Thursday, May 01, 2008

Call an End to "Pay and Obey" Scientology

It's no secret that I don't agree with a great deal of Scientology's weltanschauung, but nevertheless I do believe that it is an individual's right to believe in whatever they may wish to, on the proviso that that belief does not damage in any way anyone who does not share that belief, or encroach on their freedom.
There appears, with the emergence of various websites written from, if you like, a post-Church Scientology perspective, that there is a growing wave of dissent against the current Church's hierarchy, its staff and its policies. The trouble is that due to its fascistic nature, the brandishing of ethics as a weapon against dissent, its use of KSW as a means of keeping parishioners and staff in line, it is difficult and often impossible for that dissent to find a stong enough position to have an effect on the Church.
Another poster on ARS has called attention to the child-abuse scandals that have beset the Roman Catholic Church, and this provides a very powerful allegory for dissenting Scientologists. This is covered in great detail in the Clay Shirky book Here Comes Everybody. Priests who were guilty of child abuse were being protected by the Church; and unpalatable and unacceptable state of affairs, but within the parishioner / church relationship there was no mechanism in existence that could counter it. Legal actions were derailed by the church's attempts to cover up what was going on.
The thing that finally empowered the parishioners, and allowed a victory against the church, was the networking tools available on the internet. By some coincidence, the difference that the internet had over such a situation can be clearly seen; two separate, but near indentical, scandals broke out, the first in 1992, the second in 2002. In each case a pressure group was formed, but the one that was able to utilise modern communication technology was the one that won through. The ability to quickly and cheaply spread the scandal far and wide, and attract an interest in doing something about it made all the difference.
Voice of the Faithful was set up by Catholics frustrated with the conspiracy of silence and the browbeating that their Church was perpetrating against its parishioners. The initial membership of 30 meeting up in a church basement quickly grew, such that in a few months the group had amassed 25,000 supporters; a single body stretching over diocesan borders the world over - a post-geographic organisation fighting against (or rather for) a geographically demarcated body.
The RCC were unable to quash the movement, and some six years after its conception, the VotF have become a genuine force for laity representation in Church matters, having brought about a bedrock for reform, and even successfully campaigning for the resignation of corrupt church staff. It should serve as a beacon of hope for any Scientologist who feels that the Church no longer represents their faith, that their Church could quite feasibly be brought to order, that all it would take is the strength that comes from parishioner unity.
The relatively small size of the Church of Scientology might make what Voice of the Faithful achieved seem only a pipedream, but consider that, with a smaller parishioner base, the power yielded by each individual parishioner is far greater. If the rules and policies that you operate under forbid such union and affirmative action, then perhaps that is where your reformation should begin; the RCC tried to insist that VotF follow diocesan boundaries; VotF simply refused. KSW serves to keep any existant rot in place, which surely is not its purpose.
With CoS in such a state of chaos, it seems the moment is ripe for the Church to be refashioned by its grass-roots laity into something worthy and respectable. If you want to read more about the VotF story, here are some links to get you started:

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