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Home arrow Psychotherapy Cults arrow Scientology (Dianetics) arrow International Social Control by The Church of Scientology

International Social Control by The Church of Scientology

Article Index
International Social Control by The Church of Scientology
Scientology attacks against Psychiatry
Controlling International Opponents
Resource Acquisition Efforts Toward International Elite
Resourcing from Political Elites
Acquisition Strategies for International Purposes

Department of Sociology
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta
Canada T6G2H4

Paper Presented at the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, November, 1991.

Stephen A. Kent Nov.1991

International Social Control by the Church of Scientology

Sect and cult classifications from the late 1950s through the 1970s usually contained categories of groups that expected to see the transformation or revolution of the world (Wilson, 1959: 6; see 1973: 23; Bromley and Shupe, 1979: 22, 27-29; Wallis, 1984: 11).  Resembling Weberian ideal types, these categories were the sociological distillations of groups' doctrines, activities, policies, and pronouncements.  The fixed, static nature of the categories, however, did little to aid research in the actual techniques that groups used in attempts to enact their desired global transformation.  Resource mobilization theory provided that aid with descriptions and predictions about strategies that groups, organizations, and social movements utilize in attempts to achieve their goals (McCarthy and Zald, 1977; Zald, 1982; Zald and McCarthy, 1987).  Henceforth, social scientists had the analytical concepts and tools to study the manner in which sects attempt to acquire and utilize the resources that they need to impose their transformational visions upon an increasingly complex world.

Imposing a transformational vision upon the world requires a coordinated effort to obtain resources from internal sources (i.e., various levels of members [see McCarthy and Zald, 1977: 1227]) while at the same time acquiring resources from the external world of nonbelievers (see McCarthy and Zald, 1977: 1221).  Members must remain motivated to work diligently for the ideological sectarian vision, often in the face of adversity and apparent setbacks.  At the same time, resources must flow into the organization and then be utilized by decision-makers, staff, and workers for the group's ideological purpose.

When sects are located in several countries and have membership scattered around the globe, then they have the potential of operating like transnational corporations (Kent, 1991).  Put differently, transnational ideological sects may engage in efforts to control the flow of resources from external, globally disparate sources in manners that resemble multinational corporate enterprises (see Zald and McCarthy, 1987: 90).  Both ideological and economic transnationals are likely to solicit national and international elites in such fields as politics, the military, business, the sciences, media, education, the judiciary, and possibly religion in their efforts to further their own strategic positions.  In particular, transnationally based sects are able to direct and control the global flow of resources into their spheres of influence, and they are highly motivated to do so if their ideology demands that they strive to dominate the world.  Moreover, their ideologically driven members bring to such tasks dramatically high levels of energy and commitment, since they believe that theirs is a goal, indeed is the soal, dictated by divine fiat and most urgently needed by the human race.

Despite the dramatic and significant implications that likely would emerge from studies of sectarian social control efforts on a global scale, few such examinations have taken place.  Certainly an awareness of transnational activities appears in discussions of both the Unification Church (Bromley, 1985; Bromley and Shupe, 1979) and the counter-cult movement (Beckford, 1985: 218-295), but no social scientist in nearly two decades has examined closely one of the world's most visible and resource- hungry globalist sects, the Church of Scientology.

With perhaps seven hundred centers in sixty-five countries (Behar, 1991a: 44) ' and an active worldwide membership of about seventy-five thousand, 2 Scientology has evolved an elaborate international operation designed to facilitate and control the flow of resources across many national boundaries.  The study, however, of Scientology's transnational control techniques presents unique challenges to researchers, as the late sociologist, Roy Wallis, discovered some years ago.  After working on research that culminated in his still-unsurpassed Road to Total Freedom (1977), Wallis realized that:

whether with or without the connivance of the leadership of the Scientology movement, I was the subject of a concerted attempt at harassment designed to 'frighten me off'

In these figures, Behar probably includes as "centers" all of Scientology's social reform groups (which will be discussed below).  I cannot determine, however, where he obtained this figure.


2.  I obtained this figure from a confidential but reliable source.  It differs from Behar's much lower figure of only 50,000 (Behar, 1991: 45).

Scientology, to undermine my credibility as a commentator on their [sic] activities, or to keep me so busy handling these matters that I had little time for research (Wallis, 1973: 547).

Subsequent writers (none of whom have been academics) have been harassed in efforts to block publications of their critical examinations of the multifaceted group (Behar, 1991a: 51; New York Times, 1990; Sappell and Welkos, 1990: A48; Welkos, 1991).  The group itself has attempted to restrict the availability of critical or revealing documents through successful efforts to seal court records (Koff, 1989) or placate litigious opponents~ with hefty out-of-court settlements that require them to return primary Scientology materials.  Document restrictions of this kind make research exceedingly difficult, yet knowledge in the sociology of religion suffers as a consequence.

