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Disconnection

Disconnection

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Disconnection, when used in Scientology
Scientology
Scientology is a body of beliefs and related practices created by science fiction and fantasy author L. Ron Hubbard , starting in 1952, as a successor to his earlier self-help system, Dianetics...

, is a term used to describe the severance of all ties between a Scientologist and a friend, colleague, or family member deemed to be antagonistic towards Scientology. The practice of disconnection is a form of shunning
Shunning
Shunning can be the act of social rejection, or mental rejection. Social rejection is when a person or group deliberately avoids association with, and habitually keeps away from an individual or group. This can be a formal decision by a group, or a less formal group action which will spread to all...

. Among Scientologists, disconnection is viewed as an important method of removing obstacles to one's spiritual growth. In some circumstances disconnection has ended marriage
Marriage
Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found...

s and separated children from their parents. The Church of Scientology has repeatedly denied that such a policy exists, though as of May 2011 its website acknowledges the practice and describes it as a human right. In the United States, the Church has tried to argue in court that disconnection is a constitutionally-protected religious practice. However, this argument was rejected because the pressure put on individual Scientologists to disconnect means it is not voluntary.

Policy


Antagonists to the Church of Scientology are declared by the Church to be antisocial personalities, Potential Trouble Sources (PTS), or Suppressive Person
Suppressive Person
Suppressive Person, often abbreviated SP, is a term used in Scientology to describe the "antisocial personalities" who, according to Scientology's founder L. Ron Hubbard, make up about 2.5% of the population...

s
(SPs). The Church teaches that association with these people impedes a member's progress along the Bridge to Total Freedom.

In Introduction to Scientology Ethics, L. Ron Hubbard
L. Ron Hubbard
Lafayette Ronald Hubbard , better known as L. Ron Hubbard , was an American pulp fiction author and religious leader who founded the Church of Scientology...

 sets out the doctrine that by being connected to Suppressive Person
Suppressive Person
Suppressive Person, often abbreviated SP, is a term used in Scientology to describe the "antisocial personalities" who, according to Scientology's founder L. Ron Hubbard, make up about 2.5% of the population...

s, a Scientologist could become a Potential Trouble Source (PTS):

A Scientologist can become PTS by reason of being connected to someone that is antagonistic to Scientology or its tenets. In order to resolve the PTS condition, he either HANDLES the other person's antagonism (as covered in the materials on PTS handling) or, as a last resort when all attempts to handle have failed, he disconnects from the person. He is simply exercising his right to communicate or not to communicate with a particular person.


He defined handling as an action to lessen a situation towards an antagonistic individual by means of communication, and disconnection as a decision to cut communication with another individual. Hubbard also wrote that Scientology Ethics Officers should recommend handling rather than disconnection when the antagonistic individual is a close relative. He also stated that failure, or refusal, to disconnect from a Suppressive Person is a Suppressive Act by itself. In one case cited by the UK Government, a six-year-old girl was declared Suppressive for failing to disconnect from her mother. Sociologist Roy Wallis
Roy Wallis
Roy Wallis, was a sociologist and Dean of the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences at the Queen's University Belfast. He is mostly known for his creation of the seven signs that differentiate a religious congregation from a sectarian church, which he created while researching the Scientology...

 reports that Scientologists connected to a suppressive would usually be required to handle or disconnect, although he found some "Ethics Orders" which ordered unconditional disconnection.

According to Church statements, disconnection is used as a "last resort," only to be employed if the persons antagonistic to Scientology do not cease their antagonism — even after being provided with "true data" about Scientology, since it is taught that usually only people with false data are antagonistic to the Church.

Originally, disconnection involved not only ending communication with someone but also declaring it publicly. The Scientology publication The Auditor included notices of disconnection from named individuals. It was also common for Scientologists to send short letters to the suppressive person, to warn them that they were disconnected. Roy Wallis
Roy Wallis
Roy Wallis, was a sociologist and Dean of the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences at the Queen's University Belfast. He is mostly known for his creation of the seven signs that differentiate a religious congregation from a sectarian church, which he created while researching the Scientology...

 interviewed a number of people who had been declared suppressive, some of whom had received hundreds of these letters. The Scientologist was also required to take "any required civil action such as disavowal, separation or divorce" to cut off contact with the suppressive.

