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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Scientology and Freedom of Religion

It has come to my attention, often and persistently, that the Church of Scientology and Scientologists do not understand the concept of "Freedom of Religion".

Scientologists frequently complain that their freedom of religion is being abridged -- but I know of no incident in the entire history of Scientology where a Scientologist was prevented from believing and practicing Scientology!

So how can Scientologists think their freedom of religion is being abridged?

The answer is obvious. Scientologists do not understand what "freedom of religion" actually means. Let's clarify this for them.

Freedom of religion is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance; the concept is generally recognized also to include the freedom to change religion or not to follow any religion. (From Wikipedia).

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America states:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Pretty simple. So, when a Scientologist says that they have (or should have) the right to follow the religion of their choice, they are correct. But, of course, no one is arguing that. No one is preventing them from doing just that.

But, you see, that isn't what the Church of Scientology and Scientologists mean when they claim "freedom of religion". Not nearly. They want "freedom of religion" to cover so much more than just the right to believe as they choose.

First, Scientology wants to be able to suppress all discussion of their religion, especially negative discussion. They want to be able to stop anyone from saying anything about Scientology that isn't approved by the church.

Get it? As part of their "freedom of religion" they want you to believe exactly as they believe -- in the absolute goodness of Hubbard, Miscavige and Scientology.

No, freedom of religion does not give Scientology the right to suppress free speech.

Further, it certainly is the right of Scientology to lie to its membership. After all, that is part of its belief system. And it is definitely the right of Scientology to withhold any information they want from its membership. Again, this is part of their belief system.

But this right to enforce lies and to suppress information does not extend beyond the Church of Scientology's membership. This means that non-Scientologists do have the right to expose the lies of the Church of Scientology. Non-Scientologists do have every right to read, listen to and discuss the "secrets" of Scientology. There is no law in any country that gives Scientology the "right" to impose its beliefs, its lies, its confidentiality, on people outside of Scientology.

No, freedom of religion does not give Scientology the right to impose their religious dogma on others.

Next, the Church of Scientology wants to be free from investigation into their illegal actions.
  • They run a number of "re-education" prison camps called "RPFs" where they lock up dissidents for years of hard labor and frequent "confessions".
  • Employees in the Sea Org are forced to work long, long days -- often 20-hour days, without breaks, without vacations, without weekends, for years -- and are paid well below the mandated minimum wage, in violation of many labor laws.
  • The Church of Scientology has admitted that Sea Org members have been beaten, but no reports to police were permitted. Sea Org members have been denied decent food or even meal breaks, they have been denied proper sleep and have even been forced to sleep at their desks or worse.
  • Women in the Sea Org are routinely ordered to have abortions or face severe punishments.
  • Married couples in the Sea Org are routinely ordered to divorce.
  • Sea Org members are denied all benefits. They are denied proper medical care. Very little, if any, money is ever paid by the church to Medicare or Social Security for any of its employees, and there are no retirement funds. Older members, who have outlived their usefulness to the Church of Scientology are simply cast out -- to live out the rest of their lives on the streets or depending on family to live.
  • And so much more.
Even when you have a believer's full agreement -- even signed documents, you may not commit crimes against them. No agreements, no waivers, no "contracts" can give you the right to break the law.

No, freedom of religion does not give the Church of Scientology immunity from the law.

When a person decides to leave Scientology, they will get into deep trouble with the church. They will be declared Suppressive. All Scientology friends and family will be required to disconnect from them. If the person leaving Scientology happens to be employed by a Scientologist, they will be fired. In other words, leaving Scientology is considered one of the very worst crimes you can commit.

One very basic part of freedom of religion is the right to leave a religion. And this means the right to leave without any punishment.

No, freedom of religion, in fact, forbids punishing Scientologists who choose to leave the Church of Scientology.

Yes, freedom of religion is a very important right and should not be abridged -- but it emphatically does not mean what the Church of Scientology wishes it to mean.

