Rod Keller keeps an eye on Scientology social media for us, and this week he spotted something he decided to dive into in more depth. Take it away, Rod…
On August 3rd and August 10th, Scientology held interfaith conferences at the Los Angeles Ideal Org under the guise of Youth For Human Rights, a “social betterment” front group similar to The Way to Happiness Foundation and the Foundation for a Drug-Free World. The group was founded in 2001 by Dr. Mary Shuttleworth, a South African Scientologist. For events without any youth participation, the group goes by the name United for Human Rights.
As with all Scientology activities that deal with non-Scientologists, Youth for Human Rights is directed by the Office of Special Affairs. OSA is known as the secret police of Scientology for its work to investigate, attack, and discredit former members and critics, often with the use of private investigators. But OSA is charged with all of Scientology’s public relations work as well, and interfaith activities are important to fulfill L. Ron Hubbard’s design to “safepoint” Scientology – to develop a network of non-Scientologist allies who are Opinion Leaders in the community and who could be called upon for assistance when Scientology comes under attack. They are considered “celebrities” in the same category as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and they count towards OSA’s stat, “celebrity bodies in shop.”
The irony is that Scientology actually has no respect for other religions at all, even as it puts on events like this. Just yesterday, former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder at his blog spelled out what Scientologists learn as they get more deeply into the church, that they have to give up any involvement with other “religions”:
As one advances in Scientology and is indoctrinated into “Keeping Scientology Working” and then more advanced Scientology writings about Jesus Christ being an implant, you discover that every other religion is not compatible with Scientology, and to be a Scientologist you cannot practice any other religion, or even yoga….Anything not Scientology…is categorized by the derogatory term “Other Practices,” and…at the higher levels is specifically forbidden.
It’s not very difficult to learn, with a few Internet searches, that this is the case with Scientology, so who are these representatives of other faiths who willingly take part in Scientology interfaith events?
I requested interviews with the non-Scientologist speakers at these events to ask them how they became involved, and if they were aware of Scientology’s reputation as a dangerous cult.
I briefly spoke with Archdeacon Manuk Chulyan of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Q: How did you become involved in the inter-faith event at the Church of Scientology?
A: This is the third time I have attended, and the second time I have been a speaker.
Q: What would you say were the predominant themes of the event?
A: Do I have to answer these questions? This is in the past, it’s over. Do I have to answer these questions?
No, Archdeacon, you don’t.
I also spoke with Randy Dobbs, a member of the Regional Baha’i Council of the State of California and secretary of the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’i of Los Angeles.
Q: How did you get involved with the Church of Scientology event?
A: I do a lot of interfaith work, and representatives of the Church have been involved in some of the same organizations over the years, so I have really gotten to know them through those means – through interfaith work.
Q: There are some countries where there is a lot of persecution of Baha’i.
A: The faith started in the Muslim majority country of Persia, which is now Iran. The government is intolerant of other religions, even Sunni Muslims have a hard time in that country.
Q: Do you see any parallels with Scientology in that regard?
A: No, in what way?
Q: Scientology recently had offices raided by the authorities in Moscow.
A: Oh, yes, the difficulties they have in different countries around world might be similar, yes. The Church of Scientology has appeared to me to be very inclusive, and accepting of those from different backgrounds.
Q: I’m sure you’re aware there is some controversy about Scientology as well.
A: I think there’s a documentary film I haven’t seen.
Q: Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.
A: Yes, I haven’t seen it or read any of the books that are out either. You know this country has been filled with a lot religious difficulty from the very first; it was started by people who were fleeing religious persecution. You would think that would have created a society that was uber-tolerant, but it’s actually been an evolutionary course. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights responded to the persecution of Baptist ministers in Virginia. The division of church and state has been a kind of framework in which the country has found its way towards tolerance. And I say towards because I think we still have a long way to go. I mean look at the difficulty Muslims have in this country, or Sikhs, who are not Muslim, but look like they are because they wear a turban. It’s a wonderful country, a great country, but we have a long way to go.
Q: Some people have called Scientology a cult, do you think it fits that definition?
A: I don’t know what they mean by a cult. I think to ascribe another group as being a cult or cultish – it maybe comes from a position of fear, and maybe they don’t understand what it is. There have been many groups in this country that have had difficulties – Christian groups. So it speaks to the ideal of tolerance and open-mindedness that so many groups can exist in this country, and even thrive.
Q: Would you consider participating in another of these events if Scientology invited you?
A: I’m always open to taking part in human rights events. We do a lot of human rights work, and inter-faith work and we work with others towards understanding.
I spoke with Rabbi Mark H. Sobel of Temple Beth Emet in Burbank, California.
Q: Can I ask a personal question? Are you paid by the Church of Scientology?
Q: I assume then you have heard of the controversial nature of Scientology.
A: Yes, very much.
Q: How did you come to be involved in the event?
