Tuesday 4 November 2014

Russia had it coming

European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg. Photo © Katrinitsa

Three times now, the European Court of Human Rights has condemned Russia for its treatment of Scientology. Critics of the movement should accept the judgments.

Last month, Europe's top court condemned Russia for refusing to let Scientologists register as a religious group – almost five years to the day after handing down a similar judgment against Moscow.

The European Court of Human Rights has now ruled three times against Russia over its treatment of the movement, which Scientology was naturally quick underline in recent statements.

And given the second ECHR ruling combined two separate complaints, Russia’s conduct has actually been condemned in four separate instances.

Nadezhda Schemeleva, a Russian Scientologist involved in filing the most recent case, made the obvious point, in a statement issued by the movement soon after their legal victory.

We hope this decision of the European Court will allow the authorities to bring the law on freedom of conscience into line with international conventions,” she said.1

For some critics of Scientology, who know what the movement routinely inflicts on its own members, the ruling against Russia has been hard to swallow.

There have even been mutterings in some of the forums that somehow Scientology had “got to” the court, that there had been some kind of stitch-up.

But in each of the three Russian cases, the court was ruling on whether Scientology received fair treatment under the law. Even a cursory reading of the three judgments makes it clear that they did not.

In all three cases, Russian officials blocked efforts by Scientology to register – or rather re-register – as a religion. They were thus stripped of their previously acquired religious status – in violation, it would seem, of the country’s own laws.

Given the way Russia has chosen to deal with Scientology – and a number of religious groups with less sulphurous reputations – the court could hardly have reached any other conclusion.

Nor did the court have to make any ruling on whether Scientology was a religion: the Russian authorities had already conceded as much.

It just wasn’t their kind of religion.

Strike one

In the first case, the Church of Scientology, Moscow, complained about the way it had been stripped of the religious status it had acquired in January 1994, in the wake of the break-up of the Soviet Union.

In October 1997, a new law known as the Religions Act came into force requiring all religious groups, even those previously approved, to re-register.

Scientology’s lawyers filed papers in August 1998, but by June of the following year its application had been refused.

They tried again in December 1999, but were knocked back again the following month. This time it was the deputy head of the justice department who wrote to them, citing various specified – and some unspecified – violations of Russian law.

He simply ignored his legal obligation to clearly state all and any reasons for rejecting the application..

And so it went on, back and forth, for several years.

Between 1998 and 2005, Scientology’s Moscow branch filed 11 applications for religious status. Despite more than one court ruling in their favour, the authorities rejected every bid.

When officials bothered to give a reason, often it was simply that Scientology had failed to produce documentary proof that it had been operating in Moscow for at least 15 years, a requirement under the new law.2

That 15-year requirement was itself unlawful however: Russia’s Constitutional Court had already ruled that the authorities could not make such a demand of any organisation that had existed before the 1997 law came into force.3

Finally, in April 2002, the Church of Scientology in Moscow filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights. The case was argued in March 2007.

Russia’s lawyers insisted that Scientology’s rights had not been violated as members were still free to practise their faith, hold services and other ceremonies; the movement could still guide its followers.

The refusal to re-register Scientology “was not harsh and was not motivated by religious factors, but by a failure to submit to the Religions Act and violation of the administrative procedure”, they argued.

For Russia then, the issue was not whether Scientology was a religion or not, but whether they had filed the right paperwork.

The Strasbourg court dismissed Russia’s defence. In its April 2007 ruling, five years on from the original complaint, it noted:

Where the organisation of the religious community is at issue, a refusal to recognise it also constitutes interference with the applicants’ right to freedom of religion under Article 9 of the Convention...

The believers' right to freedom of religion encompasses the expectation that the community will be allowed to function peacefully, free from arbitrary State intervention.

The court also cited previous EHCR judgments condemning the discriminatory measures in the Religions Act, including one that had backed those well known subversives the Salvation Army.4

This case, the court concluded, was no different.

Two for one...

It was a similar story in the second judgment, which rolled two complaints into one.

The first concerned a Dianetics centre in Surgut City, in Russia's eastern Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Region (in the northern reaches of western Siberia).

The Surgut Humanitarian Dianetics Centre opened in 1994, acquiring state registration as a non-governmental social organisation.

