I’m Turning 50 as a Scientologist. These Are My Reflections on Discrimination. 

Soon, I will have been a Scientologist for 50 years. I like to think that makes me something of an elder statesman. More likely it just makes me elder. 

But those years do give me some perspective.

For example, in those 50 years, I have never once seen accurate media coverage about what it means to be a Scientologist—what we do and what we believe.

Photo by Tero Vesalainen/Shutterstock.com

In my first decade as a Scientologist, I worked in public affairs for our church. In this role, I studied much media coverage and, because of that “education,” I’ve followed with special interest any media coverage of my religion. As I said, the batting average is 0.000.

How is this possible? The media has a hallowed position in our society. The Washington Post coverage of Watergate demonstrated the critical role the media plays in maintaining the health of our body politic.

On the other hand…

In 2000, a British pediatrician, Dr. Yvette Cloete, was forced into hiding because News of the World misunderstood the word “pediatrician” and included her name and address in a story about British pedophiles, inciting a mob to attack and vandalize her home.

Most of the press operates somewhere in between these two extremes.

But there is truth in what Thomas Jefferson once said: “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.”

In those 50 years, I have never once seen accurate media coverage about what it means to be a Scientologist—what we do and what we believe.

Curiously, a 2017 British study found that reporters have a below-average ability to suppress biases. I’m sure there are many exceptions, and admittedly, the sample size was small. But it does reinforce something Mark Twain said: “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re misinformed.”

Hatred, misinformation and stupidity roam in a pack. They are often harbingers of violence. Leah Remini is the most recent example. In 2015, her hatred and falsehoods incited one of her followers to drive a car through the front door of our Austin Church. The driver, Erin McMurtry, had no experience with or knowledge of Scientology—but as she admitted, Leah Remini “inspired” her. When informed by the arresting officer that no one had been hurt, McMurtry responded “That’s too bad.” Her car had stopped just short of the nursery.

Erin McMurtry, inspired by Leah Remini, drove her car through the front door of the Church of Scientology of Austin in 2015.

In my early days in Scientology, my parents thought Time magazine was a suitable source of information about their son’s new religion. Six years later, my mother died of cancer. I had not been able to heal the rift.

Discrimination hurts. It can also kill. Ask a Jew, or an African American.

But love and respect and communication can win out. It may take time, but there are many people of many faiths, many nationalities, and many races who are eschewing the cold of hatred for the warmth of love. 

Happy New Year. 

Hopefully, together, we can make great progress in 2022.

Leland Thoburn
Leland has been a Scientologist for 45 years. His writings have been published in numerous magazines and literary journals, including Foliate Oak Review, Writersí Journal, Feathertale Review, Calliope, Vocabula Review and others. Formerly an executive at EarthLink Inc., he works as a business consultant.