in Folsom are spreading the word on technology in government. Some employees
say it's actually the words of L. Ron
that are being spread.
By Jim Evans
August 23, 2001
[Link to original article]
On your very first day as a new hire at e.Republic, you. re given a
copy of Speaking From Experience, a management training book written by
the late L. Ron Hubbard, who, during his busy lifetime, was a science
fiction writer, philosopher,
expert on education, and drug rehabilitation pioneer. Perhaps his most
well-known accomplishment was being the founder of the controversial
The book--which is impressively endorsed on the
back cover by former Notre Dame basketball coach Digger Phelps--proclaims
itself . the boldest and most direct principles on management
All new hires at e.Republic, a publishing company
based in Folsom, California, are required to not only read the book, but
also take a course based on its contents, which--notwithstanding the
grandiose description above--reads much like the same kind of hokey
training materials that millions of workers try to avoid daily, except
Hubbard. s methods have the higher goal of . improving conditions in your business,
your life and on Earth in general..
That, of course, is a big goal. More practically,
the book, which mentions in the foreward that Hubbard founded Scientology,
serves as a hearty welcome to those who join e.Republic. Once employed,
whether they also join . The Club.
is a different
. The Club,. as some current and former employees
call it, has at least one requirement--that you practice the religion of
Scientology. To those who don't want anything to do
with the Hubbard training, to say nothing of the Scientology
the prevalence of all things Hubbard can be
disconcerting. The vast majority of management at e.Republic are
. It fosters a level of paranoia because you feel
like if you speak out against how much Hubbard stuff is in the training
think they. ll come after you,. says one worker
who spoke on condition of anonymity. . They pressure every
to take Hubbard-based training..
And the use of Hubbard-based training materials is
a controversial matter. Critics argue that the training and education
techniques used by the consultants are simply Scientology. s attempt to
get its ethics and beliefs established in business and governmental
settings, where they may gain influence over policy matters that concern
the Church of Scientology, like religious freedom in Europe and the use
of psychiatric drugs.
The company executives deny they. re trying to spread Scientology.
Dennis McKenna, who founded e.Republic in 1983, says the Hubbard-based
training is completely optional and adds, . In 18 years we' ve never had a
complaint.. But perhaps that' s because some employees don't feel
like they can complain. Some of those within the company who are not
Scientologists say that the executives at e.Republic are so close to
Scientology that they don't understand where the "training" ends and
the religion begins.
Which could become a problem when you consider
the company' s business.
Over the past 18 years, e.Republic has essentially become the
principal information source on governments. adoption of technology. The company'
s conferences draw
everybody who. s anybody among the government .
digerati.. Its magazines, notably its flagship, Government Technology,
have become the industry bibles of the government techno-nerd set. For
instance, if you want the latest news on whether governments will supply
online access to court files, you' ll find it in Government Technology. Another e.Republic offshoot, the
Center for Digital Government, provides research and consulting to state and
To the outside world, e.Republic is a trusted resource for government
officials and business leaders alike. Inside, some employees feel as if
they won't get a fair shake
if they' re not Scientologists. "We felt like the
success you had in your job depended on how you were perceived by the
Scientologists in the company," says Brian McDonough, former editor with
Government Technology magazine. "So you really can't say, 'I just
don't believe in this
It might be crap to the non-believers, but to millions of
followers, Scientology is an applied religious philosophy, a collection of daily
principles to live by and a lifestyle
all wrapped up in one package. Hubbard founded
Scientology after the success of his 1950 book Dianetics: The Modern
Science of Mental Health and pushed his seemingly secular self-improvement
writings into what he began to call a religion. A pieced-together quilt of
outer-world science fiction concepts and eastern philosophy, the
teachings of Scientology
don't appear in one book, like a bible.
But the basics are this: Every physical body has a .
