Though it has attained some credibility as a religion, Scientology has also been described by some as both a cult and a commercial enterprise. 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.
Church or business
From 1952 until 1966, the Scientology was administered by an organization called the Hubbard Association of Scientologists (HAS), established in Arizona on 10 September 1952. In 1954, the HAS became the HASI (HAS International). The first Church of Scientology was incorporated on 18 December 1953 in Camden, New Jersey, along with two other incorporations by Hubbard at the same time—the Church of American Science and the Church of Spiritual Engineering. The Church of Scientology was incorporated in California on 18 February 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. 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. In January 2009, a web-based poll conducted by the incoming Barack Obama presidential transition team, removal of the tax exemption was rated as number 9 in items proposed for the administration to investigate. 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.
In some countries Scientology is treated legally as a commercial enterprise, and not as a religion or charitable organization. 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, which is interpreted as persecution by Scientology.
In Israel, Scientology does not use "Church" as part of its name.
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).
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 by an organization not affiliated with a foreign government, 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.
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. 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.
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.||”|
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." It has apparently continued as recently as 2006 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.||”|
Members' health and safety
The death of some Scientologists has brought attention to the Church both due to the circumstances of their demise and their relationship with Scientology possibly being a factor. 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. Hospital staff agreed that she was unharmed, 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 after a short evaluation. She was taken to the Fort Harrison Hotel, a Scientology retreat, to receive a Church sanctioned treatment called Introspection Rundown. When she later died, the state of Florida pursued criminal charges against the Church. 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 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.
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".
Further proselytization practices - commonly called "dissemination" of Scientology - include information booths, fliers and advertisement for free seminars, Sunday Services in regular newspapers and magazines, personal contacts and sales of books
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.
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.
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 the 22 January 2008, clothed only in a shirt. The room she was imprisoned in contained refuse and an insect infested mattress.
On Friday 28 March 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. 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".
- Weird, Sure. A Cult, No. Washington Post By Mark Oppenheimer, August 5, 2007
- The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power TIME magazine, May. 06, 1991 by Richard Behar. The investigation paints a picture of a depraved yet thriving enterprise.
- Leiby, Richard (1994-12-25). "Scientology Fiction: The Church's War Against Its Critics — and Truth". The Washington Post. p. C1. Retrieved 2006-06-21. More than one of
- Goodin, Dan (1999-06-03). "Scientology subpoenas Worldnet". CNET News.com. Retrieved 2006-05-04.
- Ortega, Tony (1999-12-23). "Double Crossed". Phoenix New Times. Village Voice Media. Retrieved 2008-05-25.
- Welkos, Robert W. (1990-06-24). "Burglaries and Lies Paved a Path to Prison". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-05-25. Unknown parameter
- "The Wall Street Journal. December 30, 1997 Reproduced at Dave Touretzky's Carnegie Mellon site
- "Official Recognition of Scientology as a Religion". "... the United States Internal Revenue Service in granting full religious recognition and tax exemption to all Churches of Scientology located in the United States ..."
- Wrapping up the Citizen’s Briefing Book(January 16, 2009) Posted by Dan McSwain - The Obama-Biden Transition Team:Change.gov- Retrieved 20 January 2009
- 2001 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom
- 2002 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom
- 2003 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom
- 2004 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom
- 2005 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom
- 2006 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom
- Burglaries and Lies Paved a Path to Prison The LA Times, By Robert W. Welkos and Joel Sappell, June 24, 1990
- McLaughlin, Jim (1998-02-19). "Church of Scientology probes Herald reporter". Boston Herald. Retrieved 2009-02-08. Unknown parameter
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- Sweeney, John (2007-05-14). "Row over Scientology video". BBC News. Retrieved 2007-11-14.
- The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power TIME magazine, May. 06, 1991 By Richard Behar. By all appearances, Noah Lottick of Kingston, Pa., had been a normal, happy 24-year-old who was looking for his place in the world... his fingers were still clutching $171 in cash, virtually the only money he hadn't yet turned over to the Church of Scientology, the self-help "philosophy" group he had discovered just seven months earlier.
- Florida Charges Scientology In Church Member's Death The New York Times, By Douglas Frantz Published: November 14, 1998
- Stasi, Linda (October 27, 2006). "Scientology Schizo: His Mom's Religion Said, No Meds. That Edict May Have Cost Her Life". New York Post. Retrieved 2007-03-23.
- The Foster Report. Chapter 5, "The Practices of Scientology;" section (a), "Recruitment;" pages 75-76. "... a systematic approach to answering the questions should yield systematic variations in the conclusions derived from an analysis of the test scores ... these two methods [for answering the questions of the test] would be expected to produce different, if not complementary, profiles ... These variations in answering the questions did not seem to affect the Oxford Capacity Analysis as the three methods produced remarkably similar profiles ... when each of two diametrically opposed methods of response produces the same extreme deviant scores as the other and as a third "random" response style, we are forced to a position of scepticism about the test's status as a reliable psychometric device."
- Dissemination Division in Churches of Scientology
- Dissemination by Churches of Scientology through "Field Staff Members", "Field Staff Member: a Scientology parishioner who introduces others to Scientology through personal contact."]
- Official Scientology FAQ: "There are thousands of Scientologists who work full time in churches and missions throughout the world as executives or administrative staff. There are also those who further the dissemination of Scientology on a one-to-one basis or through the dissemination of Scientology materials and books, those who hold jobs in the Church’s social reform groups and those who work in the Office of Special Affairs involved in community betterment or legal work. All of these provide rewarding careers as each forwards the expansion of Scientology and thereby makes it possible for more and more people to benefit from its technology."
- Melton, J. Gordon (10 May 1981). "A Short Study of the Scientology Religion". Church of Scientology.
The Church regularly propagates its beliefs through the traditional channels of liturgy, dissemination of its religious publications and in its community programs.
- Reproduced version of Introspection Rundown Release Contract
- [dead link]
- L'étrange séquestration qui embarrasse la Scientologie - Faits Divers - leParisien.fr
- «Ville vært i live i dag hvis hun ikke hadde gått til scientologene» - Innenriks - Dagbladet.no