Tablet Magazine, Jim Kirchick: Scientology Is Not a Religion
Some German government actions against Scientology have been so earnest that it’s easy for skeptics to mock them as overcompensation for the country’s fascist past. In 2009, for instance, Berlin’s Charlottenberg-Wilmersdorf district government erected a giant poster of a stop sign outside the Church’s headquarters to “express its opposition to the activities of the Scientology sect in this district.” But judging by the writings and political sympathies of its founder, the allegation that Scientology is an authoritarian movement cannot be so easily dismissed.
In his 1951 book, the Science of Survival, Hubbard devised a system of “tones” to measure human emotions. “The sudden and abrupt deletion of all individuals occupying the lower bands of the tone scale from the social order would result in an almost instant rise in the cultural tone and would interrupt the dwindling spiral into which any society may have entered,” Hubbard wrote. “It is not necessary to produce a world of clears [the Scientology term for enlightened person] in order to have a reasonable and worthwhile social order; it is only necessary to delete those individuals who range from 2.0 down, either by processing them enough to get their tone level above the 2.0 line or simply quarantining them from the society.” Promulgating less-mangled formulations of this idea is banned in Germany and other European countries.
Hubbard was a supporter of the Greek military junta (calling the regime’s constitution “the most brilliant tradition of Greek democracy”) and South African apartheid (“not a police state”). The forced relocation of blacks to rural townships, Hubbard wrote in a letter to then-Prime Minister Henrik Verwoerd, was “the most impressive and adequate resettlement activity in existence.” Hubbard suggested that his e-meters be used to interrogate anti-apartheid activists.
In 1966—in one of the strangest episodes in a very strange life—Hubbard spentsome three months in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, in an attempt to ingratiate himself with the white minority government’s Prime Minister Ian Smith, who had just unilaterally declared Rhodesia’s independence from the United Kingdom. Hubbard, who believed he had been Cecil Rhodes in a past life, strode around the country sporting the same style hat worn by the great imperialist and tried to present Smith with a new constitution he had written for the country. On its website describing the “worldview” of Scientology, the Baden-Württemberg branch of the BfV cites Hubbard’s use of the racist British expression “wog” to describe non-Scientologists, “a term thrown around liberally among Church staff,” according to Janet Reitman, author of the acclaimed new book Inside Scientology. The Church’s claim that psychiatrists were responsible for the Holocaust—an argument it brought to Germany with an outdoor traveling exhibit in the 1990s—is also something that rankles Germans, not to mention German Jews.
Scientology isn’t just about space aliens and brainwashed actors jumping on couches. The relative handful of high-profile adherents obscures its many everyday victims, people whose lives and families have been destroyed by this cult. It may not be the role of a government in a free society to prevent its citizens from making unwise decisions. But surely it should take reasonable measures to prevent the unscrupulous and deceitful from brainwashing and abusing people. As Katie Holmes can no doubt attest, it’s long past time Americans stopped joking about Scientology and started treating it like the Germans do.
***James Kirchick is a contributing editor at Tablet, The New Republic and World Affairs.Follow him on Twitter @jkirchick.