Scientology Critical Information Directory

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Critics, government call Scientology business masquerading as religion

Title: Critics, government call Scientology business masquerading as religion
Date: Sunday, 15 April 1990
Publisher: San Diego Union-Tribune
Author: Mike McIntyre
Main source: link (698 KiB)

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The Church of Scientology's genesis was the 1950 best seller by L. Ron Hubbard, "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health."

Church officials claim there are 7 million Scientologists worldwide, but former members allege there may be fewer than 100,000.

The church promotes Scientology as a religion — one not based on the worship of a god but on the belief in "scientific" principles applied to the mind.

Hubbard argued in "Dianetics" that inner turmoil springs from subconscious mental images, or "engrams," caused by past traumatic events. The engrams, he argued, can be eliminated by recalling and confronting the events — a process similar to conventional methods of psychotherapy.

Hubbard invented a device he called an E-meter to help eliminate engrams. Attached to the E-meter — actually a simplified lie detector — the subject reveals traumatic and intimate events to a church counselor, or "auditor." The process, says church doctrine, will free, or "clear," the faithful of misery.

After the church was founded in 1955, Scientology franchises, or "minions," were formed worldwide to minister to an expanding flock. Some one-on-one auditing sessions reportedly cost more than $1,000 an hour. And, since Scientologists believe in reincarnation, previous lives must also be audited. Members reportedly have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars before a church auditor has declared them "clear."

Former Scientologists have told bizarre tales of intimidation, blackmail and detention. The church has paid disaffected members millions to settle dozens of lawsuits alleging fraud and abuse.

The American Medical Association is among the church's many detractors, several of whom have labeled Scientology a cult. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Paul G. Breckenridge Jr., during a 1984 trial that blocked the church from reclaiming a former member's church documents, pronounced the Scientology organization "schizophrenic and paranoid," and described Hubbard as "a pathological liar."

Critics allege that Scientology is a business masquerading as a religion, and the government has often agreed. The church was stripped of its tax-exempt status in 1967. During court testimony in the early 1980s, former officials claimed that the church's weekly income was $2 million and that $100 million in profits had been transferred to foreign bank accounts.

In 1979, 11 Scientologists, including Hubbard's wife, were convicted of infiltrating, burglarizing and wire-tapping more than 100 government agencies, including the IRS, FBI and CIA. Prosecutors said the operation was an effort to obtain confidential files compiled on the church.

Throughout most of the 1970s, Hubbard lived in hiding or cruised international waters in his 342-foot ship, the Apollo, safe from government scrutiny. In 1980, he withdrew to a ranch near San Luis Obispo, from which he controlled his empire through three trusted "messengers." Hubbard was never again seen in public. He died in 1986.