This essay started as a result of a comment made by Ronnie Bell about a prior essay I had posted. He expressed the (widely held) opinion that the Church should not be allowed to have or continue its monopoly on the practice of Scientology. The reason being that the current Church’s monopoly was hindering our ability to practice Scientology in the Independent Field, to which I had to agree. However, I also saw that this monopoly was at least partially by design, and would normally serve to ensure the standardness of the technology. The fact that the current Church of Scientology was using this monopoly as a weapon against the Independent Field was an unfortunate byproduct of the fact that we, as parishioners, had allowed the Church to become a suppressive organization. This was and is a paradox, but I could see no way around what was done and now can’t be undone. So I was prepared to defend the current state of affairs, even though the Church, not the Field, is now the home of the squirrels (though there are plenty of squirrels in the Field, too).
But midway through my defense of the status quo, I hit an impasse. So I decided to step back and look at this issue from a different perspective. One of the fundamental beliefs in the civilized world, enshrined in our U.S. Constitution, is the right to free exercise of religion. This is generally considered an inalienable right, meaning it is not given to us by some entity or the government. It isn’t even granted by the church whose religion we follow. It arises from the fact of our humanity. At least in the United States, it cannot be hampered or dictated. Given this fact, how do we resolve the Church’s monopoly on the practice of Scientology?
First, we have to consider how the Church enforces this monopoly. It does so primarily through the use of two legal tools: copyrights and trademarks.
The Church (and/or its ancillary organizations) owns the copyrights to all the original LRH materials. In the Church’s case, because the organizations which control the publications (Bridge and New Era) are also part of the Church, they can can control not only the copying but also the ultimate distribution of all the materials. That means that legally, you can’t copy HCOPLs or HCOBs unless the Church gives you permission. You can’t manufacture your own packs. You can’t copy lectures, except for backup purposes, and even then only for your own use, not to lend to others.
Furthermore, the Church (and/or its ancillary organizations) owns the file cabinets, buildings and vaults where the original materials are stored. You don’t have access to them and likely never will. Whether those materials are unadulterated or not when they get to you is a question only the Church can answer. Whether all the materials are available to you is also a matter of the Church’s discretion.
And you’re even on shaky ground when it comes to quoting parts of Ron’s work. In the end, you’d probably win any court case the Church filed, but not before the legal process sucked you dry.
Regarding trademarks, the Church (and/or its ancillary organizations) owns the trademarks associated with the services delivered by the Church. This means you can’t deliver something called “Scientology” in the Field without risking a lawsuit (or fifty) from the Church. You must be given their permission to deliver pastoral counselling services under the moniker “Scientology” or “Dianetics”. You also are not allowed to train anyone to do Scientology auditing while also calling it that, without their permission. You can’t manufacture jewelry using those marks without running afoul of Church lawyers. And the Church has been quite rigorous in trademarking just about every term or symbol even vaguely related to the subject.
(Incidentally, in doing some research on the matter of the Church’s trademarks, I discovered a surprising fact: very few trademarks had been registered in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. The vast majority of the trademarks the Church holds were first registered starting in the early 1980s. As a result, I have to question whether the registration of all these marks was even something that LRH intended. Certainly he had the opportunity to register them earlier, but apparently didn’t do so. Even the term “Scientology” wasn’t registered until 1970, and then only in relation to “BULLETINS, BOOKS AND NEWSLETTERS”. So questions arise: Were these marks registered so recently for the purpose of exercising control over those who practice Scientology? And if not, then why? And whose idea was it?)
In case it’s not obvious to the casual reader, there is a benefit to having the Church hold the copyrights and trademarks. Under normal circumstances, it ensures the standardness of the Technology. You’ll notice, I couched this with the proviso “under normal circumstances”. Obviously, we don’t live “under normal circumstances”. The Church having been turned on its head, it no longer guarantees the standardness, but ensures the non-standardness of the Technology. But guaranteeing the standardness of the Technology is still an important function which should be done by someone. It’s not something of theoretical concern or an incidental issue. It is, and always has been a matter of primary importance.
So we have two requirements. The first is our right to practice our religion without interference, and the second is having some way to know or ensure what we’re practicing or receiving is “standard” Scientology. How do we satisfy these two, sometimes competing, requirements?
I’m not necessarily the smartest guy in the room, and there may be others who have some better solutions. But for now, I’ll offer you what I believe is the most reasonable solution going forward. It has a variety of facets.
First, since the Church controls the practice of Scientology primarily via the use of trademarks and copyrights, the rigid enforcement of them must be stopped. For the trademarks, the Church could retain control of them or not, re-register them or not (this must be done every ten years). But it would have to generally ignore what would normally be considered trademark infringement.. Anyone (squirrel or not) would have to be allowed to brand their version of Scientology as “Scientology”. By itself, this would eventually lead to the invalidation of the marks, since failure to enforce their exclusivity is legally equivalent to abandonment. For the copyrights, those which have not already expired will all do so at some point before 2073 and cannot be renewed. In the meantime, considering that the use of LRH works is necessary to the practice of the religion, the enforcement of copyright in those works would have to be abandoned or seriously curtailed. Both of these measures, painful though they might be to the Church and it ancillary organizations, would be the only way to allow unfettered practice of Scientology in the Field.
Second, the issue of the “standardness” of Scientology. For this, an entity of some kind would have to be created (or an existing entity given the task) to pass judgment on the technology and materials in use. Call that entity “J”. Any auditor, field group or mission could practice “Scientology”, but only those which had been examined by J could advertise that they had earned the “Mark of J”. Classed Orgs would probably have a representative of J posted in them to ensure and maintain Orgs’ standardness. But they, too, would be subject to having their certification pulled if they drifted into non-standard territory. J could publish a list of those who had passed muster on their website. Incidentally, this “standardness” oversight would also extend to administrative, not just auditing technology. Orgs would no longer be allowed to simply put an unhatted person on some random post and hope for the best. Staff would have to be properly trained and apprenticed before being allowed to fully take a post in an Org.
This J organization could also be tasked with the job of ensuring that the materials of Scientology were complete and unadulterated. It would have access to all the original LRH materials, and examine each book, bulletin, policy letter and lecture to ensure all published materials conformed to the originals and didn’t cut corners or include inappropriate additives.
Those paying attention will notice that the mission of this J organization looks a lot like the original mission of Religious Technology Center (RTC) before it was corrupted. And indeed the usefulness of the “Mark of J” could be corrupted by politics and abuse in the same way. If J became involved in non-standard tech or admin, its mark would cease to have much meaning. That’s why the certification of J would be optional. It also means that J would have to allow certification of people or groups not in good standing with the Church. J would have to be free of “politics”.
Of course, there are lots of details which would have to be worked out. J would probably have to be manned by FEBCs and Class XIIs. It would have to charge something (reasonable) for its examinations. But how often would re-certification be required? Could certifications be revoked? If so, under what circumstances? What about OT levels (confidential materials) in the Field? What about pricing in the Field vis a vis Orgs?
Even with all the questions satisfactorily handled, there would still be those in the Field who would object to this solution. They would probably go along with the Church’s now lax attitude toward trademarks and copyrights, but object to the existence and mission of the J organization. They would be free to do as they please, and simply ignore J and the Church. Those wishing to obtain service from such Field members would have to decide whether J’s certification was important to them or not.
By the way, in case you wonder whether such a system could work, there is a system remarkably like this in place in the auto repair industry. It’s anchored by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). It trains, tests and certifies mechanics and shops in the auto repair industry. Its testing and certification is optional, but mechanics and shops which are certified by ASE proudly display their certification and use it as a badge to indicate their quality. Other non-certified shops ignore this certification and may still deliver high quality service. Consumers are free to take ASE certification into account or not.
One major question remains after all this: How or when could the Church be persuaded to go along with this solution? Well, at this point, the answer is probably, “never”. The Church and David Miscavige relish their monopoly, and aren’t likely to relinquish it any time soon, human rights and the Constitution be damned. And though many predict that the Church is close to implosion at this point, that’s still a long way from an agreement to free the Field from its suppression. In any case, only time will tell. In the meantime, all we can do is continue to work toward completing our Bridges and freeing those under the spell of oppression.