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What is Scientology

These days, no matter where you go on the Net, you're likely to see someone talking about the Church of Scientology. You've probably heard of Scientology and its founder, L. Ron Hubbard: he started the movement in the 1950s and built it up to a multinational organization. The Church of Scientology has put copies of Dianetics into nearly every bookstore and library in America and other countries, and they have an unending public relations campaign for the book, which they claim will help you to lead a better life. Dianetics centers offer free "personality tests" to people, and Scientology is also active in the fight against drugs.

But if you ask about Scientology anywhere on the Internet, you are likely to be answered by statements of distrust, skepticism, and suspicion. All across the Net - and all over the world - people are viewing the Church of Scientology with a critical eye. The users of the Internet are not buying into Scientology's carefully sculpted image. To a growing number of Netizens, the term "Scientologist" is being equated with "bully," "liar," and "cult fanatic."

So why do so many people distrust the Church of Scientology?

Since the fall of 1994, the denizens of the Internet have been eyewitnesses to an online battle, the likes of which have never been seen before – and which has opened the eyes of a great many people. While many people still think the Church of Scientology is just a weird religion, the truth is being revealed online. While Scientology has always denied this, critics charge that there is another side to the Church of Scientology. A side, they say, that the Church has been trying to keep hidden from the world for over forty years. A dark and sinister side, rife with greed, corruption, and a lust for power and control.

Is this statement overdramatic, perhaps? Read on, my friend…and learn for yourself the truth about the organization that calls itself the Church of Scientology.

Scientology entry in Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia

Wikipedia is a free public-domain Web-based encyclopedia that exists entirely due to the efforts of visitors to the Web site. It consists entirely of text written by contributors to the site, and anyone can change and update the text of the article at any time to make it more accurate, and to correct any mistakes that they may find. (It's free, and you don't have to register with the Web site in order to edit the articles there; though a lot of regulars do so.) Wikipedia strives to maintain a neutral point of view on all of its topics, even a subject as controversial as Scientology. The Wikipedia entry on Scientology is an excellent beginner's introduction that offers both sides of the story, pro and con.

The Total Freedom Trap by Jon Atack

This link will give you an idea of why Scientology is so controversial (many people say dangerous). It's a history of L. Ron Hubbard's life, Dianetics, Scientology, and what his teachings have done over the years. Mr. Atack makes a lot of claims in this essay, and the facts backing them up can be found in his book, A Piece of Blue Sky.

Time Magazine article: The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power by Richard Behar

The cover story from the May 6, 1991 issue of Time, this story brought the truth about Scientology to a great many people…and drew the wrath of the Church. Scientology filed a $500 million lawsuit against Time and dragged the case through the legal system for five years, but on July 16, 1996, the case was finally dismissed. It was determined that the article is, in fact, not libellous and thus Time was not biased against the Church of Scientology.

60 Minutes investigates Scientology: RealVideo (RealVideo player required to access these files)

The Clearwater Conspiracy: June, 1980
Scientology Update: December 22, 1985
The Cult Awareness Network: December 28, 1997
The top-rated prime time news program 60 Minutes has produced three reports on Scientology over the years. The first program aired in 1980, and it examined the arrival of the organization into the city of Clearwater, Florida, in the late 1970s. The second broadcast, in 1985, took a look at L. Ron Hubbard's life and included an interview with Heber Jentzsch, the president of the organization; Scientology sued 60 Minutes after this show was aired and apparently obtained a court injunction permanently barring it from being shown again in the United States. (However, this particular file is archived at a site in Sweden.) The third piece came over a dozen years later, in late 1997, when 60 Minutes investigated the collapse of the Cult Awareness Network and its transformation by the people who eventually purchased its name and logo: members of Scientology. (These programs are currently archived at Roland Rashleigh-Berry's multimedia archive, which also includes a number of other television and radio broadcasts covering Scientology. Also included at this site is an interview with L. Ron Hubbard by a British reporter in 1968, entitled The Shrinking World of L. Ron Hubbard.

Scientology videos on Google Video

A sizable number of news reports, videos, self-produced documentaries (and commentaries), and other video presentations about Scientology have been produced, especially within the last decade since the rise of the Internet. Many of these videos are now archived at Google Video, where you can view them for free. One would think that Scientology would take steps to flood Google with videos presenting this point of view, but strangely this hasn't happened yet.

