WHAT HAPPENED? (1)
On February 18, 1954, L. Ron Hubbard gave permission to some of his followers to create the first local Church of Scientology, named the Church of Scientology of California.
Scientology is a body of religious beliefs invented by Hubbard in 1952, based on a program of ideas he developed called "Dianetics". He created the Dianetics Foundation, which quickly went bankrupt, losing him the rights to his belief system that he had captured in a book. And so, he re-characterized the belief system as a religion.
Scientology believes, among many other ideas, that a human being is a "thetan", or an immoral, spiritual being that is just taking up residence in a physical body.
Scientology has been wrought with controversy since its inception, and many people characterize the church as a cult.
SCIENTOLOGY BELIEFS (1)
The beliefs of the church are, according to the creators, based on rigorous research and doctrines that are significantly equivalent to scientific laws.
To put it lightly, they do some weird shit. One of their primary beliefs is that the mind is broken up into 2, the trouble-maker being the "reactive mind" which stores emotional trauma and mental images, called "engrams". These engrams are painful and force people further away from their true identity, a fate that Scientology wishes vehemently to avoid.
In order to avoid the pesky reactive mind from rearing its ugly head, they "audit" in order to enter a "clear" mind. Auditing is essentially a one-on-one counseling session, where everything you say is recorded and stored, and their goal is to help the person realize the principles of affinity, reality and communication (ARC). Auditing also requires an E-meter, which is a device that measures changes in the electrical resistance in your body when a current goes through you while holding electrodes (or metal cans). Said differently, auditing is essentially a one-on-one counseling session... If you're in a cult.
Followers are also given high-dose dietary supplements and told to spend extended time in saunas (we're talking like, 5 hours a day every day for 5 weeks) to deal with any toxic exposure or drug abuse. They don't believe in psychiatry or psychology.
Hubbard's teachings also say that 20% of the population are "supressive persons" meaning they are truly evil and dangerous, like the Adolf Hitlers of the world. Scientologists and strictly forbidden from interacting with these people, and are dubbed Potential Trouble Sources and are reprimanded if they do.
Scientology also has a "fair game" rule which means they have policies in place making it allowable to punish and harass people who they view as their enemies, using any means possible.
INTROSPECTION RUNDOWNS AND THE DEATH OF LISA MCPHERSON (2)
Another practice Scientologists engage in is "introspective rundown", a practice that is intended to handle a psychotic episode or a mental breakdown. In doing so, they isolate the person completely, spoken to only during auditing sessions. The person stays in isolation until they are deemed healed and able to re-engage with other people.
Hubbard believed that the introspection rundowns solved what would be the last use of psychiatry. But, introspection rundowns became a huge point of controversy after the death of Lisa McPherson, a member of the church who died in 1995 during a rundown.
When she joined the church, she was put into introspection rundown due to mental instability, but came out of it proving that she was "clear".
But in November of 1995, she got into a minor car accident. The first responders had intended to let her go, but she began taking her clothes off and so they took her to the hospital, assuming something may be mentally askew. She told them she had done it in hopes of obtaining counseling.
However, fellow Scientologists got involved and after that, she refused psychological observation and she checked herself out. When she got back, they sent her for "rest and relaxation", but it was clear she was being put into another introspection rundown.
During the rundown, activity is logged, and so her "care log" shows what her last 17 days were like: She was incoherent, violent, had to have her nails cut so she wouldn't scratch herself. Her hands were bruised from punching the wall, and she had to be given medication to sleep. Anyone who expressed concern about her state was told to "butt out".
On December 5th, they contacted a medical doctor who had previously described medication for her without even seeing her, but this time, he said they'd need take her to the hospital right away, and he refused to prescribe anything without seeing her. They didn't want to take her to a nearby hospital because they feared she'd be put under psychiatric care, so they took her to their doctor, which was about 45 minutes away. She died before she arrived.
The church was initially convicted of 2 felony charges, determining she was a victim of negligent homicide, but the charges were dropped.
Within the church, the Lisa McPherson Clause went into act, saying that all members would sign a general release form every time they adopted a new service and they'd agree that Scientology is a religion and not a medical professional. They also require members to promise that if they're placed in a psychiatric ward, the church is able to intervene and get them into the care of other Scientologists.
THE CHURCH'S ORGANIZATION (1)
A survey in 2001 estimated that nearly 55,000 people in the U.S. are Scientologists and up to 200,000 people worldwide, though a 2008 survey showed that the U.S. number was closer to 25,000 and a 2011 study showed that the worldwide was closer to 40,000.
The highest ranking members of the church are members of the "Sea Org" which includes 5,000 of the most dedicated members, who are paid little and sign a billion-year contract.
When Sea Org members are found guilty of any violation, they are assigned the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF) where they spend 5 hours studying or auditing and 8 hours of physical labor per day.
CONTROVERSIES AND CRIMES
Mary Sue Hubbard, wife of Ron Hubbard, and others were found guilty of one of the largest domestic acts of espionage in history. Their crimes involved infiltrating, wiretapping, and stealing documents from the Internal Revenue Service and offices of Federal attorneys.
An FBI raid of their HQ also found evidence and documentation that detailed their planned criminal actions against people who spoke out against them, specifically that they planned to frame an outspoken anti-Scientologist the Clearwater, FL mayor with a hit and run.
The Spain chapter had 10 people arrested for fraud and labor law violations (among other things) and the Paris chapter was found guilty of organized fraud. The church is historically known for harassing critics, including spying, heckling and even breaking into homes and rooms of them.
Additionally, they are known for harassing those who leave the church and psychologically abusing them, often using their confessions from their audit sessions that were supposed to be confidential.
There have also been allegations that women in the Sea Org and the church at large have been forced into having abortions. Allegedly, forced abortions, beatings and starvation are often used as punishments in the church.
CELEBRITY INVOLVEMENT (3)
Scientology is sometimes referred to as "the church of the stars", but that idea is mostly perpetuated by the celebrity centers set up and not actually because of a huge influx of celebrities - most other major religions have far and away more celebrity members.
The church has always cared about celebrity involvement, and have been trying to get celebrities to join since its inception. They offer rewards to members who recruit targeted celebrities, and operate "Celebrity Centers" which are meant to expand their celebrity following.
Some of the well-known members of Scientology are Tom Cruise and John Travolta, but there are many celebrities who are involved. Danny Masterson and Laura Preppon, Hyde and Donna in That 70's Show, are Scientologists, along with actor Michael Pena. Elizabeth Moss, who plays June in The Handmaid's Tale (the story of a woman trapped in an oppressive religious cult) is also a member.
When you break down the details of any religion and their traditions, they can all seem a bit strange. But it is evident to most that Scientology goes a step beyond the normal traditions and camaraderie of a typical religion, using strange and potentially dangerous practices on their members, and authorizing attacks and harassment on critics and past members.
Scientology is an extremely interesting topic and a rabbit hole that is far, far deeper than the small amount of information provided here, and its first local church was instated 66 years ago today.
REFERENCES: 1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientology