The Scandal of Scientology, by Paulette Cooper | Next | Prev | Cites | Index

Chapter 14

Scientology -- Business or Religion?

Ron Hubbard does not look upon himself as a patriarch, pope, bishop or even elder. "I control the operation," he says, "as a general manager would control any operation of a company."
-- from an interview with Hubbard for The Saturday Evening Post{1}

Scientologists repeatedly emphasize that Hubbard makes no money from Scientology because he pours any money he receives back into the organization for research.{2} If this is true, then it is to the Scientologists' credit that they have spent an enormous amount of money for research, because Hubbard has often received a ten percent tithe from the gross income of the Churches.{3} In addition to this, he once levied an additional five percent tax on Orgs which were slow in paying up,{4} and also once requested that his Orgs send him "any extra money you have around."{5}

Just where the money goes has never been clear. His followers swear that he uses none of it personally, and there seems to be no question in their minds that his many homes, cars, boats, etc., are all necessary for the Scientology operation. His followers' faith is such that no one in the Orgs seemed particularly perturbed when they saw the picture of Hubbard and his wife next to their car, and the caption "Ron and Mary Sue beside their Jaguar."{6}

Hubbard's wealth may have also come from the publication of at least thirty-five books that he's written on Scientology and Dianetics. He writes one every six months, sells 6-9,000 copies of each, and recovers his printing costs in eighty days.{7} One of the books, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, the most relentlessly promoted of all of his books, has sold a million and a half copies since it was published.{8}

In addition, Hubbard makes all Orgs buy $10,000 worth of his books ($5,000 with cash) or he declares the Executive Secretary, whose job it is to purchase these books "nonexistent" for this "betrayal to humanity."{9} There is also some evidence that Hubbard has made money by auditing people personally at $50 an hour{10} and by speaking at Scientology Congresses which he set up.{11} These Scientology Congresses are generally a good source of income, since they cost at least $75 per couple. In fact, one in 1958 that included auditing brought in approximately $800 per person from at least 140 people, thereby earning over $100,000 for the weekend.{12}

Scientologists also promote a number of special items in a booklet they call Expand whose title seems to have nothing to do with the potentialities of the mind. Expand advertises not only Hubbard's books ("ORDER AS MANY BOOKS AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN WITHOUT REGARD TO FIXED CONSUMPTION AND FLOG THEM"), but also films about Hubbard ("GET THESE FILMS NOW AND BOOST YOUR STATS TO BOOM PROPORTION"), tapes of Hubbard ("The Org Board and Livingness," "The Missed Missed Withhold"), Church certificates for marriages, funerals and christenings (which are legal in many states), old father Hubbard's cupboard of E-meters (which are sold for more than $126, although the government determined in 1963 that they cost only $12.50 to build), car badges, Scientology scarves, pins, blazer badges, cuff links, money clips, earrings, and self portraits of L. Ron Hubbard himself for only $5.35 a piece ("Ron's tremendous beingness, strength and depth of understanding show through magnificently.").{13}

It is these very commercial aspects of the Church, plus the large sums of money that Hubbard has made, that have recently caused them to lose their tax-free status in America. In August, 1968, the United States Court of Claims ruled, on appeal from a decision of the Trial Examiner in July of 1967, that Scientology failed to qualify as a corporation "organized and operated entirely for religious purposes."{14}

Scientology appealed this decision again in May of 1969 with Michael I. Sanders brilliantly arguing the case for the government. The Scientologists lost again when the Court of Claims ruled against them in August, in view of the fact that during the four year period of 1956-1959, the Washington group had made $758,982 and paid Hubbard more than $100,000 plus the use of a car and a home, along with some unexplained payments to his family, and in some cases ten percent of the gross income of the various groups.{15} This suggested a "franchise network for a private corporation."{16}

Now the Scientologists have only the Supreme Court to turn to, and if they lose there, they're in trouble. The case mentioned above concerns more than $758,000 that the Scientologists brought into their Washington, D.C., headquarters during a four year period when Scientology was not nearly as lucrative an operation as it is now.

But if Scientology loses this final appeal, action could be followed for the more lucrative years after 1959 and interest would be due on the taxes for all of those years in question. In addition, this only concerns the Founding Church of Scientology in Washington, D.C. The Internal Revenue Department may hit the other Scientology groups in at least nine other United States cities with the same taxes since 1956 at six percent interest. (Action has already been started in New York.){17}

Although Scientology could suffer very badly from such a decision, they may also be helped, since the Government may not be inclined to try to put a group out of business that owes a large sum of money in back taxes. Hubbard does not seem to be personally involved in all this, since he claims to have given up his directorship in Scientology in 1966.{18}

But if the last appeal is lost, maybe Hubbard will have to save his Church with his own money. He claims to have already forgiven them a $13 million debt (he did not state where that money came from) "an understandable act of charity," wrote Time magazine, "considering that he has boasted to friends of having $7 million stashed away in two numbered Swiss bank accounts."{19}

A number of people believe that Hubbard originally turned the "science" of Dianetics into the "religion" of Scientology in order to avoid the very taxes and financial difficulties that are plaguing them now. Even Hubbard's own son, while admitting that Scientology had expanded "toward the addressing of the being" said it was also established as a religion because there was "more latitude in ... regard to corporate structure," and that it had certain tax advantages, most notably tax exemption.{20}

But the religious aspects have not only enabled Scientology to not pay taxes, but it has also enabled them to avoid prosecution or -- as they prefer to call it -- the persecution that threatened Dianetics. The law allows a great deal of latitude toward religions, which don't have to live up to the strict standards of some other groups.

The religion also helps get Scientology some of its members. The idea that it is a religion adds an air of respectability to the organization, often reinforced by the Scientology Reverends who may wear a full clerical garb that includes a collar, vest, black clerical robe, and a cross "bigger than the Archbishop of Canterbury," as one London skeptic described it.{21} Hubbard wrote that the religious aspects also served another function: "Society accords to men of the Church an access not given to others. Prisons, hospitals, and institutions ... cannot do otherwise than welcome men of the Church."{22} Not only does the religion enable Scientologists to enter certain places, but also to get out of them. One New York Scientologist, by claiming he was a "student of the ministry of Scientology" was able to get out of the draft, although this case is currently being appealed.{23}

People who join this Church are Jewish, Catholic, Protestant -- it doesn't matter -- because anyone who joins the Church of Scientology joins a "nonsectarian religious corporation" and does not have to renounce the religion in which he was born.{24} Just as it is not too difficult to become a member of this Church, it is not terribly difficult to become a minister either.

At one time, all one had to do was be an auditor, and then pay another $150, memorize the Scientology creed, prepare his own ethical code, know several "ordinary" Church ceremonies, the Gospel according to St. John, the Church of Scientology sermons, and read The Great Religions by which Men Live.{25} He does not even have to attend any special classes and can do this work on his own.{26} Once he becomes a minister, he is also entitled to receive the benefits accorded other ministers.{27} In Anent Rendering Unto Caesar, Hubbard told them what they could deduct from taxes, namely, rent, utilities, office supplies, car for ministerial functions, etc.

The Church of Scientology also has Sunday church services -- although often in a very nonclerical setting, such as their summer outdoor services in Central Park in Manhattan.{28} These services are also more a pitch for Scientology than for God. Someone usually gets up and discusses a phase of Scientology, along with a testimonial on how it changed his life; this may be followed by an afternoon of Israeli songs, a blues guitarist, a pianist, or a folk singer, who sometimes sings what are probably the most suggestive lyrics ever heard within a clerical setting.{29}

The Church of Scientology also has its own ceremonies. While the Church of Scientology Ceremonies book states that the services must have "dignity and order," it also says that they do not have to be "solemn and reverent." The Bible is rarely if ever quoted, and the ceremony book states "there is certainly no necessity to quote from any other source." A taped lecture by Hubbard or question and answer periods might also be included.{30}

Some of the services in this book, such as the double ring marriage ceremony, sound more like an auditing session than a matrimonial one.

(Minister to the Groom) Are you ready to accept this woman as your wife?
(Groom) Thank you.
(Minister to the Bride) Are you ready to accept this man as your husband?
(Bride) Thank you.

During a Christening, the thetan is introduced to the body, then introduced to his parents' bodies, as well as those of his godparents. At the end of the ceremony the thetan is acknowledged and thanked for his participation.

An "informal" Christening performed by Hubbard at one of the Scientology Congresses is discussed in the ceremony book. The Australian Report called the following christening by Hubbard a "travesty."{32}

(Hubbard) O.K. The parents of these children will bring them front and center.

(Speaking to the child): This is Mr. _______________ and this is Mrs. _______________. I'm introducing to the audience right now. And _______________ and _______________ have decided to be a godfather and godmother. So we're all set.

