Scientology - History - The Church of Scientology

The Church of Scientology

In 1952, Hubbard built on the existing framework set forth in Dianetics, and published a new set of teachings as Scientology, a religious philosophy. In December 1953, Hubbard incorporated three churches – a "Church of American Science", a "Church of Scientology" and a "Church of Spiritual Engineering" – in Camden, New Jersey. On February 18, 1954, with Hubbard's blessing, some of his followers set up the first local Church of Scientology, the Church of Scientology of California, adopting the "aims, purposes, principles and creed of the Church of American Science, as founded by L. Ron Hubbard." The movement spread quickly through the United States and to other English-speaking countries such as Britain, Ireland, South Africa and Australia. The second local Church of Scientology to be set up, after the one in California, was in Auckland, New Zealand. In 1955, Hubbard established the Founding Church of Scientology in Washington, D.C. In 1957, the Church of Scientology of California was granted tax-exempt status by the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and so, for a time, were other local churches. In 1958 however, the IRS started a review of the appropriateness of this status. In 1959, Hubbard moved to England, remaining there until the mid-1960s.

The Church experienced further challenges. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began an investigation concerning the claims the Church of Scientology made in connection with its E-meters. On January 4, 1963, they raided offices of the Church of Scientology and seized hundreds of E-meters as illegal medical devices. The devices have since been required to carry a disclaimer saying that they are a purely religious artifact.

In the mid-sixties, the Church of Scientology was banned in several Australian states, starting with Victoria in 1965. The ban was based on the Anderson Report, which found that the auditing process involved "command" hypnosis, in which the hypnotist assumes "positive authoritative control" over the patient. On this point the report stated,

It is the firm conclusion of this Board that most scientology and dianetic techniques are those of authoritative hypnosis and as such are dangerous ... the scientific evidence which the Board heard from several expert witnesses of the highest repute ... leads to the inescapable conclusion that it is only in name that there is any difference between authoritative hypnosis and most of the techniques of scientology. Many scientology techniques are in fact hypnotic techniques, and Hubbard has not changed their nature by changing their names.

The Australian Church was forced to operate under the name of the "Church of the New Faith" as a result, the name and practice of Scientology having become illegal in the relevant states. Several years of court proceedings aimed at overturning the ban followed.

In the course of developing Scientology, Hubbard presented rapidly changing teachings that were often self-contradictory. For the inner cadre of Scientologists in that period, involvement depended not so much on belief in a particular doctrine but on unquestioning faith in Hubbard. In 1966, Hubbard stepped down as executive director of Scientology to devote himself to research and writing. The following year, he formed the Sea Organization or Sea Org, which was to develop into an elite group within Scientology. The Sea Org was based on three ships, the Diana, the Athena, and the Apollo, which served as the flag ship. One month after the establishment of the Sea Org, Hubbard announced that he had made a breakthrough discovery, the result of which were the "OT III" materials purporting to provide a method for overcoming factors inhibiting spiritual progress. These materials were first disseminated on the ships, and then propagated by Sea Org members reassigned to staff Advanced Organizations on land.

In 1967, the IRS removed Scientology's tax-exempt status, asserting that its activities were commercial and operated for the benefit of Hubbard, rather than for charitable or religious purposes. The decision resulted in a process of litigation that would be settled in the Church's favour a quarter of a century later, the longest case of litigation in IRS history.

In 1979, as a result of FBI raids during Operation Snow White, eleven senior people in the church's Guardian's Office were convicted of obstructing justice, burglary of government offices, and theft of documents and government property. In 1981, Scientology took the German government to court for the first time.

On January 1, 1982, Scientology established the Religious Technology Center (RTC) to oversee and ensure the standard application of Scientology technology.

On November 11, 1982, the Free Zone was established by former top Scientologists in disagreement with RTC. The Free Zone Association was founded and registered under the laws of Germany, and believes that the Church of Scientology has departed from its original philosophy.

In 1983, in a unanimous decision, the High Court of Australia recognized Scientology as a religion in Australia, overturning restrictions that had limited activities of the church after the Anderson Report.

On January 24, 1986, L. Ron Hubbard died at his ranch near San Luis Obispo, California, and David Miscavige became the head of the organization.

Starting in 1991, persons connected with Scientology filed fifty lawsuits against the Cult Awareness Network (CAN), a group that had been critical of Scientology. Although many of the suits were dismissed, one of the suits filed against the Cult Awareness Network resulted in $2 million in losses for the network. Consequently, the organization was forced to go bankrupt. In 1996, Steven L. Hayes, a Scientologist, purchased the bankrupt Cult Awareness Network's logo and appurtenances. A new Cult Awareness Network was set up with Scientology backing, which operates as an information and networking center for non-traditional religions, referring callers to academics and other experts.

In a 1993 U.S. lawsuit brought by the Church of Scientology against Steven Fishman, a former member of the Church, Fishman made a court declaration which included several dozen pages of formerly secret esoterica detailing aspects of Scientologist cosmogony. As a result of the litigation, this material, normally strictly safeguarded and used only in Scientology's more advanced "OT levels", found its way onto the Internet. This resulted in a battle between the Church of Scientology and its online critics over the right to disclose this material, or safeguard its confidentiality. The Church of Scientology was forced to issue a press release acknowledging the existence of this cosmogony, rather than allow its critics "to distort and misuse this information for their own purposes." Even so, the material, notably the story of Xenu, has since been widely disseminated and used to caricature Scientology, despite the Church's vigorous program of copyright litigation.

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