This is an excellent article in the Albany Times Union, prompted by the recent sentencing of Keith Raniere.
I saw this and Tweeted it out, but it deserves more attention.
Mary Ann hones in on the exact problem that looms like a massive roadblock in the path of justice for victims of coercive and high demand groups. And this definitely includes scientology.
The hardest thing to demonstrate is mental/emotional abuse. There is no cauterized brand left on the victim’s body. No canceled checks or credit card debt trail. It would make it far less onerous for victims to be heard in court if legislatures would enact protections against mental and emotional torture that clearly delineated the wrongdoing. That is not an easy task, but with the help of professionals who have experience with this sort of thing, it could certainly be done. Apparently New Jersey has taken the first steps on this (ironically, despite the “massive international expansion proven by the numerous new churches opening everywhere” that scientology lairs, after 70 years there isn’t a single scientology church in the state of New Jersey).
Of course, in the case of scientology and other religions, even with predatory alienation laws enacted, they would still try to hide behind the cloak of the First Amendment.
Scientology would claim that that forced disconnection — the very definition of predatory alienation — is a religious practice. There is a second article below this one on that topic…
First, here is what Mary Ann has to say:
Now that Keith Raniere of NXIVM — a multilevel marketing company that he ran for two decades outside Albany, and which encompassed a secret society of branded sex slaves — has been sentenced to life behind bars, what’s to stop another smooth-talking guru from spinning a web of lies to exploit others? Sadly nothing, for lawmakers have yet to connect the dots between high-profile displays of coercive control and the myriad ways undue influence infects ordinary lives.
On November 18, 1978, Jim Jones of the People’s Temple incited more than 900 members of his Guyana jungle colony to commit “revolutionary suicide” with a cyanide-laced fruit drink after the murder of Congressman Leo Ryan of California and three others—the largest single loss of American civilian life in a deliberate act until September 11, 2001. A third of the victims were children. Books and docudramas recounted the gory details, but no policies against the malicious manipulation at the root of that tragedy were enacted.
In the decades between the Jonestown massacre and the NXIVM case, countless families have been emotionally eviscerated by the loss of loved ones to other coercive individuals and high-demand groups that managed to stay out of the headlines. Having no legal recourse, these bereft indirect victims often spend thousands on various advisers in hope of reconnecting, with no guarantee of success. Only if a prosecutable crime is committed will law enforcement step in, sometimes after irreparable harm has been done.
Laws skimming this area are piecemeal. In June, the California Senate unanimously passed a bill to include coercive control and isolation from friends, relatives, or other sources of support in its definition of domestic abuse. In 2014, California adopted a new definition for undue influence incorporating how elders can be manipulated by “excessive persuasion.” But as the NXIVM case shows, the targets of such unconscionable behavior can be of any age, anywhere.
Just as a thief can hack into a computer, a human trafficker, gang leader, abusive partner, con artist, or other predator can hack into a person’s mind—distorting memories into falsehoods and convincing them to cut off family and friends, rendering the isolated person dependent on the perpetrator. Key to maintaining control over the decisions and actions of another, such predatory alienation should be illegal.
And here is another story from The Independent that highlights the extent that religions shelter their abusive practices using the First Amendment.
Elders at a Utah congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses allegedly forced a 15-year-old to listen to a recording of her rape over and over again for hours as part of a religious inquiry, a lawsuit before the Utah Supreme Court claims.
The case seeks to hold the leaders and the church at large responsible for inflicting emotional distress.
The church claims, and lower courts have ruled, that to hold them liable would violate the religious freedoms of the First Amendment of the US Constitution, since it involves weighing the appropriateness of religious conduct.
In duelling briefs, as well as oral arguments for the case on Monday (recordings of which are not yet available), the two sides wrestled over the meaning of this bedrock of American civil rights law.
But at least one justice seems not see it that way.
