Ethics and Community

Gender and Sexuality

Scientology's founder, L. Ron Hubbard, completed his work before the modern feminist movement arose, and he had already moved into what was essentially a retired state when it was at its peak. Hubbard's lack of exposure to the ideas of feminism is evident in his use of pre-feminist language, referring, for example, to "mankind" rather than "humankind" and using male pronouns when referring to collectives of both genders. "The Creed of Scientology," which asserts a variety of rights for everyone, repeatedly states, "all men have inalienable rights. . ." In the use of such non-gender-inclusive language, Hubbard was a child of his age.

Language is important, and contemporary feminists might ask for a revision of the creed's wording, but all would tend to judge the church more on its actions than the archaic language of Hubbard's early writings. The language issue aside, Hubbard was surprisingly free of gender bias in his writings on Scientology. Both men and women were welcomed equally into Scientology at all levels and leadership roles were opened to all. From the beginning, women were invited to become auditors and ministers and to assume positions in international church leadership. While otherwise embarrassing, it is to be noted that when the church faced its biggest scandal in 1979, it was a woman, Jane Kimber, who had risen to head the Guardian's Office, one of the church's most powerful divisions. Hubbard's wife, Mary Sue Hubbard, was also a high official.

The church's teaching about the thetan -- the true self, which inhabits a body -- would seem to take precedence relative to a variety of issues involving gender and related concerns of sexuality. The goal of Scientology is to produce free moral beings able to act as the masters of their own fate. The primacy of the thetan, generally spoken of in genderless terms, suggests the equality of all thetans without regard for the gender of the body in which they have most recently been born. Both men and women grow up with the same reactive mind and must go through the same processes to reach Clear and become an Operating Thetan.

The church's creed affirms that "We of the Church believe that the laws of God forbid man [i.e. humans]: To destroy his own kind; To destroy the sanity of another; To destroy and enslave another soul; To destroy or reduce the survival of one's companions or one's group." Women would appear to be completely covered in these statements.

Hubbard wrote very little about sexuality. Before the founding of Scientology, he had been divorced twice; he met one of his wives during the year he was associated with a magical group that practiced sex magic. Through it all, Hubbard accepted traditional views of sexuality and male/female relationships. In the 1950s, while decrying much of psychology, especially views like those of Freud, which seemed to reduce human striving to repressed and uncontrollable sexual desires, he accepted the views of other psychologists and spoke of "sexual perversions" by which he meant homosexuality. Such views reflected the beliefs of most in the psychological community until the 1960s, when the first studies began to appear that questioned the common view that homosexuality was an illness which required institutionalization and segregation from mainstream society. At this time, Hubbard himself began to change his views, and in 1967 cancelled any previous policies that related to the sexual activities (including homosexual activities) of Scientologists. Today, though the earlier statements on homosexuality remain in books that are considered basic to Scientology, the church moves to welcome homosexuals into membership and has supported various gay-oriented events.

The logic of the church's understanding of issues such as homosexuality would be to view it relative to the role it plays in each person's life. Does it contribute to any dysfunctionality and hinder progress up the Bridge? If yes, it could be a problem, but otherwise, there would be no reason to consider it any different from heterosexual activity.

Though the major thrust of the church has been with the individual working up the Bridge, the church tends to privilege life in the family and has established programs to assist members in creating happy and functional nuclear families. Hubbard saw the nuclear family as the norm, and in The Way to Happiness included among his precepts admonitions to "Love and Help Children" and "Honor and Help Your Parents." The need to express one's desire to survive through sexuality and the creation of a family is seen as the second of the eight dynamics of life.

The Church has not spelled out a policy on abortion. The logic of its understanding of the thetan is that it would neither support nor deny a person the right to an abortion. Scientologists would consider an unwanted pregnancy, for example, relative to how it functions in the pregnant woman's life or how it relates to her movement toward Total Freedom. A woman with an unwanted pregnancy might approach the chaplain at her church to seek counseling. Counseling would look to the optimum solution of the situation for all concerned, the choice that brings the greatest good for the greatest number of those involved. It would be for the individual to work toward the best solution rather than simply seek conformity to the church's preexisting dictates. That being said, the church does have a bias toward the family and would see the drive to reproduce and raise a family (the second dynamic) as a most important consideration in abortion-related situations.

Study Questions:
     1.     Should it be argued that Hubbard was insensitive to the rights of women? Why or why not?
     2.     How are women viewed within Scientology? What leadership positions can they hold?
     3.     What is the church's stance on homosexuality? On abortion?
     4.     What can be said about sexuality within the church of Scientology?

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