Dear Progressives and Atheists,
There is a serious problem in America that demands our attention. There is a growing threat that has largely gone unchecked, and one which is permitted to hoard wealth, tear families apart and to flout the law—all under the guise of religion.
I speak, of course, of Scientology, and my intent is to explain why Scientology needs to be brought to heel and why we should all be eager to see that happen.
Founded in 1953, Scientology is centered around the book “Dianetics” by L. Ron Hubbard and, depending on who you talk to, is a secretive religion that believes in either using special technology to rid yourself of bad thoughts or that you’re possessed by an alien soul murdered by a galactic overlord 75 million years ago.
However, the problem with Scientology is the belief system. It’s how the “church” is able to hoard hundreds of millions of dollars which it then uses to blackmail people and destroy lives all within the boundaries of U.S. law.
For example, take the tax-exemption status bestowed upon the church in 1993. Initially, the group had the designation taken away in 1967 when the IRS determined it was more a commercial entity than a religion.
But a lengthy New York Times report from 1997 details how the Scientologists threw money at paying private investigators to dig up dirt, filing lawsuits and hiring whistleblowers to basically browbeat the IRS into submission.
Details on the terms of the exemption are sealed, officials were silenced, and still, none of what the organization did was against the law. Yet these laws have not been changed.
Couple this with Donald Trump’s recent pledge to repeal the Johnson Amendment, a rule that blocks churches and nonprofits from intervening in political campaigns, and every atheist and progressive should be troubled.
The idea that established religions (those that have been around for more than 64 years) don’t have to pay their fair share of taxes—and that they could soon be permitted to inject that money into a democratic process already tainted with donor dollars— is infuriating enough.
But to think Scientology, whose atrocities are well-documented, would be able to use its estimated $1.4 billion in wealth to make policy, while essentially operating as a criminal enterprise pushing junk pseudo-science, is deeply distressing.
It’s also important to remember this “church”, has tentacles reaching all across the world, and while the organization basically gets a pass in America, countries like Germany, England, Belgium, France, and even Russia, view Scientology as less of a religion and more of a scam that needs to be kept in check.
For far too long in America this affront to decency and common sense has been allowed to operate in broad daylight largely due to two factors: campaigns of intimidation and fear used to silence opposition, and money. Millions upon millions of dollars in cold-hard, tax-exempt cash.
And they’re on the move. Right now, they’re planning to use their signature intimidation tactics to set up their own business district in Florida, a proposal seemingly put together in secrecy. This has to stop.
Of course, it will take more than just the atheists or progressives to change our laws, to hold those that break the law accountable, and to ultimately do away with dark money and any influence religion has in our lives.
Plus, Americans in general support these ideas. Polls show most believe there should be a clear line separating church and state, and that we need to get money out of politics.
Progressives, and the atheists who identify with them, will surely continue fighting for these ideas, but just like we are searching for officials to get the money out of politics and to keep state and church separate, we should also be looking for people with the courage to stand up to Scientology and work to hold the organization accountable.
Yes, this would be a political win, but more importantly, it would deliver justice to those who’ve been adversely affected by the organization and to all those who’ve lost and suffered because of it.
Just like it’s easy to see why Scientology has to go, it’s also clear that progressives and atheists have the public support, the right ideas and a direct interest in making that happen. As we resist and participate in other fights, this is something we need to consider and incorporate into our respective struggles going forward.
Edited by Lydia McMullen-Laird and Samuel McMullen