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Scientology says it's received $5.7M from Google in ad grants (tonyortega.org)
39 points by prawn on Dec 30, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 22 comments

Hey, if the IRS recognizes them as a religion[1], not doing so in your non-profit/religion grant system is likely to get you sued by them. In truth, that's probably how it should be. In this case, a lot of us may dislike it, but if it was reversed and Google wasn't recognizing the EFF as a nonprofit a lot of the same people would likely be in arms. It's a lot like freedom of speech, we uphold it for all not because we believe everything that is said, but because when we allow individual judgement on the matter we descend into a morass of argumentation based on peoples differing concepts of what qualifies, and the ideal is too important to allow that.

1: Yes, I know the IRS was browbeaten into it. That actually supports my initial point.

I don't believe that getting recognized as a religion by the IRS gives you the right to receive grants from a private company that are awarded on a competitive basis.

Google will happily refuse your ad or your business for a very large number of reasons, many of them quite opaque. Google hasn't refused Scientology, and has actively encouraged them to spread their message. That's a choice they've made, not one forced on them by any law. They should accept the praise/blame for that action - they've earned it.

I'm not interested in Google becoming in arbiter of what is and is not a religion. I think it's entirely acceptable to fall back on what your national government has defined as religious and non-profit organizations, for exactly the reasons I outlined in my original comment. Similarly, I wouldn't want them making distinctions about political non-profits. I am happy they don't censor some ostensibly Democratically leaning health organizations, and I'll accept that they don't censor the NRA at the same time as the price of their neutrality.

Google used to refuse Scientology ads. I think they began accepting them in 2011.

It would be a lot more newsworthy if Google refused to give promotions or sell advertising to a non-profit based on public perception / the organization's reputation.

Assuming Google gives similar offers to other potential new customers, this means nothing.

And anyone who suggests Google should refuse to do business with Scientology on the basis of their personal feelings is advocating trampling all over egalitarianism.

The definition of egalitarianism suggests that people, not organizations, are held equal.

Mostly off topic but slightly related:

If you get a chance and want to try something crazy try to visit their Celebrity Center in LA.

We were bored visiting some friends at Caltech and decided to do it. It was probably 10-15 years ago. We made up fake names, addresses, history, background story. When we got there they made us watch their recruitment video. But then the tour was pretty nice.

Even just seeing the people hanging around there, listen to the absolute batshit crazy worldview. Yeah the people seemed just a bit off -- spoke just a bit too slow and seemed a bit too robotic. Enjoyed seeing the architecture of the building, the explanations about how Ron Hubbard is going to come back from Saturn (or is it Neptune) and so they his office ready. Saw the saunas downstairs, where they supposedly "detoxify" people. The one sad thing there was a little old Korean lady. She didn't seem to speak English well and looked confused as they were telling her she needed to go back into the sauna. But then the best part, when night fell we got to go to the top level (or maybe the roof?) -- it was pretty nice view of the city.

The trick is to of course not give your disbelief away and don't act mean or condescending. We pretended to be ignorant young people who "heard good things" and just nodded and smiled. One of us couldn't resist making a sarcastic commit, we had to signal him to cut if off as he could have gotten us kicked out too early.

Funny, as of 5-10 years ago, I heard they refuse to entertain anybody affiliated with Caltech due to repeated trolling incidents. I guess you didn't cut him off soon enough.

Oh wow. Sorry everyone.

We were good nerds, but not very good con artists I suppose. We shouldn't have told them we were from Caltech (well I wasn't, I was just visiting a friend there) but the background story was that we all were.

> In the Bay Area a representative of Google was introduced to Scientology and our 4th dynamic campaigns through the Stevens Creek Ideal Org. This representative connected us up with the department responsible for non-profit advertisements. And as a result, Google awarded us a $10,000-a-month grant for free online advertising.

Scientology is a non-profit? is not founded as a company?

All religion orgs are considered non-profit; the funny thing is that "religion" is purposefully vaguely defined by the IRS, related: Jhon Oliver televangelist bit https://youtu.be/7y1xJAVZxXg

Organized religions including televangelists are one of the best business around, in a more cynical world I think there would be VCs and accelerators for creating new of them.

1. Create religion 2. ... 3. Profit!

“You don't get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion.” —L. Ron Hubbard

I think this is one of the few cases where you don't need a step 2, or step two is "get followers". Not much more needed beyond that.

A fascinating question, and as noted by others, may (and does) vary depending on the country.

Lawrence Wright's 'Going Clear' (more so the book than the HBO movie) goes into some detail about the apparent hand-wringing going on with the IRS as it suddenly had to come up with a definition of a religion.

Predictably it's a pretty fuzzy set of criteria -- though whether you want religion defined by your revenue collection branch of the government is a whole other question.

From http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/01/16/15-scientol... :

> In 1993, after a prolonged fight, the IRS settled with the church over its tax-exempt status. Miscavige was able to regain the status (after the government’s disastrous handling of the Branch Davidian siege in Waco, Texas) by paying only $12.5 million of the $1 billion (which would have bankrupted the church) in back taxes it owed.

The same website from which the thread-opening post comes has page about the reason L. Ron Hubbard founded Scientology as a religious organization--to make money.[1] That page includes an interesting account of knowing Hubbard by science fiction author Harlan Ellison.

[1] http://tonyortega.org/2013/02/16/scientology-mythbusting-wit...

Youtube shows religious advertisements to children.

Youtube removed "related content" videos section for official Scientology material. This censors critique videos and breaches the principle that Google was founded on:

- To offer a search engine in the academic domain, where ranking is not decided by advertisers, but by link-weighted popularity.

As a comparison: A mobile phone manufacturer pays Google to remove the "related videos" for their videos, because one of those related videos talks about the dangers of driving while using a mobile phone.

Youtube embeds content hosted by Scientology on their Youtube profile page. This gives the Office of Special Affairs the IP (personal information) in their visitor logs. Scientology also places a cookie while surfing on the Youtube site. No confirmation is asked.

Scientology gets around the "all comments vs. no comments at all" by removing any negative or critical comment, and only allowing positive and astroturfing comments.

Even though religious advertisements used to be against their policy, they have since then taken money from religious institutes.

Advertisements are against Adwords TOS, when:

- Sites with content that incites or promotes hatred against a group or individuals.

- Content that encourages others to believe that a group or individual is inhuman or inferior

Scientology.org has content that promotes hatred against medical professionals. They vilify doctors for prescribing drugs for ADD. Factual quality of the content is low, while impact on the life of someone who believes all information there is high.

There is freedom of speech, and there is suiting advertisers. Google really needs to refind their balance. And be consistent in enforcing the rules, for instance their link-farm makes blackhat SEO's pale.

so long as it's a non profit religious organization I don't see google discriminating against it. (please correct me if i'm wrong)

As a point of discussion, the German government doesn't consider it to be a religion.


The German government is on the right side re: Scientology. That's not to say Scientology has taken it lying down. It is an insidious organization.


I am not going to get sucked into Scientology or any other organised religion, but I expect consistency from governments. I find it despicable that governments get to pick and choose which insidious organizations get their blessing. Of course it is a religion, more or less as bad as any other. Either support religious freedom, or don't, but picking your favorites is something for individuals to do not governments.

The place to fight this is with getting the IRS to recognize that this is a money-making business masquerading as a religion for financial gain.

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