Mike Rinder’s Speech on Why Scientology is a Religion

In 2011, Mike Rinder traveled to Trinity College in Ireland to debate why Scientology is a religion. I mean if he traveled all the way there to say this – he must have meant it – right?

His co-star Leah Remini, after being a Scientologist for 34 years, now says Scientology is not a religion. Chris Shelton, after being a Scientologist and calling it his religion for, what, 25 years? now says Scientology is not a religion, too. So many anti-Scientologists claim that Scientology is not a religion these days.

But here’s what Mike Rinder says about it:

Mike’s presentation here contains, in rat-a-tat fashion, all the considerations which governments and social scientists and expert court testimony uses to determine whether a group is a religion.

Chris Shelton, even though he has the arrogance to call himself an expert in this matter, does not use any of Mike’s criteria to proclaim that Scientology is a not a religion. This is what Chris said about himself in his video called “Why Scientology is not a Religion”:

Even though Chris has convinced himself that he has the “expertise to speak from a position of certainty”, none of the criteria Chris uses to proclaim Scientology not-a-religion are legitimate. His argument is that while he was working in Scientology “at its highest levels” (eye roll), nobody acted like Scientology was a religion, therefore Scientology isn’t a religion. Mike Rinder effectively debunks this view in his speech here.

Leah Remini has also declared that Scientology is not a religion. But she doesn’t use any social science or court rulings or any other legitimate criteria to conclude this. Coming from Leah Remini, this proclamation is like a Fatwah issued by the Screen Actor’s Guild: the lines are delivered by striking a pose with nostrils flaring, but it’s really just another actor posing. Actors never really get the respect that they feel they deserve. Given Leah’s argument, determining whether Scientology is a religion is another instance where actors really don’t deserve it.

Scientology is a religion, and Mike Rinder says exactly why, using the correct and legitimate criteria to make that conclusion.

A Little History – As Defined By Me

When Mike Rinder first delivered this speech in 2011, he did it when he and Marty were running the Indies. And it was scheduled suspiciously close to a crusade I was running on those guys of “Why Can’t Marty and Mike Debate Stuff?” As the Kings of the Indies back then, their position was that “the only thing wrong with Scientology was David Miscavige”. Which was very wrong, and I was calling them out on it.

When Mike suddenly appeared in Ireland at Trinity College – one of the most prestigious debate fora in the English Language – I thought, “Wow. Mike really has a hard time with criticism. He could’ve just cut and pasted this onto Marty’s blog.” 🙂

Rinder’s is a good solid speech, with the correct criteria to determine whether something is a religion, and he proves here that Scientology is one. Courts have affirmed it, and so has the IRS and many other government bodies around the world.

No matter how hysterical the anti-Scientologists get, no matter how much they kick and scream, I don’t think this shaving cream is going back in the can.

When Marty, Mike and Dave were going for Tax Exemption, Marty said that all they needed was a seat at the table. Once they got there, they knew it was a slam dunk – not because they bought everybody off at the IRS, or blackmailed them, but because Scientology is legitimately a religion and it is easy to see for those who determine such things.

The argument that Scientology is not a religion is simply illegitimate if you know what criteria are used to decide this. Mike does know the criteria here, and he delivers them beautifully – in probably the best places to deliver them on Earth.

Well played, Mike Rinder.

Well played.

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10 Responses to Mike Rinder’s Speech on Why Scientology is a Religion

  1. Doloras LaPicho February 16, 2018 at 5:28 pm #

    John Rogers, an excellent screenwriter, has argued that being able to lie shamelessly – or to completely do a 180 on your positions when they become inconvenient, and to never acknowledge that anything changed – is like a superpower in modern society. We are so wrapped up in the idea of arguing in good faith that we have no recourse when someone does that.

  2. John Doe February 17, 2018 at 2:00 am #

    The state or fact of a group being religious in nature (a “religion”) and tax exemption based on that group being a religion are two different things.

    In the case of Scientology, it was in Hubbard’s interest to conflate the two, and this interest was passed on to Miscavige after Hubbard died.

    What Hubbard wanted was to not be pestered by taxes and those pesky laws such as minimum wage and overtime rules, and he wanted to be able to “do as he willt” in abusing staff. Beyond that, he didn’t give a rat’s ass if anyone thought his enterprise was a religion or not.

    Miscavige wanted to leverage the IRS rulings that favored Scientology in the US into a de facto validation of Scientology as a religion in other areas besides the US and had been largely successful in doing so.

