Church of Scientology

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Official Scientology Cross Symbol

The Church of Scientology was founded by author L. Ron Hubbard as an organization dedicated to the practice of Scientology, an "applied religious philosophy" formulated by Hubbard. "A civilization without insanity, without criminals and without war, where the able can prosper and honest beings can have rights, and where man is free to rise to greater heights, are the aims of Scientology," according to Hubbard. The Church has expanded worldwide; wherever it has appeared, it has become a focus of controversy, with critics charging that the actual methods and goals of the Church sharply contradict Hubbard's stated aims.

The Church of Scientology was first incorporated in the United States as a nonprofit organization in Camden, New Jersey in December 1953. The Church's nonprofit status was the subject of legal wrangling for many years; currently, the Church is accepted as a tax-exempt religious nonprofit organization under the tax code administered by the Internal Revenue Service.

By contrast, the governments of Germany and Belgium officially regard the Church of Scientology as a totalitarian cult; in France, a parliamentary report has classed Scientology as a dangerous cult; in the United Kingdom and Canada Scientology is not regarded as meeting the legal standards for being considered a bona fide religion. The nature and status of the Church of Scientology continues to arouse controversy around the world.

Hubbard directly managed the Scientology organizations until 1966 [1] (http://www.scientology.org/en_US/religion/catechism/pg013.html), when he resigned his title as Executive Director and turned managerial functions over to Church executives. Though Hubbard maintained no formal relationship to Church management—and he sometimes vigorously denied any connection to it—virtually all independent researchers conclude that Hubbard remained firmly in control of the Church of Scientology and its affiliated organizations until the time of his final illness, preceding his death in 1986.

Following Hubbard's death, David Miscavige, one of his former personal assistants, assumed the post of Chairman of the Religious Technology Center (RTC) — a Scientology corporation which exists to regulate the use of Church symbols and Hubbard's copyrighted works. While not publically claiming to be the leader of Scientology, Miscavige is widely recognised as being the controlling figure of the network of Scientology-affiliated organizations, including the Church of Scientology. The public face of Scientology is another corporation, the Church of Scientology International, whose president and chief spokesman is the Reverend Heber Jentzsch.

Contents

Churches, missions and major Scientology centers

Scientology Center on  in
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Scientology Center on Tottenham Court Road in London
Scientology churches and missions exist in many communities around the world. Scientology calls its larger centers orgs, short for "organizations." The major Scientology church of a region is known as the local org, e.g., "the New York org," or "the Washington, D.C. org." Members of the public entering a Scientology church or mission are offered a free personality test followed by a suggestion of which Scientology courses and "auditing" would benefit them. Courses, books and counselling are available for a fixed donation.

Though historians point to the founding org in Camden, New Jersey in 1953, the church itself recognizes the Los Angeles org, founded in 1954, as the first Church of Scientology.

The Church of Scientology also has several major headquarters, including:

"Saint Hill," Sussex, England

L. Ron Hubbard moved to England shortly after founding Scientology, where he oversaw the worldwide development of Scientology from an office in London for most of the 1950s. In 1959, he bought Saint Hill Manor near the Sussex town of East Grinstead, a Georgian manor house formerly owned by the Maharajah of Jaipur. This became the worldwide headquarters of Scientology through the 1960s and 1970s. Hubbard declared Saint Hill to be the org by which all other orgs would be measured, and he issued a general order (still followed by the Church today) for all orgs around the world to expand and reach "Saint Hill size." The Church of Scientology has announced that the highest levels of Scientology teaching, OT 9 and OT 10, will be released and made available to church members when all the major orgs in the world have reached Saint Hill size.

'"Flag Land Base," Clearwater, Florida

Today, the worldwide "spiritual headquarters" of the Church of Scientology is located in the city of Clearwater, Florida. Officially known in Scientology as Flag Land Base, this international headquarters was founded in the late 1970s when an anonymous Scientology-founded group called "United Council of Churches" purchased the Fort Harrison Hotel for $3 million. The citizens and City Council of Clearwater did not realize that the building's owners were actually the Church of Scientology until after the building's purchase. Clearwater citizens groups, headed by Mayor Gabriel Cazares, rallied strongly against Scientology establishing a base in the city (repeatedly referring to the organization as a cult), but Flag Base was established nonetheless.