In 1995 a new law required NGOs to re-register, but when it tried to comply, it was rejected on the grounds that the aims of the centre were essentially religious.

An attempt to re-register as a non-commercial operation was refused on the same grounds  – and by now the local justice department was trying to shut them down.

So they took the hint.

In 2000 they tried to set up a Scientology group with the express aim of holding religious services and applied for the appropriate recognition.

This time of course they fell foul of the 15-year rule that featured in the 1997 Religions Act – and it was at this point the Scientologists went to court.

Once again, the case went back and forth in the courts for several years (between October 2000 and January 2005), with the Scientologists winning some cases and losing others.

But the end result was they were still required to provide the documents to satisfy the 15-year rule.

Over in the Republic of Tatarstan meanwhile (a seven-and-a-half-hour flight to the west), Scientologists were struggling with a bid to register a church in the town of Nizhnekamsk.

They went to court after a bid filed in December 1999 was rejected – bizarrely, because a religious expert had not yet pronounced on the documents filed.

After more legal ping-pong  – and two rulings in their favour from Tartarstan’s Supreme Court  – the President of the Supreme Court decided that the original ruling had been correct: they needed to wait for the expert report.

Finally delivered in November 2002, it concluded that Scientology was indeed a religion, but with an Orwellian flourish advised against it being established as a church because it had only recently been established.

Once again then, the 15-year rule was being used to block Scientology’s registration – and despite continuing to fight it in Russian courts, that was one obstacle they could not clear.
The Surgut City application to the European Court of Human Rights was filed in August 2001; the Nizhnekamsk case arrived in October 2003.

In June 2005 the court accepted both complaints. It rolled them into one, heard arguments in September 2009 and delivered its judgment the following month.5

It was not the Court's role to decide whether or not Scientology qualified as a religion, said the ruling. The Russian authorities had, after all, conceded the point in both cases.

Yet they had still denied both groups the rights of a fully registered church. And the 15-year rule, already denounced by Russia's own Constitutional Court, had played a central role in this obstruction.

Scientology’s rights to freedom of religion and association had been violated because they had been prevented from registering as groups with full legal rights, the court ruled.6

Case closed: strike two against the Russian authorities.

The biter bit

The third ruling was delivered last month, as I reported in more detail over at Tony Ortega’s Underground Bunker.7

Almost five years to the day after the previous judgment against them, Russia was condemned again.

This time it was a group in St Petersburg that had filed with the court. During six bids to re-register under the terms of the new Religions Act, its members experienced the now-familiar administrative obstruction.

Their papers were passed from one official body to another; rejections were based on procedural technicalities that changed from one decision to the next; and this case too was delayed while an expert report was prepared – a litany of bureaucratic bad faith.

And once again, the 15-year rule was brought into play to trump any further applications.

Russia, in its arguments to the European court, actually acknowledged that the refusal to register the Scientology group interfered with its members' freedom of religion.

But it justified this as “...having been necessary in a democratic society for suppressing manifestations of religious discord”.

The Strasbourg court wasn’t having any of it.

It had already ruled on the unfairness of this 15-year rule in the 2009 judgment ruling.8 The same principle applied here, it said.

In so far as the fifteen-year waiting period under Russia’s Religions Act affected only newly emerging religious groups that did not form part of a hierarchical church structure, there was no justification for such differential treatment.

Case closed: strike three.
A key problem any country faces in its dealings with Scientology is how to stop it abusing its members – and for that matter its critics – without infringing on its basic rights.

It is not an easy balance to strike – though it is no surprise, really, that Russia keeps failing this test.

The cases just examined after all, simply illustrate what happens when one authoritarian organisation comes up against another.

In Russia, Scientology faced an arbitrary system steeped in bad faith, changing the rules whenever expedient: savour the irony.

So when, for once, Scientology gets a taste of its own medicine, it is tempting to sit back and enjoy the spectacle.

Resist the temptation. Focus instead on where Russia went wrong  – and on which countries are addressing the problem most effectively.

At the other end of the spectrum from Russia is the United States.

Here, as I have argued here before, the courts are so protective of religious freedom they have let Scientology trade it into a free pass for the egregious abuse of its members.9

Other countries, however, appear to be better at striking the balance.

Those who think the ECHR rulings against Russia mean that somehow Scientology got the fix in – three times running no less – should remember that the movement does not always get its own way there.

