ScientologyReligion.org includes a “Scientology 101” primer for Scientology’s background, beliefs, studies, recognitions, theological validation from religious and religion law scholars and clergy, an interactive map of global recognitions and an extensive web resource for religious freedom intended to benefit all people of faith.
The ever industrious Church of Scientology launched a new website this week at ScientologyReligion.org with an extensive collection of information on religious freedom and scholarly works touting the authenticity of Scientology as a bona fide religion.
Scientology is a relatively new religion, founded in the 1950’s by L. Ron Hubbard. While the site states that Scientology has roots in religions that are thousands of years old, Scientology itself did not exist until the middle of the 20th century and as a result, Scientology, like all new religions historically, has experienced criticism and setbacks to being viewed as a legitimate and legal religion in some countries. The new site and surprisingly, non-Scientologist experts therein, endeavors to address this and make clear that Scientology encompasses everything that defines a religion i.e., theological doctrines, scripture, beliefs and practices, global adherents, charitable works and houses of worship. Addressing the challenges as a new religion that the Church has faced over the years, the ScientologyReligion.org site also documents the Church’s landmark religion law victories in cases questioning its IRS tax exemption status and its legal battles to be recognized as a religion.
— Scientology (@Scientology) October 11, 2016
Perhaps due to these legal challenges, controversies and the empathy for religious tolerance it’s accrued the hard way as a new religion, ScientologyReligion.org makes an extra effort to articulate that the Church of Scientology throughout its history, has always fought for religious freedom for all as a basic human right. The issue of religious freedom is a repeating constant throughout the site.
Freedom of Religion
Freedom of religion is a hot topic around the world and especially right here in the United States over the last several years. Can a bakery refuse to bake a cake for someone based on religious beliefs? Can a Kentucky county clerk refuse to issue marriage licenses based on her religion? Can a pharmacist decline to fill a patient’s prescription for birth control if it’s against his religion?
In Russia, President Vladimir Putin approved the “Yarovaya Law” restricting civil liberties such as preaching and proselytization unless it’s in “specially designated spaces,” which goes against international human rights and religious freedom standards. This has affected all religions most visibly, the Mormon missionaries in Russia.
In launching ScientologyReligion.org, the Church of Scientology appears to have taken a bold and somewhat unique step to confront the very complex issue of “Freedom of Religion” and seemingly, based on the care taken to present the content, not only for its own benefit, but for the benefit of other religions and their adherents as well.
The site’s What is Freedom of Religion online booklet is an example of this and is “designed to inform the public regarding the detailed and complex nature of the right to freedom of religion for believers and religious organizations of every faith.” In my experience as a religion news writer, many people do not even know the true definition of religious freedom and what their rights are. This booklet attempts to help make the human right to freedom of religion, crystal clear. Additionally, at a time when credible journalism is being challenged by the net, a need for speed and social media clickbait, the Church authored booklet also includes a section titled “Charter on Journalistic Ethics in Relation to Respect for Religion or Belief” within the site setting standards for journalists everywhere, myself included I assume, to report the truth and take responsibility to respect ethical and moral standards when doing so. One thing I noticed about the booklet, there’s no downloadable .pdf version, which I think would be helpful.
The What is Freedom of Religion? booklet includes:
I. L. Ron Hubbard, the Church of Scientology and Religious Freedom
II. Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Bill of Human Rights
III. A Universal Human Right
IV. Rising Tide of Global Assault
V. Far–reaching and Profound
VI. Absolute and Unconditional Right of Belief
VII. Two Dimensions
VIII. Freedom to Manifest a Religion or Belief
IX. Rights of Religious Minorities
X. Rights of Parents and Children
XI. Freedom from Coercion
XII. Freedom from Discrimination
XIII. Rights of Employers, Employees and Volunteers
XIV. Formation, Registration or Recognition of Legal Religious Entities
XV. Limitations Strictly Interpreted
XVI. Religious Freedom: A Fundamental Right
XVII. Rising Social Hostility against Religion in the Media
XVIII. Charter on Journalistic Ethics in Relation to Respect for Religion or Belief
Google Trends “Freedom of Religion” Search Interest, Worldwide
Religion Experts Validate Scientology as a Legitimate Religion
The new ScientologyReligion.org site goes to great lengths to point out that many religious experts, courts, and government agencies have recognized Scientology as a bona fide and true religion and offers third party religion and religion law experts and studies to prove it. I found some of this content stunningly surprising, for example, a Rabbi and a Baptist pastor extolling the true religious nature of Scientology is not someone one see’s every day. This is bold content on behalf of the Church that heretofore to my knowledge, hasn’t existed on the web and it will be interesting to see how the world reacts to it.