The Scandal of Scientology by Paulette Cooper

The Church of Scientology launched "Operation Freakout" against Ms. Cooper after her book was published. Among other "dead-agenting" tactics, they forged a threat against Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on letterhead stolen from her office, which led to her criminal indictment in 1973 (charges dismissed, 1975). Her reputation was not cleared, however, until an FBI raid in 1977 uncovered Scientology documents detailing the campaign
against her.

The Road To Xenu by Margery Wakefield

A powerfully moving account of one woman's initiation into Scientology's practices and spiritual secrets. Wakefield finally escaped from the Church's grip when she learned the OT III story of Xenu and the body thetans and decided that Scientology was nonsense. Then she sued them.

Social Control in Scientology (1991) by FACTnet director Bob Penny

Ever wonder how people are secuded into organizations like Scientology? A companion to Wakefield's "Road to Xenu", this book by an ex-Scientologist explains the mechanisms, explicit and subtle, by which Scientology subverts the independence of its members.

Tilman's Testimonies

An anthology of true stories by "ordinary" people. Notable among them is Kim Baker's detailed account of her induction into, involvement with, and escape from Scientology in South Africa.

Ex-Scientology Kids

You couldn't find a better site to see the true face of people who have been hurt by Scientology. Here, former members of the organization gather to tell their stories and offer support to one another (and to all newcomers). What's more, the founders of this site have (or had) connections to the highest echelons of Scientology: Jenna Miscavige Hill is the niece of David Miscavige, current leader of Scientology; and Astra Woodcraft is a former member of the Sea Org, Scientology's elite "military" organization.

Bare-Faced Messiah -- The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard by Russell Miller

Gerry Armstrong was a high-ranking Scientologist in 1980, when he was asked to do research on the life of L. Ron Hubbard. This information was to be used in an actual biography of the beloved "Founder"…but the information that Armstrong discovered ended up driving him out of Scientology. This information was finally published in Russell Miller's 1987 book Bare-Faced Messiah…but rather than welcoming it, Scientology embarked on a campaign to suppress the book and have it banned. The campaign failed, and the book was published, but Miller was the subject of a long campaign of harassment as a result. His official statement on the authenticity and accuracy of this book notes: "Scientology lawyers in New York and Los Angeles made it clear in frequent letters that they expected me to libel and defame L. Ron Hubbard. When I protested that in thirty years as a journalist and writer I had never been accused of libel, I was apparently investigated and a letter was written to my publishers in New York alleging that my claim was 'simply not accurate'. It was, and is."

The Hubbard Is Bare by Jeff Jacobsen

Jeff Jacobsen is an Internet activist and former member of the United Pentecostal Church who has done extensive research into the backgrounds of Scientology, Dianetics, and L. Ron Hubbard. His essay, written in 1992, is a critical look into the scientific claims of Scientology that casts a skeptical eye on the organization's many claims of improved health and well-being. (This essay is a text file, 99K in size.)

The Secret Library of Scientology

This site at Carnegie-Mellon University archives a number of out-of-print and hard-to-find books about Scientology. In addition to many of the books listed here, you can look at other books with information about the organization, including Understanding Scientology, The O.J. Roos Story, Believe What You Like, The Commodore & The Colonels, Documents of a Lifetime, and more. Another archive of books includes links to still more hard-to-find publications. (Please note, however, that the legality of placing copyrighted materials, such as these books, onto a Web page is questionable.)

Scientology Celebrity FAQ

Hosted by Tilman Hausherr, one of the veteran participants on the newsgroup alt.religion.scientology. Among his other projects, Tilman has spent years compiling an exhaustive list of every Scientologist who has appeared in the public eye. From major stars who shill for Scientology (Tom Cruise, John Travolta), to some very surprising names that many people probably wouldn't associate with Scientology (Neil Gaiman was a member briefly in the late 1970s!) – they're all here.

Current Events Involving Scientology

Every so often, Scientology becomes the center of attention in an event or incident involving local or world affairs, and this touches off a number of stories in various media. These links will take you to World Wide Web sites devoted to some of these current events.

Project Chanology: ANONYMOUS' war against Scientology

(See also: Project Chanology on Wikipedia)
The online Scientology wars of the late 1990s had settled down to a struggle simmering below the surface of the Internet by the time the 21st century debuted. But in January of 2008, the war suddenly erupted as gangs of hackers banded together to declare war on the Church of Scientology. Calling themselves ANONYMOUS, they launched a series of cyber-attacks against Scientology's Web sites that temporarily brought down the organization's major Web sites…and sent Scientology scurrying to the authorities begging for assistance in prosecuting them. But this was only the first stage of the battle, as ANONYMOUS declared its intention to wipe out Scientology for good.

