While attending a Science Fiction convention as a writer in 1948, L. Ron Hubbard was reported to have said that "writing for a penny a word is ridiculous - if a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion."
Since that fateful declaration, the Church of Scientology has been a near-constant source of controversy and innuendo, with reports of bizarre, despicable behavior surfacing through leaked information derived from investigative reporting and former members of Scientology.
Scientology vigorously denies all allegations of strange, criminal behavior, waging extensive public relations campaigns that help spin perceptions in their favor. When Scientologist leaders decide that public relations campaigns and lawsuits are insufficient to defend the organization, the issue is often escalated into personal attacks, vengeance, subterfuge, manipulation of governments and other terrible, illicit behaviors.
Television shows such as South Park have exposed millions to the core mythos of Scientology, which states that Xenu was an overlord of an ancient galactic civilization that solved overpopulation by killing people, trapping their thetans and transporting these spirits to Earth. This creation myth, ridiculed by many, takes focus away from real controversies and serious scandals that have been a hallmark of Scientology for decades.
10 Shelly Miscavige: David Miscavige's Missing Wife
The current worldwide leader of Scientology, David Miscavige, has earned a reputation as a formidable adversary with an explosive temper, willing to leverage his absolute power within the organization to achieve his goals.
One of the more disturbing allegations against David concerns the apparent disappearance of his wife Shelly, who has been missing for almost a decade. Actress and former scientologist Leah Remini went as far as filing a missing persons report with the Los Angeles Police department after Shelly wasn't present at the 2006 wedding of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise.
Rumors suggest Shelly's disappearance is linked with David's rage over decisions she made against his wishes, filling board member vacancies and renovating various Scientology facilities in an unsatisfactory manner.
9 Miscavige Talking About His Dad: "Let Him Die"
The father of the leader of Scientology was not exempt from the wrath of his son, when Miscavige became suspicious that his Dad would talk about secrets after he left the organization.
Ronald Miscavige was followed for more than 18 months by a P.I. team that attached a GPS device to Ronald's car and eavesdropped his email, calls and correspondence.
The detectives went as far as standing behind Ronald and taking pictures when he checked his email in public places. Investigators would also sit within earshot whenever Ronald ate at a restaurant, listening in on conversations.
Most chilling is the fact that an investigator was told not to help when Roland appeared to be suffering from a heart attack while shopping. When the private detective asked David for instructions, the leader of Scientology allegedly said that "if it was Ron's time to die, to let him die and not intervene in any way."
8 Forced Labor for Tom Cruise
A number of projects involving labor that paid next to nothing have greatly benefitted Tom Cruise and other celebrity Scientologists.
According to sworn testimony by former scientologist John Brousseau, David Miscavige spent millions and forced scientologists to perform months worth of cheap labor to completely renovate the Beverly Hills home of Tom Cruise as well as a residence in Colorado.
After those renovations, Miscavige also ordered the creation of a customized, luxury bus that would ferry Tom Cruise around in comfort. The typical pay for these and other “projects” - such as personal chef or maid - hovered around a dollar an hour.
7 "The Hole"
Several Scientologists that have escaped from the organization revealed details about a frightening facility that resides at the "Int Base". Nicknamed "The Hole" and described as an "office-prison", the compound stretches across 700 acres close to the town of Hemet, located approximately 90 miles east of Los Angeles.
Within these walls, members of Scientology who have misbehaved or otherwise angered the leaders of the movement are subject to a variety of punishments, such as sleeping on floors, eating gruel three times a day, beatings and even licking a bathroom floor for half-an-hour.
Many of these controversial allegations were brought up by Debbie Cook, a former member who spent seven weeks at The Hole, testifying under oath about her torture at the compound. In response, Scientology sued Debbie, stating that The Hole never existed in the first place.
6 Misleading the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service
Germany is perhaps the most hostile country toward Scientology, with public officials publicly decrying the organization as a dangerous, for-profit enterprise, going as far as comparing Scientology to fascism.
In 1997, Germany initiated a program that surveilled Scientologists for an entire year, drawing protests focused around the lack of evidence to justify these actions. The year before, Bavaria, the largest state within Germany, required scientologists to disclose their status as members before joining public service, trade unions and other types of organizations.
