The World is Watching
The world is watching to see how rank-and-file Scientologists react to the growing reports of abuse, violence and criminality among Scientology’s highest echelons.
How those individual Scientologists react will determine, to a large measure, how the subject of Scientology itself is perceived, now and in the future.
Consider the reaction of lay Catholics in the wake of the 2002 Boston Globe coverage of the priest abuse scandal. Parishioner meetings in the basement of St. John the Evangelist church in Wellesley, Massachusetts, soon expanded, thanks to the internet, to conferences of thousands – lay Catholics, victims of clergy sexual abuse, theologians, and priests from around the United States and the world. The resulting organization, Voice of the Faithful (VOTF), grew to 30,000 members within a year and is now a strong advocate for lay oversight of their parishes and dioceses. Their motto is “Keep the Faith, Change the Church.”
Whatever one might think of Catholicism, there is no doubt that these members were strong, independent thinkers not afraid to stand up to their Church elders. They had a sense of moral outrage about priest abuses and cared enough about the future of their Church to do something about it.
On the other hand, consider the reaction of members for the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) when their church was faced with charges of sexual abuse of minors. Law enforcement and social workers entering their compound encountered fear and mistrust from those inside. These members were silent, afraid, uncooperative. They denied knowledge of any wrongdoing and refused to speak out against their elders. Ultimately, it fell to courageous former members (like Carolyn Jessop) and law enforcement to bring their Church leaders to justice.
Whatever one might think of the FLDS and its beliefs, one is left with the impression that its members are cowed and muzzled, afraid to speak out against their leaders. And yes, one hears stories of people having to escape from their compounds and being pursued by “security guards.” The word “cult” comes to mind.
So how will Scientology be perceived?
Well, that depends on the reaction of rank-and-file Scientologists.
If they remain silent, claim ignorance of any wrongdoing, refuse to speak out against Church leaders, people may well think that Scientologists are too frightened, too cowed by their leaders, to speak out. They may conclude that Scientology has become an oppressive cult, where no challenge to the authority of the leaders is permitted, and where anyone speaking out is punished or expelled. A group where they are taught to fear the outside world as “enemies” and close ranks behind their leaders, no matter what they do.
On the other hand, if Scientologists stand up and speak out, if they call for reform, if they withdraw their support from corrupt leaders, then the world will know that these are people who stand behind their beliefs, who actually practice what they preach, who do have a sense of moral outrage when their fellows are abused.
We stand at a turning point in history. Individual Scientologists stand at the fulcrum. Which way Scientology turns hinges on the actions we take now.
Are Scientologists frightened followers, only thinking and saying what their leaders permit?
Or are they strong and courageous men and women who are a living embodiment of the philosophy they espouse?
The world awaits your answer.