January 4, 2017

Attack on my religion

When did you decide that ratings take priority over truth? When did you decide that spreading controversy, religious bigotry and outright lies to inflame viewers was part of your job? Are you a catchpenny tabloid or a balanced and authentic news source? I would expect better of ABC.

January 4, 2017

ABC News
New York, N.Y. 10023

Dear Mr. Harris,

OK, I am angry. I have heard some ridiculous drivel about my religion before, and my usual approach is to ignore it. After all, it is my religion and I know the truth about it and I know its immense value to me. Who cares what ignorant people think? Who cares what vindictive people spout? But this—this is appalling.

I have heard that you plan to air something that implies that Scientology practices are exposing children to sexually explicit material and in some way harming them or providing them with a corrupt or unwholesome influence. Are you serious?

We live in a time where one of our concerns as parents is keeping our children from being pressured into nude and semi-nude pictures of themselves on Snapchat. Where graphic porn of every description is available in intensely copious amounts, and for free, to anyone who can use a computer. Where almost half of teenagers have tried drugs, and it is not uncommon for 10 and 12-year-olds to have the opportunity. Where 15-20% of high schoolers have engaged in binge drinking and/or marijuana use in the last 30 days. Where many young people around me knew the definitions of high-minded words like “queefing,” “glory hole," and “golden shower” well before I did. Where the government funds Planned Parenthood to the tune of half a billion dollars a year to provide screening and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases and to provide contraception (I’m not even complaining). Where over 1 million abortions occur every year in this country—about 1 in every 6 pregnancies ending in abortion. Where the biggest fashion magazines run articles that make anal sex commonplace and entertain commentary on whether a girlfriend is being unreasonable if she doesn’t want to have sex three times a day like her boyfriend demands. Where one of the most popular TV shows in America (watched by many teenagers from 13 years old and up) is chock full of horrific, graphic violence, explicit sex, lots of nudity, and sexual abuse. Advertising companies live and breathe the motto of “sex sells.” Do I need to go on?

I was exposed to many, many sexual terms, sexual innuendo, and information about sex as a young teenager. I received sexual advances from men as a teenager. I went to parties at the age of 14 where there were “make-out rooms,” porn movies playing on a big centrally placed TV, lots of alcohol, and college guys smoking pot in the back yard. (And yeah, most of that my parents didn’t know about.) And that was in the 1980s! Now, in the information age, things are even more prevalent and available.

There is absolutely no dearth of information, sexual connotations, or explicit sex in our culture and our media. None. I think it is indeed possible that subtlety is pretty much dead in this era. Yet you are going to air something that ATTACKS MY RELIGION on this point?! You are going to support and broadcast a piece that implies that Scientology is somehow being “unwholesome” or “corrupting our youth”?! And you will bury your head in the sand on the ignorance of this claim? You will choose to support an act calculated to inflame people against Scientology and create religious bigotry? How dare you.

I grew up in Scientology, and I am raising my children with Scientology principles and making Scientology study and counseling available to them as they wish it. Being raised with Scientology gave me knowledge and skills and a spirituality that has been invaluable to me and to those that I love. I went to a variety of public and private schools growing up and have always had many, many non-Scientology friends. I am now the mother of three beautiful daughters, two of them teenagers. So, all in all, I am well aware of what our children and teens face out in the world. Believe me, Scientology practices are not the source of the sexual information to which kids are exposed. It would actually be laughable, except that you are apparently seriously planning to allow this broadcast. Perhaps while you are at it you would like to throw in a piece on how in the Jewish religion they routinely lop off parts of each male infant’s penis (with most Christians following suit, for that matter). Or perhaps something on how some Baptists think dancing is not joyful or artistic, but instead leads to sin and depravity, and is thus a sin. Or perhaps you’d like to bash the Catholic faith’s historic stance of not using any form of contraception—sexual pleasure being unnatural if it is done in any way aimed to get in the way the actual purpose of sex as procreation, or in the way of God’s plan. These stories would be just as religiously intolerant, but they would at least be true.

How about some facts? Yes, there is an exercise in Scientology called “bullbaiting” wherein a student increases his or her ability to handle people and situations by practicing just being there comfortably and facing various made-up situations his study partner might throw at him, under supervision and with certain guidelines. For instance, the study partner might scold like a boss could, yell at him like an angry person, cry like a bereft person, act silly, whine like a child, make lewd comments like some guy on the street might, make fun of him, or give some kind of made-up private confession. The student practices being able to listen to and observe these various situations without having to react a certain way, get embarrassed or upset, or run off.

Learned, these skills could help the person in myriad ways: being able to better handle their boss or spouse when he or she is upset, being better able to ask for a raise or do a job interview, being able to be a good listener, being better able to handle bullying or pressure, being better able to control situations, etc. Yes, there is Scientology counseling called a Confessional, and it is just that—confessions. The person is asked and tells about things they have done that they feel bad about or that harmed themselves or others, and getting it off their chest they are better able to face it and take responsibility for it. Simple. Generally speaking, the majority of the people who do these actions are adults, but teenagers may do them too, if they and their parents wish. They are available for anyone, to help them live a better life.

Personally, I’m very glad my children have the opportunity to take advantage of practicing how to face difficult situations or situations that might “throw” them, and to become more comfortable and more certain in themselves and their ability to handle various situations—because LIFE and the people in it will throw things at them. And I’m happy they are able to practice it in a safe environment with people who are actually trying to help them increase their ability and confidence. These exercises helped me immensely in life—in fact I’ve done them a number of times and continue to practice them occasionally. And my daughters have felt they were helpful as well. For example, after practicing these skills, one of my daughters told me she felt she could now really help someone—that she could handle whatever they had to say to her or listen to whatever was going on with them and be there for them effectively. (She had always tended to be a bit shy and easily flustered or embarrassed. She is more confident now and is making friends in new situations more easily. And she seems more able to “hold her own”.)

And you know, those porn/alcohol/drug parties I ended up attending at the ripe old age of 14? Those were just out in life—those things sure weren’t being thrown at me by my Scientology friends. And making my way through the teen years as a Scientologist, I ended up just fine—I was a very ethical teenager, did well in school, got along great with my parents and sister, didn’t get into a bunch of underage drinking, never tried drugs, and didn’t have sex until I was 19. Pretty wholesome for someone who was raised with such corruption and indecency and brainwashing, don’t you think?

A large part of Scientology is about giving you tools to live a better life. No one has to be a Scientologist. In fact, Scientology seeks to increase a person’s self-determinism and awareness and improve their ability to live the life they want. Scientology also sees children as people, who deserve help, stability, love, and tools to succeed. Scientology parents, like most parents, are trying to do everything they can to help their children be happy and successful—the captains of their own lives. So I guess my question is: When did you decide that ratings take priority over truth? When did you decide that spreading controversy, religious bigotry and outright lies to inflame viewers was part of your job? Are you a catchpenny tabloid or a balanced and authentic news source? I would expect better of ABC.

Stephanie Croman
Buda, Texas

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