Scientology wins court case after court case proving they are a religion. But regardless of what courts say, Scientology is spiritual in nature and applicable to life. It makes people happier and more able in their lives. It helps them spiritually. Don't take my word for it, ask a Scientologist. But ask a Scientologist, not some apostate who has an axe to grind.
Scientologists find it very offensive when people call Scientology a cult. The word "cult" is now the most hateful thing you can call a religion. It is used as a slur. It is used by bigots. Not just against Scientology, but many newer or minority religions. These are actions of "hate".
Obviously the "Scientology is a cult" is being propagated by a select few, mostly on the internet. Sadly, many people have picked up this word and used it without really getting any true information. This is really too bad. Scientology recently ran a PR campaign called "Find Out For Yourself". I wish more people would do this. Go to a Church and get a tour, or go to one of their official websites, make up your own mind. No one will lock you in a "secret room and brainwash you". You may be offered a cup of coffee however.
Keep in mind two facts. Attacking Scientology always gets press, because Scientology interests a great many people. And every time some group or individual thinks they have created "bad PR" for the Church, thousands of people stream through the doors to find out what all the noise is about. The greatest growth in the history of Scientology has also been during the greatest times of media attack. I find this funny, personally.
Maybe you should meet a couple of Scientologist to see what they are really about. Or watch the "Meet a Scientologist" series on Youtube: