Cyntoia Brown and The Deeply Flawed American Justice System

In 2004, a 16-year-old girl from Tennessee named Cyntoia Brown shot a man named Johnny Allen in the head. She was not a murderer, but the result of a lifetime of misery and injustice.

Cyntoia Brown never had a fair chance at life. Before she was even born, her mother Georgina Mitchell, who herself was the result of rape, was an avid drinker while she was pregnant at the age of 16. When Cyntoia was born in 1988, her birth mother kept her for eight months while still drinking and picking up the use of crack cocaine. She was soon after given up by her mother and spent her early years of childhood bouncing from foster homes until she was finally adopted at two years old. [1]

Because of her mother’s actions, Cyntoia is assumed to suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome disorder. Women who are pregnant or who are trying are advised to stay away from alcohol, as it travels quickly from the mother’s blood to the fetus. While affecting a child’s physical (such as facial feature deformation and low body weight) and mental (lower IQ, difficulties with learning), fetal alcohol spectrum disorder can have a strong part in diminishing a person’s quality of life. This alone gives substantial doubt of her actions, decision making and overall direction in life. [2]

Despite her adoptive mother’s efforts to create a stable home, Cyntoia was damaged from her early childhood and suffered from emotional baggage. She later ran away from home in 2004, at the age of 16. [1]

Naturally, once she ran away, Cyntoia got involved with the wrong people, thus the beginning of a hellish string of events. She became the property of a then 24-year-old man named “Kut-throat”, who physically and sexually abused her, as well as forcing her into sex trafficking to make money to fuel their drug addictions. The 16-year-old girl, still a child, was repeatedly drugged, beaten, and raped as a prostitute by various men. [3]

Eventually, Cyntoia was taken by Johnny Allen, a 43-year-old real estate agent. Allen then took her to his home and proceeded to rape the drugged 16-year-old girl for several weeks on end. She said that she was scared and feared her life, as she had found an astonishing amount of guns around Allen’s home, and he acted very strangely around her. Fearing for her life, Cyntoia built up her courage, took out a gun from her purse and shot Allen in the head, killing him.

She stole his wallet, truck, and some guns, as she planned on returning to her pimp and thought if she maybe had something to bring back he wouldn’t beat her. Cyntoia drove away to meet her pimp at his hotel room and was soon found and arrested by the police. Despite being only 16, she was tried as an adult and was convicted of first-degree murder with a life sentence (60 years before a re-trial) in prison. [4]

13 years later, Cyntoia Brown is now 29 years old and still incarcerated. During her time in jail so far, she has had the chance to complete her GED and associate’s degree (with a GPA of 4.0) and is now working towards her bachelor’s degree and hopes to achieve a master’s. Lipscomb University, located in Tennessee, has a program with the local women’s prison called LIFE (Lipscomb Initiative For Education) which allows 30 students from the university to spend one night a week studying liberal arts alongside the inmates. In effort to describe the benefits of the program, an article on Brown by a Lipscomb student reads “The mix of students and specifically designed coursework provides academic and character-building benefits for both students at the prison and students from campus.” (lipscomb.edu). [5]

Most recently, Cyntoia’s case has resurfaced the internet with the hashtag “#SaveCyntoiaBrown”, leaving everyone in shock. Shared by celebrities such as Rihanna, LeBron James, and Kim Kardashian-West, the story of a naive 16-year-old girl from Tennessee who was gravely taken advantage of has caused a re-ignition of interest. Kardashian-West herself has even put her legal team to work in hopes of helping Cyntoia with her unfair, lengthy sentence.

An online petition has even been started to help her achieve clemency, with currently over 440,000 signatures. The petition was created by a fellow student of Cyntoia’s at Lipscomb University, who also works alongside her legal team. People around the world are enraged and saddened to see such a tragic story unfold, and Americans are starting to wonder how corrupt their justice system really is.

Putting the pieces together, it seems as though there are much too many aspects of the story that point towards a grave injustice for Cyntoia Brown. From the early beginning of her life, Cyntoia was unfortunately set on the wrong track and no effort was done to set her straight. Her mother tainted her quality of life before she was even born due to her substance abuse. As previously mentioned, children who suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome usually have lower IQ’s and have a tough time learning with poor judgment. Brown was also the product of rape and trauma, same as her mother and grandmother.

It is a known fact that Cyntoia Brown has struggled mentally and emotionally throughout her life, which if anything should have made the prosecutors think twice as to whether she is a heartless criminal or a lost teenage girl with poor social skills.

Something which we should never forget while reviewing this case is that this whole incident involves a 16-year-old girl. A teenager, a child, whose brain and body is still developing. It was extremely idiotic and inutile for Cyntoia to have been prosecuted as an adult. In what sense is that fair? From a crime she committed at 16 (in self-defense), she will not be eligible for parole until she turns 69 years old, granted she gets it. Although Cyntoia may have a slim chance at parole, in America, a colossal amount of people are sentenced to life without parole, many before they turn 18. Every state legally allows youth under the age of 18 to be tried as adults, with an estimated 5,000 juveniles in adult prisons. [6]

The United States is, in fact, the only place on earth that still gives children life in jail without parole. There are an approximate 2,100 minors currently incarcerated in the U.S. which face spending the rest of their days locked up with no chance of getting out. Only 20 states have banned life without parole, leaving the majority America’s juveniles who commit criminal acts vulnerable to spending the rest of their lives incarcerated for a crime they committed in their youth. [7] This is an injustice, and one of the many flaws which the American justice system obtains.

Cyntoia Brown was robbed of having a normal childhood and overall life. No one, let alone a 16-year-old girl, should have to endure the pain, abuse, and suffering that she did. It is incredibly unfair that Cyntoia experienced the childhood that she had, but it is even more unfair that she is forced to spend the rest of her life incarcerated. A teenage girl forcibly turned prostitute who shoots a man in the head because he was abusing her and having illegal sex which she did not want is not homicide, but sheer self-defense. It is disgusting to think that a young girl is being punished brutally for defending herself and her own life.

The American justice system and we as a society have failed to help this young girl, and thousands of others just like her who have endured similar injustices. It is a true symptom of a decaying society. The story of Cyntoia Brown should not just be tragic or infuriating, but a wake-up call for us all.

 

References

[1] Jacobs, Tom “Life in Prison Begins at 16: The PBS documentary “Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story” asks the question: Who is responsible when family and society so fail a promising child that she turns to prostitution and murder in her teens?”, Pacific Standard Magazine, February 25 2011

https://psmag.com/social-justice/life-in-prison-begins-at-16-27624 Accessed November 22, 2017

[2] Unknown, “Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs)”, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, June 6 2017

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/fasd/facts.html Accessed November 22, 2017

[3] Loller, Travis “Attorneys seek new trial for teenage killer” Associated Press, November 13 2012

http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2012/nov/13/attorneys-seek-new-trial-for-teenage-killer/ Accessed November 22, 2017

[4] Unknown, “Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story”, Independent Lens, PBS, February 7, 2011

https://www.pbs.org/independentlens/me-facing-life/film.html Accessed November 13 2017

[5] Shoun, Janel “Cyntoia Brown, LIFE student at local prison, is subject of film shown at HumanDocs” Lipscomb University, October 14, 2010

https://www.lipscomb.edu/news/archive/detail/13/19246 Accessed November 30, 2017

[6] Sainato, Michael “Cyntoia Brown and The Flawed Juvenile Criminal System”  The Real News, November 28 2017

http://therealnews.com/t2/story:20579:Cyntoia-Brown-and-The-Flawed-Juvenile-Criminal-System Accessed December 1, 2017

[7] Rovner, Josh “Juvenile Life Without Parole: An Overview” The Sentencing Project, October 13, 2017

http://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/juvenile-life-without-parole/ Accessed December 1, 2017

Unsolicited Opinions – My Blog

This year I’ve taken it upon myself to start putting all of my opinions, ideas, and thoughts onto a single platform to share with others.

I love to write things that make a statement, and that prove a point. Journalism has always been a strong interest of mine, and I have always admired writers and journalists who are brave and aren’t afraid to say what’s on their mind. An incredible inspiration of mine is Hunter S. Thompson, who wrote iconic masterpieces such as “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and founded Gonzo journalism. Thompson created a new era of journalism that was so fearless and detailed that made the reader feel as though they lived through the stories themselves.

On my blog, you will see me writing about topics which I feel very passionate about such as feminism, social and criminal justice, human rights, and equality. My goal is to build a vast library of my writing and to write pieces that stand out from most mainstream articles or essays.

My Blog: https://emmanoakes.blogspot.ca/

What the Canadian Liberal government has done so far – Essay

What the Canadian Liberal government has done so far – Essay

This essay briefly touches on the highlights of Justin Trudeau and the Liberal party’s progress throughout the past 500 or so days of them leading Canada. It touches on what progress they have made on issues such as the environment, immigration, health, biased discrimination, and Indigenous people.

The essay also touches on a few things which they have done wrong/that have been scrutinized so far, and why people are so unhappy with them.

I have mostly researched and been interested in American politics so far, so learning a bit about Canadian politics and the government was a very interesting and enlightening experience. Although Justin Trudeau is nowhere near as entertaining and goofy as Donald Trump, I personally do share many personal values with him and will be paying a bit more attention towards the government in my country.

Rights while under arrest and in jail – Essay

Rights while under arrest and in jail – an Essay

Here is my finished essay on Canadian and American rights while being arrested and in prison. I learned very much about what rights I have (which I mostly had no idea about!) and found it very fascinating.

An infographic version of this essay will be done soon as well. I really enjoy creating infographics based on my essays as they really transform my new found information and make it much more fun to learn!

Death Penalty Defence Thesis

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

– Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

 

We live in a world that for a long time, has killed human beings for a crime they were appointed guilty for. When you think about it, it’s a strange concept. We do something unspeakably inhumane to someone who originally did something unspeakably inhumane themselves. Believe it or not, there is an overwhelming amount of countries, states and continents on our Earth, which still uphold the capital punishment today. The top 10 (in order) are China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, United States, Pakistan, Yemen, North Korea, Vietnam, and Libya. Although some places do appoint the death penalty more than others. For example, a study done in 2012 shows that through 2007 – 2012, China had over 2000 executions while Libya had 39. The thought of a government purposely killing over 2000 people within the span of five years is quite shocking, criminal or not. Killing a human being, in general, is not a very humane thing, no matter what they’ve done or who they are. It has been proven that throughout centuries, the death penalty has done nothing but harm us as a society. It contains much too many flaws which make the procedures of execution much too unsafe, unfair, very costly and absolutely barbaric. There is no doubt that in 2017, the death penalty should be abolished worldwide.

Executions have been a way of criminal justice used in our society for a very long time. According to researchers, the beginning of the death penalty laws go as far back as the Eighteenth Century B.C, and the death penalty was an option for 25 different crimes. They used methods such as crucifixion, drowning, beating to death, burning alive, and impalement. The death penalty also has a large chunk of its history in England. In the Sixteenth Century, under the reign of Henry VIII, an approximate 72,000 people were executed. They would use boiling, burning at the stake, hanging and beheading, put their criminals at justice. Most of the people who were being executed had committed crimes such as marrying a jew, treason and lying, which at the time were despicable felonies. Today, the death penalty is given to a wide array of felons which vary from each country. Most countries who practice capital punishment use it to punish acts of murder, sexual offences, treason, and espionage. Countries who are ruled by religion use it against religious crimes such as leaving an Islamic nation, an offence against the state religion, blasphemy, Islamic crimes and even witchcraft. In China, the death penalty is given to many people involved in human trafficking as it is currently a huge issue in their country, as is drug trafficking in Southeast Asia.

Today we now use slightly more “humane” methods, if executing someone can even be classified as humane, as someone being burnt alive or crucified is just taking it WAY too far. So instead, we inject them with a cocktail of fatal drugs, lock them in a gas chamber, and electrocute them as well as a few other “safer” procedures. In the United States, most executions are done by unqualified civilians who volunteer to do the process and sometimes even get paid a small amount. This is obviously completely unsafe and unfair to the inmate. A study done by a professor in the United States shows that through 1890 – 2010 8,776 people were executed in the U.S. and 276 of those executions (3.15%) were botched. Lethal injection had the most failed executions (85, with 1,054 total executions in this timeframe) and the firing squad had the least (0, with 34 executions). It is no secret that while being the simplest, lethal injection is the riskiest and unpredictable method of execution available. So my question is, why is it the most used method of execution in the 21st century? With the amount of progress and knowledge we have gained, it really confuses me that we still continue to use a highly dangerous procedure that has been proven over time to be unfit for use on any living thing. This on its own is a huge reason why we should not continue to do executions.

The worst thing about the death penalty is that the process of choosing who receives it and who doesn’t can be very biased. Research done in 2011 shows that in Louisiana, the odds of a death sentence were 97% higher for those whose victim was white than those whose were black. Another one found that in California, those who murdered a white person were more than 3 times as likely to be sentenced to death as those who murdered a black person, and more than 4 times more likely as those who murdered a Latino. Racism, xenophobia and prejudgment play an unfortunate role in our world and unfortunately, many people in positions of power are biased by their personal views while making life or death decisions about others. A study done in 2014 shows that jurors in Washington state are three times as more likely to recommend a death sentence for a black defendant than for a white defendant in a similar case. It’s just how most people are, and what makes our society the way it is, that everyone’s opinions and views differ. We all see what we want to see, and that’s okay. But, if that’s the case, then a decision such as whether someone should be put to death or not shouldn’t be allowed to be made by anyone. It seems incredibly unfair to let people’s opinions and views dictate whether someone deserves to live or not. Everyone should absolutely have the right to control their life, no matter where you live or what you’ve done.

Surprise! Killing someone for committing a crime does not reduce the amount of crime being committed. A good example of this is how the Southern states in the U.S. seem to have the highest amount of executions, 80%, and still somehow has the highest murder rates. There is a strong misconception here, that criminals actually will stop committing crimes because they fear being executed. Past U.S. President George W. Bush was and still is a strong advocate for the death penalty. During his five years through 1995 – 2000 while governing the state of Texas (which upholds the nation’s majority of executions) he presided over 131 executions, more than any governor had ever done as it is quite rare for most governors to approve executions. He believes heavily that “The death penalty, when properly administered, saves lives” and relied well on that statement during his presidential campaign to win. While Bush spent 2001 – 2009 as president, America’s crime rates stayed very stagnant. According to the FBI annual crime reports, the highest number of crime during Bush’s time in the office was in 2002, with 11,878,954 crimes and the lowest being in 2009, the year he lost his presidency to Barack Obama, with 10,762,956 crimes. Since Obama’s inauguration date was on January 20, 2009, he was essentially that year’s president, making Bush’s full last year 2008. That year had a crime number of 11,160,543, which was still the lowest during the Bush administration. It’s interesting because 2009 was the lowest crime had been since 1974 in the United States. And throughout President Barack Obama’s 9 years as president through 2009 – 2016, the numbers went lower and lower each year, the lowest they’d been for over 30 years. It’s also important to note that Obama did not support the death penalty, and 5 states stopped using capital punishment during his time. In 2015 (the most recent year which U.S. crime data has been released) the number of crime committed went the lowest it was during the Obama administration, being 9,225,197 which went down 1.935.346 from Bush’s lowest in 2008. If the crime statistics lowered dramatically in the U.S while under the administration of a president who did not support nor participate in the activity of capital punishment, after having a president whose campaign was built off how the death penalty saves lives and stops crime, is it really working?

And finally, not only is the death penalty dangerous, immoral and unfair, but it also costs A LOT. There are so many facts to back this statement up. In Texas, a death penalty case costs approximately $2.3 million, about three times the cost of imprisoning someone in a single cell at the highest security level for 40 years. Legal costs for death penalty trials in Kansas average about $400,000 per case, compared to $100,000 per case without the death penalty. A new study in California revealed that the cost of the death penalty in the state has been over $4 billion since 1978. Can you imagine that a country in billions of dollars of debt is forcing their taxpayers to dish out millions of unnecessary dollars to murder people? In Colorado, a death penalty trial can cost taxpayers up to $3.5 million, versus $150,000 for life in parole. These outrageous costs could save their population a lot of money that could be used to pay other things that are much more urgent than an execution of a criminal. An infographic shows that in Colorado, the money not used for the death penalty could be used for things such as paying 77 firefighter’s salaries, to buy more than 40,000 high school algebra textbooks, to provide one month of essential services to 10,000 elderly people, to give approximately 500 children access to the early start program and so much more. These are all such important things that the state of Colorado and many other locations are missing out on because all the money is being focused on one thing – executions.

It is without a doubt a pressing issue for the death penalty to be abolished worldwide. It has been a part of our history for thousands of years and is truly outdated in 2017. Executions are a cruel and unsafe practice, they can be biased and completely unfair, they do not prevent crime from happening and cost taxpayers everywhere a disgusting amount of money that is clearly being spent wrong. Our world is sadly filled with colossal amounts of crime, which will never be resolved. But I truly do believe that with proper reinforcement and practices we can diminish it. I think that it’s time for people to wake up, and realise that murdering a murderer is the most hypocritical thing we can possibly do. As Victor Hugo once said, “What says the law? You will not kill. How does it say it? By killing.”

