CESNUR - center for studies on new religions

Have Gun, Will Travel: Stephen Kent's German Holiday on Thin Ice

by Massimo Introvigne

Stephen Kent is back, and this time he has a booklet, too. Kent likes to be invited in Germany: he is wined, dined, and most importantly taken seriously. No less than the Interior Office of Hamburg introduced to the press on October 23 a booklet by Kent called "Brainwashing in the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF) of the Scientology Organization".
Professional anti-scientologist Ursula Caberta cheerfully told the press that the booklet will "prove that Scientology uses brainwashing". What Caberta did not explain to the German press, is that, wile Caberta and her friends maintain that Scientology is not a religion (and the booklet refers to the "Scientology Organization"), Kent signed an affidavit in the Texas case EEOC v. I-20 Animal Medical Center, on November 9, 1999 arguing exactly the opposite. In the case, EEOC charged that the use of Scientology-based training methods in the workplace violates U.S. law since Scientology is a religion and not a purely secular training system.
Supporting EEOC, Kent signed an affidavit to the effect that this is a case of "intrusion of religious concepts into the workplace" (p. 9). The courses contained "Scientology terms" that Kent now describes as being "purely religious". In short, the courses "contained the Scientology religion" (pp. 12-13). Quite correctly, Kent concluded that Scientology is a religion based mostly on its notions of thetan and of past lives. In fact, Kent said, what others (including persons Kent should know better than any other) have described as mere "treatment" is in fact "a religious practice" (p. 18). For signing this affidavit, Kent received $ 21,600 (perhaps another point Caberta did not emphasize: see this Web site for the full story. It is, of course true, that in a previous affidavit - for which he was paid a mere $ 11,000 - Kent decided to downplay the religious nature of Scientology, for whatever reasons.
As for brainwashing, Caberta did not tell her audience that the large majority of English-speaking scholars have debunked in the 1970s and 1980s the whole notion as a pseudo-scientific, socially constructed weapon used in order to discriminate against religious minorities. Most of the documents of the American discussion are available on this Web site. Ignorance of the English language is no longer a valid excuse, since a definitive collection of documents translated into German has now been published by the academic publisher Diagonal Verlag in Marburg.
Another point not discussed in Hamburg is that mainline scholarship on religious movements does not accept narratives based exclusively on accounts by "apostates", i.e. former members who have turned against their previous religion (one "apostate" was duly on display in Hamburg, although she "admitted that it would be difficult to present evidence which could stand in a court of law", as reported by the Suddeutsche Zeitung on October 24). While interesting, apostate accounts should be checked against other sources and it should be considered that apostates represent only a small percentage within the larger category of ex-members (see a discussion in this Web site: http://www.cesnur.org/testi/Acropolis.htm).
We understand that serious independent scholarly studies of RPF are on their way, and that Kent may have to answer more difficult questions next time he talks to independent media, not purely to a militant anti-cult audience of "friends".

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