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The Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE)

May 8, 2010

I recently got back in touch with someone I’d known from the “old days,” a person who was heavily involved in ABLE activities for many years. ABLE, for those not familiar with the acronym, is the Association for Better Living and Education, the Scientology entity responsible for overseeing the “secular applications of L. Ron Hubbard’s work.” They run Narconon, Applied Scholastics, Criminon, and The Way to Happiness Foundation.

We’ve been having an interesting discussion about ABLE and what really goes on behind the scenes. My friend, like most ABLE staff I’ve known, was sincere and dedicated, with a genuine desire to help others. And the ABLE programs have been key in giving Scientologists the hope and reassurance that what they were doing in Scientology really was making a difference in society – with drugs, education and improving morals. Even at the Int Base, when life around me was insane and chaotic, I would reassure myself that it was all worth it, in part because of these ABLE programs.

And the Church certainly features these programs in their PR and promotion efforts. If you look at the latest version of their website, you see the ABLE programs bannered across the top, as “Global Social Betterment and Humanitarian Programs Sponsored by the Church of Scientology.” Tommy Davis, when confronted by accusations of Church abuse, violence and human rights violations, is quick to bring these programs up, questioning the motives of anyone who would dare “attack” an organization that is doing this much good in society.

But what’s the reality of the Church connection to ABLE?

Follow the Money

When the Church of Scientology says that they “sponsor” these programs, one might assume that means that they support them financially, much as any other church maintains homeless shelters, orphanages, or women’s centers. Actually, that’s not true.

The ABLE activities are each set up as their own profit centers. They are expected to make their own money. They receive no funds from the Church, in fact, quite the opposite. Each of these organizations is expected to tithe a percentage of their income to the Church of Scientology, for the privilege of using LRH materials. So not only does the Church not support these organizations, but they, in fact, make money from them.

And anyone going out on a project to get Study Tech or TWTH implemented in a pioneer area? They pay their own way, or they get the money from fellow Scientologists. The VMs who went to Haiti? Paid for by individual Scientologists, not by the Church.

And what about the “IAS support” we read about in Impact Magazine for these activities. Well, I can tell you about that based on my own inside experience. The IAS reges have difficulty getting people to donate money to pay lawyers and private investigators (what the money is really primarily used for). It’s much easier to get money from Scientologists if they think it is going to a “big dissemination campaign.” So every year, a huge campaign is created, just before the yearly IAS Event, preferably with a strong visual element like TV ads or a big new facility. It is then shown off at the event to spark donations. They collect millions. Then a few hundred thousand is spent on whatever the campaign was. A few TV ads are put on the air for instance. One year they produced a bunch of bright yellow VM tents. The rest of the money – the bulk of it – goes into IAS coffers where it is used for, well, whatever David Miscavige wants to use it for.

One veteran ABLE staff member relays this experience: “The IAS regged a lot of Scientologists, telling them that their monies were being used for Chilocco. I remember them incorporating the pitch into their reg talks. The actual amount that they gave to ABLE was something like $100,000. They may have changed this later, but it was clear to us that they were milking it for what they could and forking over crumbs.”

Then someone writes glowing Impact Magazine articles carefully worded to make it sound like everything these ABLE sectors do is because of the IAS.

Identity Crisis

So are these ABLE activities part of the Church or aren’t they? Well, it depends on who’s asking and who you ask.

ABLE is trying to get their programs implemented in public schools or trying to get government acceptance or grants. Therefore it is important that they are not religious. So they take great pains to say that they are not connected to the Church of Scientology, they simply use L. Ron Hubbard’s writings. Scientology is not mentioned at all on the Applied Scholastics or Way to Happiness or Narconon websites. They try to distance themselves from the Church, and when someone brings up the Scientology connection, they deny any direct involvement with the Church. For instance, when a TWTH group in Israel, Association for Prosperity, was accused of being a Scientology front, they hotly denied it, stating: “Claiming our organization is connected with Scientology just because our director-general studied Scientology is like saying that other nonprofits are hi-tech because volunteers work in hi- tech.” And this is typical of the denials issued by ABLE groups when asked about the Church connection. To achieve their goals, it is important for them to not have a direct connection to the Church of Scientology.

Yet if you look at the Church statements and literature, it’s quite the opposite. The Church banners these programs across the front page of their website, and brags to anyone who will listen about “our” programs to handle drugs and illiteracy, about how “we” are distributing TWTH, how “we” are getting study tech into schools, and so on.

Identity crisis anyone? Are they, or are they not, part of the Church? As I say, it depends on who you are and who you ask.

