Posts Tagged “defector”

Gee, it seems only a short time ago that I blogged about the Church of Scientology’s failed “investigation” of the St Petersburg Times, which late last year ran an extensive multi-story exposé of that so-called religion. This weekend, the estimable New York Times ran its own single-story (to date) exposé of Scientology (WebCite cached article):

Defectors Say Church of Scientology Hides Abuse

Raised as Scientologists, Christie King Collbran and her husband, Chris, were recruited as teenagers to work for the elite corps of staff members who keep the Church of Scientology running, known as the Sea Organization, or Sea Org.

They signed a contract for a billion years — in keeping with the church’s belief that Scientologists are immortal. They worked seven days a week, often on little sleep, for sporadic paychecks of $50 a week, at most.

But after 13 years and growing disillusionment, the Collbrans decided to leave the Sea Org, setting off on a Kafkaesque journey that they said required them to sign false confessions about their personal lives and their work, pay the church thousands of dollars it said they owed for courses and counseling, and accept the consequences as their parents, siblings and friends who are church members cut off all communication with them. …

They soon discovered others who felt the same. Searching for Web sites about Scientology that are not sponsored by the church (an activity prohibited when they were in the Sea Org), they discovered that hundreds of other Scientologists were also defecting — including high-ranking executives who had served for decades.

The large number of recent defections from the CoS likely explains this rash of newspaper stories on Scientology’s abuses. At any rate, the story acknowledges that the “average” CoS member may not be aware of all of this:

The defectors say that the average Scientology member, known in the church as a public, is largely unaware of the abusive environment experienced by staff members. The church works hard to cultivate public members — especially celebrities like Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Nancy Cartwright (the voice of the cartoon scoundrel Bart Simpson) — whose money keeps it running.

But recently even some celebrities have begun to abandon the church, the most prominent of whom is the director and screenwriter Paul Haggis, who won Oscars for “Million Dollar Baby” and “Crash.” Mr. Haggis had been a member for 35 years. His resignation letter [cached version], leaked to a defectors’ Web site, recounted his indignation as he came to believe that the defectors’ accusations must be true.

The Times continues by relating the Collbrans’ harrowing story of trying to leave Scientology, which included impediments such as taking their passports so they couldn’t travel. It also recounts things like beatings of Scientology members and employees, some at the hands of the head of the CoS, David Miscavige.

Marvelous people, eh?

I wonder if the CoS will try the same stunt they attempted with the St Petersburg Times and try to hire other reporters to investigate the New York Times. Even if they do, I’m betting they will also refuse to reveal the contents of that investigation.

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This morning I happened to hear a local radio show (on WTIC 1080) by a guy named Jim Vicevich. He’s Hartford’s local version of Glenn Beck … a sanctimonious windbag full of self-righteous bellicosity. Like Beck, his act is a cross between Howard Beale (of Network fame) and a street preacher. Only he leans a little more in the direction of street preacher, because he has a lot of overtly-religious guests (e.g. folks who work for anti-abortion religious ministries, who as one would expect frequently sprinkle their on-air speeches with “praise Gods”), and he discusses the religious aspects of issues like abortion, more than most other Rightist pundits. He also actively solicits on behalf of religious groups, for instance in one of his blog postings.

At any rate, today he pontificated on how an apparent Planned Parenthood defector somehow “proves” that abortion is bad. Unfortunately, in doing so, Vicevich falls into the old rhetorical trap of an irrelevant appeal to authority (which is a fallacy in every sense of the word). Here’s his blog entry on the matter:

This is why we need this ultrasound so badly here in Connecticut.

Planned Parenthood has been a part of Abby Johnson’s life for the past eight years; that is until last month, when Abby resigned. Johnson said she realized she wanted to leave, after watching an ultrasound of an abortion procedure [emphasis in this quotation by Vicevich, is his own].

For Vicevich, looking at ultrasounds “proves” something. Unfortunately this is an illogical assumption. What looking at ultrasounds does, is not to “prove” anything in an objective way. Rather, it simply confirms — in a merely-emotional way — his own personal preconceptions.

One may wonder why having been a Planned Parenthood worker is “irrelevant” to the matter of abortion … because it certainly would appear that it’s relevant. But that’s all it is — an appearance only. What makes this an “irrelevant” appeal to authority, is that that having worked at Planned Parenthood does not grant Ms Johnson, or any other former Planned Parenthood worker, any real authority on whether abortion is right or wrong. Moral and ethical questions such as that are metaphysical in nature, and there is no such thing as a credential to decide metaphysics, because there is no final authority on the subject; no objective certification in that field; and no way to verify anything metaphysical. One may believe that a person carries such authority — for instance, Roman Catholics believe the Pope has the authority to make theological and doctrinal decisions (which are, by their very nature, all metaphysical) — but in the end, there are no objective credentials to back up these beliefs. (If there were, there would not — for example — be so many Christian denominations that refuse papal authority.)

Really, Ms Johnson’s belief that abortion is “bad,” is no more valid or relevant an authority on the subject than anyone else’s. Her belief, in the end, is nothing more than a subjective value judgement that she has made for herself. That’s all.

I’m sure Mr Vicevich, who once had a stellar career as a local TV business reporter before he turned into a raging Religious Rightist … is educated enough to know his claims are fallacious. That’s what makes him such a sad case, and an example of why (as the United Negro College Fund has often said), “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

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