2 Jun 2011

Australian Scientology leader arrested for coercing 11 year old girl to lie to police about sex assault, told it was her fault

The Australian - May 31, 2011

Scientologist charged for 'intimidating' alleged sex abuse victim

by Leo Shanahan

A SENIOR member of the Church of Scientology has been charged by police for intimidating a young girl who wanted to report sexual abuse allegations within the church.

Jan Eastgate, the head of the church's "International Commission on Human Rights" which attacks psychology, has been charged by NSW Police with perverting the course of justice.

According the ABC TV's Lateline, police have alleged Eastgate intimidated a then 11-year-old Carmen Rainer to provide false statements about sexual abuse by her stepfather.

Ms Rainer has alleged that Ms Eastgate, who was then head of the church's citizens' commission on human rights in Australia, told her she should deny any charges of the sexual abuse or she and her brother would be taken away by social services.

Ms Rainer's mother Phoebe has also admitted Ms Eastgate told both of them what to say and to lie to police and in an interview with the Department of Community Services. Ms Eastgate previously called the allegations "egregiously false".

She she has not commented since being charged.

Ms Eastgate has been asked by NSW police to surrender her passport.

Ms Rainer had previously said that she was told by senior Scientology members that abuse was punishment for being bad in a previous life.

"She said, 'Just say no, keep repeating that'," Ms Rainer told the ABC in an interview last year.

"They told me it was my fault because I'd been bad in a past life. I believed them."

Ms Eastgate was the recipient of the Church of Scientology's Freedom Medal for her work with human rights, primarily aimed at uncovering problems with psychology treatments.

The news comes after the Australian Securities & Investments Commission earlier this month launched an inquiry into the business dealings of a Sydney property developer and senior Scientologist over a series of property deals.

The inquiry by ASIC into Carly Crutchfield was launched after independent senator Nick Xenophon - a vocal opponent of Scientology - sent a dossier to the corporate watchdog last month.

Senator Xenophon is calling for a judicial inquiry into the church.

The South Australian senator is asking that the organisation be stripped of its official religious status as a church, which means among other things its earnings aren't taxed. Scientology is founded on the teachings of American science fiction novelist L. Ron Hubbard, who taught that human psychological problems are a result of an ancient alien leader called Xenu, who attacked the planet Earth and left behind traumatised spirits of the former Earth race.

This article was found at:


Scientologist children isolated from non-Scientology kids, subjected to indoctrination and 'auditing' from age of 6

New website "Ex-Scientology Kids" now online

Niece of Scientology Leader Rebuts Claims of Family Values

Niece of Scientology leader describes how her own family was broken apart by the movement’s policies.

Daughter of Scientology leaders in Australia describes it as a toxic organization that treats children like cattle

Survivor of Scientology abuse speaks out on her life as a "child slave" after Australian parliament refuses to investigate "dangerous pseudo-religion"

Scientology - Child Abuse and Labour Pt.1 [video]

Scientology - Child Abuse and Labour Pt.2 [video]

Australian TV airs new evidence of coerced abortions and child exploitation in Scientology cult  

Depositions in federal lawsuit against Scientology reveal coercive tactics used to pressure women to have abortions

Former Scientologists Claim Coerced Abortions, Child Labor Inside Church

Former Scientology film production employees allege labor violations

New lawsuit alleges child labor and exploitation in totalitarian Scientology compound

Modern Day Slavery Within The Church Of Scientology

Ex-Scientology lawsuits target Sea Org, a cult within a cult

Ex-Scientologists speak about abuse and lawsuits on anniversary of global protests against sci-fi cult 

Tom Cruise practiced Scientology indoctrination techniques on isolated, vulnerable teenager

Video of former 30 year Scientologist discussing Jett Travolta based on her personal experiences of medical abuse

Jett Travolta: Did Scientology Kill Him?

Riddle of John Travolta's son - could he have been saved?

Scientology critics cite 2007 prediction of Jett Travolta's death

Did John Travolta’s weird faith seal his son Jett’s fate?

More on Jett Travolta: an audio recording of L. Ron Hubbard talking about epilepsy 

John Travolta Admits Son Jett Suffered From Autism

Death of John Travolta's son "deeply shaken" his faith in the Scientology cult

John Travolta couldn't save his son from Scientology, but will he now save others from cult abuse?

Video interview by Steve Hassan of top ex-Scientologist at international cult conference in New York

Was Scientology's efforts to suppress online revelations of the Xenu story the beginning of the end for sci-fi cult?

Denunciation of Scientology in the Australian Parliament aims to expose science fiction cult disguised as religion

Scientologists try to prevent film depicting them as a totalitarian, unethical group from airing on German public TV

Celebrity asks Illinois legislators to allow Scientology's religious propaganda into public schools

Australian school with strong link to Scientology receives government money but not all is spent on students

Scientology Endangers Children [video]

Their targets used to be university students, but today fringe religious groups are believed to be recruiting school-aged children.

Scientology Cult Front Group Holds Recruiting Event for NYC Children

Scientology Recruiting Children in South Africa

Scientology linked to tutors on state list

B.C. Education Minister defends a ministry publication that identifies a Scientology website as a potential resource for teachers

B.C. Education Ministry won't delist scientology website

School unaware of link to Scientologists

Scientology link at Montessori school alarms parents

Unlicensed Scientology kindergartens operating in Tel Aviv

Munich Closes Scientologists' Day-Care Center

Scientology's African evangelism targets children for indoctrination, opens new 'school' in Ghana

Anonymous Announce 'Operation: School's Closed'

Cult survivor reveals deceptive recruiting tactics used by Scientology and similar cults

Scientology front group Narconon recruits, deceives, indoctrinates and endangers lives with fake science

Former Scientology leaders in Ireland describe psychological manipulation, spiritual abuse and exploitation

Paul Haggis did not think New Yorker interview would focus on Scientology but he stands by its accuracy

Paul Haggis predicts he will be target of disinformation to scandalize him after his recent attack on Scientology

Survivors confirm claim in Paul Haggis article that FBI is investigating human trafficking in Scientology cult

The article on Paul Haggis that inspired the reporter to collaborate on new book exposing abuses in Scientology

Expose of Scientology by Paul Haggis promises to be "most profound reckoning to date" of the abusive cult

Rolling Stone republishes 2006 investigative report on Scientology

Scientology cult hides abuses behind fancy new 'church' fronts, claims millions of adherents despite declining membership

The abuse behind Scientology's facade

Scientology Exposed Once Again By Insiders: A smiling storefront, a darker interior


  1. Ex-league star damns 'toxic' Scientology leader

    by Steve Cannane September 22, 2011

    A former Australian rugby league star who abandoned his sporting career for a life in the Church of Scientology says its head is a "violent" and "toxic" individual.

    Former St George captain and player of the year Chris Guider walked away from his league career in 1986 at the age of 24.

    After spending more than 20 years in the church in both Australia and the US, working closely with Scientology leader David Miscavige, Mr Guider has now left the movement, which he says is more about money and control than anything else.

    "I would go through the day looking for people that weren't following policy properly or weren't in the right space they were supposed to be or the right area they were supposed to be in and then handling those people so they got back to what they were supposed to be doing," Mr Guider said of his time as an honour guard, or RTC, for Mr Miscavige.

    "I'd report directly to Miscavige on what I did that day."

    Mr Miscavige became the leader of the Church of Scientology soon after the death of its founder L Ron Hubbard in 1986.

    He was active in recruiting Tom Cruise to Scientology and was best man at his wedding.
    But Mr Guider thinks Mr Miscavige is not the kind of person who should be the head of a religious movement.

    "He's a violent individual. He is and there are accounts of him being physical with people," he said.

    "I've seen him physically beat one staff member, Mark Fisher, who was formerly an executive in the RTC, worked very closely with Miscavige for a lot of years, and I witnessed him beating him."

    read the full article at:


  2. Here are links to a series of reports in Florida's St. Petersburg Times

    About the latest St. Petersburg Times investigative series on Scientology

    November 13, 2011

    Staff writers Joe Childs and Thomas C. Tobin have published 13 major investigative stories about the Church of Scientology since June 2009. This series is the product of a year's reporting on the church's fundraising practices.

    They conducted hundreds of hours of detailed interviews with nearly 50 current and former church members. Many provided supporting documents such as church invoices, annual parishioner statements and "Knowledge Reports," complaints to church officials. The reporters also examined court records, IRS documents, and church publications and policies.

    Times photojournalist Maurice Rivenbark conducted video interviews, which can be seen at tampabay.com.

    Because speaking with journalists without permission is considered a "suppressive" act in Scientology, the reporters asked for access to the staffers whose names came up in the accounts of former members. The reporters requested interviews with those staffers and with Scientology leader David Miscavige.

    The church declined all interview requests and provided 144 pages of written response.

    Joe Childs, Managing Editor/Tampa Bay, has been reporting and editing stories about Scientology since 1993. He can be reached at childs@sptimes.com.

    Thomas C. Tobin has covered the Church of Scientology off and on for the Times since 1996. He can be reached at tobin@sptimes.com.

    Maurice Rivenbark has been a Times photojournalist since 1981 and has worked on previous Scientology coverage. He can be reached at rivenbark@sptimes.com.


    Former Scientology insiders describe a world of closers, prospects, crushing quotas and coercion


    A young man looked for answers, found a 'money-hungry cult'


    Church of Scientology responds to St. Petersburg Times series


    About 'Flag': Scientology has 67 properties in Clearwater


  3. More expose articles in the St Petersburg Times:

    How Scientology generates revenue on multiple fronts


    Scientology couple who gave $1.3 million: Church mission 'has been corrupted'


    Pervasive pitch: Scientology book and lecture series, 'The Basics,' unleashes a sales frenzy


  4. More expose articles in the St Petersburg Times:

    Church of Scientology responds: Parishioners donate 'because they enthusiastically support their chosen faith'


    Church of Scientology runs afoul of widely accepted best practices for fundraising


    Scientology amped up donation requests to save the Earth starting in 2001


    Some Scientologists give until they're bankrupt


  5. More expose articles in the St Petersburg Times:

    Giant 'Super Power' building in Clearwater takes a pause, yet millions keep flowing in


    IRS should review Scientology tax-exempt status


  6. Tax experts: Church's money-raising practices don't appear to threaten tax-exempt status

    By Joe Childs and Thomas C. Tobin, St Petersburg Times November 21, 2011

    FOR 40 years beginning in the 1950s, IRS officials sorted through the maze of corporate entities that compose Scientology, trying to make sense of the organization. So when the church made a bid in the early 1990s to have its tax-exempt status reinstated, the agency had questions.

    What about all those lawsuits against the church, including many saying it was slow to refund parishioners' money?

    If so many of Scientology's staff members and so much of its writings were devoted to making money, wasn't it really a business?

    How close is the relationship between the church and its well-financed membership group, the International Association of Scientologists?

    The church answered emphatically:

    Refunds were granted — no problem.

    It wasn't obsessed with making money.

    The IAS wasn't part of the church, and joining it was voluntary.

    Scientology got its exemption in 1993. But former church insiders told the St. Petersburg Times that none of those answers holds true today.

    • Many say the church is still slow to grant refunds. And its practices differ from what it told the IRS. The church now says refunds are granted only in "certain circumstances" and the law does not require they be returned at all.

    • Former insiders say large numbers of church staffers are involved in raising money. That's not the impression the church left when it answered the IRS's questions. For example, it said, only 4 percent of its staff worked in the finance department.

    • Membership in the IAS is not voluntary for practicing Scientologists, many former church members say. Parishioners are told it is a necessary step toward the church's upper levels of spiritual awareness.

    "It was assumed and expected that every person doing services was a member (of the IAS)," said Hy Levy, who worked for 16 years as a church "registrar" in Clearwater, signing up parishioners for services. "And it was gasps of 'Oh, my God!' if they weren't."

    The church told the Times there is no conflict between what it does today and what it told the IRS 20 years ago.

    IRS spokesman Mike Dobzinski said the agency does not comment about individual taxpayers or tax-exempt groups. But tax experts said the church's money-raising practices don't appear to put its federal tax exemption at risk.

    If aspects of Scientology's operations have changed, "it's not of interest to anyone" as long as the church is still pursuing a charitable purpose, said John D. Colombo, an associate dean at the University of Illinois College of Law and a professor specializing in tax-exempt organizations.

    "If they're just being aggressive, but they haven't crossed the line into illegality, then the answer is nothing (can be done)," he said. "The answer is, if you don't like it, drop out of the church and go somewhere else."

    Scientology's original main church, the Church of Scientology of California, was granted tax-exempt status in 1957, three years after it was formed. But the IRS revoked the exemption in 1967, saying the church's activities were commercial and founder L. Ron Hubbard was profiting.

    The IRS and the church feuded for years after that, with Scientology working to discredit the agency and cast its officials as biased. Some court rulings said the IRS had indeed been unfair. In the mid 1970s — years before current church leader David Miscavige took power — Scientology operatives infiltrated the IRS and Department of Justice, and broke into an IRS office seeking the government's secret files on the church. Eleven Scientologists were convicted and Hubbard was named an unindicted co-conspirator. ...

    read the rest of the article at:


  7. Woman alleges imprisonment by Scientologists

    ABC Australia 28/11/2011

    Reporter: Steve Cannane

    An Australian woman has alleged she spent years imprisoned on the Church of Scientology's cruise ship, The Freewinds.

    ALI MOORE, PRESENTER: An Australian resident has told Lateline the Church of Scientology imprisoned her on its cruise ship, The Freewinds.

    Valeska Paris says the Church of Scientology's leader, David Miscavige, sent her to the ship when she was 17 to prevent her mother taking her away from Scientology.

    Ms Paris says she ended up being on the ship for 12 years and was unable to leave The Freewinds for the first six years without an escort.

    She's described the Church's leader as a psychopath and says he should be put on trial.

    Steve Cannane has this exclusive report.

    STEVE CANNANE, REPORTER: Valeska Paris was born into a Scientology family in Switzerland. At the age of six she moved to Scientology's headquarters in the UK and was placed in its then youth wing, the Cadet Org.

    At 14 she joined the Church's elite Sea Organization, signing a contract binding her for a billion years.

    It was a commitment that would override her bond with her own family. Valeska Paris says at seventeen the Church told her she could no longer see her mother.

    VALESKA PARIS, FORMER SCIENTOLOGIST: I was basically pulled in and told that my mum had attacked the Church and that I needed to disconnect from her because she was suppressive. And ...

    STEVE CANNANE: And what does that mean, to disconnect?

    VALESKA PARIS: It means no connections at all with her or with anyone that she's connected to.

    STEVE CANNANE: Her mother had denounced Scientology on French TV after her ex-husband, Albert Jaquier, had committed suicide. A self-made millionaire, his last days were spent in poverty. In a diary he kept, he blamed the Church of Scientology for fleecing him of his fortune.

