There’s nothing like the Fourth of July weekend to amp up our pursuit of happiness and help us reflect on what this country stands for: freedom, baby!
Of course, having our great freedoms of conscience and speech means that some folks are going to do some pretty freaky things with their time, money, and independence!
For example, we’ve been watching warily as members of the Nation of Islam are spending their spare time with e-meters, engrams, and the writings of L. Ron Hubbard.
Holy Doctrinal Mashup, Batman!
Over the last few years, Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan has been encouraging his members to read Hubbard’s book Dianetics, and even to get enough training in Scientology to become auditors.
As quite a few have noted, Farrakhan and the so-white-he-glows Hubbard seem an extremely unlikely pairing. But then, both ascribe to pretty outlandish theories of where people come from (look it up, I’m not getting bogged down in that here), and both also are loonier than fruitcakes.
To take an example, we stumbled across this first-person testimonial by a man who calls himself Brother Jesse Muhammad, a member of Houston’s Mosque No. 45.
In April, Brother Jesse described his introduction to, and training in Scientology at the website of Houston’s major daily paper, the Houston Chronicle. (Um, really? Yes, really. Hard to imagine something similar at the website of the New York Times, I have to say.)
In “My First Experience with Scientology,” Brother Jesse writes that just hearing that Farrakhan was encouraging members to look into Hubbard’s writing was enough for him.
I have been a student under the leadership of Minister Farrakhan for sixteen years now, and he has yet to lead me astray. Whenever he has brought something to us it has always been of great benefit to us as individuals, our families, our entire NOI membership, our people and humanity. I had no doubt he had seen something valuable in Dianetics and I was eager to find out what it was!
Brother Jesse got himself a copy of Dianetics and devoured it eagerly. He couldn’t help but notice that there was a lot of negative stuff about Scientology on the Internet but he didn’t let it bother him. “As a member of the Nation of Islam, I’m used to that,” he writes.
Also, he wasn’t about to leave one faith for another:
I wasn’t planning to leave the Nation of Islam and become a follower or worshipper of L. Ron Hubbard nor was I trying to become a “deep” scientologist. Rather, I was eager to learn something of value that may assist me in my development as a student in the classroom of Allah (God). I have read many books written by people with a mental “filtering system” in place that I may extract that which is of value.
Brother Jesse then learned how Scientology’s auditing process works. It’s a talking cure, and remarkably like the psychotherapy that Scientology demonizes, but hey, folks get stuff off their chests and tend to feel better. Hallelujah!
Brother Jesse writes that he was determined to qualify as an auditor and he did. It earned him a handshake from Farrakhan.
Janet Reitman, in her new book, Inside Scientology, writes that the late Isaac Hayes, a longtime Scientologist, had encouraged Scientology leader David Miscavige to lower the church’s notoriously high prices in order to attract more African-American members. But was an influx of Nation of Islam members what Hayes had in mind?
Anyway, enjoy your beer and barbecue this weekend, and pursue your happiness in all the freaky ways you want. Some members of NOI certainly are!
Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he’s been writing about Scientology at several publications. Among his other stories about L. Ron Hubbard’s organization:
The Larry Wollersheim Saga — Scientology Finally Pays For Its Fraud
The Tory Bezazian (Christman) Story — How the Internet Saved A Scientologist From Herself
The Jason Beghe Defection — A Scientology Celebrity Goes Rogue
The Paul Haggis Ultimatum — The ‘Crash’ Director Tells Scientology to Shove It
The Marc Headley Escape — ‘Tom Cruise Told Me to Talk to a Bottle’
The Jefferson Hawkins Stipulation — Scientology’s former PR genius comes clean
The Daniel Montalvo Double-Cross — Scientology lures a young defector into a trap
A Church Myth Debunked — Scientology and Proposition 8
Daniel Montalvo Strikes Back — Scientology Hit with Stunning Child-Labor Lawsuits
When Scientologists Attack — The Marty Rathbun Intimidation
A Scientologist Excommunicated — The Michael Fairman SP Declaration
The Richard Leiby Operation — Investigating a reporter’s divorce to shut him up
The Hugh Urban Investigation — An academic takes a harsh look at Scientology’s past
Giovanni Ribisi as David Koresh — A precedent for a Scientology-Branch Davidian link
Janet Reitman’s Inside Scientology — A masterful telling of Scientology’s history
The Western Spy Network Revealed? — Marty Rathbun ups the ante on David Miscavige
Scientology’s Enemies List — Are You On It?
Inside Inside Scientology — An interview with author Janet Reitman
Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting the Village Voice and our advertisers.