CNN covers the Scientology takeover of Clearwater, Florida

An interesting story today on CNN covers the gradual transformation of Clearwater Florida into a sort of mecca for Scientologists, the religion invented by science-ficton author L. Ron Hubbard (the town’s non-scientologist mayor, amusingly, is coincidentally named “Hibbard.”)

Notable about it is its discussion of some of aspects of the religion that are often publically treated as “secret” such as the claims of alien Body Thetans, past lives, becoming “clear” and so on: things which mainstream media sources generally do not report on or discuss. It’s good to see CNN doing at little work educating people about what Scientology actually entails: too often this material is left to rumors and skeptic sites, treating the secrets of the religion with an air of undue protection and respect. The article even covers “Operation Snow White,” the bizarre criminal case in which many senior leaders in the religion, including Hubbard’s wife, infiltrated the US government on a mission to destroy incriminating documentation on the Hubbard’s organization and its activities.

It also mentions something I wasn’t aware of: that the church at least claims that it ditched the “it’s morally ok to destroy our critics by any means necessary” rule back in the 70s. I couldn’t be more skeptical on that, but it is one of the rare times I’ve even heard from an actual Scientologist talking about or defending the religion directly. In all my days on various messageboards and skeptical websites, I’ve never come across even a single live Scientology adherent willing to answer, explain, or defend some of the kookier and sinister aspects of the religion. That’s always struck me as sort of odd: I know there are many many of these people out there, but even celebrity adherents like Tom Cruise only seem to tangentially say things based on church dogma (like their alternative medicine and anti-psychiatry claims) without really putting the religion and its beliefs front and center.

Anyway, bravo to CNN for being this frank and detailed about the subject.

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