What’s the reality? Well, anyone who has ever been on one of David Miscavige’s executive inspections of ABLE – as I have – knows what goes down. ABLE, by the way, is located next door to ASI, where Miscavige frequently hangs out. And when he stomps through ABLE, shouting out questions and threats, the staff there (who are Sea Org Members) quake in their boots and fall all over themselves complying to his every whim. Oh, the Church runs ABLE all right, with an iron fist. And everyone at ABLE knows the truth – it is most definitely a part of the Church of Scientology.

And that’s why you see Org reges prowling Narconons for prospects. That’s why you see Church executives harrassing Narconon directors orABLE staff and accusing them of “out ethics” because they won’t turn their reserves over to buy $100,000 worth of Dianetics books.

One can imagine the cognitive dissonance. My friend stresses that that ABLE staff are motivated by a desire to help handle ruins in society, not to make money for the church, and when they say that they are not part of the church they truly do believe this. Yet they see evidence on a daily basis that they are, in fact, Church controlled and micromanaged.

Meanwhile, who takes credit for every “win” in these sectors? And who exaggerates those wins and even lies about them? David Miscavige and the Church of course. Just as they lie about their own statistics and numbers, they lie about ABLE numbers, groups and connections.  Remember that speech given at the New Year’s event in 2007, where David Miscavige claimed that the distribution of the booklet is aided by “corporate tie ins,” mentioning 7-Eleven, Coca-Cola, Philips, and Dell by name as companies who use this outreach to augment their “Third World image problems.” After a video of the speech was released  to YouTube in February 2008. A spokesman for Dell told the Los Angeles Times: “We’ve got no affiliation with the Church of Scientology … it’s not our practice to disseminate religious materials of any kind”, and representatives from Philips and 7-Eleven also told the Los Angeles Times that their companies do not disseminate religious materials.

So let’s see – the Church of Scientology doesn’t financially support these ABLE groups, but takes money from them. They provide no real management or guidance, but instead harass them for more and more money. And they then take credit for everything ABLE does. And lie about the numbers and expansion.

Gee, sounds like exactly how they treat the Orgs.

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19 Comments
  1. AlexMetheny permalink
    May 8, 2010 9:48 pm

    Hi Jeff,

    Sounds right!

    I have a friend who works at the Atlanta Narconon and she told me that they are 9 weeks behind in paying the staff there. The Executive director is on OT 7 and pays a lot to the Idle Org projects while ignoring her own staff’s pay. This lady told me that she is afraid to do anything for fear of getting into trouble with the local org.

    She also told ne that the ethics officer there tried to put ethics in on the ED and that the ED then fired the ethics officer for a “power push” against her!! Who does that sound like?? She is a mini DM-bot.

    Alex

  2. Fidelio permalink
    May 8, 2010 9:49 pm

    Whatever you take, wherever you look it’s knitted the same pattern of fraud, lies, obfuscation and betrayal of the very best people and sabotage of the very best intentions.

    Thank you Jeff for another piece of urgently necessary enlightenment.
    Fidelio

  3. May 8, 2010 10:12 pm

    dianetics and scientology were a game once. to a point.
    I 1965 (IMHO) LRH made it “deadly serious activity” with KSW #1.

  4. May 9, 2010 12:00 am

    Thanks Jeff. So many scientologists still in the bubble think they’re doing good when they support these groups. I know I did.

  5. Aeolus permalink
    May 9, 2010 12:27 am

    Jeff,
    You have confirmed what I suspected about the IAS “sponsoring” these social betterment activities. I know someone at Narconon Int and she says the money only flows one way – uplines. There was also a lot of resentment there when they were ordered to buy tons of books to support the Basics campaign. When the organization couldn’t come up with income for that, they were forced to take the money out of reserves, in violation of every finance policy LRH ever wrote.

    The books are now sitting in a warehouse. I suppose the idea was to sell Basics packages to the recovering drug addicts. Or perhaps upper management didn’t have any plan for how the books would be used. They were just extorting money wherever they could.

  6. Satori permalink
    May 9, 2010 12:57 am

    You’re one hell of a writer. You really know how to weave it together, keep us interested, and the denouements are subtle, enjoyable, almost sweet due to a touch of humor. Your integrity and honesty come through, and always nudging us to face up to facts and reality. Kid you not, LOVE reading your articles. Hope you write a book someday.

    Satori

    • Martin permalink
      May 9, 2010 1:13 pm

      It’s already done: http://counterfeitdreams.blogspot.com/ is MUST READ material.

      On the matter of ABLE funding, I think many, if not most rank and file Scns know there is something wrong, you can just “smell” it a mile off. The reason I wasn’t more brave in asking questions is that because there is so little transparency, it becomes easy for the Church to give fob-off generalities that the money is being used for great “4th Dynamic campaigns” and therefore any questioning of the fact is “enemy lines”, “entheta” or “suppressive”. Asking any pertinent questions no matter how legitimate in the current scene is a losing game, and every scientologist onlines knows that.

