First a summary from a Newsweek article about Anomymous:
These are unfriendly times to be a Scientologist. In December, Germany's Interior Ministry moved to ban the organization, which has tax-exempt religious status in the United States. In January, St. Martin's Press published Andrew Morton's salacious unauthorized biography of Tom Cruise, which describes the star as its de facto second in command. The church responded with a 15-page statement, calling the book "a bigoted, defamatory assault replete with lies" and saying Cruise "is a Scientology parishioner and holds no official or unofficial position in the Church hierarchy." Jenna Hill Miscavige, a niece of church leader David Miscavige who left the fold in 2005, this week came out in support of Morton and slammed the organization for, among other things, its practice of "disconnection--essentially severing contact with family members seen as hostile to the group.Anonymous was planning its attack for today (Sunday) and here is a bit more about them:
Read the full article here.
Now, a loose-knit consortium of hackers and activists calling itself "Anonymous" has declared "war" on the organization. In a creepy YouTube clip addressed to the "leaders of Scientology," a robotic voice announces "with the leakage of your latest propaganda video into mainstream circulation, the extent of your malign influence over those who trust you as leaders has been made clear to us. Anonymous has therefore decided that your organization should be destroyed." (The clip has been viewed more than 2 million times since it was posted Jan. 21.)The attack, says Anonymous, was spurred at least in part by what they consider to be the latest example of the church's secretive and litigious nature. Earlier this year, an internal 2004 church interview with Tom Cruise was leaked online. The actor, who called being a Scientologist a "blast," was seen railing against the practice of psychiatry and boasting, among other things, "we are the authorities of the mind ... we can bring peace and unite communities." The church attempted to have the videos taken down from the gossip site Gawker, claiming the material was copyrighted, selectively edited and that Cruise's performance was meant for private consumption. It's an argument that does have legal merit.
It has been tricky to deal with Scientology. I have been of the opinion that Scientology has perhaps been singled out unfairly (I have a soft spot for most UFO religions - c'mon...how can you not like Unarians and their Interplanetary Concave of Light celebration??). The German ban on Scientology, especially, seemed a bit extreme and raised the question of how do you really differentiate between cults and religions and who gets to decide that? Perhaps the focus should be on certain practices of a cult or a religion (why should mainstream religions escape that criticism?). I don't know if this was made pubic, but Germany should have provided a list of explicit complaints about Scientology. This can lead to explicit debate about specific practices - such as Disconnection or whether they prevent access to certain essential medicine, etc. Even then, one can ban certain practices and not necessarily the entire religion (for example, polygamy in the US for Mormons). If they don't comply, then impose a ban - but let them have freedom of practice of their religion.
That said, some of the concerns I had were answered in this excellent Point of Inquiry podcast interview with a former Scientology member, Tory Christman. I really liked the questions that the host of the show, D.J. Grothe, raised, especially about the reasons for singling out Scientology. I don't think all of the questions were answered, but still, the interview provided a good snapshot of the organization and reasons to be worried about it. Here is the interview: Anti-Science Scientology?
And now back to Tom Cruise video. Of course, within days it also generated spoofs. Here is one by Jerry O'Connell (but to appreciate it, please first see the original Tom Cruise video).