Findings & Footnotes

The current issue of the journal Implicit Religion (23:2) is devoted to “new directions in the study of Scientology,” and shows how less attention is being given to the Church of Scientology proper and its decades-long controversies and more to its offshoots, known as the Free Zone, and to non-institutional aspects of the movement. The issue, which is adapted from the proceedings of a conference, opens with a roundtable discussion between specialists of new religious movements (NRM) covering issues such as the aforementioned non-church kinds of Scientology (the Free Zone is less a movement than a space, often online, of alternative teachings and practices), the church’s reluctance to maintain its well-known strategy of suing critics, and the continuing dilemmas of studying a controversial group still considered as a dangerous cult by many. As with many NRM specialists, the participants disagree with the “cult” label given to Scientology and its members, while being critical of the lack of openness by its leaders and incidents of abuse in the church. Many of the contributors engage with the recently published book Among the Scientologists by Donald Westbrook, which reflects this newer research agenda. This can be seen in Bernard Doherty’s lead article, where he focuses on the religious teachings of Scientology as much as its practices. Respondents to Dougherty’s article write on a wide range of issues, including France’s longtime crusade against Scientology and attempts to reconcile Scientology’s scholarly critics with less polemical NRM scholars, while isolating those virulent critics who continue to demonize the religion. For more informa9on on this issue, visit: