Studying Scientology as an Anti-Democratic Institution

Suggestions and Cautions to Future Researchers


  • Stephen A. Kent University of Alberta



Scientology, authoritarianism, research, ethics


Addressing future researchers who may undertake research on Scientology, this commentary offers a number of cautions related to issues that they likely will encounter. Most of these issues stem from the organization’s anti-democratic, authoritarian nature and resultant policies, which include attempts to curtail any and all activities and research that its leaders conclude are out of alignment with members’ obligation to ‘keep Scientology working.’ Ethically and morally questionable activities within the cult (which is a term that I define) include its own judicial and penal systems, its systematic harassment of perceived critics, its data storage and protection issues, and its extensive but highly questionable manipulation of members – any study of which likely will elicit censoring reactions from leadership. So too will studies about probable membership shrinkage; its sizable body of financial constituents; and its lobbying efforts and network of lawyers, supportive academics, and expert witnesses. Although I encourage newer scholars to undertake Scientology studies, I urge them to prepare for interference attempts that almost certainly will come. 


Cowan, Douglas E. 2009. ‘Researching Scientology: Perceptions, Premises, Promises, and Problematics.’ In Scientology, edited by James R. Lewis, 53–79. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hubbard, L. Ron. 1976. Modern Management Technology Defined. Copenhagen: New Era.

———. 1991. ‘Suppressive Acts Suppression of Scientology and Scientologists.’ Hubbard Communication Office Policy Letter December 23 1965 RB, Revised January 8, 1991). In The Organization Executive Course, by L. R. Hubbard, 873–889. HCO Division, Volume 1. Los Angeles: Bridge.

Kent, Stephen A. 2017. ‘Scientology’s Harassment of Stephen A. Kent, September 1997 to November 2001.’ In A History of the Department of Sociology at the University of Alberta, edited by Herbert C. Northcott, 61–88.

Tobin, Thomas C. and Joe Childs. 2009. ‘The Truth Rundown, part 3—Ecclesiastical Justice.’ St. Petersburg Times. 23 June.




How to Cite

Kent, S. A. (2021). Studying Scientology as an Anti-Democratic Institution: Suggestions and Cautions to Future Researchers. Implicit Religion, 23(2), 167–174.