CESNUR’s Massimo Introvigne is bothered by the professional fees that I charge to law firms when I write statements in their cases. He also seems disturbed that my analysis of Scientology in the legal arena conforms to my scholarship on the group that I have published in peer-reviewed journals and other venues. This scholarship has argued (according to Introvigne himself) that Scientology “is also, but not exclusively a religion” (CESNUR, 2000), which is correct, and a reasonable interpretation of extensive evidence. Why, then, has Introvigne disparaged me on CESNUR’s web site? Apparently he sees me as a sufficient threat to his own views that I warrant special attention. Perhaps I can figure out just what that perceived threat is.
My Alleged “Crusade” Against Monetary Corruptions in the Study of New Religions
My impression is that Massimo wants parties interested in European ‘alternative religion’ issues to define him as the expert in the field. Because my critical perspectives on some groups and issues frequently disagree with his own (usually) supportive perspectives, he is upset that some European bodies have listened attentively to what I have to say on particular topics. (On most European issues, of course, various European scholars are far more insightful than am I.) In essence, he feels that ‘his turf’ has been challenged. What else can explain his snide remark that I have “tour[ed] the world to lecture against money-induced corruption of scholarly studies about new religious movements” (CESNUR, 2000). My two invited lectures on the subject of questionable academic research ethics and methodology–one at a Danish university, and the other in a German university –hardly comprise a world tour! His cavalier dismissal of my work, calling it a “crusade to preserve integrity in the study of new religious movements against monetary corruptions” (CESNUR, 2000)–avoids several issues that I raised about some his friends and acquaintances.
As Introvigne knows, I have published one co-authored article on compromised academic research in the area of “alternative religions” (Kent and Krebs, 1998a) and the censorship issues that my co-author, Theresa Krebs, and I faced with that piece (involving a prohibition levelled on us against naming academics in our discussion) propelled us to write a similar piece for a popular press magazine (Kent and Krebs, 1998b; see 1999). (The magazine, Skeptic, argues for the use of science rather than ideology or superstition in the analysis of social and natural phenomena). One of the people whose scholarship research endeavours we discussed in those articles was a CESNUR director, Gordon Melton. On CESNUR’s web site, Introvigne webbed Melton’s response to our Skeptic article, without (of course) doing the same for our initial article or our rejoinder to Melton (see Melton, 1999).
One of the issues that Krebs and I raised about Melton was that he and co-editor James R. Lewis apparently received money from the group, Church Universal and Triumphant, to conduct a study of it, but did not inform readers of the study about this financial arrangement until Melton mentioned it in his rebuttal to our initial article (Kent and Krebs, 1999: 23; Melton, 1999: 17). From our perspective, researchers getting money from a group to conduct a study on it have an obligation to inform readers of this kind of financial arrangement. This issue may have been what Introvigne had in mind when he wrote about my “crusade to preserve integrity in the study of new religious movements against monetary corruptions.” Raising the issue of financial disclosure is a far cry from crusading, but apparently Introvigne did not like the fact that, on this issue, we had raised it in the context of a CESNUR director.
Now that Introvigne has brought up the issue again of financial disclosure, it is appropriate to wonder how much his associate, Melton, charges for the legal consultations that he does. Over the years, Melton has served as either an expert witness or an affidavit-writer on behalf of numerous groups–including Scientology, the Local Church, the Children of God/The Family, The International Church of Christ, Reverend Robert Thieme, the El Ruhns gang in a Chicago jail, etc. Certainly he is entitled to receive compensation for this work. Never, however, have I seen statements about how much he charged, or how much me made from these efforts.
In an earlier version of this document, I had raised questions about Introvigne’s testimony on behalf of Scientologists in Lyon France, in a trial where six Scientologists were convicted of fraud-related crimes, and one of those also was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Introvigne kindly sent me an e-mail in which he answered my questions. He stated that he did not receive and honorarium for his testimony, and covered the travel and hotel fees himself. Indeed, in his mind, he regarded himself as offering testimony on Scientology, rather than for it–although he was called as a witness by the defense. The interesting fact for me, however, was that Introvigne forthrightly told me that, in his position as as an intellectual property lawyer, his hourly fee usually is $350.00 an hour–a fee that he says is typical for that profession!
