The revised and corrected version of a shorter presentation given at
the 27th Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag, June 20, 1997, Leipzig,

Stephen A. Kent (Ph.D.)
Department of Sociology
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA
T6G 2H4

July 1, 1997



Although some social scientists insist that Scientology is a
religion, the more appropriate position to take is that the
organization is a multi-faceted transnational that has religion as
only one of its many components. Other components include political
aspirations, business ventures, cultural productions, pseudo-medical
practices, pseudo-psychiatric claims, and (among its most devoted
members who have joined the Sea Organization), an alternative family
structure. Sea Organization's job demands appear to allow little
time for quality child rearing. Most disturbing, however, about Sea
Organization life is that members can be subject to extremely severe
and intrusive punishments through security checks, internal hearings
called "Committees of Evidence," and a forced labour and re-
indoctrination program known as the Rehabilitation Project Force
(RPF) and its harshest companion, the RPF's RPF. Taken together,
these harsh and intrusive punishments likely violate a number of
human rights clauses as outlined by two United Nations statements.

June 30, 1997


Rarely, if ever, in the post-war period have diplomats from the
superpowers troubled themselves over questions about the alleged
religious nature of a transnational organization. Consequently, the
current debate between Germany and the United States over the
alleged religious nature of Scientology is remarkable, and probably
unique in recent history. The fact that German officials,
institutions, and citizens are seeking additional information about
this organization is commendable, and I am grateful for the
opportunity to share insights that may help to clarify the issues in
this debate.

For the record, I did not have any contact with German
parliamentary officials as I was preparing my talk. For about ten
minutes I spoke by telephone with one German professor who is
involved with the current discussion about the organization, but we
only touched briefly on issues related to Scientology. The German
Kirchentag paid my air fare and my hotel in Leipzig, and Berliner
Dialog is covering some of my expenses, but they are not paying me a
fee or honorarium. I prepared my talk while in Canada, and did not
consult with anyone in Germany or elsewhere about its content. I had
complete freedom to write whatever I wanted around the general topic
of the debate about Scientology's religious claims.

As a person trained in religious studies, I find the debate
about Scientology's alleged religious nature to be an interesting
and important one. It should not be, however, the only issue over
which we evaluate the German-American debate over Scientology's
religious claims. Intimately related to the religious question are
human rights questions. Some people assume that religious practice
is a guaranteed human right, but even a superficial examination of
world events shows that many atrocities occur in the name of God or
religion. Universally, therefore, religious belief must receive
absolute protection, but religious practice stemming from that
belief must receive protection only until it begins to violate the
rights of its members or nonmembers. Following from this last point,
I argue that even if Scientology contains a theology and cosmology
that some members interpret religiously, its organizational actions
and behaviours raise serious human rights questions. Without wanting
to review the pronouncements from all German officials about the
organization, I conclude that the German government has good reason
to investigate Scientology's activities in this country. It also has
compelling reasons to inquire about the well-being of German
citizens in Scientology facilities in the United States and
elsewhere. I will share just a few of the documents that led me to
these conclusions, and some of them are available in numerous world
wide web sites on the "internet."

Is Scientology a Religion?

For a number of my social scientific colleagues around the
world, the debate between Germany and the U.S. revolves around the
question of Scientology's religious claims. Many of my social
scientific colleagues have examined some Scientology documents and
possibly participated in some Scientology events, and they have
concluded that the organization is religious in nature. Bryan R.
Wilson (b. 1926), for example, who is a respected British
sociologist of religion, concluded "that Scientology must indeed be
regarded as a religion" (Wilson, 1990: 288). He reached this
conclusion after comparing Scientology's belief system with twenty
characteristics usually found within what he called "known
religions" (Wilson, 1990: 279). Significantly for the current debate
in this country, he dismissed historical information from the early
1950s about Dianetics presenting itself as "a mental therapy and
Scientology a science." Specifically with these early self-
representations in mind, Wilson insisted that "even if it could be
conclusively shown that Scientology took the title of 'church'
specifically to secure at law as a religion, that would say nothing
about the status of the belief-system, and it is with the belief
system that we are specifically concerned" (Wilson, 1990: 282-283).1

In fact, I have made precisely the argument that Wilson
dismisses. In a study that Berliner Dialog (Heft 1-97) translated
into German, and in another study that I hope to publish soon, I
show that L. Ron Hubbard (Scientology's founder) claimed that
Scientology was a religion because he saw the claim as a marketing
device to make money and avoid taxes (Kent, 1997b: 25ff; Miller,
1987: 199-203, 220) as well as a way "to reduce the likelihood of
governmental interventions against it for allegedly practising
medicine without a license" (Kent, 1996: 30). Moreover, Scientology
denies its reputedly religious nature if it is attempting to enter a
country that might react adversely to religious proselytization
(such as Japan or Greece [Kent, 1997a: 18-19]). Nevertheless, the
historical reasons behind Scientology's religious claims, as well as
the organization's selectivity in making the claims, do not diminish
the probability that many Scientologists view their commitment as a
religious one.

From a social scientific perspective, and probably from a legal
one as well, the objective "truth" of an ideology is not the
determinant of a group's "religious" designation. Mere belief in
supernatural beings or forces may be enough to get an ideology
designated as religious, even if the origins or doctrines of the
belief system are highly suspect. Along these lines, the
inspirational figure in the sociology of religion, Max Weber,
refused to exclude charlatans from his identification of charismatic
figures, since the devotion of followers was a far more salient fact
than authenticity. After mentioning two types of charismatic
figures, Weber added that "[a]nother type is represented by Joseph
Smith, the founder of Mormonisn, who may have been a very
sophisticated swindler (although this cannot be definitely
established)" (Weber, 1968: 242). Similarly, from a social
scientific perspective, a belief system is religious if it contains
supposedly supernatural elements, regardless of the accuracy of
those elements. Perhaps unlike Joseph Smith, Hubbard's sophisticated
swindle has been definitely exposed by a number of critics (for
example, Atack, 1990; Kent, 1996; Miller, 1987) who have shown that
his religious alignment was purely expedient, but now many of his
followers see their lives in the context of the doctrines that he

Scientology as a Multi-Faceted Transnational

Even if we grant the point that Scientology cosmology and
soteriology have supernatural elements that classify the belief-
system as religious (regardless of these elements' suspect history),
neither government officials nor society at large should necessarily
grant Scientology religious status for purposes of receiving
societal benefits. Rather than struggling over whether or not to
label Scientology as a religion, I find it far more helpful to view
it as a multifaceted transnational, only one element of which is
religious. Coinciding with supernatural claims are equally important
secular dimensions relating to political aspirations, business
operations, cultural productions, pseudo-medical practice, pseudo-
psychiatric practice, social services (some of which are of dubious
quality), and alternative family structures. A few examples of each
dimension will suffice, but countless examples of each one exist
throughout both Scientology's literature and the social behaviour of
its members. The most salient aspect of Scientology, however, is the
totalitarian, some would say fascistic, use of power that holds the
organization together. I will speak about some of these totalitarian
uses of power, and in doing so it will be very clear that the German
government has taken the only appropriate avenue open to it.


Scientology's political aspirations have surfaced at various
times throughout its nearly fifty year history, with the
organization involving itself with politicians or political
structures in Rhodesian (in 1966), Greece (in 1968 to 1969), Morocco
(in 1972), and in the Russian city of Perm (where it was training
city officials in Hubbard Management ideology). Observers wonder
about the fate of Scientology training to Albanian government
officials after the recent popular uprisings and social collapse
(see Kent, 1997a: 17-18).


At times related to its political aspirations (as in Perm) are
Scientology's programs designed to train business executives and
professionals often in medically related areas. Through an
organization named WISE (World Institute of Scientology
Enterprises), Scientology offers a business consultancy and
management program. A recent publication claims that "WISE [m]embers
form a network of highly trained consultants in Hubbard Management
Technology who can provide you with tailor-made training programs to
suit your company's needs" (WISE International, 1994b). WISE
programs target various clients through numerous companies, and in
Germany and other parts of Europe the best known WISE company is U-
Man (see, for example, WISE International, 1994a). For all practical
purposes, this dimension of Scientology is secular, regardless of
how the organization portrays it.


Culturally, Scientology has an entire industry devoted to the
production and dissemination of Hubbard's writings and ideological
material to both members and outsiders. The Scientology owned and
operated (and now tax exempt) Bridge Publications, for example,
produced a volume solely dedicated to The Fiction of L. Ron Hubbard
(Widder, 1994), which discusses his writings of Westerns, adventure
stories, mystery and detective stories, romance, fantasy, science
fiction, plays, and screenplays (among others), and makes little if
any mention of his supposedly "religious" writings. The actor and
Scientology public relations officer, John Travolta (Anderson, 1980:
3; Church of Scientology International, 1994), is working on a movie
version of Hubbard's science fiction work, Battlefield Earth, while
a team of Hollywood producers is developing a film version of the
Hubbard pulp novel, To the Stars (Reuters, 1997).

As these current film productions suggest, Scientology is eager
to be involved with projects that disseminate its ideology to
nonmembers through high profile cultural undertakings. One vital
aspect of this dissemination effort involves cultivating the
conversion and support of society's cultural celebrities. Beginning
in 1955, Hubbard's "Project Celebrity" targeted what he called
"prime communicators" with the hope that they would "mention"
Scientology "now and again" ([Hubbard], 1955). By 1992, thirteen
"celebrity centres" existed around the world (Church of Scientology
International, 1992: 353), and their purpose was "[t]o fully utilize
opinion leaders and Scientologists to permeate society and get all
the different publics utilizing LRH's Technology in every aspect..."
(Jentzsch and Foster, 1977: 1). This organizational push to get
everyone using Hubbard's so-called technology has dramatic secular
implications for such issues of how to organize an office, how to
generate and handle money, and how to measure office growth. It
presumably also may have implications for people's supernatural
belief systems, but it is understandable that critics see
Scientology celebrities as participating in the dissemination of
secular Scientology goals.

In addition to free publicity for Scientology, celebrities also
give large financial contributions back to the organization. Had
Scientologist Chick Corea, for example, received money from the
Baden-Wurttemberg state culture ministry for performing at state-
sponsored events, then some of that income may have become part of
his contributions to the International Association of
Scientologists. The avowed purpose of this organization is "[t]o
unite, advance, support and protect the Scientology religion and
Scientologists in all parts of the world, so as to achieve the Aims
of Scientology as originated by L. Ron Hubbard" (International
Association of Scientologists, 1995: [back cover]). In one of the
Association's 1995 magazines, both he and actress Kirstie Alley each
appeared as having contributed US$100,000 (Church of Scientology
Celebrity Centre International, 1995: 8; International Association
of Scientologists Administration, 1995: 49, see 60). By comparison,
the $2,000 contribution that John Travolta made seems small (Church
of Scientology Celebrity Centre International, 1996: 8; see
International Association of Scientologists Administration, 1995:
60). What Germans will want to know, however, is that this
organization provided grants to the Church of Scientology
International in order to fund the series of anti-Germany ads in the
New York Times and the Washington Post (both beginning, I believe,
on September 15, 1994). Utilizing cultural productions and
prominent cultural figures, therefore, to disseminate all aspects of
Hubbard's so-called tech is an intimate aspect of the organization's
overall public relations and (it would seem) financial strategies.


A glimpse into Scientology's pseudo-medical practices--in this
case one that also relates to a social service effort of dubious
effectiveness--is its Narconon program. This program purports to rid
the body of drug and radiation residues, and a 1996 Scientology
publication told a story about an American Gulf War veteran
suffering from Gulf War Syndrome who "arrived to do the
detoxification program... complain[ing] of disorientation,
dizziness, memory loss and muscle and joint pain. He finished the
program and has no more dizziness, memory loss OR muscle and joint
pain--ALL his symptoms have been handled TOTALLY" (Church of
Scientology International, 1996: 68 [original emphasis). You may
have read recently that Scientologists applied the Narconon program
to children suffering from radiation-related illnesses in Chernobyl
(Bev, 1997).

Regardless of how Scientology portrays these claims, they are
medical ones that purport to offer a social service, but one about
which experts remain highly critical. In the American state of
Oklahoma, for example, a 1991 mental health board examined a
Narconon program and concluded that "there is substantial credible
evidence, as found by the Board, that the Narconon Program is unsafe
and ineffective" (Mental Health Board, 1991; reproduced in
Lobsinger, 1991: 58).


Another dimension of pseudo-medical claims are pseudo-
psychiatric ones. Scientology's hatred of psychiatry is worthy of a
study in itself, and some of its own documents very clearly indicate
that Scientology's primary social purpose is the destruction of
psychiatry and its replacement with Scientology techniques. In, for
example, a confidential document written for Scientology's
intelligence branch (then known as the Guardian Office), the
unidentified author, who most certainly was Hubbard himself, had a
section entitled "The War." The text in this section stated that
"[o]ur war has been forced to become 'To take over absolutely the
field of mental healing on this planet in all forms.'" The next
sentences have significant implications for the current religious
debate. "That was not the original purpose. The original purpose was
to clear Earth. The battles suffered developed the data that we had
an enemy who would have to be gotten out of the way and this meant
we were at war" ([Hubbard], 1969: [5]). The central target in
Scientology's efforts to "take over the field of mental healing" is
psychiatry. Indeed, several Scientology organizations, including the
Citizens Commission on Human Rights, the International Association
of Scientologists, and Freedom magazine are working diligently in
attempting to achieve the goal of "Eradicating Psychiatry" (Weiland,
1990: 21).

One aspect of Scientology's efforts to eradicate psychiatry and
replace it with its own techniques is that members can take a course
(called a rundown) that claims to teach members how to cure
psychosis. Called the "Introspection Rundown Auditor Course," this
course supposedly "factually handles the last of the 'unsolvable'
conditions which can trap a person--the psychotic break. And end
forever the 'reason' psychs were kept around with their icepicks and
shock machines" (Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization,
1992: [2]). This course is based upon what Hubbard described as "a
technical breakthrough which possibly ranks with the major
discoveries of the Twentieth Century." The consequence of this
alleged breakthrough was that "THIS MEANS THE LAST REASON TO HAVE
PSYCHIATRY AROUND IS GONE" (Hubbard, 1974: 346). The self-
proclaimed "breakthrough" involved isolating the person having the
psychotic breakdown while not speaking to the person, giving the
person particular vitamins and minerals, determining what incident
triggered the illness, then putting the person through a long and
complex series of Scientology "counselling" sessions (called
auditing) that focus on the triggering incident Hubbard, 1974: 353).

Currently this course is at the centre of controversy involving
the December 5, 1995 death of Scientologist Lisa McPherson in
Clearwater, Florida. After a minor car accident, McPherson exhibited
bizarre behaviour--publicly undressing, speaking in monotone with a
fixed stare, exhibiting forgetfulness and confusion, and crying.
Against medical advice, she signed herself out of a hospital and
into the care of visiting Scientology "friends" who took her to the
organization's Fort Harrison Hotel. Seventeen days later,
Scientologists took her back to a somewhat distant hospital where a
doctor was working who was a Scientologist, and he pronounced her
dead. A police investigation continues over her death, but
McPherson's estate launched a lawsuit that accused Scientology "of
allowing McPherson to languish in a coma without nutrition and
liquids while she was in isolation as part of an Introspection
Rundown" (Tobin, 1997: 12A). In this context, a Scientology lawyer
acknowledged "that the Introspection Rundown remains 'part of church
services'" (Tobin, 1997: 12A). Undoubtedly, therefore, Scientology
practices pseudo-psychiatry, and the lawsuit over McPherson's death
may establish the extent to which at least one of these practices
can have potentially fatal consequences.

Scientology as an Alternative Family Structure

Finally, Scientology is an alternative family structure, at
least as it is lived by its most devoted followers who are members
of a Scientology organization called Sea Org[anization]. Scientology
portrays the Sea Org as "a fraternal organization existing within
the formalized structure of the Churches of Scientology. It consists
of highly dedicated members of the Church [who] take vows of
service" (Church of Scientology of California, 1978: 205). (The
organization downplays the fact that these people sign billion year
contracts.) Many indicators point to the fact that Scientology
structures the Sea Org in a manner that damages parent-child
relations if not the well-being of children in general. In essence,
Sea Org becomes one's new family, often at the expense of spouses
and children.

Indication of organizationally influenced damage caused by Sea
Org parents to their children formed the basis of a critical article
that appeared in a major newspaper of the Florida city near to where
the Scientology organization called Flag is based. In November,
1991, the St. Petersburg Times ran a long article entitled,
"Scientology's Children," and it contained an excerpt about a German
mother and her son:

Eva Kleinberg moved from Germany to Clearwater with her 9-year
old son, Mark, in 1986. She had joined a group of Scientology staff
members called the 'Sea Org.'

Eva was told she would have two hours a day for family time.
But with her travel time from work, she said she actually had only
one hour with her son. Because of the 12-hour workdays, she couldn't
always stay awake for the full hour.
'I would compromise with my son,' she said. After eating, she
and her son would divide the remaining half-hour of their family
time. 'I would play a game with him for 15 minutes, and I would go
to lay down for 15 minutes and sleep.'
While Eva worked, Mark cleaned up around the motel or played
with friends.
About a year later, Eva and Mark left the church.
Asked what he thinks of Scientology, Mark, now 14, said, 'I
don't think it's good 'cause the people... they don't get to spend
time with their family and it's real expensive.'
Church spokesman Richard Haworth said staff Scientologists
actually spend three or four hours a day with their children, which
he said is more than the average family (Krueger, 1991: 12A).

I believe the Kleinbergs' account rather than the one by the
Scientology spokesperson because I had heard the same scenario
(about parents having little time to spend with children) during an
interview with a former Sea Org member that I conducted in December,
1987. At Flag in Florida during the late 1970s and early 1980s,
infants stayed in a Scientology-run nursery during the day when
parents worked, and usually parents would return from work at about
6:00 in the evening and spend about an hour-and-a-half with their
children before taking them back to the nursery at 7:30 for bed.
Parents then caught a bus back to the Sea Org, and finally did not
leave for the night until 10:30 or later. In the morning, they would
pick up their children from the nursery, have them dressed and in
the dining room by 7:30 AM, drop them back at the nursery, and be on
the bus going to work by ten minutes past 8. This informant added,
however, that "there'd be some people who had kids who didn't go
home for two or three days in a row. They'd be working all night"
(Kent interview with Fern, 1987: 44, see 43).

