Religion News Briefs: Scientology, Scientology, and Cult Defenders

This is Religion News Blog’s roundup of news reports dealing with religion, spirituality, cults, and related issues.


Most of us at Religion News Blog are on vacation, but we do check in from time to time. Although we haven’t been posting much it won’t have escaped your attention that the Scientology cult currently is undergoing an enormous amount of scrutiny.

Scientology is once again (or, more likely nowadays, still) in damage control mode. Problem is: by now people are so familiar with the manifold problems surrounding this destructive movement that anything Scientology’s spokespeople come up with in response only ends up doing the movement more harm.

Case in point? A panicked email from the ‘Office of Special Affairs‘ — essentially the cult’s KGB — instructing followers to trump up false charges against people using their free speech to describe Scientology.

Lying was, after all, one of those unethical practices encouraged and condoned by the cult’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard.

checkmark The troubled life of Scientology president’s son: How church ‘pressured his wife to have an abortion and led to downward spiral that ended in feared painkiller overdose’

The Daily Mail isn’t known for subtle (or short) headlines, and the paper doesn’t pull any punches in its reporting either. In the wake of the Tom Cruise / Katie Holmes breakup here’s yet another article exposing the Scientology cult to daylight:

Alexander Jentzsch, the 27-year-old son of Scientology president Heber Jentzsch, died last week after complaining of a fever the night before, leaving his grieving mother, Karen de la Carriere, without any closure.

For Ms de la Carriere left the Church some two years ago, and because of her decision, she said her son was forced to disconnect from her – an act which she has labelled ‘savage.’

Ms de la Carriere revealed to MailOnline the tragic life of her only child, saying: ‘For two years, he was gone from my life, and a few weeks ago his life fell apart€¦and now he’s dead.’

She described how her son’s wife was allegedly pressured to have an abortion, triggering a downward spiral that ended with his death last week.

The so-called ‘disconnection policy’ is one of many reasons why we consider the Church of Scientology to be a hate group.

10,000 Scientologists Got This E-Mail Today About “Disconnection,” their Church President, and a Mysterious Death

checkmark Pinching, purification and finding The Bridge to Total Freedom: Inside a very sinister induction at the Scientology HQ

Also from the Daily Mail, an article by a reporter who checks out the Scientology recruitment process. It’s an approach that has been used many times before, and few people would be surprised that the author says, “I look back on my visit last week to Scientology’s Florida headquarters to celebrate July 4 as one of the most unsettling experiences of my life…”

Still, these type of articles are helpful in that they inoculate potential Scientology customers against the cult’s recruitment tactics.

checkmark Cult apologists whitewash Scientology

Not at all helpful in any way is a USA Today article in which two notorious cult defenders are quoted at length.

Titled, “TomKat split puts spotlight on Scientology,” the articles — republished in the Detroit Fee Press — highlights the opinions of J. Gordon Melton and David Bromley.

Both are known for their overly enthusiastic defense of a variety of religious cults, as well as for their attacks on the credibility of ex-members of such movements.

Like most cult apologists they assert that the testimony of apostates simply cannot be trusted. Melton has gone as far as to claim that apostates invariably lie.

Compare that silly (and, in fact, evil) suggestion to the research of Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, professor of psychology at the University of Haifa and a respected cult expert:

Recent and less recent NRM catastrophes help us realize that in every single case allegations by hostile outsiders and detractors have been closer to reality than any other accounts.

Ever since the Jonestown tragedy, statements by ex-members turned out to be more accurate than those of apologists and NRM researchers. The reality revealed in the cases of People’s Temple, Rajneesh International, Vajradhatu, the Nation of Yahweh, the Branch Davidians, the Faith Assembly, Aum Shinrykio, the Solar Temple, or Heaven’s Gate is much more than unattractive; it is positively horrifying.

In every case of NRM disasters over the past 50 years, starting with Krishna Venta (Beit-Hallahmi, 1993), we encounter a hidden world of madness and exploitation in a totalitarian, psychotic, group, whose reality is actually even worse than detractors’ allegations.
Dear Colleagues: Integrity and Suspicion in NRM Research, Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi

Alternative Religions and Their Academic Supporters (Highly recommended for further research on cult apologists)

With that in mind, check out these testimonies by ex-Scientologists:

checkmark Ex-Scientology executive discusses treatment of children

With the Church of Scientology’s treatment of children under media scrutiny, former Scientology executive Ramana Dienes-Browning discusses her upbringing as a Scientologist.

The teen who escaped Scientology

checkmark Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes wrap up speedy divorce

There was no direct comment from either of the stars. Instead, they issued a statement ahead of the announcement.

“We are committed to working together as parents to accomplishing what is in our daughter Suri’s best interests,” the pair said in a joint statement. “We want to keep matters affecting our family private and express our respect for each other’s commitment to each of our respective beliefs and support each other’s roles as parents.”

Representatives and attorneys for both actors declined any comments beyond their statements.

checkmark Private end to public divorce keeps lid on Scientology secrets

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes have called time on their divorce battle, agreeing to what both sides called an “amicable” settlement which will prevent their dirty linen from being aired in court.

The deal is believed to allow the couple’s six-year-old daughter, Suri, to live in New York with her mother, who will be responsible for all major decisions about her upbringing. But Mr Cruise, who is based in Los Angeles, will have extensive visitation rights.

Crucially, it will prevent both sides from having to take part in a hearing at New York’s Civil Supreme Court which was scheduled for 17 July . Had the dispute not been settled by that date, gory details from their divorce filings would have entered the public domain.

The Links

Katie Holmes ‘Biggest Nightmare’ in Scientology History, Say Experts: Some of Holmes’ apparent courage could stem from the fact that many of the high-ranking Scientologists who ran interference for Cruise during his marriage to Kidman and often discouraged or intimidated mainstream media from reporting on Scientology have left the church. A number of them are now actively working against Miscavige and Cruise by spilling church secrets to the very reporters they once threatened.
Carmen Llywelyn, ex-wife of My Name Is Earl star Jason Lee, says Scientology makes getting a divorce ‘difficult’
Scientology crumbling: An Entire Church Mission Defects as David Miscavige Faces Leadership Crisis
How Scientology Recruits So Many Celebrities. See also: Scientology’s love affair with Hollywood
This is what happens when Scientologists come after you€¦: When John Sweeney made a TV documentary on the controversial church, he ended up followed, threatened by its leader, and on the wrong side of John Travolta. He tells his story — and asks what Katie Holmes can expect.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday July 10, 2012.
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