Wright, Lawrence (2013, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 448 pp., ISBN-13: 9780307700667
Sweeny, John (2013) The Church of Fear: Inside The Weird World of Scientology, Silvertail Books, 336 pp., ISBN-13: 9781909269071
If Scientology is a religion, entitled to first amendment protection, as well as some incredible tax benefits, then perhaps it is time we looked at our tax code. Maybe it is time to cease paying for any of the religions that currently flourish at the taxpayers' expense. As well as the super-wealthy Catholic Church, the tax exempt status of the Westboro Baptist Church is paid for by those of us who do pay taxes.
I wonder if Mitt Romney was thinking of the Church of the Latter Day Saints when he talked about the 47% of Americans who are takers. I don't really care what god people choose to worship. They could, like Scientologists, believe that the great space lord Xenu loaded up seven volcanoes with excess thetans and then blew them up with hydrogen bombs, scattering them all over the earth and forcing them to find new homes in human bodies.
I just wish I didn't have to pay for their fantasies.
In his interview with Christian Amanpour of CNN (shown below), Lawrence Wright makes the very good point that the only important opinion as to whether The Church of Scientology is indeed a church and entitled to the benefits and protections of a religion, is the IRS. 2300 lawsuits against the IRS and individual IRS employees were dropped as a result of the 1993 decision of the IRS to grant tax exempt status to this organization. In so doing, the IRS wiped out the billion dollar debt that the Church of Scientology owed and settled for 12 million dollars.
Someone had to make up that 988 million dollar difference. It was us, in higher taxes and reduced benefits. Something we should keep in mind whether the taker is a corporation or a cult that bullied its way into being called a church.
Lawrence Wright won the Pullitzer Prize for his 2006 book, The Looming Tower: Al-Qeada and the Roots of 9/11, considered by many to be the go-to book on the subject. It is likely that his latest work, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, will become the foundation for those who wish to understand this organization on an intellectual basis.
Starting with the strange life of L. Ron Hubbard, Lawrence Wright examines the roots and guiding principles of Scientology and how, under the administration of David Miscavige, it has become something else. Not that is was anything but crazy under L Ron Hubbard, but it has become a rather bizarre, evil force under its current leadership. Of course, that is only my opinion, Lawrence Wright is far more objective, and presents the church's point of view through its responses in a well researched look at its current practices including its search for celebrities to heighten its profile.
In the book there are multiple examples of the church going after its critics, with the license granted by L. Ron Hubbard in 1965 in a policy paper
titled “Fair Game Law,” in which he laid down the rules for dealing with Suppressive Persons. That category includes non-Scientologists who are hostile to the church, apostates, and defectors, as well as their spouses, family members, and close friends. “A truly Suppressive Person or Group has no rights of any kind,” Hubbard wrote. Such enemies, he said, may be “tricked, lied to or destroyed.” In 1965, he wrote another policy letter ambiguously stating, “The practice of declaring people FAIR GAME will cease. FAIR GAME may not appear on any Ethics Order. It causes bad public relations. [The new ruling] does not cancel any policy on the treatment or handling of an SP.”The church brought suit against Time Magazine for its 1991 cover article, "Scientology: The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power." And although Time won the suit, which went all of the way to the Supreme Court, it was the costliest legal battle the magazine ever fought.
Also discussed is the attack on journalist Paulette Cooper that included faking bomb threats and accusing her of committing them, a possible assasination attempt, and their efforts to have her declared insane. See "Scandal Behind the Scandal of Scientology" on her website, as well as the book that started it all, Scandal of Scientology, available online.
The closest he came was in writing that, "nothing in American history can compare with the scale of the domestic espionage of Operation Snow White." Operation Snow White was conceived by L. Ron Hubbard in 1973, as a response to what he felt was the unfair machinations of the UK and the US to stop the spread of his cult worldwide. In addition to placing some 5,000 Scientologists in 136 government agencies of nations around the world, Hubbard dedicated Project Hunter to the US:
Project Hunter was the United States, where Scientologists penetrated the IRS, the Justice, Treasury, and Labor Departments, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Drug Enforcement Administration, as well as foreign embassies and consulates; private companies and organizations, such as the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the Better Business Bureau; and newspapers— including the St. Petersburg Times, the Clearwater Sun, and the Washington Post— that were critical of the religion. In an evident attempt at blackmail, they stole the Los Angeles IRS intelligence files of celebrities and political figures, including California governor Jerry Brown, Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley, and Frank Sinatra.No wonder he wound up living on a sailboat in the middle of the ocean. Much of the current Scientology internal structure reflects Hubbard's imaginary heroic career in the Navy and his love of the sea. The members who would be considered ministers and missionaries are known as the Sea Org and receive special training in Clearwater, FL where the "Flag" Base is located.
The other base of operations is just outside of Hemet, CA, in Gilman Hot Springs. It is known as Int Base because it is the international headquarters and home of church leader David Miscavige. It is also called Gold Base which taken from the name of the movie production company that the church owns and locates.
In Going Clear, Wright uses Paul Haggis' story to tell of the cult during the 1970s. Best known for writing "Crash" and "Million Dollar Baby," Haggis became a Scientologist in 1975.
