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.
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.