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The Sterling Road to Scientology
Business Consulting and Training Seminars Really Sell Scientology
THE BUSINESS LINK
A Publication of the Better Business Bureau Serving Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino Counties of California
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The Sterling Road to Scientology
Business Consulting and Training Seminars Really Sell Scientology
"... in the end, money is what Scientology is all about." Time Magazine, May 6, 1991
When Dr. Scott Sutherland and his wife, Amy, finished an introductory seminar in Chicago last summer, they were sold on Sterling Management Systems. So sold that within the next few days they signed a contract for thousands of dollars worth of "professional training courses ," to be augmented, they learned later, by more courses for still more money.
The Sutherlands flew to Sterling's headquarters in Glendale, California, soon after, convinced that they would learn, through the training, how they could improve their medical practice, attract more patients, and improve collections.
Once in California, the Sutherlands, like many others, began their week with an in-depth discussion with their assigned consultant about improving Scott's practice. Before long, though, the discussion turned to the results of the personality assessment questionnaires they had previously completed. Both Scott and Amy, the consultant said, had problems that would never allow them to realize the advantages they had hoped to gain from; the courses they'd signed up for.
The solution? Handle the problems first.
Thus entered a representative from the Dianetics office down the hall from Sterling Management. [A recent article in California magazine defines Dianetics as "a mental 'science' formulated by the late fabulist L. Ron Hubbard (founder of Scientology) and introduced to the world in the book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health."]
________________________ INSIDE . .. Cult Awareness Network ........ 4 Before you SIgn a Contract ...... 4 Scientology's Facades .......... S FTC Polishes Advertising Image... 6 ________________________
The Sutherlands had noticed mention of Scientology in Sterling's General Enrollment Agreement, which credited L. Ron Hubbard with having developed a management technology "being successfully applied in many businesses and professional practices" and with having rounded the "Scientology religious philosophy." In spite of their reservations about it, though, they had taken the Agreement at its word -- that it was a technology applied in business and professional practices.
"Sterling Management denied any ties to Dianetics. 'If you have problems you see someone in Dianetics. Sterling is business management.'"
Scott says Sterling Management denied any ties to Dianetics, telling them, "If you have problems, you see someone in Dianetics. Sterling is 'business management.' They agreed to be audited [a Dianetics technique, according to Time magazine's May 6 article on Scientology, that uses a simplified lie detector called an "E-meter" to measure electrical changes in the skin while subjects usually discuss intimate details of their past]. "It was a very hard sell," they say.
Immediately afterward, the Sutherlands decided against being audited and in spite of more "hard sell,"'they held their ground. They have requested but have not gotten back any of the money they paid Sterling Management.
The Sutherlands' experience with Sterling Management Systems is, with slight variations, typical of what others (usually professional men and women -- doctors, dentists, veterinarians) report to the Better Business Bureau. The innocuous-looking card most of them receive in the mail, inviting them to Sterling's introductory seminar, is the first step down a financial and emotional toll-road that will quickly detour them to Scientology.
Besides soliciting through these invitational cards, Time says that Sterling Management also mails a free newsleller to more than 300,000 health-care professionals, mostly dentists, promising to increase their incomes dramatically through their seminars and courses. The Church of Scientology, Time says, attacts "the unwary through a wide array of front groups in such businesses as publishing, consulting, health care, and even remedial education." The group recruits "wealthy and respectable professionals through a web of consulting groups that typically hide their ties to Scientology." Sterling Management's "true aim," it says, "is to hook customers for Scientology."
"... the training was fraudulently presented as a professional management seminar when in reality it is a front to promote Scientology. "
Complaints to the Bureau seem to bear this out. Statements such as, "... we feel the [Sterling Management's] training was fraudulently presented as a professional management seminar when in reality it is a front to promote Scientology," and "the course's content was infiltrated with Scientology philosophy as were the instructors of these courses," appear in complaints, as do phrases like "a lot of pressure," "hard sell," etc. And Sterling Management, according to complaints, denies any involvement in Dianetics but holds that they are business management.