When Scientologists complain about being "denied their freedom of religion" it means they were denied their "right" to impose their beliefs on everyone else.


  1. Thank you for this post. It's a very good point and one I've thought before.

    It's like they think freedom of religion gives religious organizations autonomy or some weird get out of jail free card. It's deeply peculiar and quite stupid, but they've gotten away with so much over the years it's no surprise they might think so and feel justified screeching it when they're confronted with people more in tune to reality, the constitution and the law.

  2. It is an example of cult-think. They believe that they are right so absolutely that they cannot envision anyone disagreeing with their beliefs.

    Disagreement with the cult's dogma is absolutely wrong -- and any "sane" person would have to agree with the cult's beliefs.

    This is why cults find it so hard to get along with the rest of society.

  3. Ahhh, yes, that makes sense. I keep forgetting they can't possibly see things the way I do. What I think is rational and obvious just isn't with cult-think.

  4. I think it has something to do with their removal from society. They think they are actually furthering themselves as beings and therefore are above us and our laws.

  5. As ex full time staff at the continental org I was "paid" about $4.00 dollars PER WEEK!
    A Sea Org member who required surgery was not supported in any way by this Continental Ortg and he had to live as a beggar and be operated for free!

  6. Whenever Scientologists talk about their freedom of religion I usually ask them about the Freezone, and whether or not those in the Freezone have a right to call themselves Scientologists, and practice their religion in the way that they see fit.

    If CoS really believed in freedom of religion, then they would not defend their copyrights and trademarks when used by other denominations.

  7. Nailed it again, Just Bill, as usual. Freedom of religion doesn't mean freedom to harm others or impose your beliefs on others.

    Expect to be HAD if you go anywhere near Scientology: Harm And Dogma.

    Best to you from a long time reader and admirer.

  8. Just Bill,

    Whenever I read about RTCs and punishment camps and sweatshop wages, my mind boggles that anyone could put up with it. But then the old news reporter in me remembers how hard it is for police to get some crime victims to cooperate and testify. Is this, indeed the case? Have these people no real free will of their own anymore?

    Much obliged.

  9. @Cycle Ninja

    To be blunt, no they do not have any free will. It really is a cult, and the members practice thought control on themselves rather effectively. The church defines what is important, what is true, what is evil, what is good. The members believe everything.

    The Sea Org is the inner circle of the most brainwashed. They not only tolerate some pretty awful abuses, they would deny, under oath, that the abuses have ever happened -- which, as you say, makes prosecution quite difficult.

  10. Double standards? In Scientology? Surely not!!

    But then, CoS has always had some funny ideas about 'freedom'

    The Bridge to Total Freedom? As if. No freedom at the end of that...

    Freedom of Speech? Not if you're against them... Despite their claims to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    I think Scientology has a collective MU there... If only they used real-world dictionaries, rather than management-approved ones...

  11. Well, now that Scientology is such a champion of EVERYONE'S religious freedom, I know how to handle my status as an ex-Scientologist with them. Should they accuse me of being an "enemy" I'll just let them know that I am not "for" or "against" them. I have simply fallen back on my original Christian upbringing. As such huge champions of religious freedom, surely they will respect that and leave me alone. But I bet it doesn't work.

  12. This is all so true. I wrestled with this double standard for years. In my early days in scn I was on the front lines disseminating, giving intro talks and signing people up. A standard part of the pitch was that scientology was non-denominational. I can still pretty much remember word for word the little talk, even after 35 years... "we respect all religions and you can still practice your own beliefs"... Later I saw that this was a total lie. As you advance in Scientology or work on staff, especially in the SO, you cannot hold other beliefs outside of the teachings and policies of Scientology. It is simply not allowed. How could you when you have to believe that the Scn tech is the only answer to spiritual freedom? The only thing the abusive organization of Scientology has in common with religion is the destruction and carnage that has been left in the path of religious zealots throughout history. Don't count on them to respect you as an individual or your beliefs.
    Good work Bill.

