By Michael Moore

“Since we can now handle all types of cases, disconnection as a condition is cancelled.”

L. Ron Hubbard,  HCOPL of 15 November 1968, Cancellation of Disconnection

Excommunication is one of those touchy subjects in religion, especially with what is often referred to as the orthodox or official religion. Excommunication has been practiced throughout history as both a method of keeping the religion pure as well as an applied punishment for non adherence to the religious rituals and tenets of the group or culture.Many of the laws we now follow have been derived from a religious background and there are many similarities between the various popular religions as to what constitutes a break in religious tenets and tort law. Broadly speaking one could say, in fact, that imprisonment is a form of excommunication imposed by society for established guilt of breaking the law.

However there is a difference between religious law and common or legislative law. The part that we will examine as relates to scientology is the aspect of excommunication or shunning. In Scientological parlance it is widely known as the “Declare”.

But first lets look at excommunication as it is practiced by some other current religions and some of the ramifications inherent in the excommunication process.

The catholic and scientology churches are not the only ones to practice excommunication, or more popularly shunning, we will use the word shunning from now on, to keep it simple. This is practiced in Jewish law, Amish, Bible Tract, Christian, Muslim, Jehovah’s Witness, Baha’i Faith, Catholic as well as many others.

The degree to which the shunning is imposed is as important as the reason for the shunning and this leads us to the discovery that there are two types of shunning. Active and Passive.

Passive shunning is the most common in most religions and is the state where the person is simply shunned from the official organ or church. They are ignored, as in the Jehovah’s Witness or the Bible Tract society. The person is simply ignored and it is as if they are not there. This degree is really only effective where the person remains in the culture or group. Once they leave the group or join another group this is somewhat ineffective. A Catholic person who has been excommunicated can still operate in the society and mix and have relationships with other Catholics. Indeed, other Catholics may not even be aware that this person has been excommunicated.

In close knit communities however it is more effective as a form of law either for the protection of the group or as a mild form of punishment to enforce or encourage compliance with the groups morals or dictates.

Active shunning, on the other hand, may include actively going out of ones way to punish the person. This is extra and over and above the act of excommunication. It may even extend outside the boundaries of community and legislative law. The declare and ‘fair game’ process as practiced by the official Church of Scientology may come into this category.

Per the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal in the US:

“Permitting prosecution of a cause of action in tort, while not criminalizing the conduct at issue, would make shunning an “unlawful act.” Imposing tort liability for shunning on the Church or its members would, in the long run, have the same effect as prohibiting the practice and would compel the church to abandon part of it’s religious teachings.”

Shunning, although may invoke some religions restrictions, cannot stand above the law of the country.

Community issues are important here also. How far should shunning go? Should it be active or passive?

  1. May one shun or excommunicate a person when the shunning process might (or will) drive this person completely away from the religious community or religious observance and
  2. May one shun or exclude the relatives of a person in order to encourage the person to cease his or her activities? And is this a form of inflicted punishment upon those also?

It can be established that shunning only works on the person being shunned IF he or she agrees that the shunning restricts him or her from the faith excluding him or her.

What is leverage and what is punishment? Is using children, for example as leverage different to punishing them by denying them access to their father who may be shunned although they are not guilty of the apparent tenet violations of their father? And how far should the chain extend? Should those who associate with the shunned person also be shunned by the fact of association? Should those who associate with those who are associating with the shunned person also be shunned? Where does it stop?

There are three issues here. The first is the applicability of the Tort (tort: A wrongful act or an infringement of a right (other than under contract) leading to legal liability.) to inflict intentional harm, such as emotional distress and or damages. The second is the applicability of the first amendment protection to provide positive immunity to religious groups that engage in contact not conflicting with tort law doctrines. The third is the first amendment and defence of the individual undergoing shunning either active or passive and the question of emotional, physical or financial distress caused by the act of excommunication.

