Friday, 13 April 2012

Inside Scientology

Inside Scientology by Janet Reitman:

Scientologists do not look kindly on critics, particularly those who were once devout.

Apostasy, which in Scientology means speaking out against the church in any public forum, is considered to be the highest form of treason. This is one of the most serious "suppressive acts," and those who apostatize are immediately branded as "Suppressive Persons," or SPs. Scientologists are taught that SPs are evil — Hitler was an SP, says Rinder. Indeed,

Hubbard believed that a full 2.5 percent of the population was "suppressive." As he wrote in the Dianetics and Scientology Technical Dietionary, a suppressive person is someone who "goofs up or vilifies any effort to help anybody and particularly knife with violence anything calculated to make human beings more powerful or more intelligent."

Given this viewpoint, I wonder why anyone with connections to Scientology would critique them publicly. "Makes them famous," Rinder says. "They do it for their fifteen minutes."

Scientology has been extremely effective at attacking its defectors, often destroying their credibility entirely, a policy that observers call "dead agenting." Some of the church’s highest-profile critics say they have been on the receiving end of this policy. In the past six years, Tory Christman claims, the church has spread lies about her on the Internet, filed suit against her for violating an injunction for picketing on church property and attempted to get her fired from her job. Rinder dismisses Christman as a "wacko" and says her allegations are "absolute bullshit."

When Christman split from the church, her husband and most of her friends — all of them Scientologists — refused to talk to her again. Apostates are not just discredited from the church; the are also excommunicated, isolated from their loved ones who, under Scientology rules, must sever or "disconnect" from them. Scientology defines those associated with Suppressive People as "Potential Trouble Sources," or PTS.
Rinder says disconnection is a policy of last resort. "The first step is always to try to handle the situation," he says. A "handling" generally refers to persuading a wayward member to return to the church in order to maintain contact with his family. The parent of someone who’s apostatized might call his child and ask him to "handle" a problem by essentially recanting. "They’ll ask them to make some amends, show they can be trusted … something to make up the damage," says Davis. Those amends might range from volunteering in a literacy program to taking a public advocacy role — campaigning against psychiatry, for example.

But some people, the officials admit, refuse to be handled. What happens to them? "Then I guess not believing in Scientology means more to them than not seeing their family," Davis says.

Excommunication is nothing new in organized religion. A number of sects have similar policies to Scientology’s: the Amish, the Mormon Fundamentalists, the Jehovah’s

Witnesses. All have a rationale. Scientology’s rationale is very simple: "We are protecting the good of the religion and all the parishioners," says Rinder.
"It’s for the good of the group," says Davis.


During the time I was researching this piece, I received a number of e-mails from several of the Scientologists I had interviewed. Most were still technically members of the church in good standing; privately they had grown disillusioned and have spoken about their feelings for the first time in this article. All of the young people mentioned in this story, save Natalie, are considered by the church hierarchy to be Potential Trouble Sources. But many have begun to worry they will be declared Suppressive Persons.

Their e-mails expressed their second thoughts and their fears.

"Please, let me know what you will be writing in the story," wrote one young woman. "I just want to make sure that people won’t be able to read it and figure out who I am. I know my mom will be reading."

"The church is a big, scary deal," wrote another. "My [initial] attitude was if this information could save just one person the money, heartache and mind-bending control, then all would be worth it. [But] I’m frightened of what could happen."

"I’m about two seconds away from losing my whole family, and if that story comes out with my stuff in it, I will," wrote a third. "I’m terrified. Please, please, please … if it’s not too late. . . help me keep my family."

One particularly frantic e-mail arrived shortly before this story was published. It came from a young Scientologist with whom I had corresponded several times in the course of three or four months. When we first met, she spoke passionately and angrily about the impact of the church on herself and those close to her.

"Please forgive me," she wrote. "The huge majority of things I told you were lies. Perhaps I don’t like Scientology. True. But what I do know is that I was born with the family I was born with, and I love them. Don’t ask me to tear down the foundation of their lives." Like almost every young person mentioned in this piece, this woman was given a pseudonym to protect her identity, and her family’s. But it wasn’t enough, she decided. "This is my life. … Accept what I tell you now for fact: I will not corroborate or back up a single thing I said.

"I’m so sorry," she concluded. "I hope you understand that everyone I love is terribly important to me, and I am willing to look beyond their beliefs in order to keep them around. I will explain in further detail, perhaps, some other day."

Interesting article by Janet Reitman.

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