At least two contemporary sociological trends bespeak the timeliness of a focused study of Scientology's international resource acquisition and control efforts.  First, a growing number of studies are examining globalization trends among religions and other social institutions (for example, Robertson, 1987).  These studies identify the manner in which heretofore national issues are being recast in planetary frameworks.  They have yet to explore, however, the manner by which particular sects (such as Scientology) develop transnational presences by attempting global control over resources and opponents.

Second and more directly, recent work has called for analyses of religiously ideological organizations as multinational or transnational corporations (Kent, 1991).  This new but obvious perspective highlights the ability of ostensibly religious groups to shift and diversify their operational bases and resource acquisition efforts throughout various parts of the globe in accordance with prevailing political, social, and economic climates.  This current study locates itself within this perspective, and borrows from it broad categories and concepts to identify Scientology's efforts to extend its influence and control throughout the world.

Scientology portrays itself in North America and much of Europe and Australia as a religion (see Kent, 1990: 398, 401-403) yet even a cursory examination of the organization reveals that it is much more.  Its complex, international structure actively markets, promotes, and advertises material related to business management, education, mental health, physical health, law enforcement, "moral revitalization" (to use its own term), and entertainment.  These additional aspects work together with its religious elements "in getting the technology of LRH [i.e., Scientology's founder, L.  Ron Hubbard] into new territories of the world" (International Management, 1987: [3'~.  "It's time we moved in!," another newsletter proclaims.  "Planetary dissemination on a scale never before seen is what is needed" (International Management, 1987b.  1'), and the dissemination occurs through mediums (such as music recordings) that (in the organization's jargonistic language) "are presenting Scientology and LRH to the public with greater ARC [i.e, affinity, reality, and communication] and thus understanding" in many countries (International Management, 1987b: 3').  Scientology's goal in the international arena, therefore, is not merely the propagation of its religious ideology.  More broadly, it is the propagation of its founder's works and ideas along with the eventual implementation of his moral values and social structural vision.

The organization believes that Hubbard's values and social structural vision exist in his "tech," by which it means the "technology" or policies, procedures, directives, and courses that he devised or approved for study and implementation by his followers.3 Consequently, a newsletter dedicated to praising the influence of Hubbard's tech into society insists, "HELP SECURE A BETTER FUTURE FOR THE PLANET AND THE ONES YOU LOVE[.] A society where LRH tech is accepted and widely used is safe, sane and easy to live in" (Social Coordination International, 1984: [43)-

For Scientologists, the task of making the world safe for LRH technology provides a compelling goal or purpose toward which to strive.  Not only do they believe that the universal utilization of Dianetics and other LRH tech would create "[a] civilization without insanity, without criminals and without war"


3.  Scientology's own dictionary defines "tech" as "technology, referring of course to the application of the precise scientific drills and processes of Scn [Scientology]" (Hubbard, 1975: 423).  Elsewhere Hubbard stated that tech "consists of a large amount of precision administration and the application exactly of existing wealth of materials" (Hubbard, 1976: 515).

(Hubbard, [September] 1965; in Tech 6: 88) but also they conceive that their own spiritual salvation is impossible without it.  Consequently, from Scientologists' viewpoint, any attack against the tech thereby threatens both their collective goals and their individual spiritual fates.  If, motivationally, they are pulled ahead by the quest to reach their secular and spiritual goals, then at the same time they are pushed forward by fear of their presumed enemy's pernicious attacks.

As an organizational issue, attacks against the tech potentially limit the group's ability to acquire and utilize resources.  Attacks are especially damaging when they effect elites who control large resource pools of materials or power (McCarthy and Zald, 1977: 1221).  Moreover, the realities of contemporary communication, transportation, economics, and politics --in essence, the globalization of the world--indicate that some elites operate in transnational arenas much like the organizations to which they are attached.  As allies, transnational elites can be especially helpful to organizations in establishing new markets or gaining international legitimacy.  By the same token, oppositional elites, with their own enormous

resources behind them, can cause major problems for ideological transnationals in their various locations around the world.  Global opponents likely require global strategies of neutralization, which at the very least involve the minimalization of opponents' effectiveness within their respective spheres of influence.  In extreme situations, ideological transnationals will perceive that their best interests lie in completely discrediting if not destroying those globalist elites who oppose them.

Beginning with its founder, Scientology saw two globally operating elites whose potentially damaging activities warranted international efforts at control or destruction.  These two elite groups, which operated within mental health and law enforcement professions, usually functioned in relative isolation of each other in different circles of influence, but Scientology's campaigns against them nevertheless bore broad similarities.  Simply put, Scientology utilized these two oppositional elite groups as catalysts for resource acquisition among its members, which included their involvement in worldwide campaigns to discredit and destroy psychiatrists and the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol).