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February 10, 2011

FBI investigating Church of Scientology for human trafficking, slavery

Report: Church of Scientology Under Federal Investigation for Free Labor | PopEater.com
The Church of Scientology is reportedly under federal investigation for human trafficking and using unpaid labor, in part due to work allegedly performed on behalf of Tom Cruise, according to the New Yorker (via Huffington Post). The charges surfaced in a profile of Oscar-winning writer-director Paul Haggis ('Crash'), who left Scientology in 2009 after 34 years following a disagreement with church officials. Ed. Note: The reported federal investigation is of the Church of Scientology alone. Tom Cruise is not the subject of any investigation at this time, as was previously mentioned in our story based on existing reports. For the New Yorker profile, entitled 'Paul Haggis vs. the Church of Scientology,' writer Lawrence Wright spoke to the filmmaker, several former church members and two FBI investigators, who allegedly "assured me [Wright] that the case remains open," referring to a 2009 investigation into abuse claims against the church. Reports indicate the abuse charges relate to, in part, paying church members just $50 per week to meet Cruise's demands, which included customizing a building and repairing boats and motorcycles. In a statement, the church and Cruise denied the allegations and any knowledge of the investigation, and said the New Yorker "irresponsibly" used "discredited" sources to write a misleading article in an effort to attract attention.

February 08, 2011

Catholic Church launches confession app

And OF COURSE confession ain't free. Joe. My. God.: Catholic Church Launches Confession App
The program - called Confession - went on sale last week through iTunes for $1.99. Described as "the perfect aid for every penitent", it offers users tips and guidelines to help them with the sacrament. Now senior church officials in America have given it their seal of approval, in what is thought to be a first. The app takes users through the sacrament - in which Catholics admit their wrongdoings - and allows them to keep track of their sins. It also allows them to examine their conscience based on personalised factors such as age, sex and marital status - but it is not intended to replace traditional confession entirely. Instead, it encourages users to understand their actions and then visit their priest for absolution.

February 07, 2011

Paul Haggis Vs. the Church of Scientology

Totally fascinating long-form article. Haggis had been a Scientologist for decades, but quit when the religion backed the anti-gay Prop 8. Paul Haggis Vs. the Church of Scientology : The New Yorker
During our conversations, we spoke about some events that had stained the reputation of the church while he was a member. For example, there was the death of Lisa McPherson, a Scientologist who died after a mental breakdown, in 1995. She had rear-ended a car in Clearwater, Florida—where Scientology has its spiritual headquarters—and then stripped off her clothes and wandered naked down the street. She was taken to a hospital, but, in the company of several other Scientologists, she checked out, against doctors’ advice. (The church considers psychiatry an evil profession.) McPherson spent the next seventeen days being subjected to church remedies, such as doses of vitamins and attempts to feed her with a turkey baster. She became comatose, and she died of a pulmonary embolism before church members finally brought her to the hospital. The medical examiner in the case, Joan Wood, initially ruled that the cause of death was undetermined, but she told a reporter, “This is the most severe case of dehydration I’ve ever seen.” The State of Florida filed charges against the church. In February, 2000, under withering questioning from experts hired by the church, Wood declared that the death was “accidental.” The charges were dropped and Wood resigned. Haggis said that, at the time, he had chosen not to learn the details of McPherson’s death. “I had such a lack of curiosity when I was inside,” Haggis said. “It’s stunning to me, because I’m such a curious person.” He said that he had been “somewhere between uninterested in looking and afraid of looking.” His life was comfortable, he liked his circle of friends, and he didn’t want to upset the balance. It was also easy to dismiss people who quit the church. As he put it, “There’s always disgruntled folks who say all sorts of things.” He was now ashamed of this willed myopia, which, he noted, clashed with what he understood to be the ethic of Scientology: “Hubbard says that there is a relationship between knowledge, responsibility, and control, and as soon as you know something you have a responsibility to act. And, if you don’t, shame on you.” Since resigning, Haggis had been wondering why it took him so long to leave. In an e-mail exchange, I noted that higher-level Scientologists are supposed to be free of neuroses and allergies, and resistant to the common cold. “Dianetics” also promises heightened powers of intelligence and perception. Haggis had told me that he fell far short of this goal. “Did you feel it was your fault?” I asked. Haggis responded that, because the auditing took place over a number of years, it was easy to believe that he might actually be smarter and wiser because of it, just as that might be true after years of therapy. “It is all so subjective, how is one supposed to know?” he wrote. “How does it feel to be smarter today than you were two months ago? . . . But yes, I always felt false.”