Eine Reportage aus der Schweiz, die nach meiner Einschätzung sehr gut beschreibt, warum Scientology nicht mehr Mitglieder bekommt und die Organisation kurz vorm „Sterben“ ist.
Die Reportage ist auf französisch mit englischen Untertiteln und kann auf folgendem Link angesehen werden
Program: Mise au point
Host: Pierre-Olivier Volet
Journalist: François Roulet
December 9, 2012
Host: Is Scientology going downhill? Scientology arrived here from the United States 30 years ago. It has regularly stirred controversy, and some observers say it’s only a matter of time. The bad publicity will eventually lead to Scientology’s demise in Switzerland.
François Roulet produced this investigation.
Scientology Sunday service: „We of the Church believe that all men of whatever race, color or creed were created with equal rights. That all men have inalienable rights to think freely, to talk freely, to write freely their …“
Narrator: A Sunday service for Scientologists in Geneva, the equivalent of a liturgy or a mass, except that the readings aren’t from the Bible, but from the writings of this man, the founder, L. Ron Hubbard.
Scientology arrived in Switzerland more than 30 years ago, but rumors say it is not faring well and might even be nearing the end of its rope.
Francine Bielawski: (Scientology spokesperson for French-speaking Switzerland) The rumors are false, like many things that are said about Scientology. It is easy to … Anyone can come see if Scientology is really in decline.
Scientology Sunday service: „Nothing in Dianetics and Scientology is true for you unless you have observed it and it is true according to your observation. „That is all.“ L. Ron Hubbard, founder
Narrator: In Geneva, the movement claims it has 250 active members. But on this day, we tallied those present. They were 19.
Title: DESPERATELY SEEKING FOLLOWERS
Scientology video: Scientology is a religion that has methods to help you find answers to the questions in life. You have a body, a mind. You ARE a Thetan. Scientology offers you techniques to increase your abilities and attain your full potential in life. For the subject matter of Scientology is you.
Narrator: Scientologists call them „ideal orgs,“ giant churches in city centers that are supposed to symbolize the movement’s strength. There was Berlin in 2007, Tel Aviv this year, and surprise! The next of these Scientology megacenters is due to open in Basel next summer.
Patrick Schnidrig: (Scientology, Basel) This will be the entrance. We will open this up here. That will be a waiting room and reception area. And we’ll put up panels. This will all be for the public who have no idea … It’ll really be used to show and to open [sic].
Narrator: A showcase building over 4,000 square meters, an investment of at least 10 million francs. But will the 4 stories of this building really be occupied? Will this gigantic course room be filled?
Patrick Schnidrig: We’ve had a lot of contacts through the Internet, people who went to see what Scientology is. First they visited our sites, then they came here and asked us. So we’ll have quite a lot more people coming than before.
Narrator: In Switzerland, Scientology claims it has 5,500 active members and is steadily growing. But other observers say that L. Ron Hubbard has 10 times fewer disciples. Those who have left the movement even speak of a continual decline. One of them is Ruth Dridi. She worked for Scientology for 5 years in Zurich before slamming the door on the organization. This was at the end of the 1990s. Throughout her time in Scientology, she saw only 7 new members arrive.
Interviewer: In Basel, Scientology is opening a large center, 4,000 square meters. How do you interpret this?
Ruth Dridi: (ex-Scientologist) I think it’s just marketing, because it’s always one of the things about Scientology. They want to do big things, with everything looking very nice. Glamour. But behind the scenes, it’s another story. They really don’t know how they are going to pay the bills and all that. It’s really …
Interviewer: You’re saying that the Swiss organization doesn’t have any more money.
Ruth Dridi: I think so, yes. Perhaps some rich persons are helping, but, in the end, I think it will be difficult.
Ruth Dridi: Because they aren’t finding new members, and they can’t go on living with only the old members.
Narrator: Decline. This is also what Georg Otto Schmid believes. This Protestant theologian has been very closely observing the evolution of Scientology ever since it first set foot in Switzerland.
Georg Otto Schmid: (Head of Relinfo, Information Center on Beliefs) Scientology has been shrinking. One can wonder if 20 or even 10 years from now, it will simply have disappeared. Scientology is no longer able to withstand a comparison with recent developments in psychology. The gap between Scientology and science is widening, and this makes Scientology appear less and less credible.
Narrator: So is the future Scientology center in Basel simply a fig leaf? A way for the organization to cover up its decline and unite the few remaining members around a new goal?
Francine Bielawski: We are really beginning to feel tight for space, and we need space. Individuals should each have a room of their own where they can work on themselves. It’s very important.
Interviewer: But I don’t understand. You have fewer people than 20 years ago. How can you feel tight for space?
Francine Bielawski: Who said we have fewer people than 20 years ago?
Interviewer: Many observers.
Francine Bielawski: Ah, thank you, but it wasn’t I. Because I told you we’ve had a constant progression for 20 years. Really. Progressive. We had a great boom between — I repeat — a great boom between 1980 and 1990 and, since the 1990s, constant progression. And the proof is that we feel tight for space.
Interviewer: But a progression of what magnitude?
Francine Bielawski: I can’t really give you numbers. This is isn’t necessarily the goal. But if we open buildings …
Interviewer: But you are unable to tell us how you are progressing or how the movement is evolving?
Francine Bielawski: Well, there are statistics that exist and if you look —
Interviewer: But you don’t want to provide them to us?
Francine Bielawski: Then I would have to pull out some documents for you. I could tell you about anything you wish, but the documents contain the proof, and I don’t have them here.
Narrator: If Scientology is no longer attracting people today, this is because Scientology has remained locked up in the doctrine of its founder. „Dianetics,“ the book on which it is based, dates back to 1950. L. Ron Hubbard claimed to have invented a new science of mental health, and he united his followers. Until the beginning of the 1990s, the movement experienced exponential success. At that time, Switzerland discovered this new personal development method from America.
Scientologist: It’s a test about your abilities.
Scientologist: Do you have 2 minutes? We’ll do it right now. It helps you to know yourself better. It shows you how you are using your potential.
Narrator: After Hubbard’s death in 1986, David Miscavige assumed the leadership of the organization. Scientology then played the glamour card, with Tom Cruise as ambassador. But, in Switzerland, the movement was running out of steam. In the personal development market, Scientology is now outdated. Being dogmatic, the organization forbids any interpretation or modernization of L. Ron Hubbard’s methods. For example, auditing, Scientology’s basic therapy, is practiced today exactly as it was in the 1950s.
Norbert François: (Scientology, Basel) You have an auditor, the person who is holding an E-meter. This device will send a tiny 0.5 volt current through the body of the lady who is there. This tiny current will be influenced by the minute mental changes — that is to say, the emotional changes in the mind of this person. And this gentleman will be able to read them on the E-meter.
Narrator: To become auditors, Scientologists must study the founder’s teachings at length and in depth. Training costs an average of 30,000 francs. It is the cause of countless controversies surrounding the organization. The accumulation of these controversies has definitively tarnished the movement’s reputation.
Georg Otto Schmid: Scientology has huge image problems. Almost every child knows about Scientology. When I moderate discussions about the dangers of cults with groups of young people, there are always 2 communities they spontaneously think of: Jehovah’s Witnesses, because they knock on the door of our homes, and Scientology. So it is natural that a movement identified as a cult by all children has difficulty recruiting new members.
Caption on balloons: I say yes to life, no to drugs.
Narrator: Echallens, on a Saturday morning. At first glance, this is an association just like the others that do drug prevention work. It tours French-speaking Switzerland all year long to distribute these informational booklets and to speak with the public.
Passerby: … because you are an association that I don’t know about.
Scientologist: We are an association called „Say no to drugs“ and our message is to encourage people to say no to drugs, to not touch them and to stay away from them.
Narrator: What this man does not say is that the association is supported by Scientology. The older booklets it distributed contained this quite explicit statement:
„This booklet is published as a public service by the Church of Scientology International. (…) To request a free copy of these booklets or to learn more about the discoveries of L. Ron Hubbard concerning drugs, visit or contact nonaladrogue.ch“
Narrator: This local councillor wants to oblige the association to more clearly display its ties to Scientology.
Jessica Jaccoud: (Local Councillor for Nyon): I’ve been doing some research. We don’t share the same opinion about the concept of transparency.
Narrator: To her, it is obvious that „No to drugs“ is a Scientology recruitment structure.
Jessica Jaccoud: Your documents give a very good summary of your activities.
Jessica Jaccoud: There is a quite clear intent to reach people who may be vulnerable in order to recruit them more easily. The Church of Scientology has difficulty obtaining authorization for stands in markets because today it is criticized and openly recognized as a cult, at least in public opinion, today it uses front-type associations like this one to directly contact the public.
Mario Lepore: (Head of „Say no to drugs“) The goal is drug prevention. The goal is not the promotion of Scientology.
Mario Lepore: Absolutely. If you read our booklets, there is nothing religious or even political, because the goal is strictly drug prevention.
Interviewer: The association says it is secular. But less than an hour after we finished filming in Echallens, we received a call from Francine Bielawski, the spokesperson for Scientology. She wanted to know the reasons for our presence at the „No to drugs“ stand.
Given its nebulousness, Scientology is hard to circumscribe. In the United States and in Spain, it benefits from the status of a religion, while in other countries, it is considered a cult.
In Switzerland, it is merely an association, perhaps soon to be a distant memory.
Host: Good evening, François Roulet.
Journalist: Good evening.
Host: This report was produced by you. Scientology’s reticence and distrust of television are well known. Did it take long to get the access you wanted, to be able to speak to the persons you wanted to meet?
Journalist: Yes, one must realize that it is not easy to bring a camera into a church of Scientology. Between the moment the Scientologists agreed to participate in the report and the moment we recorded the first frame, 3 months had gone by, 3 months during which we had to negotiate with them over every aspect of the report, over every picture to be filmed in their churches. They are very wary because they know that their organization is controversial. The controversy in Switzerland stems above all from financial issues, conflicts over money with former members who spent tens or even hundreds of thousands of francs
for all kinds of Scientology services.
Host: In spite of everything, you did gain access. You were able to record scenes that had never been filmed before, to our knowledge. The Sunday celebration, if that’s what it can be called, is something that Scientologists did not like to show. How to explain this openness?
Journalist: I think they no longer have any other choice but to play the openness card. For 30 years, Scientology’s communication policy was a cult of secrecy and closed doors with respect to the media. Scientology’s leaders in Switzerland no doubt realize today that this communication policy is a failure, since the movement is declining. They assessed the situation and decided to play the openness card.
Host: Your report shows that Scientology’s image has never been worse in Switzerland. We heard Ruth, an ex-Scientologist, who spoke with great reticence. Having been a Scientologist seems to be a label that is very, very heavy to bear.
Journalist: Yes, it’s a burden. Above all, it’s a label that is practically indelible. Ruth, who was a Scientologist and left the Church of Scientology more than 15 years ago, still carries this image today. For example, while we were preparing this report, just after her interview, we were taking outside shots of the house where she lives, and the owner of the house rushed toward our camera and said: „No! No! Don’t film this house!“ I think he knew that his tenant had a Scientology past. He said: „I suppose this story has something to do with Scientology. I don’t want to have anything whatsoever to do with that organization. I don’t want this house to be shown in your report.“ I find that this reveals quite well the climate of tension that still surrounds this organization.
Host: 30 years ago, when Scientology arrived, no one knew about it. Over these 30 years, an enormous amount of work has been done to inform the public. And, fundamentally, this is having consequences for the Church of Scientology today.
Journalist: Yes, for the past 15 years in Switzerland, the media have talked a lot about Scientology, and there have also been prevention campaigns aimed at young people. As a result, today, nobody is really unaware of what Scientology is, as an organization. In the 1980s, when the organization was going very strong,
people sometimes didn’t know what they were getting involved in. Today, this is no longer possible. Ruth, who was in the report, told us that, had she been the same girl in 2012, she would never have set foot inside that organization. We also must not forget that Scientology operates in a personal development market that has become ultra-competitive. There are now all kinds of alternative therapies. Scientology once had a kind of monopoly, perhaps in the 1970s and 1980s, but today it is outclassed by its competitors.
Host: Thank you very much for these insights, François.