Read: The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power (Time Magazine, 1991)
The Church of Scientology, started by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard to “clear” people of unhappiness, portrays itself as a religion. In reality the church is a hugely profitable global racket that survives by intimidating members and critics in a Mafia-like manner. At times during the past decade, prosecutions against Scientology seemed to be curbing its menace. Eleven top Scientologists, including Hubbard’s wife, were sent to prison in the early 1980s for infiltrating, burglarizing and wiretapping more than 100 private and government agencies in attempts to block their investigations. In recent years hundreds of longtime Scientology adherents — many charging that they were mentally of physically abused — have quit the church and criticized it at their own risk. Some have sued the church and won; others have settled for amounts in excess of $500,000. In various cases judges have labeled the church “schizophrenic and paranoid” and “corrupt, sinister and dangerous.”
Scientology devotes vast resources to squelching its critics. Since 1986 Hubbard and his church have been the subject of four unfriendly books, all released by small yet courageous publishers. In each case, the writers have been badgered and heavily sued. One of Hubbard’s policies was that all perceived enemies are “fair game” and subject to being “tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.” Those who criticize the church journalists, doctors, lawyers and even judges often find themselves engulfed in litigation, stalked by private eyes, framed for fictional crimes, beaten up or threatened with death. Psychologist Margaret Singer, 69, an outspoken Scientology critic and professor at the University of California, Berkeley, now travels regularly under an assumed name to avoid harassment.
After the Los Angeles Times published a negative series on the church last summer, Scientologists spent an estimated $1 million to plaster the reporters’ names on hundreds of billboards and bus placards across the city. Above their names were quotations taken out of context to portray the church in a positive light.
The church’s most fearsome advocates are its lawyers. Hubbard warned his followers in writing to “beware of attorneys who tell you not to sue . . . the purpose of the suit is to harass and discourage rather than to win.” Result: Scientology has brought hundreds of suits against its perceived enemies and today pays an estimated $20 million annually to more than 100 lawyers.