This paper is an original take on the ongoing debate over whether or not The Church of Scientology is a religion or not.
In 2001, after the terrorist attack that destroyed the World Trade Centre, Fox news received an e-mail. It included a ‘hotline’ which the author claimed would provide people traumatised by this terrible event with referrals to appropriate agencies and emotional support.
In the chaos after the attack, journalists included this number in their coverage without checking into its source. For several hours, viewers of Fox news saw a telephone number scrolling across the bottom of the screen: “MENTAL HEALTH ASSISTANCE 800-FOR-TRUTH” (see the image above).
It soon emerged that the hotline was provided by the Church of Scientology in an apparent attempt to insure that vulnerable people contacted The Church of Scientology instead of their perceived enemy, psychiatry (which they believe is engaged in a conspiracy to oppress mankind, and is responsible for many historical evils – including the Nazi Holocaust).
This account is based on newspaper article by Deborah O’Neil (published in the St Petersburg Times on September the 15th 2001) which is reproduced in the paper. Beit-Hallahmi comments that,
This text can serve as a journalism textbook example of asking all sides tell their versions, and then letting the readers reach their own conclusions
Beit-Hallahmi then applies the same approach to the question of whether or not Scientology is a bona fide religion by reviewing:
- The debate on this subject in social science
- The legal opinions expressed in court decisions and the writings of legal scholars
- Media coverage
- Scientology’s documents (once secret, but long-since leaked and made available online by disaffected members and critics)
- Scientology’s independently documented practices and history
In his examination of Scientology’s history, the author reveals the likely reason why, out of all the New Religious Movements, Scientology’s religious status is so often questioned – because it demonstrably operates, for the most part, as a ruthless and highly-profitable multinational corporation.
Also, a cursory examination of Scientology documents from this time reveal that it’s conversion had a number of practical advantages – principally freedom from taxation in the USA.
This paper presents a detailed argument that Scientology does not, in fact, deserve religious status, backed up by literature drawn from many fields. It is well worth reading for the way it draws all of these threads together.