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Going Queer: Scientology and the Gays

After ex-Scientologist Pete Griffiths gave a speech about cults to the students of St. David’s CBS in Dublin, the school received a letter claiming that he had posted links to “gay pornographic movies of young boys in their late teens”.

It was all part of the Church of Scientology’s ‘fair game’ policy, which seeks to destroy its enemies, he says.

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Pete Griffiths

In 2013, Mayo-based Pete Griffiths was invited to St David’s CBS Artane to give a speech to a religion class on the subject of cults. Griffiths had spent a number of years as a member of the Church of Scientology before defecting and becoming one of its most outspoken critics.

After giving a talk at the school on Wednesday, May 1 – which Griffiths uploaded to Youtube – he returned to the school for a further talk on Friday, May 3. After Friday’s lecture, Griffiths was approached by several panicked teachers and a deputy head, who informed him about an email they’d received containing some serious allegations against him.

Griffiths paraphrases the email’s content: He was a bigoted, unquali ed “hate-monger” under investigation by the Gardai due to his aggressive campaigning against the Church of Scientology; he was a member of ‘hacktivist’ collective Anonymous; he used bad language (two “fuck offs”, one “bullshit” and one “crap”) in front of the class, an “abominable” offence for “a Christian doctrine school”.

Zabrina Collins

scientology,1On three occassions email – sent by a “concerned parent” who later admits her children don’t attend the school in question
– questions Griffiths’ “suitability” to work with minors. The email’s author, Scientologist Zabrina Collins, also alleges that Griffiths’ posted links to “gay pornographic
movies of young boys in their late teens – much like the young boys of St Davis [sic] CBS” on his social media accounts.

The truth, father-of-six Griffiths tells me over coffee, is much less sordid. He is not a member of Anonymous; a picture of a naked Griffiths, covering his genitals with a Guy Fawkes mask (right), which Collins cited as proof of his involvement with the group, was actually taken as part of an online campaign by members of the armed services to show support for Prince Harry after pictures of him naked in a Las Vegas hotel surfaced in 2012.

The “pornographic movies” to which Collins referred were in fact generic coming-of-age movies, the likes of which wouldn’t be out of place at any LGBT lm festival: a fan-made music video using footage from French indie movie A Little Comfort (2004) and German movie Sommersturm (Summerstorm, 2004).

According to Griffiths, Collins’ questioning of his“suitability” was a subtly underhanded insult designed to play on his sexuality (he doesn’t self- identify as ‘gay’ but is in a longterm same-sex relationship) by conflating homosexuality and paedophilia. And though the email stopped short of alleging outright impropriety, Griffiths says the implication was clear: He is not safe to be around young boys.

 

It’s Complicated

The Church of Scientology has a long and complicated relationship with homosexuality. For years rumours have abounded that part of the church’s appeal rests on its claims that it can ‘clear’ a person’s same-sex attraction, while other rumours are rife that the church exploits the homosexuality of its high-profile members for its own ends.

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The prolific Hubbard, pictured with an ‘E-meter’

Founded in 1953 by science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard (who interestingly is the Guinness World Record holder for most published works by one author – 1,084), Scientology was formed from teachings contained in Hubbard’s 1950 book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, and renamed and re-characterised as a religion: The Church of Scientology.

Since its inception the church has been embroiled in many controversies: over its ‘fair game’ policy, which legitimises the persecution of critics of Scientology; its battle with the US’ Inland Revenue Service demanding tax-free status; allegations of human rights abuses and forced ‘disconnections’, and of course, controversy over the church’s endless lawsuits to keep the secret origin story involving a galactic overlord, Xenu out of the public domain.

Closeted Scientologists

Among the salacious rumours circulating about Scientology, none is more persistant than the one that suggests that some of the Church’s most high-profile members are closet homosexuals blackmailed into continued involvement.

Though the Church’s current leadership dispute claims that it harbours hostile attitudes towards gays and lesbians, Hubbard’s writings – which are the foundations of the Church’s beliefs – are clear: homosexuality is an illness which can be cured with the intervention of Scientology.

Dianetics, the book which launched the Scientology movement, states: “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…”

‘Clearing’ Homosexuality

Hubbard expanded on this in 1951’s Science of Survival, introducing a concept called a ‘tone scale’, a numerical value for assessing a person’s emotional state. The scale runs from 40.0 at the top (‘Serenity of Beingness’, the most desirable state), to Body Death at 0.0 and then all the way down to minus 40.0, ‘Total Failure’.

Homosexuals are considered a 1.1 on the scale: “covert hostility”, which Hubbard calls “the level of the pervert, the hypocrite, the turncoat… the subversive.” Such people are “skulking coward[s] who yet contain enough perfidious energy to strike back, but not enough courage ever to give warning.”

The 1.1 is only capable of negativity and subversion and needs the intervention of Scientology, by way of expensive and time-consuming ‘auditing’ (a process of semi-counselling where adherents are hooked up to a device called an E-meter), to clear themselves of such dysfunction.

Hubbard’s message seems clear: homosexuality is a symptom of inner inadequacy and with sufficient help from Scientology, one can be cured.

 

Was Quentin Hubbard Gay?

It is unclear why Hubbard reserved such specific animus for homosexuality, though it is not unusual for religions to be homophobic – especially ones with a such a 1950s flavour as Scientology. One popular rumour suggests that Hubbard’s own son, Quentin, whom he groomed to succeed him before his death, was actually gay.

Lawrence Wright’s 2013 book Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, claims that Quentin made up this rumour himself to discourage women who were only interested in him because of his father.

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L Ron Hubbarb and family. From the left: Suzette (4), wife Mary Sue, Quentin (5), Arthur (1) and Diana (7)

Whatever the truth, in 1976, after a brief disappearance, Quentin was found comatose, and naked, in a parked car near a Las Vegas airport. He died in hospital two weeks later.

An initial autopsy reported the cause of death as asphyxiation from carbon monoxide poisoning and also noted that semen was found in Quentin’s rectum. Mary Sue, Quentin’s mother arranged for a further three autopsies to be carried out, eventually telling fellow Scientologists that her son died of encephalitis.

Scientology Sanctioned Anti-Gay Discrimination

Despite the Church’s attempts to pitch itself as an organisation dedicated to championing human rights, the story is markedly different according to gay members of the Church.

In 2012, former Scientologist Keith Relkin told the Village Voice that before he was permitted to attend auditing (a form of Scientology counselling) in the 1980s, he was made to sign a notarised form stating that

he would not engage in any “homosexual acts” during his time in the Church. Relkin also said that he was told numerous times that his “abberated” sexuality would make it impossible to attain OT (or ‘Operating Thetan’, a spiritual state which purportedly gives devotees “knowing and willing cause over life, thought, matter, energy, space and time.”)

 

Paul Haggis Speaks Out

One of Scientology’s most damaging high-profile defectors in recent years, Million Dollar Baby director Paul Haggis, said that the final straw for him was the Church’s refusal to speak out against Proposition 8, California’s anti-gay marriage legislation .

In an explosive open letter to then Church spokesman, Tommy Davis in 2009, Haggis (who has two gay daughters) recalls how he was “stunned” to discovered that the San Diego Church of Scientology had publicly sponsored Prop 8. He demanded that Davis speak out publicly against the support of Prop 8. After inaction by Davis, Haggis wrote an open letter saying that the Church’s silent refusal to denounce the actions of San Diego was “cowardly” and that he could no longer be a part of it. His defection – and his open letter – made headlines around the world.

Adding to the notion that there is an undercurrent of homophobia in the Church are the statements of another defector, Jason Beghe who said in an interview that he “never heard the word ‘faggot’ more than when I hung around people at Gold [Base, the church’s international headquarters].”

Travolta Threatened

Author Lawrence Wright states that when allegedly gay A-list actor John Travolta expressed a desire to leave the Church, a fellow Scientologist was assigned the task of compiling a “black PR package” filled with all the secret confessions the star had revealed during ‘auditing’ sessions.

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A fresh-faced John Travolta using an E metre in a Scientology publicity still

Wright claims that Travolta was threatened with the release of the package, which allegedly contained all the potentially damaging information gleaned during his auditing sessions, if he left Scientology.

This was allegedly used to solicit the star’s continued public involvement in the Church. In the documentary adapted from Wright’s book, former Inspector Gen
eral of Scientology’s Religious Technology Center Marty Rathbun claimed that this sort of relationship is mutually beneficial. “As far as Travolta’s concerned you could say ‘well, there’s all things we know about, that have been rumoured in the tabloids’, but in fact it’s more of a two-way street,” Rathbun said.

“He’s provided with an auditor whose shoulder he can cry on but also provided with the muscle of the church in the form of myself and Mike Rinder [former Executive Director of Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs].

“On many occasions we were sent out to get with his publicist, to get with his lawyer and and to help squash or intimidate these people who were making accusations against him.” After this, Wright says, Travolta was the church’s “captive”. The actor continues to be an active member in the Church of Scientology.

 

‘Fair Game’ Or Blackmail?

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Griffiths giving a talk about Scientology

According to the documentary, the church does not consider such acts blackmail, since no money is being demanded and anything done in service of Scientology is ‘fair game’.

By speaking out against the Church of Scientology at Irish schools, Pete Griffiths believes he became a target of this ‘fair game’ policy, which states that any “enemy” of Scientology can be punished and harassed using any and all means possible. When dealing with critics, the church’s stance is: “don’t ever defend, always attack.”

Writing in 1967, church founder L Ron Hubbard stated that opponents who are “fair game” may be “tricked, lied to, sued or destroyed.”

Court Cases

Griffiths brought a defamation case against Zabrina Collins seeking damages in the amount of €50,000. Collins counter-sued Griffiths and another former Scientologist John McGhee for assault and battery. Collins alleged that McGhee had attacked her as she and fellow Scientologist Michael McDonnell were handing out fliers on behalf of the Church, while Griffiths filmed.

Both cases were heard consecutively. Judge James O’Donohoe told Dublin’s Circuit Civil Court that Collins’ allegations were “largely untrue and grossly defamatory”. He noted that although Collins’ repeated queries about Griffiths’ suitability to work with school boys were “distasteful” she had stopped short of calling him a paedophile.

Griffiths was awarded €5,000 by the court for the defamation, but was also ordered to pay damages of €2,000 against Collins and McDonnell for the assault.

Church Surveillance

Griffiths believes that he is under online surveillance by the Church (“there was, or is, a Scientologist in the UK whose job it is to spy on me”), and this is how the talk at St David’s – which he uploaded to YouTube – came to the Church’s, and Collins’ attention.

Of the fair game policy, where opponents of the church allegedly may be tricked, lied to, sued or destroyed, Griffiths says: “They did three of these things to me. I was not destroyed, though.”

The Church of Scientology Ireland did not respond to our request for an interview.

This article originally appeared in the September issue of GCN (321), which is available to read online here.

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