  7. Karen permalink
    May 9, 2010 1:05 am

    I think Fidelio said it perfectly. Creating DM tech inside the church wasn’t good enough. To make sure that all of LRH’s tech was destroyed, he had to include the social betterment activities. Couldn’t leave anything to chance, if people get better then the truth might come out. I’m not a conspiracy hound but looking at the whole devastation of LRH tech seems like a bigger game than just DM.

  8. lunamoth permalink
    May 9, 2010 1:39 am

    What do you think of when you think of a private school? Clean-cut kids in uniforms, college-prep curriculum, posh classrooms and superior education?

    How about a student body with a high-percentage of problem kids and those who have been expelled from numerous prior schools, or kids with no academic interest or aptitude, but who happen to have basketball skills? How about “teachers” with no teacher training, usually no college degree, and often no background in the subjects they teach? Add to that staff pay that doesn’t even approach what public school teachers make, no benefits, no overtime, demanding hours, and roach- and rat-infested
    campuses, even in the high-rent neighborhoods. THAT’s the average Applied Scholastics school.

    With no funding from tax money, an ApS school is self-supporting. But because it’s also supporting dm’s slush fund, there is never enough money. School staff become magicians, able to do their jobs with nearly or absolutely nothing. But the kids suffer. Potential is wasted. Exchange with the parents and the students is below what parents have a right to expect. But all this is rationalized because the schools deliver study tech (debatable), and have a zero-tolerance for student drug use (this is real, and IMO makes a difference).

    And every staff member learns early on that when speaking to public, any ties to the church are denied or obfuscated.

    • Karen permalink
      May 9, 2010 3:00 pm

      Lunamoth,

      I know that you have quite an opinion on APS schools and so do I. Since you said the majority of them, I will grant you that generality. But, I have a different personal observation, having worked at Delphi for 17 years. Now, from what I hear these days, Delphi seems to have lost some of it’s integrity, particularly in the LA area. But, it wasn’t always that way and the problems expressed may be related to certain Delphi’s more than others.

      You suggested, “What do you think of when you think of a private school? Clean-cut kids in uniforms, college-prep curriculum, posh classrooms and superior education?”

      Well, the Delphi in Santa Clara was just that. It didn’t start out that way, it evolved. We went from a who are you school to a reputed prestigious school in roughly 7 years. We were always in the top 3 private schools of choice and our student body was roughly 75% non Scientologist. Yes, the tuition is on the higher side but it is not the highest. It is on par for other schools of its caliber. All the staff had benefits and pay was below public school teacher standards but it wasn’t that horrible. There was even an option for profit sharing.

      Although the teachers were generally not credentialed, they were trained, very thoroughly. I have absolute certainty that I would do superbly in any other school system that would accept a non-credentialed teacher. I agree that there should be specialized teachers which in most schools was somewhat lacking but the general education and academic understandings were quite high, documented by test scores. We hired specialists to come in particularly in music and science. The two other competitive schools only accepted people who were in the top 90%, we accepted remedial on a provisionary basis. If you had the money and were willing to work hard, you were allowed in. We did not include high school so I can’t personally give a viewpoint on that.

      All of our parents knew that the staff were primarily Scientologist, they sign a form stating they know this. Hubbard’s work was in the forefront at all times and the study tech, ethics and qual tech were very respected. Since we were non-sectarian, dissemination could only be done with people who were your friends, outside of the school and only from as a personal matter. It was done but on a limited number of people. As far as ABLE went, well they were in the web of all the ABLE dictates.

      I loved working there and feel proud of my products. I definately gained an understanding of what LRH wrote regarding education. Although there is a need for prestigious schools, I think there should be availability of the tech at all levels. Charter schools is probably the best way to achieve this as it’s affordable but allowed a broader guideline in terms of curriculum. Also literacy groups, such as those done by Isaac Hayes.

      • lunamoth permalink
        May 9, 2010 6:47 pm

        Karen,

        Thank you for pointing out the exception to this. I neglected to do so, but you are right.

        I have first-hand experience with a number of Applied Scholastics schools, and only second-hand knowledge of Delphi schools, and I agree with everything you’ve said
        about Delphi. It’s the only exception I will readily concede, and I do concede it happily.

        Delphi is structured on the prep school model, and I believe that its success lies in that;
        high academic standards and traditional education. Of the several schools I have been
        affiiliated with, I found the individuals staffing most ApS schools cared a great deal, for the most part, about kids, literacy and creating a new civilization through a renaissance in education. Knowing how to do that, however, is another thing.