So, Introvigne sees nothing wrong with charging a fee almost twice my own when he does legal work in his profession, but he criticizes me for charging the going rate for an occasional consulting job! As a lawyer might say, “I rest my case.” Now, even more than before, I suggest that Introvigne should be cautious about launching criticisms about my public financial disclosures.
Introvigne and the Catholic Lay Organization, Alleanza Cattolica
Additional insight into Introvigne’s remarks about my legal statements concerning Scientology may come from realizing that Introvigne is a member of the conservative Catholic lay organization, Alleanza Cattolica (Introvigne, 1998: 23 n.13). The organization appears to target anti-Catholic perspectives, the historical rise of Protestantism, Communism (presumably for its religious hostility), and secularism. If my understanding of the organization is correct, then Introvigne’s hostility to my legal statements about Scientology’s probable ‘boundary violations’ between religious and secular undertakings may make sense. So, too, might his religious convictions help to explain his hostility to the French government’s secularism, which most recently is manifesting through governmental discussions about curbing the actions of groups that it considers to be harmful ‘cults’ operating in French society (see Kent, 2001: section 6-6.2, 11.5, 11.8). From his perspective, it may be better to support controversial groups that propound religious worldviews than support secular attempts to maintain religious boundaries in democratic societies. (By the way, I have no interest in criticizing or even supporting Introvigne’s personal beliefs, but I am interested in exploring how those beliefs might influence his behaviours and public statements.)
The Consistency of My Statements About the Religion and Scientology
Introvigne realized that I have said consistently that Scientology “is not exclusively a religion” (CESNUR, 2000) but he fears that the statement makes “a fine distinction lost to the audiences and courts that received Kent’s previous wisdom.” Just so this distinction is not lost, let me state my position again. In an article published in the respected Anglo-American publication, Religion, I said, “even a cursory examination reveals that [Scientology] is much more than merely a religious organization. Its complex, international structure actively markets, promotes, and advertises material related to business management, education, mental health, physical health, drug rehabilitation, taxation, ‘moral revitalization’ (to use its own term) and entertainment. These operations merge with the religious elements and aim at ‘getting the technology of LRH [i.e., Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard] into new territories of the world'” (quoting a Scientology document in Kent, 1999b: 148). With this statement as background, it will be easy see how I remained true to it as I wrote my legal statements for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Lisa McPherson civil case.
Sociologists of religion make a basic distinction between functional and substantive definitions of religion. Functional definitions are very broad, focussing on what religion does. They include anything that provides significant meaning and order to people’s lives. Often these definitions include groups and activities that do not seem religious according to common sense: biker groups, sports events, science fiction fandom, etc. The more precise definitions of religion involve statements about ‘substance’–what religion is. The most basic substantive definition–one that I keep refining over the years–is that religion is the “belief in supernatural forces or beings, and practices associated with these beliefs.”
In a legal context, people’s beliefs about the supernatural are absolutely protected; their practices are not (since they may have practical consequences for the parties involved). So, in Scientology, member’s beliefs in thetans, Xemu, past lives, etc. now are (arguably) religious, even though in the early 1950s Hubbard claimed that his group’s doctrines about past lives were scientific. A wide range of activities, however, have little logical connection to supernatural claims. These activities would include things like running a hotel and private penal system (the Fort Harrison, in Clearwater, Florida and its Rehabilitation Project Force or RPF program), providing business management instruction (through WISE), claiming to purge the body of drug and radiation residues (through the purification rundown), and attempting to ‘treat’ mental illness (the Introspection Rundown). In both the EEOC case and the Lisa McPherson case, Scientologists performed actions that, in my opinion, failed to keep an appropriate division between what they may believe in their consciences and what they do in secular settings.