    But these facts remain:

    1. The Scientology business model is so flawed that it would quickly go broke if staff were paid even minimum wage,

    2. The philosophy and teachings of the church can best be described as religious in nature, (I would make exception to many policies that arose during Hubbard’s more nasty narcissistic moods such as disconnection, abuses like lower conditions, the RPF, “destroying utterly” one’s enemies, etc.),

    3. Miscavige and Hubbard both abused the hell out of the “religion angle” because anyone who has/had been in their circle knows that they were (and with Miscavige, are) recipients of personal benefits that are grossly over-the-top and strictly forbidden by IRS rules.

    And yet it continues. Because we live in a world where television evangelists have 60,000 square foot mansions and private jets and while Miscavige may covet much more than he has, he does draw the line short of those other hucksters.

    And yet, if Scientology were to lose its tax exempt status, the core philosophy would remain religious in nature.

    The tax exempt status should be revoked based on the paragraph below, not on any yardstick that exists in the minds of people who have ideas of what is or is not a religion.

    “The inurement prohibition forbids the use of the income or assets of a tax-exempt organization to directly or indirectly unduly benefit an individual or other person that has a close relationship with the organization or is able to exercise significant control over the organization.”

  3. Alanzo February 17, 2018 at 9:30 am #

    This is another excellent comment emailed to me from DigThatGroove:

    Is Scientology a religion and does it deserve a tax exemption? To answer the first question, I will examine Encylopedia Britannica’s definition of the religion:

    Religion, human beings’ relation to that which they regard as holy, sacred, absolute, spiritual, divine, or worthy of especial reverence. It is also commonly regarded as consisting of the way people deal with ultimate concerns about their lives and their fate after death. In many traditions, this relation and these concerns are expressed in terms of one’s relationship with or attitude toward gods or spirits; in more humanistic or naturalistic forms of religion, they are expressed in terms of one’s relationship with or attitudes toward the broader human community or the natural world. In many religions, texts are deemed to have scriptural status, and people are esteemed to be invested with spiritual or moral authority. Believers and worshippers participate in and are often enjoined to perform devotional or contemplative practices such as prayer, meditation, or particular rituals. Worship, moral conduct, right belief, and participation in religious institutions are among the constituent elements of the religious life. [all emphasis was added by me other than in the first word of the parapgraph]”

    To what extent does the above definition applies to Scientology?

    *It’s indeed a system of beliefs through which its adherents relate to what they regard as spiritual and “worthy of especial reverence”.
    *It most certainly deals with the fate of humans after death.
    *It includes a belief in spirits and gods (thetans).
    *It does have “texts [that] are deemed to have scriptural status” and there are people within its organization who are “esteemed to be invested with spiritual or moral authority”.
    *Within Scientology’s organizations, the decision makers and their underlings guide and pressure the memberes to follow what Scientology percieves to be correct moral conduct and right beliefs.

    In my judgement, Scientology ticks enough of the boxes in Britannica’s definition so as to be considered a religion. But I don’t think that this is the only issue which should be considered when assessing whether or not it’s worthy of a tax exemption. As Alex Gibney wrote in an LA Times op-ed:

    “In the past, critics of the church have called for its tax exemption to be revoked because it is not a “real religion.” I agree that tax-exemption isn’t merited, but not for that reason. […] To maintain the right to be tax-exempt, however, religions must fulfill certain requirements for charitable organizations. For example, they may not “serve the private interests of any individual” and/or “the organization’s purposes and activities may not be illegal or violate fundamental public policy.””

    In his article, Gibney goes on to argue that the CoS does not deserve its tax exemption as it harasses its critics and serves the private interests of David Miscavige and various Scientology celebrities. In his own post on the subject, Mike Rinder uses the same argument as Gibney but also posits that Scientology provides neglible public benefit, and thereby is undeserving of its tax exemption.

    When Scientology dealt with the IRS it probably didn’t have much of a problem in proving that it’s a religion. Scientology’s commercial nature and violations of public policy were likely a greater obstacle for it to overcome in its attempt to gain an exemption. Per Doug Franz’s investigative report into the subject, Scientology had it’s original tax exemption revoked in 1967 for being a commercial entity and for serving Hubbard’s personal interests. Likewise, Franz reports that even as the IRS was working towards giving Scientology a tax exemptiom, its previous denials of such a status were upheld by the United States Claims Court. Amongst other reasons, the court cited Scientology commercial nature as the basis for its decision.

    Considering the above, it’s not unlikely that IRS granted an exemption to the CoS not because it was worthy of it, but rather to put an end to the harassment campagin condcuted by Scientology against IRS employees. This harassment campaign is described in Franz’s article and Going Clear.

    As for Marty Rathbun’s statements on this subject, I wouldn’t grant him too much currency. The statements he made regarding Scientology and related matters since 2016 often contradict his previous statements on such subjects and known facts. For example, see his inconsistent claims regarding the pickets organized outside the homes of Scientology critics. Another example of Marty’s recent lies is his claim that OSA was never involved in the coverup of sexual abuse and that outside of prison the CoS is the most dangerous place in America for one to be pedophile in (skip to 5:54 for the relevant remarks). This is false per this blog’s own propertier.

    I recall hearing some of Rathbun’s recent comments regarding the tax exemption but I do think I need to review them again. I’m wondering as to how much to they comport with his previous claim that Miscavige had won the tax exemption for the CoS by means of fraud.

    • Alanzo February 17, 2018 at 9:48 am #

      Great points, DTG.

      As John Doe writes above: To the question “Is Scientology a Religion?”, the answer is yes.

      But the question “Does Scientology Deserve its Tax Exempt Status?” is a completely different one.

      As for the currency I invest in Marty Rathbun, I agree: I have to be careful. He has made some inconsistent statements in his videos since 2016 as you pointed out. He also made inconsistent statements when he was King of the Indies back in 2009-2013. He along with Mike Rinder were revising all kinds of history about critics and Scientology abuse, etc.

      But here’s where Marty’s currency has value – even though you have to inspect it careful to ensure it’s not wooden: He was there. Both Marty and Mike have a viewpoint of having been in the room with Fred Goldberg and the IRS commissioners, of working with social scientists on what it is that makes a religion, and with attorneys from agencies who know what is required to gain, and to keep, tax exemption.

      No critics that I know of have that experience, or that knowledge. Marty does. And so does Mike. So we really should listen when they talk about it. We should identify the facts and separate out the outrageous personal character assassinations they engage in when they are angry. That’s what I’ve tried to do. And when I’ve done that, a completely new, way less hysterical view emerges.

      Here is a group who had 11 top members convicted of felonies and sent to prison for infiltrating and spying on the government less than 2 decades prior. And who had their tax exemption taken away in the late 60’s.

      These three guys – Marty Mike and Dave – actually overcame all that. Only one hypothesis is that they blackmailed their way to tax exempt status. But that hypothesis has holes as big as the Grand Canyon. Are you seriously telling me that a room full of Ivy-league government attorneys are going to submit to being blackmailed by a kooky little cult with less than 50,000 members at that time – and who has the legal record it had? Like they are just going to bend over for that?

      Come on. It might feel good to think they blackmailed the federal government to get tax exemption, but it completely ignores whole swaths of the reality of government power.

      That is a viewpoint which is not allowed in anti-Scientology venues at this time. It’s a viewpoint that tends to unstick you from the hysterical vengeance in these venues because it is a view that is less of a caricature and more reality-based. It’s just slightly more adult.

      I think Marty’s point about Mike was that he was unaware of what Rinder was doing in OSA to suppress victims of sexual abuse in Scientology. If compartmentalization exists for Mike – why wouldn’t it exist for Marty?

      • DigThatGroove February 18, 2018 at 11:27 am #

        “Are you seriously telling me that a room full of Ivy-league government attorneys are going to submit to being blackmailed by a kooky little cult with less than 50,000 members at that time – and who has the legal record it had? Like they are just going to bend over for that?”

        I don’t see why does being Ivy-league educated would make those lawyers immune to the kind of pressures Scientology applied on them. According the sources I’ve read and looked at (which include Marty Rathbun as quoted in the documentary Going Clear), there were some pretty intense pressure applied to the IRS as a whole and its individual employees. I can perfectly see how this treatment, when continued for a sufficient period of time, would make an intelligent and well educated person cave in to Scientology’s demands.

        Your comment about Scientology’s size at the time underestimates its power, which comes not only from its membership but also (and even more so) from its financial resources. Thanks to its money Scientology can hire lawyers, private investigators, organize front groups, generate negative publicity towards the IRS and so on.

        Since you said we should listen to Marty on this subject, I’m going to cite his previous statements. Here’s what he wrote in affidavit submitted as part of the Headelys lawsuit against the CoS:

        “As Inspector General Ethics I directed and coordinated a broad-based attack on the Internal Revenue Service. The purpose of the campaign was to put the IRS into a more amenable frame of mind so that they would relent in their own decades long refusal to grant tax exempt status to the churches. In late summer 1991, when sufficient pressure was accomplished, Miscavige and I directly approached then-IRS Commissioner Fred Goldberg to open settlement negotiations. Those negotiations were initiated and conducted over the next two years. Miscavige and I traveled across the country together to meet with the IRS regularly until October 1993 when the IRS granted tax exempt status to all churches of Scientology and related organizations.”

