'Scientology is Security for South Africa': How L. Ron Hubbard sought to prop up apartheid - 2019-06-06
South Africa is a country of extraordinary contrasts: Fertile savannahs and teeming cities, immense wealth and terrible poverty, multiracial idealism and ethnic violence. It's also a place of striking contrasts in Scientology's history. In the past few weeks, I've been traveling in this vast country and consulting state archives to piece together the story of Scientology in South Africa before the end of apartheid in 1990. They reveal a picture of how Scientology enthusiastically supported South Africa's apartheid regime while walking a fine line in opposing the government's favourable views towards psychiatry.
The decades-long freedom struggle of South Africa's non-white majority gained attention and support from across the world. It's easy now to forget, though, that many in the West supported the apartheid government as an ally against communism, or – all too often – out of simple racism. Scientology was no exception.
Apartheid might have seemed like a challenge to Scientology's ideology. After all, L. Ron Hubbard had posited that we are all "thetans" – immortal beings temporarily housed in physical bodies. Skin colour, race, gender and physical age should have been irrelevant considerations. Yet for South African Scientologists, and Hubbard himself, race and politics were defining issues.