thetan,. or soul, that inhabits it. The thetans are reincarnated from one body
to another. Any physical problems that
the body encounters--from a common cold to a brain
tumor--are the results of painful emotional experiences the thetan
previously experienced. These experiences are called engrams. Scientology
aims to get rid of a thetan. s engrams by confessional sessions called
auditing, in which a believer will detail painful, traumatic events to a
in order to reach the level of . clear,. and ultimately the level of "operating
And tha' s not all. The ultimate teachings of
Scientology hold that an evil tyrant named Xenu collected all the world. s
beings 75 million years ago. He then chained all the beings to volcanoes all
around Earth, where he dropped hydrogen bombs on them. Next, Xenu captured the
beings. thetans and implanted them with sexual
and other afflictions to make the thetans forget what he had done. This causes
the essential conflict in all humans for which Scientology is presumably
While the particulars of the religion are enough to raise
the eyebrow of even the most accepting soul, what makes Scientology so
controversial in the eyes of some
critics is not so much its
teachings, but rather the all-encompassing pursuit of cash to keep the
church going. A 1987 Time magazine story quoted court documents that said
that one of the Church' s entities--the Church of Spiritual
Technology--brought in about $500 million that year. To gain access to the
secrets of Scientology, followers must pay thousands of dollars for
each level of learning. At times, the quest for cash is enough to blur
ethical lines. Consider the case of David Feickert of Sacramento. In
September 1991, 40-year-old Feickert, with the help of his grandfather,
sued his Scientologist father, the Church of Scientology--Mission of
Sacramento--and a church employee for fraud. Feickert, who in the opinion
of a detective in the sexual and elder abuse bureau of the Sacramento
County Sheriff' s Department could not live on his own, was allegedly
scammed out of $170,000 he received in inheritance when his mother died.
Feickert' s grandfather (who in court documents stated he felt David was
retarded) accused the church employee of moving into the Feickert home
and, with the help of David' s father, getting David to sign over his
inheritance checks to the employee of the church. Feickert' s grandfather
sued them all for $10 million'two months later the parties settled the
case for an undisclosed sum in a confidential agreement.
A decade before, a man named Martin Samuels ran the Sacramento Mission,
the Davis Mission and three others. According to former church members and
the book A Piece of Blue Sky: Scientology, Dianetics and L. Ron Hubbard
Exposed, by Jon Atack, Samuels was among the most successful of the
mission holders in the country. For the first week of September 1982,
Samuels. missions brought in about one-fourth of all income from U.S.
Missions. e.Republic CEO Dennis McKenna was there, as the church spokesman
in the local Sacramento Mission.
The building that houses the offices of e.Republic
is not so unlike other corporate dwellings elsewhere in America. Located
in a Folsom business park, it's the kind of place you'd imagine that it's
comfortable to work in--you can always find parking in the company lot and
you're just a short walk to the main staples of the modern worker, Jamba Juice and Starbucks.
Inside, it's no different. The air conditioning feels
rather nice, the receptionist seems friendly and a couple of employees saunter
by in shorts. e.Republic has corporate
culture down pat.
The man who built all this, Dennis McKenna, is waiting in
the conference room. McKenna is a tall, handsome, slender man who looks 38, but
must be nearing 50,
started the company nearly 20 years ago. With him is Don Pearson, the
executive vice president and group publisher of e.Republic magazines.
Pearson looks slightly
older than McKenna does, but at 53 he could easily pass for 45.
It's hard to know what to expect in meeting
McKenna. When originally contacted for this story, McKenna joked in an
e-mail that we had it all wrong, that the company officials were actually
into cosmetology, not Scientology, and yes, he'd be happy to talk. The
next day, the humor was gone in a follow-up e-mail: "If your e-mail said
you were interested in doing a piece because of people who practice
Judaism, homosexuality or Mormonism it would be down right bizarre if not
so disturbing. All of these groups and others have been and are even today
labeled as controversial by the intolerant and unenlightened." And
in the same week of the interview at e.Republic's offices, the company
retained the oldest, and arguably most powerful public relations/ad agency
in Sacramento, Runyon Saltzman & Einhorn. Some of their other clients
include the Sacramento Bee, the Golden State Warriors and Comcast Cable. Clearly, the
issue of Scientology within e.Republic is a sensitive one.
McKenna, however, seems to take it all in stride.
Questions about Scientology roll off his back. It's the business that he's
interested in talking about.
"I'm really proud of the fact that we're doing a good job,
we're employing folks, we're surviving, we're healthy. That to me is the story.
I mean, my religion? Hello?"
While McKenna seems to go to great pains to say
that his company's prevalence of Scientologists is a non-story, some of
his own employees are clearly spooked by the religion. But McKenna says
that all employees are told in the interview process that the company uses
Hubbard training methods, and besides, he adds, those training
methods aren't the same thing as the religion anyway.
"A lot of (Hubbard's) work is very secular and a
lot of it has to do with management. Where is the religion?" McKenna
asks. "He also did found the religion of Scientology and there are
religious writings, but one has to look at the information and make a
choice about it. Clearly, if you look at the material that we use at
e.Republic ... it's very secular writing."
