by the client. Mike Goldstein, the owner of Idenics methodology and author of the book, Idenics: An Alternative to Therapy, claims that the method is as effective over the telephone as in person.

The word "Scientology"[edit]

Disagreement over the origins of the word Scientology has been used by Free Zone groups to contest Scientology's trademarks. A German book entitled Scientologie, Wissenschaft von der Beschaffenheit und der Tauglichkeit des Wissens was published in 1934 by Anastasius Nordenholz.[48] The groups have argued that because Scientologie was not written by L. Ron Hubbard, the Church is unfairly monopolizing control over its practice.[49] The trademark rights to the use of Dianetics and the E-meter (invented and created by Volney Mathison[50]: 49–52 ) was allowed to lapse into the public domain in 1976 by Hubbard.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Grossman, Wendy M. (December 1995). "alt.scientology.war". Wired News. Retrieved April 14, 2007.
    "One of the first steps toward open warfare was the emergence, in about 1990, of a group that wanted to separate the church and its scriptures. Calling itself the Free Zone, this group consists of people who have left the church but still want to practice its teachings - use the tech, as Free Zoners say. Ex Scientologist Homer Smith is one of these (ex meaning "former church adherent", not "former" Scientologist, says Smith). Wanting to encourage serious discussion of the tech away from the noisy brawl next door in alt.religion.scientology, Smith set up a second newsgroup,, for this purpose."
  2. ^ a b Sappell, Joel; Welkos, Robert W. (June 29, 1990). "When the Doctrine Leaves the Church". Los Angeles Times. p. A49:1. Archived from the original on March 25, 2015. Retrieved April 12, 2007.
  3. ^ "California Association of Dianetic Auditors -- Who We Are". Retrieved April 14, 2007.
  4. ^ Lippard, Jim; Jacobsen, Jeff (1995). "Scientology v. the Internet. Free Speech & Copyright Infringement on the Information Super-Highway". Skeptic Magazine. pp. Vol. 3, No. 3., Pg. 35–41.
  5. ^ Alter, Alexandra (July 2, 2005). "SCIENTOLOGY: What's Behind the Hollywood Hype?". Miami Herald.
  6. ^ Lewis 2012, p. 141; Lewis 2013, p. 262.
  7. ^ Lewis 2013, p. 267; Thomas 2021, p. 1.
  8. ^ a b Lewis 2013, p. 265.
  9. ^ a b Thomas 2021, p. 121.
  10. ^ Thomas 2021, p. 2.
  11. ^ Thomas 2021, p. ix.
  12. ^ Thomas 2021, p. 165.
  13. ^ a b c d Thomas 2021, p. 29.
  14. ^ Willms 2009, p. 248.
  15. ^ Thomas 2021, p. 144.
  16. ^ Lewis 2013, pp. 269–270.
  17. ^ Thomas 2021, p. 4.
  18. ^ Barrett 2001, p. 451; Lewis 2013, p. 264.
  19. ^ Thomas 2021, p. viii.
  20. ^ Barrett 2001, p. 451.
  21. ^ Thomas 2021, p. 114.
  22. ^ Lewis 2012, p. 141; Lewis 2013, p. 263.
  23. ^ Lewis 2013, p. 262.
  24. ^ Lewis 2013, p. 264; Thomas 2021, p. 1.
  25. ^ a b c Lewis 2013, p. 264.
  26. ^ Lewis 2013, p. 265; Thomas 2021, p. 28, 120.
  27. ^ Lewis 2013, p. 269.
  28. ^ Thomas 2021, p. 11.
  29. ^ Thomas 2021, p. 96.
  30. ^ Thomas 2021, p. 107.
  31. ^ "The Free Zone Decree". Archived from the original on April 16, 2007.
  32. ^ Kintzinger, Axel (December 11, 1998). "The sect is broke". Die Woche.
  33. ^ "Maybe it makes you feel more confident, for example, if you learn that the office for safeguarding the constitution (Verfassungsschutz) of the German state of Baden-Württemberg has stated years ago that the RON’s Org is not a part of the Church of Scientology and that there is no need to observe them as the RON’s Org has no anti-constitutional goals. Indeed, there is some cooperation between members of the RON’s Org and state authorities who observe the Church of Scientology and investigate their activities, English FAQ on German Ron's Org site with some similar cooperation taking place among other respective Freezone groups and affiliates. Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine
  34. ^ "The Purpose of a Lawsuit is to Harass". David S. Touretzky. Retrieved June 3, 2019.
  35. ^ Meyer-Hauser, Bernard F. (June 23, 2000). "Religious Technology Center v. Freie Zone E. V". Case No. D2000-0410. Archived from the original on September 28, 2013.
  36. ^ a b "Legal – Ron's Org Committee". October 23, 2017. Archived from the original on October 23, 2017. Retrieved October 23, 2017.
  37. ^ "Who owns Scientology – or who owns the copyrights of the works of L.Ron Hubbard? – True Source Scientology Foundation". September 21, 2017. Archived from the original on September 21, 2017. Retrieved October 23, 2017.
  38. ^ Brown, Janelle (July 22, 1999). "Copyright -- or wrong? : The Church of Scientology takes up a new weapon -- the Digital Millennium Copyright Act -- in its ongoing battle with critics". Salon. Archived from the original on June 26, 2009.
  39. ^ Jim Jesus (May 27, 2011). "The Beginner's Guide To L. Ron Hubbard". Archived from the original on January 18, 2014 – via YouTube.[dead link]
  40. ^ "A steep price for leaving Scientology : Believer with Reza Aslan". CNN. March 20, 2017.
  41. ^ Emami, Gazelle (March 3, 2017). "Reza Aslan on Believer and Why Scientology Gets a Bad Rap". Vulture. Retrieved January 4, 2023.
  42. ^ "Synergetics - The Compleat Aberree".
  43. ^ Atack, Jon (1990). A Piece of Blue Sky: Scientology, Dianetics and L. Ron Hubbard Exposed. Lyle Stuart Books. ISBN 081840499X. OL 9429654M.
  44. ^ "CommUnity of Minds » 2002 » February » 12".
  45. ^ "Successor Organization Is Religious Fellowship (continued) - The Compleat Aberree".
  46. ^ "John Galusha - The Compleat Aberree".
  47. ^ "John Galusha and the Book One Course".
  48. ^ "Scientology 1934, Nordenholz, Preface". 1999. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007.
  49. ^ "Administrative Panel Decision : Religious Technology Center v. Freie Zone E. V (Free Zone Association, Germany)" (PDF). June 23, 2000. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 19, 2005. Retrieved November 30, 2005.
  50. ^ Urban, Hugh B. (2011). The Church of Scientology: A History of a New Religion. Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691146089.


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