References –

Death penalty statistics, country by country

Introduction to the Death Penalty

Capital Punishment in China

Botched Executions

Capital Punishment

Crime Levels: Countries Compared

Country vs. Country: Canada and United States compared

Bush and the Death Penalty

George W. Bush’s Death Penalty Catch-22

States with and without Death Penalty

The United States Crime Rates 1960 – 2015

Misplaced Priorities: An Infographic on the Cost of Death Penalty Trials

What I’ve learn so far about death row

Throughout my recent studies on death row and executions in the U.S., I have learnt most of the basic information there is to learn about being sentenced the death penalty.

Today, there are five methods of execution used in the United States. They are;

  1. Hanging

Since 1776, the largest number of executions have been hangings. The most recent one was in Delaware in 1996, done to a convicted criminal Billy Bailey. Before the execution, the rope is boiled and stretched and is measured compared to the weight of the inmate to make sure the procedure is successful. Inmates in Washington State have hanging as an option if they prefer it over lethal injection.

  1. Firing Squad

The “Firing Squad” typically consists of five voluntary trained riflemen who hold Winchester rifles. Four of the rifles are loaded with 40 calibre ammunition, and one is blank. This is done so that no one knows who shot the inmate. The five of them shoot at the same time through holes on a wall between them and the inmate, and there is sometimes a “target” pinned over the inmate’s heart where they are supposed to aim. The most recent use of the firing squad was in 2010 to a convicted murderer in Utah named Ronnie Lee Gardner. He spent 25 years on death row, and chose the firing squad as “He lived by a gun so he chose to die by a gun”. Firing squad is available to all inmates in Utah who were convicted in the state before 2004.

  1. Electric Chair

The electric chair was a very popular method of execution in the 20th century. It is currently an option for Alabama, Florida, South Carolina and Virginia. Before any execution, the electric chair is tested by a person assigned that job to make sure it is working and intact. It is also required for the death row inmate to have their head shaved, for better connection to the head as well as preventing the hair from catching on fire. The chair, which has barely changed since the late 1800’s when it was first used, is constructed of wood. The electricity flows through a head and leg piece which immediately kills the inmate.  

  1. Lethal Gas

The lethal gas chamber is unanimously the most dangerous method of execution as gas has no remorse for whom it kills. The chamber is checked multiple times before execution to make sure there are no defaults that could make the situation worse. The “gas” used is hydrogen cyanide, which is an extremely powerful and deadly chemical. The last lethal gas execution was done in Arizona in 1999, and still remains a choice for death row inmates in California and Missouri.

  1. Lethal Injection

First used in 1982, lethal injection is the current most used technique of execution in the U.S. and has been for the past two decades. The usual three drugs used in the injection are Sodium thiopental which is an anaesthetic that puts the inmate to sleep, pancuronium bromide which causes the muscles to stop moving and breathing, as well as potassium chloride which stops the heart. Lethal injection is an option for all 33 states which have the death penalty.

A few interesting facts –

  • The average time someone will spend on death row is 15 years
  • From 1967 to 1976 there were no executions in the U.S, which resumed in 1977 to murderer Gary Gilman, who received the firing squad in Utah
  • The drive from the prison to the “death house” is the last chance for the inmate to be outdoors. No one in Texas has ever escaped the death house
  • The inmate’s final meal is usually their choice but is very limited. Florida’s max budget is $40 for the meal, while Oklahoma’s is a maximum of $15. In 2011, Texas stopped giving their death row inmates a choice for their last meal and now give them whatever is being served in the prison
  • A reverend spends the day with the inmate before the execution to help prepare them
  • There tends to be much more privilege for inmates in the “death house” versus the prison, as they can shower, sleep and take phone calls whenever they desire
  • During the execution, the inmate is allowed to have their family and loved ones attend
  • The press and certain “volunteers” also are witnesses to each execution
  • The executioner is usually kept anonymous
  • In Florida, the executioner is a volunteered civilian who is paid $150 to do the job
  • If the inmate does not go to the execution room on their own, they are carried by guards

Resources –

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/5-questions-answered-how-do-firing-squads-work/ar-AA9VcKI#page=1

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/5-questions-answered-how-do-firing-squads-work/ar-AA9VcKI#page=1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lethal_injection

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkbI4EcOs9U

 

Religion and Cult Infographic

https://magic.piktochart.com/output/20082958-religion-and-cults

This infographic I have created represents what I’ve learned on cults and religions for the past couple months. In it, I answer a few of my inquiries such as “What is a cult?”, “What is a religion?”, and “What’s the difference?”. I can now successfully answer those questions with ease!