  13. The organizations of Scientology are staffed by people. People make mistakes and individuals act badly. There is no such thing as the "Church" that's an abstract concept. What really exists is a number of individuals working on a shared activity as best they can.

    As an old-timer, I can tell you that Scientology was never about addressing abstract entities such as groups. It was only about addressing the concerns and spiritual freedom of an individual.

    I have had considerable auditing over the years. I have had my own gains, realizations and personal insights. They do not belong to you, members of the Church or anyone else. I do not have to subscribe to anyone's belief system to have my own realm of spirituality. No one can ever take that from me and no one can ever dissuade me from the truth of that. It was my voyage of discovery, and mine alone.

    If you are looking for some kind of magical religion that will tell you all the answers, it does not exist in Scientology. If you are looking for a tool you can use to gain an insight into your own spirituality, then there is nothing that can rival Scientology.

    I do not care what you think. I do not care what the "Church" thinks, I do not care what the government thinks. I care that I have had a precious opportunity to examine, for myself, my own truths. For in the end, that is all there is for me.

    I wish to see that auditing remains available for those who sincerely want to examine and come to their own recognition of their own truth.

    That's what Scientology is all about underneath all the hype, bullshit, lies, anti and pro cult propaganda and on and on and on.

    You talk about closing down that opportunity, about it being a scam, then you are not on the side of religious freedom either.

    Don't get me wrong. I do not condone abuse. But I do not condone any effort to malign what is mine or to demean it. That's just more abuse.

    As far as proving its not a scam -- you have no right to judge what I have experienced -- that is the essence of religious freedom.

    Factually, even if you did all of the auditing I did, your experience would be different because auditing is as individual as the individual.

    So please, lay off this nonsense of claiming to be standing up for religious freedom and then telling people that I am "brainwashed." That's just more abuse in the guise of standing up for my freedom. Try to be a little respectful of that which you claim to be defending.

  14. You've hit the nail on the head. Freedom of religion also mandates freedom from religion. I've had a number of Scientology members say in effect "we respect your religion, now you must respect ours!"

    First off, Scientology is not a religion, not to me it isn't. If someone wants to believe that Hubbard figured out how the human minds works, more power to them. Scientology obviously tends to make good people behave like loonies but if someone really wants to do that, who am I to argue with them?

    However, they cannot force me to think of them as religious. I do not have to believe that Scientology is a religion. No government, no mob, no Pope and no evangelist has that power and certainly no Scientology member.

    If they could all go away and not be part of normal society anymore, so long as they didn't use coercion on each other (fat chance) I'd have no problem with them. So long suckers! Have a nice life!

    However, they insist that I do things that I don't want to o, they insist that I am someone that I'm not. They insist that I go or not go places I want to go.

    They insist that they have the RIGHT to tell me what to believe. They are mistaken and it seems they must be shown their mistakes, lord knows we tried to tell them!

  15. Dear Anonymous Scientologist,

    Your long screed is so typical of comments I get from Scientologists. It amazes me that Scientologists, so often, "respond" to things I never said!

    Where did I ever "talk about closing down" the Church of Scientology? You say I said that, so where did you read that? Not here.

    Where did I "judge what you have experienced"? Eh?

    I have often said that Scientologists should be free to believe whatever they want. I even said it in the article you are responding to! So why are you attacking me for not being respectful of your beliefs?

    If you, like so many Scientologists, insist that I must show "respect" for your beliefs by never saying anything negative about it and, in fact, expect me to pretend to believe everything you believe, then you have completely missed what freedom of religion, and respect actually mean.

    If you wish to have some credence here, why don't you try responding to what was actually said. In truth, you have carefully avoided the very important points that were raised. Try addressing those issues.

    As I said in the article that you, apparently, didn't read, no one is or has ever denied any Scientologist the right to believe and practice Scientology as and when they wish. Why do you keep bleating that your religious freedom is being denied when that is blatantly untrue?

    I am not attacking you. I am not telling you what to believe. No one is stopping you from believing and practicing Scientology.

    Yet you attack me as if that were happening.

    Read the article. Read what freedom of religion really is. Then decide what you are complaining about.

    I await your response.

  16. @MeccaaAnon

    Thanks. It is true. They require that everyone "respect" their beliefs by never criticizing, never disagreeing, never pointing out flaws, errors, lack of results and so on.

    That isn't respect, that's agreement. Sorry, Scientology doesn't get to dictate that to anyone.

    And, yes, they can't force you to agree that it "is a religion".

  17. Hmmm. I think you really misunderstood me. I do not agree with any position taken by any individual, group, Church or religion that lessens an individual's right to their own spiritual experiences or religious beliefs. I was trying to point out that this is a deeply subjective and very personal thing. At least it is for me. I personally have no one telling me what I should or should not believe.

    I actually think this website is a good idea and that Scientologists need to really live the principles they embrace. One of those principles is respecting and ensuring religious freedom for all.

    I did not criticize that element of this website. I was simply pointing out that my individual experience has little to do with what the Church organization does or does not do and while I am all for correcting abuses, I am not at all for ridiculing their personal, individual beliefs or yours.

    Is your goal to have Scientology declassified as a religion or is it to correct abuses that you see being perpetrated?

    If it is to correct abuses, then I'm all for it. If it's just to rant against other people's beliefs (and mine count too) then I am not. Perhaps you really hate all religions, and think they are all bad, and that may be. But I don't think so and I don't think its a good idea to throw the baby out with the bath water.

    You'll probably just flame me again but then again, perhaps you'll think about it a bit. Do you not think there is a possibility that you have just encountered someone who doesn't fit your mold? Who doesn't fit the mold of the Church? Who walks their own road, with their own beliefs and opinions?

    Do you see this as even a possibility?

  18. Dear Anonymous Scientologist,

    *sigh* You say you've read my blog, but you obviously haven't.

    If you want to attack me, go right ahead, but at least have the decency to find out what I've actually said first.

    If you want to accuse me of being "anti-religion" (I'm not) then you will have to find where I said something like that!

    If you want to accuse me of "maligning" you (I haven't) then you will have to find where I did that!

    If you want to accuse me of all the things you are saying, find where I said what you think I said!

    The Church of Scientology, at its highest levels, commits fraud, abuse and crimes. This. Is. Wrong.

    The Church of Scientology tries to distract the discussion of its fraud, abuse and crimes by claiming religious discrimination, hate crimes, intolerance and on and on and on.

    Your comments are along the same line - attack the attacker, claim I've maligned you, denied you your "respect", and on and on -- when nothing I said in this article or any article has ever done that.

    Don't bother "attacking" my positions until you actually know what my positions are.

  19. Here's your earlier comment:

    "September 22, 2009 7:30 PM
    Blogger Just Bill said...

    To be blunt, no they do not have any free will. It really is a cult, and the members practice thought control on themselves rather effectively. The church defines what is important, what is true, what is evil, what is good. The members believe everything."

    I responded to what you said in your comment. I think it is rather sweeping to say, without meeting me that I have no free will.

    Although it may be a moot point as I have managed to thoroughly upset you. I assure you, I really didn't intend to. Sorry about that.

    Like I said, I think it is a good idea to point out abuses and seek to have them corrected. Glad to hear you are not on an all-out campaign throw the baby out with the bath water.

  20. Dear Anonymous Scientologist,

    Upset me? Not hardly. I thoroughly enjoy these exchanges. Especially with Scientologists -- who claim I'm wrong, but prove my points.

    However, I stick by my statement. Please tell me of any Scientologist who doesn't do exactly what the Church of Scientology tells them -- and stays out of trouble.

    Get it? If you are constrained by some organization to do everything they tell you to do, or you will be punished, that is not free will.

