Earlier this year Scientologist Eric Roux gave a talk on his movement at a academic conference. How well do his claims stand up to scrutiny? Jon Atack marks his copy.
Jon Atack, for those of you who don't know, is the author of the definitive history of Hubbard-era Scientology, Let's Sell these People a Piece of Blue Sky.
Below, I've put the excerpts from Roux's February presentation to the INFORm conference in London in italics, followed by Atack's response.
The links in the body of the text Jon Atack's, but the footnotes at the end are mine, added to help readers follow the trail of evidence he has laid out.
I've cut back substantially on the passages from Roux that Jon quoted, but you can find the full text over at his website. You might even want to start by going there and reading the complete talk before turning to Jon’s critique.
If anybody wants to chip in down in the comments section with other supporting material, they are more than welcome. Naturally, I have contacted Roux and invited him to respond.
Roux: In 1984, L. Ron Hubbard was no longer involved in Church management affairs and had not been for years.
Atack: Hubbard had continued to run Scientology through his ‘advices’, as attested by various former members of the management team – for instance, DeDe Reisdorf, who ran Scientology under Hubbard’s direction as Chairman of the Watchdog Committee in 1981, and Larry/Denise Brennan, who reformed the corporate structure of Scientology in the early 1980s. Chuck Beatty was privy to these advices and can attest that they were orders, which were complied with by Scientology management.1
Roux: He (Hubbard) was kept informed but his primary activity was to work on his research in order to complete his work regarding the Bridge to total freedom that was the culmination of a life of research and which he left for all those who wish to travel it.
Atack: Hubbard was incapacitated by dementia from about 1983. His post mortem showed that he was taking the psychiatric drug, vistaril, by the time of his death to counter the effects of dementia.2
Roux: The Church of Scientology, especially in the US, was undergoing some quite vicious attacks from some of its detractors, some of whom had the plan to close the Church down.
Atack: Eleven executives of Scientology, including Hubbard’s wife and immediate deputy, pled guilty to breaking and entering US government offices, theft, falsifying official credentials and false imprisonment of a whistle blower. Mary Sue Hubbard signed a confession over 200 pages long. The Sentencing Memorandum in US vs Jane Kember and Morris Budlong further shows the criminality for which Scientology was brought to book. Ron Hubbard was an “unindicted co-conspirator”, and documents clearly show that he ordered harassment of critics and the infiltration of government offices all over the world.3
Roux: … [P]art of this plan was a tremendous number of civil trials that had been instigated throughout America, on fabricated charges by Church detractors… and these false charges were repeated throughout every single state in the USA.
Atack: It should be added that Scientology is the most litigious organization since the beginning of history, and has initiated literally thousands of law suits. “The law can be used very easily to harass” as Scientology scripture states, urging that defectors should be “ruined utterly” by this means.4
The supposed conspiracy of “detractors” is fanciful. Thousands of people have a legitimate claim against Scientology. Many such claims have been upheld. Scientology’s admitted attempt to frame Paulette Cooper for a bomb threat clearly shows that she was not protected by any conspiracy, but rather the focus of a Scientology conspiracy to silence her. She is one of tens of people paid hush money by Scientology (and thankfully, it has not hushed her!).5
Former senior executive, Mark Rathbun, has asserted that there were 2,700 active suits at one point. [Urban, The Church of Scientology, p.171].6
Roux: Facing these attacks, Scientologists from all over the world decided to unite… formed the International Association of Scientologists (IAS) ... to unite all Scientologists as one international body “to Unite, advance and protect the Scientology religion”.
Atack: The IAS was formed not by consensus, but on the order of David Miscavige. In 1987, despite claims of as many as eleven million members, the IAS published documents showing that paid up membership was a mere 25,000, world wide, with a mere 15,000 who were new to Scientology paying for courses. The ‘war chest’ of the IAS was spent on litigation costs.
Roux: In Portland one particular trial had turned bad for the Church, the jury asking for many millions of dollars in damages for a Church apostate claiming to have been defrauded out of 3,000 dollars in course fees… That Church could not have afforded to pay the damages, even if it would have used all of its reserves.
