Church Answers Charges: TIME Calls Scientology "Cult of Greed"
TIME magazine's May 6, 1991 cover story described the Church of Scientology, founded by L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986), as a "cult of greed" adding that it "poses as a religion but is really a ruthless global scam" (p. 50).
In response, the Church of Scientology, Int'l., developed a $3 million advertizing campaign featuring full page ads, including its own 27-page full color magazine distributed as an advertizing supplement with the June 14, 1991, issue of USA Today.
The eight-page TIME article, written by Richard Behar, described Scientology as a "hugely profitable global racket that survives by intimidating members and critics in a Mafia-like manner" (Ibid).
Some of the charges the article made included:
Illegal Activities including financial scams, forgery, holding followers hostage, and criminal operations such as "infiltrating, burglarizing and wiretapping more than 100 private and government agencies in attempts to block their investigations" (Ibid, pp. 50-53).
Legal Harassment of its critics including 71 active lawsuits against the IRS, 14 lawsuits against attorney Michael Flynn, who represented former members (all dismissed), and 19 lawsuits against journalist Paulette Cooper who wrote a critical book in 1971.
Cooper was also the victim of what a church document titled "Operation Freak-Out," a church sponsored attempt to frame Cooper for bomb threats which was uncovered when a 1977 FBI raid recovered church memos.
Mental and Physical Abuse of followers through expensive manipulative sessions that "can produce a drugged-like, mind-controlled euphoria" employing schizophrenic and paranoid behavior which promotes psychopathic response and suicide (Ibid, p. 52).
Front Organizations which disguise their ties to Scientology while attempting to enlist wealthy and influential recruits from the business and professional communities.
These include Sterling Management Systems, The Way to Happiness Foundation, Applied Scholastics, The Concerned Businessmen's Association of America, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, the Association for Better Living and Education, two drug abuse treatment programs (Narconon and Criminon), and a chain of health clinics called HealthMed.
Faked Religious Status to avoid taxes and legal problems. "An Internal Revenue Service ruling in 1967 stripped Scientology's mother church of its tax-exempt status. A federal court ruled in 1971 that Hubbard's medical claims were bogus and that E-meter auditing (See "Science Fiction Theology," on Page 1 of this Expositor) could no longer be called a scientific treatment" (Ibid, p. 51).
Skimming Funds and Dodging Taxes documented by IRS investigations during the 1970's proving that, "...Hubbard was skimming millions of dollars from the church, laundering the money through dummy corporations in Panama and stashing it in Swiss bank accounts. Moreover church members stole documents, filed false tax returns and harassed the agency's employees" (Ibid).
Scientology Fights Back
As part of its $3 million response, the Church of Scientology attempted to dismiss TIME's allegations claiming that the magazine was financially pressured to publish the article.
Scientology's USA Today advertizing supplement entitled, The Story That TIME Couldn't Tell, alleges that the charges in the article are untrue and that the Church was actually the victim of a bizarre and complicated plot involving several public relations agencies, $18 billion in advertizing revenue, and an anti-depression drug called Prozac.
Scientology and the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), an organization founded by the Church in 1969, have been major critics of Prozac for a number of years charging that the drug, causes "delirium, hallucinations, convulsions, violent hostility and aggression, psychosis and attempted suicide" (The Story That TIME Couldn't Tell, p. 3).
The conflict between Prozac and Scientology is one of the latest battles in a long war between the mental health community and the Church's founder, science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard.
His book, Dianetics, first released in 1950 formed the foundation for the beliefs of Scientology. Among other promises, the book was marketed as an alternative treatment method for mental problems through "Dianetic Therapy."
Almost immediately the book was condemned by Journal of the American Medical Association and countless professionals in the mental heath community.
The Church views those pharmaceutical companies and doctors who are critical of Hubbard's theories and prefer more traditional methods of treatment as enemies.
A recent battle in this war continues to this day between the Church of Scientology and Eli Lilly & Company, the maker of Prozac.
According to Scientology's theory, Eli Lilly & Company lost $5 billion due to criticism of Prozac by the Church and the CCHR. Coincidentally, both the Church of Scientology and Lilly are clients of separate public relations firms which have the same parent corporation, the London-based WPP Group.
