Applied Scholastics claims that it is wholly independent of the Church of Scientology. Its chief executive officer Bennetta Slaughter says that "they are separate organizations … We are strictly an educational organization. We are not part of the church." (St Louis Post-Despatch, July 27, 2003). Taken literally, this is true. Applied Scholastics is indeed a legally separate corporation. However, it has so many ties to the Church of Scientology and its corporate alter ego, the Church of Spiritual Technology, that it cannot be regarded as being anything other than a Scientology subsidiary.
Applied Scholastics Incorporated is, officially, a completely separate organization from the Church of Scientology. It is a separately incorporated body with its world headquarters at 7060 Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. Its central task is to promote the use of Study Tech to the non-Scientologist world, particularly in schools – public and private alike. Two of its most important programs are the Hollywood Education and Learning Project (HELP), heavily promoted by celebrity Scientologists such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and the World Literacy Crusade. This is a reading program headquartered in Compton, California that utilizes Study Tech. Long-time Scientologist Isaac Hayes is the celebrity spokesperson, and Baptist minister Alfreddie Johnson is the founder and putative CEO. Although its putative goal is to teach people to read, in practice this is just another promotional angle for Study Tech and a way of generating positive publicity for Scientology. The WLC also promotes Scientology’s Narconon program for drug rehabilitation (see the WLC’s web site at www.worldliteracy.org.)
Applied Scholastics also manages the use of Study Tech in a very limited number of subscribing institutions (usually schools in the United States run by Scientologists for Scientologist children). The organization has a number of corporate subsidiaries operating under business aliases. They are: Carroll Reese Academy & Arts; Ability Plus, Connecticut, Inc.; Ability School of Utah; Academy for Learning, also known as Mission of the Children, Inc.; Chicagoland Academy; Lewis Carroll Academy of the Arts; Renaissance Academy Inc.; and Standard Education, Inc. According to the Church of Scientology International, Applied Scholastics
provides the schools [with] overall guidance and technical assistance and support. In exchange, the schools support Applied Scholastics’ program by providing it [with] ten percent of the funds they receive in connection with their Applied Scholastics’ activities.
(Church of Scientology International Exemption Application Form 1023 Attached Statement, 1993)
As well as licensing schools, Applied Scholastics and its parent organizations also promote the use of Study Technology by businesses. The Church of Scientology’s former Social Coordination Bureau claimed some significant scalps:
Such companies as Elizabeth Arden, Perrier, Bank of America and Chevron have received communication and/or study tech services from a SoCo [Social Coordination] representative. Study tech seminars are delivered regularly at Buick and Oldsmobile Divisions of General Motors in Flint Michigan.
(Social Coordination International, p.3)
Claims of success in this field should be taken with a pinch of salt. When the British sociologist Roy Wallis attempted to check similar claims in the late 1970s, he had little success:
The Church of Scientology supplied, in a letter to the author, the names of a number of US educational establishments in which the programme was said to be operating. Not all of these could be traced. Of five such institutions approached, four could not trace any programme in association with Applied Scholastics – although the programrne may have been operating on an unofficial basis. The fifth institution located ‘an informal program’.
(Wallis, p. 204)
Applied Scholastics has also frequently suffered from its relationship with the Church of Scientology. In a 1992 lawsuit in Santa Clara, California, three persons who were placed on Applied Scholastics courses sued their employer, Applied Materials, for retaliating against them when they refused to continue participating in training that they felt amounted to Scientology indoctrination (Hemet (California) News, July 29, 1992.) The employer eventually settled the case for an estimated $600,000. Proposed Study Tech programs have often run into controversy when the Scientology link has become public knowledge, as happened in California in 1980 and 1997 (Helfand & Mylinkski). Applied Scholastics’ 1997 campaign was not just confined to California, but it backfired elsewhere as well. It contacted numerous English schools sending a complimentary Hubbard book and a sales letter inviting them to invest in Study Tech, but received a frosty response from the teachers on the receiving end. A spokesman for the National Association of Head Teachers was quoted as saying: "Every head teacher has one facility available to them at a time like this. It’s called a bin" (Bournemouth Evening Echo, April 17, 1997).
Critics of Applied Scholastics often lambast the organization as being a "front group" of the Church of Scientology. That claim is denied by Applied Scholastics, but there is considerable evidence to support it. A close inspection of its corporate relationships and staffing demonstrates that its independence is in reality a fiction, very likely designed to obscure the role played by the often controversial Church of Scientology.
According to the Church itself, Applied Scholastics is a Church program and a "Scientology-related entity." In 1993, the Church of Scientology International (CSI) and the United States Internal Revenue Service struck an agreement, under which the Church gained tax exemption for itself and its subsidiaries and in return paid $12.5m to cover payroll, income and estate-tax bills for an undisclosed number of years prior to 1993, as well as discontinuing numerous lawsuits against the IRS. The terms of the agreement did not become public until four years later, when they were leaked to the Wall Street Journal in December 1997. It sparked an immediate controversy. Under the agreement (and, it was alleged, under improper pressure from Church lawyers and private investigators) the IRS had granted Scientology privileges denied to any other faith group. The disparity was highlighted in a subsequent court case involving a Jewish man who wished to claim tax exemption for his child’s attendance at a Jewish school. He was denied but the court criticised the conduct of the IRS, pointing out the inconsistency of allowing Scientologists to claim tax deductions for religious schooling while denying it to everyone else. The situation has still not been resolved.
CSI had to submit a "Form 1023 Statement" to the IRS prior to the conclusion of the 1993 agreement. In it, CSI declared that Applied Scholastics forms part of its "social betterment program":
Though Mr. Hubbard is best known for founding the religion of Scientology, he also authored very effective technologies for handling society’s ills and bettering the lot of mankind as a whole. Over time these technologies have developed into four general social-betterment programs, each addressing a specific area of current social concern: Narconon, a drug rehabilitation program; Applied Scholastics, an educational program; …
For many years CSI and other churches of Scientology have conducted highly-successful social reform programs based on Mr. Hubbard’s technologies. They conducted these programs either directly or in close conjunction with charitable and educational organizations formed to help them bring Mr. Hubbard’s technologies to the secular world.
The bulk of CSI’s social betterment program is carried out under the supervision and direction of Association for Better Living and Education … ABLE accomplishes its goals primarily by providing technical and financial assistance and general promotional support to the international social-betterment organizations that work in ABLE’s four areas of concern: Narconon International (drug rehabilitation), Applied Scholastics (education) …
(Church of Scientology International Exemption Application Form 1023 Attached Statement, 1993)
When the agreement itself was drafted, CSI accepted responsibility for Applied Scholastics’ tax status despite not having any overt corporate responsibility for it. The fictional separation of the two organisations was, in secret, set aside. It was instead defined in the closing agreement as one of a number of "Scientology-related entities":
The social benefit and other public benefit entities discussed at pages 1-28 through 1-42 of the June  submission [by CSI] along with all subsidiaries, subordinate chapters, subordinate organizations, or sublicensees thereof (e.g., organizations that are permitted to use particular names, copyrights, service marks, and/or technologies) are Scientology-related entities. Thus, for example, Citizens Commission on Human Rights, National Commission on Law Enforcement and Social Justice, Scientology Defense Fund Trust, Association for the Better Living and Education, Applied Scholastics Incorporated, Narconon International, The Way to Happiness Foundation, and the Foundation for Religious Freedom are Scientology-related entities.
("Closing agreement on final determination covering specific matters", U.S. Internal Revenue Service, 1 October 1993)
Shortly afterwards, CSI published a "Tax Compliance Manual" issued to Scientology missions and churches across the United States to instruct Scientologists on the requirements of the agreement with the IRS. It includes a passage on Applied Scholastics and the other "social betterment" organizations, granting them sweeping powers to extend tax exemption to subordinate organizations:
The SCIENTOLOGY charitable and educational institutions that the Internal Revenue Service has recognized as tax-exempt include Association for Better Living and Education, Narconon and Applied Scholastics and all Narconon centers and qualified schools that operate under the authority of Narconon and Applied Scholastics, The Way to Happiness Foundation, as well as the newly formed Hubbard College of Administration and its subordinate colleges. Narconon, Applied Scholastics and Hubbard College of Administration each have the authority to extend tax-exempt status to newly formed subordinate organizations.
(Tax Compliance Manual, Church of Scientology International, 1993)
Applied Scholastics, the Church of Scientology and the Study Tech’s proponents frequently play a verbal sleight of hand over the nature of this relationship. "Scientology" is often equated with "the Church of Scientology". Applied Scholastics’ separate incorporation does mean that, in a strict legal sense, it is separate from the Church of Scientology. But the Church’s own public documents demonstrate that "Scientology" means far more than just the Church. Scientology’s trademarks are controlled and enforced by a separate corporation, the Religious Technology Center (RTC); its copyrights are held by another corporation, the Church of Spiritual Technology (CST); its publications are issued by yet another corporation, Bridge Publications – and so on. Few people, including the Scientologists, would deny that RTC and CST are part of Scientology. This classification was recognised in the 1993 agreement with the IRS, when the closing agreement stated that Applied Scholastics was one of a number of "Scientology-related entities" and the Tax Compliance Manual calls it a "Scientology charitable and educational institution". In short, Applied Scholastics is demonstrably part of the wider Scientology movement.
Legal independence is one thing, but operational independence is quite another. Here, too, there is strong evidence that Applied Scholastics has been and probably continues to be subject to the operational control of the Church of Scientology.
Applied Scholastics was established on the instructions of L. Ron Hubbard in 1970. He explained four years later how it had come about:
This program was started by credentialed teachers in the US who had been trained in study techniques developed by me for use in Scn [Scientology] training. Applied Scholastics has had excellent results increasing the ability of students to read and understand materials.
(Hubbard, "The Role of Community Leadership," LRH Executive Directive 256 Int, 28 November 1974)
The task of administering Applied Scholastics and other Church "social betterment" programs was given to a major sub-unit of the Church, the Guardian’s Office (GO), run by Hubbard’s wife Mary Sue. By the end of the decade the GO had been smashed by the United States Government, which exposed it as the instigator of a massive international campaign of espionage and intimidation aimed at crushing any person or group who Scientology saw as a threat. The GO was eventually disbanded in 1982 after losing a power struggle with the present management of the Church of Scientology. Mary Sue Hubbard was given a lengthy prison sentence and L. Ron himself went into hiding until his death in 1986.
The Guardian’s Office had a wide range of responsibilities in dealing with the Church’s external affairs. It had six Bureaus: Legal, Public Relations, Information (initially called Intelligence), Social Coordination, Service (for GO staff training and auditing), and Finance. Each was numbered, from 1 to 6. As far as Applied Scholastics was concerned, Social Coordination – also referred to as SoCo, Bureau 6 or B6 – was the most significant, as it was responsible for liaising with Applied Scholastics and other "social reform" organisations. One of its Presidents, Frank Zurn (whose wife Laurie is a Narconon International corporate officer and Vice President of ABLE, SoCo’s present-day equivalent), explained SoCo’s purpose:
The dissemination and delivery of Ron’s technology divides into broad sectors. Social Coordination International is the organization that has been entrusted with reversing the decay of society and using Ron’s technology to revitalize the fields of education, drug rehabilitation, criminal rehabilitation, and society’s morals through The Way to Happiness campaign.
( Impact magazine issue 10 (1987) p.22)
Zurn specifically named Applied Scholastics as being part of the campaign to "disseminate and deliver" Hubbard’s doctrines.
When the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided the Guardian’s Office in 1977, in pursuit of the crimes which led eventually to the conviction of the GO’s senior staff, it seized a huge quantity of confidential documents which revealed how the GO saw its relationship with Applied Scholastics. The papers show that Applied Scholastics was, in Scientology’s own words, a "front group". Even within the Church of Scientology, this knowledge was closely guarded, although it was reportedly fairly common informal knowledge amongst the rank and file.
To maintain operational security, the GO used a variety of codes to obscure potentially damaging information. This included a variety of incriminating information that could be legally or publicly damaging. A "Coding Hat" was produced to instruct staff in the areas of sensitivity that were to be subjected to coding. As well as a general GO-wide instruction, each individual bureau of the GO was required to encode information in its own specific area of responsibility. Hence Bureau 6, also known as B6 or Social Coordination, which was responsible for "social reform groups" such as Applied Scholastics , was given a list of "SC general headings for data needing coding". This included the names of "B6 groups" – that is, organisations covertly run by the Church of Scientology:
1. Incriminating activities such as lobbying where this is prohibited in non profit corporations.
2. Anything that we do not want connected to LRH [L. Ron Hubbard] or CSG [Controller Staff Guardian - i.e. Mary Sue Hubbard]. This would include #1 above, and is handled by coding their names.
3. Words or actions that would tend to dispute the fact that the C of S’s motives are humanitarian; i.e. harass, eradicate, destroy, cave in, third party.
4. Anything that gives specific and actual evidence that Scientology is in legal control of B6 type groups. These are groups that are separate legal entities to the C of S.
a. This will include a situation where a flap has occurred due to mishandling of management causing a situation where it appears we are in legal control of a group.
4 addition: I have listed below the present time B6 groups tha [sic] fall into this category.
These groups are:
1. Applied Scholastics
3. Apple Schools
4. Expansion Consultants
5. Childbirth Education Center (new one)
6. Association for Scientologists for Reform
("SC general headings for data needing coding", undated)
After the fall of the GO, the Social Coordination section continued in existence as an unincorporated Church of Scientology organization called Social Coordination International. It was replaced in 1986 by the separately incorporated Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE). This supposedly transferred management responsibility for "social benefit" programs outside of the Church of Scientology.
