ControversiesMain article: Scientology controversies See also: Scientology and the legal system
Of the many new religious movements to appear during the 20th century, the Church of Scientology has, from its inception, been one of the most controversial, coming into conflict with the governments and police forces of several countries (including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France and Germany). It has been one of the most litigious religious movements in history, filing countless lawsuits against governments, organizations and individuals.
Reports and allegations have been made, by journalists, courts, and governmental bodies of several countries, that the Church of Scientology is an unscrupulous commercial enterprise that harasses its critics and brutally exploits its members. Time magazine published an article in 1991 which described Scientology as "a hugely profitable global racket that survives by intimidating members and critics in a Mafia-like manner."
The controversies involving the Church and its critics, some of them ongoing, include:
- Scientology's disconnection policy, in which members are encouraged to cut off all contact with friends or family members who are "antagonistic" to Scientology.
- The death of a Scientologist Lisa McPherson while in the care of the Church. (Robert Minton sponsored the multi-million dollar law suit against Scientology for the death of McPherson. In May 2004, McPherson's estate and the Church of Scientology reached a confidential settlement.)
- Criminal activities committed on behalf of the Church or directed by Church officials (Operation Snow White, Operation Freakout).
- Conflicting statements about L. Ron Hubbard's life, in particular accounts of Hubbard discussing his intent to start a religion for profit and of his service in the military.
- Scientology's harassment and litigious actions against its critics encouraged by its Fair Game policy.
- Attempts to legally force search engines such as Google and Yahoo! to omit any webpages critical of Scientology from their search engines (and in Google's case, AdSense), or at least the first few search pages.
- Allegations by former high-ranking Scientologists that David Miscavige beats and demoralizes staff and that physical violence by superiors towards staff working for them is a common occurrence in the church. Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis denied these claims and provided witnesses to rebut them.
- In October 2009, a French court found the Church of Scientology guilty of organized fraud. Four officers of the organization were fined and given suspended prison sentences of up to 2 years. The Church of Scientology said it would appeal the judgment. Prosecutors had hoped to achieve a ban of Scientology in France, but due to a temporary change in French law, which "made it impossible to dissolve a legal entity on the grounds of fraud", no ban was pronounced. The sentence was confirmed by appeal court in February 2012.
- In November 2009, Australian Senator Nick Xenophon used a speech in Federal Parliament to allege that the Church of Scientology is a criminal organization. Based on letters from former followers of the religion, he said that there were "allegations of forced imprisonment, coerced abortions, and embezzlement of church funds, of physical violence and intimidation, blackmail and the widespread and deliberate abuse of information obtained by the organization"
Due to these allegations, a considerable amount of investigation has been aimed at the Church, by groups ranging from the media to governmental agencies.
Scientology social programs such as drug and criminal rehabilitation have likewise drawn both support and criticism.
Professor of sociology Stephen A. Kent says "Scientologists see themselves as possessors of doctrines and skills that can save the world, if not the galaxy." As stated in Scientology doctrine: "The whole agonized future of this planet, every man, woman and child on it, and your own destiny for the next endless trillions of years depend on what you do here and now with and in Scientology." Kent has described Scientology's ethics system as "a peculiar brand of morality that uniquely benefited ... In plain English, the purpose of Scientology ethics is to eliminate opponents, then eliminate people's interests in things other than Scientology.".
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