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The Scientology organization was born in 1954, when the first "churches" were opened in Los Angeles and Auckland (New Zealand) by the former science-fiction writer Lafayette Ron Hubbard. One year later the Washington and New York branches followed.
Shortly afterwards "dianetics institutes" and missions of the Church were opened throughout the world (dianetics is both a kind of psycho-analytic therapy and a religious philosophy). Nowadays the sect is present in 107 countries and claims to have 8 million followers.
Its permanent staff should include 13,000 people, of whom a part, having taken vows to serve the cause for eternity, make up the Sea Org, a community with both monastic and military characteristics (the name comes from the fact that between '66 and '75 its members adopted navy uniforms and used a number of ships as religious cult locations).
The administrative centre of the "Church of Scientology International" is currently based at 6331 Hollywood Boulevard, suite 1202, Los Angeles, and is led by the "Reverend" HEBER C. JENTZSCH; but the real headquarters of its operating structure lie on board the ship "Freewinds".
Scientology is not based on a "revelation", but rather on a kind of inner research: overcoming the opposition between faith and reason, it places itself in the perspective of knowledge of things material and spiritual, going back to the authentic nature of Being, so much so that it has been referred to as a kind of "technological Buddhism".
Its objective is therefore not to provide salvation as "forgiveness of your sins" and spiritual asceticism, but rather a kind of survival based on a biological program of purification, which allows the individual to set himself free of mental distortions, which are seen as causes of "aberrated" conducts (such as drug dependence and criminality, cured in the "NARCONON" and "CRIMINON" centres, strictly under the supervision of the "Church" itself) and to develop one's potential to the utmost.
The problem is that completing this purification program costs very high amounts of money indeed; this is why, quite apart from its officially declared aims, the real purpose of the sect appears to be the practice of a lucrative activity and the exploitation of inexperienced people, as incidentally is also evident from some of its founder's writings.
In particular, the scientologists' recruiting technique consists in submitting anyone who would like to "understand their real problems" to a test, free of charge, as a "personality measurement", in the form of a questionnaire of about two hundred "revealing" questions (actually aimed at obtaining a better knowledge of the subject's character). Afterwards, having singled out those subjects which are easiest to influence, scientologists offer to "cure" them by means of "auditing sessions".
In this phase, through the recollection of traumatic experiences corresponding to the various "engrams", the "patients" end up confessing intimate particulars of their private life, which afterwards the organization will later be able to use as a means of blackmail.
Those who decide to continue the therapy are persuaded to attend more and more expensive dianetics courses, during which they are subjected to physical strains (overwhelming work, hypervitaminic and hyperproteic diets) as well as psychological strains (forced reading, pressures and intimidations) in order to reduce them to a state of total subjection, putting into practice the system of "mental conditioning" already described (see note 13 p. 11).
Dramatic eye-witness accounts by ex-members and relatives of people who are still involved stress how, following this path, many people completely alienated their social, professional and family relationships, throwing away all their fortunes and leading a completely irregular lifestyle in order to follow the prescriptions of the organization, until they manifested evidence of physical damage and actual behaviour disorders, ending up sometimes in gestures against self-preservation. Together with the aspects described above, the characteristic of the movement which arouses most concern is its ambition to create a "scientologist democracy" on a global basis (project "Planet Clear"), whose necessary assumption is the purification of all individuals. Were this objective to be achieved somewhere by at least 80%, there would be no more need of elections or political debates, since the non-aberrated individuals could only approve of "sensible measures".
If anyone were to oppose this project, refusing to become clear and hence demostrating a "suppressive" personality with criminal tendencies, the status of citizen would be denied to them, in order that they should not pose any threat. Apart from this, it would be forbidden to them to get married and have children.
The instauration of this new ethical, social and legal order, which would assure "total freedom" in return for "total discipline", is pursued by means of a systematic and progressive "infiltration" into the economy and the state apparatus (apart from proselytism activity); today there are many commercial firms and societies under control of Scientology, and in some countries administrators and public officers have been disclosed to belong to the sect.
In order to put its plans into practice, Scientology disposes of huge financial means (thanks especially to the money earned by the numerous "missions" of the "Church" in various countries through their dianetics courses) and of an efficient organizational apparatus, structured in a strictly hierarchical form and branched out in the following sectors:
- Religious Technology Center (RTC), at the vertex of the pyramid.
