Is Scientology’s Sea Organization Really A “Clergy”?

At around the 1:30 mark you can see pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Lawrence Wright, call Scientology’s Sea Organization “The Clergy” in Scientology.

This is just one time when both of these excellent journalists called Scientology’s Sea Organization, a “clergy” or “priesthood”. It was part of their messaging when they promoted “Going Clear” in many interviews world wide.

So what if Gibney and Wright described the Sea Org this way instead?

“The Sea organization has military ranks, such as Captain, bosun, etc. They wear military uniforms, they muster every morning, and they conduct themselves with orders and military discipline just like the US Navy where Hubbard served. They sign billion year contracts. Scientology calls this their “clergy”, but they compare more to a military organization than a Catholic monastery.

That description is true, and has journalistic integrity.

It gives the information necessary for the viewer to make up their own minds.

Describing them as “clergy” – simply because that is what the Church calls it for PR positioning – has no journalistic integrity, in my opinion. That description does not give you enough information to make up your own mind about what the Sea Org actually is.

L Ron Hubbard taught Scientologists that all criticism was an attempt to destroy the target of criticism.

This is not an attempt to destroy anyone. It is an attempt to point out where a large mistake is being made, and an attempt to show why it is being made.

The following discussion took place on on October 15th, 2015 during a discussion of Louis Theroux’s “My Scientology Movie”.

Chee Chalker •

One thing that I have read in the comments [Regarding Theroux’s “My Scientology Movie”] Marty (allegedly) gets very upset about the use (abuse) of children while Fair Game is in play (I am guessing this is in relation to his own family (son) being harassed during the Squirrel Busters time (and also just in general terms when they follow his wife and child around)

Marty is reported as saying something like ‘when I was in I never would have imagined to use children (as part of a harassment campaign).

Well, what about the Cruise children? They were turned against their mother in a campaign to help Tom Cruise in his divorce.

Idk….I think Marty (as much as I admire/sympathize with him) suffers from a common Scientology affiliation…. Selective memory.

Tony Ortega Mod

That’s an excellent point.


All memory is selective. That goes for everybody. The term ‘suffers’ is not exactly correct in this context.

Furthermore, I think it is more likely that Rathbun ‘suffers’ form Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Chee Chalker

Yes I completely agree he has some kind of PTSD… How could you not? I think all exs are going to have that to some degree.

As far as Marty’s memory goes…. Maybe it’s not even an issue of memory. Maybe it is now he defines ‘harassment’. Perhaps he feels telling an 11 year old that their mother is one of the most evil people on the planet (2.5% of Earth’s population are SPs) is not harassment. Whereas following a woman and her child and videotaping their activities qualifies as harassment.

I believe they are both forms of harassment and both vile practices.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to wake up one day and realize that I had spent my life making other’s lives a living hell. In that respect, I feel very sorry for Marty. But, you know the old saying about living in a glass house…….


Not every Scientologist did the things that Marty and his friends at Int Base did, nor would they ever have.

Many many Scientologists, when they were pressured to do that kind of thing to other people, refused to do those things and either tried to stop it or left the area.

And when they saw these kinds of things occurring in too many areas in Scientology, they left almost immediately and many began speaking up about it.

Marty, Mike, Karen and all the other Int Base Escapees who have recently been so effective at making themselves available to these journalists and getting the word out about the abuses in Scientology, are not really good examples of the average person who got themselves involved in the subject.

They are not the kind of Scientologist who left and became an Ex-Scientologist when they saw that Scientology did not live up to its promises. When Scientology did not live up to its promises, or went thoroughly crazy, these are the guys who STAYED. And they even implemented the crazy on others for decades.

These were guys who had access to LRH, who saw with their own eyes how insane he was at the end of his life, and were the ones actually lying to the rest of Scientologists about all of that.

These are the “Young Turks” who collaborated with David Miscavige, helped him rise to power, and who kept him there – even though he was doing all the same abusive things then that he does now.

Marty, Mike and the other people from Int Base simply do not represent the average Scientologist, or Ex-Scientologist. But they have the status of being at the top of the Church, and journalists need their “credibility”, until, of course, it bites a journalist, or two, in the ass.

J. Swift

Alex Gibney’s Going Clear has been seen by about 10,000,000 people. GC would not have been possible without the meticulous work of Lawrence Wright interviewing powerful former Scientologists and the support of the New Yorker in publishing the original article “The Apostate” on Paul Haggis:…

Wright’s Going Clear was supported by, and originally published by the powerful publishing house Knopf. The book has won many awards and garnered high praise:

“An utterly necessary story. . . . A feat of reporting.” —The Wall Street Journal

“Brings a clear-eyed, investigative fearlessness to Scientology . . . a rollicking, if deeply creepy, narrative ride, evidence that truth can be stranger even than science fiction.” —The Washington Post

“A hotly compelling read. It’s a minutiae-packed book full of wild stories.” —The New York Times

“Courageous. . . . Devastating . . . will come as news even to hardened Scientology buffs who follow the Church’s every twist and turn.” —The Daily Beast

“Essential reading. . . . Lawrence Wright bend[s] over backward to be fair to Scientology. . . . This makes the book’s indictment that much more powerful.” —The New York Times Book Review

Going Clear the HBO documentary would not have been possible without the vision and leadership of Alex Gibney assembling together Lawrence Wright, a group of powerful former Scientologists, Tony Ortega, and many others into a project that he then got HBO and parent Time Warner to greenlight

The same is true of Louis Theroux and BBC films.