The Kleinbergs' account about limited family time also rings
true because of a series of internal memos (of which I have copies)
from Scientology's Pacific Area Command (in Los Angeles, California)
beginning in early November, 1989. These memos centre around an
Executive Directive that the commanding officer issued which
abolished the one hour nightly family time. He cited two reasons for
doing so. First, he claimed, "[a] thorough research [sic] revealed
that there is no LRH [L. Ron Hubbard] reference covering Sea Org
members taking 1 hour family time per day. Also to have such break
in schedules in the middle of production has been found to be
detrimental to production...." Instead he wanted people to work the
extra hour a day in order to build up their production output so
that they would receive a "liberty day" (Gouessan, 1989) once every
two weeks (Shapiro, 1989).

Several parents objected, and their objections were revealing.
One person asked rhetorically, "[h]ow can one keep track of one's
child without even an hour a day with the child? I HAVE seen staff
distracted by NOT caring for their children and this time could be
well utilized for this" (Swartz, 1989). Another person cited the
text of a Hubbard tape where Scientology's founder complained about
a condition that he had seen (and which he said had existed in the
Pacific Area Command): "I wish somebody would tell me why we
consistently had to ORDER parents to see their children when they
hadn't seen them for weeks" (Hubbard, Transcript of LRH Taped
Briefing to CS-& and Pers Comm 22 Sept 73; attached to Shapiro,
1989). This same person acknowledged in his letter of protest that
"[i]n the 19 years I have been in the Sea Org in PAC this condition
(parental neglect, etc.) has several times been the source of major
upset and enturbulation [agitation] on Church lines" (Shapiro, 1989
[round brackets in original]). Taken together, the interview
material, media accounts, internal policy directive, and responses
point to the fact that parents' time with their children is severely
constrained and sometimes eliminated because of the organizational
pressure and job demands under which Sea Org members work. It seems
that Scientology, in its Sea Org manifestation, becomes something
akin to an alternative or "fictive" family structure to its members
(see Cartwright and Kent, 1992: 348-349), receiving more time and
commitment than their own children.

On a related point, the new Sea Org family to which adults
devote their lives may at times place children in medically
detrimental situations. This fictive family may not always be a
medically responsible one. The informant whom I interviewed in 1978,
for example, complained to me that "the nursery conditions were
terrible." She complained that, in one nursery room, "there were, I
think, sixteen babies in the room, all under a year old, and
throughout the whole day, there were three nannies who did shifts in
that room, looking after sixteen babies all under a year old" (Kent
interview with Fern, 1987: 48). Under these conditions, children
developed medical problems (according to my informant, Fern),
because the facility did not have an isolation nursery.
Consequently, common childhood illnesses (such as ear infections)
spread rapidly among the children and remained in the nursery
population for a long time. To support her assertion, this informant
showed me medical records that she kept of her child's visits to
doctors while the child was under nursery care, and compared them
with similar records from after the time that she and her child left
Sea Org and the nursery arrangement. The child made seventeen visits
to the doctor's office during an eight month period while in the
nursery, then only four visits in the twenty-nine months following
the family's departure from the organization (Kent interview with
Fern, 1987: 49-50).

Researchers always must be cautious in accepting as fact the
account of a single person, but I heard similar stories about the
condition of children's facilities in Scientology's child care
program on the other side of the American continent--Los Angeles,
California. The person who related the account had occasion to visit
the children's facility (called the Cadet Org) in the late 1970s or
early 1980s, and she saw an infant who was the child of a man she
knew. This child, she stated:

was very, very ill and she was laying in a urine soaked crib
and she was--she just had her diaper on.... She had lots of like
little fruit flies and gnats on her body and she had been so ill
that she had tremendous amounts of mucous plugging her nose and her
eyes were, like, welded shut with mucous and I, I just snapped in my
head (Kent Interview with Pat, 1997: 34).

After this incident of allegedly witnessing severe child neglect,
the person began plotting how she would leave the organization.

The final example of alleged child neglect is documented in a
report filed by the commanding officer of the Cadet Estates
Organization in late October, 1989, concerning the hygiene of three
children--ages 4, 8, and 10 or 11. Two of the children had lice, and
for one of them it was a recurring problem. A guardian was in charge
of them, but she "is herself on mission quite often." [That is to
say, the organization frequently sent her away on assignments.] The
report continued by stating that, "[w]hile the guardian was on a
mission, the kids were picked up at night by another staff member
that [sic: who] lives next door, and the little one would be brought
in in the morning while the other two older once [sic: ones] would
walk to the Cadet Org by themself [sic]. The children would dress
themself [sic] and we have no data who does the laundry or room
hygiene for the children" (Gabriele, 1989: 1). We must be careful
when interpreting this data on possible child neglect or
endangerment, since none of it is current. Sufficient indicators
exist, however, that investigative officials in the United States
and elsewhere should examine Scientology's treatment of Sea Org

Because the attitude among some Sea Org leadership appears to
be that children hinder adults from performing their vital
assignments, researchers should not be surprised to learn of
pressures that Sea Org women felt to either abort pregnancies or
give-up children for adoption. My 1987 informant told me that when
Sea Org operated on ships during the mid 1970s, women knew that they
were not allowed to raise children on the vessels. Consequently,
they experienced pressure to have abortions. She told me that, "on
the ship, I know of a lot of people that [sic: who] had abortions,
because they didn't want to leave the ship. It wasn't like anybody
said 'You have got to get an abortion.' It was more an implied
thing. If you don't you're going to leave" (Kent interview with
Fern, 1989: 41-42). Years later I saw the same pressures described
in a 1994 legal declaration by Mary Tabayoyon, who became a
Scientologist in 1967, joined Sea Org in 1971, and stayed in it
until her departure in 1992. She stated that in 1986, while on the
Scientology base in Hemet, California, "members of the Sea Org were
forbidden to have any more children if they were to stay on post[,]
and the Hubbard technology was applied to coercively persuade us to
have abortions so that we could remain on post" (M. Tabayoyon, 1994:
2). The pressure came partly through what Scientology called "ethics
handling," which involved the organization pressing people to
conform to Hubbard's policies and the organization's directives.
Tabayoyon herself "gave up my child due to my greatly misguided
obligation and dedication to the Sea Org" (M. Tabayoyon, 1994: 4).
She relinquished her child after being "indoctrinated to believe
that I should never put my own personal desires ahead of the
accomplishment of the purpose of the Sea Org" (M. Tabayoyon, 1994:

Taken together, the interviews, legal declarations, media
accounts, and internal documents present troubling glimpses into the
lives of Scientology's most committed members. Sea Org obligations
override many personal and family obligations and responsibilities,
and devotion to the Scientology cause often appears to take priority
over the needs of children. Equally disturbing, however, are
accounts that some older children and teenagers have had to endure,
along with Sea Org adults, the abuses of Scientology's forced labour
and reindoctrination programs. Although several labour and
intensive instruction programs have operated within the Scientology
organization over the years, among the most intense ones is the
Rehabilitation Project Force--usually just called the RPF.

