Religious Hard-Sell

The Forbidden Side of Scientology

By the Reverend Murray Luther

A while back, I received a mailer from the Church of Scientology's Citizens Commission on Human Rights. The mailer offered, "You are invited to a CONFIDENTIAL closed-door Briefing and Dinner." I've been a Scientologist long enough to know that what they were really saying. Essentially, the message was "Come to our dinner and give us the opportunity to brow-beat you into giving us thousands of dollars."

L. Ron Hubbard describes this approach as "come-on promotion." The words confidential and closed-door are meant to induce, allure and attract the prospect to find out more. In his "Marketing Series 6" Hubbard explains, "If we tell him there is something to know and don't tell him what it is we will zip people...into the org." CCHR knows very well that "fund raiser" doesn't sound nearly as enticing as "confidential closed-door briefing." The latter implies that they're promoting a special exclusive get-together for an elite few. Church executives are well aware that "bring your checkbook and credit cards" will not pack the house with even the most loyal Scientologists.

L. Ron Hubbard was keenly aware of the importance of promotion and marketing. Consequently, the Church of Scientology operates nearly identical to any in-house advertising department when it comes to advertising themselves. Church executives operate from a number of Hubbard Policy Letters called the Marketing Series that contain titles like "The Basics of Marketing," "Copywriting," and "Ads and Copywriting," In these Policy Letter and more, Hubbard laid out an extensive scheme to promote Scientology.

In Marketing Series 3, Hubbard says, "The purpose of marketing is to create want and to sell something." To that end, the Church of Scientology deploys a thorough marketing and promotion campaign for every service and product they offer. This begins with surveying the public to find out, among other things, "Which public will buy it," and "What that public wants, needs or would demand." Any time the Church promotes anything, a great deal of time and attention has been put into finding the most effective way to get their message across. Their promotion is as comprehensive as any major ad agency.

Working hand in hand with marketing and promotion, is the Church of Scientology's sales department. They call it the Department of Registration, but every Scientologist knows that when they're asked to see the Registrar, they're going to be prodded into to paying for Scientology services. An experienced Church Registrar is as effective a sales person as anyone in any commercial establishment.

Registrars typically go through rigorous training that includes a series of "Registrar Drills" written by Hubbard. The drills are essentially sales closing techniques that would not be out of place if one were selling cars or home entertainment equipment. The Church Registrar learns how to "qualify a prospect," and "recognize the basic buyer types." Through repetitive drilling, the registrar acquires the skill to "control the conversation," "identify with the prospect," and "handle sales resistance." The Registrar is even encouraged to employ elaborate sales gimmicks such as the "tag team close," the "empathetic narrative close," and something Hubbard calls "the Buy Now gimmick."

When it comes to promoting Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard's philosophy has always been "hard sell." In his Marketing Series 12, Hubbard explains, "Hard sell means insistence that people buy." When promoting Scientology, he instructs, "You tell him that he is going to sign up right now and he is going to take it right now." According to Hubbard, the reason it's done this way is that, "...people are in a more or less hypnotic daze in their aberrated state, and they respond to direct commands in literature and ads."

Hubbard apparently had such a low opinion of the public at large that he didn't believe they had the capacity to make up their own minds. Therefore they have to be told what to do by overbearing Church Registrars who are trained to never take no for an answer. L. Ron Hubbard lays out his attitude towards the public in the Policy Letter, Handling the Public Individual. He arrogantly declares, "We have learned the hard way that an individual from the public must never be asked to DECIDE or CHOOSE."

Rounding out Scientology's entrepreneurial activities is merchandising. Hubbard recognized the value of merchandising Dianetics and Scientology books and recorded lectures in an appropriately titled Policy Letter, Merchandising Expertise. Hubbard pointed out that Church organizations that specialize in the selling of course packs, books, and tapes are "...a Goldmine. Effective promo mailed to the right Publics brings you this goldmine." Hubbard believed there was unrealized potential here. Specifically he said, "The Individual Market as yet has never been tapped. And remember, it's the Individual Sales which gives you your profit margin and your stocks." Although that may sound like something that could have come from some late-night TV real estate seminar, it's also Church policy.

For the Scientologist, slick promotion, aggressive salesmanship, hard sell advertising, and strategic merchandising are a means towards achieving an end - the expansion of Scientology. Scientologists blithely justify their zealous sales techniques because they firmly believe, "Scientology is the only workable system Man has no competitor."

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to attend the latest super-important confidential briefing where I've been promised the latest inside scoop from the Church's top officials. But somehow I get the feeling it's not going to live up to the hype. More likely there'll be nothing particularly confidential discussed, and worse, it's not going to be brief.

Murray Luther is the pen name of a Scientologist who's been in good standing with the Church for over twenty-five years. © Copyright Murray Luther 2004. All rights reserved.