In response, the United Nations dispatched a human rights investigator to monitor the situation on behalf of Scientology - with some nations rebuking the German government for their strict stance against the organization.
Scientologists in Germany declared religious persecution and at least one member successfully applied for asylum to the United States. It was later revealed that many of the documents used to prove discrimination against Scientology were written in English by fellow Scientologists, not by German companies or organizations refusing private employment or participation in the public sphere due to membership in Scientology.
5 "Operation Freakout": Fake Bomb Threats to Frame Paulette Cooper
Paulette Cooper wrote The Scandal of Scientology, publishing the book in 1971. The expose was an attempt to reveal unflattering details about recruitment, auditing and the various battles the organization has launched against governments around the world.
The organization first responded with 18 lawsuits over the following decade. They tapped Cooper's telephone, broke into her apartment and wrote her number on bathroom walls so people would randomly harass her with phone calls.
When these tactics didn't dissuade Paulette, they used her stolen stationary to mail bomb threats to several chapters of the New York branch of Scientology. As a result, she was charged with three felony counts and could have received up to 15 years in prison.
This was all part of "Operation Freakout", a sustained assault on Paulette Cooper designed to drive her into a psychiatric institution or incarceration.
4 Fair Game Policy
When L. Ron Hubbard created Scientology, one of the core beliefs and practices he instituted was the "Fair Game" policy, which states that retaliation against perceived enemies through any and all means in not only acceptable, but an important duty in the defense of Scientology.
While the organization no longer supports extreme action such as assassination, Scientology still utilizes the idea of "Fair Game" to completely ruin the lives of those who dare to speak against the group.
One example of Fair Game involved Richard Leiby, a reporter for the Washington Post and the Clearwater Sun for more than two decades. Scientology initially targeted Richard in the 1970s and restarted its efforts against him during the mid-2000s by targeting his wife during a messy divorce in order to put the "boot to Mr. Leiby's throat."
Theresa Defino, Richard's ex-wife, stated she wasn't surprised at these attempts to use her as leverage against her ex-husband, stating that "this is the same organization that left a headless rabbit in my backyard years ago, under my swing set so my children could find it."
3 "Operation Normandy": The Plot to Rule Clearwater, Florida
The California chapters of Scientology hatched a plan that started in 1975. It outlined the takeover of public institutions such as the local government, media and other religious groups in the city of Clearwater, Florida.
Starting with the creation of the United Churches of Florida, an organization that fronts Scientology, the plot involved the eventual control over top politicians, church leaders and other public figures that influence the day-to-day operations of the city. After these allies were secured, the plan called for a concerted effort to ridicule and ostracise anyone acting against the United Churches of Florida.
Scientology leaders also purchased large tracts of real estate and vacant land, creating a permanent presence that continues to grow across Clearwater, despite the revelation of their shady actions.
2 "Operation Snow White": Infiltrating Governments Around the World
A plan designed by L. Ron Hubbard himself, "Operation Snow White" targeted government offices around the world with the goal of manipulating public records by finding and removing any negative reports about the activities of Scientology.
The Guardian's Office, which was used as an intelligence and espionage agency by Hubbard, grew the program into a complex, multi-national scheme that infiltrated at least 17 governments and a trio of major international organizations that held sensitive information about Scientologist activities.
Most notably, representatives of Scientology were able to plant bugs in Internal Revenue Service conference rooms while Scientologist agents obtained employment within the IRS, working from the inside to manipulate tax documentation.
1 Taxpayers Indirectly Fund Scientology
Many of the nations that have declared Scientology a bona fide religion allow the organization to declare tax-exempt status. As such, these governments let Scientology benefit from public services and infrastructure, indirectly helping the cult make billions of dollars in profit without having to pay a fair share. This is similar to the tax-dodging behaviour of many large corporate entities and wealthy individuals.
According to the U.S. tax code, any organization claiming tax-exemption as a religious entity must not commit illegal acts, violate public policy or serve the private interests of an individual within the group.
There is overwhelming evidence that reveals the illicit activities of the organization and the financial benefits enjoyed by leaders and celebrities of Scientology. As such, the fact that citizens indirectly subsidize Scientology merits serious discussion.