A Contemporary Ordered Religious Community:
by J. Gordon Melton
A paper presented at The 2001 CESNUR Conference in London
Note from the webmaster: This is an excellent and factual study conducted on the RPF by one of the more prominent religious scholars in the United States. I have put in bold what is relevant to the issues of physical restrain and informed consent. For more information about the Sea Organization, see the full article.
[SNIP Sea Organization part]
As most religions have created ordered intentional communities, so those intentional communities have created systems whereby those who break the rules may make recompense and be integrated back into the life of the community. The most famous system operating in the West is possibly that created by St. Benedict for the Benedictine order. The section on rule breaking begins:
Among the Trappists, anyone seen breaking the rules would be reported to the "Chapter of faults, which would in turn announce these actions at the next meal after which the superior of the order would pronounce a suitable punishment. For example, ". . . a monk might be ordered to lie in the doorway of the refractory while the other monks stepped over him on their way to a meal." 
Within the Roman Catholic Church, there are a set of general laws which all orders follow. Each order then adopts an additional rules peculiar to its special purpose and mission. Canon law operating within the Roman Catholic Church notes that a monk or nun under perpetual vows may be dismissed from their order for what are termed "grave external reasons." It is the duty of the person's immediate superiors to admonish them in hopes of correcting the situation, and may in that endeavor impose various punishments. If the person proves incorrigible, s/he is informed that s/he risks being terminated as a member and is asked for a defense of the questioned behavior. If the situation remains serious, it is presented to the proper authority, the local bishop or superior of the order, who passes it to the Congregation of Religious in Rome. It is ultimately the decision of the Pope formally to order the dismissal. 
In the Eastern world, one soon runs into the Patimokkha section of the Vinaya-pitaka, which lays out the rules for Buddhist monks.  Among the important admonitions for the monk or nun are to refrain from sexual activity, avoid secular work, and not attempt to create a schism in the sangha (monastic community). There is also a prescribed code of etiquette, which anyone who has been present at a Buddhist gathering that included monks and nuns has witnessed. The Vinaya also prescribed rules for disciplining rule breakers. There are a set of rules that if transgressed leads to the immediate expulsion of the member from the group. Lesser rules may be handled through the imposition of punishments after a confession or other determination of guilt.  In The Korean Chogye tradition (the majority tradition in Korean Buddhism), there are four deeds that will lead to immediate dismissal from the monastic community, sexual relations with a woman, stealing, killing, and telling lies, especially making a false claim about one's state of enlightenment. Sea Org's system differs from that of both the Roman Catholic and Buddhist systems in that it offers a means for those judged guilty of expulsion offenses to redeem themselves and be reintegrated into the community. 
The RPF, the Sea Org's program for those who have committed serious violations of ethical policy, was created in January 1974 while the center of the Sea Org was still aboard the ships. The program grew out of the recognition that some people either could not or did not wish to adapt to life aboard the ships. Originally such persons were put off the ship, the equivalent of being dismissed from the Sea Org. Then in 1968, Hubbard created what was termed the "Mud Box Brigade." Those on board the ship who were found slacking off their duties or misbehaving (which is some cases on board the ship could place the lives of the crew and passengers in danger) were assigned to clean the "mud boxes," the place where mud collected from the anchors, and the bilge, the rather foul water that collects in the bottom of any ocean-going vessel. While the average person looking as such a structure might see it as punishment, Hubbard understood it in terms of making retribution to the people who had been harmed by the nonperformance or incorrect performance of one's assigned tasks. This rather stop-gap measure, however, was replaced in 1974 with RPF, a more systematic structure for handling misbehavior that was more fully integrated into the Hubbard's understanding of ethics. The RPF also served additional purposes beyond those served by the Mud Box Brigade.
The new Rehabilitation Project Force program was designed with multi-goals, though the basic one was providing a situation in which individuals who had been negligent in their posts could be isolated from the group (thus preventing further immediate harm). They were also assigned a period each day to work on themselves using Scientology tech, considered a necessary step to their being reintegrated into the larger group. As Hubbard described it in an early Flag Order, "The RPF is in actual fact a system of recruiting by taking people off the lines who are blocking things and then not letting them back on lines until they are a valuable operating staff member."  The RPF was also designed as a work force in which the members spent five hours a day working upon their own inner condition using the resources available in Scientology technology, and the rest of the day engaged in physical labor of the kind that involved coordinated work with others as a team. While learning to work with others, one could make restitution for the harm done through contributions to the physical facilities in which the Sea Org and the church are housed. As each project is completed, RPF members feel rewarded, usually, with the sense of accomplishment.
Assignment to the RPF can begin in one of several ways. Often it starts with a realization by an individual that his/her behavior is out of line with expectations. With a number of people I interviewed, their realization came during or shortly after their ending an illicit extramarital affair. In some cases, the affair began to affect their work, but in others the fact that their performance at work was judged superior allowed them to keep the affair unknown to their colleagues. In most cases, however, problems with performance at their assigned work over a period of time were noticed and reported. Following an investigation, the individual was offered the option of pursuing the RPF program or leaving the Sea Org. In one case, the person I interviewed had misappropriated a considerable amount of church money for personal use.
Once a person is informed of the basics of the RPF option, understand what is involved, and chooses it, s/he signs a document noting his/her agreement to join the program. The new RPFer then generally moves quickly to one of the RPF centers that are located in the Sea Org complexes in Los Angeles, Clearwater, London, or Copenhagen. The largest number are in the LA RPF. (In 2000, when this study was done, more than half of the approximately 350 currently participating in the program were in LA. Slightly less were in the Clearwater RPF, and by comparison, the RPF at Copenhagen had less than 20.) Choice of location is determined by several factors including space available and the presence of another person at approximately the same level on The Bridge with which one can be paired. A person, for example, who is working on his/her OT levels would not be paired with a pre-Clear.
When the person arrives, s/he is assigned to space in a dorm-like room with others and given some orientation. That orientation includes the reading of the thirty Flag Orders pertaining to RPF. Once fully aware of the conditions under which s/he will be operating  s/he again chooses to proceed, and then begins a refresher course in ethics.  In addition, some technical training is included, especially if the new person is unfamiliar with the basics of auditing.  The person is also assigned to a team with whom s/he will be working. In Copenhagen the number of options is extremely limited, while in Los Angeles and Clearwater, a variety of work assignments are available. 
Finally, the individual is assigned to a partner with whom s/he will work during the stay in the RPF. This partner is extremely important as one's progress in the program is tied to the partner's progress. During what will be a year or more together, the pair audit each other and are responsible for each other's success. They will finish the program together and one criteria for graduation is the demonstration that the RPFer can help another, specifically their partner. The importance of the partner is underscored in those occasional cases in which a person drops out of the program. The person who remains will be assigned another new partner whose success now becomes his/her responsibility.
The RPF is located within the Sea Org facilities, but members dine and sleep in separate quarters. (In Los Angeles, for example, the RPF space–dorm, dining hall and kitchen, and woodwork shop–are in the main AO building. In Copenhagen they are in the basement (study space) and top floor (dorm rooms) of one of the Sea Org buildings currently undergoing renovation. In Clearwater they are located in two separate buildings in the Sea Org residence complex. [In Clearwater, the buildings housing the RPF are on the edge of the complex and immediately outside the front door of the two buildings is a gate that opens from the inside. Any person could simply walk out of the buildings and out of the gate into the city of Clearwater.  Contrary to images of a concentration camp-like atmosphere, there are no locks on the doors of the RPF facilities, and at almost anytime, a participant in the program could, if they decided, simply walk away.  In the case of the Los Angeles, Clearwater, or Copenhagen facilities, such a person could loose themselves in the city in a matter of minutes. 
The RPF program is rigorous by any standards. It includes eight hours of physical work six days a week that begins each day immediately after the morning muster and breakfast. Most people on the RPF come with little or no skill in the tasks required to renovate and maintain buildings (painting, plumbing, carpentry, furniture making, grounds upkeep, etc.). Thus they will be taught a trade along with being involved in numerous tasks that require little training. In Los Angeles, a number of people have been taught woodwork and the professional appearance of the walls and furniture in the Church's Hollywood facilities is ample evidence of the skills they have acquired. In fact, the overall appearance of the various Scientology buildings along Hollywood Blvd. and L. Ron Hubbard Way (off Sunset Ave.) can be credited to the RPF.