As reported here last week, Scientology had no luck with its much-trumpeted bid to take France to the same court after a Paris court convicted it of organised fraud. Their application fell at the first hurdle, a single judge rejecting it as inadmissible back in June.

And as I reported in September last year, the ECHR also dismissed a complaint the movement tried to bring against Belgium over an ongoing investigation there.

So far at least, these countries have passed the test, investigating Scientology – and in France’s case convicting it – without trampling on the movement's basic rights.

But if Scientology as an organisation is convicted a second time in France, it faces the possibility of being dissolved.

How that will work in practice is not clear yet: but it will be interesting to see what the European court makes of that sanction, if ever it comes to that.

1   “L’Église de Scientologie de Saint Pétersbourg, en Russie, gagne devant laCour Européenne des Droits de l’Homme” from the movement’s public relations website. See also French Scientologist Eric Roux’s blog post on October 3, a day after the ECHR ruling: “L'Eglise de Scientologie gagne à nouveau contre la Russie à la Cour Européenne des Droits de l'Homme”.
2    Sometimes they even demanded the original copies of such documents which, it turned out, was as unlawful as it was unreasonable. In fact the Justice Department already had the original documents in question, which had been enclosed in the initial application and never returned.
3    The first in a series of such rulings by the court was handed down in 1999. Decision no. 16-P of 23 November 1999 in the case of Religious Society of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Yaroslavl and Christian Glorification Church); decision no. 46-O of 13 April 2000 in the case of Independent Russian Region of the Society of Jesus; and decision no. 7-O of 7 February 2002 in the case of Moscow Branch of the Salvation Army.
4   The Moscow Branch of The Salvation Army v. Russia, no. 72881/01, §§ 23-24, ECHR 2006. You can find a court press statement on the case here.
5   While the judgment was handed on October 1, the final version was published on March 1, 2010. Kimlya and Others v. Russia, (Applications nos. 76836/01 and 32782/03).
6   Articles 9 and 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The 15-year rule, the Court noted, only affected groups that could not prove their presence in a given region over the required period. “It appears therefore that only those newly emerging religious groups that did not form part of a strictly hierarchical church structure were affected by the ‘fifteen-year rule’. The Government did not offer any justification for such differential treatment.”
9   See for example, this write-up of The Harvard Law Review’s critique of a US appeals court ruling that dismissed lawsuits brought by former Sea Org members Marc and Claire Headley against Scientology.

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Cased closed

The European Court of Human Rights has dismissed Scientology's bid to challenge its convictions for organised fraud in France. A second such French conviction could threaten its very existence there.1

I confess I missed this one.

But then again, I don't think Scientology put out a press release on it.

I recently checked with the European Court of Human Rights about Scientology's bid to take France to task for having convicted the movement for organised fraud. (They were arguing that, for a number of reasons, they were denied a fair trial.2)

Here's the response I got back from the ECHR press unit on Rosenberg and Jacquart v. France.

“The application in question was declared inadmissible on 5 June 2014 by a Single-Judge formation.”

According to the court's rules, a single judge can sit to consider an application “where inadmissibility is clear from the outset”, they explained.

In other words, their case was such a non-starter the court did not even consider it necessary to gather a full bench to reject it.

And there's no appeal.

“Being a Single-Judge decision, there is no decision available but only the letter that was sent to the applicants to inform them of this decision,” they explained.

In October last year France's top court, the Cour de Cassation, rejected Scientology's final bid to have the convictions quashed. In 2012, an appeal court had already confirmed the original 2009 convictions.

The reason this was was such a big deal of course, was that unlike previous Scientology convictions in France – and there have been a few – this time the organisation itself had been found guilty, not just a few key members.

When the Cour de Cassation handed down its ruling, effectively ending the legal battle inside France, Scientology made it clear they would take the case to the Strasbourg court.

In a statement, the movement even described that latest setback as an opportunity.

Now it could “...bring this affair before an international jurisdiction ... where the legal debate can unfold in the legal domain, far from the pressures of the executive, in a dispassionate space sensitive to the respect of fundamental rights.”3

Beginning of the end?

Well, they got their dispassionate ruling over the summer – and now they have to face up to the reality of those French convictions.

They also have to deal with the possibility that, if convicted as an organisation for a second time, they could, under French law, face dissolution.

