A Walk Down Scientology Lane

One writer makes the brave journey into a tabooed church

Many are intimidated by the enormous, 82,000 square-foot home of Minnesota’s Scientology community. Hanging outside of its doors are two large, crimson colored “welcome” banners. A plaque outside of the bathrooms reads: “Free introductory lectures are available. Come as often as you like. Bring your friends.” Before you can begin a self-guided tour, you must enter your name, address, email, and phone number, along with the programs you are interested in learning about.

Illustrator: Lizzie Goncharova

Illustrator: Lizzie Goncharova

The Church itself is sleek, modern, and impeccably clean. They even have a café. Scientologists have a repugnance toward artificial scents and substances. Cleaning products consist of vinegar, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide, creating an ominous, scentless space.

The tour consists of several television sets where one can flip through video clips regarding human rights, volunteer opportunities, drug resistance, criminal justice, and Scientology’s distaste for psychiatric treatment and “big pharma.” Bookshelves contain countless handouts and books for sale, all of which are written by the church’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard.

Upstairs, I spoke with a minister of the church. I asked her about the E-Meter, a device used in the “auditing process,” a form of supposed therapy where the participant is asked to recall traumatic memories from their current life, as well as past ones.

Fortunately for me, all guests can receive a free E-Meter test. The minister placed the two metal nunchuck-like instruments in my hands.

When I was asked to recall the pinch, the meter swung from one side to the other, supposedly indicating that the machine had picked up on a change in my electrical current.

“I see you work out,” she said.

The fact that I was bundled up in my winter jacket made the observation all the more creepy. Perhaps she knew my past experiences better than I thought.

“How did you know that?”

“The calluses on your palms,” she smirked.

Next, she gave me a small pinch on the back of my arm. When I was asked to recall the pinch, the meter swung from one side to the other, supposedly indicating that the machine had picked up on a change in my electrical current, clear evidence that I had recalled a valid memory.

“There you have it!” she said.

Unconvinced, I told myself that she was better at reading palms.