The Church claims that Lilly attempted to silence Scientology's expose of Prozac by threatening to pull their lucrative advertizing budget from WPP. Then to satisfy Lilly, WPP intimidated TIME magazine with the possibility of dropping $57 million in advertizing if they did not publish an article critical of The Church of Scientology.
Problems With The Prozac Theory
Scientology's fantastic claim might be more believable if TIME had been the only voice to level such charges against the Church of Scientology.
Less than two months earlier, the Wall Street Journal summarized the Scientology vs. Prozac debate describing the Church as a "quasi-religious/ business/paramilitary organization" whose founder "long harbored a profound and obsessive hatred for psychiatrists" (19 April 1991, p. 9).
In a 1987 article entitled, "Trying to Bend Managers' Minds," Fortune magazine called Scientology, "a full-blown cult" (23 Nov. 1987, p. 98).
Also, after running paid advertisement for the Church, the Washington Post warned its readers that, "...there is another side - a dark side - of the Scientology story."
The article named several organizations that had come under "vicious and serious harassment" for speaking out against the Church including the American Medical Association, the Better Business Bureau, the Los Angeles Times, and even a federal judge. (20 Feb. 1985, p. A-20).
In 1978, long before the advent of Prozac, Newsweek called Scientology a "bizarre fringe group" and complained of its reliance on law "suits and petty harassments to register its complaints" (20 Nov. 1978, p. 133).
Even Reader's Digest has warned of the dangers of Scientology in an article published in May of 1980 titled, "Scientology: Anatomy of a Frightening Cult."
In a follow-up article, "Scientology: The Sickness Spreads," Reader's Digest warned that, "...[a]n analysis of sworn testimony and the findings of official tribunals in 12 nations, plus independent investigation, revealed it to be a multinational racket masquerading as a religion" (Reader's Digest, Sept. 1981, p. 76).
These represent just a few of many examples of investigative journalism from widely divergent sources that have discovered major problems, fraud, and/or illegal activity within the Church of Scientology. Certainly all of these charges could not be coming from vengeful pharmaceutical companies.
Responding To the Response
Contradictions can be found even in Scientology's own self-published defense. The Church laments the fact that "not one positive fact" was reported by TIME and lists seven worthwhile organizations and projects it supports including Narconon and the CCHR that TIME failed to report and of which "...[n]o reference was made...." (The Story TIME Couldn't Tell, p.9).
In actuality, five of these organizations were mentioned by TIME but were described as front organizations that have direct links to Scientology used as deceptive recruitment tools.
The Church also attempted to offset its image of illegal operations and criminal activities claiming:
"Church members acknowledge the difficult task performed by law enforcement officials in their communities, and encourage citizen support for their work" (Ibid, p. 24).
However just two pages later, the Church made the mistake of reprinting Hubbard's "True Story of Scientology."
The "true" relationship of Scientology with the law enforcement community was revealed when Hubbard listed "the police" along with politicians and undertakers as leaders of the "Merchants of Chaos" who "...deal in confusion and upset." He added, "Their daily bread is made by creating chaos. If chaos were to lessen, so would their incomes" (Ibid, p. 26).
The Church claims that, "Scientologists around the world actively work, in cooperation with their local police departments, to reduce crime" (Ibid, p. 24).
Actually, Church leaders are quite involved with the law enforcement community worldwide. But one could question on which side of the law they are.
In a 1977 FBI raid of Scientology centers in Los Angeles and Washington, eleven top church officials were arrested and imprisoned for infiltrating, burglarizing, and wiretapping over 100 government agencies including the IRS, FBI and CIA (Forbes, 27 Oct. 1986, p. 314).
Then in 1983 in Ontario, Canada police raided Scientology's Ontario headquarters seizing about two million documents and charging 15 members with theft. Four pleaded guilty (The Globe and Mail, Toronto, 26-28 July 1988).
Again in November of 1988, Spanish authorities raided Scientology offices throughout Spain seizing hundreds of pounds of documents and arresting 70 people including current Scientology president, Heber Jentzsch (St. Petersburg Times, 22 Nov. 1988).
In their May 27th issue, TIME reported that they had already received some 400 letters in response to their article. About 25 percent were in favor of Scientology and 75 percent opposed the Church (p. 13).
Significantly, at least ten percent asked that their names not be printed – some of these no doubt in fear of retaliation. The public should be grateful for the courage expressed by TIME, Richard Behar, and others who have risked almost certain attack to speak what they see to be the truth about Scientology.