The policy was introduced in 1965 in a policy letter written by Hubbard. The "Code of Reform" introduced by Hubbard in 1968 discontinued Fair Game
Fair Game (Scientology)
The term Fair Game is used to describe policies and practices carried out by the Church of Scientology towards people and groups it perceives as its enemies. Founder L. Ron Hubbard established the policy in the 1960s, in response to criticism both from within and outside his organization...

 and Security Checks, and cancelled "disconnection as a relief to those suffering from familial suppression." In reality, these practices were never discontinued, however, the words "Fair Game," "Disconnection," and "Security Checking" were discontinued, as the use of these words caused bad public relations. When the New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 Government set up a Commission of Inquiry into Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard
L. Ron Hubbard
Lafayette Ronald Hubbard , better known as L. Ron Hubbard , was an American pulp fiction author and religious leader who founded the Church of Scientology...

 wrote to them saying that disconnection had been cancelled and that there was no intention to bring it back. The Commission welcomed the letter, but noted Hubbard did not promise never to re-introduce the practice of disconnection.

In his book A Piece of Blue Sky
A Piece of Blue Sky
A Piece of Blue Sky: Scientology, Dianetics and L. Ron Hubbard Exposed, published in 1990, is an examination from a critical perspective by former British Scientologist Jon Atack of the history of L. Ron Hubbard and the development of Dianetics and the Church of Scientology...

, Jon Atack cites an internal document dated August 1982 that, he alleges, re-introduced the disconnection policy. A belief that disconnection was being used again, and not as a last resort, led a group of British Scientologists to resign from the Church in 1984, while keeping their allegiance to the beliefs of Scientology. Their interpretation was that the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard "encourage the unity of the family" and therefore that the disconnection policy was "a misrepresentation or misapplication".

The 1960s


In 1966, UK newspaper the Daily Mail
Daily Mail
The Daily Mail is a British daily middle-market tabloid newspaper owned by the Daily Mail and General Trust. First published in 1896 by Lord Northcliffe, it is the United Kingdom's second biggest-selling daily newspaper after The Sun. Its sister paper The Mail on Sunday was launched in 1982...

quoted a disconnection letter from Scientologist Karen Henslow to her mother:
"Dear Mother, I am hereby disconnecting from you because you are suppressive to me. You evaluate for me, invalidate me, interrupt me and remove all my gains. And you are destroying me.

"I [unreadable] from this time consider myself disconnected from you and I do not want to see you or hear from you again. From now you don't exist in my life."

Henslow, a thirty-year-old sufferer from manic depression
Bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder or bipolar affective disorder, historically known as manic–depressive disorder, is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a category of mood disorders defined by the presence of one or more episodes of abnormally elevated energy levels, cognition, and mood with or without one or...

, had been a Scientology staff member for two weeks when she disconnected. The message was accompanied by a second letter apologising for the first and saying that it had been mailed without her permission.

Raymond Buckingham, a singer who ran a voice school in Manhattan
Manhattan
Manhattan is the oldest and the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City. Located primarily on the island of Manhattan at the mouth of the Hudson River, the boundaries of the borough are identical to those of New York County, an original county of the state of New York...

, was recruited into Scientology by one of his pupils. He was asked to disconnect from a business associate who had been labelled suppressive. When he spoke out publicly against Scientology, his Scientologist pupils disconnected from him and refused to pay him. One of these was a famous singer for whom he had arranged a series of performances.

Roy Wallis
Roy Wallis
Roy Wallis, was a sociologist and Dean of the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences at the Queen's University Belfast. He is mostly known for his creation of the seven signs that differentiate a religious congregation from a sectarian church, which he created while researching the Scientology...

 reproduces a "Disconnection Order" from 1965 which orders a Scientologist to disconnect from the publications of the Food and Drug Administration. It states, "The FDA literature he comes in contact with is not to be read by him at all."

Disconnection was the subject of a 1970 court case in which the Church of Scientology unsuccessfully attempted to sue Geoffrey Johnson-Smith MP
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 over negative comments he had made on BBC television
BBC Television
BBC Television is a service of the British Broadcasting Corporation. The corporation, which has operated in the United Kingdom under the terms of a Royal Charter since 1927, has produced television programmes from its own studios since 1932, although the start of its regular service of television...

. To defend his claims that families were being alienated, he produced evidence of specific cases in court. The judge described it as "astonishing" that the Scientologists did not contest these allegations.

The New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 government report into the Church of Scientology (the Dumbleton-Powles Report
Dumbleton-Powles Report
The Dumbleton-Powles Report is a report prepared for the government of New Zealand by E.V. Dumbleton and Sir Guy Richardson Powles, and published on 30 June 1969....

of 1969) quoted from a number of disconnection letters and also reproduced some "Ethics Orders" which identified Suppressive Persons who were "not to be communicated with in any way." Teenage Scientologist Erin O'Donnell had written to her non-Scientologist aunt, "If you try to ring me I will not answer, I will not read any mail you send, and I refuse to have anything to do with you in any way whatsoever. All communication is cut completely." The Commission concluded that Scientologists had been required to choose between family relationships and continued involvement in Scientology.

