Scientology: The Amoral Cult
"We thought Scientology was something like Dale Carnegie. I now believe it's a school for psychopaths. Their so-called therapies are manipulations. They take the best and the brightest people and destroy them."
- Edward Lottick, father of suicide victim Noah Lottick
The Amoral Cult
A 1996 British television advertisement for Scientology featured a multiracial montage of people speaking the word "trust," and concluded with a quotation from L. Ron Hubbard: "On the day when we can fully trust each other, there will be peace on Earth." It seems ironic that the Church of Scientology should be selling itself on trust when its own history is one of acts that should instill mistrust. This section summarizes only a few of the distasteful activities in which the Church has been involved:
Operation Snow White: Throughout the 1970s, members of Scientology's Guardian's Office (GO) infiltrated, burglarized and bugged over a hundred government and private offices - including the American Internal Revenue Service, Justice Department, and FBI - to stifle investigation of the Church. When Guardian Michael Meisner surrendered to the FBI and blew the whistle on the Church in 1977, he had been overseeing covert operations for Scientology for four years. He had personally infiltrated eleven federal buildings and stolen enough files to make a stack ten feet high. Eleven Scientologist leaders, including L. Ron Hubbard's wife, were sent to prison in 1980 for their involvement in these matters. Hubbard himself, who was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Stipulation of Evidence presented in the case, went into hiding and was never seen in public again before he died in 1986.
The Church disclaims responsibility for Operation Snow White, saying it was solely the act of the GO, which had become renegade and abused its authority. Furthermore, the Church says, they disbanded the GO and "forever barred" those individuals responsible from Scientology. The truth is, the GO was simply renamed the "Office of Special Affairs" (OSA), and many of the perpetrators are still active within Scientology. Like so many of Scientology's public relations claims, this one amounts to a mere semantic game.
In Canada, Operation Snow White resulted in the only criminal conviction against a church in Canadian history, as well as the largest libel judgment, awarded to a former Crown attorney (see below).
Operation Freak Out: When the FBI raided the Church of Scientology in 1977 in the Snow White matter, among the documents they seized were details of a plot to have writer Paulette Cooper jailed or institutionalized. Cooper, a longtime critic of the Church, wrote a blistering attack of Scientology, The Scandal of Scientology, in 1971. Part of the Scientologist plan involved having a Cooper lookalike act crazy in public to try and have the real Cooper committed. The cult succeeded in having Cooper, whom they code-named "Miss Lovely," indicted after they forged a bomb threat in her name to a Scientology church. They went as far as stealing a piece of her stationery with her fingerprints on it. Plans were drafted to send additional threats to Henry Kissinger and an Arab consulate, but were never enacted.
Charges against Cooper were finally dropped when the plot was exposed. Despite FBI files detailing this frame-up, no Scientologist has ever been charged.
Susan Meister: Susan Meister was a Scientologist aboard the Sea Org ship Apollo. In May 1971, while the ship was docked in Morocco, she was discovered dead, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. When William Galbraith, the American vice-consul in Casablanca, tried to investigate her death, he was stonewalled. Apollo captain Norman Starkey sent affadavits to the American government claiming that Galbraith had threatened to kill his entire crew. When Susan's father came to Morocco to claim the body, he found that she had already been buried and that the health authorities back home had been warned she might have died of cholera. The Church kept up a smear campaign against Meister for six years, claiming Susan was a drug addict and had been involved with pornographic movies.
Noah Lottick: In 1991 Time reported the suicide of Noah Lottick, a Russian Studies student in New York City who joined Scientology in 1989. In June 1990 he jumped out of a ten-story window, apparently after giving $5,000 to Scientology for services.
When Lottick's parents came to obtain his body, Scientology denied that he had been at the church shortly before he disappeared. However, not long before, they had told them the opposite. The Lotticks tried to claim the $3,000 from the Church that Noah had not spent, but the Church refused to refund it. The Scientologists claimed that Noah intended it to be a donation. Although "Noah's Friends at Dianetics" sent flowers to his funeral, not one of these so-called "friends" came in person. The Lotticks believe that Scientology was responsible for Noah's death.
Lisa McPherson: McPherson was a 36-year-old Scientologist who died on December 5, 1995 under mysterious circumstances. She had been driven to the hospital by friends; however, she was dead on arrival. Many critics believe her death came as a result of the so-called "Introspection Rundown," a Scientology "therapy" that involves enforced confinement for psychotic breaks.
When Internet critic Jeff Jacobsen came across a Clearwater Police request for information on McPherson's death, he recognized her last address as the Fort Harrison Hotel, a Scientology-owned building in Clearwater. One thing led to another, and the local, then national media picked up this story.
Lisa's "friends" had driven her to a hospital with a Scientologist doctor. To do so, they took her past several hospitals with open emergency rooms, apparently preferring the good image of Scientology over Lisa's health and safety. The doctor declared the cause of death to be a staphylococcus infection. However, according to the county autopsy report, McPherson's death was caused by severe dehydration, possibly for as long as two weeks or more. In addition, her body was bruised and covered with lesions consistent with cockroach bites. Forensic photographs clearly show these marks (Warning: these are graphic). The Church has called the Pinellas County Medical Examiner a liar, and sued her office for access to the records, with some success. Meanwhile, independant doctors have concurred with the examiner's report, based on the evidence available to them. McPherson's family has sued the Church for wrongful death.
When Jacobsen put up a Lisa McPherson Memorial Page, the Scientologists went ballistic. They picketed his place of work and accused him of being a pornographer. (While it is true that Jacobsen's father owns video rental outlets that deal in adult videos, that's not the same thing.) This page has been mirrored and imitated in numerous places in retaliation for the Church's behaviour.
McPherson also became the focus of the March 8 picket of the Church in Clearwater. About thirty critics showed up to protest the Church's continuing abuse of power and their involvement in her death. They were met by 300-500 Scientologists who made every effort to disrupt the demonstration, including blocking picket signs from street view and taunting the demonstrators. The true side of Scientology's "ethics" and compassion came out that evening, when the critics held a candlelight vigil for McPherson. The crowd of Scientologists mocked the critics again, taunting them and blowing out their candles.
This story has refused to go away, much to the chagrin of the Scientologists. The Church has launched the expected "noisy investigations": one on the St. Petersburg Times, the paper that broke the story, and another on the Clearwater police, searching for evidence of racial discrimination or involvement with drugs (two good, emotionally loaded issues to get the public's ire up).
Meanwhile, the courts have officially ruled that McPherson's death was accidental. It remains, however, that she died while confined on Scientology property and under the eyes of Scientologists who did not give her proper care.
Patrice Vic: On September 30, 1996, 23 Scientologists in France went to trial for crimes ranging from manslaughter to fraud, in a case prompted by the 1988 suicide of Scientologist Patrice Vic in Lyon. Like Noah Lottick, Vic was apparently unable to pay the Church the high fees it charges for counselling.
This case was the result of a five-year investigation of Scientology activities in France. Prosecutors accused the Church of exploiting the good faith of its victims through pseudoscience and false medical claims, for its own benefit. In November 1996, one defendant was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to a year and a half in jail; his co-defendants were convicted of various offenses including embezzlement and fraud. In the following July a French appeals court reduced the sentences and acquitted nine defendants. Strangely, the Church claimed this was a "dramatic victory."
On September 17, 1984, Morris Manning - a lawyer employed by the Church of Scientology of Toronto - stood on the steps of Osgoode Hall in his barrister's robes and held a press conference. He falsely accused Crown Prosecutor S. Casey Hill (now a provincial judge) of tampering with sealed evidence seized in the March 1993 raid on the Church. Manning announced that he would be filing a motion of contempt against Hill the following day, and distributed an information packet, including the motion, to the press that was on hand.
The contempt trial against Hill began on November 5 and lasted 11 days. The judge ruled that Scientology had no evidence Judge Hill had acted contemptuously, and threw the charges out.
Hill, feeling that his professional reputation had been damaged by the accusations, sued Manning, the Church, and some media agencies for libel on December 14. He later settled with the media out of court.
The libel trial began on September 4, 1991 and lasted for about a month. During the proceedings, the Scientologists' lawyers continued to repeat the libel as part of their defense. Hill had already been vindicated of these false accusations in the contempt trial.
The jury delivered its verdict on October 3. The Church had libeled Casey Hill, who was entitled to $300,000 in general damages to be shared by Manning and the Church, and a further $1.3 million in aggravated and punitive damages from the Church.
Scientology announced the next day that it would appeal the verdict. In a press release on October 4, the Church called the award "outrageous." The release also repeated the libel.
In the first appeal the Church intended to argue on Constitutional grounds that Casey Hill, as a government figure, implicated the government in the libel action. They also argued that the damages awarded Hill were too severe. Finally, they attempted to establish that Manning, acting as an officer of the court, was covered by qualified privilege when he held the press conference. The Ontario Court of Appeal rejected all three arguments.
First, although it was true that Hill was a government representative, it was also true that the Church libelled Hill with the intent to attack his professional reputation, with the full knowledge that the allegations were untrue. Even if the Court had changed the common law to conform to the American libel model (as the Church had argued should be done), the defendants would not have been protected. That the defendants had repeated the libel after they were first defeated, was seen by the Court of Appeal as a further attack upon Hill's integrity.
Second, the Court refused to reduce the damages awarded to Hill because the jury had been properly instructed as to their duties; therefore, they had acted correctly.