A. Export Report Prepared for the Plaintiff in the Case of EEOC v. I-20 Animal Medical Center (November 9, 1999)
In my opinion, the EEOC case and the Lisa McPherson tragedy were examples of Scientologists failing to separate their reputedly religious beliefs and their secular actions. Business management training, which was at issue in the EEOC case, should have been an obvious example of a secular activity. Indeed, in the secret agreement between Scientology and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the IRS required that Scientology dissolve WISE International (sometimes written as WISE Int.), presumably because business management instruction was not the kind of secular, income-generating activity that a non-profit charitable organization could undertake. (It remains a mystery how a new version of the organization, simply called WISE, can operate legally under Scientology’s non-profit status.) Consequently, when the employees in the I-20 Animal Medical Clinic were receiving business management instruction, that instruction should not have included material that identified the organization originating and delivering that material–Scientology–as a “‘religious philosophy in its highest meaning…'” (Kent, 1999a: 14, quoting a Scientology publication). Nor should business training material speak about individuals as “spiritual being[s]” as did the information that staff members had to read (Kent, 1999: 14). Business training material should not contain religious instruction; hence the supernatural terms ‘thetan,’ and ‘exteriorization’ were inappropriate and lacked any business application. Staff should not have undergone auditing–which Scientology insists is religious counselling–but apparently at least one staff member did (Kent, 1999: 17-18). Finally, no staff member should have been put on an E-meter, which by law is a device limited to spiritual counselling and cannot be used as a lie detector (as apparently it was against at least one staff member). Taking these and other factors together, I made a case that the reputed business training that the veterinary staff had to undergo also was a recruitment effort to get new members into the organization.
B. My Expert Report in the Lisa McPherson Civil Trial (January 6, 2000).
The report that I submitted for the plaintiffs in the Lisa McPherson civil case involved a very different set of issues. In the EEOC case, I had argued that reputedly secular activities–i.e., business or practice management training–actually contained significant religious content. In the McPherson case, I argued that reputedly religious activities–i.e., Scientology’s treatment of a distressed woman–actually was a secular activity that took place in a facility that was not solely a religious operation. In the EEOC case, Scientology had put religion in a secular activity (i.e., business training); in the McPherson case, Scientology had put medical and mental health practices in its religious claims. In both instances, Scientology failed to keep necessary boundaries between supernatural claims and secular activities.
Specifically in the tragic McPherson case, I argued that the organization’s ‘treatment’ of her–during the final seventeen days of her life when she had clear mental problems–had to be viewed in the context of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s “prodigious output in fields related to pseudo-medicine and pseudo-psychiatry, and are not religious in nature or content” (Kent, 2000: para. 12). Moreover, her confinement took place in Scientology’s Fort Harrison Hotel, which is not solely a religious facility since it serves also as a penal facility for its notorious Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF) program and also a vacation resort for Scientologists. I made extensive use of Scientology’s own materials to support these conclusions. Alas, the judge in the case ruled that religion will not be a factor in his case, so I was dropped as an expert witness and will not have the opportunity to testify in court about the conclusions that I reached. The case, however, is a serious one, and Introvigne’s avoidance of the substance of my report suggests to me that he would rather avoid having to deal with its contents.
My Professional Fees
I find it very peculiar that Introvigne–a patent and copyright lawyer who charges $350.00 an hour in that capacity–should be questioning the fees that I charge others in his profession. In my situation, I used two criteria to determine my fees. First, a law office in my city (Edmonton) charged me $200.00 an hour in 1997 when I needed legal assistance in fighting Scientology’s character-assassination campaign. (The organization had written a two-page article against me in its Freedom newspaper, which it then inserted in a local Edmonton newspaper and a national paper distributed in the Toronto area. Both newspapers subsequently published apologies, and gave me space to print responses to Scientology’s actions [Edmonton Examiner, 1998; Kent, 1998a].) Second, I knew that, in 1995, sociologist Anson Shupe received $200.00 an hour for his expert testimony when he worked on behalf of Scientologist lawyer, Kendrick Moxon, in a court case that bankrupted the Cult Awareness Network (and that led to Scientology’s take-over of it). (Shupe, 1995: 74). Indeed, Shupe stated that he earned “several thousand” dollars for his expert work in the case. I felt that my expertise was worth as much as Shupe’s, so my $200.00 an hour fee is appropriate. Moreover, it seems appropriate for me to charge lawyers more-or-less what they charge me when I need their services. So, Massimo, what’s the problem?