- Rabbi Michael Shevack, Adjunct Professor, Comparative Religion, who says “I take L. Ron Hubbard’s work seriously as religious literature. I look at it theologically the same way I would look at the various denominations within Judaism, the various denominations of Christianity—so I look at it seriously.”
- Rev. Joseph J. Jones Senior, Pastor, Mount Hermon Baptist Church, who says “So many people are hurting. So many people are lost. So many people want help and don’t know how to even ask for it or who to ask. To have the Church of Scientology here at this time to be another vehicle of support for the help that people need is amazing. Absolutely amazing.”
- Prof. Emeritus Rimon Kasher, Professor of Biblical Studies, Bar-Ilan University, who says “It is doubtful that there is any other religion with a universal aspect that is so prominent. Scientology does not seek to inherit or cancel other religions but comes to give another dimension to them which does not negate or conflict with any of their principles.”
- Ernie Vonck Professor of Religious Anthropology, Faculty for Comparative Religion who says “Ron Hubbard’s legacy—in a way some people will do and people will compare and for some people it’s like comparing the Bible or the Talmud or whatever, because his words which are written down—he wrote them himself—they will keep on forever.”
- Dr. David Bennett AC, QC and former Solicitor General of Australia who says “This argument in the end led the High Court to remove many of the restrictions affecting the meaning of religion. And all those years ago, the High Court judges recognized that Scientology was a religion, one of the judges describing that proposition as ‘irresistible.’ “
The Religious Expertises Studies
The new site includes 28 studies by religious academics, scholars and theologians.
One study, “Is Scientology a Religion?,” legal scholar and Methodist minister Dean M. Kelley addresses the question of “whether Scientology is a religion in a legal sense,” including according to criteria then acknowledged by the Internal Revenue Service in the United States. His findings were based on interviews conducted with twenty-one Scientologists at Churches in Sacramento, California; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Washington, DC; and Clearwater, Florida. “The purpose of the interviews was not to determine the teaching or tenets of Scientology,” he asserts, “but to determine what Scientology was doing for the adherent.” With this perspective in mind, he observed that Scientology occupied a centrally important role in the lives of his interviewees and provided a means to overcome personal problems, such as “drug addiction, alcoholism, frustration, aimlessness, depression, or a sense of futility,” and in the process realize their true nature as spiritual beings through the practicality of Dianetics and Scientology.
In another, “Religious Philosophy, Religion and Church,” by Gerhardus Cornelius (G. C.) (Pippin) Oosthuizen, Th.D., a South African professor, compares the religion to others such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Judaism, and Christianity, concluding “Scientology is indeed a religion, though its status as a new religion means that it expresses its theology and practices in ways that are sometimes different than other traditions.” Christiaan Vonck, Ph.D., in his 1996 article declared “Scientology shares some characteristics with other religions but is, for its believers, a unique path that links them to the spiritual and the divine.”
In another, “Scientology: The Marks of a Religion,” Professor Frank K. Flinn lists three marks, or characteristics, of religion: beliefs or doctrines about the nature of life; religious practices, including rituals and norms for behavior; and communal life that emerges out of these beliefs, doctrines and practices.
In another I found particularly eye catching, “Scientology and Islam: An Analogous Study,” Haji Muhammad al-Qaaim Safa Sawada compares Scientology and Islam, enhanced by his perspective as a Muslim living in Japan. Numerous parallels between the two religions are presented, including an affirmation of the spiritual nature of humanity, the inherent goodness of humanity, and respect for the religious beliefs of others. “Islam and Scientology have some similarities,” Mr. Sawada observes. “The pursuit of knowledge and wisdom are highest amongst them. They both wish to elevate and free man. Both have the deep and most-respected beliefs of other religions and sectarian practices. Both have been persecuted in the media unfairly with blatantly false information spread about them. Both have prospered in the face of this. However, it is the belief that man can be helped that brings these two religions into study by this writer, and this writer believes that both religions have not only much to offer to mankind but to each other as well.”
