Letters for September 6, 2001

Write on!

Re “The Write Stuff” (SN&R Cover, August 30):

Wow! Over 600 entries for your short story contest?

Thank you for helping us become a little more well-read. I especially loved the beautiful language of your first-place story, “Last Chance Texaco,” which I have read several times because it’s one of those stories that you can. Think about it—how many times do we slow down enough to read short stories in the first place, much less return to them?

I’m especially grateful for your literature priority, given that art and writing is hardly the huge ad generator that, say, music reviews are. I hope that your Borders reading next Thursday is jammed with similar folks who often need awakening to the joys of the written word.

Nancy Van Leuven

Artful dodgers

Re “Kings’ Ransom” (SN&R Editorial, August 30):

Three Cheers for SN&R’s editorial for an arts center!

Mayor Fargo was a supporter of the arts, but it seems she sold her soul to consultant Richie Ross (whose other client is the Kings), so don’t hold your breath for “political courage on her part” to stand up for the arts now.

Her eagerness to spend $350 million (“corporate welfare”) in tax money on a new arena, dropping all mention of a performing arts center discussed in 1999-2000, speaks for itself. Hopefully, other arts advocates such as Sacramento County Supervisor Johnson and Sacramento City Councilmember Cohn can bring some balance to the discussion.

Sacramento, and the Crocker, needs “an arts jewel that will truly revitalize a downtown.” Thanks SN&R for speaking up for the arts.

Jaime Lopez

Understanding Scientology

Re “Scientology Inc.” by Jim Evans (SN&R Cover, August 23):

Jim Evans’ article about a Folsom publishing company devoted a considerable amount of space to the religion of several of the company’s executives. Yet, not once did Mr. Evans contact anyone from the Church of Scientology. As a result, the article misinformed your readers about the beliefs of Scientologists and gave an inaccurate picture of the role the Church plays in the day-to-day lives of its members.

That Scientologists such as those featured in Mr. Evans’ article are enjoying success in their chosen occupations should come as no surprise to anyone who knows anything about Scientology. While Scientology’s beliefs spring from a religious tradition going back several thousands of years, its focus is on the practical application of those beliefs. In other words, by understanding and applying the fundamental basics of life, it is possible to lead a happier, more successful and rewarding life. Thus, you will find many Scientologists are rising to the tops of their profession. And they are successful because they apply Scientology to their lives.

Mr. Evans could have learned all this had he contacted the Church. Yet, he chose instead to write from ignorance, and the result was an article that does nothing to increase anyone’s understanding of Scientology, but one that fosters intolerance and divisiveness.

For example, Mr. Evans attempts to revive controversies from 20 or even 30 years ago while failing to mention that every one of those controversies was looked into as part of the Internal Revenue Service’s examination of the Church of Scientology—an examination which led to the formal recognition of Scientology churches as nonprofit, tax-exempt religious organizations in 1993.

To reach that conclusion, the IRS satisfied itself as to all phases of the Church’s activities, its organizational structure, financial workings, executive compensation, and system of donation. More pertinent to this article, the IRS examined all of the allegations against Scientology churches in order to satisfy itself that our churches acted within public policy. Their examination was the most extensive and searching examination ever done of a religious organization.

Scientology’s expansion in its first 50 years has been tremendous: from one book in 1950, to more than 40 million words published in 53 languages today; from one Dianetics Foundation to more that 3,000 churches, missions and groups in 150 nations. Such expansion is newsworthy. With millions of Scientologists all over the world in all walks of life, I am also confident that there will be many more articles about people who attribute their success to applying what they have learned in Scientology. But I would hope that if the News & Review chooses to profile any of these people, that they would obtain accurate information about Scientology.

Michelle Ball-Campbell

Evans responds: It’s true I didn’t contact anyone from the Church of Scientology. The article wasn’t about Scientology, it was about e.Republic. If you read the story, you’ll notice I didn’t choose to enter into the debate on whether Scientology is a religion, so I didn’t feel the need to chat with the local parishioners about the merits, or lack thereof, of the Church. Ms. Ball-Campbell criticizes this paper for producing a story “that does nothing to increase anyone’s understanding of Scientology, but one that fosters intolerance and divisiveness.” To the claim that I didn’t promote understanding of Scientology, I plead guilty. As far as fostering divisiveness, talk to the workers inside e.Republic who feel pressured to buy into Hubbard’s teachings to get ahead. Not all feel that pressure, but some do, and that’s a story. It’s true that Scientology won a hard-fought battle to gain tax-exempt religious status from the IRS in 1993. That, however, doesn’t mean that in the past Scientologists didn’t go to jail for stealing documents from government institutions and didn’t try to frame author Paulette Cooper. It simply means that the government overlooked those abuses when granting tax-exempt status. One of the problems of the Church of Scientology is that at times it attempts to stifle questions and debate about Church activity. It’s to the credit of e.Republic’s Don Pearson and Dennis McKenna that they sat down and answered questions relating to my inquiries. I think you’ll find that both men had ample space to respond and did so articulately.

Behind the mask

Re “Scientology Inc.” by Jim Evans (SN&R Cover, August 23):

Thanks for that exposé of the Scientology scammers at the e.Republic publishing corporation in Folsom.

Scientologists are widely known as psychological/spiritual predators who enrich themselves at the expense of gullible, troubled people who come to them for help. Instead of help they get sucked into a Ponzi pyramid scheme where they profit by moving up the pyramid on the payments of the new fish coming in below.

If you criticize them, they cry “religious prejudice” while they hide behind the mask of religion. If worshipping L. Ron Hubbard qualifies as a religion, then I guess they are a religion. Actually, they should be worshiping P.T. Barnum since they prove he was right when he said, “There’s a sucker born every day.”

It is hard to argue with success. They do help some people get out of psychological funks, but the result is more Hubbard cult predators.

Thom Pultz
via e-mail

A stand for faith

Re “Scientology Inc.” by Jim Evans (SN&R Cover, August 23):

Since when is it OK to attack, expose and/or criticize Scientologists or Scientology? Or any other religion for that matter?

I thought this was the United States, not Nazi Germany 1939.

I’m not a Scientologist, but as an American I think we should respect all faiths. If it’s wrong for Scientologists to work in publishing, then who’s next? Shall we expose the Jews in finance? The Hindus in computer programming? The Muslims in auto sales?

I don’t care what religion a person belongs to, nor do I fear subliminal messages or religious conspiracies. What I do fear, however, is when an American points his finger at a religious group and proclaims, “These people are dangerous.” That is a slippery slope and the SN&R should know better. Especially considering Sacramento’s recent problems with religious intolerance.

And if Tom Walsh thinks the Scientologists “got a fair deal” in that cover story, I’d love to hear him defend the crucifixes that were digitally Photoshopped on to the men’s shirts on the cover. Yes, it does make the men look more like brainwashed zealots, but that was plain wrong. That’s worse than bad journalism; it’s false propaganda.

From week to week, I never expect much from the SN&R, but this really pissed me off. Walking past your future editions will feel great.

Gus Stanko

Evans pegged by Hubbard

Re “Scientology Inc.” by Jim Evans (SN&R Cover, August 23):

In 1955, L. Ron Hubbard wrote “the general level of the public press is such that it interviews with a preformed conclusion, and might as well have written the story before it did the interview.”

In 1963, he wrote “(n)o hint of workability would ever be attached to Scientology by the press, although there is no doubt in the press mind that it does work. That’s why it’s dangerous. It calms the environment. So any time spent trying to convince press Scientology works is time spent upsetting a reporter.” He had Jim Evans pretty well pegged, didn’t he?

Paul Mullinger