Scientology: The Marks of Religion

Frank K. Flinn, Ph.D.

Adjunct Professor

in Religious Studies

Washington University

Saint Louis, Missouri




     As with every religion known to me, Scientology has a communal life and ecclesiastical organization which function both to preserve and express the belief system and to foster the religious practices. In ecclesiastical terms, the Church of Scientology is hierarchical rather than congregational in organization. Congregational religions exercise authority by locally electing ministers of churches, voting on reformulations of belief systems (creeds) and religious practices, as well as church polity. Most Protestant denominations in the United States are congregational in their polity. They exercise authority from the bottom up, so to speak. Hierarchical religions, on the other hand, exercise authority by appointment and delegation from the top down, either from a central religious figure such as the Supreme Pontiff (Pope) in Roman Catholicism and the Dalai Lama in Tibetan Buddhism, or from a central executive body such as a synod of bishops or council of elders. My study of the Church of Scientology showed me that it follows the classic hierarchical type of church polity.

     I will here give a brief summary of the organization of the Church of Scientology. L. Ron Hubbard, who died in 1986, was and remains the sole source of Scientology religious doctrine and technology, including the upper OT levels. The highest ecclesiastical authority in the Church of Scientology is exercised by Church of Scientology International (CSI) and Religious Technology Center (RTC). CSI is the mother church and has the chief responsibility to propagate the Scientology creed around the world. The all-important function of RTC is to preserve, maintain and protect the purity of Scientology technology and to insure its proper and ethical delivery in accord with the tenets of the faith. RTC functions very much like the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Roman Catholicism.

     Scientology Missions International (SMI) functions as the mother church to the mission churches around the world. This structure is very similar to the First Church of Christian Science in Boston, which also serves as the mother church to all other Christian Science churches. In all doctrinal disputes, RTC is the ultimate and final court of appeal in Scientology, just as the Vatican and its congregations are the final courts of appeal in Roman Catholicism.

     I need also to mention here the Sea Organization. The Sea Org is composed of Church of Scientology members who take vows of service “for a billion years,” signifying their commitment to serve the Church in this life and in countless lives to come. The Sea Org has become to Scientology what Jesuits are to Roman Catholicism. From the ranks of the Sea Org have come almost all the Church’s leadership.

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For further information on Religious Technology Center and the Chairman of the Board RTC Mr. David Miscavige visit the following:

  • Introduction - Religious Technology Center - David Miscavige | Dansk: David Miscavige | Deutsch: David Miscavige | Dutch: David Miscavige | English: David Miscavige | Español: David Miscavige | Français: David Miscavige | Greek: David Miscavige | Hebrew: David Miscavige | Italiano: David Miscavige | Japanese: David Miscavige | Magyar: David Miscavige | Norske: David Miscavige | Portuguêses: David Miscavige | Russian: David Miscavige | Svenska: David Miscavige | Taiwanese: David Miscavige |
  • David Miscavige at the Groundbreaking Ceremony in Clearwater Florida
  • David Miscavige Opening Address for L. Ron Hubbard's Birthday 1994
  • David Miscavige - Founding Church of Scientology Index Page
  • David Miscavige - L. Ron Hubbard Tributes and Recognitions Index Page
  • Scientology: People, David Miscavige