In the latter half of the twentieth century the Church of Scientology has emerged as one of the largest and most extensive new religious movements of modern time. The Church has also been subject to ongoing controversy in terms of new religions and their cult-like practices. The teachings of founder L. Ron Hubbard were initially successful in the 1950’s with the emergence of Dianetics, but have since been subject to heavy international criticism. Many countries have banned not only Dianetics and the auditing process but the teachings of the Church and its founder.
Despite media and public criticism, however, Scientology has grown into a large international, ecclesiastical body with centers in almost half the countries of the world1. It has developed a mature theology and thousands of people report that the Church has given them a spiritual and optimistic perspective on life. If one wishes to truly understand Scientology as a new religious movement the question emerges as to whether you should examine the critical research conducted by the professional “outsider”, or turn to the “insider”; members of the religion who are familiar with its teachings.
This paper will examine the perspectives of both sides; outsider and insider, and will critically analyze their material on the subject of Scientology. By utilizing both perspectives there is a hope to achieve a broad understanding of the Church of Scientology. In the online article blatantly named “Scientology Lies”, author Kristy Watcher makes a variety of claims against the Church of Scientology, using both qualitative and quantitative data to validate her claims.
As an outsider Watcher does not try and maintain a neutral perspective on Scientology policies and beliefs, but rather aggressively challenges the religion and its members. The first claim brought forward against Scientology is that the church has since the 1970’s held individuals against their will. These illegal acts, Watcher claims were not committed by radical or rogue members of the Church, but were done in accordance with Scientology policies. The names and statements made by those held by the Church are given in the article, along with precise detail (dates, locations) as to where they were taken hold.
The programs used by scientologist’s whereby false imprisonment is called for, are the Introspection Rundown which is when a member of the Church has a nervous breakdown, and the RPF; the mandatory Scientology labour camp2. One example is given by Watcher of a young woman named Lisa McPherson who was held against her will for seventeen days by the Church of Scientology and subsequently died in their custody. Her estate then sued for wrongful death and false imprisonment, and was successful in receiving more than ten million dollars in compensation.
The second claim that Watcher investigates is the overall number of members that the Church of Scientology declares to demographic researchers. On their official website the Church asserts that they are the “fastest growing religion in the world with over eight million members worldwide. ” This claim when compared with accurate demographic research conducted by professional companies including Ipsos Reid, paints a different picture. Watcher points out that unlike commercial companies religious groups are not audited and are not legally obligated to publish accurate statistics about themselves or their members.
There are also a variety of quotations in this article from various leaders and auditors within the Scientology religion that give different numbers in membership, ranging from one million to ten million worldwide3. The creator of the Church of Scientology is criticized by Watcher because of his claim that he is a medical doctor. There is no judgment passed against Hubbard as a leader of the Church and the creator of Dianetics, instead it focuses on the fact that he in not in fact a medical doctor or nuclear physicist as he has claimed to be.
In order to legitimize Dianetics in its earliest stages, Hubbard often claimed in speeches that he was in fact a graduate of the George Washington University medical program, when in reality he dropped out after three years. Since the 1980’s, Watcher points out that Hubbard will refuse to answer questions regarding the topic of his medical degree, and has since retracted the statement that he is trained in nuclear physics. The actual process of auditing and Dianetics as a medical treatment, is brought forward by Scientologists as a cure for most mental and physical conditions.
Despite the Federal Court ruling in 1971 that Hubbard’s medical claims were a “bogus practice” and that the E-Meter could no longer be called a scientific treatment, Scientologists still support the Purification Process that comes with auditing. Watcher gives a variety of court cases in America, Britain and France wherein auditing was prescribed to members in replacement of legally-prescribed medical treatments, most of which led to bodily or mental harm.
The cost of auditing is also fairly high, as Watcher presents documents from the Scientology mental heath department that estimates the pricing of the highest level of “auditing” or OT8, to be approximately three hundred thousand dollars. Many of the tests employed during the auditing process are considered “factual scientific analysis” by members of the Church. In reality Watcher examines one test in particular; the Scientology “personality test” that essentially uses close ended questions and has little relevance to the scientific process.