“The allegation here is a mental and emotional equivalent of waterboarding,” Justice Deno Himonas said. “I’ve been a judge for a long time and a lawyer for a long time. I’ve never seen, in court, anything like this that’s alleged.”
The lawyers on the other side have previously argued that neglecting to challenge the church’s alleged actions here would set a precedent that “would give actors free rein to injure others under the guise of religious freedom—a proposition that the US Supreme Court has rejected repeatedly for over a century.”
Lawyers representing the church and the alleged victim did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The suit, originally filed in 2016, argued that the leaders of a congregation in Roy, Utah, made the teen girl sit and listen to the recordings for hours in 2008 as part of a religious inquiry. The woman in question, now an adult in her 20s, said in court documents a fellow Jehovah’s Witness, age 18, bullied her and allegedly raped her three times, including one instance in which the man involved recorded the incident.
This triggered an investigation from the church in early 2008, where the leaders called the girl and her parents into a committee which would decide whether she had engaged in sinful conduct. During the meeting, they played the recording on and off “for hours” in an attempt to extract a confession, according to court documents, as the girl “continued crying and was ‘physically quivering’ from the trauma of having to listen to her assault over and over.”
This led, her lawyers say, to anxiety, nightmares, loss of appetite, and poor performance in school, leading her to seek damages from the church.
But two lower courts found that the church couldn’t be held liable.
As the Utah Court of Appeals held in 2019, doing would require “an inquiry into the appropriateness of the Church’s conduct in applying a religious practice and therefore violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment,” which bars the government from instituting particular religious practices.
Dozens of suits nationwide have accused the Jehovah’s Witnesses of mismanaging or covering up abuse inside the church, including one in early 2020, when the Montana Supreme Court reversed a $35 million judgement against the church for not reporting a girl’s abuse to authorities.
I have mentioned this in various places before. It is my view that the justice system in the US heavily favors those who have the most money. And with the system based on precedents (“case law”) the protections of the First Amendment have, over many decades, tilted in favor of organized religions to the detriment of the individual who practices the religion. The big churches have the money to hire the best lawyers and fight cases to the higher courts whenever they disagree with a decision against them. The landscape of law that has been created regarding religious institutions today gives them a virtual carte blanche to act any way they want in violation of individual’s rights unless they violate criminal law.
As outrageous as the circumstances of the Utah case above may be, I suspect the JW’s will prevail in the end. That is a sad state of affairs. We see a similar thing happening with scientology enforcing their Kangaroo Court Committee of Evidence on plaintiffs who have been abused, and courts upholding their right to continue to abuse on the basis that this is a matter of religious policy.
Churches also have considerable political influence. The Religious Right in this country is a heavyweight presence on the political landscape. Mainstream churches want to protect the status quo, and view negative decisions against Jehovah’s Witnesses or scientology or other fringe groups as the first slip down a dangerous slope that may end up holding them accountable too. So they fight the “erosion of religious choice” hard. Again, that’s good for the churches, bad for the individual.
The way to solve this is to attack on a number of fronts:
- Continue to bring lawsuits and engage the best and brightest lawyers to take the cases. In the end, a fundamental concept of fairness and the rights of all individuals to access justice should ultimately prevail. After all the Bill of Rights was designed to protect individuals from government oppression. If individuals are being oppressed by religions which are being tacitly supported by the government and courts, the end result is in conflict with the Bill of Rights.
- Enact legislation to criminalize abusive behavior conducted in the name of religion — crimes are not excused by the First Amendment — though even this is often untrue when religions can hide their activities and failure to report behind “religious practices.”
- Part of accomplishing 2 above may entail a longer range goal of electing to government those who are not beholden to religious lobbyists and pressure.
It’s a long row to hoe. But the abuse must end and there is no easy way to do it.
When I wanted to leave my abusive boyfriend, he dragged me to ethics, where the unqualified EO (a former skin head who literally had the word “skin” tattooed on his forehead) told me I could not leave my boyfriend until I did a bunch of processing, blah blah. I told the EO that the boyfriend was abusive. I was ordered to stay put with him and not make any moves until I did a full OW writeup. I complied and did the writeup but I still wanted to leave. So I had to go back and keep writing up OWs. I don’t remember how many times I had to go back and forth with this. I just wanted someone to ask me if I was ok, help me feel safe, and support me in my decision to stand up to him. I was very young and the boyfriend was over 10 years older and I was basically under his total control, and ethics insisted I was pulling in the abuse. There’s no legal recourse that I know of for this sort of institutionalized coercion. It still angers me almost 30 years later.
It would help if yanks refrained from giving away their votes so freely to parties that don’t deserve them. Establishment dems and republicans are only interested in maintaining the status quo and accumulating wealth. Those who actively campaign for change are inevitably forced into line when their careers are at stake.
Behind the apparent duopoly is the party of big business and the almighty dollar. It’s not a wasted vote to support third parties. You need a politically competitive “marketplace”, now more than ever.
If you keep propping up this sociopathic system, expecting different results, you’re a chump.
Mike Rinder says
Curious if you believe there is a country where this is not the case (other than dictatorships)?
Of course. Even a cursory glance across Europe finds countries with multiple parties, coalition governments, far greater electoral transparency and an arguably less ideological mainstream media.
The US is an oligarchy. I know of no other Western democracy where corporations and special interest groups have such significant influence. What’s sad is that Americans keep voting for it, seemingly hopeful things will be different each time around. Good luck with that.
Some talk about scientology as if it’s an outlier – as if conditioning, manipulation and ideological possession are things that happen “over there.” Most odd.
I suppose if we needed to burn a witch it would be o.k. or, if we believe a husband who claims his wife was unfaithful that we can bury her up to her neck and stone her until she dies…..
That s what i got out of the article from the sides of the JWs and scientologists.
Jere Lull says
And of course it would be just fine to stone your disrespectful, uncooperative child, as is dictated in the Bible.🤨
Nancy Vasta says
Thank you,Mr.Rinder,for an excellent and introspective article on religion freedom versus the government.It saddens me because the task at hand appears to be almost insurmountable.The religious organizations seem to be untouchable.Your ideas are very well articulated and thought out.You are correct in saying it is a long and difficult road ahead.It requires constant vigilance from everyone trying to change things in favor of all the victims.To conclude,on a separate note,my now adult daughter knew a young man in high school whose parents were Christian Scientists.This young man told my daughter he was waiting until he turned eighteen to declare himself independent from his family.He did not believe in Christian Science and just hoped every day that he would not get sick because they also do not believe in medical intervention,such as blood transfusions should a member fall ill.My daughter said to me she just wished this boy escaped from the church and is now living a happy and healthy life.I agreed with her totally.I very much admire your tenacity,Mr.Rinder and look forward to more articles on this topic.Thank you for hearing me out.
If we compare Scientology and the like to the corporation Monsanto, i think we would find many similarities. However, Monsanto does not claim to be a church or a religion. And Mike you are so right about the inward abuse. It does not leave external marks. This makes it more difficult for survivors of emotional abuse to qualify for services that would be available to an externally injured person. Perhaps more progress will be made once coercive control is finally criminalized in the US as it is in some other countries.
I Yawnalot says
One of the sanest pieces of writing I’ve read on the basis of seeking real justice. I feel it’s easier to catch a greased eel one handed in the pitch black than it is to expose the corrupted but legally endorsed or shadowy, underhanded methods of manipulation of those who seek to prey on the emotional well being of their fellow humans for control & profit. Knowing your enemy is a lot clearer with this sort of understanding and the world would be a lot better off if it’s legislated as a criminal act.
Part of the problem stems from the fact that a large percentage of elected officials in the different levels of government are afraid to do anything for the fear of being targeted by religious groups as anti-religious because they could lose votes when election time rolls around.