The Bridge - a movie about Scientology

In September of 2006, a feature-length motion picture (one hour and nine minutes long) about a person's life in Scientology was released onto the Internet and made available for free, legal downloading and distribution. Shot in five days on a low budget, Brett Hanover's The Bridge has already been described by Scientology's critics as an accurate, thoughtful look at the people who dedicate their lives to Scientology – without understanding what is really happening in the organization.
(On my own page of Cast Iron Movie Reviews, I include my own review of ''The Bridge'', an analysis and review of the film. I hope you like it.)

Free Katie

The talk about Tom Cruise and his involvement in Scientology has been constant, if low-key, since Cruise's rise to fame in the 1980s. But in 2004, Cruise replaced his manager and agent with one that gave him more free reign to discuss Scientology (his own sister, also a Scientologist); and beginning in 2005, Tom Cruise's public endorsement and promotion became front-page news. It seemed as though a day didn't pass without mention of Cruise and Scientology – and his relationship with his girlfriend, Katie Holmes. After only two months of dating, Holmes announced she was "converting" to Scientology, and possible marriage to Cruise was the buzz in all of the gossip columns. But Katie Holmes' fans objected to her relationship with Scientology, and a number of persons suggested that Scientology had been forced upon her by Cruise. In response, they began the "Free Katie" site, with message boards (and T-shirts) dedicated to discussion of Katie Holmes and her relationship with Scientology.

Reed Slatkin Media Resource

Earthlink co-founder Reed Slatkin, an unregistered investment manager and ordained Scientology minister, admitted to defrauding clients of approximately 255 million dollars in a Ponzi-type investment scheme. Many of his victims were fellow Scientologists; others were wealthy investors with Hollywood connections. The legal battle involving the recovery of the lost millions has involved many prominent Scientologists, especially the legal representatives and lawers who work for Scientology on a regular basis.

Lisa McPherson Memorial Page:

Lisa McPherson was a member of Scientology until her death at the age of 36, on December 5, 1995. The events surrounding her death have raised a considerable controversy, including stories in Florida newspapers such as the St. Petersburg Times and Tampa Tribune, to the point where criminal felony charges have been filed against the organization for its role in the affair. Lisa's family has filed a lawsuit against the Church of Scientology. Jeff Jacobsen has constructed this Web site, designed to explain as much about this case as possible.

The Minton Papers: Scientology vs. Robert S. Minton

Over the course of late 1997 through 1998, Robert S. Minton was declared Public Enemy #1 in the eyes of Scientology. In the months and years following, he was subjected to a worldwide, obsessive campaign of investigation and harassment that would put the CIA and the FBI to shame. After becoming involved in personal issues that resulted in the loss of his marriage and many of his business contacts (which many Scientology critics ardently believe were intentionally caused by Scientology), Minton capitulated and began working for Scientology in a strange about-face. Before its collapse, Minton was the Co-founder of the Lisa McPherson Trust in Clearwater, Florida, which had its headquarters within walking distance of Scientology's worldwide retreat, the Fort Harrison Hotel. The maintainer of Holy Smoke maintains an archive on Robert Minton's correspondence and notable messages on the newsgroup alt.religion.scientology. (See also: How Scientology Turned Its Biggest Critic)

Scientology versus Germany: Frequently Asked Questions

In later months of 1996, Scientology launched a series of attacks on the government of Germany, through full-paged published ads in the New York Times and other newspapers, along with a much-publicized advertisement in the which was signed by 34 famous celebrities from Hollywood. Scientology made repeated claims that Germany was engaging in "Nazi" persecution of Scientologists in that country, and Germany official responded with harshly-worded replies denying these charges. Cornelius Krasel, a resident of Germany with first-hand access to the facts, has compiled this list of answers to the questions most frequently asked when looking at the question of Scientology's actions in Germany. Scientology has its own Web site giving the Scientology point of view about the German controversy, though the picture there contrasts starkly with the one given by Germany. Consistently updated coverage of the actions in Germany concerning Scientology can be found at the Radio Free Scientology Web site.

