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article imageOp-Ed: Time Magazine shows some teeth, rips into Church of Scientology

By Paul Wallis     May 13, 2008 in Lifestyle
TIME was the first to start hitting the sacred cash cow known as the Church of Scientology in 1991. Its expose remains as a current article, a primer about the issues. Scientology continues to make headlines, the story is as relevant as ever.
TIME’s piece is a beautifully uncompromising piece, something mainstream should use as a template. This was an unprecedented level of ferocity from TIME, which if not laid back, isn’t a hotbed of activism.
If someone scams the rich and gullible, does anyone care?
Not much, but the tales here of some ordinary people who were more than spiritually enlightened by Scientology’s methods. TIME did 150 interviews back in 1991, and they can’t be called fond reminiscences. There are tales of suicides, ripoffs galore, scams, and fees for “treatments” which would fill a phone book.
There’s been recent activity by groups like Anonymous attacking Scientology, and ex-members have been very vocal, both in public and in court. TIME, however, isn’t exactly a collection of hackers from somewhere on the net. This is an unprecedented level of ferocity from TIME, which if not laid back, isn’t generally considered a hotbed of activism.
There’s also a history which reads like a sewer. Careers made of other people’s lives and money… and a lot of human misery. It’s a saga of greed, and TIME’s title for its piece, “The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power” is nothing less than a synopsis.
TIME:
The Church of Scientology, started by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard to "clear" people of unhappiness, portrays itself as a religion. In reality the church is a hugely profitable global racket that survives by intimidating members and critics in a Mafia-like manner. At times during the past decade, prosecutions against Scientology seemed to be curbing its menace. Eleven top Scientologists, including Hubbard's wife, were sent to prison in the early 1980s for infiltrating, burglarizing and wiretapping more than 100 private and government agencies in attempts to block their investigations. In recent years hundreds of longtime Scientology adherents -- many charging that they were mentally or physically abused -- have quit the church and criticized it at their own risk. Some have sued the church and won; others have settled for amounts in excess of $500,000. In various cases judges have labeled the church "schizophrenic and paranoid" and "corrupt, sinister and dangerous."
That’s from the first page, and the rest of the piece is equally interesting. Just as well for DJ’s server it doesn’t easily break up into quotes, because you’d wind up with Britannica.
Scientology is loathed by its enemies, and bafflingly adored by its proponents. There’s almost no middle ground. The common image of Scientology is of an organization which is secretive, whose members, particularly in media, are privileged, with as many suggestions of an exclusive network of insiders as you could ever wish to see.
Apparently, though, there are two classes of Scientology member. The celebrities are the showpiece Scientologists. There’s another class that’s causing a bit more concern:
According to the Cult Awareness Network, whose 23 chapters monitor more than 200 "mind control" cults, no group prompts more telephone pleas for help than does Scientology. Says Cynthia Kisser, the network's Chicago-based executive director: "Scientology is quite likely the most ruthless, the most classically terroristic, the most litigious and the most lucrative cult the country has ever seen. No cult extracts more money from its members." Agrees Vicki Aznaran, who was one of Scientology's six key leaders until she bolted from the church in 1987: "This is a criminal organization, day in and day out. It makes Jim and Tammy ((Bakker)) look like kindergarten."
From the look of the money mentioned in TIME’s 11 page odyssey, “kindergarten” is about right. Hubbard himself, the founder, was accused of ripping off $200 million from the Church.
Nice place to work, from the sound of it, if you know how.
Money is the very common denominator to be found in most of the incidents, and some of them are nothing less than disgusting.
Actually, it’s hard to be surprised by the money angle. Not many homeless people seem to be on Scientology’s Celebrity roster, (even Tom Cruise has a house) and there don’t seem to be a lot of shelters, soup kitchens, or other trivia, like other “churches” that obviously don’t know much about what a church is supposed to do.
Just a lot of people with plenty of expensive information about themselves, committing suicide while going broke.
Maybe it’s an Urban Outreach program in disguise.
Read TIME’s return to the world of credible journalism, see what you think.
Meanwhile, a bit of research has found some more information worthy of note:
The Student Operated Press has a piece which gives an insight into the “Fair Game” policy enacted and then revoked by the Church:
"ENEMY — SP Order. Fair game. May be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed."
- HCO Policy Letter, 18 Oct 1967 Issue IV, Penalties for Lower Conditions
The Fair Game law is actively practiced, despite claims that it has been canceled. The text of the cancellation policy is deceptively worded so that outsiders assume it is genuine, while Scientologists understand its meaning.
"The practice of declaring people FAIR GAME will cease. FAIR GAME may not appear on any Ethics Order. It causes bad public relations. This P/L does not cancel any policy on the treatment or handling of an SP."