        So yes, Delphi would be a real exception to what I was describing, but then Delphi is by no means your “average Applied Scholastics school!”

    • Just a Girl permalink
      May 14, 2010 6:06 pm

      Karen, since I neither worked nor sent my kids to Delphi, I will trust what you say is true. I’m glad you pointed out the differences and that you had a good experience as a staffer there. You absolutely made a difference with your students–and I’m sure they and their parents were grateful and happy you were there. 🙂

      Luna, I agree with what you’ve said, having been through so much crap as a parent as well as an ApS staffer at more than one school. What I’ve observed at pretty much each one: Study tech is almost completely absent and kids are not taught at ApS schools; they are at the very best somewhat supervised.

      One school had terrible financial problems, and it was par for the course to get a phone call from the person in charge toward the end of the month asking for the following month’s tuition a little early.

      Another ApS school was, until the person in charge put an end to it, nothing more than a recruiting pool for the SO. I don’t regret many of the decisions I’ve made about my life, but I completely regret the “on-source” education I chose for my kids. Onward and upward.

  9. Freetothink permalink
    May 9, 2010 3:37 am

    Jeff you’re so spot on! I was never on staff but I was very involved with many ABLE programs in my area. I constantly would have to assert that we were not the Church & not involved with the Church to City/Government Officials. But I was constantly pressured to report my stats to the Church & pressured to increase my stats. I was getting no support from ABLE other than demand (harassment) for stats & wrong assignment of conditions. The tools are great but the way the Organization is manage totally sucks!

  10. liesbegone permalink
    May 9, 2010 4:37 am

    Here’s for another IAS money waster:
    Our org is the proud owner of 2 massive VM tents both of which are lying dormant in storage.
    Both have been used only once or twice so the Gold Film Crew could have footage for the next international event. These things take 3 to 4 hours to set up. They don’t fit in your average street fair or market due to their size. They are completely non surveyed items and serve only one purpose: Make it seem as if unprecedented expansion is happening under the reigns of you-know-who…
    Thanks Jeff for giving us the inside scoop. It is badly needed.

  11. May 9, 2010 3:42 pm

    “Follow the Money”

    I tried:
    http://www.xenu-directory.net/documents/corporate/990s-aggregatesummaries.php

    “Church of Scientology doesn’t financially support these ABLE groups, but takes money from them.”

    Example: $25-million in accumulated capital in only three years sent to Church of Scientology International, through its subsidiary Social Betterment Properties International (of which Mike Rinder was a director):
    http://www.xenu-directory.net/documents/corporate/990s-transactions.php?&ft=Social+Betterment+Properties+International

    Of course there is more. Books bought by these front groups also benefit BPI, another CSI’s subisdiary.

    Since Scientology front groups’ assets have kept growing since the big capital movements to CSI et al., I expect there will be more to come soon. I haven’t gone through the latest financial statements though, maybe I should get busy with this..

  12. freespirit permalink
    May 9, 2010 10:09 pm

    Jeff- You are incredibly sharp and you GET IT. I am extremely impressed by your thought process, and your integrity in communicating your observations and the observations of others. From reading the posts, I am saddened to see that it has gotten much,much worse over the years. The goals and purposes of these groups have been perverted – they are seen as a big income source, rather than vehicles for actually solving some of the most serious barriers to freedom on this planet. DM and the Church have no intent of clearing the planet or eliminating the major barriers to clearing. It’s sad to see how many Scientologists and ABLE members are being duped, duped, duped.

    • May 10, 2010 5:31 pm

      freespirit: “Church have no intent of clearing the planet or eliminating the major barriers to clearing.”

      I’m happy to hear this. I think most people don’t want to be Scientology-“cleared.” Even less so when it’s done fraudulently through misrepresentation (these “betterment” programs are branded “secular” while it’s entirely based on Scientology tenets), which, by the way has been going on also before David Miscavige took over.

      freespirit: “I am saddened to see that it has gotten much,much worse over the years”

      This is a quote from a newspaper article dated Oct. 1981:

      [begin quote]
      There, according to Rezendez, the Narconon official warned the newsman he was “a small fish in a big sea with a lot of f•cking sharks” and that he was dealing with “an interplanetary organization.” Barber allegedly promised to come after Rezendez with “hobnailed boots,” and said “I will kick your ass up into your throat if I ever catch you f•cking around with Narconon.”
      [end quote]

      What was less worst back then?

  13. Another Layer permalink
    May 11, 2010 3:53 am

    Dear Jeff,

    Due to two dear friends who are on OTVII, I remain under the radar. But today, I finally just had to thank you for constantly extending that exquisite invitation to look, engage, and then look again. This was one of my greatest wins from KTL, and it’s beautiful to feel it rise again without duress or censure. Thank you.

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