Not all of Scientology's disguised solicitations, though, come through the mail, and not all are from Sterling Management. Bureau employee Carla Simms became part of a blanket-to-blanket solicitation at the beach last month, when she was asked to fill out a pink "Dianetics" questionnaire and stick it in the sand to be picked up later. She declined. Chino resident Susie Ridgeway answered her door to someone who handed her a pink "personality survey" containing 50 or 60 questions. Not knowing what the word "Dianetics" on it meant, she and her husband, Ted, each filled one out. A couple of days later they received a call, asking them to come to an office in Tustin to go over some of their personality traits. Told this was for "self-improvement," the Ridgeways went.
The rest of their story is similar to others. Susie was led into one room, Ted into another. Each was told they should take the courses to help the other. Disenchanted by getting a sales pitch, Susie tried once to leave. Nevertheless, she and Ted signed up. When she later noticed "Church of Scientology" on their charge slip, Susie, a member of another church, decided she wanted nothing to do with Scientology.
The Ridgeways called the next day and were told "No problem; bring the literature back and we'll credit your account." They brought the books back. Once there, though, they were sent to the chaplain's office, where they were kept waiting hours to see her.
"They were giving people something to drink... they would say, 'Here, drink this. You'll feel better.'"
Susie describes what she saw and heard while they waited in the courtyard outside the chaplain's office: "[Scientology] people were walking around with walkde talkies.. . they were giving people something to drink in a paper cup -- people who were saying things like, 'I don't undentand...' 'I want to leave...' One of them was a 12 or 13-year-old girl. They [the Scientologists] would say, 'Here, drink this and -- you'll feel better.'
In the same courtyard, Ted, Susie says, overheard Scientologists tell a nine-year-old boy that he owed them $900 but could work it off.
When the chaplain finally saw the Ridgeways to tell them there was nothing she could do to give them their money back, Susie lost her temper. "You deceived us all the way," she shouted. "We didn't know this was a church -- it's nothing more than a cult." Ted and Susie left, without their refund. "At this point, we were frazzled," she says. "We didn't know what to do."
As to the classes themselves, Dr. La Veme Hutchinson, an Ohio orthodontist who was solicited by Sterling Management, calls them "farcical." "They're a subtle indoctrination," she says. She describes the text material as "rambling," and notes that "90 percent of the teachings were repetitious." But you don't know that when you order books, she says, because they don't arrive until you're back home.
"Every book in Sterling ManagemenFs offices except the telephone book and dictionary are the writings of L. Ron Hubbard."
She also notes that every book in Sterling Management's offices except the telephone book and dictionary are the writing of L. Ron Hubbard. "Even God used a variety of authors to write His Bible," she says.
She tells about the 12-hour days spent in training: "You're isolated, treated like a child. You check in and check out. You answer roll call. You aren't to speak to anyone else. If you speak to a room monitor. You must raise your hand, You keep busy doing their things on their schedule."
Dr. Hutchinson credits having been forewarned to "watch out for certain things and not get sucked into Scientology" with keeping her from getting in deeper. Still, she has not gotten back any of the thousands of dollars she paid.
Dr.Hutchinson's partner in some of the class exercises was Dee Rowe, of Gadsden, Alabama, who, with her dentist husband, Glover, had flown to Glendale for management training. The Rowes; story was told, in part, in Time magazine's article.
Again, taking Dee into one room and Glover into another, they convinced the Rowes to agree to auditing by predicting that without it their marriage wouldn't last a year and Dee would abuse their child. Dee says about the classes: "I feel very strongly that mind control techniques were in effect from the beginning. We were there from 9 a.m. till 10 p.m. or midnight... I begged them to let me take a nap."
In one of the tirst courses, she says, "they pointed out to us, by asking specific questions, how everyone in our lives -- family and friends -- had controlled and manipulated us and turned us into the kind of people we are now. They pitted us against our family."
Dee wanted to leave when she was told she and Glover would have to turn their minds over to them completely. She was then held in a room at the Church of Scientology, her captor planted between her and the door, for seven hours while Scientologists moved into Glover's hotel room with him for two days and nights.
"Pretend you're watching a pornographic movie and I'm blind. Describe it to me."
Dee tells about pressure to undergo auditing. Ordering her to pick up the E-meter cans, she was asked questions such as "What evil intentions do you have against the Church of Scientology?" Hours later, exhausted, she pretended to be mentally under the control of her interrogator, saying whatever she thought he wanted to hear. He then asked about sexual experiences. "Pretend you're watching a pornographic movie and I'm blind. Describe it to me," he instructed. When he left the room 15 or 20 minutes later to consult with his case supervisor, she bolted. "I'd overheard Dianetics people say they lived in the neighborhood near the church," Dee says, "so I ran away from there to the highway. Then I heard footsteps behind me and realized that one of them was chasing me. When I tried to flag a car down, he stopped. Just stopped and stared at me as I ran. I came to an intersection and a car pulled up. Another guy I recognized jumped out and started after me. I ran back the other way to get away from him. He got back into the car, turned around and pulled up beside me, and said, 'Dee, get in.'" I ran in the opposite direction until I found a pay phone and called police."
Dee and Glover now speak to community groups and churches about their experience in the hope of helping others avoid being drawn in to Scientology.
Los Angeles attorney Barry Van Sickle, who is filing suit against the Church of Scientology on behalf of the Rowes for such causes of action as infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy, says that most people believe the church is a cult. He cites such reasons as the extreme loyalty (in some cases abandonment of children) it demands of its followers, the break with other family members, the philosophies that "if it's written by L. Ron Hubbard it must be right," that no one besides the church has such vision and knowledge of the "truth," and that Scientology is the one and only answer.
The 15 complaints received by the Bureau so far have come from widely scattered parts of the United Sates -- from Pennsylvania to California, Minnesota to Texas. Most who complain are outraged enough to send additional pages detailing their experience with Sterling. Asking for reimbursement of amounts of up to $20,000, a few of them get it -- after deducting, of course, the amount representing that portion of the "services" they received, and less a hefty 15 percent "termination fee." Although some complain about this fee, saying that the contract was first breached by Sterling, others, like the Sutherlands, are willing to forego reimbursement just to sever their relationship with Sterling.
Many of the complainants we talked to told of harrassment after they walked away from Sterling Management or Scientology-tactics ranging from several phone calls daily, for months, to the ploy of two Scientologists who knocked at the Ridgeways' door, claiming to represent the Social Security Administralion and demanding to inspect their bank statements. Although most of these complainants expressed some fear for their safety if the Church of Scientology could identify them through this article, all of them told us their stories, saying, "Yes, I'd do anything I can to stop them."
Note: The names and locations of everyone mentioned in this article except those of Glover and Dee Rowe, and Barry Van Sickle have been changed at their request.
[Note by STOP-WISE.BIZ: this article was published in 1991. In the meantime has Scientology destroyed the Cult Awareness Network and its name, logo, post office box and hot-line phone number have been bought by scientologist lawyer Steven L. Hayes. So don't ever call them, you will be talking with scientologists. Read Chicago Tribune, 2 February 1997]
Cult Awareness Network Aids Cult Victims, Families, the Public
The Cult Awareness Network, a nonprofit educational group headquartered in Chicago, is dedicated to helping those victimized by cults and alerting the public to the dangers of destructive cults. Through its 28 volunteer chapters across the country, it provides support for families victimized by cults, assists law enforcement and government agencies to document prosecutable offenses and combat abuse within cults, and arranges over 250 educational programs a year to alert educators, clergy and mental health professionals on how to recognize and help cult victims.
Among their services for the public at large, CAN publishes a monthly newsletter which includes articles by cult experts and ex-cult members.
CAN's Executive Director, Cynthia Kisser, says they maintain extensive information files on the Church of Scientology. "We handle several hundred inquiries a year and maintain a network of people knowledgeable on Scientology should someone need personal help and support."
CAN offers some characteristics of cults:
"Cults discourage family life. Adults are busy with activities that advance the cult's agenda. Normal childhood behavior is discouraged. Children are often deprived of toys and isolated from children outside the cult. They may also be deprived of visits with parents who have left the cult, or with grandparents. Children may be required to participate in endless rituals, excessive meditation or to work at tasks inappropriate for their age. Diets are often restricted. Discipline may be excessive."
