Going Clear, the recent documentary on Scientology, has brought the church a lot of unwanted attention recently. The film is a highly-critical look at the origins of Scientology and its current practices. It relies on recollections of members who have left the church to talk about what went on behind closed doors. But the movie didn't cover what it was like to be born and grow up in the Church of Scientology. These are the stories of two such people who have since left the church.
Response from the Church of Scientology:
The claims made by your so far “anonymous” source are false and bigoted. They take aspects of Scientology and twist them to the point they are unrecognizable solely to create prejudice against members of my Church.
The information about the Church of Scientology and its religious practices is so readily available that journalists can no longer claim ignorance about them as a reason for being conned into airing obvious blatant lies from individuals with personal axes to grind. Five minutes on the Church’s very accessible websites provides enough information to arouse concerns that the reporter is being misinformed. Thus the airing of such obviously biased claims without challenging the source and providing the Church with a meaningful opportunity to respond is irresponsible.
Columbia Journalism School’s recent criticisms of Rolling Stone magazine highlighted a similar fault. Just as you do here, the Rolling Stone’s reporter fed University of Virginia officials a few general allegations and asked for “comment,” but failed to provide the details that would have enabled university officials to ferret out the lies. Your questions are similar, which is why I asked for amplification.
In that light, here are my answers:
Claim: Some Scientology schools are marketed as secular private schools, and some parents send their children to these schools unaware of their affiliation with Scientology.
There are no “Scientology schools” of the type you suggest. Our Churches contain course rooms which provide purely religious instruction in Scientology. Some secular private schools have elected to utilize the education methodologies developed by L. Ron Hubbard. These schools are licensed by Applied Scholastics to utilize Mr. Hubbard’s discoveries in this context. They do not engage in religious instruction. They all make their affiliation with L. Ron Hubbard’s methodologies clear to students and parents.
Claim: Church representatives recruit for SEAORG at these schools.
False. To join the Sea Organization religious order an individual must meet the legal age requirements to work for whatever jurisdiction they are in. This varies from country to country.
Claim: Church members who don't make progress or become ill are stigmatized and ostracized and can ultimately be labeled "Suppressive Persons."
This utterly misstates our beliefs. Scientologists who become ill are urged to seek medical treatment. They also seek spiritual counseling pertaining to their illness, but this is never at the expense of medical treatment.
Claim: The Church is formally or informally against secular education.
This is absurd. L. Ron Hubbard devoted years of research into finding out why people had trouble learning and to developing methods to improve their ability to learn any subject. He thereafter made this technology broadly available outside the Scientology religion to help people learn. His contribution to the field of education has been acknowledged by educators all over the world.
Claim: Children as young as 12 are put through the Church's "Purification Rundown," with extended periods of exercise, saunas and high-dose supplements such as Niacin.
The Purification Rundown is a religious practice, the participation in which is subject to prior medical approval and, in the circumstances of an individual under 18 years of age, parental approval.
Claim: Families of members who leave the Church are no longer allowed to be in contact with them. Members of wealthier families may be exempt the requirement to "disconnect."
This misstates our practice. The Church’s voluntary practice of disconnection in circumstances where an individual’s spiritual progress is imperilled by continued connection to people hostile to their survival is explained on our website at www.scientology.org/faq/scientology-attitudes-and-practices/what-is-disconnection.html.
Courts have addressed this voluntary practice and have validated the Constitutional rights of the Church and its members to freedom of association, which must necessarily include the right not to associate with someone:
“A church is entitled to stop associating with someone who abandons it. Paul v. Watchtower Bible & Tract Soc'y of N.Y., Inc., 819 F.2d 875, 883 (9th Cir.1987) (holding that the free exercise clause protects the practice of shunning, explaining that when “[t]he members of [a] [c]hurch” “no longer want to associate with” someone who has “abandon[ed]” them, those members “are free” under the First Amendment “to make that choice”). A church may also warn that it will stop associating with members who do not act in accordance with church doctrine. The former is a legitimate consequence, the latter a legitimate warning.” Headley v. Church of Scientology International (9th Cir. 2012) 687 F.3d 1173, 1180.