There are only two in all of Canada. One opened in Quebec City in 2010, the other in Cambridge, Ont., in 2013. These so-called Ideal Orgs – refurbished,
state-of-the-art church buildings – are rising across the globe.
Both Canadian facilities were opened by David Miscavige,
the controversial head of Scientology.
Miscavige said at the Cambridge opening that “this
church is the incarnation of all Scientology bestows to this
world, forged of the very purpose with which L. Ron Hubbard bestowed Scientology itself: to help man to again find
his footing in this materialistic society; to restore to him the
goodness, love and decency with which he was created; and
to help him fulfill his eternal dream of spiritual freedom.”
Though Canada’s Ideal Orgs are a testimony to the incredible sacrifice of Scientologists, as is their new cathedral
in Clearwater, Florida, they give little indication of the huge
ongoing controversies connected to the church established
by Hubbard in 1954.
While Canada has been home to some of those controversies (the Toronto Church was raided by the Ontario Provincial
Police in 1983, and the Scientology anti-drug program Nar-conon was shut down in Trois-Rivières in 2012, for example),
the most serious current battle involves a court case in New
Braunfels, Texas, about 50 km northeast of San Antonio.
There, U.S. Judge Dib Waldrip is presiding over Monique
Rathbun v. David Miscavige, Religious Technology Center
and the Church of Scientology International. Monique is the
wife of Mark “Marty” Rathbun, a former top official in
Scientology who left the church in 2004 and went public
against it in 2009. Her lawsuit, filed in 2013, claims that
“the Defendants have worked around the clock for three
years to destroy Mrs. Rathbun. She has been harassed,
insulted, surveilled, photographed, videotaped, defamed
and humiliated to such a degree as to shock the conscience
of any decent, law-abiding person.”
Four years ago I wrote in this column that public disputes about Scientology are like “he said, she said” to the
max. I found that as true as ever as I worked through the
Case Will Shake
leader of popular religious group could
face grilling in court.
latest back-and-forth allegations to prepare a conference
lecture for Baylor University.
Virtually everything Mark Rathbun states against Scientology is met by the same accusations against him, I found
in long conversation with Mark Rathbun and Scientology
leaders Eric Roux (France), Susan Taylor (Washington, D.C.)
and Janet Weiland (Los Angeles). It’s one huge vicious circle.
Three factors make Monique Rathbun’s case pivotal for
understanding Scientology. First, and most important, Judge
Waldrip has granted her request to have Miscavige deposed
under oath. Having the international head of a religion under
legal cross-examination is no small matter. Scientology will
probably object all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Second, the case will also centre on Mark Rathbun’s testimony as the former second-in-command. He joined Scientology in the late 1970s and worked with Miscavige from 1982
to 2004. Mark Rathbun accuses Miscavige of serious crimes
and will likely have his day in court in support of his wife.
Third, the drama in Texas involves momentous issues
that determine the future of Scientology, including alleged
criminality by Miscavige, tax exemption for Scientology and
the nature of Scientology doctrine.
Why should Christians care about Scientology in general
and this Texas showdown in particular? After all, contrary
to Scientology claims, it is not the fastest growing religion.
It may have some celebrity adherents (such as American
actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta), but it’s estimated to
have less than 200,000 core adherents worldwide, including
a few thousand in Canada.
Regardless, concern on the part of disciples of Jesus should
not depend on numbers, and we should bring the gospel to
all people, including followers of L. Ron Hubbard. Further,
since our witness should be an informed one, this huge case
will likely bring some clarity to who is telling the truth in a
world of polarized interpretation of all things Scientology.
We should also support the religious liberty of law-abiding
Scientologists since they are often the victims of persecution.
Susan Palmer, a professor in Montreal and leading scholar
of new religions, has documented many police raids on Scientology in various countries of the world. Mark Rathbun’s
own Memoirs of a Scientology Warrior (CreateSpace, 2013)
provides some chilling narration on various nasty government activities against Scientology throughout its history.
So, we have a Texas showdown of worldwide conse-
quence. Stay tuned. FT
JAMES A. BEvERlEy of tyndale Seminary in toronto has
studied Scientology since 1978. He recommends following
Scientology through its own website ( www.scientology.org)
alongside critical sites (such as www.tonyortega.org).
Religion Watch n BY JAMES A. BEVERLEY