Finally, the Court rejected the argument from qualified privilege. Had Manning made his false accusations in open court, they could have been reported and protected under qualified privilege. However, he had libeled Hill maliciously, and the documents in question had not yet been filed with the court. Therefore, Manning was not immune.
A key piece of evidence in Hill v. Scientology was the so-called Felske Memorandum. On November 2, 1984, Patricia Felske, a Scientologist who was responsible for ensuring the sealed documents remained sealed, issued a memorandum to Manning, Clayton Ruby and other Scientology lawyers. In this memo Felske stated that she had found "no evidence to support any allegation that the sealed envelopes had been tampered with by the OPP." Knowing that their charges were false three days before the contempt trial began, Scientology proceeded anyway. The memo was never introduced as evidence, and Felske was never called to be a witness; these matters only came to light during Hill's lawsuit.
Once again, Scientology had been soundly defeated. Nonetheless, they appealed once again to the highest court in the land: the Supreme Court of Canada. Once again, the court rejected the Church's appeal, and on July 20, 1995, they upheld the largest libel award in Canadian history, by now amounting to $3 million dollars including interest. Scientology had been completely defeated. The only part of their appeal that had been overturned was a broadening of the scope of qualified privilege - in the future, court documents read by Court officers prior to filing were covered by qualified privilege.
Some excerpts from the judgment of the Supreme Court:
"The press conference was held on the steps of Osgoode Hall in the presence of representatives from several media organizations. This constituted the widest possible dissemination of grievous allegations of professional misconduct that were yet to be tested in a court of law. His comments were made in language that portrayed Hill in the worst possible light. This was neither necessary nor appropriate in the existing circumstances. While it is not necessary to characterize Manning's conduct as amounting to actual malice, it was certainly high-handed and careless. It exceeded any legitimate purpose the press conference may have served. His conduct, therefore, defeated the qualified privilege that attached to the occasion."
"The publication of the libellous statement was very carefully orchestrated. Members of the press and the television media attended at Osgoode Hall in Toronto to meet two prominent lawyers, Morris Manning and Clayton Ruby. Osgoode Hall is the seat of the Court of Appeal and the permanent residence of the Law Society. The building is used as the background in a great many news reports dealing with important cases emanating from the Court of Appeal. In the minds of the public, it is associated with the law, with the courts and with the justice system. Manning went far beyond a simple explanation of the nature of the notice of motion. He took these very public steps without investigating in any way whether the allegations made were true."
For More Information
See the following published court documents, available in a law library with Canadian legal reports:
Hill v. Church of Scientology of Toronto,  2 S.C.R. 1130.
Hill v. Church of Scientology of Toronto,  18 O.R. (3d) 385.
I have already described how the Church of Scientology tried to frame Paulette Cooper. While this is probably the most despicable of their attacks on critical writers and journalists, it isn't the only one.
Richard Behar: Behar wrote the May 6, 1991 cover story about Scientology for Time, "The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power." In return, he reports, the Church sent "at least 10 attorneys and six private detectives . . . to threaten, harass and discredit me." His credit record was obtained illegally. Private investigators grilled Behar's acquaintances about his personal life. Some of these people could only be known to the PIs if they had snooped his phone records.
The Church also sued Time-Warner for libel over the article; the case was completely dismissed early in 1996. Again, the Church strangely claimed "victory," since they were now free to appeal the ruling.
Robert Welkos: Welkos and his partner, Joel Sappell, wrote a six-day feature on Scientology in 1990 for the Los Angeles Times. Dirty tricks played on Welkos included someone leaving advertising material from mortuaries on his doorstep, and illegal access to his credit information. After the series was published, the Church mounted a massive billboard advertising campaign that misquoted the Times articles to make Welkos look like he supported Scientology.
Russell Miller: Scientology lawyers were warning Miller to cease and desist almost before he'd begun researching his unauthorized Hubbard biography, Bare-faced Messiah. As he worked, private eyes were talking to his friends looking for evidence he was with the CIA or another intelligence organization (he wasn't). Someone even tipped off the police that he had participated in a South London murder (he hadn't). It is important to note that the Church did not dispute the accuracy of Bare-faced Messiah when they tried to stop its publication.
Behar's Time article reported that 73-year-old Harriet Baker of Los Angeles had been visited by Scientologists after the death of her husband. They sold her auditing to help her with her grief. Later they pressured her to mortgage her house for $45,000 for more auditing. After her children helped her out of the cult in June 1990, Scientology refused to refund almost $30,000 worth of unused services; eventually she was forced to sell the house. If funeral homes exploited the bereaved like this, we would rightly be indignant. Why should we feel differently when a religion does it?
The Church used to practice something called "Casualty Contact." Scientology ministers would look through the papers for accidents or obituaries and then contact the family of the victim and invite them into Scientology for "comfort." When a lawyer does this, we call it "ambulance chasing."