Maybe part of the problem was that I got paid what Introvigne considers was a lot of money–$21,600 in the EEOC case. Of course, Introvigne could not have known that this amount actually was for two reports! Initially, the EEOC was going in a particular direction with its case, and in that context it hired me to write an expert report based upon that material. After I had submitted a draft of my report to the EEOC, its attorneys received information in deposition that caused them to take a new direction. Consequently, when I went to Dallas to consult with them about the case, I had to write a new report! I spent six days (if my memory is accurate) in Dallas, meeting and working with the EEOC attorneys during the day and interviewing clients and writing the new report at night. Of course, all of this took time, and I billed by the hour.
In conclusion, my expert report may have done some good. I finished it on November 9, 1999, and less than a month later (December 3, 1999) the Star-Telegram (of Fort Worth, Texas) announced that “an Arlington veterinary clinic has agreed to end a federal job discrimination lawsuit by splitting a $150,000 settlement among six former employees who said that their advancement was linked to participation in Church of Scientology training sessions” (Tharp, 1999). While the clinic did not admit guilt (insisting that a settlement was cheaper than a trial), it also “agreed not to engage in religious teachings or training at the facility and to conduct training sessions that will inform employees of the settlement, explain their rights and how to complain…” (Tharp, 1999). I will never know what role (if any) my expert report played in ‘encouraging’ I-20 to settle, but it certainly seems to have helped former aggrieved staff receive compensation while also helping protect current and future employees from having to receive religious instruction in the workplace. It also established a report that aggrieved parties in other cases can use as a comparison with their own situations. Why would Introvigne oppose my efforts to help the American government ensure proper working environments?
Free and Reduced-Charges Consulting Work
For what it is worth, I have prepared at least three legal statements about Scientology for free. The first was in a case involving an Edmonton police officer who was countersuing Scientology by claiming that he had been a target of its “fair game” policy (Kent, 1998b). (That case settled out of court in June 1999.) In the Bonnie Woods case (handled by a law firm in London, England), I was scheduled to be a witness-of-fact (rather than an expert witness), which would have allowed me to speak about the probable instances of “fair game” that I have experienced. I wrote a statement (without charge) in that case, and it too settled before trial (but with Scientology apologizing to her for its statements, paying her £55,000 in damages and £100,000 costs [Palmer, 1999]). Most recently I submitted an expert report in the child visitation case involving Tom Padgett and his former wife.
I have prepared statements in other cases (including one of the Larry Wollersheim cases and the Dennis Erlich case), but among the most interesting was my expert report in a case where the Crown prosecutor in a Canadian province (that I will not name) successfully argued that an abusive mother could not have contact with her children who were in foster care. This prosecutor, along with a children’s advocate, brought me into the case because of the bizarre stories of ritual satanic abuse that two of the children were presenting. In this case, I did testify under oath, and my report and testimony became factors that apparently contributed to a court ruling protecting the children from their abusive parent (Kent, 1997). This report was a huge undertaking, but because of length of time that I worked on it (40 hours) I accepted an offer to receive only $50.00 an hour. The prosecution in the case was sufficiently pleased with my work that it led to my acceptance of an offer to speak before an association of civil lawyers on the topic, “‘Cults’ and the Attack on Jurisprudence.” So, if mitigating circumstances require that I charge less than my normal $200.00 hourly fee, then I adjust that fee accordingly. Believe me, however, experts opposing Scientology’s probable abuses do earn their money!
Having made these additional financial disclosures, I call upon Introvigne to post similar disclosures from his friends and associates. I have responded in a comprehensive manner to his financial concerns, and I thank for doing so with me. I invite his associates to do the same.
CESNUR. 2000. “Update on Stephen Kent’s Expensive Affidavits: One Claims that Scientology is a Religion, Cost of the Affidavit – $21,600.” Downloaded from: <http:/www.cesnur.org/testi/kent1.htm> on January 26, 2001.