    Scientologists get extra sec-checks, FPRDs, conditions, "eligibility checks", knowledge reports, ethics interviews and on and on, to punish them for wandering from the exact path the church dictates. This is a fact.

    If you don't like it, take it up with your church.

  21. Dear Anonymous!Scientologist,

    1. Refrain from reading and responding to the comments before reading the article.

    2. Read the article.

    3. And then really read the article.

    4. And then really, really read the article because you obviously:

    4a. Did not read and definitely did not comprehend it's meaning or purpose.

    5. Actually say what you're responding to first before you accuse Just Bill of nasty things.

    6. Find out what a flame actually is before you accuse Just Bill of flaming you. (he did not)

    7. Confine your comments to the topic of the article because:

    7a. You so far have done everything but that and it is blatantly obvious, and it is not flattering to you nor of Scientology's teachings.

    7b. Use the "Ask a Question" section for this sort of off topic thing, that's what it's there for.

    8. It appears you're here to muddy the waters with inane, off topic speeches so Just Bill doesn't have the energy to spend on writing another fabulous article. So:

    9. Grow up or get off the internets because:

    9a. You appear to be the one who is upset and who can't accept that Just Bill, whose opinion is just as qualified as yours, has a different opinion than you do about the "Church" of Scientology.

    No love,

    Daughter of a Scientologist

    Just Bill,

    Despite my above comment I find this exchange very interesting. Keep up the good work!

    (If you don't want to post this comment, I understand.)

  22. Ah, I see where you are coming from.

    I count myself as a Scientologist by my own definition and that is someone who improves conditions by using Scientology. I see that you are applying a much narrower definition, i.e. someone who is actively active in the Church. I am active off and on, but the Church doesn't play much of a role in my life except when I go there once in a while to do a course or do some more auditing.

    There is a wealth of information available in Scientology and I have had very great gains.

    As I said in an earlier comment, I am an old-timer. Many a time in the last three decades I have said no, I disagree, I do not wish to do that, that's wrong. I have never "gotten into trouble" by doing that and I have never carried out an action I disagreed with. It's probably more a matter of integrity than free will.

    The abuses you describe are awful and I certainly do not agree with them. I use my free will to walk out the door when I do not like what I see (and that doesn't just apply to Scientology) and I use my free will to post a comment that says so on this website.

    I am continually surprised by what people in and out of Scientology think it is about. Believe me, the actual subject is not about abusing or degrading people. I don't know what these other people are doing that leads to such abuse, but it sure isn't what I studied.

    As a student of history, I see this behavior as yet another example of the cruelty and inhumanity of people towards one another that has existed as far back as written history goes.

    We've got a long ways to go. And by us, I mean people throughout the world.

    I am quite hopeful that this type of discussion will help to bring an end to abuses both in and out of Scientology. The Internet is the first time in history when this level of discussion became possible, giving voice to those who never had a voice before. For enabling free discussion and for giving others voice, I salute you.

  23. Dear Anonymous Scientologist,

    Well, old timer Scientologists who still believe, but are not much under the Church of Scientology's control are, well, a unique set of people.

    Since that is a matter of belief, I won't argue with you. Just don't expect me to agree with you nor pretend it's all wonderful.

  24. Great post Bill. It's so unfortunate that Scientologists(in the church) just can't seem to see what's so obviously before them. Heartbreaking really. It takes a lot of time and patience to get a Scientologist to look. I've actually had quite a bit of success along those lines as long as I keep at it slowly and on a gradient. It requires finding out something that the person feels himself is wrong or that has happened to himself that he felt was incorrect and use that to emphasize your point.

    Keep's having an effect. We'll get where we want to go eventually...and from what I can see from all that is happening, it's going to be sooner than later.

  25. Scientology may give people gains but it doesnt give you the guaranteed gains that convinced you to sign up BIG difference scientology in their true form as a self help organisation would be sued into non-existence by now if they hadnt been pretending to be a religion

  26. @Sara

    Thanks. I appreciate your comments. I'm delighted to hear you are having successes in getting Scientologists to wake up. Good work!