This aspect of the RPF is designed to provide a change in the usual pattern of the participant's life (which has most likely been a desk job) and involve them more immediately with what in Scientology is termed the MEST universe. It is reminiscent of the work ("chop wood, carry water") that is often integrated into the longer Zen Buddhist retreats.  Work remains an integral part of the daily life of Zen monks and nuns, and visitors to a Zen monastery for retreats or short stays will be scheduled to participate in the workday that might include cooking, chopping wood, heating water, working in the fields, and cleaning.  Participants learn one or more skills, and RPF graduates with whom I have talked enjoyed pointing out particular things in buildings on which they had worked. By working intimately with a small cadre of fellow participants, they learned the value of teamwork.
A participant spends five hours each day with his/her individual partner engaged in study or auditing. Many with whom I talked had been in the Sea Org many years but, although they had received auditing, they had never learned to audit anyone else. They reported that as a result of learning to council their partner they had gained a heightened level of sensitivity to the needs of others in general and how their lives affected everyone around them.
The dominant program used by the RPF currently (others are mentioned in the Flag Orders) is called the False Purpose Rundown.  It is Scientology's understanding that overts and withholds are indicative of hidden evil (i.e., counter survival) purposes, solutions to problems adopted in a moment of confusion. The auditing process includes a lengthy inventory, using the immediate overts that led to the person being assigned to the RPF, of one's life, a confrontation with and clearing-up of counter-survival purposes. The goal is to see life objectively and assume responsibility for one's present condition as the result of one's own decisions. The False Purpose Rundown is repeated until the person is considered free of evil intentions on each of the eight Dynamics. The Rundown is a lengthy process, hence the year or more required to complete it. 
The RPF is designed to isolate the individual and provide a time and space for total concentration on self-change. The hardest hit by the program are married couples, as they have little contact while one of them is in the program. They are encouraged to write regularly, but have only infrequent face-to-face contact. Informants in LA noted that they occasionally grabbed a few words with spouses in the brief time between the lunch and afternoon activities. The program does make allowances for family needs, and a number of participants noted that they had taken a week or more breaks in the midst of their program to attend to different particular family obligations.
As might be expected, the problems that landed one in the RPF on occasion continue to manifest in the life of a participant during their stay on the program. In that case, there is a program, the RPF's RPF, to which people may be assigned for short periods of time. In this case, the offense is seen as against the RPF itself, and thus the person assigned to the RPF's RPF is isolated from other participants in the program. During this time, the partner still has the task of helping the person assigned to the RPF. The person on the RPF's RPF is also assigned specific tasks to benefit the RPF (the group that is considered harmed, in this case), and their manual work assignment might include such tasks as improving the RPF facilities. They may return to the RPF program only by vote of the other participants in the RPF. While in the program, their communication is further restricted and must go through the RPF ethics officer.
The RPF organization is difficult to describe, as it is essentially run by the participants. There is an overseer (the RPF-I/C) who is not a participant whose job is to see that the program runs smoothly. The RPF-I/C, for example, handles the money that pays for the program. Each organization of the church that assigns a person to the RPF also pays for his/her stay and each month contributes a stipend to cover food, housing, and personal needs. It is also the RPF-IC's job to liaison with those in charge of the church's facilities and to decide on the particular deployment of RPF participants by prioritizing tasks to be completed.
However, the day-to-day running of the program is left in the hands of the participants. One of the participants who is further along on the program is designated the bosun and s/he will have several deputies to handle various practical and technical matters, including ethics. For example, one or more people with accomplished auditing skills oversee and check the auditing as it proceeds. 
RPF participants are organized into work teams, and such teams proceed to their assigned tasks (and partners proceed to their auditing) without immediate and constant outside supervision. The atmosphere is much more one of an adult education class in which participants are there to get what they can out of the program than that of disgruntled individuals just putting in the time. Their success will be manifest in the finished product of their labor and in their self-reported realizations about their life acquired in auditing.  Testimonies of new insights and understandings concerning their life may be posted for others in the RPF to read, though they have no circulation in the Sea Org or among general church members.
Because of the relative differences in the speed that individuals work through the False Purposes Rundown, different people's stay in the program varies. One year appears to be the minimum. I interviewed one person who had been in for approximately three years.
Following completion of their program, graduates generally return to the post (or a similar post) that they held when they went into the program. The particular church organization from which they came has at this point invested in their participation and expects a return on that investment. Graduates to whom I talked indicated that they received a cordial welcome back to their post. While most of the people with whom I have talked about their previous RPF experience hold anonymous staff positions, several people have gone on to hold high positions and a few are now well-known in the church internationally. People whom I have met who lead different church organizations report that staff members who have completed the program become their most productive workers.
[Snip Sea Org Conclusion]
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