Scientology Crime Syndicate

Scientology -- Is This a Religion?

Stephen A. Kent <skent@gpu.srv.ualberta.ca>
Department of Sociology
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA
T6G 2H4

Abstract: Although some social scientists insist that Scientology is a religion, the more appropriate position to take is that the organization is a multi-faceted transnational that has religion as only one of its many components.

Other components include political aspirations, business ventures, cultural productions, pseudo-medical practices, pseudo-psychiatric claims, and (among its most devoted members who have joined the Sea Organization), an alternative family structure.

Sea Organization's job demands appear to allow little time for quality child rearing. Most disturbing, however, about Sea Organization life is that members can be subject to extremely severe and intrusive punishments through security checks, internal hearings called "Committees of Evidence," and a forced labour and re-indoctrination program known as the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF) and its harshest companion, the RPF's RPF.

Taken together, these harsh and intrusive punishments likely violate a number of human rights clauses as outlined by two United Nations statements.

This is a revised and corrected version of a shorter presentation given at the 27th Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag, June 20, 1997, Leipzig, Germany.

Scientology and Probable Human Rights Abuses

Even to concede that Scientology may be a religion to many of its adherents, the basis for German governmental opposition to it has nothing to do with what people believe. It has everything to do with what German government officials know that the organization does. Consequently, this presentation concentrated heavily on the organization's social-psychological assaults on many of its most committed members, and I barely mentioned Scientology's ideological system. The assaults that I described are ones that German government officials seem to know about, and with that knowledge they have no choice other than to see Scientology as a threat to the democratic state. Were officials to grant Scientology religious status, then even more citizens than already now do, would increase their involvement to the point of becoming Sea Org members, and then at least some of them would be subject to the brutal conditions and programs that I described. With Germany's unique experiences with both National Socialism and Communism, it is unthinkable that responsible officials would facilitate the operation of a totalitarian organization that throws its members into forced labour and reeducation camps.

One of the tragedies in this debate is that normal Scientologists will feel persecuted and threatened. These people likely know nothing about RPF conditions, and they genuinely feel that Scientology involvement has benefitted them. The organization to which they belong, however, appears to be committing serious human rights abuses. Consequently, I conclude my presentation by highlighting areas of concern raised by examining the United Nations' 1948 resolution entitled The International Bill of Human Rights (United Nations, 1996b), and the 1996 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (United Nations, 1996a).

First, Scientology's procedures involving committees of evidence, sec checking, gang bang sec checking, and the two RPF programs almost certainly violate Articles 9 and 10 of the Bill. Article 9 protects people against "arbitrary arrest, detention or exile" while article 10 guarantees "a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his [sic] rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him" (United Nations, 1996: 23).

Second, Scientology's punishment of members for merely discussing the merits of Hubbard's teachings, as well as its invasive probing into people's thoughts though sec checking, almost certainly violate Articles 18 and 19 of the Bill that deal with both "the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion" and "the right to freedom of opinion and expression" (United Nations, 1996: 25).

Third, the various Scientology practices and procedures that I discussed may violate Article 17 of the Bill, which states that "[n]o one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation" (United Nations, 1996: 49).

Fourth, the conditions of the RPF and the RPF's RPF almost certainly violate Article 7 of the Covenant, which discusses "the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work..." (United Nations, 1996a: 38). The article specifically identifies fair wages, "[a] decent living for themselves and their families..., [s]afe and healthy working conditions..., and [r]est, leisure, and reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay...." (United Nations, 1996a: 38). Indeed, many Sea Org jobs themselves may not meet these reasonable standards of propriety, safety, and fairness.

Fifth and finally, the extreme social psychological assaults and forced confessions that RPF and RPF's RPF inmates suffer almost certainly violate Article 12 of the Covenant, which recognizes "the right of everyone to enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health" (United Nations, 1996a: 18).

These and probably other serious human rights issues swirl around Scientology programs that have tax exemption and operate within the boundaries of the United States. With these serious issues in mind, the American human rights criticism of Germany's opposition to Scientology is the height diplomatic arrogance. By granting Scientology tax exemption, the United States government is cooperating with an organization that appears to put citizens from around the world at significant mental health and perhaps medical risk. While in no way do I want my remarks today to be taken as a blanket endorsement of the German government's rhetoric or tactics, on the battle with Scientology the government has the high moral ground.


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