In the years since its foundation, Flag Base has expanded as the church has gradually purchased additional property in the downtown Clearwater area. Its relationship with the city has repeatedly moved between "friendly" and "hostile," as the church has worked with the city to establish better relations; while at the same time actively opposing the local St Petersburg Times and even protesting the Clearwater police department. Scientology's largest project in Clearwater has been the construction of a huge high-rise complex called the "Super Power Building," an enormous structure whose highest point, when completed, will be a huge Scientology cross that will tower over the city.

"PAC Base," Hollywood, California

Scientology has also established a highly visible presence in Hollywood, California. The church owns a large former hospital complex on Sunset Boulevard that contains Scientology's major west coast headquarters, the Pacific Area Command Base ("PAC Base"). Adjacent buildings include the American Saint Hill Organization (ASHO), the Advanced Organization (AOLA) for the delivery of upper level church teachings, The First Church of Scientology, founded 1954, and the offices of Bridge Publications, Scientology's publishing arm. The city of Los Angeles was convinced to rename a minor street adjoining this complex "L. Ron Hubbard Way." Elsewhere in Hollywood is the home of the largest of the Scientology Celebrity Centers, luxurious accommodations meant to cater to various arts professionals who are guests and members of the organization. On Hollywood Boulevard, a multi-story building houses the executive offices of Church of Scientology International and an elaborate open-to-the-public exhibition devoted to the life and achievements of L. Ron Hubbard. Also in the area are the headquarters of Author Services, Inc. (Hubbard's Literary agency) and the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, a Scientology-affiliated group that focuses on abuses of psychiatry.

"Gold Base," Gilman Hot Springs, California

Another headquarters for Scientology, Gold Base, is located near Hemet, California, about 100 miles southeast of Los Angeles. This is the home of Scientology's media production studio, Golden Era Studios. While not publically acknowledged as such, most reporters on Scientology believe this to be the headquarters for the highest level officers who manage the entire worldwide organization, including David Miscavige, who is widely perceived as Hubbard's successor.

Flag ship "Freewinds"

Another Scientology center of note is the cruise ship Freewinds, which the Church uses exclusively for delivering the highest level of Scientology training (OT VIII). It cruises the Caribbean Sea, under the auspices of the Flag Ship Service Organization.


Sea Org

The Sea Org (Sea Organization) was founded in 1967 by L. Ron Hubbard, as he embarked on a series of voyages around the Mediterranean Sea in a small fleet of Scientology-crewed cruise ships. Hubbard — formerly a lieutenant, junior grade, frequently disgraced by his own actions, in the US Navy, which deemed him unfit for independent command after several incidents of poor personal judgment aboard the submarine chaser USS PC-815 — bestowed the rank of "Commodore" of the vessels upon himself. The crew who accompanied him on these voyages (known as "Commodore's Messengers") became the foundation of the Sea Org.

During the Sea Org's Mediterranean tour, Hubbard applied strict discipline aboard his ships. A variety of physical punishments (including the practice of "overboarding," or throwing miscreants over the side of the ship) are said to have been used in the Sea Org. Former Sea Org members have claimed that past punishments have included confinement in hazardous conditions such as the ship's chain locker. [2] (http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/Library/Shelf/wakefield/us-09.html)

The Sea Org continues to enforce rules and administer disciplinary procedures within the church, and is characterized as the "elite" of scientology, both in terms of power within the organization and dedication to the cause. Scientologists seeking to advance within the church are often encouraged to join the Sea Org, which involves devoting their full time to Scientology projects in exchange for meals, berthing, and a nominal honorarium, amounting to a vow of poverty. One of the conditions of joining the organization is to sign a contract pledging their loyalty to Scientology for "the next billion years," committing their future lifetimes to the Sea Org. Scientology claims this billion-year contract is strictly a "symbolic document." The Sea Org's motto is "Revenimus" (or "We Come Back").

