Scientology’s practice of disconnection pushes members to sever contact with anyone leaving the cult, including rending the relationship between parents and children. This practice, which hangs over the head of anyone starting to doubt their commitment to the group, has been the backbone of much of the recent bad publicity that has turned Scientology’s reputation from “odd but harmless” into “dangerous and should be forbidden.”
I believe that the way Scientology practices disconnection goes far beyond merely unethical and immoral, and its systematic nature may actually cross the line into criminal behavior.
Perhaps no Scientology “practice” or policy is more feared or loathed, than that of “disconnection. Despite the church’s claims to the contrary, this extraordinarily draconian punishment involves the exile, shunning, removal, or exclusion, of those not doctrinally, philosophically, or ideologically aligned with Scientology’s world view.
Scientology: “But Everybody Does It!”
Scientology.org defines and justifies disconnection thusly:
A Scientologist can have trouble making spiritual progress in his auditing or training if he is connected to someone who is suppressive or who is antagonistic to Scientology or its tenets. All spiritual advancement gained from Scientology may well be lost because one is continually invalidated by an antagonistic person who wants nothing more than to do harm to the person. In order to resolve this situation, one either “handles” the other person’s antagonism with true data about Scientology and the Church or, as a last resort, when all attempts to handle have failed, one “disconnects” from or stops communicating with the person.
A person who disconnects is simply exercising their right to communicate or not to communicate with a particular person. This is one of the most fundamental rights of Man. For as
Mr. Hubbard pointed out:
“one has the right to communicate, then one must also have the right to not receive communication from another. It is this latter corollary of the right to communicate that gives us our right to privacy.”
There is no Scientology Disconnection policy that requires Church members to disconnect from anyone, let alone family and friends who simply have different beliefs. To the contrary, the moral code of Scientology mandates that Scientologists respect the religious beliefs of others. The Church encourages excellent family relationships, Scientologists or not, and family relations routinely improve with Scientology because the Scientologist learns how to increase communication and resolve any problems that may have previously existed.
Note the claim that “there is no Scientology Disconnection policy that requires Church members to disconnect from anyone, let alone family and friends who simply have different beliefs.” This is simply playing a complicated game to spin the reality that’s well documented.
It is rarely, if ever, the case where a Scientologist asks to disconnect from someone, certainly beloved family members or long-time friends on their own initiative. More often they are ordered to disconnect, and are threatened with severe penalties, should they refuse, or attempt to assert any of their alleged “rights” under Scientology’s opaque and capricious ethics and justice system. And if a direct order doesn’t originate from a Church official, instant floods of mass e-mails from multiple prominent Scientologists suggesting that everyone cut off communications may give a veneer of plausible deniability, but are too suspicious for anyone to reasonably believe that the cult has clean hands.
Indeed, having left the church “apostates” are met with an almost immediate barrage of derogatory letters, Facebook “unfriending” and other collective shaming, indicative of a concerted effort, rather than disconnection being an allegedly isolated incident. While the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Amish, and other religions and cultures have practice “shunning” or similar methods that may ostracize apostates, or the like, none are as contradictory, punitive, mandatory, nor financially-focused, as that of Scientology’s disconnection.
Disconnection is a classic means of behavioral control in a cult that is one of the most highly controlling of all. Rather than simply a means of allowing “personal choice”, wherein someone can choose who they associate with, disconnection is used as a means to separate those in the church from people and ideas that run counter to the party line, and in a way that is highly pejorative, factually suspect, and emotionally damaging. It’s hardly a means of establishing independence of thought and action; more so, it’s a highly deterministic, threatening, and ultimately devastating weapon against freedom of thought and action. It also may be a crime.
The Ecclasiatical Protection Racket, or “Gee, That’s a Nice Family You Have There… Shame if Something Happened to It.”
Disconnection is undertaken in a manner and behavior that closely resembles the crime of extortion, and by extension, blackmail in many instances, rather than anything remotely ecclesiastical. Extortion is defined as:
money or property by threat to a victim’s property or loved ones, intimidation, or false claim of a right (such as pretending to be an IRS agent). It is a felony in all states, except that a direct threat to harm the victim is usually treated as the crime of robbery.
Here’s a summary of the complex patchwork of state and federal laws that define and punish extortion:
Virtually all extortion statutes require that a threat must be made to the person or property of the victim. Threats to harm the victim’s friends or relatives may also be included. It is not necessary for a threat to involve physical injury. It may be sufficient to threaten to accuse another person of a crime or to expose a secret that would result in public embarrassment or ridicule. The threat does not have to relate to an unlawful act. Extortion may be carried out by a threat to tell the victim’s spouse that the victim is having an illicit sexual affair with another.
Other types of threats sufficient to constitute extortion include those to harm the victim’s business and those to either testify against the victim or withhold testimony necessary to his or her defense or claim in an administrative proceeding or a lawsuit. Many statutes also provide that any threat to harm another person in his or her career or reputation is extortion.
Under the common law and many statutes, an intent to take money or property to which one is not lawfully entitled must exist at the time of the threat in order to establish extortion. Statutes may contain words such as “willful” or “purposeful” in order to indicate the intent element. When this is so, someone who mistakenly believes he or she is entitled to the money or property cannot be guilty of extortion. Under some statutes, a person may be held strictly liable for the act, and an intent need not be proven to establish the crime.
Statutes governing extortion by private persons vary in content. Many hold that a threat accompanied by the intent to acquire the victim’s property is sufficient to establish the crime; others require that the property must actually be acquired as a result of the threat. Extortion by officials is treated similarly. Some statutes hold that the crime occurs when there is a meeting of the minds between the person committing the offense and the party from whom the money is exacted.
Blackmail is related, though slightly different, much like the relationship between libel and slander. Blackmail is:
a form of extortion in which the threat is to expose embarrassing, damaging information to family, friends or the public.
Many forms of blackmail are rife within the church, given its focus on “crimes” (anything remotely construed as hindering the furthering of Scientology), such as not donating on a regular basis, or not dedicating one’s off-time, business resources, or other tangible or intangible assets in furthering the church. Those not toeing the line are subject to a visit from “ethics” officers, the enforcers within Scientology that look like the goombahs who crack skulls for the mob.
It’s important to discern between a “true threat” and merely sounding “tough”; the consistency and severity in which Scientology carries out threats of disconnection, leaves no room for doubt that the sword of disconnection hanging over members comprises a true threat. Scientology rarely wavers in its over-the top attacks on critics, and the same holds true for those targeted for disconnection. It’s the veracity and credibility of Scientology’s threats that led me conclude that, by in furthering this behavior, they could indeed step over the line into the criminal realm, hence my concerns.
The Threat of Economic Havoc Is Real and Significant
Disconnection has a singularly disproportionate effect on business owners, particularly those tied into WISE (World Institute of Scientology Enterprises, an operation to spread Hubbard’s “management tech” into businesses in exchange for sizable royalties).
For instance a Scientology restaurant owner, who may be facing an ethics action, may receive a visit from a few of the ethics boys who emphatically mention that his waiters may quit, should he decide to leave Scientology. He goes, they all go. Very few business could withstand the loss of a large percentage of their employees and eventual revenue stream. Contrast this with an old school brick through the window, and the underlying malice is clear as day.
Disconnection uses the threat of separation from one’s family as a means to incent a certain behavior, in this case, conformity to the will of Scientology, as voiced by those involved in “ethics” enforcement, Scientology’s version of the Catholic Church’s medieval inquisition. And it’s tactics aren’t too far removed from the over-zealous Jesuits of the times either… However, in turning to modern jurisprudence, disconnection is remarkably similar to the crime of extortion. For instance, the highly confessional nature of Scientology auditing, wherein a member is put on “the cans” or electrodes, attached to a simple galvanometer, as their secrets are excruciatingly laid bare, and then stored in within an extensive filing system, provides a vast source of material for future blackmail.
What makes disconnection all the more disingenuous, is that in many instances, the reason someone’s kicked-out of the church has nothing to do with differences in beliefs; more so, it’s for exposing one’s self to “entheta”, Scientology’s made-up term for anything that runs counter to the will and whims of L Ron Hubbard. Entheta can be as simple as voicing doubt as to the efficacy of a particular Scientology practice, or watching a Youtube video on the church, or to something as egregious as calling into question the sanity of David Miscavige.
The process of disconnection involves a variety of steps, such as being declared a “suppressive person”, (SP) someone who presents a danger to the church. Together, these processes can descend into a Kafkaesque nightmare of accusations of thought crimes, North Korean-like interrogations known as “sec checks” (security checks), or Stalinist self-confessionals for perceived wrongs. The outcome of this scrutiny may result in gulag-like slave labor, in the form of a work-based “amends” program, for any number of supposed transgressions. More troubling to the “penitent” SP, is that despite going through all these steps, all of which entail significant time and expenses, (the sec checks can run many thousands of dollars), it’s not a given that one will be able to remain in the church. For instance, one must complete an amends process known as the “A-E Steps”, a written series of confessionals, debt settling and “auditing”, that allegedly brings one back in good standing.
While the church denies that it initiates, or indeed orders disconnection, the fact is that departing members not in good standing, are harassed and universally shunned. The drumbeat of horror stories as to the effect of disconnection on families, as well as the testimony of numerous former Scientologists, has shown such denials to be patently false. Disconnection is real, it’s harmful, and serves no valid ecclesiastical purpose. More so, like many Scientology practices, disconnection is morally and ethically repugnant. Indeed, it is indicative of potential criminality, such as extortion and blackmail; those still within the walls of Scientology have been spiritually kidnapped, and held hostage in a prison of belief.