The powerful Scientology exes have debriefed the FBI and other federal agencies both in the US and Europe. Rathbun, Beghe, Brennan, and Headley spoke at the Minister Caberta’s conference in Hamburg.

Say what you will, but I celebrate Marty, Mike, Karen, Tom, Sara, Tony, Alex, Larry, Jason, Marc, Claire, Jesse, Jeff, Nancy, Amy, Matt, Jenna, Chuck, Jesse, Leah, and all of the other former high-ranking Scientologists, both SO and publics, who have variously written books, spoken out, and generally helped at a great personal cost by contributing their artistic talents, money, personal sacrifices, and blood, sweat, and tears to help to expose the Church of Scientology.

I understood a long time ago that high-ranking former Sea Org were the necessary experts at explaining, exposing, and deconstructing the Church. Filmmakers, authors, and journalists understand this and therefore seek them out as they were participants and eyewitnesses who departed and spoke out. My project to interview these people on my podcast is an effort to contribute a level of details and insights that would not otherwise be covered in major documentaries. I want to help fill in the historical record with day to day details.

If there is blame, lay it at the feet of the IRS. The IRS authorized the Scientology Monster in 1993 when it could have just as easily denied it based upon the 1992 ruling in CST vs. the United States:…


But think of this, J:

I watched Lawrence Wright and Alex Gibney – two of the best journalists on Earth right now – describe the Sea Org as “an elite priesthood” more than once in several global interviews.

“An Elite Priesthood” that wears military uniforms? Has military ranks such as “Captain”? And calls even the female “officers” ‘Sir’?

The Sea Org is not an elite priesthood. It is exactly what it looks like: a fanatic totalitarian paramilitary organization.

And I would put to you that the reason these two world class journalists could not see this reality right in front of their own faces, and call The Sea Org what it actually is, was because they had all these “powerful” Sea Org members still dramatizing Scientology shore stories on them – and making themselves available to cross check each other.

This might be the journalistic result of choosing too many people who were highly placed in the most insane parts of the organization – Int Base – as their main sources of information – for the sake of “credibility”.

It’s a problem, not only for the credibility of their journalism, but for the messaging that the government and the public need to hear to reign in Scientology’s criminality and abuse.

As soon as Marty and Mike – and many of the others you mentioned – left and stopped fair gaming journalists, then David Miscavige didn’t really have anyone to use to fair game journalists any more. And so the climate became safer for journalists to report on Scientology.

That’s why the reporting on Scientology has exploded.

Anyone these journalists picked to be their sources would have worked their asses off to make the reporting successful. But only “powerful” sea org members who were still dramatizing Scientology would have allowed those mistakes to come out of those journalists’ mouths.

I see this as only one of the problems with equating credibility of your sources with elitist rank in the Sea Org.

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John Doe
John Doe

Well, another way to look at this could be that journalists might be making a sincere effort to approach the subject of what the Sea Org is, in a balanced fashion.

To front load the story with descriptions such as “Scientology’s fanatic paramilitary totalitarian organization, called ‘The Sea Org’…”, well, that sounds too strident, as if they were trying too hard to mold an opinion for the viewer rather than just “report facts.”

Such an approach would actually bolster church counterclaims of bias and a “smear job.”

Better to introduce the Sea Org to the viewer using the terms the church uses, such as “volunteer clergy”. Then, as the facts unspool, the viewer will draw their own conclusions. The contrast could not be more stark between an actual clergy and the Sea Org.

Such a balanced approach would also be less likely to scare off active church members who might be taking their first timid steps to view things outside the official church sanctioned/permitted sources.


John Doe

LOL! Alonzo’s “Take no prisoners” approach shows up often. There is a bit of glibness going around that with all the recent publicity “CoS is on the way out and that’s over with.” Some whale might dump billions into CoS and the thing goes on forever. Alonzo effectively shocks people back into reality.


I don’t have a problem with Gibney and Wright using the term clergy, nor do I feel its use diminishes the validity or impact of their work.  When placed in the context of the book and film it does not legitimize Scientology as a religion, quite the opposite – it serves to highlight how bizarre, and possibly dangerous Scn is as a group.

From my experience, nearly every journalist gets some aspect of Scn wrong, whether it is misuse of terminology or details of an event or explaining Scn concepts.  And sometimes I cringe and feel it reflects badly on their work.  Even Tony O is guilty of this and he’s been at it for over 20 years.  But it is never to the degree that I would withdraw my support.

To a certain extent, the journalist will always be an outsider, not having experienced/lived Scn first hand.  Nothing can really replace the depth of understanding and insight one gains from decades of Kool Aid addiction.  The good journalists know this and seek to bring about understanding by use of credible sources.


Hey now!  Are you accusing me of being “reasonable?” 🙂

Technically the use of the word clergy to describe the Sea Org is incorrect.  Clergy refers to ordained ministers or priests.  I would speculate that a very small fraction of the Int Base staff are ordained ministers.

So why not show a little disloyalty and point it out?

I feel my posting was pointing it out, just not in the way you would have.  Gibney and Wright chose to use this term.  To know why they did this, it’s best to just ask them, maybe by Twitter.

As far as their journalistic credibility goes, I think they do rely on their sources and their research.  Inaccuracies erode their credibility.  While Gibney and Wright are respected in their field, I don’t think their influence is so vast, that their use of a single term (inaccurate as it is) will suddenly make Scn a legitimate religion.

Maybe the IRS refers to the Sea Org as “clergy?”  Again, best to go to the horse’s mouth.