Volunteer Ministers

The Church of Scientology began its "Volunteer Ministers" program as a way to participate in community outreach projects. Over the past several years, it has become a common practice for the organization to send teams of Volunteer Ministers to the scenes of major, headline-grabbing disasters in order to provide assistance with relief efforts. According to critics, most of these relief efforts consist of passing out copies of a pamphlet authored by L. Ron Hubbard entitled The Way To Happiness, and by engaging in a method of calming panicked or injured individuals known in Scientology as a "touch assist."

The Volunteer Minister program most heavily promoted by Scientology took place in the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, when approximately one thousand Scientologists were sent to New York City to participate in the relief efforts there. Scientologists wearing bright yellow T-shirts emblazoned with the logo "Scientology Volunteer Minister" became a common sight at the World Trade Center site during the cleanup efforts. Critics of Scientology accused the organization of attempting to take advantage of the disaster in order to promote Scientology to the grief-stricken populace in the area. An E-mail confirmed to be from a Sea Org "Lieutenant" brags of a deliberate plan to prevent the grief-stricken from receiving counseling from non-Scientology sources. "Due to some brilliant maneuvering by some simply genius Sea Org Members we tied up the majority of the psychs who were attempting to get to families yesterday in Q&A, bullbait and wrangling. [... The survivors] don't know it but they need the Scientologists with LRH's tech to be here right now." [3] (http://www.xenu.net/archive/events/20010911-tragedy/)

On the other hand, the Scientology Volunteer Ministers were commended by the New York Fire Department for the assistance given at Ground Zero. [4] (http://www.scientology-newyork.org/en_US/community/vm/index.html) http://www.scientology.org/en_US/world/news/volunteer-ministers/index.html

More recently, the Scientology Volunteer Ministers have been actively helping with disaster efforts in Southeast Asia.

Religious Technology Center (RTC)

Around 1980, all of the Church's intellectual property was transferred to a newly formed entity called the Religious Technology Center (RTC) which, according to its own publicity, exists solely to safeguard and control the use of Scientology's writings (or "advanced technology", as its internal documents and scriptures are termed). However, the RTC is also believed to be the financial hub and international headquarters of the entire worldwide organization.

The RTC employs a small army of lawyers and has vigorously pursued other individuals and groups who are deemed to be a threat to Scientology. This has included breakaway Scientologists who have tried to practice Scientology outside the central church and critics, as well as numerous government and media organizations. This has helped to maintain Scientology's well-deserved reputation for litigiousness (see Scientology and the legal system).

Legal waivers

Recent legal actions involving the Church of Scientology's relationship with its members (see Scientology controversy) have caused the church to publish extensive legal documents that cover the rights granted to its parishioners. It has become standard practice within the church for members to sign lengthy legal contracts and waivers before engaging in Scientology services — a practice that contrasts greatly with many mainstream religious organizations. Recently in 2003, a series of media reports examined the legal contracts required by Scientology, which state that, among other things, Scientology parishioners deny any and all psychiatric care that their doctors may prescribe to them:

"…I do not believe in or subscribe to psychiatric labels for individuals. It is my strongly held religious belief that all mental problems are spiritual in nature and that there is no such thing as a mentally incompetent person — only those suffering from spiritual upset of one kind or another dramatized by an individual. I reject all psychiatric labels and intend for this Contract to clearly memorialize my desire to be helped exclusively through religious, spiritual means and not through any form of psychiatric treatment, specifically including involuntary commitment based on so-called lack of competence. Under no circumstances, at any time, do I wish to be denied my right to care from members of my religion to the exclusion of psychiatric care or psychiatric directed care, regardless of what any psychiatrist, medical person, designated member of the state or family member may assert supposedly on my behalf." — from the official Scientology release form for the Introspection Rundown (http://www.xs4all.nl/~jeta/scn/scans/Introspection-Release.html), offered by the Church of Scientology to its members, (c) 2001.
See also: Introspection Rundown

Church or business?

The Church of Scientology claims to be non-denominational and compatible with all faiths; however, a deeper study of Scientology shows that its worldview and teachings do contradict those of religions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

The Church of Scientology also claims that in 1994, a joint council of Shinto Buddhist (Yu-itsu Shinto) sects in Japan not only extended official recognition of Scientology, but also undertook to train a number of their monks in its beliefs and practices as an adjunct to their own meditations and worship. This continues, according to Scientology, a long tradition of Eastern faiths of assimilating or adopting elements of others faiths which they find harmonious with their own. This may be a reflection of the fact that Hubbard acknowledged a strong Eastern, and specifically Buddhist influence in forming his own personal philosophy. However, academic researchers have noted that Hubbard's grasp of eastern religions was shallow and often inaccurate (see Prof. Stephen A. Kent, Scientology's Relationship With Eastern Religious Traditions (http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/Library/Shelf/kent/eastern.html)).

Although originally established as a tax-exempt religious and charitable organization, the Church of Scientology lost this status in 1967 when the United States Internal Revenue Service accused L. Ron Hubbard of using Church monies for his own personal enrichment. Twenty-six years of highly acrimonious litigation ensued, during which time the Church refused to pay any of the taxes demanded by the IRS. Tax exemption was finally restored in 1993 under a confidential and highly controversial settlement with the IRS. According to "Scientologists and IRS settled for $12.5 million" (http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/Cowen/essays/wj301297.html) in The Wall Street Journal published on December 30, 1997, exemption was granted after Scientology paid a settlement of $12.5 million to the IRS to cover its outstanding tax liabilities. In addition, Scientology also dropped its more than fifty lawsuits against the IRS when this settlement was reached. Scientology frequently states that its tax exemption is proof that the United States government accepts it as a religion.

In other countries, though, the Church of Scientology is not recognized as a bona fide religion or charitable organization, but is regarded instead as a commercial enterprise. (Sentence of German Labor Court (http://www.innenministerium.bayern.de/scientology/urteile/5azb21.htm)). In early 2003, in Germany, Scientology was granted a tax-exemption for 10% license fees that are sent to the US. This exemption, however, is related to a German-American double-taxation agreement, and has nothing to do with tax-exemption in the context of charities law. In several countries, proselytizing activities of Scientology on public ground undergo the same restrictions as commercial advertising, which is interpreted as religious persecution by the Church of Scientology.

Official reports on Scientology in countries such as Britain, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand have yielded unfavorable observations and conclusions. In Britain, Scientologists were banned from entering the country between 1968 – 1980; more recently, an application by Scientology for charitable status was rejected after the authorities decided that its activities were not of general public benefit. In Germany and Russia, official views of Scientology are particularly harsh. It is seen as a totalitarian organization, and is or has been under observation by police and national security organizations.

In Israel, the Church of Scientology does not use the term "Church" as part of its name, possibly because of the Christian connotation of the term in Jewish culture. When asked, most Israeli Scientologists deny that Scientology is a religion, and low-level adherents appear genuinely surprised when they are confronted with English-language Scientology material in which the word "Church" is used. Something similar happens in Scotland, where Scientology operates as the "Hubbard Academy of Personal Independence"; it is believed that Scottish law does not permit Scientology to call itself a religion.

Unlike many other well-established religious organizations, the Church of Scientology maintains very strict control over its names, symbols, religious works and other published writings. The word Scientology (and many related terms, including L. Ron Hubbard) is a registered trademark. The Church takes a hard line on people and groups who attempt to use it in organizations and practices that are not affiliated with the official Church of Scientology (see Scientology and the legal system).

Finances

Members of the Church of Scientology are invited to do any number of classes, exercises or counseling sessions, for a set range of fees (or "fixed donations"). Charges for auditing and other church-related courses run from hundreds to thousands of dollars. A wide variety of entry-level courses, representing 8 to 16 hours study, cost under $100 (US). More advanced courses require membership in the International Association of Scientologists (IAS). Membership without taking expensive courses or auditing is possible, but the higher states of Scientology cannot be reached this way. In 1994/95, Operation Clambake, a website highly critical of the Church of Scientology, estimated the cost of reaching "OT IX readiness", one of the highest levels, is US $365,000 – $380,000. [5] (http://www.xenu.net/archive/CoS_prices.html)

Critics hold that it is improper to fix a donation for religious service and that therefore the activity is non-religious. The Church of Scientology points out that many classes, exercises and counseling may also be traded for "in kind" or performed cooperatively by students for no cost, and that members of its most devoted orders need donate nothing for services.