In another, “Scientology, Social Science and the Definition of Religion,” Professor James A. Beckford examines the ways in which Scientology amply satisfies traditional social-scientific definitions of religion. These include functional definitions (those that focus attention on how religions operate individually and socially) and substantive definitions (those that focus on specific properties by which a religion may be identified and differentiated from non-religion). “My conclusion,” writes Dr. Beckford, “is that Scientology, whilst clearly differing from the majority of Christian churches, denominations and sects in beliefs, practices and organizational structures, nevertheless satisfies the criteria conventionally applied by social scientists in distinguishing between religion and non-religion.”
The world's foremost experts in the fields of comparative religion agree that Scientology is a world religion. https://t.co/Bv9txWIFb6
— Scientology (@Scientology) October 14, 2016
Scientology International Recognitions Interactive Map[/caption]The new ScientologyReligion.org site includes an interactive map allowing a click in any given regional spot to take the visitor to a status page for that region and a detailed explanation of Scientology’s religious recognition in that region.
A few click destination examples from the map:
Background, Beliefs and Practices
This section includes the ‘Creeds and Codes’ of Scientology and includes ‘The Creed of the Church of Scientology,’ ‘The Auditor’s Code,’ ‘The Code of Honor,’ ‘The Code of A Scientologist,’ ‘Supervisor’s Code,’ ‘Credo of a True Group Member,’ ‘Credo of a Good and Skilled Manager,’ ‘The Aims of Scientology,’ ‘The Axioms of Scientology,’ ‘The Bridge to Total Freedom’ and information about Church founder L. Ron Hubbard.
The Creed of the Church of Scientology
We of the Church believe
That all men of whatever race, color or creed were created with equal rights.
That all men have inalienable rights to their own religious practices and their performance.
That all men have inalienable rights to their own lives.
That all men have inalienable rights to their sanity.
That all men have inalienable rights to their own defense.
That all men have inalienable rights to conceive, choose, assist or support their own organizations, churches and governments.
That all men have inalienable rights to think freely, to talk freely, to write freely their own opinions and to counter or utter or write upon the opinions of others.
That all men have inalienable rights to the creation of their own kind.
That the souls of men have the rights of men.
That the study of the Mind and the healing of mentally caused ills should not be alienated from religion or condoned in nonreligious fields.
And that no agency less than God has the power to suspend or set aside these rights, overtly or covertly.
And we of the Church believe
That Man is basically good.
That he is seeking to Survive.
That his survival depends upon himself and upon his fellows and his attainment of brotherhood with the Universe.
And we of the Church believe that the laws of God forbid Man
To destroy his own kind.
To destroy the sanity of another.
To destroy or enslave another’s soul.
To destroy or reduce the survival of one’s companions or one’s group.
And we of the Church believe
That the spirit can be saved.
And that the spirit alone may save or heal the body.
The Scientology Religion Blog
This section includes global news related to religious freedom issues. Thus far, it appears the Church is updating the blog once per day. For those concerned with bias, it should be noted that there are numerous third party sources cited so perhaps the Church is attempting to create a definitive news resource on the web around the topic of religious freedom, we’ll see.
ScientologyReligion.org – A New Style of Communication by the Church
As we zoom through the 21st century, all religions are challenged in finding new ways to communicate and proselytize to the masses that are contemporary yet adherent to the dignity and reverence a religion requires. Digital and web approaches that were once taboo are being embraced by just about every religion as is evidenced on a church or religion marketing sites like ChurchMarketingSucks.com, Outreach.com, and the United Methodist’s Church Marketing Plan Tool. In addition, the Church of Scientology, ever present in the news it seems for one reason or another, has its own set of unique challenges in communicating to the masses in digital and social.
In creating and launching ScientologyReligion.org, it’s clear that the Church of Scientology has consciously endeavored to create a site that utilizes both Scientology scripture, testimony and data as well as third party data to substantiate the bona fide positioning of the Scientology religion.
Time will tell whether or not the new site will positively impact the public, media, and religious community in the way that the Church appears to hope for but clearly, the Church of Scientology is “planting a flag” with this site and declaring “we’re a true religion and we’re here to stay.”
- What is Freedom of Religion?
- World Religion News – “Bakers Who Refused Same-sex Couple Now Refuse to Pay Settlement”
- World Religion News – “Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis Sent to Jail on Charges of Contempt of Court”
- World Religion News – “Pharmacies Can’t Use Religious Belief as Exemption from Dispensing Medication Says Court of Appeals”
- World Religion News – “Putin’s Yarovaya Laws Violate Human Rights and Religious Freedom”