Atack: Scientology had reserves in excess of $300 million when the Titchbourne case was ruled upon. The judgement, which included punitive damages for Scientology’s treatment of Titchbourne, both before and during the ensuing litigation, amounted to about ten per cent of these known assets.
Roux: … [T]his trial was set up to serve as a precedent in the US, and with dozens of other similar trials on-going, it represented the intention of bringing about a complete bankruptcy of Scientology internationally. This was the purpose of the opponents of the Church ...
Then, through the work of the IAS, 15 000 Scientologists from all over the world converged on Portland to protest this ruling which was a denial of the protection guaranteed by the first amendment of the US constitution, and asked the Presiding Judge to overturn the ruling. ... Tens of thousands of Scientologists united in the city.
Atack: About two thousand Scientologists attended the rally, but were bussed back to the beginning of the protest march, repeatedly, to make their numbers seem greater.7
Roux: … [T]he result was unmitigated success, as after having seen the proof that the plaintiff had been “deprogrammed” before having filed her complaint, that her witnesses were in fact acting as government agents, and that Scientology teachings were religious in nature, the judge overturned the judgment... .
Atack: The judge rescinded his judgement because of a statement made to the jury by a prosecution lawyer that challenged the religious status of Scientology, not because of any ‘deprogramming’. Scientology lost a similar case against Lawrence Wollersheim, and was forced to pay almost nine million dollars, despite protest marches where it asserted that it would pay ‘not one thin dime to Wollersheim.’
Roux: The Internal Revenue Service had opened a determined national campaign against all the different Churches of Scientology, refusing to allow them religious status … engaging in malicious rumour campaigns against Church leaders, harassing them by conducting fabricated charges for triggering criminal investigations against them…
Atack: Scientologists working for the ‘Church’ have been convicted in several countries for criminal activities.
Roux: In 1986, when L. Ron Hubbard passed away, the Church had to struggle past this point which can be seen as a critical test for every religious movement: the death of its founder. History showed that this test has been very successfully passed, but few really knew what the Church had to endure during the following years.
Atack: Nor indeed what critics of Scientology had to endure by way of harassment through litigation and by private detectives kept on permanent retainer by Scientology. Tony Ortega has shown that in the case of Pat Broeker alone, over $10 million was spent on maintaining a 24-hour watch for over 20 years.8 Scientology lost cases against Canadian judge Casey Hill, Lawrence Wollersheim, Richard and Bonnie Woods and Mary Johnston, among many others, for its treatment of them. It is startling that this should be claimed as some sort of conspiracy, when the evidence is clear that Scientology mercilessly harassed these people, and hundreds of others. Hubbard personally ordered that a cartoonist who had made a mildly derogatory comment about Scientology should have his livelihood ruined (Operation Funny Bone).
Roux: The battle with the IRS sometimes went to a point where the existence of the Church itself was endangered, and this continued up till 1991, when IRS finally agreed to conduct, at the insistence of the Church, a full and transparent examination (as opposed to biased) which lasted 2 years.
Atack: The investigation was by no means ‘transparent’ and aspects of the decision remain sealed to this day.
Roux: This became the most thorough inquiry that has ever been conducted of a religious movement, encompassing all the Church of Scientology’s worldwide activities including all financial records. It culminated with the issuance, by the IRS, of ruling letters, dated the 1st October 1993, recognizing the tax-exempt religious and charitable status of the Church of Scientology International - the mother church of the Scientology religion - and 150 affiliated Churches, missions and social betterment organizations.
Atack: It was determined that since the death of Hubbard, funds were no longer being funneled to a private citizen, as the IRS had found in earlier investigations. This was the reason for denial of exemption in earlier years. Hubbard left $648 million, almost every penny of which had come from Scientology.
Roux: This was of course a real turning point for Scientology not only in the US, but also worldwide. Indeed, even though Scientology had never ceased growing during these years, this engagement with the IRS consumed a lot of attention from Scientology leaders and management...
Atack: Scientology has a membership of about 25,000, and is more likely shrinking. Reports from around the world show that many organizations, including the major UK operation, are in decline.9
Roux: So, when in 1993 the Ecclesiastical leader of the Church Mr David Miscavige announced to thousands of Scientologists in Los Angeles “The War is Over”, he in fact announced that the real work of the Church could start, as all the resources used to fight this battle were now to be assigned to the fundamental mission of the Church: serving parishioners..., building new churches in every major city of the planet, conducting social betterment and humanitarian campaigns..., and other programs dedicated to forward the aims of Scientology: A civilization without insanity, without criminals and without war, where the able can prosper and honest beings can have rights...
Atack: Under this slogan, governments the world over were infiltrated by agents directed by the very man who claimed to want a civilization ‘without crime.’ Scientology is implicated in the insanity of certain of its former members. Wollersheim was able to prove in court that his own manic-depressive illness was caused by Scientology procedures. Lisa McPherson suffered a psychotic break down and died while under the care of leader David Miscavige. These are two examples among many. Many Scientologists have also committed suicide, see, for instance, the James Stewart case in Let’s sell these people A Piece of Blue Sky (‘The Empire Strikes Back’). Stewart was a Scientology executive, and was on Operating Level Three. He had been ordered to stop having epileptic fits. See also the tragic suicide of Hubbard’s son and successor, Quentin, who had achieved the highest level available in Scientology (ibid, ‘The Flag Land Base’).10
Roux: This was the start of a period of expansion for Scientology that has continued, as the USA became a “safe place” for Scientology, permitting the Church management to focus on global expansion plans… .
One of these major plans has been what Scientologists called the “Golden Age of Tech”, Tech being a shortened form for “Technology”, being the whole body of Scientology religious techniques aimed at bringing total freedom to individuals as spiritual beings… . The goal of auditing is to restore the innate ability of oneself, the spiritual being. This is accomplished by: (1) helping individuals rid themselves of any spiritual disabilities; (2) increasing spiritual abilities,. These “Golden Age of Tech” exercises had been compiled following instructions of the Founder, L Ron Hubbard and their compilation had necessitated hundreds of thousands hours of work … .
Atack: Scientology is a systematic form of thought reform. Its ‘processing’ (to use Hubbard’s term) uses profoundly hypnotic techniques to bring about euphoria and compliance. Hubbard himself described the techniques used in his Dianetics: the Modern Science of Mental Health as hypnotic, commenting in particular upon the counting technique and the ‘flickering of the eyelids’ as the subject entered trance. He banned use of these techniques for their hypnotic effect in 1951, yet they were reintroduced in the late 1970s and continue to be used. Many far-fetched claims continue to be made for Hubbard’s ‘technology’, but, as yet, no cure for cancer or leukemia has been shown; nor is there any individual who has become immune to illness or achieved perfect IQ. Nor has anyone demonstrated a single psychic ability, despite over six decades of claims.11
Roux: Between 2005 and 2010, Scientologists experienced the completion of a 25-year program to recover, verify and restore the Scripture of the Scientology religion… In all, these materials comprise more than 1,000 lectures and 500 written issues chronicling the day-to-day record of L. Ron Hubbard’s path of discovery in Dianetics and Scientology.
Atack: The sheer quantity of Hubbard instruction should be seen in light of his own statement: “In altitude teaching, somebody is a 'great authority.' He is probably teaching some subject that is far more complex than it should be. He has become defensive down through the years, and this is a sort of protective coating that he puts up, along with the idea that the subject will always be a little better known by him than by anybody else and that there are things to know in this subject which he really wouldn't let anybody else in on. This is altitude instruction ... It keeps people in a state of confusion, and when their minds are slightly confused they are in a hypnotic trance. Any time anybody gets enough altitude he can be called a hypnotic operator, and what he says will act as hypnotic suggestion. Hypnotism is a difference in levels of altitude. There are ways to create and lower the altitude of the subject, but if the operator can heighten his own altitude with regard to the subject the same way, he doesn't have to put the subject to sleep. What he says will still react as hypnotic suggestion.” (Hubbard, Research & Discovery, volume 4, p.324)12
Roux: This review culminated in November 2013 when the Church announced the release of what we called “Golden Age of Tech phase 2”. All these projects have tracked back the original writings and lectures of the founder, tens of millions of words which have been studied in chronological order, and compared to the various existing manuscripts and other primary records, in order to find any departure from the original and correct any impact it had on the delivery of Scientology to Scientologists. This has led to significant changes in the way the Bridge to total freedom is delivered to parishioners,... .
