The Church’s policy regarding what is called disconnection is easily understood: It is simply the handling of interpersonal relationships, an act engaged in by members of all faiths, as well as those with no faith at all.
The act of deciding with whom one wishes to associate is not unique to Scientology; it is common to all faiths and indeed to all groups. Scientologists have the same rights as everyone else to be left in peace from those who attack them or their religion and only intend to do harm. The choice is up to the individual, and the Church respects each individual’s right to decide what is best for them.
Scientologists have the same rights as everyone else to be left in peace from those who attack them or their religion and only intend to do harm.
What is Disconnection?
L. Ron Hubbard defined this in a technical reference for Scientologists written on 10 September 1983 as follows:
“The term ‘disconnection’ is defined as a self-determined decision made by an individual that he is not going to be connected to another. It is a severing of a communication line.”
Why would one ever sever a communication line? Here’s the context for that, from the same bulletin:
“Perhaps the most fundamental right of any being is the right to communicate. Without this freedom, other rights deteriorate.
“Communication, however, is a two-way flow. If one has the right to communicate, then one must also have the right to not receive communication from another. It is this latter corollary of the right to communicate that gives us our right to privacy.” – LRH
Examples of the above abound. If you’re at work, and a co-worker begins making unwanted sexual advances toward you, it’s absolutely within your rights put a stop to that. If someone is harassing you about your race or ethnic background, you have every right to not associate with that person whatsoever. Nothing enjoins you to continue to receive communication you don’t desire, or which is hateful to you.
When is Disconnection Used?
To clear away a common misconception right off the bat, in Scientology disconnection is absolutely NOT used simply when a person has a different set of religious beliefs than you do, or if someone who’s raised in a family of Scientologists decides he wants to pursue a different religious path. Scientology is a new religion. As such, any Scientologist is always in contact – with friends, family, co-workers, etc – with folks of every faith. It would be ridiculous and wrong to disconnect from someone purely because they have a different life philosophy or religion than one’s own.
So now, I’ll explain where disconnection is used. And it is absolutely not what the talking heads on TV are saying. So, if you’re upset about what you think this practice is, please take the time here to understand what it’s really about.
Disconnection is factually a last-resort, and is an integral part of a vital and well-documented set of policies and procedures regarding handling people and groups that are antipathetic to your goals. To understand when it’s used, you need to understand when it is NOT used.
Understanding Scientology Policy on What Makes a Suppressive Person
Explaining this will be made much easier if you watch this 8-minute YouTube video first. Not required, but it’ll make the rest of this make a LOT more sense.
Everyone has goals in life. Whether it’s becoming a doctor, completing a college degree, having a happy family, raising kids, becoming a singer, being a successful minister at one’s church, saving the whales, whatever – people have goals. You can have folks around you that help you achieve these, you can have folks around you that just don’t understand what you’re about, and folks around you who are actively working against you to cut you down, and smash your goals and dreams.
Now, here is where it is absolutely vital to be able to make a distinct classification between two types of people in your life. Social Personalities and Anti-Social Personalities or “Suppressive Persons”.
Suppressive Person: (abbreviated “SP”) A person who seeks to suppress, or squash, any betterment activity or group. A Suppressive Person suppresses other people in his vicinity. This is the person whose behavior is calculated to be disastrous. “Suppressive Person” or a “Suppressive” is another name for the “Anti-Social Personality.”
Social Personality: The Social Personality naturally operates on the basis of the greatest good.
He is not haunted by imagined enemies, but he does recognize real enemies when they exist.
The Social Personality wants to survive and wants others to survive, whereas the Anti-Social Personality really and covertly wants others to succumb.
Basically the Social Personality wants others to be happy and do well, whereas the Anti-Social Personality is very clever in making others do very badly indeed.
A basic clue to the Social Personality is not really his successes, but his motivations. The Social Personality when successful is often a target for the Anti-Social and by this reason he may fail. But his intentions included others in his success, whereas the Anti-Social only appreciate the doom of others.
Potential Trouble Source: (abbreviated “PTS”) A person who is in some way connected to and being adversely affected by a Suppressive Person. He is called a Potential Trouble Source because he can be a lot of trouble to himself and to others.
This page in the free course on The Cause of Suppression gives far more detail on the above. Please give it a read.
