Scientological Separations: a Divorce and a potential Schism

The Scientology Center of Tel Aviv (I took this one this summer)

There has been a lot about Scientology in the news recently, because of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’s impending divorce.  It’s all over the news.  It’s on Gawker and HuffPo (you can find that garbage yourself) and in legitimate sources like the New York Times (“For Scientologists, Divorce No Simple Matter”) and ones in the middle like Slate (“Why Are Scientologists Crying?“).  But it’s all about Scientology and divorce, which, despite the Times headline, is actually pretty boring.  Sometimes stories get close to interesting things (OMGz, Katie took Suri out of a Scientology school and put her in a Catholic one!) but then generally don’t ask the next set of interesting questions (the answers to which can be found here in a Slate article from 2011: “What Will Suri Learn in her Scientology Influenced School?“).

It’s sad that “TomKat” breaking up has caused more articles about Scientology than the New York’s profile of Paul Haggis/expose of Scientology did last year.  We’re talking about an organization that is accuse of slavery with some regularity. There was a great blog post, with pictures, of all the unpaid work Sea Org members did customizing Tom Cruise’s car, for instance (though I can’t find it now).  Sea Org has billion-year contacts, and its members are technically considered “unpaid volunteers”–see for instance, this article in the Village Voice.  The Village Voice has, hands down, the best Scientology coverage that I know of. Slate also tends to have good Scientology coverage–one of my favorite stories describes what one does on a Scientology cruise ship.

Anyway, this is not the big Scientology scandal that I expected this year, which is a disappointment.  I was very excited at the beginning of the year, when it looked like a true believer with credibility within the community was going to challenge the petit-dictateur David Miscavage theologically.  On New Years Day this year, a well respected Scientologist named Debbie Cook basically mass-emailed 95 Thesis to everyone important in the Scientology community (you can read an annotated copy, where else?,  on the Village Voice’s blog).  I was excited, I thought I was going to be reading about the leadership crisis in Scientology every but…. nothing.

The Great Scientology Schism still might happen.  There have been isolated defectors throughout Scientology’s history, but while the world was waiting for details of this “Scientology divorce”, for the first time, an entire Church mission defected to “independent Scientology”.  Again, this move was by people well-respected within the movement who love Scientology and hate David Miscavage (“Tami has been recognized by the church as the world’s best auditor, in 2000 and 2002.”).  And, to boot, the whole process of disaffiliation was set in motion by Cook’s email.  There still might be reckoning by the time the year is out.  This is a story to watch…

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