This is my second time creating an infographic, and I do think that I’ve improved! I really enjoy using this type of media to represent my learning and would definitely do it again.

References –

  1. http://www.workingpsychology.com/cult.htmlhttp://www.humanreligions.info/what_is_religion.html
  2. http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/mysticism/world_religions_populations.html
  3. http://guff.com/whats-the-difference-between-religion-and-a-cult-is-there
  4. http://www.christiananswers.net/q-aiia/aiia-top10cults.html
  5. http://youthandreligion.nd.edu/related-resources/bibliography-on-youth-and-religion/cults-and-new-religious-movements/
  6. http://history1900s.about.com/od/1970s/p/jonestown.htm
  7. http://www.history.com/topics/jonestownhttp://koreatourinformation.com/blog/2014/08/01/religion/
  8. http://michaelbluejay.com/x/how-cults-recruit.html
  9. http://www.csj.org/studyindex/studycult/cultqa.htm
  10. https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/specialreports/564076-hezbollah-in-numbers
  11. http://en.protothema.gr/statistics-us-notes-a-surge-in-foreign-fighters-joining-isis/
  12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ra%C3%ABlism
  13. http://heebmagazine.com/its-official-ufo-worshiping-raelians-are-no-longer-zionists/55304
  14. http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ufo-religions
  15. https://isene.me/2013/07/28/scientology-positive-negative/
  16. http://www.forum.exscn.net/showthread.php?34064-Scientology-stats-are-UP!-)
  17. https://whyweprotest.net/threads/the-big-list-graphs-and-analysis.120569/
  18. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2009/03_04/2009_04_27_PewResearchCenter_ChangesIn.htm

Physical Literacy Assessment

3 -4 times a week on the bike for 40 minutes.

Start slow, gets faster – interval training.

Started in January.  Reports that it is getting easier.  Still working on physical improvement – leg strength and lung capacity.

Goal is to be fit and healthy.  Reports that diet is good – healthy – no gluten, dairy, and very little sugar.

Still thinking about how to apply the training to a specific physical skill.

As Emma has just begun to develop her physicality on the bike, she is just starting to get results.  I have informed her to be patient and stick with it, as she will for sure get results in the next month or two.

Everything I’ve learnt on the Church Of Scientology

Throughout the past month or so, I have been doing some intensive research on the church of Scientology. The thing with Scientology is that not many people actually know what it’s even about, including its members. Think about what you or the average person knows of the organization. Science? A creepy cult? Tom Cruise and John Travolta? Those were my thoughts too. So I took it upon myself to learn about where it comes from, what they practice, and all their dirty little secrets.

The church of Scientology was founded by a struggling author by the name of L. Ron Hubbard in 1954. Hubbard would write a wide array of science fiction novels and short stories, and actually holds the record for most books ever written and/or published, about over a million. He wrote day and night as at the time they would only pay writers one cent per word, and he needed the money to survive. After resigning from the U.S Navy in 1950 due to “war injuries” that later on turned out to be a total lie, Hubbard wrote one of his most iconic and important pieces of literature – “Dianetics – The Original Thesis”. This book is the basics of what Scientology is, if you can even understand it. The “movement” shall I call it, was a fad that was popular for a short while and then everyone just lost interest. This propelled Hubbard to create a new movement, which we know now as Scientology.

An interesting fact about Scientology is the reasoning behind why L. Ron Hubbard wanted to create a religion in the first place. In his 20’s, he would gather once a week with fellow authors living in the New York City area and they would discuss each other’s books and mingle I guess. A conversation had come up by Hubbard stating that he was dreading to pay his taxes as he could barely even afford it. A friend who overheard him piped up and told him as a joke that he should create a religion, as religions do not pay taxes. Being the man he was, Hubbard did exactly that.

As I understand, most Scientologists actually do not know what their religion preaches before spending years and lots of money to find out. I learned the basics of it in about an hour by googling it. The true backstory of Scientology (or Dianetics) is that billions of years ago, a galactic alien overlord named Xenu created 76 planets orbiting the stars with civilians similar to how our human beings were in the 1950’s. Apparently, these planets were severely overpopulated, so Xenu or whoever brought these beings to planet earth and dropped them in a volcano near Hawaii. Great population control technique. The theory is that each human being is comprised of Thetans, which is like a soul. It is believed that all our troubles, issues, anxieties, addictions etc are bad thetans that we absorbed at birth from those people that were tossed in the volcano ages ago. And the practice of Scientology is meant to rid you of your bad thetans so that you can live life to the fullest and be your best self. No, this is not the plot line of an episode of Doctor Who.

To liberate your inner thetans, they have a process called “auditing”. Auditing sessions happen to each Scientologist weekly/daily and are sort of like a twisted therapy. What basically happens is that an auditor will ask the Scientologist questions such as “Do you have a present time problem?”, “Is there anything you failed to reveal?”, “Is there anything you have been careful of?” and so on. A machine created by Hubbard called “E-Meter” which is strikingly similar to a lie detector is used by an auditor during this procedure. A small screen with “rise”, “set”, “fall”, and “test” and an arrow is used to indicate whether the person is being honest with their auditor or not. Similar to a simple lie detector, you hold the two metal cans which apparently monitor your pulse and brain waves or something like that. Through lengthy periods of questioning and answering, the auditor is supposedly able to find thoughts and memories from your past thetans (lives) and once they are rid, you are able to live a much happier and fulfilled life.

Auditing is really expensive. The church tends to amp up the price and time of a session each time, meaning that you could pay from $75 to $10,000 and up for your sessions. Another part of auditing is that the more you do it, the more seniority you gain in the religion. Once you reach your highest state possible, you become an Operating Thetan (OT). An OT is described to be in “a spiritual state above clear” meaning that you have full control over your physical and mental state. There are eight OT levels which one can achieve, and each one gives you more information on the backstory of Scientology. All auditors are OT’s and have much experience in the church. The average hourly wage of an auditor is an approximate $14.44 and is a career for many people with high OT levels in the church.

There are many career options inside Scientology, with the most popular one being the Sea Organization (Sea Org). The Sea Org was originally created in 1967 as a private navy for Hubbard to basically be his staff on his crusades through the world’s oceans. When you join the Sea Org, you are obligated to sign a “billion-year contract”. It is possible to leave the Sea Org, but breaking that billion year contract is pretty tricky. Sea Org members belong to Scientology in a sense like how nuns belong to Christianity. They are responsible for many things, from organizing all activities and gatherings in the church to cleaning and hard labor. Sea Org members are forced to live, eat, sleep and coexist together in designated buildings by the church. They are paid very little for their services, and have a long history of being abused and wrongly treated by people of power in the church.

While we are on about abuse, let’s talk about David Miscavige. The snake of all snakes. This man is the current leader of Scientology, as well as Tom Cruise’s best friend. He wasn’t really appointed by Hubbard or anyone but with much backstabbing, lying and abuse he weaseled himself to the top. Being born into the church, Miscavige became a deputy to Hubbard during his teenage years. One year after Hubbard’s death (1987) Miscavige became the official chairman of Scientology. But with a big fancy important title comes a lot of drama. David Miscavige is known to have a pretty slimy reputation. Many ex-Scientologists have come out with their experiences on being abused and publicly humiliated by Miscavige, who seems to never hold back. He is described as a cold hearted man who will do anything for money and success who holds a very believable facade for all his devoted fans who worship his existence. His wife, Shelly Miscavige, has not been seen publicly since August 2007. There are many theories as to where she is and what her husband has done to her. Much effort has been put in to find her whereabouts, like when ex-Scientologist Leah Remini filed a missing person report to the LAPD, was closed and classified as “unfounded”.

Most religious groups tend to dislike it when their members leave, but Scientology REALLY dislikes it. Similar to herpes, depression, and glitter, once you’re with Scientology it’s pretty hard to get rid of it. When someone decides to leave the church, they are treated like a convict. Scientology says that you are allowed to leave whenever, but once you’re gone it is against the rules to communicate with your family, friends or anyone who still is in the church. There are endless stories of mothers and fathers not being able to see their children ever again, or best friends being forever separated because of this rule. If you do happen to try and secretly communicate with them, you will eventually be caught and kicked out too. In Scientology lingo, this is called being declared, or being a suppressive person. Once you are declared the entire church shuns you and treats you like a criminal, as Scientologists think that being declared means that you committed a crime towards the church.

The church, Miscavige in particular, is so incredibly concerned about their image and bad press. Any little speck of bad PR needs to be removed, from a blog post dissing their practices and people to the popular tv show South Park making an entire episode mocking them. Many people and their families have been stalked and harassed by Scientology employees for spreading negative news on the church.

Recently, many Scientologists of importance have left the church and have been using their power to expose it. Celebrities such as Katie Holmes and Nicole Kidman (both ex-wives of Tom Cruise) have left, as well as Leah Remini who is now working on the exposure of Scientology and using her fame for good. With the help of Mike Rinder, also known as the former senior executive of the Church of Scientology, Remini has created a tv docu-series on her’s as well as many other victim’s experiences with the church. Her goal is to educate people on what truly goes on at Scientology and to eventually shut it down. Leah Remini and Mike Rinder aren’t the only ones who are working on exposing Scientology, as many other networks, journalists, and everyday people have been spreading the message during the last few decades that the Church of Scientology is truly despicable.

Today, the church of Scientology allegedly has over 10 million members worldwide (although recent studies show that the number is a bit closer to 40,000). There are many churches (or Organizations as they call them) throughout the world, but the most notable ones are the flagship church in Clearwater, Florida and the Pacific Area Command Base in Los Angeles, California. Los Angeles has the largest amount of Scientologists worldwide, making their presence a lot louder there. The Church of Scientology also managed to have an entire block named L. Ron Hubbard Way, which is where the Hollywood organization is. 

There is also a “celebrity center” in Hollywood, which is where the religion’s biggest asset goes; the celebrities. Whether you know a single thing on Scientology or not, almost everyone knows the celebrities who are or have been linked to it. The two biggest names in Scientology are actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta. Hubbard’s main interest it seems was to gain new and popular celebrities to his religion, as who doesn’t want to copy their favorite actor or musician?! The celebrity center is everything and MORE you would expect for their precious celebrities. I myself have driven past it, and to be honest I was absolutely captivated by the stunning white castle-like building with gold trim that they oversee.

Scientologists everywhere believe that someday, somehow, their savior L. Ron Hubbard will come back from the dead (or wherever they believe he is) and continue his oh so needed work. In each Organization, a beautifully decorated and personalized office awaits for Hubbard so he can get back to work as soon he comes back. There is also an empty mansion in Western California awaiting his return, just in case he needs somewhere to live too.

Learning about the Church of Scientology has been really interesting, yet also very disturbing. I am glad to have gained this knowledge, and I certainly do know now that no matter how awful my life is, I will never become a Scientologist. I’ll just watch from a far instead.

 

References –

https://wikileaks.org/wiki/Church_of_Scientology’s_’Operating_Thetan’_documents_leaked_online

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenu

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bibliography_of_Scientology

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/0/what-is-scientology-and-who-was-l-ron-hubbard/

http://www.mikerindersblog.org/10-million-scientologists-where-are-they/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thetan

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Scientologists

http://tonyortega.org/2013/08/07/prepare-to-be-audited-claire-headley-takes-us-through-scientologys-arc-straightwire/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operating_Thetan#OT_VIII:_Truth_Revealed

Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

Chris Shelton (YouTube)

https://www.salaryexpert.com/salarysurveydata/job=scientology-auditor/salary

http://www.xenu.net/archive/so/

http://exscientologykids.com/sea-org-2/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Miscavige

http://www.scientology.org/david-miscavige/biography.html

http://exscientologykids.com/glossary/

Wed, Feb 1st Org and Assessment Meeting

Happening Now:

Unit B Master make-up Course- almost done!

Scientology/ Heavens Gate Cult- What is the difference between a religion and a cult? Questions and Research are strong, Emma is able to check her sources and find reliable information, because of the subject it is dangerous to pursue primary sources.

Reading- Dianetics, from the creator of Scientology

Fitness- I feel good, I am enjoy it, I have this routine, where I put on some noise, some Fresh Prince, and Bike, usually 40mins.

 

 

Future Focus:
Working to words completing Learning Activities, Decide on course of action and get started
-potentially a podcast, info-graphic

Think about how these systems impact society, how these beliefs influence peoples actions.

 

NEEDS:

Help Brainstorming Learning Activities- Jake Today
Arts Assessment from Maddy- 9:30am Mon, Feb 6th