NXIVM may have gone down but there are, no doubt, dozens of little relatively unknown (for now at least) cults lurking in the wings sucking people in, brainwashing them and making cash out them and ruining their lives. As long someone knows which buttons to press to bring in the sheep then cults will always be around.
Kronomex, a lot of those cults are Christian ones – from the FLDS to smaller groups like the Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale, North Carolina. They’re typically not in major cities and don’t attract famous people, which contributes to their getting less attention than groups like Scientology or NXIVM. But many of the abuses are the same, such as abusing “religious” workers including those brought in from abroad on special visas.
Golden Era Parachute says
The abuses that I saw in Scientology is building a false reality, and which everyone from the local management at the Org to the executives at RTC are guilty of doing. They create an insecurity by stating the Earth, Humanity, are facing a rapid decline and only Scientology can help. Once they instill this datum in their victims, they then force them into hours of fundraising by stating they need to LITERALLY help save the world by donating money. This false reality should be criminalized as well, as the world is very big and Scientology has authority over less than 0.01% of Humanity. Their impact, regardless of how much impact they say they may have, is going to be less than 0.01%. No matter if you give a dollar or a billion dollars, that impact on the world is going to be less than a drop in the bucket. The world acts through Governments to reach worldwide consensus on issues facing Humanity… Scientology as a non-Governmental Organization is going to have no impact. They are severely out of scale between their real impact and what they lie to their faithful followers, and they intentionally lie. These lies can cause financial stress on those members who cannot afford the coerced donations, and they have no accountability for their part in causing financial stress and debt. They are being out 4D, as they are doing harm to Humanity by making false claims in order to get money. And I am just talking about the humanity of their actions, not even the spiritual crimes they are committing.
Such as selling Spiritual Freedom for a fixed dollar amount, as in the Clear Package which costs anywhere from $35k-$100k USD in California (bridge zero to Clear). You cannot buy faith, and to sell it as a package is a spiritual crime. Monetizing the soul, copyrighting the term as ‘Thetan’ isn’t about helping individuals… I thought the “most ethical people on earth” would have realized their errors by now, but they keep going on committing spiritual fraud. They are not what they claim, cannot fix their errors internally, so they need public corrective actions like The Aftermath to force them to fix it. They are no better than Jehovah’s Witnesses or NVIXIM, and this obviously invalidates the claim they are the ‘most’ ethical people on earth, which they are not. The most they can claim is that they are another failed 3D group, amongst the thousands that came before and will come after them… nothing special or unique, and certainly their ‘elan vital’ has died with LRH so what is left is a simulacrum of the original.
I wish to heck from the Scientology ex member long history, that someday, some ex Scientologist does as Ford Greene did, which is become a lawyer.
And get into the legal arena, and long range do like today’s article discusses, tackle these tough behaviours of cults or groups which continue to do harm which have been dodging curtailing.
I’ve thought the media has been US society’s best hope, and media to me is as good as it gets, until more Ford Greene’s come along.
Mike, it’d be historical and really wished for (I for one), for you to someday interview with Ford Greene.
Mike Rinder says
He was in an episode of Aftermath. I have him on the list for Fair Game podcast at some point.
Zee Moo says
The Albany Times Union has had Keith Raniere’s number for a long time. He and the Brofman sisters have been the subject of many articles. Yet NXIVM continued on and recruited more victims. Not because it was a ‘religion’, but because contracts were involved and Contract Law trumps civil liberties.
It will take a change in the courts and the law, but ‘coercive’ behavior by any ‘religion’ needs to be shut down. I don’t see how the JWs can call themselves ‘christian’ while behavior like this goes on.
As a recording was made, why didn’t the police get involved? My dander is up on this one.
Zee Moo, besides contracts NXIVM just exploited a lot of the mechanisms of undue influence that fly under the law. It was only when they pushed it too far into actual blackmail and physically marking their human-trafficked ‘slaves’ that they were finally busted and brought down.