- HCO Policy Letter, 21 Oct 1968, Cancellation of Fair Game
This is a charming little piece worthy of study by anyone who wants to see a Nazi like policy at work. That could have come from Mein Kampf, the section about enforcing political power.
Then there’s the gruesome story of Paulette Cooper, a New York freelance writer with a tale so hideous that it really defies analysis, let alone description:
It all started after I wrote an article, “The Scandal of Scientology,” for Queen magazine in the U.K. I had a master’s degree in psychology and had studied comparative religion at Harvard for a summer and what I learned during my research about the group founded by L. Ron Hubbard was both fascinating and frightening. The story cried out to be told. I received one death threat after the article was published, but decided nonetheless to write a book on the subject. I knew the Scientologists wouldn’t like what I said but I was naïve and had no idea of the horrors that lay in store for me over the next two decades.
The Scandal of Scientology was released by a small publisher, Tower Publications, in 1971. After fighting five lawsuits brought against them (and me) by the Church of Scientology, the publisher signed an apology and recalled the book. However, I refused to be silenced and the suits were soon directed at me, along with death threats, pretexting and harassing calls. So why were they so concerned about what a young New York writer had to say? No hard-hitting exposé had ever been written about Scientology.
Things got considerably worse for Cooper after that. Warning: This is not pleasant reading.
The Church of Scientology is one of the most publicly hated organizations on the planet. There might be a reason for that.
F.A.C.T.net has come up with a comprehensive site detailing any amount of information you could want regarding the Church of Scientology. Bring a tent and start reading. F.A.C.T.net itself suffered a raid, based on allegations by the Church of use of copyrighted materials. Read enough of this stuff and you find that the patterns repeat endlessly.
Let’s do some definitions: What is the Church of Scientology? It’s a corporation. It’s a business, and its trade is in people’s mental states.Believe in it or disbelieve in it, that’s its physical status. It’s a continual litigant, for and against others. Few organizations on Earth use as much court time as the Church. It’s the legal angle that is the crux of the matter.
Many allegations against the Church are allegations of actual crimes. Threats, intimidation, blackmail, extortion, smear campaigns, defamation, libel, assault, fraud, and others aren’t misdemeanors. They’re serious crimes. The Church is entitled to its presumption of innocence, as are individuals.
The question, however, is where the law stands with regard to an organization that seems to be so frequently receiving findings of this nature against it, over a period of 50 years. There’s no lack of convictions, and certainly no lack of anecdotal information.
Apparently the U.S. policy about “3 strikes and you’re out” doesn’t apply to organizations. Corporations are legal entities. The law can deal with illegal activities by corporations, as well as individuals. Church or no church, it’s not above the law.
The First Amendment is not a license to commit any criminal act. Nor is it a license for courts to go on holiday regarding criminal activity.
The potential for backlash against the Church is another factor which ought to be seriously worrying law enforcement.
So far, miraculously, there have been no really serious attacks on the Church. The growing hostility, however, is new, and it’s global. Anonymous got a lot of support for its anti-Scientology campaign.
There’s no shortage of people with anti-Scientology sites, either. You could write at least three books on what I was able to find in an afternoon. There are obviously a lot of people with personal issues with the Church. Ex members, in particular, are vehement in their allegations. This piece from Glosslip.com relates to "Modern Day Slavery Within the Church of Scientology"
Says Glosslip:
This is an amazing piece of work, and I encourage EVERYONE who cares about exposing the abuses of the Church of Scientology and the enforced slavery it imposes on its Sea Org member and those who’ve been off-loaded into the Rehabilitation Project Force (aka RPF, or Scientology prison camps) to spread the word of this video.
Historically, the equation is that hate = trouble. The author of that TIME article got his own sample of his interviewee’s experiences. From lermanet.com:
In May, 1991, TIME magazine published and article titled, Scientology: The Cult of Greed,'' which said that the so-called religion is ''really a ruthless global scam.''
The Church of Scientology harassed and sued the author, Richard Behar, TIME Magazine, Time-Warner, and several people quoted in the article for libel. Scientology lost that case, again and again, until - in October, 2001 - the Supreme Court refused to reinstate the organization's libel suit.
That said, Richard Behar became the target of Scientology's hate and harassment activities. From Apologetics Index.org’s Hate Group pages:
Scientology used at least 10 lawyers and six private detectives to ''threaten, harass and discredit'' Time magazine writer Richard Behar, who wrote an article titled "Scientology: the Cult of Greed."
Time will tell…even if the quotes get garbled. I’d say that TIME article is sitting there 17 years later as an article of faith.
More about Scientology, Time magazine, Cult awareness network
 
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