The Rehabilitation Project Force--Forced Labour and Reindoctrination

When Sea Org members commit what the organization considers to
be serious deviations (such as dramatic e-meter readings,
unsatisfactory job performance, or job disruption [including
challenges to senior officials]), then they likely wind up in the
RPF. Even discussing the policies and techniques that Hubbard wrote
by using ideas other than his own was called "verbal tech" and
apparently was a punishable act (see Hubbard, 1976: 546). Begun in
early 1974 while Hubbard and his crew still were at sea, it now
operates in several locations around the world. Currently RPFs are
running at the Cedars of Lebanon building in Los Angeles; on the
Scientology property near Hemet, California; in the facilities in
Clearwater, Florida; and in the British headquarters at East
Grinstead, Sussex. I cannot confirm the existence of RPFs in or near
Copenhagen (Denmark), Johannesburg (South Africa), Sydney
(Australia), and several other American locations.

In a phrase, the RPF program places Scientology's most
committed members in forced labour and re-education camps. The
operation of these camps raises serious human rights questions, and
their continuation reflects badly on nations that allow them to
operate unchecked. Particular blame must be placed on American state
and federal authorities, since at least three RPF programs have
operated for years on American soil. Moreover, the American Internal
Revenue Service granted Scientology tax exemption despite what
almost certainly are illegal conditions under which RPF inmates must
work, study, and live. Extensive material about RPFs in the United
States has existed for years in various court cases, and now most of
this information is readily available on the World Wide Web. German
government officials know about the RPF, and almost certainly this
knowledge played a major role in the government's continued
opposition to the Scientology organization.

Getting assigned to the RPF is a traumatic event for most
people. Procedurally, what is supposed to happen is that leaders
call a hearing, known as a "Committee of Evidence," to evaluate a
person's performance or attitude. A former member described this
body as "a Scientology trial, where the Committee [members] act as
prosecutors, judges and jury rolled into one" (Atack, 1990: 306).
Committees sometimes obtain evidence against the person from
security checks (called sec checks [see Kent interview with Young,
1994: 49]), which the organization portrays as "Integrity
Processing" or "Confessional Auditing," but which is really a form
of interrogation (Atack, 1990: 147). In fact, in 1960, Hubbard wrote
a policy called "Interrogation" about how to use the device known as
an e-meter as an interrogation device rather than merely as a
spiritual aide in counselling or auditing sessions as the
organization represents it to the outside world (Hubbard, 1960).

Hubbard had used security checks on his followers since 1959,
but the most notorious sec check probably was the "Johannesburg
Security Check," published April 7, 1961. It consisted of over one
hundred questions, almost all of which inquire about previous or
current participation in a wide range of deviant and criminal acts
including spying, kidnapping, murder, drugs, sex, and Communism. The
most revealing ones, however, involved people's thoughts about
Hubbard and his wife, Mary Sue Hubbard. The sec check specifically
asked, "Have you ever had any unkind thoughts about LRH?," and "Have
you ever had any unkind thoughts about Mary Sue?" Not only,
therefore, were people forced to reveal personal information about
serious transgressions, but also they were forced to reveal the
existence of any negative thoughts about the leader or his wife. One
former member-turned critic, Robert Vaughn Young, reported that he
was sec-checked for several hours a day for about two weeks (Kent
Interview with Young, 1994: 50).

An even more severe form of sec check was the "gang bang sec
check," a process that presumably takes its name from group rape (a
slang term for which is gang bang). Gang bang sec checks involve two
or more interrogators rapidly firing questions and verbal abuse at a
victim who is hooked up to or holding an e-meter. A brief
description of this practice occurs in a legal declaration (sworn
under oath) by former member Stacy Young. She declared that her
repeated protests about the way that (the now-current head of
Scientology) David Miscavige treated staff led Miscavige to send her
to the RPF in September, 1982 (S. Young, 1994: 8, 65). The specific
incident that triggered her assignment was that Miscavige learned
that Young had reacted to his (alleged) screaming fits by telling
someone that he was "a brutal, tyrannical bully" (S. Young, 1994:
65). In response, Miscavige:

ordered me to submit to what was known as a 'gang bang sec
check.' Two very large, strong men... locked me in a room and
interrogated me for hours. During the interrogation, they screamed
and swore at me. They accused me of crimes against Scientology. They
demanded that I confess to being an enemy agent (S. Young, 1994:

Soon Young found herself in the RPF's 'Running Program," which
involved "running around an orange pole for 12 hours a day" (S.
Young, 1994: 66).

When Committees of Evidence find Sea Org members guilty of
serious crimes, then they send many of them to RPF programs. Inmates
are not sentenced to the programs for specific lengths time.
Instead, they remain in until they complete a rigorous program of
hard physical labour, constant verbal abuse from immediate
superiors, social isolation, intense co-auditing and sec checking,
and study of Hubbard policies and techniques.

A series of policies about the RPF began appearing in January,
1974 when Hubbard was aboard ship, and a few revised versions of
them have leaked out of the organization. One of these early
documents revealed the totalistic nature of the program when it said
that "[a] member of the RPF is a member of the RPF and of nothing
outside of it, till released" (Walker and Webb, 1977: 3). Part of
the program consisted of hard physical labour--building structures,
cleaning, renovating, garbage disposal, and moving furniture.
Typically work projects of this nature took about ten hours a day,
since people were supposed to get "around 7 hours sleep, 5 hours
study or auditing, 30 minutes for each meal, and 30 minutes personal
hygiene, per day" (Walker and Webb, 1977: 4). They were dark
worksuits and were prohibited from speaking (unless necessary) with
persons outside the RPF, and they ate and slept separate from other
Sea Org members (Walker and Webb, 1977: 10). They had to run
everywhere they went, and often they had to run extra distances for
punishment. On a ship, running punishments usually meant laps around
the deck (Pignotti, 1997: 18-19). On land, running punishments
sometimes meant running around a pole for hours at a time, often in
hot sun (see Kent Interview with Pignotti, 1997: 22; S. Young, 1994:
66). Severe restrictions were placed upon visitation rights with
spouses or children (Walker and Webb, 1977: 10).

