The Church of Scientology recently outlasted the I.R.S. in its 40 year battle to gain tax- exempt status. Now 153 of Scientology's "churches", missions, and corporations will be exempt from federal corporate income taxes. Now "donations" (fees for their "counseling" or auditing sessions) can be tax-deductible. Scientology has branches in 78 countries and its "scripture", Dianetics, has been translated into 25 languages.
Scientology leader David Miscavage responded to the decision: "Our road to infinite expansion is now wide open" (St. Petersburg Times, 13 October 1993, p.3A). Scientology claims to have 8 million members worldwide, 5 million in the U.S.
One of the hardest hit by the tax decision is the municipal government in Clearwater, Florida, the location of one of Scientology's chief centers of operation. The center owns major sections of real estate there and had nearly $7 million pending in contested back taxes.
Clearwater's mayor Rita Garvey said, "It's a profit-making organization preying on the needs of people looking for help". Former Mayor Gabe Cazares remarked, "I think it's a license to steal" (Ibid.).
The I.R.S. investigation has yielded some interesting details concerning financial assets and holdings of Scientology. For example, the "Church" of Scientology is spending $114 million on elaborate measures to preserve forever the writings of the late L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology's messiah (St. Petersburg Times, 14 October 1993, p. 1A).
Even though Scientology continually attempts to distance itself from its numerous front organizations, the documents reveal that the cult is "a warren of dozens of organizations from Denmark to Clearwater" (Ibid., p. 1B).``
The book value of their cruise ship, Freewinds, is $15.2 million and they spent $6 million in an ad campaign in USA Today to try and neutralize the damage of the powerful cover story exposé of Time magazine.
The Clearwater based "church" reported $74.3 million total revenue last year with about as much in expenses. But part of the "expenses" was a $24.3 million transfer to the "mother" church in Los Angeles; that reported assets of $92 million with more than half in cash and $3 million in gold bullion.
How does this "church" gather so much money? Part of the money comes from rather large fees for "spiritual counseling" or auditing its members. The courses Scientology sells are seemingly unending, progressive, stepping stones toward Godhood.
Critics point out what is seen as the contradiction between normal churches which offer spiritual growth and guidance basically without charges, and Scientology which claims not to be a for-profit business yet a church which charges very high fees for this spiritual growth. Another interesting revelation was that the church staffers are paid only $50 per week (Ibid.).
Scientology Launches Major PR Effort
According to the Wall Street Journal (20 October 1993), Scientology is gearing up for a major PR campaign beginning with a new propaganda book, What is Scientology?, published by Scientology-owned Bridge Publications. The campaign also includes a half-hour documercial, titled "The Problem of Life", about a couple "who are looking for the answers of life". It ends with a 10 minute sales pitch from actor Jeff Pomerantz. Two minute commercials will run on national cable TV stations as well. Hopefully, this attention will draw out more exposés and will backfire on Scientology. Pray that it does.
Swiss to Prosecute Scientology
According to The Spotlight (29 November 1993), "three heads of the Church of Scientology have been indicted on charges of usury, fraud, coercion, and extortion in a Swiss court on November 11" (p.1).
The article reported that the case has created headlines in the European press and is being closely monitored by foreign governments who are "dealing with similar charges for imminent indictment".
The article goes on to state that "charges of fraud, usury, duress, coercion, manipulation, racketeering and extortion have been made throughout the world over many years since the sect's founding". For example, Canada's courts for the first time in the country's history successfully prosecuted not only Scientology leaders but also the church itself.
The Swiss "no-nonsense prosecutor famed for never having lost a case" believes that this case is only the "tip of the iceberg". Swiss authorities have received numerous complaints from former members with charges of fraud, intimidation, blackmail, psychological terror which includes the "auditing which victims claim leaves them physically, mentally, and emotionally wrecked" (p. 3).
One victim testified that he lost his entire life savings of $135,000 to Scientology. The presiding judge stated, "They [Scientologists] had exploited the inexperience, the weakness of character, situational confusion, and mental distress of the victim to attract him and keep him in Scientology. He was induced to pay sums in evident disproportion with the courses that were provided for him. [Scientologist leaders] had exercised on the victim pressures, manipulations, coercion and threats which made him unable to resist and finally plunged him into despair" (p. 3).
Scientology Loses Another Major Case
The California Court of Appeals just issued a final order in the Wollersheim v. Scientology case, which finally allows Lawrence Wollersheim to begin executing the collection of his unanimous 1986 judgment against Scientology for $2.5 million (now $6 million with interest).
This 14 year battle has been up and down between the California Appellate, California Supreme, and the U.S. Supreme Courts at least three times. The California Court of Appeal wrote concerning Scientology, "practices conducted in a coercive environment are not qualified to be voluntary religious practices entitled to First Amendment guarantees this level of coercion¼is too outrageous to be protected under the Constitution and too unworthy to be privileged under the law of Torts" (Press release from F.A.C.T.). Wollersheim was horribly abused psychologically by the standard practices of the "church" of Scientology.
New Scientology Exposé
Former head of Scientology PR and media for 20 years, Robert Young, has published an article in the journalism magazine, Quill, revealing the tactics of Scientology designed to handle and deceive the news media ("Scientology from inside out", November/ December 1993, pp. 38-41). The article details the tactics and strategies of Scientology towards damage control, by painting a positive image, and calming its followers.
But Scientology is very ready to go one step further than trying to kill a story or at least control it. Young states, "Scientology stands ready and able to unleash an assault on the journalist that can include private detectives and lawsuits making it little wonder that publications have grown reluctant to write about the Hubbard empire" (Ibid., pp. 38-39).
The article lists tactics employed to "handle the media" which include: How to respond to the question without answering; How to divert the issue; How to keep "an acceptable truth"; How to stall for time; How to easily assume emotional states to control another; How to "attack the attacker"; How to take control of a conversation; How to help Scientology attorneys write inflammatory legal papers so the PR could safely use the abusive phrases; How to appear to be a religion (Ibid., p. 39).
Ed. Note: Watchman Fellowship will continue to exercise our Constitutional rights of freedoms of speech, the press, and religion when these rights are threatened by lawsuits.
Recently Watchman Fellowship was sued by the Church of Scientology. This case has now been settled to the satisfaction of both parties. We wish to thank our readers who prayed for us and stood with us in this case.