New York Times article -- The Shadowy Story Behind Scientology's Tax Exempt Status by Douglas Frantz

The front page story of the New York Times, on March 9, 1997. Scientology has proudly proclaimed the fact that it was finally awarded tax-exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service in October of 1993. But the story behind that award, as reporter discovered, was far from an open-and-shut case: in fact, it was an unexpected turn of events that shocked many of those who knew about Scientology and its multiple lawsuits against the IRS. This newspaper article was the result of an in-depth investigation by the Times. People seeking additional information about Scientology's tax-exempt status may also be interested in the lawsuit filed by a government-watchdog organization, Tax Analysts vs. Internal Revenue Service. On March 25, 1997, the Wall Street Journal followed up on the Times article with its own editorial on Scientology's tax exemption. On December 31, 1997, the story of Scientology's tax exemption suddenly became more dramatic when a secret document detailing the agreement was leaked to the New York Times. The Wall Street Journal again followed up with an editorial on February 24 1998. Chris Owen's Web site, Scientology vs. the IRS, is compiling updates to the story.

Raul Lopez Web Site

One of the saddest recent cases involving Scientology concerns the story of a gentleman named Raul Lopez, who was awarded $1.7 million in damages stemming from a highway accident involving an construction company big rig hitting his truck in 1985. Mr. Lopez was introduced to Scientology and enticed by promises to aid or even be cured of his physical condition. In the years following, his entire fortune was lost and he was left penniless. The story of this case is one that has shocked both critics and Scientologists alike.

Occupied Clearwater

Pinellas County resident Mark Dallara has done an outstanding job of researching the history of the city of Clearwater, Florida, ever since Scientology chose this city as the location for its spiritual Mecca in 1976. In that year, an organization called the "United Council of Churches" bought the town's Fort Harrison Hotel outright, and promptly turned it into a Scientology center known as "Flag Base." Desite having a presence in the city for over twenty years now, Scientology's relationship with Clearwater and its citizens has been anything but harmonious. Mark's Occupied Clearwater page is a detailed expose of the slow but steady expansion of Scientology into the Clearwater community.

ABC News: 20/20 investigates Scientology

 (broadcast December 20, 1998)
On a Sunday evening in December of 1998, in the midst of a flurry of media coverage of Presidential impeachment hearings and American bombing in Iraq, ABC News' 20/20 aired an hour-long report on Scientology. The news show looked at the death of Lisa McPherson, and it includes interviews with famous celebrity Scientologists John Travolta and Kirstie Alley. This Web site in Sweden is a multimedia archive containing many audio and video recordings of TV broadcasts about Scientology, including the 60 Minutes piece and others. The recordings are all available in RealAudio and RealVideo. It is necessary for you to have a working copy of the RealPlayer software to see and hear the streaming audio and video on this site.

Scientology Unmasked

On March 1 to 5, 1998, the Boston Herald ran a five-part series of articles summarizing the growth and influence of Scientology in the area of New England. This series was seen as a bombshell, not only for the details it revealed but also because of the extensive coverage Scientology received in a widely-read, mainstream daily newspaper. Scientology's reaction to the series has been interesting indeed, as was reported in the Boston Phoenix on March 12: "The Herald has been deluged with e-mail, much of it from Scientologists and their supporters. Protesters from Delphi Academy marched in front of One Herald Square. Scientology has been fighting back in the media as well, dispatching church officials to local talk
shows…The anti-Herald campaign is not over yet, promises the Reverend Heber Jentzsch, president of the Church of Scientology International. 'The attorneys are trying to find out what's behind a 25-page story which reeks of racism and
bigotry, and contains more falsehoods per square inch than is physically possible,' Jensch says. 'We're preparing a response, and it will be well-distributed throughout Boston. I can promise you that it will be of interest to the people of Boston who like to know the truth." Scientology published 150,000 copies of a booklet attacking the Herald's journalism, and distributed the piece throughout the Boston area. In August of 1998 the publication was made available online at The Boston Herald: Merchants of Sensationalism.

Greece Uncovers Scientology

Yet another event took place when law enforcement officials in Greece staged raids against the organization called KEPHE, Scientology's outreach organization in that country. As a result of the raids, thousands of pages of documents were made public and the organization in Greece was ordered to close for good on October 7, 1996.

Odhran Fortune Web Page

Odhran Fortune is a resident of Ireland who has been a member of Scientology for a number of years. His family believes that his remaining in Scientology may be a threat to his health, well-being, and mental stability, and they have embarked on a campaign to convince Scientology to let him return to them. This incident has already generated a sizable amount of media coverage, as well as court orders preventing the family from protesting within range of Scientology offices.

Return to An Introduction to Scientology