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11 Intimidation Tactics Scientology Uses Against Its Enemies

Updated August 20, 2019 22.3k views11 items
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If you speak out against the Church of Scientology, you can expect retaliation. The organization is known for its intimidation tactics and belligerence towards its detractors. And if you decide to leave the Church, matters can be even worse - you can be declared a Suppressive Person. Scientology can wage open war against. Scientologists intimidate their enemies with constant harassment, frivolous lawsuits, investigations from private investigators, and even thinly-veiled death threats. 

Why the surveillance and hostility? It's built into the religion. Perceived transgressors become subject to Scientology's "Fair Game" policy, a supposedly now-defunct practice devised by the organization's founder, L. Ron Hubbard. It essentially calls for a no-holds barred attack on any enemy - they may be "tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed."

This list explores Scientology's retaliatory methods and the lengths members will go to protect their church. Read on for more shocking revelations.

  • Death Threats

    Photo: Cory Doctorow / via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

    Charles Berner was an early follower of L. Ron Hubbard, and served as president of the Church of Scientology in California from 1954-57. In 1965, however, Berner and Hubbard had a falling out over what Berner perceived as unethical practices by the Church's leader. That same year, Hubbard instituted the "Fair Game" policy, which gave Church members carte blanche to smear and harass "Suppressed Persons" whom they deemed to be their enemies. 

    The exiled Berner moved to Lucerne Valley, California with his wife, where he received his "Fair Game Order" in the fall of 1965. Over the next several years, he received a series of threatening letters, one of which recommended that he "R2-45 himself" - a practice in Scientology where one places a Colt 45 to their head and pulls the trigger.

  • Framing You For Felonies

    In the late 1960s, Paulette Cooper began publishing a series of articles for London-based Queen magazine about a new fad religion called Scientology. Her investigative work culminated in her 1972 book, The Scandal of Scientology, an exposé that was one of the first critical books on the Church.

    In response, Cooper received death threats and was sued 19 times - and was framed for a felony. The Church had gotten ahold of a piece of paper bearing one of Cooper's fingerprints, and they used it to forge a bomb threat, which they then mailed it to themselves. Cooper was arrested and indicted, and faced up to 15 years in prison, before an FBI investigation absolved her of any wrongdoing.

  • Killing Your Dog

    Photo: tangdersons / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Though many of the intimidation tactics used by Scientology have come to light in recent years, the Church has seemingly been harassing people for decades. In 1990, the Los Angeles Times began a five-year series by Joel Sappell and Robert Welkos that offered the first major exposure of the Church's secrets and practices. Predictably, the pieces were not endorsed by David Miscavige and his followers, and the Church took extreme measures to stop Sappell and Welkos from reporting.

    When the stories first hit newsstands they made international headlines. The Times, recognizing a volatile situation, sent Sappell and Welkos to San Diego for a few days until things cooled down. While Sappell was in San Diego, he received a phone call from his wife Linda: his dog, Crystal, an otherwise healthy animal, had been frothing and seizing uncontrollably. Crystal had to be put down. Circumstantial evidence suggests that the dog was poisoned by the Church, and Scientologists continued to harass the journalists for years.

  • Aggressive Surveillance

    Video: YouTube

    In 2004, Marty Rathbun fled the Church of Scientology after being a member for 27 years. Rathbun had climbed the Church's ranks all the way to a number-two role behind leader David Miscavige. Considering the prominent position he held, Rathbun's departure was received incredibly poorly. 

    As a retaliation for his exit and subsequent speaking out against the Church's mistreatment of its members, Rathbun and his wife Monique became targets of a group of Scientologists called the "Squirrel Busters." This group, under the guise of "working on a documentary," camped outside of the Rathbun's Texas home for hours every day, filming their every move. 

    A freelance videographer named Bert Leahy came clean to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times in August of 2011 about being hired by the Church - specifically by a man named David Statter - at a fee of $2,000 a week to harass the Rathbuns: "Dave flat-out said our goal is to make Marty's life a living hell. That's a quote. He never said 'stalk,' but he said make Marty's life a living hell with every means possible of impeding his everyday living, and make it so miserable for him and his neighbors that his neighbors will want him to move."