Intellectually, faith didn’t call to him. Scientology, on the other hand, was exotic and tantalizing. The weirdness of some of the doctrines was hard to fathom, but there was no doubt in Haggis’s mind that he had gained some practical benefits from his several years of auditing and that his communication skills had improved through some of the coursework.Although he was uncomfortable when he learned that children were performing hard labor, it was only when the Church endorsed Proposition 8 in California, that Paul, father of two gay children, finally left the Church. But Paul Haggis was only one of many high profile Scientologists who have left the organization and gone public with their stories. Next week I will share a couple of those with you.
None of that had required him to “believe” in Scientology, but the religion had proved itself in certain ways that mattered to him. The process of induction was so gradual that things that might have shocked him earlier were more acceptable by the time he came upon them. Whenever he ran into something on the Bridge to Total Freedom that he couldn’t fathom, he convinced himself that the next level would make everything understandable.
But first, there is another journalist who has published a book on his experience with Scientology. Following twelve years with the UK Observer, covering "wars, revolutions and chaos in more than 60 countries", John Sweeney now works as an investigative journalist for the BBC program Panorama. One of his assignments was an investigation of the Church of Scientology.
His book, The Church of Fear, Inside the Weird World of Scientology is the tale of what he learned while making that documentary and of what the experience of documenting the Church of Scientology was like. It differs from Lawrence Wright's work in that it is a first person account of a rational man grappling with an irrational organization. It is similar in that it too, covers the basic structure and beliefs of the church.
In 2007 Sweeney came to the States to do a film about Scientology. His two handlers, Mike Rinder and Tommy Davis (son of actress Anne Archer) were sent by Scientology to keep an eye on him as he traveled to Clearwater, FL. In Clearwater he met with defectors from the church. In one interview, Donna, a former Scientologist explains the difference between being a public Scientologist and a member of the staff:
‘In the Sea Org, on staff,’ said Donna, ‘you are controlled by derision, ridicule, being screamed at the top of someone’s lungs right in your face. They train people how to scream at somebody and how to intimidate somebody and how to make them feel like dirt. It is called ripping your face off. You get right up in somebody’s face, nose to nose, and spittle flying out of your mouth, scream in their face.’Mike, another former Scientologist, explains why it took him 34 years to leave the church:
‘I have 35 family members in Scientology: my mother, my brother, my four sisters, my 22 nieces and nephews, and my son. And the only ones that are outside the church are myself, my daughter, and my father.
It is hard to leave an organization that has consumed your youth and your money and then takes away your family.
When Sweeney returned to his hotel at midnight that evening, his two handlers were there waiting for him with their Scientology camera crew. He had not told them where he was staying or who he was seeing. Davis was furious at Sweeney for meeting with those who had left the church and berated him in front of the rolling cameras. Fortunately, Sweeney's Producer was also filming.
The following afternoon, while interviewing a Clearwater man who had been filming the church members on the streets of Clearwater, Tommy Davis and cameraman pulled into the parking structure and lectured John Sweeney on the criminal history (partially true) of his informant.
The church has its own security service that tracks journalists and it paid special attention to Sweeney, following him as he flew to LA for more interviews. For a solid week, they followed him in vehicles, interrupted him during interviews and did everything possible to make his job difficult if not impossible to accomplish.
Finally, after hours spent in the church's psychology museum, John Sweeney lost it. On camera, he flew off the handle at Tommy Davis. In a memorable episode that has been viewed a minimum of seven million times John Sweeney yells at Tommy Davis. Scientology has, of course, posted the video on YouTube.
Here is the thirty minute documentary that John Sweeney was working on which includes his loss of temper.
Form the Introduction to Church of Fear:
I apologised then and I apologise now. I was wrong. Civilised discourse is the engine oil of democracy and by losing it and doing an impression of an exploding tomato I let down the values I cherish.I would imagine that there are few things as devastating for a professional news reporter than to behave the way John Sweeney did. Part of what may have caused his reaction was the brow-beating he took in the museum. Unable to get a word in edgewise with his tour guide who, using standard Scientology techniques, talked non-stop in between breaks for videos that described the "horrors of psychology." His building frustration is apparent on the film, especially when his guide blames psychologists for the Nazi concentration camps.
Again, from the introduction to Church of Fear:
From the early 1950s, psychiatrists blew the whistle on the Church. In return, L Ron demonised the doctors of the mad, accusing ‘psychs’ of ‘extortion, mayhem and murder’. Hubbard believed that psychiatrists were plotting a conspiracy to take over the world on behalf of the Soviet Union: ‘Our enemies are less than twelve men. They are members of the Bank of England and other higher financial circles. They own and control newspaper chains and they, oddly enough, run all the mental health groups in the world… Their apparent programme was to use mental health, which is to say psychiatric electric shock and prefrontal lobotomy, to remove from their path any political dissenters. These fellows have gotten nearly every government in the world to owe them considerable quantities of money through various chicaneries and they control, of course, income tax, government finance. [Harold] Wilson, for instance, the current Premier of England, is totally involved with these fellows and talks about nothing else.’
The Church of Scientology is still waging a dangerous war against psychology, as covered in this Daily Kos diary, by Brit.
Two years after the BBC broadcast Sweeney's investigation, Mike Rinder left the church and met, once again, with John Sweeney. That meeting is included in this follow-up BBC documentary, "The Secrets of Scientology."