Pearson, of course, has the same view. Before he started at Government
Technology, Pearson worked as a management consultant in the Sacramento
area. One of his biggest clients was Allstate Insurance, where Pearson
taught the Hubbard-conceived principles of managing by statistics. In the
Hubbard-based training, a worker who had low statistics, or productivity,
shouldn't be excused for any reason and should be penalized accordingly.
This unswerving commitment to the bottom line apparently emboldened some
managers to take the training too far, resulting in management by
intimidation. Pearson and his consultants also pushed other Hubbard books
and tapes while consulting. When it became widely known throughout
Allstate that Pearson was teaching Hubbard management techniques to its
agents, Allstate banned and repudiated the courses. But by then it was too
According to a 1995 Wall Street Journal article, more than 3,500
Allstate supervisors and agents participated in nearly 200 seminars
conducted by Pearson's firm. Some agents who worked under managers who
took the training courses eventually filed religious-discrimination
charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Years later,
Pearson defiantly stands by the work.
"We did good work ... it's very secular," Pearson says
now. "I have a lot of personal values, but when I'm working with a client, it's
the client's needs that come first."
McKenna has seen his share of controversy as well.
In the '70s, the church launched Operation Freakout on author Paulette
Cooper, after the 1971 publication of her book, The Scandal
of Scientology. The goal? To allegedly put Cooper in a prison or
mental hospital by having her framed as a terrorist. Church members
would make threatening calls to consulates posing as Cooper and attempted
to get her fingerprints on a piece of paper and then mail it as a
threatening letter to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
In 1979, court documents revealed the plot to get Cooper. But in a New
York Times article that November, church spokesman Dennis McKenna
intimated that Cooper was covertly working with the FBI and other federal
agencies to harm the church. (McKenna was not accused of participating in
Even while the longstanding ties between the Church of Scientology and
McKenna and other e.Republic execs seem clear, McKenna warns it doesn't
mean that the company itself is pushing a Scientology agenda. To hear him
tell it, he just enjoys the business of publishing.
"I wanted to start my own business because I wanted to create
publications that reflected my outlook on life, my values, my interests,"
McKenna says. "I think our publications speak for themselves in terms of
their editorial content."
Brian McDonough worked at Government Technology
magazine for two years, starting in July 1998. He reported directly to the
editor of the magazine, Wayne Hanson, who reported to Pearson, who
reported to McKenna. McDonough held the distinction of being one of the
most senior level non-Scientologists at the company. When he left, a
former co-worker says in that regard, McDonough was e.Republic. s failed
Once a rising star with e.Republic, McDonough says he quit when he was denied a
Like others in the company, McDonough had
reservations about the prevalence of Scientology in the day-to-day
e.Republic. A problem, he says, was the division the religion created from
. There was a lot of gossip about Scientology. If
a new person would come into the company we. d want to know if they were
Scientologists too,. McDonough says. . You would have to worry about what
you said about the company and Scientology to some
a more troubling sign to McDonough was the way that Scientology was creeping into
the company' s editorial product.
"Around the time I left I began to see Scientology working
its way into the editorial content in ways that were objectionable to me," he
McDonough details one incident where a story he edited was
pulled because of his superiors. religious philosophy. The story was on a
promoted by the California Board of Pharmacy that would track psychiatric
drugs like Ritalin, Demerol and Prozac. At that time, that information was
documented on paper. The information would consequently be put on a
network, where doctors could access it. For years, the Church of
Scientology has criticized the psychiatric profession (which has been
critical of Scientology from the outset), through the actual writings of
L. Ron Hubbard and through a nonprofit organization called the Citizens Commission on Human Rights.
McDonough says the mere mention of the existence
of the drugs induced management to pull the plug on the story.
Assemblywoman Helen Thomson of Davis backed the program, which was an
issue with e.Republic management because, according to McDonough, they
didn't like her education agenda because they perceived it as promoting
the use of psychiatric drugs. According to McDonough, management even admitted
the story was pulled because of Scientology.
It would come as no great shock. Corporation
records show that Don Pearson opened a local chapter of the Citizen. s
Commission in 1998, and Pearson also set up a political action
committee called the Association of Citizens for Social Reform, designed to "play offense"
in eliminating "public support for social, educational and
mental health programs that are intrusive, force-based or damaging to individual
awareness and competence".
McKenna says the decision to kill the story was
his alone. He says he made the move because a family member had been
hooked on methadone for 10 years. . There were statements in the article
from the California Medical Association that just didn't square up with my
reality [with the family member],. McKenna says. . To be honest it
was a personal thing..