    Valeska Paris says the Church was so worried her mother would take her away that Scientology's leader David Miscavige intervened, ordering she be taken to the Church's cruise ship, The Freewinds.

    VALESKA PARIS: He decided the ship. And I found out two hours before my plane left - I was woken up in the morning and I was sent to the ship for “two weeks”.

    STEVE CANNANE: And how long did that end up lasting?

    VALESKA PARIS: 12 years.

    STEVE CANNANE: Valeska Paris says she was held on The Freewinds against her will.

    VALESKA PARIS: I did not want to be there. I made it clear that I didn't want to be there. And that was considered bad ethics, meaning it was considered not right.

    STEVE CANNANE: Did you try to escape?

    VALESKA PARIS: No, no.

    STEVE CANNANE: Could you escape?

    VALESKA PARIS: No. They take your passport when you go on the ship, so - and you're in the middle of an island, so it's a bit hard. And I was like - by that time I was 18. So, I didn't really - I'd been in Scientology my whole life. It's not like I knew how to escape and ... .

    STEVE CANNANE: The Freewinds is used as a base to deliver Scientology's highest level counselling course, known as Operating Thetan Level Eight.

    It cruises around the Caribbean, docking at small islands. The Church says ships have religious significance to Scientologists because its founder L. Ron Hubbard had researched and ministered the first Operating Thetan levels aboard a ship.

    But for Valeska Paris, there was no freedom on The Freewinds. She says she was not allowed off the ship for the first six years without an escort and was forced to do hard labour in the engine room. ...

    STEVE CANNANE: The Church of Scientology in the US refused to be interviewed for this story. Their lawyers sent Lateline a letter threatening legal action over a breach of a confidentiality agreement between the Church and Valeska Paris. Valeska Paris says she signed this agreement under duress. ...

    read the full article and Scientology statement at:


  8. Cult information charity faces Charity Commission curb after Scientology complaint

    After 25 years in operation, the Cult Information Centre fears it may no longer be able to work effectively

    by Lynne Wallis, The Guardian UK Friday 13 January 2012

    More than 160,000 charities in England and Wales are registered with the Charity Commission, thereby qualifying for charitable status and the tax relief and fundraising advantages that brings. So what happens when a registered charity is deemed to be in breach of the commission's stringent criteria? While the commission can't withdraw charitable status, it must investigate any alleged breach of the conditions of charitable status and ensure the charity is compliant.

    The Cult Information Centre (CIC) was granted education charity status in 1992 but has recently run into difficulties with the commission after complaints were received in 2007 that it is in breach of the rules governing status. Specifically, it is alleged that the CIC isn't neutral concerning its educational work, which means it could be deemed to be a campaigning or political organisation. A commission spokeswoman explained: "The problem is that the CIC's education work seems to be coming from a pre-conceived standpoint whereas, when we granted charitable status, we specified that any educational work needs to be objective and factual. There has been ongoing correspondence, and the charity's trustees have offered to conduct a review into the charity's work and practices."

    The CIC, set up 25 years ago, offers information on cults and new religious movements to the general public, including families who have lost relatives to such groups and former cult members trying make sense of what their experiences. Ian Haworth, who runs the charity, also gives talks to schools and other organisations on the psychological techniques cults use to recruit people and the threat that cults can pose to young lives; it is this educational element of the charity's work that has been under the spotlight.

    The commission has not revealed who is behind complaints, but an official let slip at a meeting attended by Haworth and some CIC trustees that it was the Church of Scientology. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, the commission has received complaints from numerous cults ever since the CIC was awarded charitable status, and Haworth is at a loss to understand why the commission is only now flexing its muscles. He likens the restrictions the commission is trying to impose to a drugs awareness charity being told it can still operate, as long as it never says drugs are bad.

    Haworth said: "We were awarded charitable status 20 years ago in spite of complaints from the Moonies, Scientology and the Hare Krishnas, which the commission was prepared then to override. Meanwhile, the commission continues to award charitable status to some very sinister and suspect groups whose contribution to the public good is arguable, and now the CIC is being told it can't operate effectively.

    "The commission has got it all so wrong, while the whole business has distracted us from our core work. Our website content is now problematic, and we can't fundraise properly or talk openly to the press about groups, which is particularly worrying given that the vast proportion of stories go untold because cults are so litigious.

    "An educational charity must, they say, be neutral, but how can we be neutral about the dangers of the coercive psychological techniques cults use to recruit?"

    continued in next comment:


  9. continued from previous comment:

    The commission suggests the CIC may have to "change its objects" which, in non-commission-speak, means it must maintain its status by using different qualifying criteria, ie, not claim to be an educational charity.

    The CIC argues vigorously that its work is beneficial to the public, and the thousands of people Haworth has helped over the 25 years would, he says, undoubtedly agree, but the charity will get into hotter water still if it doesn't toe the line on neutrality. The Church of Scientology was famously refused charitable status in 1996 on the grounds that any organisation claiming public benefit under the banner of "advancement of religion" must believe in a supreme being and/or worship to express its religious belief, neither of which is the case for Scientology. Had it made its claim on other grounds, it might have been successful.

    Since the 2006 Charities Act, the criteria under which organisations may apply has expanded hugely from the very narrow relief of poverty, advancement of education or religion, and a general "public-benefit" umbrella, to the advancement of anything from from amateur sports to human rights.

    The irony for the CIC is that many of the sorts of groups the charity has been warning young people about before they go off to university have themselves achieved charitable status. The world famous Unification movement, for example, more commonly known as the Moonies, has enjoyed charitable status since 1974. If the CIC is prevented from raising awareness about the dangers of cult recruitment, there is precious little else out there for concerned parents or others needing to find out about cults. One thing is certain: any forthcoming information resulting from contacting a cult group directly to find out what they are about would very definitely not be neutral.

    The CIC was the first port of call in 2003 for a teacher from Liverpool who can't be named for fear of reprisals from the group who recruited her son. She said: "The CIC are unique because they have a wealth of information and contacts at their fingertips. They put me in touch with an expert in the particular field our son was involved with, who swiftly identified the supposedly buddhist group our son had joined as fake. The CIC put us in touch with the charity Catalyst who gave us invaluable legal advice, and we used CIC literature to hand out to police and other concerned agencies – their book is brilliant, and it was the most efficient way to convey what had happened to our family. It was also very comforting to talk to someone who understood and didn't think we were crazy. The Charity Commission shouldn't stop the CIC doing this important work."


  10. The article in the previous comment was amended on 13 January 2012 after I placed it in this archive. The original article said that "an official [from the Charity Commission] let slip at a meeting attended by Haworth, and some CIC trustees that it was the Church of Scientology" which had made the complaint to the Charity Commission about the CIC. This is denied by the Charity Commission which has asked [The Guardian] to make clear that it is the commission's policy not to reveal the source of any complaint and that the complaint came from an individual who did not claim to be making the complaint on behalf of any one else or any other organisation.


  11. Scientology's First Amendment rights and wrongs

    Tampa Bay Times Editorial

    Wednesday, February 1, 2012

    The Church of Scientology relies heavily on First Amendment religious freedoms to shield itself from scrutiny in this country, but it is awfully quick to suppress freedom of speech that enjoys the same constitutional protections. The same church that raises the specter of Nazi oppression whenever it faces inquiry from German and French officials, expects its former, hardworking employees in the United States to sign away their free speech rights for as little as $500 in severance. The First Amendment is not a buffet where some rights are recognized and other inconvenient ones are ignored.

    The hypocrisy is clear in the church's latest retaliation against a former employee who dared to speak out even as she attempted to provoke reforms from within. Debbie Cook, the church's former longtime leader in Clearwater, is now facing a lawsuit in Texas for allegedly violating her 2007 severance agreement. On New Year's Eve, her letter urging Scientologists to work internally to reform the church's aggressive fundraising tactics and other practices reached thousands of church members via email and became widely publicized, including in the Tampa Bay Times.

    But Cook and her husband, in order to receive $50,000 each in severance, had signed a nondisclosure clause — apparently a standard operating procedure for the church. Cook had been a Sea Org employee for 29 years, 17 of which were as the top Clearwater official where she presided over an operation that brought in more than $100 million annually for the organization. Several former church members told the Tampa Bay Times' Joe Childs and Thomas C. Tobin that severances of $500 to $5,000 were more common but also frequently required nondisclosure agreements.

    Previous Times stories have detailed how Sea Org members have extraordinary work schedules for little pay and how the church's fundraising tactics have included encouraging church members to borrow thousands of dollars, hit the limit on their credit cards and mortgage their homes to pay for church texts or courses. Yet First Amendment religious protections have blocked serious, formal scrutiny. Just two years ago, the church escaped allegations it violated labor laws and engaged in human trafficking and forced abortions when a federal judge dismissed two lawsuits by former Sea Org workers, saying the suits would violate the First Amendment's guarantee of free exercise of religion. And the church also benefits from tax-exempt status, another manifestation of the First Amendment's religious protection.

    The lengths the church goes to protect its secrecy is remarkable. Cook and her husband had an additional clause in their agreement with the church that they could be liable for at least $100,000 for each disparaging Internet posting, television broadcast or newspaper article. If this case moves forward, the judge should ensure that all depositions, court filings and court hearings are public. The public should be able to observe how the Church of Scientology seeks to wrap itself in First Amendment protections to avoid scrutiny and strip those protections from members of the church who were seeking to reform it.


  12. French court upholds Scientology fraud conviction

    By PIERRE-ANTOINE SOUCHARD, Associated Press

    February 2, 2012

    PARIS, France (AP) --

    A French appeals court on Thursday upheld the Church of Scientology's 2009 fraud conviction on charges it pressured members into paying large sums for questionable remedies.

    The case began with a legal complaint by a young woman who said she took out loans and spent the equivalent of euro21,000 ($28,000) on books, courses and "purification packages" after being recruited in 1998. When she sought reimbursement and to leave the group, its leadership refused to allow either. She was among three eventual plaintiffs.

    "It's a severe defeat for the Church of Scientology, which is hit at the very heart of its organization in France," Olivier Morice, a lawyer for the National Union of Associations Defending Family and Individual Victims of Sects, told reporters after the decision.

    Karin Pouw, a spokeswoman for the church in Los Angeles, denounced Thursday's decision, calling it a "miscarriage of justice."

    She said the group would appeal the decision to the Court of Cassation and plans to bring a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights. Another complaint is pending with a U.N. special rapporteur.

    About 50 Scientologists — holding signs saying "No to a heresy trial" and "No to justice under pressure" — protested outside the Paris court hours after the decision.

    During the appeals process, the prosecution had asked for the church to be fined at least euro1 million ($1.3 million) and its bookstore euro500,000. But the appeals court on Thursday instead ordered the same fines as the trial court, euro400,000 ($530,000) for the church and euro200,000 for its bookstore.

    Five members of the church who were convicted in the first trial were ordered to pay fines ranging from euro10,000 to euro30,000. Four of them were also given suspended sentences between 18 months and two years.

    In the original trial, prosecutors had tried to get the group disbanded in France, but the court declined even to take the lesser step of shutting down its operations, saying that French Scientologists would have continued their activities anyway.

    Pouw said Thursday that the church was continuing its missions without any restrictions.

    "The environment in the court was so prejudicial that defense attorneys walked out of the proceedings in protest, refusing as a matter of conscience to participate in proceedings that had degenerated into a charade," she said by phone.

    While Scientology is recognized as a religion in the U.S., Sweden and Spain, it is not considered one under French law.

    Founded in 1954 by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, the church teaches that technology can expand the mind and help solve problems. It claims 10 million members around the world, including celebrity devotees Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

    Belgium and Germany have been criticized by the U.S. State Department for labeling Scientology as a cult or sect and enacting laws to restrict its operations. France also considers Scientology a sect.

    Associated Press producer Masha Macpherson contributed to this report.

    San Francisco Chronicle


  13. Scientology tiff hits Bexar court

    By John MacCormack, San Antonio Express February 4, 2012

    [...] With a trial set for next week on the church's suit against Debbie Cook and her husband, Wayne Baumgarten, Judge Janet Littlejohn declined to lift a temporary restraining order after being assured it will not cripple their defense.

    “There is no reason you cannot accumulate evidence and talk to witnesses for trial next week,” she told Cook's lawyer, Ray Jeffrey.

    “Other than that, they are restrained by the order,” she added.

    Jeffrey had argued unsuccessfully that the church cannot muzzle Cook and Baumgarten, without proving specific damages, regardless of any agreements they signed.

    “Prior restraint of speech is presumptively unconstitutional,” he argued.

    “She didn't defame anyone. She sent out a message that was laudatory to Scientology and urged Scientologists to remain true to their faith,” he added.

    Littlejohn left that for the trial judge to resolve. She left the prohibition against talking to the media intact, and both defendants left the courtroom without commenting.

    The legal fight here is part of a larger, ongoing church struggle that has included the departure of various high church officials and the emergence of self-styled reformers.


    In the courtroom Friday was Mark Rathbun, another former high church official, who now lives in Ingleside on the Bay, and maintains a blog highly critical of church leaders.

    “This is huge. These draconian silence agreements are really protecting the most heinous actions going on the upper levels of the church,” he said.

    “This is a test case as to whether these agreements are legally binding and enforceable,” added Rathbun.

    All told, Cook spent 29 years in the church, rising to become the leader of its spiritual headquarters in Clearwater, Fla.

    But when Cook and Baumgarten left in 2007, each accepted a $50,000 payment and also signed a strict and comprehensive nondisclosure agreement.

    “Mrs. Cook is one of the most recognizable faces of Scientology to followers in the United States and overseas,” Jeffrey said at the Friday hearing.

    “She managed more than 1,000 employees and a budget of over $100 million a year,” he added.

    In response to e-mailed questions, church spokeswoman Karin Pouw said the dispute is no more than “a breach-of-contract case.”

    “Debbie Cook wants to divert attention away from her lack of compliance with the terms she voluntarily agreed to in signing the contract,” she added.

    Pouw said Cook has been expelled from the church and never held an important post.

    “She has not attended church in years and has become a squirrel. A squirrel is someone who alters Scientology Scripture; a heretic,” she added.

    And when Cook sent an e-mail to other Scientologists questioning church practices and calling for a return to the true path, it triggered a quick response.

    On Jan. 27, the church sued the couple in Bexar County, where they live, accusing them of violating the confidentiality agreements by sending out a “disparaging e-mail.”

    Since then, the suit notes, the e-mail has been widely copied and also reported in the national and international media, including the Tampa Bay Times, NPR News and “Good Morning America.”

    The suit claims damages of at least $300,000 and asks that the couple be ordered to comply with their nondisclosure agreements.

    In arguing for keeping the restraining order, George Spencer Jr., representing the church, said the issue was a simple contractual violation.

    “People can, by contract, agree to injunctions that would otherwise violate their constitutional rights,” he argued.

    “The defendants each expressly promised to refrain from doing certain things. When Mrs. Baumgarten sent her e-mail out on New Years Eve, she violated that agreement.”

    read the full article at:


  14. Church lawyer tells judge only Scientology law applies

    By Joe Childs & Thomas C. Tobin, Tampa Bay Times Staff Writers February 4, 2012

    CLEARWATER — The Church of Scientology, defending itself against a $35,000 refund claim, told a Pinellas judge Friday that the courts cannot meddle in its religious affairs.

    Citing the First Amendment as it has in numerous court cases, the church told Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge John A. Schaefer that two former parishioners from Seattle must submit to an internal Scientology arbitration procedure to get any money back.

    Bert Schippers and Lynne Hoverson, longtime Scientologists who left the church in 2009, sued two of the church's Clearwater entities in November after they requested their money back and didn't receive it.

    As is common in Scientology, Schippers left the money "on account" with the church to pay later for spiritual counseling. But he never used it.

    The church argues the couple first must submit to "binding religious arbitration" as laid out in a standard church contract Schippers signed before giving the money. The contract calls for a panel of three Scientologists in good standing to decide what would be fair.

    Schippers' lawyer, Brian Leung of Tampa, told Schaefer the arbitration process is inherently unfair because Schippers and Hoverson are estranged from the church and considered "suppressive." Scientologists in good standing consider them heretics. The three-member internal panel would be unlikely to give them a fair hearing, Leung said.

    The contract Schippers signed — the same one signed by all Scientologists before taking services — is extreme and unenforceable, Leung said.

    Church lawyer F. Wallace Pope Jr. of Clearwater said none of that matters. Numerous courts have held that the First Amendment shields religions from judicial intrusion. To rule on the merits of the contract, Schaefer would have to entangle himself in religious issues, Pope said.

    He argued: "Only Scientology law applies."

    Pope also said the law does not require charitable organizations to return donations.

    "A gift once made cannot be revoked by the donor," he said, citing Florida case law.

    Even so, Scientology has a process for returning donations, Pope said.

    He argued that Schippers would have his money back by now if he had completed that process, which requires parishioners to get signatures on a "routing form" from several church officials.

    Schippers started the process more than a year ago but sent the church an incomplete routing form in January 2011.

    "The whole goal of this form is to get you back into services at the church," Schippers said. "Therefore, it's incompleteable."

    He and Hoverson were among several former church members featured in a recent Tampa Bay Times series "The Money Machine," which detailed Scientology's aggressive and intimidating money-raising practices.

    Schaefer said he will rule on the issue later this month.

    In contrast to the church's stance Friday in Pinellas, it is asking a Texas court to get involved in an internal matter there. It wants the court to force a former church executive to abide by a confidentiality agreement she signed with the church in 2007.

    The church last week sued Debbie Cook, the highest ranking church official in Clearwater for 17 years, saying she violated the agreement on New Year's Eve when she questioned church management in an email to fellow Scientologists.

    A key hearing in that case is scheduled for Thursday in San Antonio, Texas.

    Joe Childs can be reached at childs@tampabay.com. Thomas C. Tobin can be reached at ttobin@tampabay.com.


  15. Senior scientologist charged with perverting justice

    ABC Online - Australia February 08, 2012

    One of the Church of Scientology's senior international figures, Jan Eastgate, has been charged for a second time in Sydney.

    Last year, Ms Eastgate was charged with perverting the course of justice in relation to allegations that she coached an 11-year-old girl to lie to police and community services about the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her Scientologist stepfather.

    The allegations were raised publicly for the first time on Lateline in 2010.

    On Monday, she was charged with another offence relating to perverting the course of justice.

    Eastgate is the international president of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, an organisation founded by the Church of Scientology. She was awarded the Church's Freedom Medal for promoting human rights in 1988.

    Eastgate is due to appear at a committal hearing at Sydney's Downing Centre on May 15.

    She has yet to enter a plea.


  16. Ex-Clearwater Scientology leader claims kidnapping, torture before she left church

    By Joe Childs and Thomas C. Tobin, Tampa Bay Times Staff Writers February 09, 2012

    SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Debbie Cook, the Church of Scientology's top authority figure in Clearwater for 17 years, said in court papers Thursday that the church kidnapped and tortured her before she signed a nondisclosure agreement with Scientology in 2007.

    The papers, filed late Wednesday in a district court in San Antonio, argue that the nondisclosure agreement is not enforceable because Cook signed it under duress.

    The church did not immediately respond to the filing, but it has said in court papers that Cook's public statements pose "substantial risk of imminent harm and irreparable injury" to the church.

    Scientology has been in many legal fights in its 57-year history, but its face-off with Cook has the potential to be among the most dramatic and divisive. As captain of Scientology's spiritual headquarters in Clearwater, Cook was widely respected and admired by church members worldwide.

    Many people who have defected from the church in recent years descended on San Antonio on Thursday to attend a hearing in the church's lawsuit against Cook and her husband. The defectors have also contributed to a legal defense fund.

    Cook, 50, and her husband, Wayne Baumgarten, resigned from the church's religious order, the Sea Org, in October 2007 in Clearwater. Each signed a 10-page agreement provided by the church. They waived their First Amendment rights to free speech and said they would never, "in perpetuity," disclose any information about the church, its staff or former staff.

    In exchange for signing, Cook and her husband each received $50,000.

    But in an email on New Year's Eve sent to Scientologists, Cook said the church had deviated from the policies of founder L. Ron Hubbard. Calling herself a Scientologist in good standing, she urged fellow church members to stand up to Scientology's aggressive fundraising efforts and other practices that don't conform with Hubbard's writing.

    Cook sent her letter six weeks after the Tampa Bay Times published "The Money Machine," a four-part series describing how Scientology pressures and intimidates parishioners to make donations and purchase church services.

    The church sued Cook and Baumgarten in January, saying the email breached the confidentiality agreement. The church asked the court to enjoin Cook from talking and to impose a $300,000 judgment.

    That case is being heard in San Antonio, where Cook and Baumgarten moved after leaving the Sea Org.

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    In the court papers made public Thursday, Cook and Baumgarten said the church held them against their will until they signed the agreements. They were kept under constant surveillance by church security and feared physical and mental abuse, they say.

    "Such physical and mental abuse was commonly used by the Church of Scientology to secure obedience from church insiders," according to the court papers.

    Cook said she was subjected to beatings, torture, mental and emotional abuse and was denied medical care. The papers don't say where this occurred.

    Cook's health declined to the point where her "free agency was effectively destroyed," the papers say.

    Cook and Baumgarten believed that if they left the church but did not sign the agreements, they would never be permitted to communicate with family members who remain in the church. Baumgarten's mother was in a church-funded nursing home.

    "Simply stated, Ms. Cook and her husband would have signed anything they were required to in order to be free from their captivity and danger, and they were rendered powerless to resist signing the agreement," Cook's attorney, Ray Jeffrey of Bulverde, asserted in the court filing.

    The pleadings indicate that beyond duress, there are several other reasons the nondisclosure agreement should be declared unenforceable. Cook and Baumgarten say the agreement is extreme and unreasonable in that it violates their freedom to practice their religion as Scientologists.


  18. Ex-Clearwater Scientology officer Debbie Cook testifies she was put in The Hole, abused for weeks

    By Joe Childs and Thomas C. Tobin, Tampa Bay Times Staff Writers February 10, 2012

    SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Scientology executive Debbie Cook was on the phone with church leader David Miscavige when she heard someone pounding at her office door at a church compound in California.

    Not wanting to hang up on her angry boss, who was complaining about her performance, she didn't answer the knocks. The pounding stopped, but someone was prying open her office window. Two male church employees crawled in.

    "Are they there?" Miscavige asked.

    Yes, Cook answered.

    "Goodbye," the church leader said.

    The men took Cook away to a place called the "The Hole," two doublewide trailers on the church's 500-acre California compound where, other high-ranking church defectors have told the Tampa Bay Times, Miscavige sent underperforming executives. The windows were covered with bars, and security guards controlled the only exit, Cook said.

    Cook said she was held there seven weeks with more than 100 other Scientology executives. They spent their nights in sleeping bags on ant-infested floors, ate a soupy "slop" of reheated leftovers and screamed at each other in confessionals that often turned violent. For two weeks, she said, Miscavige had the electricity turned off as daytime temperatures in the desert east of Los Angeles topped 100 degrees.

    Cook testified Thursday that the experience in the summer of 2007 gave her nightmares and was part of the reason she was so eager to leave the Scientology staff later that year and sign a severance agreement never to speak ill of the church.

    "I would have signed that I stabbed babies over and over again and loved it. I would have done anything basically at that point," she said during several hours of sworn testimony in San Antonio district court.

    The church is suing Cook and her husband for violating the terms of the agreement when she sent a New Year's Eve email urging fellow Scientologists to help reform the church's fundraising tactics and other practices.

    Thursday night, church spokeswoman Karin Pouw said Cook's testimony is false. Cook voluntarily entered into the agreement, Pouw said, and "now clearly is bitter and is falsely vilifying the religion she was once a part of."

    The church and Cook agreed to certain obligations, Pouw said. "Miss Cook and her husband have breached that agreement. The defendants and their lawyer are trying to divert the court with false claims and wild tales."

    Church lawyer George H. Spencer Jr. said Cook's testimony was irrelevant and argued that regardless whether her statements were true, she ratified the contract by accepting $50,000.

    "This is a straightforward contract case," he argued before District Judge Martha Tanner. Testimony continues today.

    Cook's attorney, Ray Jeffrey, argued the duress she suffered in the years and months before signing the agreement rendered the document unenforceable.

    Cook's testimony took listeners through an extraordinary tale: from the church's "Hole" in the California desert, to the Clearwater campus that is home to Scientology's spiritual mecca, to her escape in 2007 that ended when a church team tracked her to a South Carolina restaurant and boxed in her car in the parking lot.

    Once the respected head of the Clearwater operation and known to Scientologists worldwide, Cook said she was "basically imprisoned" in Clearwater during her final months with the church.

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    She said she was confined to the church's Hacienda Gardens residential compound on Saturn Avenue, prevented from leaving by guards, gates, high fences, motion detectors and security cameras. At work in Scientology's downtown buildings, she said, she was followed during her daily routine by a church official assigned to make sure she didn't escape; she was even followed into the restroom.

    Through the years, Cook said, she witnessed physical attacks and mental abuse on church executives by Miscavige or by those acting on the leader's orders.

    She described a 12-hour ordeal at the California base where she was made to stand in a trash can while fellow executives poured water over her, screamed at her and said she was a lesbian.

    She said she saw Miscavige attack church executive Marc Yager, punching him in the face and wrestling him to the ground. She also recounted how church executive Mark Ginge Nelson was punished for objecting to violence he saw in "The Hole."

    Cook said she saw Nelson taken to another room, where he was beaten by a Miscavige assistant and two other men for two hours. She said Nelson also was made to lick a bathroom floor for at least 30 minutes.

    Cook said Miscavige once ordered his secretary to slap her, and she fell over into some chairs. She said he also ordered his communication officer to break her finger. The officer bent it back, she said, but did not break it.

    Another time, she said, Miscavige marched around a large conference table looking as if he wanted to choke her but ended up grabbing her shoulders and yelling at her.

    In May 2007, Cook got a reprieve from "The Hole" when she was summoned back to Clearwater to help Miscavige prepare for a major church event that would attract 2,000 Scientologists to Ruth Eckerd Hall. She worked there several more weeks, rejoining her husband, church staffer Wayne Baumgarten, but not telling him what happened in "The Hole." She said it would have been "very treasonous" to say anything.

    Later that summer, Cook said she and her husband said they had had enough. One morning, a church staffer drove them to the church dining hall in downtown Clearwater and went inside to get them some breakfast. Cook jumped into the driver's seat, drove to a rental car company and left the church vehicle in the lot.

    In a rental car, the couple drove to see Cook's father in North Carolina but were intercepted and persuaded to return to Clearwater to properly separate from the church staff. If they didn't go along, she said, a church official said her husband's Scientology relatives would sever all contact with him.

    Cook said they were told the process would take a couple of days. But after three grueling weeks, Cook told her guards that she had called her mother and told her to call Clearwater police if she wasn't released in three days. She also conveyed in a letter that "if that didn't work I would take whatever steps necessary, like slitting my wrists."

    The church's legal team sought to counter Cook's duress argument by showing a video of Cook initialing the contract, agreeing with a church attorney that the church had helped her and accepting a $50,000 check that was later deposited in her account. She agreed she was under no pressure to sign. She also acknowledged she had criticized church leadership and disclosed information she knew about the church and its staff.


  20. Scientology hearing ends abruptly

    by John MacCormac, San Antonio Express February 10, 2012

    A legal battle between the Church of Scientology and a former top church official that has included accounts of abuse and harsh treatment ended abruptly Friday. “We have elected to withdraw our request for an injunction at this time,” Scientology lawyer George Spencer Jr. told Judge Martha Tanner. “Going forward in the case this way will prevent the defendant from using the court as a pulpit for false statements.”

    And while Spencer expressed confidence that his client would prevail by filing for a summary judgment before trial, it was also clear that the church's legal strategy of suing Cook had backfired badly. Her sworn testimony Thursday included lurid accounts of beatings, confinement and forced confessions under the alleged direction of longtime church leader David Miscavige. It was clear from Spencer's remarks to the judge that the church wanted to avoid more bad publicity.

    Cook, 50, spent 29 years with the church, rising to become its top official in Clearwater, Fla., the church's spiritual headquarters, before leaving under adverse circumstances in 2007. According to a church spokeperson, she was treated with dignity and respect, until she was expelled in 2007, and has since become a heretic spreading lies and false stories. Her account from the stand Thursday was somewhat different.

    Her testimony also included accounts of being confined against her will by church officials on at least three occasions, including a horrific seven-week stint in “The Hole,” where church leaders were sent after falling out of favor. After a later confinement, she testified that she was finally allowed to leave after threatening to commit suicide or bring in the police. Church officials had her and her husband, Wayne Baumgarten, sign extensive non-disclosure agreements. Each was also given $50,000, which the church argued made the agreements binding.

    Her lawyer, Ray Jeffrey, argued Thursday that the contracts were non-binding because they were imposed under “extreme duress.” Soon after, the pair moved to San Antonio, and for the next five years, they kept a low profile. That ended in late December when they sent out a lengthy email to several thousand Scientologists that was mildly critical of church leadership. Claiming she had broken the contract and disparaged the church, the church responded by suing her in Bexar County, seeking at least $300,000 and enforcement of the non-disclosure contract. The church also obtained a temporary restraining order, prohibiting them from talking about the suit or about Scientology, and that was the matter being heard this week by Tanner.

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    When the hearing ended Friday, Spencer declined to comment. Jeffrey, however, who had been expected to put witnesses hostile to the church on the stand, declared the outcome “a victory.”
    “I'm exhausted but I feel good about it. We've won,” he said, declining further comment.

    Yvonne Schick, 63, of Austin, a former church member watching the proceedings, said she was not surprised by the church's decision to end the proceeding. “They miscalculated by letting things get to the point where Debbie Cook got on the stand and testified, although I don't know that it could have gotten any worse than it was yesterday,” she said. “Because of how well-known and respected she was by people inside the church, this will be bad for morale and cause more people to exit,” she said.

    Steve Hall, another former church member, who was also involved with the elite Sea Org group, agreed that the church had blundered by bringing suit against Cook and Baumgarten. “I was a friend of Debbie Cook and still am. And I worked for David Miscavige for a long time,” said Hall, who maintains a website highly critical of the church. Hall said he left the church in 2004 because he was disturbed by the rising levels of abuse and violence.

    “I saw David Miscavige physically attack people on four occasions, and others where he ordered people beaten,” he said. And he said, the church leader probably reacted badly at how the hearing had gone Thursday. “Knowing David Miscavige, there was a spectacular meltdown yesterday. I bet he went berserk,” he said.


  22. Australia's child labour camp

    Bryan Seymour, Today Tonight February 14, 2012

    In the middle of suburban Australia is a secret compound that's labelled 'degrading' and 'inhumane', with allegations of keeping children prisoner.

    Right in the middle of a quiet suburb is a place where children are separated from their parents, and forced to work full time for no pay, and live in squalid conditions.

    Those who've survived this place say they were brainwashed into believing they could not leave, and that they deserved the shocking treatment dished out.

    A young man who escaped the place with the help of his father, Shane Kelsey says “I lived in that garage for about a year and a half, maybe two years.”

    Shane is now 21-years-old. Until just over a year ago he had never used the internet, watched television or followed the media.

    “You're not allowed to read any books other than scientology books, you can't read newspapers, no radio, no movies, nothing,” Shane said.

    Shane says he was held captive and groomed to see all of us on the outside as pathetic, useless and stupid.

    “So I lived in a garage until that got flooded by a storm, and my mum got really pissed off and said 'what the hell' and so I got moved into a closet. It is a closet under the stairs - maybe two metres long and a metre wide,” Shane said.

    The true Australian headquarters of the Church of Scientology are located in the Sydney suburb of Dundas. The RPF base - which stands for Rehabilitation Project Force - is where Scientologists are sent for punishment and training, for crimes that most of us would regard as trivial.

    More than 50 requests for interviews on camera with representatives from the Church of Scientology have been flatly refused.

    The bottom line is they don't want people to know what's going on inside the centre, and those who've lived in there, like Shane, say it's like a gulag, or a prison. Yet it's in the middle of a suburb, which could be any suburb in Australia.

    People would he horrified to know what has been going on in there for so many years, and continues to this day.

    Shane Kelsey's mother and father were dedicated Scientologists in Sydney, so they put their son Shane into its highest core at the age of six - little Shane moved into a tiny room with eleven other children.

    By the age of seven Shane says “we'd go down the streets and there'd be eight of us, ten of us, young as, and we'd go down and pledge people up to ‘drug free lives’.

    “I signed my contract when I was eight-years-old. It was a billion-year contract, which means you're volunteering or servicing the Church for the next billion years,” Shane said.

    “We used to do marching, close order drilling, things like that. Just because it was a form of discipline,” he said.

    Shane saw his parents once a week. His mother and father would soon separate, and his dad Adrian moved overseas, and then left Scientology.

    Meanwhile, the work schedule for children was fulltime, hard and without reward.

    Working 35 hours a week when he was eight-years-old, by the time he was fourteen, the work changed to kitchen duty.

    A military muster every morning required marching and saluting to the cause of saving mankind from the intergalactic ravages, described by the Church’s science fiction founder L Ron Hubbard.

    The kids wore all black uniforms, and were always required to run, never walk.

    So-called home schooling was provided in fits and starts, taking a back seat to hard labour and brainwashing.

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    “As soon as you turn fifteen, anyone, you're straight out of school. It doesn't matter what grade you're in, what level of maths, what level of anything, you're straight out," Shane said.

    The mess hall served food priced at 30 cents per meal, mostly beans and rice. The adults ate first.

    “They would all come in and eat whatever they wanted, and then we went after them to take what's there - sometimes there wouldn't be much, so you'd get little bits of food, and it wasn't really sufficient,” Shane said.

    Those who dared question the brutality of this place were dealt with swiftly and severely.

    “They used to live under our squash courts - it's a mud, dirt floor,” Shane recalled.

    “We put people in there and they live in there, when they're on the RPF they'd sleep down there, and they'd study down there.”

    Why would you put people in a dank, mouldy, sinking foundation underneath a squash court?

    According to Shane it’s “because you're a bad person, you have to be segregated from everyone.”

    By the age of fifteen Shane was living a nightmare even he now struggles to believe.

    “As soon as I turned fifteen I was working seven days a week, fourteen hour days.”

    That's 100 hours a week spent in a commercial kitchen. Shane and other children slaved away - cooking meals all day, every day, studying and snatching what little sleep they could.

    “We'd get anywhere between $4 pay to $35 a week,” Shane said.

    Among those who needed to be fed was billionaire James Packer. For several years beginning in 2002, Packer came to the Church of Scientology in the early mornings to receive auditing and instruction.

    There is no suggestion Packer had any idea who was preparing his meals, or their work conditions.

    Packer left scientology around 2008. It would be more than two years until Shane made his break for freedom.

    In late 2010, Adrian Kelsey decided to rescue his son.

    He invited us to document his attempt, and informed police of his plans to go to the compound and demand his son's release. He had protest signs ready if they refused to let him come out. When Shane came out to meet his father it was the first time they’d seen each other in four years.

    Shane and Adrian were followed by Scientology ‘enforcers’, so Shane reluctantly returned to the compound to avoid trouble. One week later he was sent to work near the compound's boundary, and made a break for it.

    “Scientology have no right to mess with family,” said Adrian Kelsey.

    It took Shane fourteen months to shake off Scientology, discover the truth, learn about the real world and tell his story.

    “One thing that would be good is if they actually just stood up and said ‘sorry, it wasn't right, we're going to change it’, but that is just not going to happen,” Adrian said.

    Peta Obrien, who lived at the RPF base between 1997 and 2000 confirms Shane's account of the appalling conditions.

    “You do two hours of work, then you go and study for two and a half hours in the RPF. It was five hours, and then you go to work again - hard labour, picking with a rock pick, chipping away at rocks till they erode,” O’Brien said.

    Now a successful architectural designer, O’Brien believes Scientology has nothing of value to offer the community.

    “Close it down, doors shut and all the staff members going back to their families, and living their lives,” O’Brien said.

    “I was there for ten years all up in the Church of Scientology as a staff member, and how could I inflict that on my children? Which I'll forever feel like I have to make up,” she said.

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    Perth-based lawyer Grainne O'Donovan has devoted her time and expertise to helping survivors of the cult seeking justice.

    “There's not a law in New South Wales that makes it illegal to work a child for those hours. That's extraordinary, but that's the case,” O’Donovan said.

    O’Donovan has also campaigned with the internet-based activist group Anonymous that has raised awareness about Scientology.

    “This is degrading and inhumane treatment,’ O'Donovan said.

    “At some level they (Scientologists) have become convinced, I suppose, that it's appropriate, and that the group is more important than the individual,” she said.

    RPF bases like the Sydney compound exist in other countries. Those who've escaped from them tell similar stories – of having fingers broken on the orders of the leader of Scientology, screamed at, and slapped for twenty hours straight, whilst having cold water poured over their head, and much more.

    Independent Federal Senator Nick Xenophon has championed a campaign to shed light on the darkness at the heart of this group.

    “Shane's story is one of shocking abuse, child abuse, it's one of a child being enslaved,” Senator Xenophon said.

    “The authorities need to investigate this urgently. This is something that requires police investigation,” he said.

    “What makes this worse is that this organisation is being subsidised by Australian taxpayers because it doesn't pay any tax.”

    Meanwhile Shane has his father back, yet his mother Lesley remains inside Scientology.

    “I hope she hears word of this and sums up the courage to actually find it and watch it,” Shane said.

    “She will have to escape. They won't let her go. Leaving's not an option, so she will have to escape,” Shane said.

    The Church of Scientology refused to be interviewed for this story. In a written response scientology denied any mistreatment of its members.

    The response also declared that anyone on the program is there because they want to be there, and that they are completely free to withdraw at any time during induction or later.

    “When Shane left the church in late 2010, he simply got his bag and walked out the door,” said the statement.

    The celebrities used to advertise Scientology likely have little idea that people like Shane Kelsey even exist, but now they do.

    Adrian and Shane hope they do something about it for the sake of other families.

    Senator Xenophon says he's taking this story to Bill Shorten, the Federal Minister for Workplace Relations.

    If you have any information we should know about Scientology, let us know.


  25. Church of Scientology demands right to underpay workers

    by Joe Hildebrand, The Daily Telegraph February 23, 2012

    SCIENTOLOGISTS have asked the Federal Government for an exemption to the Fair Work Act so they do not have to pay workers the minimum wage.

    In a submission to the Fair Work review, public affairs director Reverend Mary Anderson said the Church of Scientology, which believes Earth was founded 75 million years ago by an alien tyrant called Xenu, should be exempt from workplace law because it was a legitimate religion.

    "There is nothing wrong with the concept 'a fair day's pay for a fair day's work' but it is misdirected when applied to religious volunteers whose focus is not on pay but on service to a spiritual cause," Ms Anderson wrote.

    "Historically, members of religious orders have taken a vow of poverty.

    "At the present time, there are church volunteers who are not vowed to poverty but who do volunteer their time and effort to church work, without focus on financial reward."

    Ms Anderson said making non-profit organisations pay award wages was "a violation of human rights".

    The submission disappeared from public view after it was exposed on the website Workplace Express but Ms Anderson said she did not remove it.

    ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said the submission read more like exploitation than religion. "The Scientologists' submission reads like they have been putting their heads together with Australia's employer groups, who would like nothing more than to remove workers' basic rights and conditions in their lust for profits," he said.

    "The Fair Work Act review process should not be treated as an opportunity to air extremist and farcical viewpoints devoid of facts.

    "This attitude that an employer should have complete free rein to pay and treat their staff however they want has no place in the modern Australia."

    When contacted by The Daily Telegraph, Ms Anderson said the submission was her personal one, even though it was sent on a Church of Scientology letterhead and signed "Reverend Mary Anderson, Director of Public Affairs, Church of Scientology".

    Another Scientology spokeswoman said the church had made an official submission but it was confidential.

    "Nevertheless, what Mary says lines up to a small degree with the Church's past public statements," the spokeswoman said.

    "The Church's submission to the Fair Work Act Review is confidential to avoid any unnecessary interference from critics seeking to pre-empt the Review's findings."

    The Church of Scientology was investigated by the Fair Work Ombudsman last year for claims some adherents worked up to 72 hours without a break and for as little as $10 a week. However, it was deemed that some of these workers were volunteers.


  26. Charges dropped for Scientologist - police felt they were being used in church case

    by Janet Fife-Yeomans, The Daily Telegraph Australia April 25, 2012

    POLICE who laid criminal charges against one of the world's leading members of the Church of Scientology believed they were being used as part of a campaign by senator Nick Xenophon.

    As prosecutors yesterday dropped the two charges of perverting the course of justice against Jan Eastgate, internal police documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws have revealed officers' concerns.

    The charges alleged that in 1985, Ms Eastgate intimidated an 11-year-old girl and her mother into not reporting sex abuse allegations within the church. The girl's stepfather pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault in 2001.

    When the victim went to Balmain Police Station in May 2010 to make a complaint against Ms Eastgate, she was accompanied by Mr Xenophon, the independent Senator from South Australia, and the media. Mr Xenophon had been pushing for an inquiry into Scientology beforehand.

    When the woman returned four days later to Balmain Police Station to make her statement, she was accompanied by Mr Xenophon's then-political adviser Rohan Wenn.

    The police recorded that ABC's Lateline, which had interviewed the woman, was screening the following week .

    "(Senator) Xenophon is pushing for a senate inquiry into the Church of Scientology," said the police in their internal report. "Following this interview (with the woman), investigating police are of the view that this matter ... will be used as a political tool to push towards a Senate inquiry being held."

    An Office of the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions spokeswoman said yesterday the charges were dropped "because there was no reasonable prospect of a conviction".

    Ms Eastgate, who left Sydney in 1993 and is now international president of the Scientology-linked Citizens Commission on Human Rights, based in Los Angeles, said she had always maintained her innocence. Mr Xenophon denied he had been using the police or the woman because parliament had already refused his call for an inquiry into Scientology.


  27. Former Clearwater Scientology leader Debbie Cook settles lawsuit with church

    By Joe Childs and Thomas C. Tobin, Tampa Bay Times Staff Writers April 24, 2012

    Only weeks ago, after delivering hours of damaging testimony about the Church of Scientology, former church official Debbie Cook sounded as if she was just getting started.

    She said she had much more to tell. She hoped out loud that raising the curtain on church abuses might spark "a reformation from within."

    This week, her voice went silent.

    Cook and Scientology settled a church lawsuit that backfired when she took the stand Feb. 9 in San Antonio, Texas.

    Cook gave a riveting account of how she and other religious workers were physically and mentally abused at Scientology's desert compound near Los Angeles. She said she was detained and otherwise controlled when she and her husband, also a former church staffer, tried to leave the church's Clearwater campus in 2007.

    The next hearing in the lawsuit was scheduled for May 7. Now Cook, the church and their respective attorneys have laid down their arms. The agreement dated Monday allows both sides to essentially call it even and go their separate ways. Neither pays the other side money, and Cook and her husband are legally prohibited from ever again speaking ill of the church.

    The church walks away having suffered through a day of brutal testimony that remains in the public record. Cook and her husband are back where they started before Cook sent out a New Year's Eve email to thousands of Scientologists that criticized the church's money raising tactics, questioned church management and called on parishioners to push for reforms. The church filed its lawsuit Jan. 27, alleging she violated a confidentiality agreement she signed when she left the church staff in 2007.

    Reached by email Tuesday night, Cook declined to comment on the settlement. Church spokeswoman Karin Pouw declined to comment as well, saying the document speaks for itself.

    Under a judge's order it requires Cook and her husband, Wayne Baumgarten, to refrain from disclosing anything they know about the church to anyone, be it in conversation, an Internet posting or any other communication. Nor can they have any contact with anyone who has disparaged or intends to disparage the church.

    Cook's personal website was shut down by Tuesday afternoon. Her Facebook page was dark as well.

    Some in Cook's camp say the four months she spent as a vocal church critic — highlighted by the three hours of sworn testimony she gave Feb. 9 — accomplished her aims.

    "Coming from her, the altitude she had with parishioners and the fact that she was able to make her statements in court under oath, it had a lot more power than someone's public statement,'' said Yvonne Schick, a 23-year Scientologist who left the church last year with her husband, Ken, frustrated with the actions of church leader David Miscavige.

    Cook "exposed the truth about what's going on — how (Miscavige) is abusing people physically, mentally and spiritually,'' Schick said.

    Marty Rathbun, a former church official who leads a movement of "independent" Scientologists critical of church management, declined to comment but offered an analysis of the settlement on his web site.

    He said the church had nothing to gain but a six-figure judgment it had little chance to collect, and Cook had effectively spread her message about church abuses. He said her testimony "was for the most part all that the world at large would be interested in hearing from her … and that toothpaste can't be put back into the tube."

    As recently as early March, Cook appeared ready for a long legal battle. In a message on her website, she thanked supporters and referred to herself as "the girl who kicked the hornet's nest." She said problems with church management "can't be allowed to just go on," and closed with this passage:

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    "Deep down you always believe that truth and good wins in the end, but when you look around in life that often doesn't really seem to be the case. Those who can afford top legal defense certainly have a way of getting away with murder. So we definitely have our work cut out for us ... We have a ways to go to win. But it can be done!"

    Well-known and respected by Scientologists worldwide, Cook served 17 years as the top ecclesiastical figure at the church's spiritual center in Clearwater, known as "Flag."

    In early 2005, Miscavige called her to work at Scientology's compound 80 miles southeast of Los Angeles, home to Scientology's international management team.

    Cook testified she soon learned that dozens of managers were being held under guard, day and night, in a building derisively nicknamed "The Hole.'' They had underperformed in Miscavige's view and were collectively confronting and confessing their failures, Cook said.

    Later, she said two male staffers came to her office and escorted her to The Hole, where stayed for seven weeks, sleeping on the floor with the rest of the management team and eating "slop.'' They were marched in small groups by church security guards to nearby showers and then marched back.

    She said the managers demanded she publicly confess her transgressions, once forcing her to stand in a trash can for hours while they poured water over head.

    During her months at the compound, where hundreds of church staffers live and work, she said she saw church workers physically attack one another several times. Miscavige punched one of his top deputies and wrestled him to the ground to punish the man, she said. Miscavige also grew displeased with her work, she testified. At his direction, one of his assistants slapped Cook so hard she fell into chairs, she said.

    In May 2007, she was freed from The Hole, she testified, and transferred back to Clearwater but was constantly watched. After trying to leave, she and Baumgarten were "basically imprisoned'' there for three weeks, she testified.

    Church officials allowed the couple to go after they signed non-disclosure contracts. A church attorney handed them $50,000 each as compensation for not speaking out against the church. They stayed silent for four years, until Cook's Dec. 31 email blast rocked the Scientology community.

    The email was instrumental in a decision by Clearwater businesswoman Marsha Friedman to leave the church after 43 years. She said she forwarded it to three Scientologist friends, adding she shared Cook's concerns about the church.

    Friedman said Tuesday she admired Cook's courage, adding: "I felt it would take someone of her stature to create awareness among Scientologists to look at what she was saying.''

    Friedman and her husband, Steve, announced in March they had left the church. The three Scientologists to whom Friedman forwarded Cook's email later told Friedman they would have no more contact with her. In the language of Scientology, they "disconnected.''

    After the church lawsuit accused Cook and Baumgarten of violating their agreements, the couple said the agreements were invalid because they signed them under duress. Citing her fear of being reassigned to The Hole, Cook testified she was so eager to leave, "I would have signed that I stabbed babies over and over again and loved it.''

    Church attorneys had called Cook to the stand to testify about breaking her non-disclosure agreement. But a judge allowed Cook's attorney to question her as well, resulting in the damaging testimony.

    At the time, church spokeswoman Pouw called Cook's testimony a collection of "wild tales" by a bitter apostate.

    Cook said it represented only a small part of what she wanted to say, "the tip of the iceberg."


  29. Abuse fits into teachings of L. Ron Hubbard

    By Brian Chasnoff, San Antonio Express-News columnist April 28, 2012

    Last month, I thought the powerful Church of Scientology had finally placed its own head beneath a blade, and right here in Bexar County.

    That the church had done so would not surprise anyone familiar with the doctrine of its late, paranoid founder, L. Ron Hubbard.

    “The only way to defend anything is to ATTACK,” Hubbard wrote more than five decades ago.

    It was unsurprising, then, that the church had sued a high-ranking former member, Debbie Cook, accusing her of violating a nondisclosure agreement when she sent an email to thousands of Scientologists, questioning the church's practices.

    But Hubbard's doctrine of defense, beyond antagonistic, is also unwise. This was revealed in a Bexar County courtroom, where Cook at a pretrial hearing recalled on the stand a series of abuses she endured as a church executive.

    These included imprisonment for weeks at “The Hole,” a series of double-wide trailers at a desert base in California, where Cook testified she was beaten and made to sleep on the floor with ants and stand for hours in a trash can while being doused with cold water, among other forms of torture.

    Cook's lawyer, Ray Jeffrey, argued that she'd signed the nondisclosure agreement after church officials had tortured and kidnapped her, rendering the document not valid.

    What made the case so fascinating — and what inspired me to read Janet Reitman's recent exposé of the church, “Inside Scientology: The Story of America's Most Secretive Religion” — was that it could have forced the church to defend publicly the apparent cruelty it inflicts on its members.

    Jeffrey certainly seemed ready for Battlefield Bexar County.

    “Our response will be huge to this,” the Bulverde attorney said last month. “We're soliciting affidavits from (church defectors) all over the world.”

    With the church demanding a large sum from Cook, Jeffrey told me, “It's not about money. It's about shutting her up. And I just find that offensive.”

    He added, “A church is not allowed to commit crimes.”

    Although Jeffrey suspected the church had placed his own office under surveillance, he remained primed for battle.

    I was disappointed, then, to learn the case was dropped this week when Cook agreed never again to communicate about the church.

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    Before the settlement, she'd blamed the church's abuses on its leader, David Miscavige, who ascended to power after Hubbard's death.

    Cook claimed Miscavige is subverting Hubbard's teachings.

    “If you take it per the writings of the work within the church, it's good, it's kind, it's caring,” she told me. “And that's what's so upsetting. It's been turned into this wicked, vicious scenario.”

    I should have known better.

    In her book, Reitman stresses that Hubbard's philosophy of “ethics” has long been fundamental to Scientology.

    Anyone who misbehaves is considered “out-ethics” — “impediments, or even enemies, of the group, malfunctioning cogs in the Scientology machine,” she writes.

    Commanding his private navy in the late 1960s, Hubbard on the high seas punished such cogs in ways as abusive as those alleged by Cook decades later.

    Crew members were made to wear heavy chains and stay confined for weeks in a dark locker. Some even were cast into the sea, Reitman writes.

    Despite such revelations dropping like blades, the church has survived for decades like a hydra, selling itself anew while revering its founder's dogma.

    In Cook's case, the doctrine backfired, and her damning testimony has woven its way into the history of Scientology.

    But I suspect the church achieved its single-minded goal — her silence — by sticking to Hubbard's canon, which prizes survival above all else.

    A decade after urging “ATTACK,” the founder clarified his position on the church's enemies, who “may be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist.

    “May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.”


  31. Scientology cult ordered me to have an abortion

    By DAVID LOWE, Deputy Features Editor The Sun May 20, 2012

    A BRITISH mum who escaped Scientology after 20 years has revealed her hell in the clutches of the weird secretive cult that targets Hollywood celebs.

    In a startling expose of the sci-fi inspired church — which boasts Tom Cruise and John Travolta as leading members — brave Sam Domingo, 45, from Kent, says they:

    FORCED her to have an abortion when her husband got her pregnant because cult leaders didn’t approve

    PUNISHED her for disobedience by making her dig a huge hole in frozen earth with a pickaxe for two weeks

    SENT her to indoctrinate rich stars at the Scientology Celebrity Centre in Hollywood

    TOOK her passport away so she couldn't flee and fly home

    MADE her scrub a tunnel full of rats and cockroaches for being “disloyal”.

    Mum-of-three Sam, who was once married to opera legend Placido Domingo’s son, said last night: “Some of the things I went through really pushed me to the edge of insanity.

    “Now I just want to see the Church of Scientology crumble. It is a cancer, rotten to the core. It was all a big con.”

    Sam was 21 and looking for the meaning of life when she first became a member.

    She said: “I fell in love with it because it had all the answers I was looking for. The goal was to make the world a better place.

    “I thought at last I’d found a higher purpose for my life.”

    After training at their UK headquarters — Saint Hill Manor in East Grinstead, West Sussex — she was shocked when she was told she was being sent to Hollywood to work at the cult’s top-secret celebrity centre.

    Located on Franklin Avenue, Hollywood, it was like stepping into a five-star hotel, complete with fine paintings, crystal chandeliers, a top-class restaurant and plush carpets.

    And she found herself rubbing shoulders with some of the hottest names in showbiz.

    Sam recalled: “I was a supervisor in the course room for the newest celebrity recruits.

    “Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kirstie Alley were already members, so I looked after people like the actress Juliette Lewis and the musician Isaac Hayes.

    “Juliette was utterly charming and Isaac was adorable.”

    Lewis starred in Cape Fear and Natural Born Killers. Hayes was the voice of the chef in South Park and had a No1 with the song Chocolate Salty Balls.

    After gruelling ten-hour days Sam would be bussed back to the squalor of the cult’s dormitories in an old dilapidated hotel.

    She said: “The heating didn’t work, the food was awful and we were kept in dire conditions.”

    Lonely and far from her family, Sam found herself falling for a colleague called Michael and they married. Despite being on the pill, she got pregnant. The church’s response chills her to this day.

    She said: “I was told in no uncertain terms this was not to be — and to have an abortion as it was for the greater good.

    “It felt like I had just committed a criminal act, the way they reacted. I was full of shock and horror. As I believed in this organisation at the time, the only option was utter compliance. My passport had been taken from me, so I couldn’t just pack up and fly home.

    “An ‘ethics officer’ helped arrange an abortion at a free clinic and I was given a week off to recover and then I was back on post as if nothing had happened.

    “Michael and I divorced a short time later.”

    Recalling how she originally fell under the church’s spell, she said: “When I first became a Scientologist my mother said it was a cult. I told her not to worry, I wouldn’t shave my head and start wearing orange robes. But looking back it led me to do even stranger things.”

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    Sam worked for the church full-time in England. She joined its elite Sea Org division and even signed a ludicrous “billion-year contract” which is standard for all members of the unit.

    She was subjected to “auditing” sessions, in which she was grilled in detail about every part of her life. And there were strange punishments for anyone who broke any of the rules. She said: “In Sea Org you start off as a ‘swamper’ and wear a naval-style uniforms.

    “The ranks include petty officer, captain and lieutenant. I earned around £10 a week and the conditions were terrible.

    “At one point we were surviving on nothing but dried oats, powdered milk and water.

    “I took an unsanctioned visit to see my mother in Derby one Christmas and she gasped when she saw how pale I was.

    “She thought I looked like a plucked chicken. When I got back I was told to dig a hole with a pickaxe as a punishment. It was January and the ground was frozen solid, I spent two miserable weeks outside battling to dig through the hard soil. It was a useless exercise that left me exhausted.”

    It was soon after that when Sam’s superiors informed her she was being sent to Los Angeles — and then began the period of her life that led to the abortion.

    Back at Celebrity Centre after her baby heartbreak and marriage break-up, Sam met a recent Sea Org recruit, Placido Domingo Jnr, son of the star tenor.

    The pair clicked immediately — but church officials tried to ban them from seeing each other. Placi, as Sam calls him, was outraged and they escaped for two days. After their sheepish return to the church, Sam soon learned of the consequences of their disloyalty. She said: “I was placed on the Rehabilitation Project Force, which is for Sea Org members who are in trouble.

    “Someone was assigned to watch me 24 hours a day — they even stood outside the bathroom door.

    “You wear a black boiler suit and have to run everywhere.

    “But the worst part of my punishment was being made to clean a small tunnel under the kitchens in the Sea Org headquarters known as Rats’ Alley. You are given a board with wheels and have to slide in on your back with a bucket and disinfectant.

    “It’s full of cockroaches, silverfish and hardened grease. I spent two weeks down there. It’s not an experience I’d ever care to repeat.”


    But Sam went on to marry Placido in 1996. Although they are now divorced, they are on friendly terms and have three beautiful daughters — Paloma, 16, Victoria, 14, and Daniela, ten.

    It was when Sam and Placido’s marriage ran into difficulty that irreparable cracks also began to appear in her relationship with the church.

    She explained: “I had become aware of several high-level Scientologists having affairs. The high moral fibre and ethical standards that attracted me to the church were lacking.

    “I realised deep down many Scientologists aren’t happy.

    “They were deluding themselves wearing silly fixed grins. Underneath the surface I saw insanity.”

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    Sam, who donated £250,000 to the cult in her 20 years, walked away from the church in 2009.

    Her husband left soon afterwards after they tried to ban him from seeing his ex-wife and children.

    During her time as a Scientologist, Sam progressed to the extremely high spiritual grade of Operating Thetan Five — or OT5 — on the sect’s unique faith scale. She believes Tom Cruise is currently at OT7, meaning he only has one more level to go to reach the highest state, OT8. She is now back in England with her three daughters.

    They want nothing to do with Scientology — and Sam is praying for the collapse of the cult that ruled her life.

    She said: “When I think back to all the celebrities I helped bring into Scientology, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time until they leave.

    “Lisa Marie Presley is rumoured to have quit recently. She appears to have woken up and removed all mention of Scientology from her website.

    “So Lisa Marie Presley has left the building — and more will follow.”

    Sci-Fi writer dreamed it up

    SCIENTOLOGY was founded in 1952 by the late L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer from the US.

    His best-selling book, Dianetics, is a key text for those who follow the faith.

    He claimed humans are really spiritual beings called Thetans, which have lived for trillions of years and are constantly reincarnating.

    As well as attempting to explain the power of the mind, it promotes a unique counselling technique Scientologists call “auditing” to enable individuals to deal with their past.

    The controversial cult has several high-profile converts who are thought to hand over large sums of money to it.

    Hubbard bought Saint Hill Manor as Scientology’s British headquarters at East Grinstead, West Sussex, in 1959.

    In October 2006, a multi-million pound Scientology centre was opened in London, with Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Juliette Lewis in attendance.

    The church claims to have 123,000 followers in the UK.


  34. Is Independent Scientology The Key To Unlock The Church Of Scientology's Secret Agreement With The IRS?

    Peter J Reilly, Forbes Contributor

    Scott Pilutik and I have been having an exchange on whether the 1993 closing agreement between the IRS and Scientology was reasonable. An interesting problem with the agreement is that it is difficult for anyone not involved in it to challenge it. The legal issue is one of standing. Scott is suggesting here that it is possible that Independent Scientologists might have standing to challenge the agreement.

    Most discussions about the Church of Scientology’s exempt status end in futility because, as it turns out, there’s very little anyone can do to correct the mistake. Not only because the secret IRS/Scientology Agreement has been made secret by the parties, but because of the Supreme Court’s increasingly restrictive views on Article III “standing,” which doctrine mandates that only parties whose injuries have been caused by the law in question and which injuries can be redressed by a court may bring a case. An exception to this rule can be found in Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83 (1968), where a taxpayer was permitted to sue over a congressional allocation which violated the establishment clause. This slim precedent was restricted further in the Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation, 127 S. Ct. 2553 (2007) case, where Justice Alito rejected a taxpayer standing challenge to an executive order claimed to violate the establishment clause (on the arbitrary basis that an executive order is not a congressional allocation).

    This leaves only the IRS and the Church of Scientology with standing to challenge the Agreement and, clearly, neither is interested in revisiting the contentious past. Indeed, in the recent case(s) brought by Michael and Maria Sklar, already mentioned here by myself and Peter Reilly, where a Jewish couple unsuccessfully argued for a section 170 deduction based on Scientology’s receiving a perk that they were not, the IRS vigorously defended the Agreement’s continued secrecy, going so far as to refer only to its hypothetical existence.

    Hopeless? Perhaps. But recall Obi-Wan lamenting the sudden dearth of willing and available Jedis until Yoda reminded him, “There is another”

    Despite the Church of Scientology’s increased visibility of late, comparatively few people are aware of the numerous self-identifying Scientologists practicing outside the Church-proper’s strict auspices who refer to themselves as Independent Scientologists or, in some cases, Freezoners. These disaffected, off-brand Scientologists are perceived by Church leader David Miscavige (as by his predecessor L. Ron Hubbard) as grave threats to the institutional Church. This view is somewhat validated because Scientologists practicing outside the Church do not pay money “uplines,” in Scientology parlance, which directly and adversely affects the Church of Scientology’s bottom line. It won’t surprise anyone familiar with the Church that these critical Independent Scientologists endure endless harassment.

    This harassment of Independent Scientologists, together with the guarded inaccessibility of the materials necessary to the practice of Scientology, raise serious first amendment concerns, both with respect to the free exercise interests belonging to Independent Scientologists, and also establishment clause violations arising from the government’s having effectively chosen a side in a religious dispute.

    But wait, you say, isn’t this just a religious dispute between two churches in which the state can’t even intervene without also violating the Constitution? That’s undoubtedly the version Scientology would attempt to sell in court. It’s been found in numerous cases that religious disputes must be decided by the religions themselves so as not to offend the establishment clause.

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    However, the widely accepted “neutral principles” doctrine allows the courts to distinguish between nonjusticiable religious disputes and disputes which can be decided by looking to non-religious evidence, such as deeds and contracts.

    It seems impossible, though, to apply precedents from any of the church governance line of cases [see generally, Calvin Massey, Church Schisms, Church Property, and Civil Authority, 84 St. John's L. Rev. 23 (Winter 2010)], which are typically triggered by a congregational or hierarchical split or disagreement, as compared to the untenable situation that exists between the Church of Scientology and Independent Scientologists.

    First, the manner by which the Church of Scientology controls the licensing to all of the religion’s core content renders the materials effectively inaccessible except through its stringent pay-as-you-go membership structure. This unique scenario leaves the Independents on the outside looking in and unable to build a competing church. Imagine if in the recent Episcopalian schism only one side was permitted, by way of an IRS ruling, to control the publication, distribution, and sale of biblical scripture.

    Church governance case law is additionally inapplicable because unlike typical schisms that organically grow out of religious disputes, the power imbalance between organized and independent Scientology was created by the government through the IRS Agreement. By establishing and endorsing a corporate structure which bestowed an intellectual property monopoly upon a single entity, which it was no secret would (and does) aggressively wield it to suppress others’ free exercise rights, it is now on the state to rectify its constitutional error.

    “But,” you might respond, “the religious dispute you cite didn’t exist in 1993–the IRS-Scientology agreement couldn’t have envisioned the existence of a Scientology offshoot.” You’d be wrong though. Only ten years earlier, in 1983, a high-ranking Scientologist who worked closely with Hubbard, David Mayo (who many contend actually authored some of the Scientology upper level “OT” materials attributed to Hubbard), broke away from the Church and created a competing splinter group called (among other names) the “Advanced Ability Center” (AAC).

    Mayo’s initiative led to his being sued for copyright and trademark infringement and trade secret violations. In deciding whether AAC’s “substantially similar” works infringed on Scientology’s copyrights, a California federal district court found that questions of infringement were outweighed by the “potential hardship from interference with defendants’ religious freedom.” Religious Tech. Ctr. v. Scott, 660 F. Supp. 515, 522 (C.D. Cal. 1987). The Church of Scientology continued to litigate against Mayo through the mid-nineties. Mayo was ultimately awarded $2.9 million in legal fees for the well-documented hell he was put through, after which he evidently signed an agreement to not discuss or compete with Scientology in the future.

    David Mayo’s experience is worth considering because at the time it was brought and litigated, Scientology was not recognized as a tax exempt religion. Whether the case comes out differently if brought today is intriguing but presently academic: despite the Independent Scientology community’s apparent growth no one within the community seems at all interested in incorporating or formalizing a competitor. Which is the point, I suppose–the Church of Scientology has been made so powerful through the IRS settlement agreement that no one is even willing to try, either because of fear or expected inevitable futility.

    If an Independent Scientology entity were to emerge, on what bases might a legal challenge to the IRS-Scientology Agreement be mounted?

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    One area in which the Church of Scientology is particularly susceptible to challenge by Independent Scientology is the potential generification of its popular trademarks (think what happened to “zipper,” “aspirin,” “escalator,” et al.), such as “Scientology,” “Dianetics,” and “e-meter.” David Mayo, in the creation of his Scientology offshoot, carefully avoided infringing on Scientology’s trademarks by designing a parallel lexicon for use in his church. But he shouldn’t have had to endure this free exercise hardship at all, because the term Scientology, for instance, has ceased to be distinctive by its attaining “secondary meaning” through non-organized Scientology channels.

    For a court to uphold the enforcement of Scientology’s trademarks against a hypothetical competing Independent Scientology entity, then, it would necessarily trample on that entity’s own free exercise rights, not to mention its becoming impermissibly entangled in a religious dispute. Such a suit would likely be triggered simply by advertising, say, “Scientology auditing”.

    Another way an Independent Scientology challenge to the IRS-Scientology Agreement could arise would be for an Independent Scientologist to deduct their auditing payments, wait for the IRS to deny the deduction, and challenge the deduction in tax court on the basis that the courts are impermissibly favoring one religion over another. In other words, the same suit brought by the Sklars, with a key exception. The Sklars were denied partly because their children’s Jewish school tuition was fundamentally unlike Scientology auditing–Independent Scientology is functionally identical to Church of Scientology auditing. As such, a Sklars-like suit brought by an Independent Scientologist holds a greater promise for success in exposing the IRS-Scientology Agreement to the light of day.

    The barely attainable Flast standing standard would be unnecessary in any hypothetical Agreement challenge brought by an Independent Scientology entity, where standing would be based not on the person/entity’s status as taxpayer but as a directly interested party suffering a constitutional injury.

    And because the corporate authority exercised by the Church of Scientology derives entirely from the terms of the IRS-Scientology Agreement, and because they utilize their state-granted religious monopoly to inflict both torts and religious injuries upon Independent Scientologists, in any resulting dispute the IRS-Scientology Agreement would be fair game (pun intended).


    Scott Pilutik is an attorney who has written extensively on Scientology and is often cited by the Village Voice as a legal expert.

    You can follow me on twitter @peterreillycpa.


  37. Martin Padfield and the Cult in Your Backyard: 30 Year Scientology Member Calls Group 'Sinister' and 'Dangerous'

    By Brittney R. Villalva , Christian Post Reporter October 21, 2012

    Martin Padfield is the latest former Scientologist to come forward, stating that the religion is a cult.

    Padfield spoke recently in East Grinstead, England, the same town as Scientology's UK headquarters, at a conference called "The Cult in Your Backyard." The 50 year-old man claims to have been an avid devotee of Scientology for over 31 years.

    But after suffering a fall out with the church, Padfield has offered to come forward to offer testimony against what he now calls a "dangerous, corrupt and sinister cult."

    Padfield joined the church when he was only 19, according to Radar Online. He states that he quickly became devoted and joined the SeaOrg, a unit for loyal believers. The commitment required Padfield to move to Hot Springs, California where he then experienced a major "culture shock."

    "I didn't know where I was. I had no contacts in the U.S. outside of Scientology. I had no passports, no money and no possessions. Where I was going to go?" he said in an interview with the London Evening Standard.

    During his time in California, Padfield describes an experience where he fell asleep while working the night shift. As a punishment, he claims he was moved to the "Rehabilitation Project Force."

    The force according to Padfield, was required to wear boiler suits and do grueling hard labor.

    "In practice it is little more than a punishment regime, and some have been on it for years, even decades," he told the paper. "The schedule is even more gruelling, the targets even more insane, and the punishments for slacking or missing targets could be brutal."

    Padfield says that he left the church in 2009, losing any friends that he had made over the years, all of whom now refuse to talk to him.

    "I've sent countless texts and voicemails pleading with them but they don't reply to anything," Padfield said, adding that he is now left with over $160,000 worth of debt that was spent on required courses in order to be a member. The church however, has dismissed all claims.

    "Mr Padfield is a member of a small group of apostates who are anti-Scientologists that seek to spread false information. We know Mr Padfield was removed from Church staff in the early 1990s and has no knowledge of the Church today whatsoever," the organization said in a statement to the Standard.


  38. Young Scientologists Face Control and Interrogation

    by Tony Ortega New York Times JANUARY 9, 2013

    Tony Ortega is a former editor of The Village Voice. He is writing a book about the Church of Scientology and blogs at Tonyortega.org.

    Over its 60-year history, the Church of Scientology has often found itself the center of controversy. But if it's in deeper trouble today, a large part of that may be because of its children.

    In 2008, three young women who had grown up in the church founded a Web site called Ex-Scientology Kids. One of them was Jenna Miscavige Hill, whose uncle, David Miscavige, runs Scientology. Hill's account of how she was regularly interrogated by Scientology's ersatz secret police -- the Office of Special Affairs -- and was kept from her own parents as part of the church's "disconnection" policy, garnered a lot of attention, and inspired a 2008 episode of "Nightline." [see Related Links section above for links]

    Hill's story -- as well as those of the other Ex-Scientology Kids, like the disturbing account by another founder of the site, Astra Woodcraft, which revealed that she had begun Scientology auditing at only 6 years old, and had signed a "billion-year" employment contract at only 14, produced a noticeable shift in the way the press and the public began to talk about the church.

    If adults in Scientology choose to believe in past lives spent on other planets and other unusual things, they have the freedom to make that decision. But what about their kids? Increasingly, we're hearing from young people who grew up not really having a choice about accepting policies of interrogation and control from Scientology's founder, L. Ron Hubbard. Some of the Ex-Scientology Kids have alleged, for example, that any time they were sick, they had to turn in the name of someone who was against Scientology and therefore must have been making them ill.

    After Hill and Woodcraft made the experience of children part of the discussion, more sectors of the press seemed to treat allegations of abuse in Scientology more seriously. That reached something of a fever pitch this summer after the divorce of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, when the public became fascinated by what their daughter, Suri, might have gone through if she had continued in her father's church. There were plenty of ex-Scientology children ready with an answer. And anyone looking for the answer to the question here (when does religion potentially cross a line with children) might consider a "security check" interrogation sheet that L. Ron Hubbard wrote for children as young as six: its first question is "What has somebody told you not to tell?" There was reason to believe Katie knew that Suri might face such questioning.

    And the interest continues. Woodcraft was recently featured on AOL in a short film. Hill's memoir, "Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape," is being published by William Morrow on Feb. 5. It should be eye-opening.


  39. Nicole Kidman On Her Children And Scientology: 'I Utterly Respect Their Beliefs'

    Huffington Post January 17, 2013

    All that Scientology controversy that's re-emerged as of late? Nicole Kidman can't be bothered with it.

    The Hollywood Reporter recently asked the Oscar-winning actress to discuss ex-husband Tom Cruise's ties to Scientology and whether the religion did indeed lead to their divorce in 2001. She's been notoriously silent about Scientology since their split, and she didn't budge much when pressed by THR.

    The magazine recently published an excerpt from Pulitzer-winning nonfiction writer Lawrence Wright's Scientology exposé book "Going Clear." In it, Wright discusses Kidman and Cruise's marriage extensively, blaming the "cult" religion for their divorce.

    "I've chosen not to speak publicly about Scientology," Kidman said when probed. "I have two children [adopted with Cruise] who are Scientologists -- Connor [17] and Isabella [20] -- and I utterly respect their beliefs."

    This is a bit of a 180 for Kidman, who in the wake of the divorce in 2001 insisted that her children not subscribe to Cruise's religion. The "Moulin Rouge!" actress had left Scientology prior to the couple's divorce.

    Wright's book, along with a recent Vanity Fair exposé, claim that Scientology turned her children against her, a notion that Kidman would neither confirm nor deny to THR.


  40. We Know Everything About Celebrity Scientologists, But Nothing About Scientology

    by Mark Oppenheimer The New Republic January 18, 2013

    Most new religions, like most new businesses, die a quick crib death. Scientology, however, is not about to disappear. Scholars put the number of adherents in this country at about 25,000—a far cry from the millions of members its leaders claim, but hardly insignificant for a group that was founded about 50 years ago. Despite all its bad press, the allegations that it terrorizes its critics, its cult-like secrecy and hounding of apostates, and its very weird science-fiction cosmogony, it has become a part of the fabric of communities across the country. Not all of its adherents are deranged, confused or lonely. So why do they spend time with, and money on, Scientology?

    Three recent books about Scientology—Janet Reitman’s Inside Scientology, Hugh Urban’s The Church of Scientology, and now New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief—have attempted to study the faith. I reviewed the first two books, with admiration, for The Nation. Reitman’s remains the most thorough overview of Scientology; Urban shows how both the Cold War and Scientology’s fights with the IRS have affected the religion’s practice. Wright builds on Reitman’s achievement, getting yet more ex-Scientologists on the record, and tracking down even more documents, proving for good what a total fabulist and fraud founder L. Ron Hubbard was. Above all, with the cooperation of ex-Scientologist Paul Haggis, the screenwriter and director, Wright has written what is so far the best book about Scientology’s prominence in Hollywood.

    Yet it’s a curiously empty achievement, for what is actually a pretty obvious reason. Yes, the organization has attracted a small but high-proof trickle of celebrities, like Tom Cruise and John Travolta. But just ask yourself: What do celebrities have to tell us about any aspect of American life, except perhaps our worship of celebrity? Celebrity dads are not like me. Celebrities do not dress like you. They are, by definition, atypical. So knowing a lot more about Tom Cruise’s relationship to Scientology ends up telling us startlingly little about Scientology.

    There’s an obvious reply, which is that no religion besides Scientology has placed “Celebrity Centres” all over the world. Recruiting celebrities was one of Hubbard’s prime goals. But as Wright knows—for he is the author of some of the great journalism about religion and duplicity, like the classic Remembering Satan and the collection Saints & Sinners—it never makes much sense to take religious people at their word. Just because Scientologists want us to think of theirs as the religion of celebrities, that doesn’t mean it is. Whatever their numbers, 25,000 or many millions, celebrities are just a tiny portion. There may be some justification for Wright’s thesis that there are “three tiers of Scientologists” —the anonymous members of the public, the clergy, and “a small number of Hollywood actors and other celebrities”—but by focusing on the tiniest of the three groups, Wright is, in a perverse way, doing the Scientologists’ propaganda.

    Not that the Scientologists will see it that way. Where Reitman’s book, building on reports from the St. Petersburg Times and elsewhere, documented the horrific abuses that take place in at the Scientology headquarters in Clearwater, Fla., Wright shows that similar atrocities take place in Southern California. Scientologists who want to leave are held against their will, possibly enslaved, he implies. If they leave, they may lose contact with their families forever. One young Scientologist was recruited to be a girlfriend—a sex toy, it seems—for Tom Cruise, who it seems dumped her when he got bored. Wright’s book is a strong indictment, and I found it exciting, and prurient, to read.

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  41. But Wright’s passion for the Hollywood story accounts, I think, for two major flaws in the book. First, it is obvious that he loves his L.A. material best—especially his Paul Haggis scoop, which originally appeared in The New Yorker: revelations about the church’s inner workings from a high-profile, celebrity apostate. But much of the book is curiously slack, and filled with errors of emphasis and judgment. Wright writes phrases that may sound right but, on closer inspection, are all Swiss-cheesey. For example, was Southern California after World War II really “swarming with Theosophists, Rosicrucians, Zoroastrians, and Vedantists”? How do we know it was swarming thus? The footnotes are spotty. Wright seems to be relying here on Hugh Urban’s work, but his précis of it does not inspire confidence. Why include Zoroastrians, who are not members of some faddish cult but in fact of a Persian religion older than Christianity? Wright says that Cruise “was a natural actor, but also persistent and choosy”—why “but”? I’d think that the best actors are, of course, persistent and choosy. Cruise’s hair is not “spiky,” as several hundred million people can tell you. I want to believe in the existence of “a charismatic Belgian obstetrician named Luc Journet,” but is Wright sure he was charismatic? Or is that just a bit of automatic, feel-good writing? Throughout, Wright tries to keep his paragraphs lively by substituting unearned conclusions and gap-ridden inferences for real writerly vigor. The original New Yorker article about Haggis was taut, lean, and muscular—like the coiffed Cruise, a perfect specimen.

    But my real concern with this In-N-Out burger of a book, hastily cooked but scrumptious, is that its focus occludes the story we really need: what life is like for “the public” Scientologist, the average, everyday Scientologist. Wright can only write the book he is called to write, of course. But now that Reitman has turned her Rolling Stone articles into a book, and Wright his New Yorker article, now that Urban and others have taken a scholarly view, we still lack a journalistic or ethnographic account of what life is like for, say, a middle-class Scientologist in New Haven, Conn.

    I don’t pick that example idly. At the end of my block lies the Scientology center of New Haven. During the Halloween children’s parade through the neighborhood, as my daughters and others did a quarter-mile loop through the business district in their costumes, the Scientologists were handing out candy, just like the other tenants in the small village of shops. My children consumed Scientologists’ Tootsie Rolls (if I recall correctly). But the local church seems to have fallen on hard times. In 2003, it purchased the old Hallock’s appliance-store building, which before that had been a Masonic temple. But perhaps because the Scientologists never raised enough money for a renovation, the Scientologists stayed in their office storefront on Whalley Avenue. Then, a few months ago, they vacated their street-level space for what is likely a cheaper upstairs office.

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  42. I know several local Scientologists, and I have spoken with their local leader. None of them, as far as I know, is enslaved. They hold real-people jobs. One of them babysat my daughters, once. Yet they obviously are willing to send their dollars up the hierarchy to people who, if all this scrupulous reporting can be believed, are pretty well evil, and do evil things to those who have the misfortune to displease the bosses.

    Why did they join the church, and what keeps them in the church, never meeting Tom Cruise or Kirstie Alley or Jenna Elfman, just working normal jobs and paying steep fees for classes and “auditing” sessions? Does their choice make them analogous to the Catholic who disagrees with the pope but still supports her local parish? Perhaps, in a sense. There is an analogy there, but there are, by necessity, disanalogies. All religions are different. The interior quality of being a faithful Muslim in a village in Indonesia is different from the interior quality of being an Israeli Jew in Tzfat, or a Zoroastrian in the American diaspora. All three may have faith, but the faith probably feels different, works on them differently. And they are embedded in different communities of faith.

    What is it like to be embedded in the minority culture of small-town Scientology? Almost nobody has studied that. Instead, we just keep reading about Tom Cruise.

    And not just because we all are drawn to Tom Cruise. It would be very hard to write a book about a Scientology community from the inside. No academic is likely to get the story. To get his research proposal past an institutional review board, a social scientist or other scholar would have to promise to identify himself to his subjects, to the Scientologists—who would of course then refuse to cooperate. And many newspapers, like my own, The New York Times, forbid reportersto gather news under false pretenses (restaurant critics are exempt). I would not be allowed to join the Scientology center down the street under the pretense that I was just a curious soul, then write a series of articles about it.

    So who could? Perhaps a reporter from a scrappy alt-weekly newspaper, or from a college paper, or from a web ’zine. I hope that someone reads these words and heeds the call. Because until someone does, we are going to get more stories about Scientology in Hollywood and in Florida. And while I love a juicy story about the pope in Rome, I also realize that the church, the real church, is not just there, but everywhere.

    Mark Oppenheimer writes the Beliefs column for The New York Times. He is the author of the memoir Wisenheimer: A Childhood Subject to Debate, and he tweets here: @markopp1


  43. L. Ron Hubbards great-grandson: Scientology is 'a dangerous cult,' 'absolute poison'

    New York Post January 18, 2013

    L. Ron Hubbard’s great-grandson says Scientology is a “dangerous cult” that ruined his grandfather’s life and cast a dark shadow on his family.

    “My family sees Scientology as absolute poison,” Jamie DeWolf tells Page Six. “It’s a dangerous cult.”

    DeWolf’s great-grandfather, L. Ron Hubbard, created Scientology, and his grandfather, L. Ron Hubbard Jr., was a high-ranking member for most of his life.

    “But he became disgusted about what he was seeing behind the curtain, so he left,” DeWolf says. “For the rest of his life, he was hunted. And he couldn’t even have a relationship with his father.”

    The Scientology founder “became more and more unhinged in his last days,” DeWolf claims. “He was lost in his own little wonderland, surrounded by this armada, this dark security force. He was totally lost.”

    L. Ron Jr. changed his name and moved away so he could try to disentangle his family from his church, and the family’s dark history was rarely mentioned as DeWolf grew up.

    “I had a natural affinity towards being a writer, and my family supported that and made reference to the fact that my great-grandfather was a famous writer,” he reveals. “They would show me his science fiction books but did not mention Scientology. In some ways, he was a very early role model for me.”

    But when DeWolf found a picture of his great-grandfather in a book about cults around age 8, he says, “Then I started to ask questions. Then I started to learn about this darker legacy.”

    DeWolf, now a writer and performer, has recently started disentangling his family’s messy past in his work, including a performed piece called “The God and the Man,” and others on his Web site. But even though he was raised Baptist Christian and never had anything to do with the church, his family warned him about mentioning it in public.

    “My uncle said it was like poking a sleeping dog,” DeWolf laughs. “The Scientologists didn’t know who I was or where I was, so why should I take the risk? My family was very wary.”

    And rightly so, it turned out. “Immediately they came after me and came to my door and were hunting me down,” he remembers. “They had a whole cover story. They told people that they did a show with me and that they were promoters, fellow poets and artists.”

    “They were just lying to everybody,” he says. “I had private investigators following me. It’s possible my phone line had been tapped. They fight nasty. Part of it actually is a certain malicious glee in going after their targets.”

    But people in Scientology, he says, have it much worse. DeWolf has said that that reality probably even contributed to the Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes split. “The more [Katie] saw behind the curtain,” he’s said, “the more horrified that she probably was.” And that dark truth is why he speaks out.

    “The more that I perform, and especially in the last two three years, I’ve met people who’ve had 20 years of their lives utterly destroyed by this cult,” he says. “They have relatives they can’t speak to any more, lost their kids, lost their house. It’s become very serious to me. For me to even speak out on my own genetic legacy and to be aware that I could absolutely threatened and hunted for that, that really emboldened me. I’m not gonna die with these secrets and they should be exposed.”

    (The Church of Scientology has previously rejected DeWolf’s claims, saying: “Despite his public representations and self-promotion, Mr. DeWolf is not knowledgeable about the Church of Scientology or its founder.”)


  44. Is Latest Scientology Lawsuit The Beginning Of The End For David Miscavige And The Church Of Tom Cruise?

    BY Ellen Killoran | International Business Times January 27 2013

    On Tuesday, former prominent Scientologists Luis and Rocio Garcia filed a federal lawsuit against the Church of Scientology, charging fraud over the use of donations given to the church toward what the plaintiffs believed were charitable causes, and accusing the church of unlawfully refusing to grant refunds to members who paid for services that were not rendered.

    Some familiar with the inner workings of the church believe the lawsuit has the power to start a chain reaction that could ultimately unravel the deeply controversial and mysterious religion – or at least deal a devastating blow to Scientology’s core leadership, headed by David Miscavige.

    The Garcias were among a group of Scientologists who donated a total in excess of $200 million toward the construction of the so-called “Superpower Building” in Clearwater, Fla., which has not yet opened more than 14 years after its groundbreaking ceremony. According to the lawsuit, the Church of Scientology Religious Trust – Scientology’s fundraising arm – reported to the IRS in 1993 its intention to raise $40 million for the construction of the building, raising the question of where the balance has been directed.

    The lawsuit takes direct aim at the controversial Miscavige, who has been accused of all manner of impropriety since becoming the face of Scientology – from beating church staff, to embezzlement, to being somehow involved in the presumed disappearance of his wife, who has not been seen in public since 2006, though the church maintains she is alive and well. Through it all, Miscavige has remained a close friend and confidant to Scientology’s most famous member, Tom Cruise. He served as best man in Cruise’s wedding to Katie Holmes, and was implicated as playing a central role in the alleged “girlfriend auditions” for Cruise that supposedly led to that now-dissolved union.

    “The Church, under the leadership of David Miscavige, has strayed from its founding principles and morphed into a secular enterprise whose primary purpose is taking people’s money,” the lawsuit claims.

    The Garcias are not the first ex-Scientologists to file a complaint against the controversial church, which has largely avoided serious legal penalties by invoking the First Amendment’s freedom of religion protection. Most recently, in July 2012, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Claire and Marc Headley’s claims that they were forced into unpaid labor while longtime members of the Church of Scientology. The three-judge panel ruled that the Headleys were submitting voluntarily to the rules set forth by the Sea Organization – “Sea Org” – which is a division of the church.

    The Garcias’ lawyer, Theodore Babbit, says that won’t happen this time. “If you defraud somebody, it’s not a First Amendment issue,” Babbit said. Indeed, the lawsuit appears to be worded in such a way as to pre-empt any attempts by the church to have it dismissed on the grounds of religious freedom -- at one point explicitly stating that the “plaintiffs are not taking a position one way or another on the validity of Scientology as a religion. Rather, Plaintiffs seek to highlight the secular commercial nature of the fraudulent activities and inappropriate business dealings.”

    Babbit said he expects the Garcias’ lawsuit to be the first in a wave of similar suits he hopes will lead to an injunction against the church. “I have been contacted by approximately 20 people who have very similar stories who want to bring litigation,” he said. “If injunction is granted it will be a game changer.”

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  45. Though Babbit did not get into the specifics of the forthcoming lawsuits, it is more than likely that some of those plaintiffs will be seeking damages related to monetary deposits made for the purposes of “auditing,” a process of evaluation -- or interrogation, depending on whom you ask. These deposits can amount to tens of thousands of dollars and are a requirement for every member of the church who wishes to advance in rank towards the highest of goal of Scientology, which is to be literally endowed with superhuman abilities and immortality. According to multiple sources, the church strongly encourages members to pay for their auditing hours in advance, and offers a bulk discount as incentive for members to add funds to their auditing accounts. If a Scientologist leaves or is expelled from the church, it can be difficult for him to reclaim the money he has put up. But the Garcias’ complaint insists that the church is required by its own “Doctrine of Exchange” to provide refunds to parishioners who request them.

    Tony Ortega, the former Village Voice editor-in-chief who left his post to write a book and focus on his Scientology blog "The Underground Bunker," said the church puts “enormous pressure” on members to increase their status – which he says is tantamount to donating more money. He also explained that as a Scientologist rises in the ranks, the auditing becomes not only more costly but greatly protracted. A Scientologist may pay thousands of dollars for a certain amount of auditing hours believed to be the requirement for advancement, only to later find that her auditors are unconvinced she is ready to ascend. The auditors, or “counselors,” then keep her in a holding pattern, requiring more time, more auditing, and of course, more money. “They tend to get stuck in OT7 [the second highest level] for years,” Ortega said.

