Scientology Cult Abuse
Scientology’s secretive practices and alleged abuses have raised significant concerns for decades. Founded in the 1950s by failed science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology claims to be the world’s “fastest growing religion”, despite global census data from the US, UK, Australia and countries in Europe revealing it has been in the decline since at least the 1990s.
Scientology is currently run by David Miscavige, who took control of the Church after Hubbard’s death in 1986. Under his leadership, Scientology has expanded its global real estate empire with reports the organization has over $3 billion in assets as a result of a property procurement and renovation project named the ‘Ideal Org Program’. In 1993, Scientology was given tax-exempt status by the IRS and as such can hide many of its activities from public scrutiny.
Spotting a Cult
Dr. Steven Hassan’s ‘BITE Model’ offers a comprehensive framework for dissecting control mechanisms used by cults. Scientology undoubtedly fits this pattern of authoritarian control: members face strict behavioral rules, limited access to information, and a suppression of independent thought. Emotional control is maintained through a process known as ‘auditing’ and hierarchical pressures.
Scientology Costs Money
Scientology operates a fixed donation system for it’s services, with parishioners claiming to have paid in excess of half a million dollars to reach the upper levels of ‘spiritual enlightenment’. Using a technique of spiritual counselling invented by Hubbard called ‘auditing’, the majority of parishioners pay in advanced packages called ‘intensives’ which get more expensive the further you go up ‘The Bridge’. At the upper levels, it has been reported that auditing can cost $800 per hour.
The Sea Organization
Its most committed members are what is known as the ‘Sea Organization‘, which operates Scientology’s upper management and executive positions. Membership requires signing a one billion year contract, committing all future lifetimes to the cult, and staff are expected to work 12-16 hours a day, 7 days a week with limited free movement or time off. In return, Sea Org members are provided accommodation, food and paid a weekly stipend of $50.
The Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF): A Tale of Abuse
At the core of Scientology’s alleged abuses lies the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF), a North-Korea style, hard labor, re-education camp that claims to rehabilitate rule-breaking members. However, former members have reported forced labor, isolation, and psychological manipulation at multiple Scientology bases such as Hemet, California (US) and Saint Hill, Sussex (UK). This exposes the blurred line between spiritual development and systematic exploitation.
Global Impact of Abuse
Scientology’s alleged abuses extend beyond borders. Reports of abuse have surfaced in the United Kingdom, Australia, Europe, and elsewhere. Accounts from different countries reveal similar experiences of coercion and isolation, highlighting the organization’s global reach. With children joining the Sea Org as young as 14, Scientology’s movement of its staff across its international bases has led to accusations of child trafficking, separating families and forced labor.
Real Stories of Suffering
Members of Scientology’s Sea Organization are expected to commit their lives to the group and as such, family is seen as a distraction. Although sexual relations are allowed after marriage, having children is not permitted in the Sea Org. Claire Headley, for example, is one of several top executives who have spoken out against Scientology’s practise of forced abortions since leaving the Church.
Scientology also implements a policy of “disconnection”, where parishioners are forced to sever ties with family and friends who are critical or wary of the group, causing emotional distress. Enemies of the Church are declared “suppressive persons” and subject to a campaign of “Fair Game”, which uses intimidation and surveillance to harass and discredit critics. In August 2023, actress Leah Remini filed a lawsuit against the Church of Scientology and its leader David Miscavige, stating she was “stalked, surveilled, harassed, threatened, intimidated, and moreover, has been the victim of intentional malicious and fraudulent rumors via hundreds of Scientology-controlled and -coordinated social media accounts that exist solely to intimidate and spread misinformation.”
Advocacy and Change
Efforts are underway to raise awareness of cult abuse within Scientology. Survivors advocate for the removal of Scientology’s tax exempt status, greater support from authorities and hope to raise awareness of the cult’s manipulative tactics.
The Aftermath Foundation is a 501(c) charity set up by former members to help people escape Scientology, with many other groups providing mental health resources and peer support such as Cause Over Life.
In 2023, a number of former members started speaking out publicly on Youtube and formed an alliance known as ‘SPTV’. The group includes former top executives such as Aaron Smith Levin, Marc and Claire Headley, Amy Scobee, Mike Rinder and Chris Shelton.
Conclusion: Shedding Light on a Dark Reality
Despite Scientology capturing media attention for decades, it continues to destroy lives and tear families apart. Firsthand accounts from around the world underline the urgency with which cult abuse must be exposed. It was recently revealed by the Scientology Business blog that despite being tax exempt, Scientology profits from loaning money to international corporations. One of the easiest ways to help raise awareness is to write to your local State Representative, asking them to investigate their tax exempt status.
If you need help leaving Scientology, contact The Aftermath Foundation.