May 9, 1950 (a Tuesday)

Scientology in Hollywood.

Scientology in Hollywood.

On this date, Lafayette Ronald Hubbard (1911-1986) published Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. With this book, Hubbard introduced a branch of self-help psychology called “Dianetics”, which quickly caught fire and, over time, morphed into a belief system boasting millions of subscribers: Scientology.

Hubbard was already a prolific and frequently published writer by the time he penned the book that would change his life. Under several pseudonyms in the 1930s, he had published a great amount of pulp fiction, particularly in the science fiction and fantasy genres. In late 1949, having returned from serving in the Navy in World War II, Hubbard began publishing articles in the pages of Astounding Science Fiction, a magazine that published works by the likes of Isaac Asimov and Jack Williamson. Out of these grew the elephantine text known as Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.

Though discredited by the medical and scientific establishment, over 100,000 copies of Dianetics were sold in the first two years of publication, and Hubbard soon found himself lecturing across the country. He went on to write six more books in 1951, developing a significant fan base and establishing the Hubbard Dianetics Research Foundation in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

In 1953, L. Ron Hubbard introduced “Scientology”. Scientology expanded on Dianetics by bringing Hubbard’s popular version of psychotherapy into the realm of philosophy, and ultimately, religion. In only a few years, Hubbard found himself at the helm of a movement that captured the popular imagination. As Scientology grew in the 1960s, several national governments became suspicious of Hubbard, accusing him of quackery and brainwashing his followers.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Paul Breckenridge defined Scientology well in June 1984: “In addition to violating and abusing its own members’ civil rights, the organization over the years with its ‘fair game’ doctrine has harassed and abused those persons not in the church whom it perceives as enemies.” In a 1967 policy titled Penalties for Lower Conditions, Hubbard had written that opponents who are “fair game” may be “deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.”

However, on 1 October 1993, the Internal Revenue Service, after an extraordinary campaign of lawsuits and harassment against the IRS and its officials by Scientology, issued letters reclassifying Scientology and every one of its organizations as a religion instead of a business. The American tax man made Scientology fully tax-exempt. By granting Scientology tax exemption, the U.S. government is cooperating with an organization that appears to put citizens from around the world at significant mental health and perhaps medical risk.

Not everything that calls itself a religion is a religion. It could be a multibillion-dollar business, an organization with a mafia-like hold over its followers, or a brainwashing cult. Some ex-members say the so-called Church of Scientology is all three.

In Britain, as far as the Charity Commissioners are concerned, for the purposes of English charity law: “Scientology is not a religion.

The underlying logic of the British test is that a religion must be open to all and open about itself. Go into a Christian church and they will tell you about Jesus. You will see images of him, everywhere, dating back almost 2,000 years. Go into a Hindu temple and you will see images of Ganesh, the multi-armed elephant God, everywhere, images that go back millennia. Go into a Church of Scientology and you will see no image of Xenu. No member of the Church of Scientology will admit to Xenu’s existence, but ex-Scientologists say he is at the heart of its cosmology. Scientology fails the British test of what is or is not a religion because it is not open about what it believes in. A belief system that tells lies about its core belief does not have the automatic right to be treated as a religion.

Since 1995, the Church of Scientology has not enjoyed the legal protections accorded to religions in Germany, after a judge ruled that it was not a religion but a group “masquerading as a religion in order to make a profit.”

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