A Means To an End
“Ethics play a significant role in Scientology,” said the Rev. Lee Holzinger, who in 2001 ran the Santa Barbara Church of Scientology. He was making an effort so put distance between his Church and Reed Slatkin, the Scientologist charged with defrauding investors of at least $230 million in an alleged Ponzi scheme.
It’s true that Ethics plays a significant role in the lives of Scientologists, but what does that mean? What is an ethical Scientologist? What are the basic elements and tenets of Scientology Ethics? Honesty? Integrity? Morality? While those may be laudable virtues, they have almost nothing to do with the Church’s system of ethics. Scientology Ethics is a self-contained contrivance designed exclusively to serve the Church. Hubbard states that Ethics “. . .is simply that additional tool necessary to make it possible to apply the technology of Scientology.”
The list of Scientologists who lost tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars due to the fraudulent acts of fellow Scientologist Reed Slatkin is literally a who’s who list of prominent Church members. Why wasn’t there more outrage among these ripped off Scientologists? Why didn’t they take legal action at the first sign of financial impropriety? There were a number of non Scientologists also involved who understandably contacted their lawyers. The Scientologists contacted Church executives.
The Church follows a well established code of conduct commonly practiced by police and military organizations: You look out for your own by keeping misdeeds from public view, and then administer justice from within. For example, Scientologist Chuck Anderson faced a dilemma when he first realized that the company he worked for, Digital Lightwave (a company with significant Church connections), had been releasing falsified records. Rather than report it to appropriate authorities, he called the Church of Scientology. His primary concern wasn’t the potential harm to customers and investors, but the “huge potential flap” that might reflect negatively on the Church should the unsavory revelations become public.
Church member Gillian Christie shrugged off the whole Reed Slatkin affair as nothing more than a “blip on the horizon.” Christie had sunk over $400 thousand into Slatkin’s scheme—money that she would likely never see again. That’s quite a blip by anyone’s standards. But if you’re a loyal Scientologist, you have to soft-peddle even the most severe criminal acts if they’ve been committed by a fellow Scientologist. It’s the Church’s version of the military code of silence.
Certain Scientologists can get cut a lot of slack, especially those who make meaningful contributions to the Church. L. Ron Hubbard coined the term “Ethics Protection” to describe this principle. He states, “. . .if a staff member is getting production up by having his own statistic excellent, Ethics sure isn’t interested. . . In short a staff member can get away with murder so long as his statistic is up. . .”
As early as 1997, Slatkin admitted lying to Securities and Exchange Commission investigators, yet Scientologists were unwilling to step forward to denounce his unethical activities. By 2000 while Slatkin was still under SEC investigation, Scientologists were apparently unalarmed. In 2001 when Slatkin finally filed for bankruptcy, Scientologist investors remained silent. Even when the IRS and the FBI were searching Slatkin’s home in Santa Barbara, Church members who stood to lose huge amounts of money were incredibly understanding.
While investigators were informing investors that their money was gone, Scientologists refused to publicly indict Slatkin on what had emerged as a multi-million dollar crime. On the contrary, Ms. Christie did her best to put a happy face on the whole thing: “I would like to emphasize how much good came out of it.” One must wonder what kind of twisted math Christie used to calculate how much good comes out of a swindle where investors lost all their money. Prominent Scientologist Keith Code casually explained, “A lot of people I know are not crushed by it,” as if losing your life savings was nothing but a minor annoyance to be taken in stride.
In spite of all the PR spin from the Church, Reed Slatkin managed to remain a Scientologist in good standing, even as his bail was being set. It was only after Slatkin pleaded guilty to fifteen counts of fraud, money laundering and conspiracy, that the Church applied their “ethical” system towards their wayward parishioner. They simply expelled him and said nothing further on the matter. This is Scientology Ethics at work. You do what you have to do to expand Scientology, but if you get caught up in some unsavory high jinx, you’re on your own. But thanks for stopping by, Reed.
By the way, if you have some kind of a beef with a Scientologist, better first check the donors list from the International Association of Scientologists. Scientologists who make large donations to the Church are far less likely to be subject to Ethics actions. In fact, the Church might start coming after you. As Hubbard laid it out, “When people do start reporting a staff member with a high statistic, what you investigate is the person who turned in the report.”
All’s fair, as the saying goes, especially in war, a maxim that Hubbard readily recognized. In “Ron’s Journal 34” he observed, “Oh, yes, we’ve had some casualties . . . But that is the way with wars: not only combatants but innocent bystanders can get wounded.” Hubbard echoes this sentiment in his “Code of Honor,” where he says, “Never fear to hurt another in a just cause.” After all, as Hubbard said in “Ethics Protection,” “We are not in the business of being good boys and girls.” Certainly not. As the “Code of a Scientologist” states, the game is “To increase the numbers and strength of Scientology over the world.” Cost be damned, as long as the Church prevails.
The history of Scientology is strewn with casualties. Some who got in the way, others who were innocently caught in the crossfire. Meanwhile the Church rolls on like some righteous bulldozer, disregarding the damage they leave behind. And their conscience is clear, confident that they’re the most ethical people on the planet.