Local businesses get WISE

About 100 local organizations operate according to principles of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

Los Angeles Times/March 29, 2002
By Marshall Allen

Glendale -- The "Battlefield Earth" videos, "I am a Scientologist" poster and numerous pictures of L. Ron Hubbard make it clear that Sterling Management isn't a typical consulting firm.

The company is one of about 100 in Glendale, Montrose, La Crescenta and La Canada Flintridge that practice the organizational principles of Scientology. In fact, Sterling Management's business is to promote and teach the organizational principles of the church to small business owners across the country. Hubbard, founder of Scientology and a science fiction writer and philosopher, developed what is referred to as his "management technology" for the religion's expansion.

Sterling Management owner Kevin Wilson and the other owners of local companies use the management practices as members of the World Institute of Scientology Enterprises -- WISE. Scientology was formed in the 1950s and teaches that people are basically good and can advance themselves to the degree they preserve their spiritual integrity and values. People can also better their lives through detailed self-analysis that leads to problem solving, according to the book, "What is Scientology."

WISE licenses and promotes Hubbard's work to businesses for the Church of Scientology, WISE President Don Drader said. About 3,200 WISE members around the world pay anywhere from $250 to $36,000 per year for membership. Most WISE members are Scientologists, but it's not required, Drader said.

Considering the emphasis on Hubbard and the prominence of Scientology paraphernalia at Sterling Management, the company appears to walk a tenuous line between the religious andsecular worlds. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, employers are not allowed to discriminate against individuals because of their religion in hiring, firing or conditions of employment.

James Ryan, an EEOC public affairs specialist, said he wasn't aware of WISE, but organizations are entitled to use religious principles in the workplace, as long as employees have the option to object and be excused.

Wilson said he is aware of employee discrimination law and that he stays within its bounds.

"This job has nothing to do with Scientology," Wilson said. "In no way can I dictate anyone's job with Scientology."

Wilson makes sure his company's clients are aware of the relationship between his business and Scientology, too. All Sterling Management clients -- and there have been thousands over the years -- sign a waiver before entering into the consulting relationship, Wilson said. The waiver states that the Hubbard management materials imply "no religious affiliation whatsoever." It also states a Sterling consultant may recommend a client see a Scientology practitioner, if the client has personal problems beyond the scope of Sterling Management.

There are many other ways Hubbard's principles are at work at Sterling Management. For instance, the company actively promotes Hubbard, and uses the same lingo and organizational structure as the church. And while a person doesn't have to be a Scientologist to work at Sterling, it might help. All of Sterling Management's executives, and most of its 30-person staff, are Scientologists, Wilson said.

"If they've had a lot of training in Scientology, it makes them very good executives," he said. "They have a one-upmanship on that."

In accordance with Hubbard's teaching, Wilson said he promotes based on production, not religion.

"Hubbard said it's the effectiveness of people that's important, not race or creed," Wilson said.

Putting Hubbard's axioms into practice, Sterling uses about 150 individual statistics to assess a company's health, Wilson said. When graphed on sheets of paper and analyzed, the statistics give Wilson, or any small business owner, the ability to determine action steps to take for success, he said.

"Hubbard said to investigate the true source of success," Wilson said. "It's an exact science."

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