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Scientology: An evasive corporate cult

Title: Scientology: An evasive corporate cult
Date: Thursday, 21 February 2008
Publisher: Orato
Author: John Duignan
Main source: web.archive.org

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A new demand for transparency and justice from netzins...

In late January, news media across the world picked up on a phenomenal development on the Internet. A virtual civil rights movement had arisen from a most unlikely source: Internet gamers.

It all kicked off when an in-house video of Tom Cruise preaching to members of his faith, the controversial Church of Scientology, was leaked onto the Youtube internet video sharing site. Indeed, Cruise is a frightening spectacle and his incoherent rant include such gems as “The Scientologist are the only people who can really help at the scene of an accident” and “We are the only people with the solution to drug addiction and mental health.”

It is not improbable that the Scientology public relations division placed the video on Youtube themselves, under the misapprehension that it might result in a badly needed new influx of recruits; it would certainly be very difficult for anyone outside of the highly security-conscious organization to get hold of the piece. Whatever route it took, it got there, and received almost a million viewings before the church woke up to what was going on and had its legal team pull the damaging piece.

The fallout from the saga was severely damaging to the image the Scientology movement likes to portray, but because the piece had been posted, it was in essence public property. Scandal hungry TV and radio networks were not slow in using excerpts during news broadcasts and weaving it into ‘Hollywood Watch’ programs.

Comedians, always on the lookout for new material, began building in often hilarious ‘Cruise the preacher’ parodies to their shows. This was the kind of viral marketing that would give corporate CEOs nightmares. If that wasn’t bad enough however, the Youtube broadcast and its subsequent cancellation spiked the ire of a shadowy association called Anonymous.

On the fifth day of February, a video appeared on a number of Internet video hosting sites. The 10-minute graphic contained footage of city, sea and landscapes under accelerated and rapidly changing cloud and light overlaid with a computer-generated voice, devoid of emotion, which somehow served underline the animus with which the Church is viewed.

The disembodied voice described a movement that had been watching Scientology since the mid-1990s, and that it had taken note of the human rights abuses, the bribery and corruption of state legislators and lies the Church had used to achieve tax exemption and religious recognition from the IRS in 1993.

The voice went on to describe how the group called Anonymous would systematically dismantle the Church and closed with the chilling statement: “We do not forgive, we do not forget. Expect us.”

A week later, the editorial team of a Canadian online citizen journalism network Orato.com, for whom I had written articles on my life as a member of the militant cult, told me that my pieces had received something like 55,000 hits, and asked if I would be willing to do a series of radio talk-shows across the USA, followed by Canadian and Belgian TV news documentaries.

I suddenly became a very busy spokesman for the anti-Scientology movement. I was not unique in this; there are a number of individuals who have been speaking out against the Scientology operation for many years, but had never been picked up by the broad media, and their voices joined mine in shining the harsh light of truth on this shady religious corporation. Such is the power of Anonymous.

On the 12th of February, some seven thousand members of Anonymous picketed churches of Scientology across the world, wearing in the main, V for Vendetta masks and carrying signs that read ‘Remember Lisa’, ‘It is Lisa’s birthday’. These reference a woman who attempted to flee the Church’s Florida branch in 1995; she was removed from a hospital where she had sought refuge and brought back to the Scientology building in Clearwater, Florida. Fifteen days later, she was dead.

The protests were peaceful, but the Church saw fit to send private investigators after some of the groups, partially to intimidate and partially to gain information to carry out further intimidation. The Church, of course, was caught off guard. It has never flourished through publicity, and spokesmen-issued statements that branded the Anonymous movement as ‘cyber terrorists’ did nothing to quell the outrage the protesters were expressing.

The intent and motivation of the people who form Anonymous is possibly an expression of frustration by the conscience collective. It is people outraged at the fact that a very wealthy organization can factually get away with murder, can suppress dissent and impose its will on the weak and the voiceless.

I hope that by making a personal statement, a testimony if you like, with regard to my experiences within the cult that I may be able to articulate the collective anger and frustration personified by Anonymous.

I am one whom, in carrying out my assigned duties as an officer of The Church of Scientology International and The Church of Scientology Religious Education College Inc., abused a small number of individual’s right to freedom of their person. I caused harm to their person and harm to their mental state.

I was also abused by C of S (including imprisonment) and witnessed abuses by others in the name of that same organization.

That which was done to me, that which I carried out in Scientology’s name and those abuses I witnessed, were never prosecuted by the legal authorities in the countries in which they occurred, and they were covered up with some considerable skill.

Recent legislation here in Ireland has empowered victims of child abuse to come forward and prosecute action against the abusers. Much of the motivation for the adjusted legislation — emphasis on the rights of the individual child, as opposed to the previous system that sublimated those rights to that of ‘the family’ - came about as result of the stories of some of these children being taken up and championed by the broad public media.

Media took up stories as a result of the actions of a small group people involved in rape crisis centres, books and protests. The whole issue of equal rights for women, legal contraception and the recognition of a married woman as an individual under the law came about as result of a groundswell of outrage channeled by a small group of activists for woman’s rights. Such may be old news in America, but was only in the late 1980s that equal rights for women were enshrined in law here in my homeland.

Scientology is a for-profit corporate entity that is seeking to avoid scrutiny and tax related expense burdens. It has carried out illegal activities, such as imprisonment, and continues to do so under the cloak of ‘religious freedom’. It claims not be a business but it is listed as a corporation and owns several sub-corporations.

It claims protection from scrutiny by the authorities — a school cannot, but a religious institution can.

The US government has refused to do anything about this cult’s abuse of it's fallacious religious positioning, going so far as to grant it tax exempt status in 1993.

Scientology is engaged in the practice of unlicensed psychotherapy under the guise of religious ritual. This 'therapy' results in great damage to the individual partaking therein. If this cult’s management were dismantled, and the individual ‘local’ centres allowed to operate independently but overseen by national psychiatric or mental health authorities, then I think there would be little harm done.

Most Scientologists are, after all, very decent people. But they are lorded over by the Sea Organization, a quasi-military order that holds absolute power to dictate anything that happens in remote Scientology delivery centres.

It is in the Sea Organization that the majority of abuses are perpetuated, planned, ordered and in most cases, executed. The Sea Organization does not exist on paper; members of this elite are contracted to international and local corporate bodies depending on national tax and wage restrictions. The ‘Church’ has avoided paying even minimum wage in every country where staff are employed.

The authorities will not act against these corporations; they can only work on individually prosecuted cases, which the Church tends to settle out of court so that further scrutiny of the operation is avoided. This aspect of law serves to give the Sea Organization a free reign to carry on abusing people, stealing money and silencing dissent where it might occur.

I applaud the work of Anonymous; it is a protest against the right of an organization to operate what amounts to a separate state within the state, a dictatorship, with its very own prison camps, and a people devoting sole loyalty to a capricious entity outside of the legally constituted state in which it operates.

People in the Sea Organization, and to a lesser extent in the remote Scientology centres, have had their constitutional rights to their freedom subsumed by the leaders of this cult. They have no power, they have no freedom of thought, and they, while under command of the cult, have forfeited their rights of access to protection by constitutional law.

The Anonymous movement is not that of ‘band-Wagoners,' as some have disparaged. It is a collusion of free people practicing their civil right to protest against wrong. The action is empowering them, and it is empowering those of us who are now out. It will empower many others to feel that they have a say, that they can do something about the society around them.

It may go so far as to remind people that they can exercise their power to elect and un-select whatever government they put there to look after their interests. This Scientology thing may well be only a practice run.