Illustration by Lucinda Drake

What is Scientology? Scientology is an extremely controversial religion known for its unique religious practices, organized harassment, and humanitarian activities.

Scientology was originally pioneered by L. Ron Hubbard in 1938 after he reacted to a drug used in a dental procedure. This apparently led to a near-death experience which led him to get inspired to create his first unpublished manuscript, “The One Command,” which was an early version of his theory of “Dianetics,” a therapy like experience where one talks to a counselor-like figure known as an auditor, who assists the subject in recall of traumatic events from the individual’s past.

Scientology borrows heavily from Dianetics philosophy. According to Hubbard, Dianetics is the improvement of the individual, otherwise known as “self.” Self is one of the eight dynamics of scientology, with the other dynamics being creativity, group survival, species, life form, physical universe, spiritual dynamic, and a concept called infinity, which is achieving godlike status by embracing the urge of existence as infinity. One must fully achieve the seventh dynamic of spirituality before they can fully embrace the eighth principle, which embraces the allness of everything.

Scientologists also preach the “thetan,” which they consider to be the replacement for the central nervous system in the body. Scientologists claim the thetan is a spirit of sorts who uses the body as a control system between itself and the physical universe.

However, some people see Scientology differently as a whole. John, a public community coordinator at the Portland Church of Scientology on SW and 3rd, states “Scientology saved my life. I was a drug addict and through Scientology’s detox program, I have been clean for 5 years now… Human rights are being acknowledged. We help people with addictions, and we have been responsible for a lot of the help coming to aid survivors of Hurricane Michael.”

Over the years there have been many controversies regarding the activities of The Church of Scientology. Critics denounce the organization’s policy on disconnection, in which one must sever all ties between colleagues, friends, family or anyone declared a suppressive person by the Church. Failure to cut ties to suppressive persons results in the offender being declared a suppressive person.

Furthermore, there have been multiple allegations that the leader of the church, David Miscavige, has physically and emotionally abused Scientology staff members at the Church’s Gilman Hot Springs base commonly known as “The Hole.”

Besides these troubling practices and accusations, there are several recorded instances of the Church’s upper management doing and plotting criminal activities such as Operation Snow White, a large incident of industrial espionage by 11 prominent Scientology members against the IRS and the offices of federal attorneys. An FBI raid in 1977, the same year of the incident, showed several other plans by the same 11 Scientologists. One was named Operation Freakout, a plan to have journalist Paulette Cooper entered into a mental asylum or imprisonment. Another plan discovered was to frame Gabe Cazares, the then mayor of Clearwater, Florida, in a phony hit-and-run accident. 11 prominent Scientology members were convicted of this scandal, including L.Ron Hubbard’s wife, Mary Sue Hubbard. L.Ron Hubbard spent the rest of his life in hiding because of this, and died in his mansion in California, at age 74, in 1986.

The Church has been known to aggressively pursue critics and detractors of the Church. One, a BBC journalist named John Sweeney, while undergoing a Scientology film for the BBC stated, “I have been shouted at, spied on, had my hotel invaded at midnight, denounced as a ‘bigot’ by star Scientologists, brainwashed—that is how it felt to me—in a mockup of a Nazi-style torture chamber and chased round the streets of Los Angeles by sinister strangers.”

Similarly, the hacker group “Anonymous” also tangled with the Church of Scientology over free speech issues when the Church took down a video they originally made that was uploaded to YouTube, featuring an interview with Tom Cruise praising Scientology. Because of this, on February 10, 2018, 7,000 people protested Scientology in over 90 cities worldwide while wearing Guy Fawkes masks from the movie V for Vendetta. Alongside this, they also DOSed Scientology websites, prank called Scientology phone lines, and black faxed Scientology centers. DOSing is a tactic in which the perpetrator makes a system unavailable for its users by temporarily or indefinitely disrupting a host’s access to the internet. Black faxing is a tactic where one uses a uniform black tone to use up a person’s fax ink, toner, or thermal paper as much as possible.

Scientology also runs an organization known as “Sea Org.” This organization composed of dedicated scientologists who have been members for years, or, in the majority of cases, Scientology kids. To qualify for Sea Org, one must sign a billion-year contract, and must not have ever taken LSD or have undertaken psychological treatment.

Working at Sea Org is a lonely and isolated job, as individuals are usually separated from their family and friends. Because Scientology has a religious status in most countries, labor laws do not apply, and many children work 17-20 hour weeks. They rarely have more than a few hours off per week, and holiday leave requests are frequently denied. Connections with the outside world through letters are censored, and many do not have mobile phones. Besides this, members are put under tremendous psychological pressure from supervisors, and having children is not permitted. Because of this, pregnant members are encouraged to have abortions.

Scientology is shrinking, as the last survey taken by the government, which counted Scientologists in the U.S. excluding Alaska and Hawaii, says that there are only 25,000 Scientologists, a far cry from The Church’s estimated 8 million members.


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