CESNUR - center for studies on new religions

The Church of Scientology’s Rehabilitation Project Force

A Study by Juha Pentikäinen (Chair of the Department of the Study of Religions, University of Helsinki, Finland), Jurgen F.K. Redhardt, and Michael York (Bath Spa University College)

 

Table of Contents

Introduction

Background

The Sea Organisation

The Rehabilitation Project Force

History
The Programme Framework
Entrance to the Programme

The Programme

Working Conditions
Study Conditions
Sleeping Conditions
Entrance to the Programme
Structure
Discipline
Conclusions

The Interviews

RPF Members:

Franz
Nepheli
Monica
Janine
Thomas
Fany
David
Sabrina
Anik
Debbie
Yap
Beverly
Ian
Michael
Renan
Jane
Derrick
Charmain
Michael
Tina
Patricia

Supervisory staff:

Gerd Poelzl
Martin Bergeaud
Sarah Brandl

Glossary of terms

Notes 

 

Introduction:

Although the Church of Scientology has been the focus of a number of studies by scholars of new religions, they have paid little attention to the Church’s core religious body: The Sea Organisation. Most members of the public today have heard of Scientology, but few are aware of the Sea Organisation (SO), and the Church itself does not publicise the "Sea Org", as it is called, except to its own members. As a consequence, such accounts as exist have appeared mostly in the media and rely for much of their content on statements by former members of the Church [1].

Indeed, few such reports have dealt with the Sea Organisation as a whole, and some have focused on one its sub-groups, the Rehabilitation Project Force, referred to within the Sea Organisation by its initials RPF. The Church describes the RPF as a programme of redemption for members of the SO who have committed severe violations of its codes. The RPF performs a specialised function within the SO, one that, according to the Church, is consistent with that employed by other religious communities to assist erring members of their core religious group to make amends for wrongdoing and return to the good graces of the religious order from whose tenets they had strayed.

To determine what the Rehabilitation Project Force consists of and its relationship to the religious mission of the Church of Scientology as a whole, and to establish the truth or otherwise of the public commentary on the Rehabilitation Project Force, between November 2000 and November 2001 we visited and toured the two European centres of the Church of Scientology where the Rehabilitation Project Force programme exists: Copenhagen, Denmark and East Grinstead, Sussex, England. The interviewers were fully aware of the allegations being made to the Church's disfavour [2] and are familiar with the dynamics of acculturation. Our aim was to inspect the programme first-hand, examine the facilities, speak to the participants, and from our experience compile a report of our observations and conclusions. After the visits, we met in East Grinstead to compare our findings and establish a consensus. What follows is the result.

We met and interviewed a total of 24 people, covering a spectrum of those involved with the programme. Among that number were 14 Sea Organisation members currently on the programme (including 2 who began but left before completion and 3 who completed whilst we were engaged in our work), 7 who had completed prior to the point we started our interviews and three staff of the Church of Scientology, in Denmark and England, who, though not themselves participants, are responsible for supervisory functions. As the interviews were spread over a period of one year, we interviewed 4 individuals a second time, after a gap of months, to ascertain what progress they had made since their previous interviews.

All those interviewed were helpful. Our questions were answered readily and fully. Although each gave permission for his or her full name to be used in this study, in view of the personal nature of some of the information given to us, and mindful of the privacy concerns of RPF members and their families, we have chosen to refer to those actually participating in the programme by first names only. Full names have been used for Sea Organisation staff holding supervisory functions but not themselves doing the programme.

Descriptions of the interviews we conducted are included. We have made liberal use of quotations as we consider that interviewee statements provide the best rendering of how the programme is viewed from the perspective of those taking part. The accounts of the interviews, and the quotations they contain, have been prepared from notes taken at the time.

No second-hand information was relied on for this study other than some 95 short accounts or attestations to the value of the programme from RPF participants in other countries (mainly USA). Those accounts were consistent with the results of the personal interviews we conducted in Denmark and England.

The study does not examine, other than where necessary for contextual purposes or to interpret the RPF programme, the religious theology, structure and practices of Scientology. This subject has been covered in detail by Juha Pentikäinen, Bryan Wilson and numerous other scholars in various works [3]. The reader who wishes more information on the topic is referred to the relevant texts.

next

[Home Page] [Cos'è il CESNUR] [Biblioteca del CESNUR] [Testi e documenti] [Libri] [Convegni]

cesnur e-mail

[Home Page] [About CESNUR] [CESNUR Library] [Texts & Documents] [Book Reviews] [Conferences]