And since the existing fraud conviction characterises some of the Scientology's core practices as fraudulent this poses a serious problem to the movement.

The original 2009 judgment described the personality test used to pull in recruits as “devoid of any scientific value and analysed with the sole aim of selling various products and services”.

The appeal judgment agreed, pointing out that the test “is not recognised by the scientific community and has no scientific value”.4

The original ruling quoted extensively from L. Ron Hubbard's own writings to condemn the hard-sell techniques against paying customers.

The appeal court judgment followed exactly the same line of reasoning.

It referred to Scientology staffers' relentless pursuit of money, “the payment of which was sought at very short notice, without normal regard to the resources of the people concerned, which inevitably, far from solving their problems, had serious consequences on their personal situation...,” which the Scientologists dealing with clients knew would happen.5

These practices, together with the constant harassment by staffers for money – by post, by telephone and at one's home – were all hard-sell techniques sanctioned by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard in his official writings.

This obsession with money was thus at the heart of the Scientology enterprise, the court concluded.

So this was more than just fraud committed by individuals, the appeal court judgment noted. The fraud had been committed by “people acting by a common resolution, in the framework of an elaborate system where the roles of each one was strictly defined and distributed...,” it insisted.6

That was what made it organised fraud, said the judgment: that was why the organisation as well as the individuals were convicted.

As I've reported previously, Scientology is facing at least two other investigations into alleged criminal activity here.

Perhaps most interesting is a case in 12 employees of a building firm say their employer forced them to take part in Scientology courses. Prosecutors in Versailles, near Paris, have opened a preliminary investigation into allegations of workplace harassment and abuse of weakness.7

Among those targeted in the investigation is one of the two Scientology organisations convicted of organised fraud: the Paris Celebrity Center, l’Association spirituelle de l’Eglise de scientologie (ASES-CC).

The other case is a long-running one resurrected last year by the Paris Court of Appeal. It concerns a private school that allegedly sneaked Scientology material on to its curriculum – and here again, the Paris Celebrity Centre is among the organisations targetted.8

It is a long road yet to any trials or convictions – assuming even that either case gets to court.

But since French law allows for the dissolution of an organisation that is twice convicted of a criminal offence, some of Scientology's most outspoken critics here say the movement's very existence here could eventually be in question.

For them, last year’s confirmation of the fraud convictions by the Cour de Cassation signalled the beginning of the end for Scientology in France.

How such a dissolution would work in practice of course, is another story. For some rights campaigners this would likely be a step too far.

Nor can there be any doubt that Scientology would seek to challenge any such sanction at the European Court of Human Rights.

And on that issue at least, they might get a more sympathetic hearing at the Strasbourg court.
For a guide to Infinite Complacency's comprehensive coverage of the Paris fraud trial and convictions, see here.

1   This is a revised, extended version of the piece I filed at Tony Ortega's Underground Bunker on October 24: “Scientology had a big legal loss in Europe in June and we're just now finding out about it
2   For an idea of what their case was, at least as presented to the Cour de Cassation, France's top court, see “An Impossible Defence”, elsewhere at this site.
3   “Porter l’affaire devant la cour européenne des droits de l’homme”, an October 16, 2013 release posted at the Scientologie Presse website. That reference to the “pressures of the executive” reflects Scientology's repeated allegations that the government had put pressure on the judiciary to get these convictions – and to make sure they stuck.
4   Page 25 of the February 2, 2012 Appeal Court judgment.
5   Page 26 of the February 2, 2012 Appeal Court judgment.
6   Page 28 of the February 2, 2012 Appeal Court judgment.
7   “French prosecutors investigating claims that a company forced Scientology on workers”, at Tony Ortega's Underground Bunker, July 25, 2014.
8   For more on this case, see the piece I filed at Tony Ortega's Underground Bunker on January 13, 2014: “New criminal case for Scientology in France could shut it down permanently in that country

Wednesday 2 July 2014

Atack on Roux on Scientology

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
Since today Eric Roux is presenting Scientology’s perspective on life to an audience of academics at SOCREL, organised by the British Sociological Association, now seems a good time to take a closer look at one of his previous talks.

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. (Tweet this) 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.
(Emphasis added.)
4  “The law can be used very easily to harass...” From Hubbard's 1955 The Scientologist, A Manual on the Dissemination of Material.
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.