This article NAIL IT TOTALLY.
The “Powers That Be” do NOT seem to realize that emotional & verbal abuse hits just as hard as physical or sexual abuse. There ARE scars left, most invisible to the naked eye.
Just HOW is one to prove that anything done to them in the realm of religion is deemed to be abuse when we don’t see any bruises, burn marks, whipping/beating marks…..nothing?
I would 100%consider disconnection as emotional abuse…withholding one’s OWN family from someone because that person decided to leave the religion & therefore members who stayed in cannot have ANY contact with the former member.
AS i have said it many times before….Cults thrive on forbidding CRITICAL THINKING…..feeding the members only ONE side of the COIN….THEIR SIDE. Forbidding the viewing, reading, hearing watching anything ELSE other than what is being taught to them is a way to control the member.
How can one make a good decision on what is good for them or bad for them if they know nothing else. Spoon fed from birth, youth, young adult, brow beaten basically into submission that this is the ONLY THING THAT MATTERS…..Those on the OUTSIDE wish to do you great harm, stay away from them.
When one is in….limited education as in most religious based cult of HOME SCHOOLING…prevented from seeing or learning about anything else….how is one to even begin to live or thrive outside the “realm of the inside belief system”.
Report ANYTHING that has happened to you is being a “SNITCH against your OWN KIND”…..report it & shut the F**k up! “WE will take care of the offender….OUR WAY”..which literally means your report of abuse will be ignored.
Go to the authorities & we will make sure you are punished & your family who remains IN are punished as well.
It goes on and on….just HOW does one PROVE anything …..it took decades for the Catholic Church to ADMIT there is sexual abuse within the realm of the Priesthood. For decades the church made “quiet payments” to abuse victims & transferred Priests from one parish to another which gave that Priest MORE victims to abuse.
So it goes like that…..as well noted above…..”: tilted in favor of organized religions to the detriment of the individual who practices the religion”…..like a game of Monopoly…..He holds the MOST CASH WINS…….VICTIM GO SCREW YOURSELF….
Mary Kahn says
gorillavee said, “This is not to say that we should not continue to push this agenda. I’m no legal scholar, therefore my suggestions are limited, but possibly a start would be to tighten up exactly what sort of group can be considered a “religion”, therefore worthy of tax-exempt status, which may allow the courts to deal with cases on an individual basis, and do so more freely.”
I believe this is exactly where we as a society can start to deal with and thwart abusive groups – don’t give them the power of the First Amendment and tax exempt status. That renders them a great deal more powerless and vulnerable to legal threats.
Jere Lull says
Mary, I hate to disagree, but the First Amendment is pretty clear when it says:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….”
I don’t think we can challenge them on the basis of not really being a religion. I of course challenge their assertions of being a church, for MANY reasons, but don’t think I want to amend the Constitution -particularly the Bill of Rights- first. That’s sorta like building a sledge hammer to try to swat a mosquito on my arm”: WAY overkill and likely to fail catastrophically.
More possible, IMO, is the IRS being charged to apply a “charity” test as in the UK before granting Federal tax exemption. That’s not an establishment of religion, it’s establishing whether the organization’s PROVABLE good works offset the taxes they would otherwise owe. Even THAT might not pass Constitutional & political muster; “Legitimate” (at least in most people’s minds) religions are a power in the US and would fight any such change to the status quo, and rightly so, I believe.Traditionally, churches once were the most effective and efficient sources of charity to those who fell on bad times. scientology, of course, would NEVER do that because that would be rewarding downstat DBs who “pulled it in” upon themselves.
scientology has proven they are NO charity organization. FAR from it; they’re a predatory money-making machine with no care except scientology’s, particularly Dwarfenführer’s® safety and comfort.