Accounts from former inmates indicate that RPF life can be
extremely harsh, degrading, and abusive. Certainly experiences
varied somewhat according to year and location, but Hanna
Whitfield's description of RPF at the Fort Harrison Hotel in
Clearwater, Florida in 1978 captures many common elements from other
accounts that I have heard and read:

Some of us slept on thin mattresses on the bare cement floor.
Some had crude bunk beds. There was no place for clothes, so we
lived out of suitcases and bags which were kept on bare floors.
Some privacy was maintained by hanging sheets up between bunk beds
and between floor mattresses. The women and men had separate
bathrooms and toilets but they were small. We were not allowed to
shower longer than 30 seconds. We had only to run through the
shower and out the other end. There was no spare time for talk or
relaxation. We awoke at 6:30 A.M. or earlier at times, did hard
labor and heavy construction work and cleaning until late afternoon.
After [a] quick shower and change of clothing, we had to audit each
other and 'rehabilitate' ourselves until 10:30 P.M. or later each
evening. There were no days off, four weeks a month. We ate our
meals in the garage or at times in the dining rooms AFTER normal
meals had ended. Our food consisted of leftovers from staff. On
occasions which seemed like Christmas, we were able to prepare
ourselves fresh meals if leftovers were insufficient (Whitfield,
1989: 7-8).

A similar, but more passionate, description exists of the Fort
Harrison RPF in the account written by a woman using the pseudonym
Nefertiti (1997), who in turn reproduces excerpts from ten other
former Scientologists who related RPF experiences aboard two
Scientology ships, FLAG at Clearwater, Florida, Pacific Area Command
in Los Angeles, and Happy Valley near Hemet, California.

Certainly the amount of work that RPF members performed varied
according to era and circumstances, but in some instances conditions
became unbelievably bad. For example, In a California RPF, former
inmate Pat reported that her RPF crew "worked shifts of thirty hours
at a time" (Kent Interview with Pat, 1997: 25). Her RPF team would
"start working in the morning and we would work all night into the
next morning and then we worked through the next day until we got
our thirty hours and then we'd go to sleep" (Kent Interview with
Pat, 199: 25).

The most extensive description of the RPF at Scientology's
facility near Hemet, California appears in a sworn declaration by
former Sea Org member Andre Tabayoyon (1994). From comments that
Bavaria's Minister of the Interior, Dr. Gunther Beckstein, made in a
January 15, 1997 press release, it is clear that he is familiar with
this declaration. Tabayoyon stated that he spent approximately six
years in the RPF during his 21 years in the organization (A.
Tabayoyon, 1994: 7, 8). In the RPF program that he was on beneath
Scientology's Cedars Sinai Hospital building in Los Angeles, he
allegedly slept on "a slab inside the vault of the morgue." In the
RPF in the property near Hemet, he stayed in "the chicken coop
dormitory... which still smelled of chicken coup droppings [sic]"
(A. Tabayoyon, 1994: 18; see Kent Interview with Young, 1994: 20).

While nearly all RPF accounts speak of guards who were posted
to prevent people from escaping the program, Tabayoyon reported that
the guards at the Gilman Hot Springs facility (where Sea Org staff
lived and an RPF operated) were armed (A. Tabayoyon, 1994: 25).
Indeed, he helped to construct the facility's security system, which
included "the perimeter fence, the ultra razor barriers, the
lighting of the perimeter fence, the electronic monitors, the
concealed microphones, the ground sensors, the motion sensors and
hidden cameras...." He also said that he trained guards in the use
of force, including the use of weapons, many of which had been
purchased with "Church" money and not registered (A. Tabayoyon,
1994: 15, 16).

This facility (which sometimes is called "Gold" and other times
"Hemet" in various documents) is less than a two hour drive from Los
Angeles and Hollywood, and on its property apparently are a number
of facilities that Scientology's celebrities use. Part of the labour
used to build an apartment for Scientologist and actor Tom Cruise
allegedly was from the RPF (A. Tabayoyon, 1994: 53). As Tabayoyon
himself stated, "[u]sing RPFers to renovate and reconstruct Tom
Cruise's personal and exclusive apartment at the Scientology Gold
base is equivalent to the use of slave labor for Tom Cruise's
benefit" (A. Tabayoyon, 1994: 53). In one instance, when Cruise's
apartment was damaged by a mud slide, "prison [i.e., RPF] slave
labor" were "worked almost around the clock" to repair it (A.
Tabayoyon, 1994: 53).


More extreme than the RPF is the RPF's RPF, an institution even
described in one of Scientology's own dictionaries. According to the
dictionary definition, the first inmate sent to the RPF's RPF was
because the person "considered their [sic] RPF assignment amusing"
(Hubbard, 1976: 451). Various accounts, however, also suggest that
people who did not perform according to acceptable RPF standards
ended up in this extreme program.

Hubbard succinctly outlined the ten restrictions under which
inmates on the RPF's RPF operated. Six of the ten were:

(1) segregated from other RPF members with regard to work,
messing, berthing, musters and any other common activity.

(2) no pay.

(3) no training.

(4) no auditing.

(5) may only work on mud boxes in the E/R [engine room]. May
not work with RPF members. [Elsewhere Hubbard identified mud
boxes as "those areas in the bilge which collect the mud out of
the bilge water" (Hubbard, 1976: 341)].

(6) six hours sleep maximum (Hubbard, 1976: 451).

Andre Tabayoyon, who spent 19 days on the RPF's RPF, summed up the
program by saying that it "is designed to totally destroy any
individual determinism to not want to do the RPF" (A. Tabayoyon,
1994: 9).