    The "gains" that Scientologists believe they are getting from Scientology are ephemeral and vague -- and definitely not the "Abilities Gained" promised by the church. That is the key, they may believe that some gains have occurred, but not one single Scientologist has gained Release, Clear or OT. That is significant.

    However, no one will (or would be able to) sue the church for this non-delivery. That's too bad.

  27. Just Bill, obviously I don't know what all of the instances are that you have had with Scientologists. And I will acknowledge that the organization defends itself, like any other organization would under accusations. I definitely wont say that everything they do is correct; however, "-- but I know of no incident in the entire history of Scientology where a Scientologist was prevented from believing and practicing Scientology!" this is utterly false.
    If you don't know of situations then you need to do more research. Governments in numerous countries restricted the existence of and even persecuted individual members for decades. As I said, I'm not disagreeing with everything you said, but do your homework.... It definitely happened. As a matter of fact I have had numerous encounters with individuals who seemed to think they could forcefully change my beliefs, as well as those who refused giving jobs based on my religion or refused to work with my religious schedule.
    Also I would be careful how you throw around words like "forced" since people going into the Sea Org (RPF) are aware of the type of life they are getting themselves into. If you weren't made aware I am truly sorry, but when compared to the atrocities of most major religions, Scientology hardly takes the cake. Since you were a Scientologist I would assume you know the mechanics of overts and might have some missed withholds, I know I do. These can make you a little more critical than you really need to be, of the church as well as anyone else in your life. So maybe just stay off the subject altogether if you're going to spread misinformation.

    1. You make good points, but have misunderstood what I was talking about. When I said that I didn't know of any incident where a Scientologist was prevented from practicing Scientology I wasn't talking about where the Church of Scientology was not "recognized as a religion" - that's a completely different subject and I've covered that elsewhere. Please provide some information where a government has prevented a Scientologist from auditing or otherwise practicing their Scientology "tech".

      What I said is exactly what I meant. I don't know everything and I'm always happy to get more information, but I do not know of any time when a Scientologist was prevented from auditing or otherwise applying their "tech".

      You mention that you've met people who "seemed to think they could forcefully change" your beliefs. You also mention bigots who won't hire some people based on (whatever). Nice red herring but that is not what I was talking about, why bring it up? Are you confused or were you just hoping to confuse me?

      As for RPF and the Sea Org, you don't know what you are talking about. Yes, the "church" of Scientology does force people to work extremely long hours, days, weeks, years with no time off. Do you actually think people are happy doing that? Whew! Strange idea.

      Here's a little inside information for you. No one knows what life is like as a Sea Org member until after they have signed their "billion year contract". They are promised sleep. They are promised vacations. They are promised food and clothing will be provided. When they are well and truly trapped, then they find out that sleep can be (and is) denied, "liberty" can be (and is) denied, vacation can be (and is) denied. Even good food and decent clothing can be (and is) denied. Sorry, you are totally wrong; Before joining no one is "aware of the type of life they are getting themselves into".

      You seem to be a Scientologist and can be forgiven for not knowing this stuff. You are not told. It is hidden. You believe what you've been told is the "whole truth" and anyone who has different information "has overts". LOL!

      Someday you will finally realize - this belief is part of the trap you have allowed yourself to be caught in. Other information and disagreement with the Church of Scientology does not "indicate one has overts". Disagreement means you are not trapped. Other information means there is more there than what the church allows you to see.

    2. A few more things people don't know about the Sea Org before they actually join:
      Pay, as miniscule as it is, can be (and often is) cancelled or cut.
      Marriage is seriously frowned upon and all romantic relationships are forbidden.
      All outside interests are considered out ethics and will result in heavy sec-checking.
      There is much more.
      No, people definitely do not know what life will be like when they join the Sea Org. You certainly are clueless. But then, all Scientologists are clueless or they wouldn't support this kind of thing.


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