SCOTUS decides who won says
The problem with that, Mary Kahn, is that in the US, you can worship a turd and as long as two or more people agree, you can call it a religion and receive your tax exempt, above the law status.
Look at us in Scientology.
We worshipped a turd.
Mike Rinder says
It’s not that simplistic. There is a list of criteria the IRS has for religious exemption. But it IS easy and there is no public benefit test. Jon Oliver formed a “church” of the almighty dollar or something like that and I believe he got exempt status.
Marie guerin says
Thank you for this article and your comments on it . Maybe we should take to the streets in protest , those of us who know how pernicious is the problem is.
I will quote the First Amendment of the Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
I’ve made a proposal.
All religions which deny the validity of the Constitution shall not claim protection under it. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
The obvious question that has been raised in the past is why I don’t call for a ban on Scientology by name? A name is only a mental label for the concept. Even though it appears to be internally forbidden to change the doctrine of Scientology, the doctrine also commands the believer to deceive the victims where necessary.
Jere Lull says
“All religions which deny the validity of the Constitution shall not claim protection under it. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Not too bad, otherles, but that requires a constitutional amendment, which is a monstrously steep climb EVEN when is’s vitally important to a majority of US citizens, like the ERA, which SHOULD be law, IMO.
Beating your members is not peaceably. Holding them against their will is not peaceably. Telling the how to think or what to say, is not peaceably. There has to be a limit to peaceably. If harm is being done, either mentally, financially or physically the government must step in. Are they not there to protect the people. If that law was made to protect religions from fighting religions, then they need to add to that law regarding the protection of individual members. If you had to sign a contract to get in or out of your religion it is not peaceably.
No, there isn’t an easy way to do it. The main problem is that we would be trying to codify specific behavior that can be very different between perpetrators, and have very different effects on different victims. Which necessarily moves from the concept of rule of law to rule by men. Some one person has to decide if someone acted with malice aforethought and whether they knew the exact mental state of the victim, as well as the mental state of the victim at the time the mental/emotional abuse began. Someone has to take a situation with multiple shades of grey and make it black and white – this side: illegal, that side: okay. Such a decision should be made only by a person(s) of high morality with no personal interest in the case and/or outcome. The unfortunate part is that such a person is nearly non-existent in government. I can see the potential of legislation on this issue being abused in the future by governments to further their own ends, to get rid of people/groups who are a threat only to them.
This is not to say that we should not continue to push this agenda. I’m no legal scholar, therefore my suggestions are limited, but possibly a start would be to tighten up exactly what sort of group can be considered a “religion”, therefore worthy of tax-exempt status, which may allow the courts to deal with cases on an individual basis, and do so more freely. Also, law enforcement should be better trained in the field of cults, vis-a-vis, their acceptance of dozens of notarized affidavits denying unlawful or immoral acts within a cult.
As an aside – the 800 lb gorilla in the room is the largest special interest in government. We talk about the cost of justice in America and the 1st world in general. We also talk about the various PAC’s and other influencers working the government in their favor. But no one seems to notice, or if they do, care all that much that the majority of legislators are lawyers, who are the ones making the money that justice costs people.
Mike Rinder says
Excellent, thoughtful comment. You are right, this is not easy.
As for tightening the requirements for tax exemption I believe that a public benefit test like the UK would go a long way to solving the problem in the US. Organizations that want to control and abuse people don’t tend to be generous with their time and money for the public good.
Dave Fagen says
In addition to all of these legal proposals, an expansion of education to the general public about the anatomy of undue influence, how to tell whether or not you are being unduly influenced and how to think critically and rationally about it, and how to think past one’s emotions about it, would go a long way in solving the problem. Especially an education in how someone can recognize when they are in the early stages of undue influence, before they get so entrenched in it that it becomes much harder to recognize it and get out of it than it would be in the early stages.
What if this was a subject that was taught in school?
Marie guerin says
Mike and Leah are touching a lot of people with their education , on the Aftermath and their podcast .
I believe some schools are touching on the subject , or at least some teachers that I know of . How to make it part of the curriculum is something else I guess.
Dave Fagen says
They have gone a long way in educating the public. By keeping it up, others will catch on and more and more people will be educating others on this subject and maybe someday this education will become mainstream.
Dave, I think that more mainstream religious groups oppose teaching anything in our schools that would cultivate critical thinking that might cause young people to start to criticize more traditional religion, too. We can see the resistance there is to even teaching science, in some cases.
So while yours is a good idea, unfortunately it’s probably going to take a generational change away from dogmatic religious adherence, before there’d be an opening for that sort of teaching in our schools. And it would be good if it covered the related phenomenon of financial scams, too.
PeaceMaker – I just don’t see traditional religious groups having much say on what goes on in public education. I think it would be easier to make the argument that public education in itself is part of a cult that would oppose critical thinking.
I also don’t think the CofS could maintain such a tight grip on as many adherents as they do, if they were required to be financially transparent like other non-profits – including responsible mainstream religions that are accountabile to their parishioners even when not legally required to be. Some members would start to really wonder about where the money was – and wasn’t – going, though there are also a lot who probably can’t be reached with reason or evidence
I can understand resistance to making small ministries spend a lot on accountants and compliance, but there there could be reasonable accomodations made to reduce the burden on them while requiring large and wealthy religious organizations to be fully transparent. Plus, accountability is important to help insure against mismanagement and embezzlement, which do happen even in small religious organizations.
Another dubious aspect of Scientology that I think could be addressed is FSM commissions – which I suspect may perpetuate the CofS and its abuses more than we realize. Along with providing a public benefit, there shouldn’t be that sort of personal profiteering, at least not on the same sort of basis as a boileroom sales operation.
Jere Lull says
gorillavee. I sympathize, but take note of the first Amendment, already quoted. They worked on its wording carefully, and it’s the bedrock of which, IMO, is what’s good about America
“I may disagree vehemently with what you say, but I’ll defend your right to say it to the death.” — Some Editor whose work I respected
Jere Lull says
I was the editor of a small magazine years ago, and got good whipping up spirited discussions, even beating the bushes for goo rebuttals. What a FUN job that was.
Jere Lull – that’s pretty much where I was going, or at least leaning. The problem with jumping headlong into “controlling Scientology” (and other pernicious cults), is that it’s so easy to write vague laws that leave it up some person to interpret. I realize that judges and juries do that all the time, but if such interpretations are left up to law enforcers (from police on up to attorneys general), we’re going to start ripping up the Bill of Rights – simply because everyone is human, and even in the best case personal biases will enter the picture.
My name is Michael. I teach Philosophy at a California college. I don’t have a personal history with Scientology, other than the curious fact my department colleagues and I once received six Hubbard books and a DVD.
As someone who teaches Critical Thinking classes, I’m always interested in helping students understand the importance of thinking critically. I’ll use examples like buying a cell phone, car, or house, which students understand. No one wants to buy a house and only later realize you signed an interest-only loan with a large balloon payment in 15 years. But when I expose them to examples about Scientology, especially examples about Sea Org members at Gold Base, the room usually goes silent.
It’s taken me a long time to understand why. At least I think I do. There’s something about these stories that expose just how vulnerable we each really are. We can find ourselves losing our financial security, shelter, community, and even family. A bad mortgage typically will not be as damaging as a billion year contract with the Sea Org.
I think it also challenges me, as the teacher, to be frank with students. Learning critical thinking skills isn’t enough. Hopefully they help. But each of us is emotionally vulnerable and, if we’re unlucky, can be exploited.
I think I finally got this after binge-watching Aftermath and witnessing the courageous emotional work you and Leah and your fellow survivors were willing to do on air. I think exposing Scientology is important. But I also think modeling this courage is enlightening and important. Thanks!
Mike Rinder says
Thanks so much