The Policy of “Handle or Disconnect” – How it Really Works
The above definitions apply to the handling of folks who are helping or hurting you in any of your life goals – not just your choice of religion.
If you’ve got someone in your life who is actively attacking you, harassing you, or working against you, there are two choices you’ve got:
The vast majority of blow-ups and disagreements in life are simply due to lack of communication, and absolutely should NOT be handled by “disconnecting”. For example, let’s say you’ve always wanted to be a musician, but your parents always wanted you to be part of the family business. Likely, your parents aren’t evil in this case. Likely they’re not anti-social people (which you can verify by comparing their traits to the ones on this list). And the way to smooth out the situation is going to be through communication, through making it clear to them that your goal of being a musician makes you happy, and you never wanted in on the family business.
Now, conversely, let’s say you wanted to be a chiropractor. Let’s say you then have a friend who, at every turn, was not only directly opposed to your being a chiro, but then openly attacked you in front of your friends, would cut you down at dinner parties and social occasions as the “idiot who wants to go do that quack science”, and then posted negative articles about chiropractors on your Facebook page, and even went and submitted an article to the Huffington Post about how “deluded” you are, and how “everyone knows” that your dream is a stupid one.
In that second case, a person should have every right to cut that detractor out of their life. If, after attempts at handling, this person was still vehemently or covertly attacking you, who would even blink at you if you said, “yep – I blocked him on Facebook, blocked him on my cell phone, and cut him out of my life altogether”. And I’m sure, for such a person, that would be a relief.
“Handle or Disconnect” – with respect to Scientology
This is where we start to get into the nitty-gritty of things, and where the actual policy and practice of Scientology differs entirely from how it’s been portrayed on TV. First, here’s another L. Ron Hubbard quote from the main reference on how disconnection is used: (and again – see the above definition on PTS or “Potential Trouble Source”)
“In the great majority of cases, where a person has some family member or close associate who appears antagonistic to his getting better through Scientology, it is not really a matter of the antagonistic source wanting the PTS to not get better. It is most commonly a lack of correct information about Scientology that causes the problem or upset. In such a case, simply having the PTS disconnect would not help matters, and would actually be a nonconfront of the situation.”
So, if one family member is a Scientologist, and another is not, it would absolutely be the wrong thing to do to just “disconnect”, as that would not handle the upset at all. It would only make it worse. The right thing to do, presuming that one is dealing with Social Personalities who do indeed have your best interests and continued survival at heart, is to handle.
I’ll quote here from the Cause of Suppression course:
“In the great majority of cases, where a person has some family member or close associate who appears antagonistic to him, it is not really a matter of the antagonistic source wanting the PTS to not get better. It can more commonly be a lack of correct information about what the PTS person is doing that causes the problem or upset. In such a case, simply having the PTS disconnect would not help matters and would actually show an inability on the part of the PTS to confront the situation. It is quite common that the PTS has a low confront (ability to face without flinching or avoiding) on the person and situation. This isn’t hard to understand when one looks at these facts:
“a. To be PTS in the first place, the PTS must have committed harmful, contra-survival acts against the antagonistic source; and
“b. When one has committed such acts, his confront and responsibility drop.
“When an individual using the data in this course to assist another finds that a person is PTS to a family member, he does not recommend that the person disconnect from the antagonistic source. The advice to the PTS person is to handle.
“The handling for such a situation is to educate the PTS person in the technology of PTSness and suppression, and then skillfully and firmly guide the PTS through the steps needed to restore good communication with the antagonistic source. For example, where the PTS person is a Scientologist, these actions eventually dissolve the situation by bringing about an understanding on the part of the antagonistic source as to what Scientology is and why the PTS person is interested and involved in it.” – L. Ron Hubbard
The point here is that if situations come up between Scientologists, or between a Scientologist and individuals or groups of another faith, in the vast majority of cases the individual will be assisted to confront and handle the situation. It generally can be pretty uncomfortable to confront people that are antagonistic to you, especially when you had a hand in making them antagonistic. The right thing to do is own up to what you did to cause the antagonism, and restore actual communication.
When Disconnection is Used
One can encounter a situation where someone is factually connected to a Suppressive Person, in present time. This is a person whose normal operating basis is one of making others smaller, less able, less powerful. He does not want anyone to get better, at all.