This, however, seems to have been a fiction. The true relationship was revealed to the IRS in 1993 in the course of negotiations with the Church, although both parties did their best thereafter to keep the matter secret. In the tax exemption agreement, the Church of Scientology International (CSI) negotiated tax exemption agreements for ABLE and Applied Scholastics, amongst other organizations. It also took on legal responsibility for their tax liabilities – settled with the payment of a single $12.5m lump sum – as well as for policing and implementing the terms of the agreement under the aegis of the "Church Tax Compliance Committee". Yet CSI is supposedly organisationally separate from ABLE and Applied Scholastics, with no management responsibilities for either corporation. In short, an organization claimed to be separate in public was revealed in secret negotiations to actually be a subordinate.
According to the public statements of Applied Scholastics, ABLE and CSI, the relationship is something like this:
The four "social betterment" organisations – Narconon, Criminon, Applied Scholastics and The Way To Happiness Foundation – are subordinate to ABLE, which licenses trademarks and copyrighted material and supervises the correct implementation of the social reform "technologies". Off to each side, but separately incorporated and outside of the management and licensing structure, are the Church of Scientology International (and its subordinate churches) and the International Association of Scientologists. Each provide support and funding to ABLE and its subordinates. The relationship is presented as being strictly charitable, not managerial.
However, a close examination of the IRS agreement and the internal documents of both ABLE and CSI show a radically different picture. From these, it is possible to piece together a flowchart showing the organisational relationships between Applied Scholastics, ABLE and the rest of Scientology’s byzantine corporate structure. Applied Scholastics is revealed as being very definitely a part of the Scientology corporate empire:
This is a greatly simplified version of a much bigger and more complex whole. Lines of management are represented as solid black lines, with dashed yellow lines indicating the known and probable contractual relationships. The colours of the different elements indicate distinct corporations, with the Church of Scientology itself being the yellow component. The key to the puzzle is that Applied Scholastics is independent of the Church of Scientology, but is nonetheless still a part of the Scientology conglomerate.
Applied Scholastics itself, and each of its subordinate organizations, are run essentially as Scientology franchises. As already mentioned, the CSI Form 1023 submission to the IRS revealed that Applied Scholastics’ schools remit "ten percent of the funds they receive in connection with their Applied Scholastics’ activities." This is an absolutely standard Scientology franchising arrangement, replicated across Scientology’s corporate empire:
The Church derived income from four sources: (1) auditing and training; (2) sales of Scientology literature, recordings and E-meters; (3) franchise operations; and (4) management services. Franchise operators were required to remit ten percent of gross income to the Church.
(Church of Scientology of California v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, US Court of Appeals 9th Circuit, case no. 85-7324, decided 28 July 1987 – see http://www.xenu.net/archive/CourtFiles/occf113.html)
Note that this franchising fee is a fixed percentage of gross income, regardless of profit or losses. Remitting money "uplines" is the top financial priority of every Scientology franchise, superseding even the requirement to keep the franchise solvent. Not surprisingly, many Scientology franchises suffer from financial instability as a result. Applied Scholastics may in some respects be less vulnerable to this than other Scientology "social reform" organizations, as it can rely on having a core clientele – the children of Scientologists. But this in turn makes it dependent on the success of the Church of Scientology in attracting new members, and it effectively ties Applied Scholastics’ operations to those of the Church of Scientology. Schools using Study Tech are invariably run by Scientologists and cater to Scientologists’ children. It is thus no coincidence that Study Tech schools are often close to concentrations of Scientologists. For instance, the only school in the United Kingdom that is run on Hubbard’s principles happens to be only a few miles from Scientology’s UK headquarters at Hubbard’s former home in Sussex.
Scientology’s "social betterment" organizations – front groups, according to critics – are often accused of covertly recruiting for the Church of Scientology. Hard evidence of this is scanty, although there are a few indicators. For instance, there is evidence that other Scientology-related entities (notably Narconon and Sterling Management) have recruited for Scientology. It is also worth considering the statement by the Church of Scientology that Applied Scholastics is making it "possible for the peoples of earth to walk onto and up The Bridge." This, though, falls a long way short of making a definite case against Applied Scholastics.
On the other hand, there is good reason to think that Applied Scholastics plays an important role in promoting Hubbard’s doctrines to an audience that would not otherwise encounter them in their original Scientology context. It is merely part of an amibitious and well-funded global program of inbuing wider society with Scientology values: "All of its extensive worldwide activities are part of an effort to instill the values and practices developed by its leader, L. Ron Hubbard, into every aspect of human civilization: mental health, medicine, politics, justice, economics, family life, entertainment and religion." (Kent, 1999) J. Gordon Melton, a research specialist in the religious studies department at UC Santa Barbara, says: “I think among the higher-ups in the Church of Scientology, those at a strategic level, they see this as a way of indirectly spreading Scientology by building the reputation of their leader.” (Helfand, 1997)
This theme is repeated in many internal Scientology publications, which stress the need to "clear" the planet (bringing it up to a state of Scientological virtue). The link between Applied Scholastics and individual Scientologists is provided by groups called "Clear Expansion Committees," unincorporated bodies established under a 1994 programme to provide a direct link with the "social reform" groups. According to Advance magazine issue 153 (April 2001), "Your Clear Expansion Committee is not only a vital group for anyone going Clear, it’s disseminating and using LRH tech to take your community to Clear." As a Scientology source explains,
The Clear Expansion Committee is a new program that was launched in 1994 as a major new reach-out program.
To really clear one’s community, one must have field activities of all types. Of course these include Missions, Field Auditor Groups, Auditors Associations, Volunteer Ministers, Dianetics Counseling Groups and OT committees.
They must also include Gung-Ho Groups and the use of LRH’s Social Betterment tech such as study groups and schools that apply LRH Study Tech, Narconon, Criminon, The Way to Happiness Groups, WISE, Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights, and other scientology community reform groups.
While each of these field activites has it’s own purpose, all exist to get LRH tech used in the world, and bring us closer to a "Cleared Planet".
A Clear Expansion Committee is an umbrella which coordinates all individual scientologists and groups involved in these activities so as to dramatically expand scientology in your area. Under the control of the Clear Expansion Committee all of these groups become an unstoppable force to clear the community.
This is very much along the lines of Hubbard’s "Special Zone Plan," a policy that some have likened to "infiltration". The touchstone of the CECs is a 1960 bulletin by Hubbard which has been reprinted in CEC publications such as the Flag Clear Expansion Committee Newsletter. Hubbard advises Scientologists to "just enter" wider society and introduce the principles of Scientology without necessarily telling any non-Scientologists what they are doing:
A housewife, already successfully employing Scientology in her own home, trained to professional level, takes over a woman’s club as secretary or some key position.
She straightens up the club affairs by applying comm [sic] practice and making peace, and then, incidental to the club’s main function, pushes Scientology into a zone of special interest in the club – children, straightening up marriages, whatever comes to hand, and even taking fees for it – meanwhile, of course, going on being a successful and contributing wife.
The cue in all this is don’t seek the cooperation of groups. Don’t ask for permission. Just enter them and start functioning to make the group win through effectiveness and sanity.
("Special Zone Plan", HCO Bulletin of 23 June 1960)
Bridge Publications is the U.S. publisher of Hubbard’s most famous book, Dianetics, and all his other writings that make up Scientology’s religious scripture. It also publishes his fiction, including the novel Battlefield Earth that was recently made into a notoriously bad film starring famous Scientologist John Travolta. (New Era Publications – another Scientology company – is Bridge Publications’ European equivalent.) When Bridge published the Study Tech books, it included some interesting legal boilerplate. William J. Bennetta, President of the Textbook League in Sausalito, California, calls it “one of the most bizarre disclaimers I have ever seen. ” Mr. Bennetta’s observation appears in a highly critical letter to the editor published in Education Week on October 8, 1997, in response to a story about the recent attempt to introduce Study Tech into California schools. The disclaimer in each of the Study Tech volumes reads:
This book is part of the works of L. Ron Hubbard. It is presented to the reader as part of the record of his personal research into life, and the application of same by others, and should be construed only as a written report of such research and not as a statement of claims made by the author.
Mr. Bennetta was apparently unaware that essentially the same legal disclaimer appears in all of Scientology’s religious publications as well as other "social reform" publications such as those for the Narconon drug rehabilitation group . It is also completely meaningless. Despite the disclaimer, Hubbard blithely makes many detailed and highly contentious claims throughout his works, claiming them to be hard scientific fact – no matter that he often gets his facts wrong. Interestingly, the disclaimer has only appeared in Scientology publications since about the mid-1970s, around the time that the Church was beset by legal problems in much of the English-speaking world. It would seem that the disclaimer is rooted in the Church management’s desire to avoid legal problems stemming from the extravagance of Hubbard’s claims.