by Suzie Raven
Special to iVoryTowerz
This week, thousands of people protested against the Church of Scientology in 90 cities worldwide, including Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, various locations in the U.K., Sydney, and Washington, D.C. There’s something refreshing about religious demonstrations that don’t involve suicide bombers, roadside grenades, or the threat of World War III.
It’s also refreshing that some members of the Internet group called “Anonymous” emerged from their safe, on-line hiding spots. Before, their crusade against Scientology seemed somewhat juvenile. In their protest, they criticize Scientology for its cult-like practices, sign-up costs to join and allegations of negligence on the part of the church. At the end of January, hackers broke into the church’s servers and prevented access to one of its websites after declaring "war" through You Tube. (Who does that?) At best, the protest group's messages on YouTube are reminiscent of The Twilight Zone, but the word creepy also comes to mind. If they are so passionately against Scientology, they shouldn’t be – and thankfully they finally aren’t – afraid to own their opinions.
There are many things wrong with the Church of Scientology. For starters, Scientology founder and science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard once said: "Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." There are obvious moral concerns with founding a religion to make money (and charging people to join), but Hubbard apparently knew what he was doing. Only 50 years later, Scientology claims to have at least 8 million followers worldwide, and to be the fastest growing religion in the world.*
The protests were sparked by the birthday of one of Hubbard’s ardent followers, Lisa McPherson, who died in December of 1995 while in the church’s care. After a minor accident that left her physically unharmed on November 18, 1995, she got out of her car and removed all of her clothing. Paramedics took her to a hospital for care. The hospital wanted to administer psychological care. But a group of Scientologists told the medics McPherson did not believe in psychiatry. She then left the hospital with the group of Scientologists. The church cared for her until her death 17 days later. Reports show that she was severely underweight, dehydrated and bruised when she was delivered to a hospital, dead on arrival. McPherson’s family filed a civil suit against the Church of Scientology. The church was indicted on two felony charges in 1998, but the felony charges were eventually dropped. And the family settled with the church in 2004.
Official church doctrine refers to any drugs, including medicinal and psychiatric drugs as “disastrous.” Coincidentally (or perhaps not so coincidentally), Hubbard preached a hard line against drugs, saying that toxins remained in the body through excess fat tissues.
The McPherson family may have settled its case, but Anonymous will continue the battle. They plan to strike again next month on Hubbard’s birthday.
In the meantime, graduate school is getting expensive… any takers on the Church of The Raven?
*The statistics sometimes used by Scientologists on the church's number of followers may include people who only took introductory courses. At various times, the church has claimed millions of members in the U.S. However, the American Religious Identification Survey of 2001 lists 55,000 practioners in the U.S.
(Photo by skenmy of Essex, UK, via Flickr, using a Creative Commons License.)
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by Suzie Raven