Accounts both about people who were on the program, and from
inmates of the program itself, are chilling, and they reinforce
Tabayoyon's summation. Monica Pignotti, for example, spoke to me
about her five days in the RPF's RPF in 1975. She related that:

[A]t that point I was in a horrible depression and I was crying
almost all the time all day long and I'm sure I was in a state where
I probably would have been hospitalized if... any mental health
profession had seen me then 'cuz I was severely depressed. But they
sent me to the RPF's RPF and I was made to go down and clean muck
from the bilges. That was my job all day long was to do that,
getting up at four in the morning and--it was all day long. And
then I was allowed a short meal break to eat by myself and then I
had to go right back down there and I had to clean all this sludge
out and then paint, paint it.... [The person in charge of the RPF's
RPF] would make the prisoners write these essays until they got it
right, until they were saying what the group wanted them to say. So
that was where I really snapped--where I went into this state of
complete-- where I didn't feel anything any more after that. I was
completely numbed out and I'd do whatever they said and I didn't
rebel any more after my experience on the RPF. I stopped rebelling
for a while (Kent Interview with Pignotti, 1997: 26; see Pignotti,
1989: 28-29).

Nefertiti reported speaking with a woman in her 'thirties on the
RPF's RPF whose ankles were chained together while she was
performing a "nasty" job in the basement of the Fort Harrison Hotel
in Florida (Nefertiti, 1997: 3). Finally, Dennis Erlich reported
that, for the first day or two of his time on the program in the
basement at the Fort Harrison, he was locked in a wire cage and had
a guard outside the room (Kent Interview with Erlich, 1997: 8).

A final word must be said about the RPF, the RPF's RPF, and
children. Some evidence exists that children may be subject to these
programs. Monica Pignotti, for example, reported to me that she was
an RPF inmate along with a twelve year old girl (Kent Interview with
Pignotti, 1997: 30), and a posting in the <alt.religion.scientology>
news group by Martin Hunt stated that "I have seen children on both
the RPF and the RPF's RPF" (Hunt, 1997: 1). Finally, a poorly
reproduced document from Scientology's Pacific Area Command (circa
1989) spoke about the "need to re-institute the Children's RPF"
(Cohee, n.d.).

One hardly has to point out that the RPF and the RPF's RPF are
brainwashing programs. Scientology operates them to break the wills
of, and correct deviations of, its most committed members, and then
to reformulate them into persons whose personalities directly mimic
the organizational mould. That mould is itself a reflection of
Hubbard's troubled personality. I am fully aware that many of my
social scientific colleagues insist that researchers should restrict
using the controversial brainwashing term only to situations where
there is incarceration and physical maltreatment (Anthony, 1990 :
304). The RPF and the RPF's RPF meet these criteria. These two
programs also used forced confessions, physical fatigue, intense
indoctrination through extended study of the leader's policies and
teachings, humiliation, and fear. Persons familiar, however, with
the early history of Scientology are not surprised to see that
Hubbard sanctioned a brainwashing program for his followers, since
he almost certainly is the author of a brainwashing manual that
Scientology printed and distributed for years beginning in 1955.


The manual that Scientology distributed was entitled, Brain-
Washing[:] A Synthesis of the Russian Textbooks on Psychopolitics
([Hubbard?], 1955). Purported to be an address by the noted Soviet
spy, Lavrenti Beria, it was exposed as a fake in 1970 by debunker
Morris Kominsky (1970). As Kominsky noted, much of the book was "a
vicious attack against the sciences and professions of psychology
and psychiatry, as well as against the entire legitimate mental
health movement" (Kominsky, 1970: 538). Attacks of this nature
remain a central element in Scientology's secular activities, and
one former member-turned-critic was almost certainly correct when he
stated that the brainwashing book or manual "[w]as secretly authored
by L. Ron Hubbard in 1955...." The former member also was absolutely
correct about the importance of the brainwashing manual when he
concluded that Hubbard "incorporated its methods into his
organization in the mid 1960s and beyond" (Corydon, 1996: 107). One
thinks automatically of the RPF, but we know for certain that
Hubbard had the manual as required reading for members of the
Guardian Office (Anonymous, 1974).

One chapter of the brainwashing book is especially pertinent to
understanding Scientology's contemporary tactics against Germany and
its officials. The organization's attacks on the national character
of the country; its continual attempts to paint current events in
the context of 1930s Nazism (for example, Freedom Magazine,
[1996?]); its efforts to discredit current German government
officials by linking them to Nazism through (so I was told) their
older relatives; and charges that German churches campaign against
Scientology for fear of losing members to it (Church of Scientology
International, 1997: 101); all seem to have general parallels with
tactics advocated in the brainwashing manual.

I will read the relevant passages, but I will do so making
similar substitutions of words in the text that Kevin Anderson made
in his 1965 report to the Australian Parliament (Anderson, 1965: 198-
199). By doing so, Anderson dramatically illustrated his claim that
"a great part of the manual is almost a blue print for the
propagation of [S]cientology" (Anderson, 1965: 84). Whenever the
manual says "psychopolitics" or "psychopolitical," I will say
"Scientology." I replace "psychopolitician" with "Scientologist,"
and I replace "Communist Party Members" with "Sea Org members." With
these substitutions in mind, I now quote excerpts form Chapter VIII
entitled, "Degradation, Shock and Endurance:"

Defamation is the best and foremost weapon of [Scientologists]
on the broad field. Continual and constant degradation of national
leaders, national institutions, national practices, and national
heros must be systematically carried out, but this is the chief
function of [Sea Org Members] in general, not the Scientologist
([Hubbard?], 1955: 41).


The officials of government, students, readers, partakers
of entertainment, must all be indoctrinated, by whatever means, into
the complete belief that the restless, the ambitious, the natural
leaders, are suffering from environmental maladjustments, which can
only be healed by recourse to [Scientology] operatives in the guise
of mental healers.

By thus degrading the general belief in the status of Man,
it is relatively simple, with co-operation from economic salients
being driven into the country, to drive citizens apart, one from
another, to bring about a question of the wisdom of their own
government, and to cause them to actively beg for enslavement.


As it seems in foreign nations that the church is the most
ennobling influence, each and every branch and activity of each and
every church must, one way or another, be discredited.... Thus,
there must be no standing belief in the church, and the power of the
church must be denied at every hand.

The [Scientology] operative, in his programme of
degradation, should at all times bring into question any family
which is deeply religious, and should any neurosis or insanity be
occasioned in that family, to blame and hold responsible their
religious connections for the neurotic or psychotic condition.
Religious must be made synonymous with neurosis and psychosis.
People who are deeply religious would be less and less held
responsible for their own sanity, and should more and more be
relegated to the ministrations of [Scientology] operatives.