It is in this case that a person must be permitted to cut ties with that individual or group. And whilst this procedure is formally documented in Scientology, it is by no means unique to Scientology. In fact nearly every other major religion has a version of this selfsame process of social exclusion, as documented exhaustively here.
Regarding people who Leave Scientology
Respecting the religious beliefs of others is a core part of the Scientology moral code. If someone is a Scientologist but then chooses to leave, or if a person is raised in a Scientology family but then chooses a different moral or religious path, that is 100% up to that individual, and nothing in any Scientology code or creed forbids someone from having contact with them.
Now, there is a vast difference between someone simply deciding that Scientology is not for them, and someone whose intention is to leave Scientology in the loudest and most destructive way, going to the press with anti-Scientology rantings, and publicly and privately harassing other current Scientologists.
When someone is publicly and relentlessly attacking one’s religion, one’s goals, one’s participation in the religion, as well as overt or covert attacks at one personally, belittling the happiness and betterment that your religion brings one, anyone should have the right to not have such an individual in their life.
So, to be perfectly clear, someone leaving Scientology does not mean they “disconnect” from everyone they know who are still Scientologists.
Scientologists are urged to and are expected to have good relations with their families. In a few cases, however, bigotry or a lack of respect for the beliefs of others may cause a relation to aggressively attack the beliefs of a Scientologist family member. In every instance, the Scientologist is counseled by the Church to mend these relationships and try to come to an accord, even if only to have the hostile family member respect the Scientologist’s right to practice his faith. Only after all efforts at resolution have failed should a Scientologist decide, as would anyone else, if he wants to continue to communicate with a hostile family member or other hostile individual. This is the entirety of disconnection.
Being Expelled from the Scientology Religion
The only time when a person who leaves the Scientology religion does lose all of his fellowship with current Scientologists is when that individual is expelled from the religion, because of being declared a Suppressive Person. This is the most severe action in Scientology ethics & justice procedures, and is extremely rare.
Expulsion from the religion only occurs in instances of serious offenses against the Scientology faith and can also occur when an individual is found to be actively working to suppress the well-being of others. This can be done through criminal acts already recognized by society as unlawful or through the commitment of acts deemed Suppressive Acts in the Scientology Justice Codes.
Examples of such acts, as well as context and procedure for handling, are listed in the church’s policy letter entitled SUPPRESSIVE ACTS – SUPPRESSION OF SCIENTOLOGY AND SCIENTOLOGISTS written on 23 December 1965. They include items such as committing any felony, committing or threatening blackmail of Scientology organizations, falsifying records, falsely testifying against the Church or doing so without personal knowledge of the matters to which one testifies, receiving money or favors to suppress Scientology or Scientologists, and other items such as this.
When someone has been expelled from the religion, that person loses both his or her fellowship with the Church as well as with other Scientologists. The condition lasts until they have been restored to good standing. Once the person has been restored to good standing, the prohibition against fellowship with other Scientologists is lifted. Similar practices have been part of religious communities for thousands of years and have been recognized by courts of law as a fundamental right.
Regarding Gradients of Scientology Ethics & Justice
An important note with respect to Scientology ethics procedures is this: simply committing a misdeed does not automatically get one expelled from the Church. The intention is always to guide a person to get honest and straight first, and to use only the lightest possible application of ethics and/or justice to accomplish such.
In a Scientology policy entitled Ethics Review (19 Apr 1965), L. Ron Hubbard states:
“Scientology ethics are so powerful in effect, as determined by observation of it in use, that a little goes a very long ways.
“Try to use the lightest form first.” – LRH
The policy then goes on to list out a gradient approach taken by any official of the church responsible for ethics matters, a list of 36 items, from taking up the unethical behavior with the person directly, to reports to the Ethics department, to formally-convened Courts of Ethics and Committees of Evidence – the most severe fact-finding justice action done in Scientology. The very last item on the list of 36 items is Expulsion from Scientology, taken only after exhaustive efforts have been made to get a person to reform.
Note also this part of the policy on Scientology Ethics:
“Note that none of it carries any physical punishment or detention.” – LRH
I.e. no one is ever detained against their will or physically punished ever as part of any of this, and the mere act of doing so would make the perpetrator himself the subject of Scientology ethics proceedings.
Furthermore, it should also be noted that nothing in Scientology condones any manner of retribution or harassment of former members, to the contrary of what’s commonly misinterpreted on the Internet by bad actors.