Edmonton Examiner. 1998. “Examiner Issues Apology to University Professor.” (July 10); Downloaded from: <http://www.access.ch/pwidmer/SCI/kent.html > on February 21, 2001.
Introvigne, Massimo. 1998. “Blacklisting or Greenlisting? A European Perspective on the New Cult Wars.” Nova Religio 2 No. 1 (October): 16-23.
Kent, Stephen A. 1997. Assessment of the Satanic Abuse Allegations in the [name removed] Case.” (October 20): 13pp.
——. 1998a. “A Message From Dr. Stephen A. Kent, PhD.” Edmonton Examiner [Edmonton, Alberta, Canada]. (July 8; Distributed July 10); Downloaded from: <http://www.access.ch/pwidmer/SCI/kent.html> on February 21, 2001.
——. 1998b. “[Untitled Statement for the Plaintiff in ‘Ken Montgomery v. Allan Anthony Buttnor and the Church of Scientology of Alberta].” (August 27; subsequently revised December 11, 1998): 12pp.
——. 1999a. “Expert Report prepared for the Plaintiff in the Case of EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] v. I-20 Animal Medical Center.” Dallas, Texas (November 9): 23pp.; available at: < http://home.snafu.de/tilman/prolinks/I-20.html >.
——. 1999b. “The Globalization of Scientology: Influence, Control, and Opposition in Transnational Markets.” Religion 29 No.2 (April): 147-169.
——. 2000. “Affidavit” for the Plaintiff in “Estate of Lisa McPherson… v. Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization, Janis Johnson, Alain Kartuzinski, and David Houghton,” Case No.: 97-01235, Division H. (January 6): 46pp.; available at: < http://www.lermanet.com/kent.htm > and < http://www.freedomofmind.com/groups/scientology/affidavit.htm >.
——. 2001. “The French and German Versus American Debate Over ‘New Religions,’ Scientology, and Human Rights.” Marburg Journal of Religion 6 No. 1 (January): 11 Web Pages (27,825 words). Electronic journal located at: <http://www.uni-marburg.de/fb03/religionswissenschaft/journal/mjr/kent2.html>.
Kent, Stephen A.; and Theresa Krebs. 1998a. “Academic Compromise in the Social Scientific Study of Alternative Religions.” Nova Religio 2 No.1 (October, 1998): 44-54; Located on the World Wide Web at: < http://www.rickross.com/reference/apologist28.html >.
——. 1998b. “When Scholars Know Sin: Alternative Religions and Their Academic Supporters.” Skeptic 6 No.3: 36-44; Located on the World Wide Web at: <http://www.gospelcom.net/apologeticsindex/c25.html >, and < http://www.skeptictank.org/wsns.htm >.
——. 1999. “Clarifying Contentious Issues: A Rejoinder to Melton, Shupe, and Lewis.” Skeptic 7 No.1 (1999): 21-26; Located on the World Wide Web at: <http://www.gospelcom.net/apologeticsindex/c40.html. >
Melton, J. Gordon. 1999. “Mea Culpa! Mea Culpa! J. Gordon Melton Responds.” Skeptic 7 No. 1: 14-17; Posted [with slight title change] in 1998 on <http://www.cesnur.org/testi/melton/98.htm >.
Palmer, Richard. 1999. “Stars’ Cult Pays Out £155,000 Over Hate Campaign.” The Express [United Kingdom]. (June 8); 24; Downloaded from: <http://www.shellac.freeserve.co.uk/reports/express.html > on February 21, 2001.
Shupe, Anson David. 1995. “Transcript of Proceedings Before the Honorable John C. Coughenour, United States District Judge.” in “Jason Scott v. Rick Ross et al.” United States District Court for the Western District of Washington at Seattle. Volume 4. No. c94-79c. (September 26): 18-78.
Tharp, Robert. 1999. “Six to Split $150,000 in Arlington Veterinary Clinic Bias Case Agreement.” Star-Telegram [Fort Wort, Texas]. (December 3); Downloaded from: <http://www.star-telegram.com/news/doc/1047/1:ARL61/1:ARL61120399.html > on February 20, 2001: 2pp.