The Church of Scientology
Is the mysterious sect open to LGBT's?
The Church of Scientology has opened up a 45,000-square-foot facility in a highly populated area of metro Atlanta, making for the Church’s largest footprint in the state of Georgia since the religion’s founding in 1954.
The Atlanta Ideal Church of Scientology is five times the size of their previous facility in Doraville and strikes an imposing figure on the busy corner of Roswell Road and Glenridge Drive in Sandy Springs.
“Today honors a tale of Ideal Org creation that epitomizes Ideal Org spirit,” said David Miscavige, worldwide leader of the Church of Scientology, at the April 2 ribbon-cutting ceremony. “It’s all the more inspiring for the fact yours is a city of enduring inspiration, a city of grace and magic, a city where even oaks and magnolias possess souls; and a city of remembrance that also foretells of the future.”
But the Church has landed in the headlines in recent years, with some questioning its practices and in particular the views of founder L. Ron Hubbard, who among other things called homosexuality an “illness” and a “sexual perversion.”
Dianetics and becoming a ‘Clear’
To understand the Church of Scientology, one has to understand Hubbard, whose teachings are the basis of everything the Church’s members do on a daily basis. Hubbard was a science-fiction and fantasy author before developing a system called Dianetics in the 1950s.
The basis of Dianetics is that people have an analytical mind—the conscious mind— and a reactive mind, which keeps a record of all of the pain, negativity and trauma one has endured in their life. Hubbard claimed to have developed techniques that will “erase” the contents of the reactive mind, i.e. rid someone of the pain and negative thoughts holding them back. If someone manages to erase the contents of the reactive mind, they are considered a “Clear.” Becoming a Clear is the goal of all Scientologists.
Scientologists work to erase the contents of the reactive mind by practicing something called “auditing,” in which a Church-designated auditor acts in what’s similar to the role of a therapist to another individual, known as a “preclear.” The preclear uses an invention of Hubbard’s called the Hubbard Electropsychometer, or “e-meter,” which Scientologists believe measures the changes in one’s reactive mind.
The e-meters and space devoted to audit- ing take up a large portion of the Church’s new Atlanta facility, where Hubbard looms around every corner, be it in the large portrait or timeline of his life in the lobby, the bust of his likeness in the chapel, his more notable quotes posted on numerous walls, or the office the Church included for him as a tribute, complete with desk and nameplate.
But it’s Hubbard’s central role in the Church’s teachings, and Church leaders’ subsequent practices in the 30 years since his passing, that have also led to much of the criticism. Most notably, there was last year’s Emmy-award winning documentary “Going Clear,” which has been denounced by the Church.
But Hubbard’s teachings remain, including this passage from his “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health,” which is credited with launching the religion: “The sexual pervert (and by this term Dianetics, to be brief, includes any and all forms of deviation in Dynamic II [i.e. sexuality] such as homosexuality, lesbianism, sexual sadism, etc., and all down the catalog of Ellis and Krafft-Ebing) is actually quite ill physically... he is very far from culpable for his condition, but he is also far from normal and extremely dangerous to society.”
He repeated these views in subsequent books throughout the rest of his life, and those unaltered books remain the foundation of the Church’s current teachings and are available at their new Atlanta facility.
Church downplays anti-LGBT teachings
The modern Church has disputed claims of being anti-LGBT, and when asked about their stance on LGBT people, the Atlanta Church’s community affairs director Deborah MacKay tells Georgia Voice, “We don’t get involved in any political agenda of any kind or any discrimination of any kind. What we’re looking for is to improve the spiritual well being of a person. We don’t define for you what that is, and we have many members who are of all different persuasions in their moral and political beliefs so we offer to you what you believe needs to be handled about you.”
MacKay did say that if someone came in that felt their same-sex attraction was “contributing to their unhappiness and spiritual failing,” then the Church would help them “address” that, but that they don’t force people to try and change their sexuality. “The goal is a person who is not haunted by life’s darker experiences and who can be causative, creative and productive in life,” MacKay says.
MacKay also says they don’t have a position on same-sex marriage and when pressed on whether they would allow same-sex marriages to be performed at the church, she says, “If it was from someone from the community, for sure. They could come and use our chapel. It’s open to the community always for anything.”
“The sexual pervert is actually quite ill physically...he is very far from culpable for his condition, but he is also far from normal and extremely dangerous to society.” — The late L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology, from the book that’s credited with launching the movement
The Atlanta Ideal Church of Scientology’s 45,000-square-foot facility facility opened on April 2. (Photo by Patrick Saunders)