- International Management, which represents the highest level of command after the RTC, and is responsible both for strategy development and tactical plans for all the other sectors, as well as the co-ordination of management activities. It includes the International Financial Office (IFO) and the Watchdog Committee (WDC), an inspection apparatus responsible for the functioning of the single management groups, which in turn avails itself of the Commodor's Messengers Org (CMO) in order to acquire the information necessary to carry out its institutional tasks, and of the International Network of Computer Organized Management (INCOMM);
- Scientology sector (Org. Class IV)
- Sea Org - Flag Command Bureau (FCB), whose task is to ensure that every single group or organization carries out the plans of the International Management. The following offices depend on the FCB:
- The Citizens' Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), a study group which produces publications which denounce the alleged abuses of official psychiatry, and on the other hand deny the mistreatments which patients undergo in dianetic rehabilitation centres.
- Golden Era Productions, a sector in charge of producing audio-visual propaganda and explanatory material;
- Office of Special Affaires (OSA), the organization's notorious "secret service".
By means of this colossal organization, Scientology not only resists all criticism levelled against it, but often counterattacks its detractors and those who investigate on its activities, submerging them with libel suits (helped in this by the best lawyers available) and, it is suspected, turning to extremely unscrupolous, if not absolutely illegal, methods, such as investigating their private lives, in order to dig up possible sins and weaknesses which would make them open to blackmail, or otherwise subjecting them to anonymous threats, harassment and property damages. In fact, no legal certainty has ever emerged as to whether these acts can be brought back to the organization; but it is an undisputable fact that those people who are critical against it are subjected to a series or persecutions, similar to those which the founder himself, Hubbard, in several internal policy-letters, had prescribed for his opponents.
It seems that this technique was used by the sect to obtain, in spite of the obvious profits involved, the status of religious organization, and hence fiscal exemption by the Internal Revenue Service, the highest fiscal authority in the USA.
It seems that the "Church", through private investigators, collected material against IRS management officers, in order to start over 50 penal and civil actions against them, so as to win their resistance - as it seems to have happened. In 1993, suddenly discarding a consolidated negative attitude, the IRS agreed to the sect's claims. Moreover, in stark contrast with the policy, followed up till now, of making public the acts of its administrative proceedings, the IRS never disclosed the reasons behind this decision.
Another important victory was obtained in France, where, in July 1997, the Lyon Court of Appeals, even after convicting a former leader of the sect of fraud and manslaughter in relation to facts taken place in November 1996, declared that "Scientology may claim the title of religion and develop its activities in all freedom, including missionary and propaganda activities, under the existing laws." In Italy The first Hubbard Dianetics Institute was founded in Milan in 1977; later other institutes opened in all regions. Following various reports, the Italian police apparatus investigated the organization several times. The people in charge of the Milan, Brescia, Novara, Torino, Trieste, Udine, Pordenone, Treviso, Padova, Ravenna, Ferrara, Firenze, Roma, Catania, Cagliari branches (some of whom already had previous convictions for fraud or drug offences) were investigated for fraud, illegal exercise of health practice, commerce in unregistered medical products, circumvention of an incapable, fiscal and currency violations.
Most of the relevant court proceedings ended up at the Milan Court, where the Investigation and Hearing Office (which already in November 1986 had issued a search warrant for the Hubbard Dianetics Institute and forced ir to shut down, together with all the structures connected with it throughout the country) committed for trial a large number of followers with a sentence of 3.10.88.
The organization then, in order to circumvent the ban, reappeared in the guise of a religious confession, now calling itself "Church of Scientology", officially independent, moreover, of its American counterpart.
Meanwhile, the first degree of the trial ended with the sentence of 2 July 1991, which essentially rejected the charge, acquitting most of the defendants.
The Public Prosector then appealed against this sentence, and on 5.11.93 the judges of the Third Penal Section of the Milan Court of Appeals agreed to the prosecution's thesis, according to which the sect constitutes a criminal organization aimed at carrying out offences against property, and passing sentences on about fifty defendants varying between 3 months of arrest (for tax offences alone) and 4 years and 3 months of detention for criminal association, circumvention of an incapable, and extorsion.
On the other hand the Corte di Cassazione [translator's note: an italian constitutional organism, an High Court which has the power of rejecting sentences passed by other courts] on 9.2.1995, following a request by the Organization's lawyers, declared the sentence null and void, referring the deed to another section of the Milan Court of Appeals for a new judgement. However on 2.12.96 the the judges confirmed the chief allegation, declaring the accused guilty of criminal association and acquitting them on the other charges, since the latter by that time had become statute-barred.