Membership statistics

It is notoriously difficult to obtain reliable statistics detailing membership numbers of the Church of Scientology. The Church itself issues only vague figures (without breaking them down by region or country), and public censuses have only in recent years included questions about religious affiliations.

The Church of Scientology has claimed anywhere from eight million to fifteen million members world-wide (a number roughly equal to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), and has stated that "Scientology is the fastest growing religion in the world". Critics, however, state that the evidence for Scientology's expansion suggests otherwise. The International Association of Scientologists (IAS) maintains a list of Scientologists world-wide: every active Scientologist is required by Scientology to belong to and pay dues to this association. According to some sources, Scientology and Dianetics reached its peak in the mid-1980s at approximately 1,500,000 members world-wide, and has been declining ever since.

  • In 1986, the New Zealand national census found 189 Scientologists nationwide.
  • In 1991, the National Survey of Religious Identification [6] (http://www.adherents.com/rel_USA.html) reported 45,000 Scientology followers in the United States. This survey has been placed in evidence in the court case "Raul Lopez v. Church of Scientology Mission of Buenaventura" by Scientology's attorney, Gerald L. Chaleff. That same year, the New Zealand national census found that the nationwide total of Scientologists had increased to 207.
  • In 1994, there were 3,400 Scientology "Sea Org" members, 34,000 lifetime IAS members, and 54,000 yearly IAS members. This produces a total of 91,400 names on the membership lists. Observers of Scientology estimate that at least half of these people no longer participate in Scientology, and do not consider themselves Scientologists.
  • In 1995 IAS membership was estimated at 65,000 active Scientologists world-wide.
  • In 1996, Australia's national census recorded 1,488 Scientologists nationwide (equivalent to 0.00767% of the population). The New Zealand national census found a further increase in the number of Scientologists, to 213—putting them on a level with Hare Krishna and Christian Science but considerably behind Satanism (903 members).
  • In 1998, the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution estimated a total of 5,000 – 6,000 Scientologists in that country.
  • In 2001, the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) reported 55,000 adults in the United States who consider themselves Scientologists. [7] (http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0922574.html) Observers of Scientology estimate an additional 20,000 Scientologists outside the United States, for a total of 75,000 world-wide.
  • The 2001 UK Census contained a voluntary question on religion, to which 48,000,000, 92% of the population, chose to respond. Of those living in England and Wales who responded, a total of 1,781 claimed to be Scientologists. The New Zealand national census reported 282 Scientologists, continuing its upward trend, though still behind Satanism (down to 893).
  • In 2003, the Canadian national census reported a total of 1,525 Scientologists nationwide.

Scientology splinter groups

The Church of Scientology denies the legitimacy of any splinter Scientology groups and factions outside of the official organization, and it has actively sought out these "rogue" Scientologists and tried to prevent them from using officially trademarked Scientology materials. These independent Scientologists are known as "squirrels" within Scientology, and they are classified as "suppressive persons" ("SPs") — in other words, opponents and enemies of Scientology. Despite the Church bringing to bear considerable legal and social pressure, the number of Scientologists who have broken away from the official Church has increased since Hubbard's death. Many of these independent Scientologist groups refer to themselves under the umbrella term of "Free Zone".

Affiliated organizations

There are also several organizations and groups which are staffed by Scientologists, and use Scientology technology and trademarks under the control of Scientology management, but often avoid mentioning the connection in their texts:

Many other Scientologist-run businesses and organizations belong to the umbrella organization WISE (World Institute of Scientology Enterprises), which licenses the use of L. Ron Hubbard's management doctrines in businesses.

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