Atack: Levels which previously took tens of hours – at hundreds of dollars per hour – now take hundreds of hours – at hundreds of dollars per hour. Christian Szurko, one of the most eminent authorities on cults and hypnosis, has pointed out that where other groups have only a handful of hypnotic techniques, Scientology uses every available method, in hundreds of procedures. The frequent conflicts and contradictions between Hubbard’s statements have not been addressed. For some of these, see my paper “Never Believe a Hypnotist”.13
Roux: This project has been driven not so much by an ideological desire to have something in its original form but quite simply because, as has been experienced again and again by scientologists, when the technology is applied correctly, it works.
Atack: Scientology has signally failed to achieve any of the many claims of physical and psychological cure made by Hubbard. A few of these fantastical claims can be found here.
Roux: In addition, a major auditing action never released previously, described by Ron Hubbard as able to put Scientologists into a new realm of ability enabling them to create a new world, was released for the first time… .
Atack: It has been asserted by Scientology sales people, contrary to scientific observation, that there is a band around the earth which houses ‘implant stations’ where spirits go after they die to be ‘reprogrammed’ before being returned to earth for reincarnation. Scientologists are warned that if they do not take the Super Power Rundown, at a cost of thousands of dollars, they will be snared by these implant stations when they die.14
There is no explanation of the invisibility of these implant stations to satellites, telescopes or space travellers. Hubbard also asserted that both Mars and Venus are populated by ‘invader forces’ waiting to attack the earth. How they survive the furious temperatures on Venus has not been explained, nor why their encampments have never been sighted by planetary rovers or powerful telescopes. As to the ‘new realm of ability’, none of the many claims made for Dianetics and Scientology has been scientifically demonstrated, almost 65 years since the first claims were made. This ‘new realm of ability’ is simply the capacity to mouth the slogans implanted by involvement with Scientology. The harassment of critics shows the moral inadequacy of these teachings.
Hubbard’s own multiple drug abuse and 100-a-day cigarette habit must cause us to question the efficacy of his ‘drug rehabilitation’ system. Hubbard admitted to barbiturate addiction, advocated the use of amphetamines, and was at times a heavy drinker (“Never Believe a Hypnotist” and Let’s sell these people A Piece of Blue Sky).
Roux: In parallel to these programs, another program has been run for some years in the world of Scientology. It’s called the Ideal Orgs program (Ideal org means ideal organization, ideal church). This program is aimed at making Scientology available to a greater numbers of people and consists of opening new church buildings throughout the world, with each of these buildings being either newly built or purchased and fully renovated to meet the highest standards and full panoply of delivery of Scientology religious services… .
Atack: Staff in these ‘ideal orgs’ work a ninety hour week for a few dollars. They are kept from their children, or indeed persuaded to have abortions, so that they will have no children. Diets are poor. Housing is scandalously inadequate. Staff may be punished by being refused a bed or forced to subsist on table scraps. There is no health insurance and health care is notoriously poor. Staff are often expected to work through the night. There is a culture of humiliation and bullying, where staff are screamed at during ‘severe reality adjustments’. There is nothing ‘ideal’ about the way Scientology treats its staff. Worst of all is the Rehabilitation Project Force, a prison camp where members may expect to serve at least three years. They often sleep without beds (‘pigs’ berthing’), cannot speak unless spoke to by a superior, must comply with any order or be forced to run laps; they subsist on a diet of scraps or rice and beans (for years on end). See Professor Stephen Kent’s analysis of the RPF.
Roux: To date, dozens of Ideal Orgs have opened their doors in major cities across four continents, and new ones are dedicated each month… .