Here we go. (To the child) How are you? All right. Now your name is _______________. You got that? Good. There you are. Did that upset you? Now do you realize that you're a member of the HASI? [Hubbard Association of Scientologists International] Pretty good, huh?

All right. Now I want to introduce you to your father. This is Mr. _______________. (to the parent): Come over here. (To the child): And here's your mother.

And now, in case you get into trouble and want to borrow some quarters, here's Mr. _______________. See him? He's your godfather. Now, take a look at him. That's right. And here's _______________ in case you want some real good auditors; she's your godmother. Got it?

Now you are suitably christened. Don't worry about it, it could be worse. O.K. Thank you very much. They'll treat you all right.

As to whether Scientology is really a religion, the Scientologists frequently boast that they were declared a bona fide religion. Actually this is not quite the victory they claim. The incident had its beginnings on January 4, 1963, when fourteen Deputy Marshals and several Food and Drug Administration Agents, or as the Scientologists said, "longshoremen posing as Marshals," raided the Scientology headquarters in Washington, D.C. and seized 100 E-meters along with several Scientology publications on the grounds that the E-meters were "misbranded."{33}

This was based on the fact that the attached literature, meaning Scientology literature, either claimed or implied that the E-meter was capable of diagnosis, prevention, treatment, detection, and elimination of the causes of all mental and nervous disorders such as neuroses, psychoses, schizophrenia and all psychosomatic ailments.{34}

Scientologists protested that seizing their meters and books was a form of "religious persecution," and they referred to the incident afterwards as the "book burning."{35} They even wrote letters at the time to President Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy asking them to protect the Scientologists' religion, "even though you are of a different faith."{36} Hubbard also expressed a desire to meet personally with President Kennedy for a conference to "come to some amicable answer on religious matters." No conference ever transpired.{37}

While in April of 1967 a decision was returned for the government, in February of 1969, the United States Court of Appeals, in a split decision overruled it, saying that the seizure of the meters was illegal.{38} The FDA said whether or not Scientology is a religion was "irrelevant to the case." In their summary they stated that "... Scientology has made out a prima facie case that it is a bona fide religion, and since no rebuttal has been offered, it must be regarded as a religion for purposes of this case." (Author's italics.)

So if the Scientologists have suffered a financial setback, it has been somewhat offset by a spiritual victory. Hubbard is really the winner all around. Not only has he become rich but no one has yet legally disputed his claim that he has founded a religion.

In an article in Parents' magazine, June 1969, Arlene and Howard Eisenberg wrote that Sam Moscowitz, science fiction writer and editor, had heard Hubbard speak before the Eastern Science Fiction Association in Newark, New Jersey. Although Mr. Moscowitz was not certain of the exact words Hubbard used, he said that Hubbard in effect had said that writing science fiction at a penny a word was no way to get rich -- but if you really wanted to make a million you should start your own religion.{39}

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Citations & Notes

{1} first quote [142]
{2} {Hubbard} pours money back for research [254]
{3} Hubbard gets 10% [254, 255, 261]
{4} additional 5% [94]
{5} extra money [255]
{6} pix of Jaguar [160, 250]
{7} how much money each book makes [273]
{8} Dianetics sold 1.5 million [5]
{9} must buy books [17]
{10} Hubbard processing [28]
{11} made money from Scientology Congresses [255]
{12} one Congress made $100,000 [261]
{13} all items they sell in Expand [17]
{14} Scientology corporation not just religion [255]
{15} what Hubbard made [255]
{16} franchises [159]
{17} additional internal revenue action [277]
{18} Hubbard gave up directorship [236]
{19} Hubbard gave $13 m [156]
{20} quote by son [255]
{21} cross bigger than Archbishop [177]
{22} Hubbard quote on getting into places [142]
{23} boy who got out of army [255]
{24} don't renounce religion [261]
{25} how to be a minister [272]
{26} no classes [255]
{27} tax advantages [35]
{28} Central Park Services [278]
{29} who speaks [119]
{30} type of sermons; no bible; Scientology lecture [3]
{31} marriage & Christening & Hubbard ceremony [3]
{32} christening a "travesty" [261]
{33} FDA case, raid [24, 286]
{34} what E-meters claimed [158a]
{35} Scientology objections [142]
{36} Letter to Kennedy [142]
{37} conference with Kennedy [29]
{38} FDA decision [286]
{39} quote by Sam Moscowitz [141a]