___________________________________ To contact the Cult Aware- ness Network, write them at 2421 West Pratt Boulevard, Suite 1173, Chicago, Illinois, 60645, or call (312) 267-7777. WHAT TO LOOK FOR BEFORE YOU SIGN A CONTRACT
The Better Business Bureau advises you to keep these things in mind before you sign a contract with Sterling Management Systems or anyone else:
Front Groups of the Church that is not a Church
Sterling Management is but one of many of the Scientology cult's front groups. Listed below are some of the others:
ABLE (The Association for Better Living and Education) runs some of the Church's front groups and activities. Under ABLE's management, other fronts infiltrate businesses and organizations to introduce L. Ron Hubbard's ideas and methods.
Applied Scholastics and Education Alive train and tutor in Hubbard's STUDY TECH and attempt to get various Scientology programs into local PTA's and school systems. Delphi Schools, Apple Schools, Mace-Kingsley schools, Beanstalk School, True School, Basic Educa-- Tion Center, Ability Plus Schools, Pinewood School and others teach Hubbard's education method and the cult's philosophy to children of cult members and the uninformed public.
The Way to Happiness Foundation promotes a Hubbard booklet on morality to U.S. public schools.
Concerned Businessmen of America distributes these same booklets to community groups, police, prisons and other organizations. They also distribute it to schools, offering a monetary prize to the class submitling the best essay on the booklet,
Cry Out interfaces with organizations like Greenpeace and capitalizes on children's environmental concerns. It distributes comic booklike primer on the environment, sponsored by Arsenio Hall and Rick Dees and making no mention of Scientology, to schoolchildren.
Narconon's chain of alcohol and drug rehabilitation centers (those used in prisons are Criminon cenlets) draws addicts into the cult. Citizens Commissions on Human Rights, in its war against psychiatry, disseminates reports discrediting psychiatry and individual psychiatrists.
HealthMed solicits unions and public agencies contracts for its regimen of saunas, exercise and vitamins promoted to purify the body.
VOCAL (Victims of Child Abuse Legislation) usually sides with accused child abusers and its board member, Lee Coleman, testifies, for pay, against the testimony of the psychiatrist or psychologist who examined the child and reported the molestation. Coleman rounded the Center for the Study of Psychiatric Testimony and testifies on its behalf against the use and validity of psychiatric testimony.
FASE (Foundation for the Advancement of Science and Education), without mentioning Scientology, recently produced a series of educational TV shows, aired on Public TV, promoting the study of science and mathematics. Its goal is to establish credibility for Hubbard's drug rehabilitation and education methods and attract "Opinion Leaders" in the scientific community.
The National Toxics Campaign publicizes pollution in the environment to drive business into its cult- operated "Purification Rundown" (the "treatment" program used by Narconon) clinics.
The National Coalition of IRS Whistleblowers, anti-IRS because the Internal Revenue Service has repeatedly denied tax-exempt status to Scientology, attempts to thwart collection of millions in taxes owed by Scientology. Citizens for an Alternative Tax System (CATS), attempts to do away with the income tax system and IRS entirely. The Church of Spiritual Technology (COST) is one of the corporations Scientology periodically creates to challenge the IRS's ruling against them.
NCLE (National Commission of Law Enforcement) claims INTERPOL, which has been investigating and reporting on Scientology's alleged criminal activities, is run by NAZIs.
The Religious Freedom Crusade, which replaced the Alliance for the Preservation of Religious Liberty (APRL) interfaces with other cults. It gathers staff and followers to demonstrate against whatever organization or court may be investigating, attacking, or sitting in judgment of Scientology. Through its periodicals, "Freedom" and "Crusader," it raises public outcry against the offending institution.
Cynthia Kisser, Executive Director of the Cult Awareness Network in Chicago affirms that Sterling Management exists primarily to advance the cause of the Church of Scientology. She believes that most people can be spared exploitation by Scientology and its front groups if they are made aware of the link tween them.
Priscilla Coates, local Cult Awareness Network representative, cautions that Scientology has many more front organizations than these. If you are invited to a management seminar, or if you are approached in some other way, she advises you to "be scared if you are asked to take a personality test that asks you, 'are you curious about yoursel F?.'" Other Scientology giveaways on published materials are an L. Ron Hubbard copyright or mention of WISE (World Institute of Scientology Enterprises).
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