In July 1988, the Church of Scientology of Canada offered one million dollars to the United Way and other charities in return for immunity from prosecution. At the time numerous Scientologists were on trial in Ontario, Canada for theft, possession of stolen documents, and breach of trust in Canada's own Snow White trials. The Ontario government and the charities all rejected the offer. If Scientology truly cared about the poor, why had they not donated so much money before they were in legal trouble?
Whenever a net.critic asks the Church to account for crimes it cannot deny, such as Operation Snow White, the usual excuse is, "Those things happened twenty years ago. The perpetrators were thrown out. Why do you continue to harangue us about this? On the other hand, Scientologists on the Net have tried to discredit its enemies by dredging up mud from their past.
For example, the Church owes FACTNet director Lawrence Wollersheim several million dollars, a judgement from a lawsuit that the Church lost all the way to the American Supreme Court. But instead of giving him what they owe him, the Church prefers to smear his character. A Scientology spokesman on alt.religion.scientology accused Wollersheim of illegal drug use and draft-dodging. By their own standards the Church of Scientology is making irrelevant accusations. Judge not lest ye be judged, Scientologists.
Arnie Lerma has drawn fire from some Scientologists for his association with Liberty Lobby, an extreme-right group founded by Holocaust denier Willis Carto. More recently, a lengthy missive posted to a.r.s. on July 1, 1996 intended to dead-agent not only Lerma, but FACTNet, Edward Lottick (father of Noah Lottick, above), CAN and others by drawing links between them and Liberty Lobby.
Yet the same Scientologists, intent on dead-agenting Hubbard biographer Russell Miller, have produced a letter to Miller's publisher from author L. Fletcher Prouty purporting to provide the "true data" about Hubbard and show what a slimeball Miller is. Some facts about Prouty show up the Church's double standard:
Tom Marcellus ousted Willis Carto from the IHR in 1992 and served as its head until his own departure in 1994. Tilman Hausherr reports that Marcellus is a Patron of Scientology who has donated at least $40,000 to the Church. Having seen Scientologists downplay Marcellus' Holocaust denial when it comes up on a.r.s., I cross-posted a request for information about Marcellus to alt.revisionism in early 1996. Nizkor Archive webmaster Jamie McCarthy informed me via personal email that he was not aware of Marcellus recanting his views. Why don't the Scientologists dissociate themselves from these anti-Semites? Simple: Marcellus' money is as green as anyone's. Judge not lest ye be judged, Scientologists.
If you've seen the Dianetics ads or infomercials on TV, you know that the public image the Church of Scientology projects is pretty tame. It hawks Dianetics, which in my opinion is a harmless, though scientifically questionable, self-help therapy.
However, the Church will not tell you up front about Xenu and the space-opera cosmology, Body Thetans, or any of the more absurd beliefs. (More than likely this is because the average wog-on-the-street would understandably laugh the whole thing off as absurd if told the truth up front.) Not until the new Scientologist is hooked and properly conditioned, having spent thousands of dollars on auditing, are the more comical "secrets" revealed. Dire warnings are delivered about potential damage to the preclear's physical health or spiritual "case" should they read the advanced "scripture" prematurely.
Scientology invites you to cross the "Bridge to Total Freedom." There was a time when the state of Clear was the be-all and end-all of human achievement. Clears had perfect memory, increased IQ, and all sorts of superior abilities. However, when Hubbard presented Sonya Bianca, the first Clear, in public in Los Angeles in 1950, she manifested none of these abilities. Though a physics major, she could not answer questions about her own field of study; she did not even remember the colour of Hubbard's tie when his back was turned. So Hubbard trotted out another "world's first Clear," a man named John McMasters. He was later declared for being a homosexual.
More and more people were attaining the state of Clear without manifesting the claimed abilities. So Hubbard revised the Bridge so that a new state of "Operating Thetan", or OT, was the goal to achieve. Various OT levels were released periodically. Later the Bridge was revised again with the addition of New Era Dianetics for Operating Thetans (NOTs). Supposedly more OT levels are awaiting release, presumably at a time when increasing numbers of OT 8s are wondering why they aren't superhuman yet.
Thanks to Scientology's bait-and-switch scam, the Bridge to Total Freedom is like Xeno's paradox. You draw nearer to the other side, but you can never make the last step to Total Freedom.
The Church of Scientology wishes to sell itself on the basis of trust, but who is willing to trust the Scientologists? If the Scientologists want my trust, they are going to have to earn it. The "Support Religious Tolerance" campaign the Church is promoting is the wrong message. Perhaps this is more appropriate:
Created January 26, 1998 (Dead Ron Day) by Scott McClare. Revision A06 February 1, 2001.