For example. A person who has worked in the Sea Organization since childhood and has been brought up in that environment. Knows only the practices and training inherent within that society. Is then, for whatever reason, thrust out of that environment into one that is almost completely alien to them in which they have no experience or training. Is this passive or active excommunication taking into account the emotional and not to mention financial distress and lack of ability to fit in with the society in which they have immediately been thrust.

This is akin to spending 30 years in prison and then being sent outside into a different world, but worse in fact, as in these cases the individual usually has some prior experience of the outside world whereas the ex sea org member would not.

In addition some courts in law hold it to be true that religious disciplines or actions cannot be actionable on the disciplined member while they remain a member of the religious organization. What if when they are shunned from that religious organisation and are no longer a member and therefore no longer subject to the morals and religious disciplines of the organisation?

To what degree a person is considered a member of a religious organization is in question however? One HAS to be a member in order for a particular religious discipline to be applicable but if the person is then NOT a member of the religious organization then such agreed upon disciplines are not actionable on the individual.

This is dangerous ground for the CSI. Declaring and actively being involved in activities likely to cause distress of any kind could then be pointed as discriminatory and harassment of a person not a member of the organization at best and possibly criminal by law at worst.

Many courts in fact have taken the basic approach that shunning and excommunication, which would include declaring for our purposes, are actionable conduct even then it is unaccompanied by any other activity.

For example, the Church of Scientology of California at one point — and perhaps still does, adopted a policy of “fair game” towards individuals who are excommunicated. One court described the doctrine as follows:

Under Scientology’s “fair game” policy, someone who threatened Scientology by leaving the church “may be deprived of property or injured by any means by a Scientologist … The targeted defector may be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.”

This places the Church of Scientology actions outside the protection of law and indeed may even place them in tort.

This can include such activities as:

Instigating hate
Unwarranted Investigation with a view to obtaining information unconducive to the interests of the offended party
Splitting up families
Anonymous phone calls
Threatening behaviour towards the individual
Planned campaigns to hinder or restrict the lawful financial activities of the individual
Any activities that interfere in the affairs of the offended party
Intentional rumour mongering, slander and defamation of character
Frivolous law suits with the intention of restricting the activities and personal rights of the individual, also known as SLAPP suits (SLAPP suit: A strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate and silence)

This would be active shunning with a vengeance.

It has also been said that even the mere fact of “declaring” a person Suppressive may be a reason for bringing civil actions for defamation of character. Especially if it was quite incorrect! To state that a person is suppressive of other people when they are not would likely constitute slander. This may explain why the number of public ‘Declares” has reduced.

Over the past years since the demise of the founder of scientology, many people have been “declared”. In one year alone over 2000 people were declared! According to the writings of L. Ron Hubbard, only 2.5 percent of society is ‘actually suppressive’. Yet the church has declared many people simply because they associate with others who have been declared who have associated with others who have been declared. This dizzy ring-a-roses has now diluted the original purpose of isolating out those people who would destroy scientology so much it has now degraded the action of isolating out people based, not upon any factual statement of suppressive guilt, to declaring anyone who does not toe the official line. As well as being an injustice to those so declared it also hides those people who well may be suppressive under an all encompassing banner which increasingly less people pay heed to.

By way of example, here Former Scientology Members one can find a list of people, almost all who were close associates of the founder of scientology and who participated to a extent in building up the church in its hey day, who have been declared for one reason or another.

It is very difficult to believe that all of those people, many of them close associates for many years, were suppressive and yet at the same time were honoured by Ron Hubbard and were responsible for much of the support Hubbard got in building up the organization in the early days.

The fact that so many of the original adherents have been ‘declared’ shortly after the demise of Ron Hubbard tends to lead one to the conclusion that the purpose of declaring a person has changed from the original, which was to protect the technology, to some purpose yet to be made known.

Indeed, in it’s present guise, there could be some justification for many current ‘Declares’, to coin a word, to question the legal validity of the active shunning process imposed by the church of scientology and the possible affect it may have upon them and their families.