        Likewise, if you look at Marty’s statements in Going Clear‘s regarding the tax exemption it would appear that he largely concurs with the “it was gained by harassment” hypothesis (though I understand that by now he claims he was misquoted or something like that?).

        One of the most peculiar aspects of the IRS settlement with Scientology is its decision to act against a Supreme Court ruling. In Hernandez v. Commissioner the Supreme Court ruled that payments made in exchange to Scientology religious services (auditing, auditor training and what have you) cannot be tax-deductible. And yet despite of this ruling, the IRS allowed payments for Scientology religious services to be written as tax-deductible anyway. It’s very tempting to explain this peculiarity with the harassment hypothesis.

        ” I think Marty’s point about Mike was that he was unaware of what Rinder was doing in OSA to suppress victims of sexual abuse in Scientology.”

        Let me quote Marty directy. The following statement is taken from his video Paul Haggis Hypocrisy, I’ve tried to transcribe it as best as I can (skip to 5:54 for the relevant part):

        “There’s no place that I know of in my sixty years that’s less safe for a rapist or a child molestor than the church of sicen- On the ladder (?) maybe a prison might be less safe. But I can’t think of a place that’s less safe for a rapist or a child molestor, this is how- how flip they’ve done this whole thing.”

        This statement seems to be at odds with the idea that the CoS work to prevents Scientologists from reporting sex crimes to the authorities when the prepator happens to be a Scientologist. In your comments on the subject that I remember it’s treated as a given that OSA covers up sex crimes. If you were able to have learned of this information there’s no reason why Marty, who was DM’s second in command, wouldn’t know of it.

        • Alanzo February 18, 2018 at 11:47 am #

          Another great post, DTG.

          I’m on my phone right now so you’re fighting me with one hand tied behind my back but here is a quick point.

          You wrote:

          Your comment about Scientology’s size at the time underestimates its power, which comes not only from its membership but also (and even more so) from its financial resources. Thanks to its money Scientology can hire lawyers, private investigators, organize front groups, generate negative publicity towards the IRS and so on.

          You forget this was PRIOR to achieving tax exemption. Per Marty, they were about to go broke. Scientology has amassed almost all its money AFTER achieving tax exemption. My point about their relative powerlessness compared to the resources of the us federal government stands.

          They used the lawsuits, which were legitimate lawsuits by individual taxpayers, to get a seat at the table. None of those Scientologists needed to drop their individual suits. In fact, I know a guy who really needed his suit to go forward. But he dropped it and took one for the team.

          Once they made it to the table with the people who grant tax exemption, the weight of their argument got them through.

          It really is an unrealistic argument that a cult blackmailed, using an unprecedented series of felonies, the us government into giving it tax exemption, and no subsequent justice department has done anything about it for almost 30 years.

          All these conspiracy theories require such super human strength and power on the part of Scientology. And yet aren’t scientologists supposed to be brainwashed zombies?

          • DigThatGroove February 18, 2018 at 3:53 pm #

            “I’m on my phone right now so you’re fighting me with one hand tied behind my back but here is a quick point.”

            Take your time.

            “You forget this was PRIOR to achieving tax exemption. […] Scientology has amassed almost all its money AFTER achieving tax exemption. ”

            The money they had at the time (a quarter of a billion per Marty in Going Clear) was apparently enough to pay for the lawyers, PIs and front groups the CoS used at the time.

            “It really is an unrealistic argument that a cult blackmailed, using an unprecedented series of felonies, the us government into giving it tax exemption, and no subsequent justice department has done anything about it for almost 30 years.”

            I did not say that the CoS engaged in felones against the IRS. I said that they engaged in actions that made it a significant burden for the IRS to refuse Scientology’s demands. If you’ll go to the sources I cite (the segment of Going Clear dealing with the IRS and Doulgas Franz’s article which is linked to in my first post) you’ll see that most if not all the actions taken against the IRS that they report on were probably legal and definitely not felonies. All that matters is that Scientology made itself a great source of pain in Fred Goldberg’s derriere.

            “They used the lawsuits, which were legitimate lawsuits by individual taxpayers, to get a seat at the table. None of those Scientologists needed to drop their individual suits. In fact, I know a guy who really needed his suit to go forward. But he dropped it and took one for the team.”

            Wheter or not any particular lawsuit or even all of them were legitimate is irrelevant to our discussion. What matters is that they were intetionally used to hassle the IRS.

            “Once they made it to the table with the people who grant tax exemption, the weight of their argument got them through.”