This judgement had likewise to undergo another recourse, this time to the Suprime Court, which on 8.10.1997 (sentence no. 1329) declared the former decision null and void because of procedural errors, rejecting the arguments by means of which the religious nature of the organization had been denied and deferring another judgement to yet another section of the Milan Court of Appeals. The last decision looks indeed innovative, especially in the part in which it maintains that the practice of an organized, systematic and "aggressive" fund-raising activity by the organization is not in itself detrimental to its recognition as a religious confession, since even the traditional religions "... have always imposed their followers the payment of offers, which at the beginning went far beyond the nearly symbolic value they have attained today..." and furthermore that "... the harshness of the methods used... looks much less excessive, once the fund-raising methods of the Catholic Church in the past are taken into account... and that the sales of indulgencies... were founded essentially on an unbearable and terrorizing emphasizing of the sufferings of atonement for believers in the Afterlife..."
Likewise, the sale of goods and services, which by itself reveals the lucrative aims of the sect, according to the Supreme Court "cannot have any meaning whatsoever, if not that of actually testifying the existence of religious services... the offer of these services to the followers, with relative costs... Until a few decades ago, actually, lists by no means any more precise or detailed were posted outside quite a few church sacristies, with information which any priest also could also give on request...". Therefore "disagreeing with the previous judgement, pertaining the recognition of collateral activities of commercial nature concerning the receipt of the fees of those joining the courses, the sale of books and religious publications", it was stressed that "these specific activities are intrinsically related to institutional and religious purposes, being aimed at providing a form of self-funding".
Besides reaching full legal legitimation, italian members of Scientology seem to be particularly interested in gaining credit among the public, both at a national and an international level.
Last summer in particular, they sent the Ambassador of the German Federal Republic, the Foreign Minister and the President of the Commission of the US State Department for Religions Abroad, over a hundred letters, in which they accused the German government of discriminatory and persecuting activities against the "Church". They requested the intervention of the Foreign Minister in order to end these oppressing activities, in the name of human rights and religious freedom. They mentioned all their sociallly useful activities throughout the world, stressed moreover the validity of the "techniques" adopted in their courses in order to reach a state of psychological and physical well-being, and emphasized the recognition, in many countries, of the religious nature of the organization and of the full legality of the practices carried out therein.
It is the first time that the sect, in our Country, adopts this form of institutional pressure, which besides appears entirely consistent with its international strategy.
Other initiatives have been undertaken in various cities: - in Ancona, on 12 September 1997, signatures were collected for the "achievement of religious freedom according to constitutional principles". The scheduled torchlight procession did not however take place, since the organizers did not hand in he necessary notice in due time.
- in Ravenna, the following 18 September, the "Church" called for a "Crusade for freedom, religion, and respect of human rights", in the context of which a torchlight procession was staged, to which about sixty people took part.
Other demonstrations were staged on 25 and 26 September, respectively in Milan and Rome, coinciding with the ending of the above trial. Meanwhile since December 1997 the organization has started, in the province of Venice, a propaganda campaign inside schools.
On the basis of what has been illustrated above, it cannot be ruled out that the association will soon work out new strategies in order to gain new publicity. Their nature will most likely be proportional to the outcome of the next pending judgement of the Milan Court.
Cernusco sul Naviglio (MI)
Cairo Montenotte (SV)
Martina Franca (TA)
Castelfranco Veneto (TV)
Total Followers: 7000
The sect appears to be present in the following provinces or comuni as well: Attilia and Campora S. Giovanni (CS), Cuneo, Enna, La Spezia, Piacenza, Trapani. Note 13 (page 11)
This result is obtained by following a three-step route:
- Estrangement from the social community and the family, in order to induce loss of any other reference point
- Sense of superiority, in order to break all previous relationships
- "Love bomb", in order to restore the sense of belonging to a group
- Rimotion of privacy, in order to prevent self-examination
- Obligation to donate all of one's belongings to the group, in order to induce financial dependence.
- Systematical rejection "a priori" of the old values
- Submission of difficult reading
- Encouragement to blind obedience, sense of hierarchy and hypersimplification of all complex aspects of life.
- Request to conform to dressing codes, in order to stress the idea of being different from everybody else
- Sense of mistery, of partecipation in an unfathomable enterprise
- Use of prayers or repetitive formulae, which reduce one's critical sense.
- Prolonged physical activity, continuous mental commitments and privation of sleep, together with an unbalanced diet in order to create a state of fatigue (which makes rebellion more unlikely) and easier reaction to emotional stresses
- Deresponsibilisation, in order to discourage personal initiatives
- Constant psychological pressure by other members, in order to avoid sudden changes of mind
- Inducing a sense of guilt and fear of punishment in case of doubts and negative thoughts
- Habit of using a cryptic language, in order to make communication with the outside world more difficult.