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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    The secret sins of Scientology

    No religious organization in recent memory has drawn so much ire from so many different groups, as the Church of Scientology has. Then again, the church isn’t really a religious organization.

    On Jan. 21, an incognito group of Internet hackers, appropriately named “”Anonymous,”” released a video on YouTube declaring war on the CoS. The video was a catalyst for a remarkable phenomenon: Internet groups, many of them frequently at odds with one another, joined with Anonymous. Their deep-seated loathing of Scientology’s unethical practices boiled over into action.

    You’ve probably noticed the anti-CoS posters around campus, distributed by affiliates of Anonymous. If you drove by North Campbell Avenue on East Fort Lowell Road yesterday, you may have seen a throng of protestors across the street from the Scientology “”Life Improvement Center”” – one of a series of worldwide protests.

    Anonymous alleges that the CoS causes the deaths of Scientologists, indoctrinates its members in a cultish fashion, uses underhanded campaigns of harassment to silence critics and former members, charges exorbitant fees for Scientology-related materials, goes to great lengths to keep its religious documents secret, plants spies in government organizations and conducts a crusade of terror against the psychiatry and mental health professions which allow countless Americans to live normal lives.

    Some of the hysteria surrounding Scientology is just that – hysteria. But many of Anonymous’ claims are true, and even though a few critics blow Scientology’s sins out of proportion, there is plenty of reason to be troubled by its conduct. Anti-Scientology groups desire the removal of Scientology’s tax-exempt status and increased media scrutiny, both of which are reasonable demands.

    Most religions have a shady past, but almost all of them have apologists who address this past. When asked about the Crusades, Christians may argue that the Crusades were actually justified or that they were a net good, or they may admit that medieval Catholics did not behave in a particularly Christian manner.

    What is most telling about the CoS is the absence of any apologetic whatsoever. When critics challenge Scientology, members merely accuse them of religious bigotry or of hating the Scientology’s mission to better peoples’ lives.

    Claims of bigotry miss the point that critics of Scientology oppose the suppressive actions in particular, not individual members. Scientologists are mostly innocent, but Scientology’s gestalt evil is more than the sum of its parts.

    The CoS behaves in a manner unfitting of a religious organization – a fact which has caused many members to leave in favor of practicing independently, forming groups like the Scientology Freezone. The CoS’ monopoly on high-level Scientology materials, as well as its tendency to slander independent Scientology, reveals that it isn’t the critics who seek to prevent free religious exercise.

    Scientology paints itself as a victim and its detractors as Nazis – this analogy even appeared in the Wildcat’s Mailbag last week. Appropriately, Germany does not recognize Scientology as a religious organization. The official Scientology word is that Germany has a history of hatred toward religious minorities – check out the official Scientology Web site, www.scientology.org, for more information.

    The German Embassy counters such accusations by noting that Germany, due to its Nazi past, must be wary of extremist, anti-democratic organizations. Moreover, Germany is not unique in asserting that Scientology is more like a business than a religion: Other countries, such as France, Israel and Mexico, share this sentiment.

    In the United States, Scientology’s road to tax-exempt status was paved with undemocratic modes of persuasion, including blackmail. The final agreement between Scientology and the Internal Revenue Service required that Scientology be given preferential treatment over all other religions. Its tax-exempt status is an affront to real religious organizations – but its special privileges are an outright insult.

    Try this experiment: Ask a high-ranking Scientologist about Lisa McPherson, who was held for 17 days in a Scientology-owned hotel before dying of a blood clot. Ask them about the Church’s version of the story, that McPherson’s clot was caused by a bruise suffered during a car accident – a ludicrous theory which ignores evidence that the clot was caused by dehydration. Ask them about the Church’s attempts to force the coroner, Joan Wood, to amend her decision so as to free the church from blame. See if you get any answers.

    An inquiry by the German government revealed that CoS membership can lead to “”psychological and physical dependency, financial ruin and even suicide.”” The McPherson incident is just one example of this – and still Scientology has remained mostly silent.

    The simplest explanation for the absence of Scientology defenders is that its actions are indefensible.

    Luckily, all is not lost for the CoS. It can take some easy steps to allay the wrath of critics. First, it must abandon the notion that it has any inalienable right to secrecy in a democratic world, where information flows freely. Second, Scientology must directly address, rather than attempt to censor, claims regarding Lisa McPherson and other Church victims, statements regarding its financial structure and allegations by former Scientologists. It must provide strong evidence refuting these claims, or it must apologize and prove that it has reformed.

    This is the modus operandi of every other religious organization on Earth. But if the Church of Scientology cannot do this, then it will remain no religious organization.

    Taylor Kessinger is a junior majoring in math, philosophy and physics. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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