Selling Good Will, Or Dianetics? -- Major Games Sponsor Outrages Some By Its Link To Scientology
There is Pepsi-Cola, there is Gillette, there is Eastman Kodak and Fruit Of The Loom. And then there is Dianetics.
Wherever there has been Goodwill Games, there has been Dianetics. As one of 12 worldwide sponsors of the international athletic competition, Dianetics has been very visible - on television screens, the sides of buses, banners, even behind the goal of the Tri-Cities hockey rink.
In the University District earlier this week, a huge tent at Northeast 50th Street and University Way bore a Dianetics banner outside and offered entertainment, cookies and lemonade, souvenir pins and Dianetics literature inside.
Dianetics' high-profile presence - the result of a $4 million deal between Bridge Publications Inc. and Turner Broadcasting System - baffles some and outrages others.
Pepsi is a drink, Gillette is a razor, but what is Dianetics?
Dianetics is ``a mental science,'' according to Jobee Knight, print-media director for Bridge Publications.
``Dianetics'' is also the title of a book, written in 1950 by the late L. Ron Hubbard, and published in the U.S. by Bridge Publications. ``Dianetics'' has been promoted by Bridge during the Games through a variety of appearances and events in addition to advertising.
Last week, for example, officials at Children's Hospital accepted an offer from Bridge to bring Soviet rock musician Sasha Malinin to entertain patients. A hospital spokesman said
there was no mention of Dianetics until Bridge representatives arrived with Malinin, planning to hand out Dianetics caps. The performance was permitted; the advertising, under hospital policy, wasn't.
Critics say the book is not just a book, but a recruitment tool for a religious organization, the Church of Scientology, which they contend manipulates and intimidates people and can break up families.
``A lot of us got into Scientology because of the book,'' says Margery Wakefield, a former member from Clearwater, Fla., who sued the church for damages she says she suffered during her 12-year involvement in Scientology. She collected $200,000 in an out-of-court settlement.
``The Dianetics book is the main technique they have for getting you through the front door,'' says Wakefield, who organized a letter-writing campaign to protest Bridge Publications' sponsorship.
``People don't know what Bridge Publications represents,'' says Gary Harmon of Seattle, who says the Church of Scientology nearly ruined his son's life. ``They don't know what Dianetics is all about.''
Bridge officials say the dispute is not their problem; they simply want to sell their major product, the book, which happens to be used by the Church of Scientology.
Dianetics is the ``forerunner of Scientology and is today in extensive use by Scientology churches and organizations all over the world,'' according to a footnote in a current edition of the book.
Bridge spokeswoman Sharyn Runyan responds: ``What's the story? That Scientology uses Hubbard's material? What's news about that?''
Bridge works ``very closely'' with the Church of Scientology, she says. ``They're one of our largest distributors. The Church of Scientology sells books. So does Waldenbooks.''
Despite the close relationship, Knight says individuals with reservations about the church have no reason to object to Bridge's sponsorship of the Games. ``The church is a completely separate entity. It is not involved in the sponsorship of the Goodwill Games,'' she says.
In any case, it seems that the church hopes to benefit from Dianetics' role in the Games.
A recent edition of International Scientology News, a newsletter distributed to church members, notes: ``In order to create an enormous international impact, Dianetics has become a major sponsor of the upcoming Goodwill Games . . .''
Using Scientology terms, the memo continues:
``All these dissemination actions are being done with the sole purpose of getting more and more people introduced to LRH's TECH (L. Ron Hubbard's spiritual techniques) so they will go into orgs (church groups) and rapidly move up `The Bridge' (a spiritual path) to Total Freedom (the spiritual goal).''
Today, Scientology claims to have 700 churches around the world, with 6 million members.
The church's rapid expansion, along with its involvement in social issues, has made it a ready target for critics, says Ann Ruble, corporate director for the church in Washington.
Since its founding by Hubbard in 1955, the church has been embroiled in controversy. In recent years, numerous lawsuits have been brought by former members who complained they were intimidated and brainwashed. Although many cases have resulted in out-of-court settlements, church officials have denied any wrongdoing.
Most of the lawsuits, Ruble says, were motivated by greed.
``Somebody goes into a religious organization and all of a sudden they discover one day 11 years later they were `brainwashed?' What they discover is that they want $100 million,'' she says.
Deprogrammers, who kidnap church members, also play a part, Ruble contends. ``They get people like that pushing them to sue; that's the real story.''
Detractors object to Scientology in general, and, during the Games, to Bridge's sponsorship. They say Bridge is not being honest about its connection to the Church of Scientology.
``I think they are being deceptive,'' says Harmon. ``If they don't outright deny their connection to the Church of Scientology, they downplay it to the point where nobody would have a clue.''
Karyn Kuever of Kirkland, who was a church member for 16 years, says, ``They are not promoting good will. They are promoting Dianetics, a practice that can break up families and destroy marriages.''
Mike Mobley, Turner Broadcasting System spokesman in Atlanta, says TBS considered the complaints but decided to retain Bridge as a sponsor.
``Bridge Publications is a regular TBS advertiser. Given that, we saw nothing suspect in their interest in becoming a Goodwill Games sponsor,'' Mobley says. ``Basically, it was a business decision.''
For Bridge it was also a business decision, says Runyan, the company spokeswoman. ``I don't think there is anything deceiving about this. We're a for-profit corporation. We're a company to sell books.''
And that is what Bridge is doing in Seattle, according to Runyan.
After major booksellers in Seattle were wined and dined at the Games' opening ceremonies, Dianetics T-shirts appeared on the chests of booksellers. Last week, ``Dianetics'' moved up several notches on the B Dalton's and Waldenbooks' best-seller lists, says Runyan.
``We've done very well in Seattle,'' she says.
But the company sees its big potential in the Soviet Union.
With a Russian translation and a Soviet distributorship in the works, Runyan expects staggering sales.
``It's an exciting market,'' she says. Right now, she says, the No. 1 seller in the Soviet Union is Dale Carnegie's ``How to Win Friends and Influence People.''
``These guys are looking for answers. That's why `Dianetics' is going to go over there. It's really exciting.''
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