The following abstract is from an article by a Hunter Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship scholar that was published in the prestigious Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Journal. A link to the full article is provided below.
Author: Gabriella Lee, Hunter College
Title: The Ontology of Suppression: Apostasy, Disconnection, and the “Suppressive Person” Type
Publication: The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Journal 2019
Abstract: Previous research into religions, New Religious Movements, and cults detail the structural elements that lead to the social phenomenon known as apostasy, the abandonment of one’s religious beliefs. Apostasy is not simply the act of disassociating oneself from a religious organization but requires a person to completely renounce their former beliefs and actions while affiliated with the organization. Apostasy from an organization like the Church of Scientology does not come without a price. Persons who publicly renounce Scientology are deemed “Suppressive,” a speech act that within the social domain (Agha 2007) of the Church leads to the social action of disconnection (the shunning of that person by other Scientologists). This paper examines discourse data from the Church of Scientology to analyze how the Church constructs and voices (Wortham and Reyes 2015; Bucholtz and Hall 2005) the social type of the Suppressive Person. My data comes from statements intended for a general public audience outside of Scientology: the “Frequently Asked Questions” section of the Church’s official website. I argue that through the description and profile of the Suppressive Person in the FAQ section, the Church attempts to create the reality of the Suppressive Person in order to align itself with mainstream organizations and the interests of the general public. Using Bromley’s classifications of organizations, I show through a critical discourse analysis how the Church, in a vulnerable state of illegitimacy in mainstream culture, uses the discourse outlining the “Suppressive Person” as a social control mechanism to control both current members and apostates. By trying to control the apostate narrative through the ontology of the Suppressive Person, the Church shows its vulnerability to criticism and to apostates who threaten its credibility.