            During the same time (1991-1993) that the troika (DM, Marty and Mike) were negotiating with Goldberg, CST petitioned the US Claims Court to recive a tax exemption only to be turned down (see Franz’s article). Were they using different arguments than the ones used in the negotiation table? Also, what kind of arguments convinced the IRS to contravene a Supreme Court ruling and regard payments for religious services as tax-deductible donations?

            If you are doing justice to Marty’s most recent statemetns on the subject, I would like to know how are they to be squared with what he wrote in December 2013:

            I have pulled from the pending (indefinitely) basket my in-progress manuscript of the follow-up book to Memoirs. Its working title is Scientology Armageddon. […] Among other topics it will chronicle in detail:

            […]
            – How Miscavige defrauded the United States government, and all American taxpayers, to obtain tax exempt status for Scientology and why subsequent history requires that exemption be rescinded.
            Source: https://archive.is/0l3Vs

            “All these conspiracy theories require such super human strength and power on the part of Scientology. And yet aren’t scientologists supposed to be brainwashed zombies?”

            My theory only requires that the collective abilities and efforts of the then-active Scientologists and their auxiliary forces (lawyers, PIs, non-Scientologists participating in Scientology front groups) were sufficient so as to place enough of a burden on the IRS. Doesn’t sound super human to me.

            As for the subject of brainwashing, I don’t feel knowledgeable enough to have a concrete position on the issue of wheter or not this phenomenon exists and its relevance for cults/Scientology. That being said, I have read an interesting paper on the subject by Canadian sociologist Benjamin Zablocki. He believes that brainwashing does occur in cults but is strongly critical of both NRM scholars/”cult apologists” and the anti-cult movement for misrepresenting what he believes brainwashing is. His comments on brainwashing that are most relevant to our discussion is that the process’s final producet is not supposed to be non-functional zombies:

            [T]he brainwashing model predicts impairment and disorientation only for people during some of the intermediate stages, not at the end state. The popular association of brainwashing with zombie or robot states comes out of a misattribution of the characteristics of people going through the traumatic brainwashing process to people who have completed the process. […] The latter, however, are, if the process was successful, functioning and presentable deployable agents.

            You can read the paper here:

            https://www.benzablocki.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Toward-a-Demystified-and-Disinterested-Scientific-Theory-of-Brainwashing.pdf

            I’m in the process of considering Zablocki’s arguments, I find them to have merit but I should also read whatever opposing views there may be before reaching a judgement. Would be interested in your thoughts on this matter but this is a subject for a different discussion. I just brought it up to note that even if some current/former Scientologists are/were brainwashed this would not necessarily mean that they are/were lacking the ability to fuction properly and even reach impressive feats.

          • Alanzo February 18, 2018 at 4:55 pm #

            Still traveling but a quick point. You said:

            “I did not say that the CoS engaged in felones against the IRS. I said that they engaged in actions that made it a significant burden for the IRS to refuse Scientology’s demands. If you’ll go to the sources I cite (the segment of Going Clear dealing with the IRS and Doulgas Franz’s article which is linked to in my first post) you’ll see that most if not all the actions taken against the IRS that they report on were probably legal and definitely not felonies.”

            Then what’s the problem?

            If what they did was legal then they had a right to do it.

            Am I missing something?

          • DigThatGroove February 19, 2018 at 3:00 am #

            I thought that our discussion was about why the CoS was granted its tax exemption, not about the morality of the means they used for this purpose. That being said, I do believe that legality is not a shield from moral criticism. Using the “if its legal there ain’t no problem” standard would invalidate much (and possibly all) of your criticism of Tony Ortega, including the criticism that I deem to be justified. For example, the Bill Dendiu thing was definitely a case of bad reporting on Tony’s part but probably did not not open him to any legal liability, let alone constituted a felony.

            Whether or not the CoS was right in using whatever means they used to get their current tax status is a subject for a different debate. Currently I’m tending towards saying that Scientology was not justified in the way it acted. However, I haven’t given this question enough thought so have to a position that I can firmy stand behind.

          • Alanzo February 19, 2018 at 8:06 am #

            You wrote:

            ”Using the “if its legal there ain’t no problem” would invalidate much (and possibly all) of your criticism of Tony Ortega, including the criticism that I deem to be justified.”

            Excellent point. I really do appreciate your intelligence and your clear thinking, DTG. It’s very refreshing in this space of Scientology watching.

            To me, because too many antis get totally hysterical and go off about how Scientology is a criminal organization and that they blackmailed the federal government into giving them tax exemption, it is a vital distinction to step back, take a breath and say, well it wasn’t really black mail and in fact everything they did was perfectly legal.

            From there, we can have a rational discussion and no one has to change their underpants.

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