by Maggie Schnieder
Illustration by Masha Zhdanova

 

The word “Scientology” has been popping up in headlines across the country and around the world since its creation in the 1950s. With more information surrounding the Church of Scientology being released through documentaries, television shows, books and news articles, the general public knows much more about the religion than it used to — and almost everyone has a strong opinion about the subject.

Scientology was founded in 1954 by the science-fiction writer, L. Ron Hubbard, whose goal was to create a religion based on science and self-growth. Hubbard wrote many novels before writing “Dianetics,” which remains the foundation of the religion’s principles today. Published in 1950, the book hit The New York Times Bestseller List for 28 consecutive weeks and as a result, thousands of people around the globe became interested in Hubbard’s ideas.

At this point, Hubbard was creating a worldwide religion and a multimillion-dollar empire. He wrote many more books, established the first Church of Scientology in California, and invited people to take introductory courses, personality tests and auditing sessions for therapeutic purposes. Soon, the Church of Scientology’s presence in California began influencing Hollywood’s brightest stars, beginning with Gloria Swanson, Dave Brubeck and John Travolta, according to history.com. In a 1976 policy letter, Hubbard wrote that, “celebrities are a very special people and have a very distinct line of dissemination.” Thus, the recruitment of celebrities became a major goal for the church.

Today, there are still many celebrities devoted to Scientology, including Travolta, Tom Cruise, Kirstie Alley and Juliette Lewis. There are also many celebrities speaking out against the religion who had been members of the church previously. Leah Remini, Paul Haggis, Lisa Marie Presley and Katie Holmes are all infamous for their rocky relationships with the religion. In addition, ex-church officials and leaders, such as Mike Rinder, state that Scientology is corrupt, mentally abusive and holds people against their will, according to Rinder’s website, mikerindersblog.org. Rinder claims that David Miscavige, the Chairman of the Board and leader of the religion since 1986, is angry, power-hungry and violent, with a history of physical assault during his reign.

With the release of numerous documentaries and television shows against Scientology, including HBO’s “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief,” and A&E’s “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath,” the Church of Scientology is being questioned more than ever by the media. In response to these allegations, church officials are doing everything they can to refute these negative claims of enabling a coercive environment with letters, positive advertisements and humanitarian efforts.

Both sides of this issue are strongly expressed, and it’s uncertain how the media will affect Scientology’s future. Until then, it’ss important to evaluate all perspectives on this issue as well as basic information regarding the religion.