Certainly, unless the church assumes more responsibility and reviews its current stance on the question of shunning, it is quite likely to continue to contract instead of expand.

As a last comment. The Buddhist philosophy has had no policy of shunning and does not exclude anyone. It has also been expanding non stop since it’s inception.

Perhaps there is a lesson to be learnt here.

* This article is republished from http://www.the-scientologist.com, and with the author’s permission. You can see the original article here.



10 thoughts on “Anyone to declare?

  1. One point here. Most Americans (and virtually all foreigners) have a woefully weak grasp of the U.S. Constitution.

    Unlike almost every other “constitution” in the world, the U.S. Constitution considers people’s rights “inalienable”. That is, they aren’t doled out to you by the government. These rights are considered yours by virtue of being human. If you prefer, they are “God-given”.

    The first ten amendments to our Constitution are called, collectively, the “Bill of Rights”. The first of these deals with freedom of speech, religion, the press and freedom of assembly. It is a very short amendment, and it starts, “Congress shall make no law…” and then proceeds to detail the rights above. In essense, it says Congress shall not make laws which might infringe these rights. This is common in the Bill of Rights. It was written almost exclusively to protect the citizens from the government.

    Please note, then, that our Constitution does not protect us from other people or entities infringing those rights (though the fact that they are inalienable should provide protection by itself). This does not mean that the government hasn’t been routinely infringing on these rights since the Constitution was adopted. They have, and often with the generous help of our Supreme Court. But that’s another issue. The point is that the Constitution does nothing more or less than protect our rights from Congress (and thus the rest of the Federal Government).

    Also, the Ninth Court (mentioned in the above post) is widely considered the most reversed court in the land. That is, the Supreme Court routinely reverses the decisions of the Ninth Court more than any other court. Not coincidentally, the Ninth Court covers that part of the country including California. California is widely considered the nuttiest state. (It it any wonder, as the home of Hollywood?) So be careful when you quote the Ninth about anything.

    Also note the difference between libel and slander. They both have the same general intention and effect. But libel deals with the written word. Slander deals with spoken utterances.

    Lastly, note that U.S. courts have been very reluctant to rule regarding the internal conduct of churches and religions. They are given wide latitude to operate in ways which might otherwise be considered unlawful. I’m not condemning them nor applauding them here. I’m just stating the fact.

    That’s your U.S. civics lesson for the day. 😉

    I am not a lawyer (a bit of butt-covering there).


  2. One thing I’ve always been curious about.

    I don’t have the references to hand, but a blown student who fails to return to course or an auditor who continuously misses F/Ns or M/W/H can be declared SP. Even in the worst case scenarios, I find this form of justice overly harsh, as these infractions in my book do not justify family and relationship break ups. These edicts were from LRH-written policies, not the church. If someone doesn’t return to course, then I can see forfeiting his fees, an auditor missing M/W/H, either retrain or bar from auditing.

    In all my 18+ years at the local CO$, I have never known of such a declare ever having been carried out.

    In cases where a spouse continued to remain with the SP declared one, he/she was simply not eligible for further services. I’ve never heard of anyone breaking up a marriage because of it, but I’m sure they have existed. If however at another time he/she chose to break with the marriage at a later point, they’d just simply welcome him/her back without too much ado. But we are talking local Class V org here.

    • F:

      For what it’s worth, I don’t ever recall a policy which states that the blown student or flubbing auditor must or should be declared. Bad auditors can be declared “tigers”, and I knew one who was. But he wasn’t declared SP.

      Someone who persists in staying married to a declared SP would naturally be declared a PTS type A, but not necessarily declared an SP. Type As could only get PTS handlings, nothing else.

      Of course, how justice in the current Church gets doled out these days is probably a matter of low-toned HE&R and arbitrary. So it’s anyone’s guess.


  3. Disconnection while illegal within the CoS because te founder cancelled it, is still a communication and rather than creating disconnection, causes a reach which is a communication and keeps the person connected. I wonder if anyone in corporate Scientology really understands our religion?

  4. Michael,
    You can take anything a thetan can do and make it nutty. “Disconnection” or “shunning” is no exception.

    “If we examine the definition for Operating Thetan we find his highest capability is knowing and willing cause. This should tell us at once that the definition of neurosis and psychosis would be unknowing and unwilling effect, and this is the actual definition of either.”

    “Now let us examine the potential number of neuroses and psychoses in the light of the above definitions. How many aspects are there to a life unit, which is to say, a thetan? Perhaps the number is infinite but at least we can say the number of aspects is very large. There are no additional aspects in this or any other universe. In other words, when you examine the aspects or abilities of a basic life unit you have examined all the aspects or abilities there are in a universe. There aren’t any left over. Even if you include gods in every universe you will see that you have not escaped the potentialities of life units.

    “All the aspects and abilities there are, are the aspects and abilities of a thetan. The only thing that can be done with these aspects or abilities is included, at least in this universe, in the formula of cause and effect. Take one ability and add to it the idea of cause and effect of the more simple variety CAUSE, DISTANCE, EFFECT, fix it so it can never be flowed against by anything else and we have a source of neuroses. Now take a being at the effect-point of this flow. If this being is the effect-point of a flow he can never flow back against, we have here what we could call carelessly a neurosis. But there is no other qualification for this neurosis than that it be unwillingly received and unknown. Therefore a known “stuck flow” at a person which he is not unwilling to receive does not cause a neurosis. Now if we make this “stuck flow” unwillingly received, then unknown, and make it so that it bars out all backflows of whatever kind on any subject then we have psychosis.” HCOB 18 Dec 57, Psychosis, Neurosis, and Psychiatrists.

    P.S. I think if you look at the discipline codes of various Buddhist groups you’ll find a very strict line of conduct, particularly in the monastery milieu. I read some of these some months ago, and was amazed to find the attention to the “robes” of one such sect. You don’t care for your clothes according to strict rules, and you are put through a series of gradients all the way up to “outta there”.

  5. I remember reading in the Ethics Book and elsewhere that one of the reasons for declaring someone to be a suppressive person is to benefit the SP by indicating to him a true condition which he would then have the possibility of addressing personally, i.e., take a look in the mirror, address his interactions with others, etc. I remember reading how being an SP is a CASE condition wherein the person is out of PT and dramatizing a situation in his or her past wherein he or she was under attack and overwhelmed. Thereafter the SP sees people he encounters in present time and takes them to be those who suppressed him in the past. And that if the person can be inspired to sit down in an auditing chair, such traumatic incidents can be run out.

    And as I recall the second reason for declaring a person to be an SP is obviously to protect other group members by notifying them about someone who, overly or covertly behaves destructively and is unwilling to knock it off and reform.

    So, these are two different purposes. In my opinion, both situations should exist before one considers declaring someone an SP.
    Also, there are numerous “acts” listed in the Ethics
    Book which, if committed, allegedly “automatically” result in a person magically becoming an SP, e.g., continuously missing F/Ns, refusing to disconnect from someone who has been declared, asking for a refund, etc. I seem to remember reading somewhere that there is even a situation where someone can be declared for by-passing mis-understood words.

    The way I look at it, too often the COS uses the declare process as an excuse not to confront with and communicate with people whereas its true purpose is to enlighten and should be used very gently and sparingly.

    That’s my view on disconnection.

  6. As I see it, disconnection is a way to withdraw which is a natural ability and the counterpart to reaching. After all, most independents have applied this ability when they disconnected from the C of S. The difference between an ability and aberration is determined by the presence or absence of self-determinism.
    Someone else telling you to connect or to disconnect is an attempt to interfere with and reduce your ARC by cutting away your self-determinism. ARC exists only self-determined. Without self-determinism we call that an ARC-break.

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