The UK Government investigation into Scientology (the Foster Report
Foster Report
The Foster Report is a 1971 report titled Enquiry into the Practice and Effects of Scientology, written by Sir John Foster for the government of the United Kingdom, regarding the Church of Scientology....

of 1971) reproduced a number of internal "Ethics Orders". One of these, dating from November 1967, concerns a member who had asked for a refund. It declares him to be a Suppressive Person
Suppressive Person
Suppressive Person, often abbreviated SP, is a term used in Scientology to describe the "antisocial personalities" who, according to Scientology's founder L. Ron Hubbard, make up about 2.5% of the population...

 and continues, "Any and all persons connected [to him] are declared Potential Trouble Sources and are not to be Trained or Processed before they have presented evidence in writing (...) of handling or disconnecting."

Joe Boyd
Joe Boyd
Joe Boyd is an American record producer and former owner of the Witchseason production company. Boyd was instrumental in launching the careers of Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, and The Incredible String Band.-Career:...

, the manager of the Incredible String Band
Incredible String Band
The Incredible String Band were a psychedelic folk band formed in Scotland in 1966. The band built a considerable following, especially within British counterculture, before splitting up in 1974...

, was a Scientologist for a time in the early 1970s. He left when he was told that friends who were hostile to Scientology were interfering with his progress and he must disassociate from them.

Cyril Vosper
Cyril Vosper
Cyril Ronald Vosper was a Scientologist and later a critic of Scientology. He wrote The Mind Benders, which was the first book on Scientology to be written by an ex-member and the first critical book on Scientology to be published .-Biography:Vosper was born in 1935, in Hounslow, Middlesex...

 received a "Declaration of Enemy" in response to his violations of Scientology "ethics"
Ethics (Scientology)
According to the Church of Scientology, "Ethics may be defined as the actions an individual takes on himself to ensure his continued survival across the dynamics. It is a personal thing. When one is ethical, it is something he does himself by his own choice."...

. It is reproduced in his book The Mind Benders
The Mind Benders
The Mind Benders was written by Cyril Vosper, a scientologist of 14 years who had become disillusioned, Published in 1971 and reprinted in 1973 , it was the first book on Scientology to be written by an ex-member and the first critical book on Scientology to be published The Mind Benders was...

and states, "Anyone connected to him is not to be processed or trained until he or she has disconnected from him in writing."

The 1980s onwards


In 1982, David Mayo
David Mayo
David Mayo is a former member of Church of Scientology and affiliated organizations.Mayo is best known for being the leader of the Advanced Ability Center, a breakaway organization of the Church of Scientology....

 and other former Church of Scientology executives were subjected to an internal "Committee of Evidence" for alleged transgressions. The committee issued a permanent writ of Disconnection, forbidding all other Scientologists from having contact with the accused.

In A Piece of Blue Sky
A Piece of Blue Sky
A Piece of Blue Sky: Scientology, Dianetics and L. Ron Hubbard Exposed, published in 1990, is an examination from a critical perspective by former British Scientologist Jon Atack of the history of L. Ron Hubbard and the development of Dianetics and the Church of Scientology...

, Jon Atack describes being ordered to disconnect from a friend in 1983, shortly after the policy was re-introduced.

In his 1984 High Court judgment, which considered many aspects of Scientology, Justice Latey wrote that "many examples [of disconnection] have been given and proved in evidence." As examples, he reproduced two disconnection letters. One is written by a Scientologist to his fiancée. In the other, a man writes to his business partner and former friend, "What you are now doing in setting yourself against the Church is not only very suppressive but also non-survival for you, your family and any group you are associated with."

That year, the Daily Mail brought up further examples of disconnection, including a 13-year-old boy who disconnected from his father and a woman who said her fiancé was forced to abandon her. The fiancé concerned said "it was a personal decision" and a Church of Scientology
Church of Scientology
The Church of Scientology is an organization devoted to the practice and the promotion of the Scientology belief system. The Church of Scientology International is the Church of Scientology's parent organization, and is responsible for the overall ecclesiastical management, dissemination and...

 spokesman was quoted denying that there is a policy to split up relationships.

Also in 1984, The Mail on Sunday
The Mail on Sunday
The Mail on Sunday is a British conservative newspaper, currently published in a tabloid format. First published in 1982 by Lord Rothermere, it became Britain's biggest-selling Sunday newspaper following the closing of The News of the World in July 2011...

interviewed Gulliver Smithers, a former Scientologist who had left the group's base at Saint Hill Manor
Saint Hill Manor
Saint Hill Manor is a country house at Saint Hill Green, Mid Sussex, near East Grinstead, West Sussex, England that serves as the location of the head office for the Church of Scientology in the United Kingdom.-Early history:...

