The Cultic Practices of the Church of Scientology.
Cult is a term used to designate a cohesive group of people generally, but not exclusively. A cult is usually a small and recently founded religious movementdevoted to beliefs or practices that the surrounding culture considers out of the ordinary. Its status as a cult may come about from its belief system, its practices, its perceived harmful effects on its members, or its perceived opposition to the interests of mainstream culture. Scientology practices fits those designations. Due to the organizations financial practices and auditing practices, and the harmful effect on its members, Scientology should be reclassified from a religion to a cult.
To scientologist the word scientology means the study of knowledge or truth. The Scientology religion holds that mans true nature is basically good. Mans past experiences in life is what causes them to commit evil deeds, but it’s not in their nature to do so. Most religious organizations are based around the perseverance of spirituality, integrity, values, honesty, and decency. Scientology is different; they believe in increasing the ability and intelligence of the individual so they can improve their own life and overcome factors that hold themselves from solving their own problems, unlike other religions. What’s more, scientology claims once one has accomplished this they naturally start to reach out to help family, friends, and society. Scientology’s doctrine, states that individuals will advance so long they maintain their spiritual integrity and honesty, yet that is contradictory to what the organization and its members have actually been doing. Scientology’s methods and beliefs have led some members into a long history of criminal and civil actions and convictions. To date there has been numerous prosecutions and arrest of top level scientologist for illegal activities such as financial scams and forgery. Both the U.S. Federal and Canadian courts have found top Scientology officials and the church guilty of charges such as burglarizing, wiretapping, and conspiracy against government agencies (Time, 6 May 1991, p. 50). In 1980, for example, eleven of Scientology’s top leaders, including Hubbard’s wife, were jailed for bugging and burglarizing the U.S. Justice Department and other federal agencies in the 1970s. Another example is the three Florida Scientologists, which included Ronald Bernstein, one of the biggest contributors to the church’s international “war chest,” pleaded guilty in March of 1991 to using their rare-coin dealership to launder money. Other notorious activities by Scientologists include plotting to plant operatives in the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and Export-Import Bank. As for scientology’s claim that once one has accomplished their goal they naturally start to reach out to help family, friends, and society is also contradictory considering its disconnection policy. The disconnection policy of the church demands cutting off all communication with persons or groups deemed to be suppressive. It doesn’t matter whether the parties to disconnect from are friends, parents, children, husband or wife. Members usually comply with these ridiculous demands or they themselves are branded suppressive and are expelled from of the church.
Although the church of scientology’s shady financial dealings and illegal activities have been the source of most of the negative publicity, the so called practice of auditing and the set donation fees its members have to pay in order to progress have been the source for controversy also. Scientology’s religious practice is of spiritual counseling which is called “auditing.” Scientologists claim it is a unique form of personal counseling intended to help an individual look at their own existence and improve their abilities. They claim that viewing ones own existence, allows an individual to walk an exact route to higher states of awareness. Scientology’s Auditing is a precise, thoroughly codified activity with exact procedures. A Scientology counselor is known as an “auditor“. Auditing is assisted by use of a specially designed meter which is intended to locate areas of spiritual distress by measuring the mental state or change of state of the person being audited. They claim that Auditing uses exact sets of questions or directions that are given by an auditor to help a person find out things about themselves and improve their condition. Critics though tend to disagree claiming that these auditing sessions are generally just another brainwashing tool scientology uses to control its members. First of all these so called auditing sessions can last for hours depending on the type of training. Within these one on one auditing sessions, auditors consistently pressure members into divulging personal information about themselves, while documenting it in their files. In turn, the personal information gathered from these auditing sessions, can and has been used against defectors and former members. The John Travolta story is a good example of this tactic. John Travolta has long served as an unofficial Scientology spokesman, even though in 1983 he told a magazine that he was opposed to the church’s management. High-level defectors of the church claim that Travolta has long feared that if he defected, details of his homosexual and bisexual lifestyle would be made public. William Franks, the church’s former chairman of the board who was driven out in 1981 after attempting to reform the church recalls that Travolta felt pretty intimidated about his lifestyle being made public, although there were no outright threats made, it was implied. If you leave, they immediately start digging up everything. These auditing sessions are also very expensive and a must if a member expects to progress. These auditing sessions are sold in twelve and a half hour blocks and can range in cost from $200 per hour for the beginner levels to several thousand dollars for the higher OT levels which are secret and require an invitation.
The church of scientology claims that it has nothing to do with any illegal activities, yet its members have been implicated in most of these scams. The church also claims that their auditing practices are nothing more than a form of therapy meant to help its member’s progress through life. The church also provides proof with published and signed affidavits containing success stories from members who claim they have been helped or cured in one way or another. The church claims to have helped thousands, but evidence attained from former members proves otherwise. For example” Harriet Baker learned the hard way about Scientology’s business of selling religion. When Baker, 73, had recently lost her husband to cancer, a Scientologist turned up at her Los Angeles home peddling a $1,300 auditing package to cure her grief. Some $15,000 later, the Scientologists discovered that her house was debt free. They arranged a $45,000 mortgage, and immediately began to tap her for more auditing. Baker’s children eventually helped her mother snap out of it. She demanded a refund of $27,000 for unused services, which in turn prompted two church members to show up at her door unannounced with an E-meter to interrogate her. Baker never got her refund and, eventually was forced to sell her home”. (Time, 6 May 1991, p. 54) Anther example is the Noah Lottick story, before he killed himself; he had paid more than $5,000 for church counseling. According to his parents, His behavior had become strange. He once remarked that his Scientology mentors could actually read minds. When his father suffered a major heart attack, Noah insisted that it was purely psychosomatic. Five days before he jumped to his death, Noah burst into his parents’ home and demanded to know why they were spreading “false rumors” about him. Seven months after he had discovered the Church, the young scholar student jumped from a 10th-floor hotel window to his death. (Time, 6 May 1991, p. 51)
The biggest reason the church of Scientology should be reclassified as a cult rather than a religious organization is because of its illegal and unethical financial practices, it’s so called auditing practices which are used to extort and exploit its members, and the harmful effects the organization has on its members. The church claims that its financial practices are legal and its auditing sessions are meant to cure people from whatever ailment they suffer from, but at the same time the church also expects compensation for its treatment. This in turn leaves most of its members in a precarious position. No religious practice has the right to force people to decide between receiving and understanding god based on their socioeconomic standing.
Special Report (The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power) Time Magazine May 6, 1991 page 50-55. Time Magazine
L. RON HUBBARD, DIANETICS New York: Hermitage House, 1950, 2000, 2002.
Church of Scientology, Online. Internet