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Why has Scientology sometimes been described as controversial?
Like all new ideas, Scientology has come under attack by the uninformed and those who feel their vested interests are threatened. As Scientologists have openly and effectively advocated social reform causes, they have become the target of attacks. For those vested interests who cling to a status quo that is detrimental to society, Scientology’s technology of making the able more able and teaching people to think for themselves poses a serious threat.
This conflict dates back to 1950, a time when psychiatry was entrenched among the United States intelligence services and living off the fat of government grants. In May of that year, L. Ron Hubbard published Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. Not only did Dianetics contain the first workable technology of the mind that anyone could apply, but it also labeled their “state-of-the-art” psychiatric drugs as dangerous. Moreover, it decried the inhuman use of electroshock treatment and lobotomy—then the mainstay of psychiatric “treatment”. One cannot overestimate the threat that Dianetics posed to that psychiatric establishment, both in terms of its inherent message and its unprecedented popularity with the American public; for suddenly here was a work that effectively ripped away their pretense of authority.
The response was immediate and considerable. Less than a month after the publication of Dianetics, psychiatrists on government payrolls were denigrating the book as a hoax, while admitting in the same breath that they had never even read it. A handful of influential psychiatrists used their government connections to spread lies and false reports through media and government files, escalating into an all-out attempt to close down the Dianetics foundations which had sprung up across the country and later, after its formation in 1954, the Church of Scientology. The issue was clearly financial: how long could psychiatrists continue to convince the American taxpayer to foot the bill for multimillion dollar psychiatric appropriations when Dianetics provided a means to greater happiness and ability for only the price of a book?
The attacks intensified after 1951, the year Mr. Hubbard published Science of Survival. In that book, Mr. Hubbard publicly exposed, for the first time, government-funded mind-control experiments in which psychiatrists administered drugs and electric shock to unsuspecting human guinea pigs who were then implanted, while unconscious, with hypnotic commands. Decades later, victims would receive government compensation for the injuries they suffered from such experiments. But at the time these matters were among the best-kept secrets of the U.S. intelligence and psychiatric communities.
Once again the response from the federal/psychiatric circles was considerable. At least half a dozen federal agencies, including the FBI, IRS and FDA, were brought into the effort to suppress Dianetics and Scientology.
The story of the attempts to wipe out Scientology would fill a book, but this war was effectively over in October 1993, when, after its exhaustive scrutiny, the IRS issued a series of rulings expressly recognizing that the Church of Scientology and all its subordinate churches and related charitable and educational institutions in the United States are tax-exempt organizations.
The IRS ruling, which encompassed not only every Scientology church in the United States but also several important Scientology organizations outside the United States, signified that the IRS—and the U.S. government—had formally recognized that the Church of Scientology is a bona fide religious organization and that its activities are beneficial to society as a whole.
As old lies are disproved, the controversy quickly fades and the truth about Scientology, what the Church really is and what is members do, replaces it.
And today, the Church continues to make great efforts to provide the accurate information which tells the true story and corrects the falsehoods that have been circulated in the past.
Wasn’t there a long battle between the Church of Scientology and the IRS?