, East Grinstead at age 14. Smithers explained that disconnection was an everyday part of life in Saint Hill, "It goes round by word of mouth when someone is an outcast. He or she is just ignored and shunned. It was what we were brought up to do."

In a lengthy court case in the 1980s, ex-member Lawrence Wollersheim successfully argued that he had been coerced into disconnecting from his wife, parents, and other family members. Since the disconnection was not voluntary, it did not count as protected religious practice.

In 1995, the UK local paper Kent Today talked to Pauline Day, whose Scientologist daughter Helen had sent a disconnection letter and then dropped all contact, even changing her phone number. A spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology denied that this decision had anything to do with the Church.

A Buffalo News investigation in 2005 spoke to the sisters and brother of Fred Lennox, a Scientologist who, according to them, was being manipulated and exploited financially by the group. The paper also quoted an internal Ethics Order instructing him to "handle or disconnect" from his sister Tanya because of anti-Scientology comments she had made online. Lennox himself and Church of Scientology spokesmen denied this.

Ex-Scientologist Tory Christman
Tory Christman
Tory Christman is a prominent American critic of Scientology and former member of the organization. Originally brought up to believe in Catholicism, Christman turned to Scientology after being introduced to the book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health authored by Scientology founder L...

 told Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone is a US-based magazine devoted to music, liberal politics, and popular culture that is published every two weeks. Rolling Stone was founded in San Francisco in 1967 by Jann Wenner and music critic Ralph J...

magazine that her Scientologist husband and friends refused to talk to her once she left the group.

In January 2008, Jenna Miscavige Hill
Jenna Miscavige Hill
Jenna Miscavige Hill is a former Scientologist who, after leaving the Church of Scientology in 2005, has become one of its most prominent critics. She is the daughter of Ron Miscavige, Jr. and the niece of current church leader David Miscavige....

, niece of David Miscavige
David Miscavige
David Miscavige is the leader of the Church of Scientology and affiliated organizations. His title is Chairman of the Board of Religious Technology Center , a corporation that controls the trademarked names and symbols of Dianetics and Scientology. Miscavige was an assistant to Hubbard while a...

, spoke out about the policy's effect on her family. She revealed that, once her parents left and she remained in the group, she had been forbidden to answer the telephone in case she spoke to them and that her parents only restored occasional access to her by threatening legal action. Another second-generation Scientologist, Astra Woodcraft, told ABC
American Broadcasting Company
The American Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network. Created in 1943 from the former NBC Blue radio network, ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Company and is part of Disney-ABC Television Group. Its first broadcast on television was in 1948...

's Nightline that she had been forbidden any contact with her father once he left the Church and she was still a member. She used her weekly laundry time to secretly meet up with him.

To make the television documentary Scientology and Me
Scientology and Me
Scientology and Me was a television documentary broadcast 14 May 2007 as part of the BBC's Panorama series. Reporter John Sweeney visited the United States to investigate whether the Church of Scientology was becoming more mainstream...

, the BBC Panorama
Panorama (TV series)
Panorama is a BBC Television current affairs documentary programme, which was first broadcast in 1953, and is the longest-running public affairs television programme in the world. Panorama has been presented by many well known BBC presenters, including Richard Dimbleby, Robin Day, David Dimbleby...

 team spoke to two mothers whose daughters had disconnected, one for nearly seven years. Mike Henderson, an ex-Scientologist, told Panorama how he had not spoken to his father during his time as a member. When Henderson left Scientology, he re-established communication with his father, but most of the rest of the family disconnected from Henderson as a result.

Actor Jason Beghe
Jason Beghe
Jason Beghe is an American film and television actor and critic of Scientology. As a young man he attended the Collegiate School in New York City, where he became best friends with John F. Kennedy, Jr. and David Duchovny. Beghe is married and lives in Los Angeles, California.Beghe starred in the...

 alleged that after he left Scientology in 2008, former friends who remained in Scientology disconnected from him.

Church of Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis denied the existence of the disconnection policy in a television interview on CNN
CNN
Cable News Network is a U.S. cable news channel founded in 1980 by Ted Turner. Upon its launch, CNN was the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage, and the first all-news television channel in the United States...

. Paul Haggis
Paul Haggis
Paul Edward Haggis is a Canadian screenwriter, producer, and director. He spent his early career producing and directing various American and Canadian television network series.-Early life and education:...

