Scientology’s Holy War

Scientology’s Holy War

When you search Google News for articles about Scientology, you’ll notice a number of things:

Public Notices: Scientology’s front groups, such as Narconon are relatively successful in getting their public notices posted in various newspaper “What’s On” type listings

Press Releases: Scientologists produce a flood of in-house PR reports — which sometimes actually get picked up by out-of-the-way publications apparently desparate to fill some white space. Usually these advertisements are touting the work of the cult’s or its ‘volunteer minister’ (ambulance-chasing vultures, really), or Scientology’s alleged interest in human rights.

News Items: More of often than not, these tend to detail Scientology’s purchases of buildings in key locations throughout the world — usually accompanied by quotes suggesting the ‘Church’ needs more space due to growth (a fact observers of the cult dispute. It appears more likely that the organization sees the writing on the wall and is investing its money in top-rated real estate).


Fluff: A pixie dust of items about celebrity Scientologists, or speculations about which entertainers might be interested in L. Ron Hubbard‘s nutty ideas.

Negative Press: Given the insidious nature of the ‘Church of Scientology’ — expressed, for example, in its ruthless hate- and harassment campaigns against former members, other critics, and reporters who look beyond the cult’s PR front — it appears that for years many writers and publications took a hands-off approach. Among the notable exceptions were special reports by the Los Angeles Times and the Boston Herald, as well as a key, front-page article in TIME magazine.

The ‘Church’ of Scientology has frequently generated bad press, but never more so than since the start of this year. Starting in January, a string of high-profile protests loosely organized by ‘Anonymous’ has increasingly exposed the cult’s vulnerability to daylight. As a result, more and more publications are documenting the sizeable dark side of the cult.

A prime example is a report in Canada’s Maisonneuve, in which Bruce Livesey investigates how former inner-sanctum member Gerry Armstrong became the Salman Rushdie of Scientology:

The first time I met Gerry Armstrong, I thought he was paranoid. I’d driven down from Vancouver, summer 2007, into the verdant Fraser Valley to Chilliwack, BC, a somnolent, wind-blown town surrounded by jagged mountain ranges. A place as far removed from Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Scientology’s loopiness as one can possibly get. Armstrong and his third wife Caroline live in a walk-up, one-bedroom apartment above a tiny strip mall that’s seen better days.

When I arrived, Armstrong suggested we drive to a nearby park, rather than talk in their apartment. It was a beautiful July day and, except for a couple of stoners milling about out of earshot, the three of us were alone on the manicured grass beside a pond. Now sixty-one, Armstrong is an alarmingly small man, with elfin features, a beaky nose, sallow skin and large limpid blue eyes. The baseball cap he wore to ward off the hot sun made him look even more vulnerable. Amiable, soft-spoken with no trace of aggression, he chose his words with deliberation. Caroline seemed protective of him.

Armstrong’s wariness toward me stemmed from his concern that I might very well be a Scientologist on a spying expedition. This has happened before. Four years ago, a middle-aged man showed up in Chilliwack, rented a storefront across the street from their apartment and tried to ingratiate himself into their lives. He was there for a year and a half before Armstrong and his wife finally figured out that he’d been sent by the Church of Scientology to keep an eye on them. When they confronted him, he said “You turned the tables on me,” and bolted. “And in the middle of the night he disappeared from the office space,” Armstrong told me.

Armstrong finally began to tell me fragments of stories about being relentlessly harassed by the church, pursued by its private investigators, run off the road, targeted in elaborate sting operations, slandered at every turn by what he calls “Black PR” and “dead agent packages” and stalked through the US courts. In fact, since last fall, a California court order has been reinstated, demanding that he be remanded to a state jail and pay Scientology $500,000 US for breaking a confidentiality agreement he signed with the church twenty- one years ago. Hence his exile in Chilliwack.

Why has the Church of Scientology spent nearly three decades trying to discredit and silence this unemployed, penniless man living on a disability pension in the middle of nowhere in British Columbia?

Because of what he knows. Armstrong not only worked very closely with the church’s founder, the former pulp sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard, but was sanctioned by Hubbard to compile a massive archive of documents detailing all aspects of Hubbard’s life. Armstrong understands more about Hubbard’s true identity and history than just about anyone alive. For Scientologists, it’s like Armstrong has spent time with Jesus or Mohammed or Moses. The only problem is, Armstrong does not worship Hubbard. Quite the opposite. As the myth of Hubbard has grown, however, the existence of people like Armstrong has become a problem. His experience attests to inconvenient truths about the messianic figure. After all, what Gerry Armstrong saw and learned convinced him that Hubbard was a fraud.

“Gerry poses a threat because he has knowledge of L. Ron Hubbard that few if any other outside critics hold,” explains Stephen Kent, a professor of sociology at the University of Alberta and a world-leading expert on Scientology. “He was working with exclusive documents—documents of Hubbard’s childhood and teenage years. Armstrong interviewed Hubbard’s relatives, so he had an in-depth knowledge of Hubbard the person and how Hubbard’s biography developed over time. For a person with that kind of knowledge to say that what the organization portrays about its founder is false, distorted or misleading—that’s a terrible threat.”

– Source: Bruce Livesey, Scientology’s Holy War, MaisonNueve, Canada, June 23, 2008

Hubbard, the man who created Scientology in 1952, has an unusual CV for a religious and spiritual leader. As well as being a writer, he was a congenital liar: quite simply a “charlatan”. That was the view of a High Court judge in 1984, who said Hubbard’s theories were “corrupt, sinister and dangerous”. — Tom Cruise’s Church of hate tried to destroy me

Research resources on Scientology
Research resources on L. Ron Hubbard
FACTnet’s Scientology discussion forums

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This post was last updated: Nov. 8, 2013