Atack: It would be helpful to know the size of these ‘Orgs’, many of which are merely renamed ‘Ideal Orgs’. It would also be helpful to know how many have since closed. In 1992, Scientology claimed 1,039 organizations. Rather more than this ‘expansion’ currently claims. [What is Scientology?]
Roux: While this is just a rapid overview of these last 30 years for Scientology, doesn’t include many other developments in the Church during these years, I can say that there was a real turning point in our history in 1993 with the US recognition… . Even if there are still some skirmishes here and there, the recognition of Scientology as a bona fide religion has spread to many other countries… . On 17 October 2013, in the Netherlands, the Appeal Court of Amsterdam, in addition to recognizing Scientology as an authentic religion, granted it public benefit status after having ruled that the purpose and objective of participating in Scientology religious services was no different than the purpose and objective of participating in the religious services of other religious institutions. And here in United Kingdom, as many of you will know, on 11 December 2013, the United Kingdom Supreme Court ruled that Scientology was a religion and that the London Church of Scientology chapel “is a place of meeting for religious worship within section 2 of the Places of Worship Registration Act”. The Supreme Court accordingly ordered that the Scientology chapel be registered as a place of worship and as a place for the solemnisation of marriages and in so doing brought the definition of religion, as viewed by the British courts, from the 19th to the 21st century.
Atack: On this point, it must be stated that religious status has long been afforded to the satanic Temple of Set in the US. The test is not whether the ‘religion’ is socially beneficial, but whether believers believe. Tax exemption is given to organizations where monies do not go to private pockets, as was the case with Scientology from its foundation (as Dianetics) in 1950 to the death of its creator, Ron Hubbard, in 1986. The UK Charity Commissioners, whose test is whether a group is beneficial to society have repeatedly denied Scientology charitable status.
Roux: In conclusion, … I would say that 30 years ago, the Church was struggling for its very existence because of the intensity of the attacks against it, but that since then, it has won a sufficient number of battles for it to be no longer struggling for its existence and has reached the point where this is a foregone conclusion and it is now able to concentrate on the help it can bring to peoples of the world, through its religious services delivered to a growing numbers of parishioners throughout 167 countries, and through its social betterment programs which now reach millions of people every year.
Atack: Scientology has made the same sort of claims about its spread and influence since about 1965, when David Gaiman, an ‘unindicted co-conspirator’ in the US case against Scientology, said that there were five million Scientologists. By 1990, official spokespeople for Scientology were claiming eleven million members. In 1992’s What is Scientology? it is claimed that 493,685 people took Scientology ‘services’ for the first time in 1990. However, in 1987, the International Association of Scientologists’ membership report showed only 15,000 people new to Scientology from October 1986-September 1987. Yet, 150,924 were claimed for 1985, in What is Scientology, in 1992. Just over 2,000 people claimed to be Scientologists in the official UK census, in 2011.
1 Reisdorf worked closely with the Hubbards in the 1970s at the time Hubbard's wife Mary Sue was arrested and eventually jailed for her part in the illegal activities of the Guardian's Office.
Reisdorf told Janet Reitman: "We all knew that Mary Sue ran pretty much everything by him ... maybe not the details of each mission, but up until then, he was very much in the loop on the Guardian's Office stuff." Page 119 of Reitman's Inside Scientology (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011).
In the early 1980s, Brennan was involved in setting up "Mission Corporate Category Sort-Out" (MCCS) a new corporate structure for Scientology. He wrote in a May 6, 2008 declaration: "It was expected that the structure hide the fact the Hubbard really was in control of organized scientology and was getting money for same."
Chuck Beatty, who spent 27 years in Scientology's Sea Org cadre until leaving in 2003, gave me details of these advices in correspondence a few years ago.
In an April 2007 email to me, Beatty explained that Hubbard's advices were ...simply despatch orders transferred to despatch format from the tape recorded words dictated by Hubbard onto tape recorder tape routinely by his messengers, who recorded Hubbard when he wanted to issue orders...
He added: On the compilations project I was on in 1983-84, doing my job of researching ALL of Hubbard's administrative orders, I had to skim through many thousands of “advices”. And later, in 93-94, I saw the several thousand advices Hubbard issued to Author Services Inc (ASI) , when I proof-read them to ensure no typographical errors on the copies of Hubbard's advices on ASI's computer system, when I was the computer operations officer over the ASI computers for those years. My estimate there must be around 10,000 total "advices" (Hubbard's day-to-day orders that are in 1-page to multi-page despatch format).
2 See here for the coroner's report on Hubbard, the toxicology report and Hubbard's death certificate.
3 This passage from the sentencing memorandum in the same case shows what the court thought of Ron Hubbard's role – and the movement's complete lack of repentance for what it had done:
Moreover, we submit that in imposing any sentence upon these two defendants, the Court should consider the deterrent effect which a severe sentence will have upon others – besides the defendant Jane Kember who apparently remains the Guardian World-Wide, all other members of the Guardian's Office, and L. Ron Hubbard himself, the ultimate responsible authority. It is clear from the press releases issued by Scientology following the jury's verdict, and their vicious actions against another member of this Court, that they have yet to learn the error of their criminal ways.
4 “The law can be used very easily to harass...” From Hubbard's 1955 The Scientologist, A Manual on the Dissemination of Material.
5 You can read Cooper's account of her ordeal here.
6 Urban is citing a 2009 interview that the St Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times) conducted with Rathbun: he told the paper: “I was tasked with implementing strategies to try to overwhelm the IRS like they were attempting to overwhelm us – it was sort of like a fight-fire-with-fire situation... it was a huge battlefield that was nationwide. It was literally twenty-seven hundred suits ( 2,700) at one point...” You can find the reference to 2,700 lawsuits just over seven minutes into the filmed section titled “From Renovation to IRS...”. In a January 2014 post at his own website, Rathbun writes of more than 2,200 lawsuits against the IRS, but the point stands.
Jon's more general observation about Scientology's enthusiasm for litigation is supported by the movement's own literature. Have a look at page 22 of Impact magazine, Issue N° 125 (this is the magazine of the International Association of Scientology). Here they are celebrating an IAS campaign against psychiatry which involved intensive litigation against GlaxoSmithKline over its anti-depressant Paxil. “The lead attorney coordinating no less than 2,700 lawsuits, also the recipient of the CCHR Human Rights Award, was part of the team that won the test case,” says the report.
The CCHR of course is the Citizens Commissions on Human Rights, which Scientology co-founded.
7 For more on Scientology's campaign against the Titchbourne case, see Atack's dialogue with Tony Ortega at The Underground Bunker last year. In particular, of the numbers involved, he said: “One organizer of the 1985 march later told me about the elaborate bus system used to bring marchers back to the beginning of the parade to trick the numbers up. Even the two thousand then could be an overestimate.”
8 For more on this, see Tony Ortega's landmark piece “Scientology's Master Spies” from November 2012 at The Underground Bunker.
9 Atack has been saying this for years and a Village Voice piece by Tony Ortega bears this out. He talked to former senior Scientology executive such as Jeff Hawkins who had seen recent internal documents and checked census records, arriving at the same figure.
10 For more on these deaths and others, see the Why Are They Dead archive. Here's Tony Ortega's Village Voice write-up of the Wollersheim case.
11 For a summary of medical claims made for Scientology, see this section of Xenu-directory.net, which is an excellent resource. Have a look too at my write-up of this 1984 death at a Narconon centre in France; and my two-part investigation into the death of Heribert Pfaff.
12 For more on this subject see Atack's essay, "Never Believe a Hypnotist”.
13 Christian Szurko runs the Dialog Centre UK, which describes itself as “...a non-denominational Christian organization serving people regardless of their religious orientation. We offer assistance to the members and ex-members of abusive religious, political and philosophical groups, and to their family and friends.”
14 If you think Atack is exaggerating then try this April 2013 piece from Tony Ortega's Underground Bunker, which comes complete with a lengthy excerpt from a talk by Hubbard himself about implant stations.