By perverting the institutions of a nation and bringing
about a general degradation, by interfering with the economics of a
nation to the degree that privation and depression come about, only
minor shocks will be necessary to produce, on the populace as a
whole, an obedient reaction or an hysteria ([Hubbard?], 1955: 43-

With only a little imagination, one can see that the brainwashing
manual seems to provide an outline for Scientology's battle plan
against Germany.

Through, for example, innumerable publications such as Freedom
magazine, Sea Org members and other Scientologists produce a barrage
of material that denigrates the nation and its leaders. German
Scientologists are now able to label its political leaders as
violators of human rights, thanks in part to criticism that the
United States Department of State levelled against the country's
attempts to curb the organization and boycott films starring
American Scientologists (Lippman, 1997). On the economic front,
critics might see events in the Hamburg real estate market as
evidence of Scientologists' attempt to cause what the brainwashing
manual called "privation and depression" among apartment renters.
Reportedly Scientologists bought rental properties and turned them
overnight into cooperatives. The chairperson of the Hamburg branch
of the German real estate agents association, Peter Landmann, told
the New York Times that these Scientologists were "'using
disreputable methods to frighten and coerce the renters into buying
them back at high prices'" (Whitney, 1994: A12). Finally, of course,
Scientology continues to blast psychiatry, attempting to link it
with both Nazism and current German efforts against it. Hubbard, or
whomever wrote the brainwashing manual's instructions about how to
degrade a country, undoubtedly would be proud of his followers'
public relations successes thus far.

Indeed, from a public relations perspective, Scientology may be
winning the battle, at least back in North America. When, for
example, the prestigious New York Review of Books published an
article on "Germany vrs. Scientology," the German reporter (who
writes for the Suddeutsche Zeitung) strongly implied that government
officials were scapegoating Scientology. His argument seems to be
that attacks against the group have become part of a moral panic,
when in fact other social issues, such as double-digit unemployment,
declining state generosity, tensions over European union, and
problems with national identity, should be the real areas of concern
(Joffe, 1997: 20). This argument, however, as well as the American
State Department human rights criticisms, shows a profound and
increasingly inexcusable ignorance of disturbing if not dangerous
abuses that occur as routine Scientology policy against many of its

Scientology and Probable Human Rights Abuses

Even to concede that Scientology may be a religion to many of
its adherents, the basis for German governmental opposition to it
has nothing to do with what people believe. It has everything to do
with what German government officials know that the organization
does. Consequently, this presentation concentrated heavily on the
organization's social-psychological assaults on many of its most
committed members, and I barely mentioned Scientology's ideological
system. The assaults that I described are ones that German
government officials seem to know about, and with that knowledge
they have no choice other than to see Scientology as a threat to the
democratic state. Were officials to grant Scientology religious
status, then even more citizens than already now do, would increase
their involvement to the point of becoming Sea Org members, and then
at least some of them would be subject to the brutal conditions and
programs that I described. With Germany's unique experiences with
both National Socialism and Communism, it is unthinkable that
responsible officials would facilitate the operation of a
totalitarian organization that throws its members into forced labour
and reeducation camps.

One of the tragedies in this debate is that normal
Scientologists will feel persecuted and threatened. These people
likely know nothing about RPF conditions, and they genuinely feel
that Scientology involvement has benefitted them. The organization
to which they belong, however, appears to be committing serious
human rights abuses. Consequently, I conclude my presentation by
highlighting areas of concern raised by examining the United
Nations' 1948 resolution entitled The International Bill of Human
Rights (United Nations, 1996b), and the 1996 International Covenant
on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (United Nations, 1996a).

First, Scientology's procedures involving committees of
evidence, sec checking, gang bang sec checking, and the two RPF
programs almost certainly violate Articles 9 and 10 of the Bill.
Article 9 protects people against "arbitrary arrest, detention or
exile" while article 10 guarantees "a fair and public hearing by an
independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his
[sic] rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him"
(United Nations, 1996: 23).

Second, Scientology's punishment of members for merely
discussing the merits of Hubbard's teachings, as well as its
invasive probing into people's thoughts though sec checking, almost
certainly violate Articles 18 and 19 of the Bill that deal with both
"the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion" and "the
right to freedom of opinion and expression" (United Nations, 1996:

Third, the various Scientology practices and procedures that I
discussed may violate Article 17 of the Bill, which states that
"[n]o one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference
with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful
attacks on his honour and reputation" (United Nations, 1996: 49).

Fourth, the conditions of the RPF and the RPF's RPF almost
certainly violate Article 7 of the Covenant, which discusses "the
right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions
of work..." (United Nations, 1996a: 38). The article specifically
identifies fair wages, "[a] decent living for themselves and their
families..., [s]afe and healthy working conditions..., and [r]est,
leisure, and reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic
holidays with pay...." (United Nations, 1996a: 38). Indeed, many
Sea Org jobs themselves may not meet these reasonable standards of
propriety, safety, and fairness.

Fifth and finally, the extreme social psychological assaults
and forced confessions that RPF and RPF's RPF inmates suffer almost
certainly violate Article 12 of the Covenant, which recognizes "the
right of everyone to enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of
physical and mental health" (United Nations, 1996a: 18).

These and probably other serious human rights issues swirl
around Scientology programs that have tax exemption and operate
within the boundaries of the United States. With these serious
issues in mind, the American human rights criticism of Germany's
opposition to Scientology is the height diplomatic arrogance. By
granting Scientology tax exemption, the United States government is
cooperating with an organization that appears to put citizens from
around the world at significant mental health and perhaps medical
risk. While in no way do I want my remarks today to be taken as a
blanket endorsement of the German government's rhetoric or tactics,
on the battle with Scientology the government has the high moral


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1 Undoubtedly because of this interpretation, Wilson has become
a champion of Scientology's religious claims (see also Wilson, n.d.:
35) and the organization alludes to him ("[t]he foremost sociologist
in the world") as an academic who concluded "that Scientology was
setting the trend for the 21st century for all religions--as it
offers practical solutions for people's problems in the real world"
(International Association of Scientologists, 1995: [10]).
Scientology also employs his opinion in arguing before an American
court that the organization has the right to keep secret its upper
level materials (Wilson, 1994: 11).

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