A: They called me. They said they are doing this interfaith thing on social justice and the rights of the individual, are you interested in talking about the roots of Judaism and Judaism’s attitude towards human rights? And I said sure, and I called the fellow back, and he said it’s being hosted at the Church of Scientology. At first I didn’t think anything of it, then people asked “you’re going to the Church of Scientology?” and I said “No, they’re just hosting, and it’s by an international youth group for human rights,” and to this date I’m still not sure if that’s not an adjunct of Scientology or not. We were asked to talk about our faith-based systems, and how they relate to the rights of people, and that’s what it was about. The literature of Scientology was there, and they did a wonderful multi-media presentation on the universal rights of man, and that was how the program began. The only mention of Scientology was that it believes in an ultimate power, not necessarily God, they absorb or use all faith systems in its core – in its beliefs. I am certainly sure that there were a lot of people from the Church of Scientology who were there in the audience. We were welcome to bring as many people as we wanted. It was short notice, so I didn’t bring anybody, but I’m sure there were people from other churches who were there who were brought by the other people who were speaking. It was just “tell us about your religion, tell us why it’s special or unique.” I’ve gotten some good feedback from people who were there, people had lots of questions.
Q: Did they mention that the Baptist Minister – Bishop [Franklin Harris] – is also a Scientologist?
Q: He is. He has participated in many events for them.
A: The Armenian minister – they knew well. That’s interesting about the Baptist. Scientology didn’t come up at all, it was just Jesus this and Jesus that, everything I would expect from a preacher. The other fellow from the Church of Latter Day Saints is on the staff of USC.
Q: Have you seen the film Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief?
A: No, I haven’t as a matter of fact.
Q: What have you heard about Scientology that may be controversial?
A: Well, that it’s a cult. I have friends who are Israeli who became Scientologists years ago, who tried to explain to me about the hierarchy of different things, but to tell you the truth I said “OK, it’s your path, let me … I’m going home.” And that was about it. I found them to be friendly, nice, no one questioned my beliefs at all. I mean there were questions for all of us, our beliefs about war and peace, how we feel about paths in other religions.
Q: Would you attend another event if they invited you?
A: Sure, well the one thing I’m not crazy about, if you’re going to have a Scientology event, then call everybody a Scientologist and say come or don’t come. You have this different group that is sponsoring, and it’s hosted by them, but in reality they’re an adjunct does make me a little bit nervous. I want to see what they have to say. With the reputation that Scientology seems to have, my congregation was teasing me about “don’t let them convert you” and I said “No, I might need to convert them,” and we all laughed. And I said “you’re kidding” and they said “well, be careful.” And the worst that’s happened is that people said “You gave a lecture at Scientology?” “No, I gave a lecture for this group, that was hosted by Scientology,” because that’s what they told me. If it turns out I got taken advantage of, well to tell you the truth, we are commanded in the Book of Isaiah, and I actually used this in the speech, to be LaGoyim, which has a bad connotation in Yiddish, but in Hebrew it means “light unto the nations.” If somebody gives you an opportunity to preach about Judaism, how can I say no? If my words get taken out of context, and believe me this isn’t aimed at you, it won’t be the first member of the Fourth Estate that took my words out of context. So if my words come out in the Scientology bulletin … and they asked me some stuff, I have a woman who wants me to read her stuff on the true origins of the Holocaust. I can’t wait. Wendy something.
Q: I can tell you what the true roots of the Holocaust are according to Scientology: Psychiatrists. Do you know the Psychiatry: Industry of Death Museum in Hollywood? It’s a Scientology museum devoted to the horrors of Psychiatry.
A: No, I haven’t seen it. Well, it’s interesting, do you know what Psychiatry was first called by the people of Vienna? “Jew Science.” That’s why Freud invited Jung to his inner circle, because all the other guys were Jewish and they were getting such bad flack. Jung is obviously qualified – he’s brilliant – but Freud invited Jung to join them because then they could say “No, it’s not all Jews. Here he is – the non-Jew Carl Jung.”
Imam Mohammed Zafarullah is the leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the Southeastern U.S. He did not return my calls.
Shahrooz Ash is part of the World Zoroastrian Council, The Zarathustrian Assembly and is the editor of the Zoroastrian Journal. He did not return my calls.
Bishop Larry L. Eastland is the Vice-Chairman, Southern California Public Affairs Council for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He did not return my calls.
Bishop Franklin Harris is Pastor of Laurel St. Missionary Baptist / Victory in Christ Ministries Church in Los Angeles, and is also an active Scientologist. He has attended numerous events, is active at the Inglewood Ideal Org, and is a member of the International Association of Scientologists, for which he hosts fundraising events. He did not return my calls.
Scientology promoted a third event on August 17th featuring speakers from Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Falun Gong, but their names were not released.
— Rod Keller
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Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts
Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ
Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield