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Scientology is for an able guy like you or like me … The insane and so forth, somebody else can have them. They’ve already failed.
- L. Ron Hubbard, 1966.¹

The Church of Scientology is obsessed with the concept of 'ability'. In his only public interview to date, David Miscavige, the current leader of the movement, said that the singular goal of Scientology is to ‘help the able become more able,’² and the Church claims to do just that by proselytising the psycho-therapeutic 'technology' invented by its founder, L. Ron Hubbard.

Casual observers of Scientology might notice the near-total absence of disabled parishioners or disability-inclusive messages in its promotional material. Most religions take pride in exhibiting the mental and physical diversity of their members, but not Scientology. The ideal parishioner is physically mobile, extroverted, and neurotypical. Hubbard wanted to create ‘a civilization without insanity,’³ which in his mind included mental disabilities, so traits like autism, dyslexia, and Down’s Syndrome are highly undesirable to a Scientology public relations officer. …

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The women of the Gateways club in Chelsea, London, early 1950s.

In 1533, during the reign of Henry VIII, an Act of Parliament prohibited ‘the abominable vice of buggery’. This was the first piece of legislation in England specifically relating to what would later be called ‘homosexuality,’ but it was limited to activity between men. Even after a renewed wave of legislation in the nineteenth century defined homosexual acts under the broader term ‘gross indecency,’ intimacy between women was never explicitly covered by the law’s proscriptions.¹

The apparent inconsistency in the state’s approach to regulating sex prompted a few attempts in the 1920s and 1930s to criminalise lesbian liaisons as well. In 1921 the Conservative MP Frederick Macquisten proposed to expand the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 to prohibit ‘gross indecency between female persons,’ believing that the ‘falling away of feminine morality was to a large extent the cause of the destruction of the early Grecian civilisation, and still more the cause of the downfall of the Roman Empire.’² …

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Photo by Harley Upton on Unsplash

‘Religion must die for mankind to live.’

This refrain by the celebrity atheist Bill Maher came at the conclusion of his 2008 film Religulous, an irreverent romp around the world in search of the most ridiculous, eccentric and violent aspects of modern religion. Though it presents itself as profound and groundbreaking, in reality the film is a just an entertaining expression of an already-popular worldview.

In 2006, biologist Richard Dawkins published The God Delusion, a point-by-point assault on some of the most prevalent arguments in favour of theistic belief. …


Rebecca Jane Morgan

Historian of modern Britain, popular culture, and queer identities. PhD student, trans activist and Quaker from South Wales.

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