The Hunt for Scientology's Salman Rushdie

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The Church of Scientology is an easy target for skepticism and derision. Some like to belittle its founding story, allegedly about an alien named Xenu and hydrogen bombs in volcanoes. Others tell an alternate story about writer and founder L. Ron Hubbard deciding to make up a religion and telling another sci-fi writer, “that’s where the money is.” To me, the eeriest story about Scientology is how it aggressively attacks its critics.

Gerry Armstrong is considered the “Salman Rushdie of Scientology,” profiled in the spring issue of Maisonneuve (article not available online), an “unemployed, penniless man living on a disability pension in the middle of nowhere in British Columbia.” Armstrong was once a member of Hubbard’s inner circle, and he compiled biographic material that contradicted Hubbard’s claims of being, among other things, a nuclear scientist, a civil engineer, and a wounded war veteran. As a result of Armstrong’s vigorous attempts to expose Hubbard, “the Church of Scientology [has] spent nearly three decades trying to discredit and silence [him]…. For Scientologists, it’s like Armstrong has spent time with Jesus or Mohammed or Moses. The only problem is, Armstrong does not worship Hubbard.” In the article, Armstrong claims to have been repeatedly harassed, physically assaulted, and threatened with assassination.

Far from being a turn-the-other-cheek kind of religion, Maisonneuve reports that Scientology condones attacking Church detractors, per Hubbard’s instructions. An internal Scientology tape quoted in the article shows Tom Cruise summarizing how the Church deals with its critics: “confront, shatter, suppression.”

Image by Jason Mouratides, licensed under Creative Commons.

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