The experience left McDonough feeling like the magazine wasn't being
honest about its intentions." My feeling was that if they were going to
filter things through Scientology philosophy, I thought they
should at least be upfront about it," he says. Ultimately, McDonough left
after he didn't get a promotion to the magazine' s
post. He says it was his understanding that editor
Wayne Hanson would move to the Center for Digital Government and he would
assume the top spot. After the story was pulled, however, things
"Prior to the story I had the promotion, afterwards I didn' t,"
McKenna responds: " As an employer and editor-in-chief of
this magazine, I would never make a promotion decision based on one story".
While a search of Government Technology. s Web
site turns up only one mention of Scientology--when the Church won a
copyright case against a man who published some Scientology writings on
the Net--the magazines are not above giving some press to long-time
associates who push, in some form or another, L. Ron Hubbard'
For three consecutive summers, from 1996 to 1998,
Government Technology did very similar stories on the work of Ingrid
Gudenas, president of Fremont, California-based Effective Training
Solutions. Gudenas, who used to head the Northern California arm of the
Scientology-backed Applied Scholastics, also is listed as a speaker at
e.Republic. s conferences. For a mere $350, one can attend Gudenas. and
Pearson' s course on " Leadership, Communication & Training: Keys
to Success at Internet Speed".
The articles deal with Gudenas. success with teaching . 100 percent
Proficiency Training,. which the articles note is based on the education methods
of . best-selling
American author and researcher L. Ron
Hubbard.. In the other articles, Hubbard is listed as " best-selling American
author and humanitarian," and also as simply
" best-selling American author". Hubbard' s
greatest achievement, the founding of a religion with millions of
devotees, is carefully omitted. Even the editorialists get into the act of
pushing Scientology-backed positions. In Converge, another one of the
company. s magazines, editor Bernard Percy and former publisher Sherese
Graves wrote a series of editorials that spoke out on
the "psychiatrization [sic] of education". Nevermind that Converge is
a magazine about technology and education, Graves wrote in one of the
editorials, " Some educational issues, those touching on values and
importances [sic], are more basic,
a lot thornier and have far more future implications than
the number of computers in our classrooms".
Which, of course, may be true. Still, when editorialist
Graves seems to imply that the Columbine shootings were attributable to the
taking of psychiatric drugs, as she
did in the magazine. s first
issue of 2000, could it have benefited a reader to know that Graves is a Scientologist?
McKenna says it' s not necessary.
" I don't want to be held to an unfair
standard on this. If the New York Times wrote an article supporting Bill
Clinton or whatever, do they need to say, 'I. m a member ofthe Democratic
party?" . McKenna asks. " Or if there is an editorial piece by
someone in some major daily about abortion, do they need to say, 'The
reason I feel this way is because I. m a Catholic?'".
It's a fair point. But is that as it should be in a medium
where credibility depends on the trust of a readership? McKenna says e.Republic
is an open book.
" Everything we do is open," he says. "We' ve had many discussions
with business associates about our religion. It' s not something we
promote and it's not something
However, McDonough thinks the company isn't open enough.
"The harm is that the company is pushing an agenda that
it's not admitting upfront, which is not being honest with the people who give
them money, whether they are
advertisers, readers or
states that do consulting business with them," he says.
In 1999, Richard Varn, the chief information
officer (CIO) of Iowa, was put in charge of creating a state-run
information technology department. Essentially a new state agency, the
department would use " information technology to improve the lives of
Iowans". It was clearly an important initiative--the director of the
agency, the CIO, would become a cabinet-level post.
For help, Varn turned to the Center for Digital
Government, a division of e.Republic that was founded in 1999. Many
consider e.Republic the leading information source on how state and local
governments use and manage technology. In August 2001, Florida governor
Jeb Bush graced the cover of Government Technology for an interview on
Florida. s use of technology. Inside, there were stories on everything
from technology in the Department of Motor Vehicles to Florida. s
increased marketing to lure high-tech jobs.
" The company has been the backbone of
understanding of what. s going on with technology and government since the
mid-" 80s," Varn says. " It was the only thing out there that was a
rallying point for people who were trying to keep up with what was going
The Center, in exchange for a fee in the
neighborhood of $50,000, authored a blueprint of how such a state agency
would work. Varn and the rest of Iowa. s team made adjustments to the
report, a legislative oversight committee approved the recommendations and
the project was given a budget. For Varn, it was no big deal that the
Center for Digital Government and its corporate parent, e.Republic, are
run by Scientologists. But then again, he didn't even know. When told, he
sounded a little thrown. "Well, certainly in their business
there was no evidence of
it," Varn says. "Do you have confirmation of that?"
Now that e.Republic is taking its business one
step closer to working with governments--before with its magazines and
conferences it was simply providing a forum, whereas now it's helping to
form departments and policy--it opens another can of worms for some who
may not be comfortable with the Church. s previous dealings with government.
"Some people would see any contact between
Scientologists and government as an organized attempt to extend its
influence," says Stephen Kent, professor of sociology at the University of
Alberta. " People should be asking to what extent is the
contracting company encouraging the use of Scientology technology in its
Kent, who specializes in new and alternative
religions and cults, has appeared as an expert witness for plaintiffs that
have sued Scientology organizations. In response, Scientologists have
picketed his office at the University of Alberta. Kent says there are
writings by Hubbard, notably " The Special Zone Plan," that call on
his followers to attempt to implement Scientology in
their own spheres of influence.
And of course, Scientology has had its share of
direct run-ins with government. In the 1970s, Scientology spies gained
access to federal agencies by planting administrative workers, like
secretaries and assistants, in the Department of Justice and the IRS who
collected documents the Church had been trying to gain access
using Freedom of Information Act lawsuits. Ultimately,
the government caught on and in a mass raid of Scientology locations across the
U.S., found evidence of a
massive plot called . Snow White. that
called for operations against enemies in and out of government. Eventually, 11
Scientologists went to jail, including Hubbard. s
While "Snow White" is ancient history, some foreign governments aren'
t taking any chances. In Germany, where Scientology isn't even
recognized as a religion, some
government officials went so far as to call for a
prohibition of the sale of Microsoft Windows 2000 because a firm owned by
a Scientologist, Executive Software, wrote the disk defragmenter program
for the software (a defragmenter rewrites all files on a disk or hard
drive so that all parts of each file are stored on adjacent sectors rather
than spread throughout). According to Professor Kent, German officials
feared that the company could have placed a secret code in the program
that would have allowed the organization to enter the software while it
was defragmenting and read the disk' s or hard drive' s contents.
The Center for Digital Government isn't working on that kind of scale. The
firm employs less than 20 people in its Folsom offices. And it doesn't
provide technology-savvy programmers, McKenna says. Instead, the Center
simply uses its contacts with state governments to come up with the best
organizational structure for whichever government it' s working with. Furthermore, McKenna adds, consulting
isn't even the Center' s main business ... research is.
And sure enough, the report the company prepared
for Iowa and Richard Varn is fairly innocuous. Nothing in the report seems
very tied to Scientology, according to an ex-member of the Church who
looked at the document. Still, the closeness of Scientologists to
government officials raises sensitive questions about the proximity of
government to religion, and when addressed to McKenna concerning
Scientology, he responds the same way every time. For him, it' s almost
discrimination to even ask the question'there was, however, one time he
almost broke face and got angry. It was toward the end of the interview,
when talking about the typical kind of press coverage the religion receives.
" It' s a little disappointing to me ... you know, here we
go again," McKenna starts. At that, his cooler side kicks in.
" Hopefully, before I die, I can be who I am,
and I can do my job, and believe what I believe and have the freedom to do
that just like hundreds of other publishers and magazines owners in this
country," McKenna says.
McKenna' s protestations aside, that' s
essentially what he' s doing. McKenna says that he' s never been asked by
a journalist about the prevalence of Scientology within the ranks. The
Sacramento News & Review is the first to bring it up, he says. And the
company is healthy. Despite the recent economic downturn and poor
advertising market, e.Republic, McKenna says, has only had to lay off five
people out of about 130. Aside from the occasional low blow by a
competitor, Scientology hasn't been a negative factor for
" I' ve had situations where a competitor has
tried to use my religion to stop my business. And spread facts, and
stories about, you know, 'You. re advertising with these people, they' re Scientologists
... do you know that?" . McKenna says.
Certainly, Richard Varn didn't. And while he
professes a kind of ignorance of the religion as a whole, he says
e.Republic' s orientation toward Scientology won't stop him from working with the
"As long as you do the work, we don't discriminate," Varn says. "It' s
not like I' m going to boycott Tom Cruise movies because he. s a
But, he adds: . I. m not a real big fan of Scientology ...
at all. I was raised a Catholic myself.
Copyright ©2001 Chico Community