Defections, court fights test Scientology - 2009-11-01
The Church of Scientology is going through a difficult season.
Over the course of two days last week, a French court convicted the church of fraud and Oscar-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis' resignation from the church over a litany of concerns was aired publicly. On one hand, it was just another bad press week for the embattled institution founded in 1953 by the late science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard.
But for former Scientologists and scholars of the movement, the setbacks pose a greater challenge coming on the heels of defections of top-level Scientologists who lifted a veil of secrecy on the organization and alleged a culture of violence and control under Hubbard's successor, David Miscavige.
"With any organization, the loss of a substantial number of your most experienced people and chaos at the upper levels is problematic," said David Bromley, a Virginia Commonwealth University professor who studies new religious movements and has written on Scientology. "There are PR implications, the possibility of legal actions ... That dwarfs the other things."