, a film director, disputed this in his 2009 resignation letter from Scientology. Haggis wrote, "We all know this policy exists," and said his wife had been ordered to disconnect from her ex-Scientologist parents, "although it caused her terrible personal pain. For a year-and-a-half, [she] didn't speak to her parents and they had limited access to their grandchild. It was a terrible time." In response, Davis re-iterated that there is no Church policy of disconnection.

Comments by religious scholars


The St. Petersburg Times consulted three religious scholars about disconnection in Scientology, two of whom had been recommended by the organisation itself. One, F. K. Flinn of Washington University in St. Louis
Washington University in St. Louis
Washington University in St. Louis is a private research university located in suburban St. Louis, Missouri. Founded in 1853, and named for George Washington, the university has students and faculty from all fifty U.S. states and more than 110 nations...

, said that shunning
Shunning
Shunning can be the act of social rejection, or mental rejection. Social rejection is when a person or group deliberately avoids association with, and habitually keeps away from an individual or group. This can be a formal decision by a group, or a less formal group action which will spread to all...

 practices such as disconnection are common to young religions. He drew parallels with the dis-fellowship practiced by Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses is a millenarian restorationist Christian denomination with nontrinitarian beliefs distinct from mainstream Christianity. The religion reports worldwide membership of over 7 million adherents involved in evangelism, convention attendance of over 12 million, and annual...

.

This view is not shared by all religious scholars. J. Gordon Melton
J. Gordon Melton
John Gordon Melton is an American religious scholar who was the founding director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion and is currently a research specialist in religion and New Religious Movements with the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara...

 of the Institute for the Study of American Religion said that disconnection goes much further than the policies of most modern religions. Newton Maloney of Fuller Theological Seminary
Fuller Theological Seminary
Fuller Theological Seminary is an accredited Christian educational institute with its main campus in Pasadena, California and several satellite campuses in the western United States...

 also described the policy as "too extreme." The Buffalo News report consulted Stephen A. Kent
Stephen A. Kent
Stephen A. Kent, is a Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He researches new and alternative religions, and has published research on several such groups including the Children of God , the Church of Scientology, and newer faiths...

 of the University of Alberta
University of Alberta
The University of Alberta is a public research university located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Founded in 1908 by Alexander Cameron Rutherford, the first premier of Alberta and Henry Marshall Tory, its first president, it is widely recognized as one of the best universities in Canada...

, who said that hostility towards critics, including the member's own family, is an ingrained part of Scientology Ethics, according to which the survival of the Church is all-important.

In popular culture


William S. Burroughs
William S. Burroughs
William Seward Burroughs II was an American novelist, poet, essayist and spoken word performer. A primary figure of the Beat Generation and a major postmodernist author, he is considered to be "one of the most politically trenchant, culturally influential, and innovative artists of the 20th...

, who briefly dabbled with Scientology, wrote extensively about it during the late 1960s, weaving some of its jargon into his fictional works, as well as authoring non-fiction essays about it. He uses the term "Disconnect" in a Scientological context in Ali's Smile: Naked Scientology and other works. In the end, however, he abandoned Scientology and publicly criticized it in an editorial for the Los Angeles Free Press
Los Angeles Free Press
The Los Angeles Free Press , also called “the Freep”, was among the most widely distributed underground newspapers of the 1960s. It is often cited as the first such newspaper...

in 1970.

Gary Numan
Gary Numan
Gary Numan is an English singer, composer, and musician, most widely known for his chart-topping 1979 hits "Are 'Friends' Electric?" and "Cars". His signature sound consisted of heavy synthesizer hooks fed through guitar effects pedals.Numan is considered a pioneer of commercial electronic music...

 wrote songs laced with Scientology references, such as "Me! I Disconnect From You", "Praying to the Aliens", and "Only a Downstat", influenced directly by Burroughs' Scientology-based writings.

On April 12, 2008, the leaderless group Anonymous
Anonymous (group)
Anonymous is an international hacking group, spread through the Internet, initiating active civil disobedience, while attempting to maintain anonymity. Originating in 2003 on the imageboard 4chan, the term refers to the concept of many online community users simultaneously existing as an anarchic,...

, which enacted Project Chanology
Project Chanology
Project Chanology is a protest movement against the practices of the Church of Scientology by members of Anonymous, a leaderless Internet-based group that defines itself as ubiquitous...

, protested at Scientology centers
Church of Scientology
The Church of Scientology is an organization devoted to the practice and the promotion of the Scientology belief system. The Church of Scientology International is the Church of Scientology's parent organization, and is responsible for the overall ecclesiastical management, dissemination and...

around the world to raise awareness of this policy.

External links