Understanding Scientology

The Church of Scientology played an important role in Lisa McPherson's life. Her estate's wrongful death suit alleges that the church caused her death.

Scientology is a vast and complex subject. Information in the Lisa McPherson files can help enhance public understanding of Scientology.

While the interviews and statements given by various Scientologists provide interesting glimpses into life in Scientology, Lisa's own Scientology files offer a more complete perspective. They cover her marriages, her attempts to deal with her personal life, her relationships with her family, and much more besides.

It's useful to understand that individuals can be involved in Scientology at different levels, providing very different experiences:

  • public Scientologists are the most numerous. They are not staff members or members of the Sea Org; instead, they hold regular jobs (sometimes with Scientology-affiliated companies) and attend courses and services at their local Scientology church.
  • staff members work at Scientology churches or missions. Because all of these positions are technically volunteer positions, earnings are based on how well the organization is doing, and on the individual's position and productivity. Many staff members make very little money and must work other jobs to supplement their staff income.
  • Sea Org members sign a billion-year contract, pledging to work lifetime after lifetime in this elite Scientology organization. They receive room and board, plus a very small stipend (usually less than $100 a week).

At different times in her life, Lisa was all three - a public, a staff member, and a member of the Sea Org.

Of course, the information collected by the police investigators cannot provide a complete picture of life in Scientology. (That wasn't the point of the investigation, after all, although officers did feel a need to learn more about Scientology as they went along, to gain a better understanding of what happened to Lisa.)

For a more complete understanding of Scientology, you may want to:

  • visit the official Scientology web site
  • read Scientology books
  • contact Scientologists to learn about their experiences
  • read books about Scientology written by members, former members, journalists, and scholars
  • read newspaper and magazine articles about Scientology
  • visit web sites that discuss Scientology from the perspectives of members, former members, Scientologists practicing outside the church, critics, activists, and others who have learned about Scientology for their own various reasons