    Jason Beghe, an actor ("Californication," "Chicago Fire") and former Scientologist who has been embroiled in legal battles with the church since his departure, concurs that auditing gets more expensive as a Scientologist ascends, but said he was able to get a refund for the funds he had on account – which he estimated to be somewhere between $5,000 and $6,000. “Not a lot,” he said. But not without a fight. Beghe said the church initially demanded he sign extensive legal documentation preventing him from ever filing a future claim, which he refused. Instead, he stated his intent to take the case to small claims court – something he said the church was dead-set against. Almost immediately, the church agreed to give Beghe the refund with his own conditions in place. But he said that when he met with a church representative to finalize the transaction, she initially gave him the original, unamended document -- the one he had refused -- to sign. When he pointed this out, she claimed it was a clerical error before providing the updated agreement.

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  46. In its internal communications, the church defends the hefty and graduated auditing charges on the expense of hiring exceptionally trained auditors. The higher a Scientologist’s ranking, the more experienced and by extension more pricey the auditor must be. But it is unclear where this money – approximately $1,000 an hour for a highly trained auditor – goes, as Beghe insists the auditors are given a meager salary of roughly $50 a week, along with room and board. (Beghe’s claims correspond with outside reports of church staff salaries.)

    Asked why active Scientologists do not question this discrepancy, Beghe insisted that the church indoctrinates members from the beginning not to question the intentions or practices of Scientology. To that end, Scientologists are enthusiastically discouraged from reading newspapers or spending too much time on the Internet, and are told unequivocally to dismiss any allegations of impropriety. Scientologists are conditioned to believe that any criticism of the church “is all lies” and that accusers “are angry bitter apostates,” Beghe said. But what about someone like Tom Cruise, who surely cannot ignore the massive amounts of negative press about his relationship with the Church of Scientology?

    “Tom Cruise doesn’t want to know,” Beghe said. “The embarrassment, the shame, the wasted life and money, it’s too hard to look at.”

    Perhaps even more effective than this alleged mind control in protecting the church from punishment for financial abuses is the Church of Scientology’s tax-exempt status, hard-won in 1993 after a 25-year battle with the IRS, believed by critics to be a well-orchestrated campaign involving stalking and harassment of individual IRS agents, and multiple, frivolous lawsuits against the IRS itself. According to the prevailing narrative, the turning point in this battle was an impromptu 1991 meeting among Miscagive, Marty Rathbun (who has since become an outspoken “apostate”) and then-IRS commissioner Fred T. Goldberg Jr. According to a New York Times investigation and Rathbun's account as told to Ortega, Miscagive told Goldberg the church would halt all legal action against the IRS in exchange for tax exemptions. In response, Goldberg reportedly ordered a special committee to review the Church of Scientology's application, which two years later resulted in every division of the church being granted tax-exempt status, reversing the IRS's two-and-a-half decade insistence that the Church of Scientology was a commercial enterprise and not entitled to tax benefits reserved for nonprofit organizations.

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  47. It was an enormous victory for Scientology, and one that has allowed the church to control, with meager documentation, the lion's share of the purportedly millions of dollar in fees and donations it solicits from its members.

    Goldberg, who left the IRS in 1992 for a career in the private sector, did not respond to a request for comment. A representative for the IRS declined to answer any specific or general questions about how the IRS grants tax-exempt status to churches and under what conditions such exemptions might be revoked, stating, "federal law prohibits the IRS from discussing or commenting on specific taxpayers or situations."

    Neither Babbit or Ortega believes the lawsuit filed by the Garcias this week will have any direct impact on the church's status in the IRS, and Babbit said the lawsuit was not at all concerned with the tax exemptions, but rather the alleged fraud. Ortega offered a gentle defense of the IRS's dramatic reversal 20 years ago, insisting that the tactics of the Church of Scientology are so egregious that anyone would eventually become defeated or exhausted by them. As for any future plans for the IRS to revoke Scientology's protections, Ortega said it is likely that the IRS is confident the church will undo itself without any help from the government. "I have a feeling that people in the government in a position to do something might be convinced that Scientology is going to collapse on its own," he said, adding that Lawrence Wright, the Pulitzer-prize winning author of "Going Clear" and the definitive New Yorker article about Paul Haggis and Scientology, said this week at a New York City speaking engagement that Scientology was "headed for a reckoning," something Ortega firmly believes is true.

    For his part, Beghe was less certain this was the beginning of the end for Scientology itself, but did seem to feel that its leader's days were numbered.

    "You have to remember these people are so convinced in their rightness," he said, adding that Miscagive is "off his rocker. And he can now be counted on to continually make decisions that lead toward the destructive. It would not be surprising to me if the era of Miscagive comes to an end. How that happens I don’t know—will he end up in the slammer or run off to Venezuela?"

    Benghe said he can guarantee that Miscagive has "all the money he needs set up somewhere. And a place to go where he’s untouchable."


  48. Scientology and the cloak of religion

    By Neil Macdonald, CBC News January 30, 2013

    Scientology is a religion. Of that there is no doubt.

    The U.S. Internal Revenue Service says so, and in this country, that's pretty much the final word.

    The designation means a lot legally, but as a matter of objective fact it is neither a laurel nor a pejorative.

    It merely lumps Scientology in with all the other belief systems, from the Big Three of monotheism, with their billions of followers and hundreds of sub-sects, right down to self-proclaimed prophets seeking to found new faiths.

    To each his own gods and rituals. For those of us who live wholly in the secular world, no religious doctrine is more or less credible, or worthy of ridicule, than any other.

    The law must look upon all religious belief with indifference, and does, at least in most Western nations.

    But, after reading Lawrence Wright's searing new investigative book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, my usual indifference has given way to concern.
    On second thought, make that fright. And not just about L. Ron Hubbard's secretive army of adherents.

    Because Wright's book demonstrates in granular detail what an organization with enough money and zealous acolytes can do once it has wrapped itself in a religious cloak: assault, conspire, burgle, forge, perjure, spy, bully and intimidate anyone who gets in its way.

    Convince your flock that they are above earthly laws, and they go about their task with, well, religious ferocity.

    Dirty tricks
    In Scientology's case, as Wright explains, the church targeted any and all opponents to an almost unimaginable degree.

    It coordinated campaigns to smear and frame investigative journalists, driving one courageous author, Paulette Cooper, to waste away and contemplate suicide (until the church file on Cooper was uncovered by the FBI).

    Defectors from Scientology were tracked down and punished. In one case, an apostate died during her "treatment" — extended solitary confinement and controlled diet.

    Then the church targeted the medical examiner who had refused to rule the death an accident. (She changed her ruling to "accidental," satisfying the church, and then retired, becoming a recluse.)

    In fact, if Wright's meticulous research is correct, Scientology's nasty methods triumphed in just about every case.

    Not only could the U.S. government not protect the individuals from the savagery of Scientology's dirty tricks department, it couldn't even protect itself.

    After the FBI uncovered evidence in the 1960s that Scientology had systematically infiltrated government departments with church spies, Scientology's tax-exempt status was revoked, triggering a two-decade war with Washington.

    According to Wright, the church in that time filed 2,500 lawsuits, swamping government lawyers. Scientology agents dug into the private lives of IRS staff, looking for evidence of drinking or marital cheating, then planted news stories on them.

    It offered a $10,000 reward for dirt on the tax agency.

    Body armour
    Eventually, the IRS backed down, defeated. But fight any temptation to cheer.

    Effectively, what we have here is a profit-making machine that disregarded the law to pursue restitution of its tax-exempt status, which in turn made it even more potent, even more immune to the rules that govern the rest of us.

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  49. Yes, other big profit-making entities push government around, too — just take a look at Wall Street — but none has the body armour of a church.

    Skeptical? Ask yourself this: If it were proved that senior employees of Microsoft, or Bank of America, had been sexually assaulting minors worldwide for decades, overwhelmingly young boys in their care, and senior company management had been complicit, either ignoring the abuse or actually taking steps to cover it up in order to protect the company's image, how long would it be before that company would be facing a Justice Department strike force? Or bankruptcy?

    Yet the Roman Catholic Church was, at most, dented by such horrific revelations. Individual priests have been charged worldwide, yes. But efforts to hold the church hierarchy responsible for the crimes that were covered up have been exceedingly rare.

    Inevitably, that is because of the severe pushback that any large religious organization can command if it feels threatened.

    Populated by aliens
    A signal moment for Scientology came in the mid-1980s, during a lawsuit that threatened to make public some of its doctrinal secrets.

    Scientologists believe Earth was formerly called Teegeeack and was populated with aliens by a dark lord named Xenu, who stuffed them into volcanoes and destroyed them with hydrogen bombs.

    The spirits of these aliens subsequently attached themselves to humans, but they can be shaken free by a series of very expensive counselling courses offered by, of course, Scientology. Such courses can easily eat up life savings, and have.

    The church believed that the public revelation of these secret beliefs would hold it up to ridicule, perhaps even permanent damage.

    So Scientologists attacked the lawyer suing them, bugging his home and infiltrating his office. They harassed the judge, going so far as to involve his son, who was gay.

    When none of it worked, they tried to flood the legal process and gum up release of the documents, which were nonetheless published in the Los Angeles Times.

    But the church was wrong about the damaging potential of its secret doctrine. The revelations caused some tittering, and vanished.

    Perhaps that is because while the doctrine might have indeed been fantastical to some, it's hardly unusual.

    Tens of millions of Americans take other such stories as the literal truth: Mormons with their belief in extraterrestrial life and the supernatural qualities of their undergarments; Christians with their talking snake and virgin birth; Muslims with their flying horse and human ascension to heaven; the Raelians with their group sex, spaceships and swastikas.

    The list is infinite. But in a democracy, the state must regard all such ideas as equally valid.

    And the fact is, no one has anything to fear from religious parables and doctrine, as long as they remain in church.

    The trouble almost always begins when people begin to think that divine laws supersede those of their fellow human beings. The fact that religions enjoy certain immunities from taxation, and from what goes on between spiritual adviser and believer, doesn't help.


  50. Narconon of Georgia and allegations of insurance fraud

    By Pete Combs WSB Radio January 31, 2013

    Already facing a wrongful death and civil conspiracy lawsuit in the 2008 overdose of a patient and battling revocation of its license by state regulators, Narconon of Georgia is now being investigated because of allegations of insurance fraud.

    In a joint investigative enterprise with Channel 2 Action news and the AJC, News-Talk WSB has uncovered allegations that the Scientology-based drug and alcohol rehab program headquartered in Norcross is accused of trying to bill United Health Care $166,000 for treating 19-year old Emily Morton of Rome, Ga.

    Emily’s mother, Mary, wrote a $15,000 check – payment up front and in full – to enroll her daughter in the Narconon program in March, 2012. Her family also signed an agreement with Narconon that stated the complete cost of treatment was $15,000 .

    Shortly after Emily began treatment at Narconon, Mary said she had an encounter with Executive Director Mary Reiser.

    “She confronted me and said, ‘Your insurance hasn’t reimbursed anything for Emily’s stay,” Morton said. “I told her, if they reimbursed at all, they would reimburse us (the family) because we paid in full. And she said she wasn’t aware of what our contract was.”

    Her curiosity piqued, Morton began checking her insurance records. She was astounded at what she found. Narconon had billed her insurance company, United Health Care, more than $166,000.00 for Emily’s treatment, in spite of the signed documents that said Mary had paid the bill in full.

    “They were billing for doctor visits – one amount was for $58,000.00. And she never even saw the doctor,” Morton said.

    The doctor visits were billed under two names: Dr. Casey Locarnini at the Dunwoody Urgent Care Clinic and Dr. Lisa Robbins at the Robbins Health Care Alliance in Stone Mountain.

    When asked about billings for treatment of Emily Morton, Dawn Warner, an employee of Robbins Health Care Alliance, emailed the following statement:

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We have NEVER authorized Narcanon or anyone associated with Narcanon to bill ANY insurance under Dr. Robbins. We have NOT seen any of Narcanon's students in several years. Since this does not effect the privacy of our patients, I can tell you we never seen a patient named Emily Morton. If they indeed did bill under Dr. Robbins this is insurance fraud. I would like to find out how many times they have done this sort of thing. I simply can not believe that Narcanon would have the gaul to try something like this again. Thank you for your assistance.

    Similarly, News-Talk WSB received a statement from Douglas Chalmers, Jr., an attorney who represents Dr. Locarnini:

    "A number of weeks ago, Dr. Locarnini provided notice that he was terminating his contract with Narconon. This past week, he retained our law firm to fully investigate the billing issues that have been brought to his attention…. For a variety of reasons, including protecting the privacy and confidentiality of his patients, he is not able to comment further at this time."


    “Sounds like a problem to me,” said Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner Ralph Hudgens when he learned of Emily Morton’s story. Hudgens said he has opened an investigation into Narconon of Georgia so that “we can determine whether or not insurance fraud has taken place.”

    continued in next comment...

  51. Hudgens said he has assigned a team of investigators under the supervision of Fraud Division Chief Drew Lane to look into allegations of wrongdoing on the part of Narconon of Georgia.

    “Hopefully we can get there before the shredder starts running,” Hudgens said. But even if Narconon, which has been sanctioned in the wrongful death suit brought by survivors of former patient Patrick Desmond (www.wsbradio.com/s/narconon) for destroying and hiding vital evidence, does not produce records sought by Hudgens’ investigators, there are other methods of seeking that information. For instance, Hudgens said, investigators can issue a call for data to insurance companies serving Georgia, asking for information about any claims paid to Narconon.

    “We have teeth,” Hudgens said. “We have been successful in getting fraud prosecuted.”


    Narconon did not respond to queries about its insurance practices. Barbara Marschalk, a respected attorney representing the rehab organization, confirmed to News-Talk WSB that the facility’s founder and executive director, Mary Reiser, recently resigned.

    Marschalk issued the following statement by email:

    "Narconon of Georgia has served the Atlanta community for the past decade, both in the field of drug education prevention and drug rehabilitation. Scores of successful Narconon graduates can attest that their participation in the program led to recovery, sobriety and saved lives. Narconon of Georgia is concerned that recent media coverage has been manipulated by persons who are biased against Narconon and who believe they can profit by stirring up negative publicity just before a trial on completely unrelated issues. Narconon of Georgia intends to comply with its legal and ethical obligations to maintain the privacy of the men and women who have turned to it for help in overcoming drug addiction, and, therefore, we are unable to respond to inquiries regarding specific individuals who enrolled in the program. Narconon of Georgia can and does say that the organization follows customary and usual billling practices and procedures and that the payment terms are clearly explained."

    As the Insurance Commissioner’s investigation gets underway, Narconon continues to fight for its life before the Georgia Department of Community Health, which late last year revoked Narconon’s license to operate after more than a decade of warnings and complaints that it could not substantiate. Narconon has vowed to appeal that revocation in a process that could take several months.

    Later this month, Narconon goes to trial, defending itself in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of Patrick Desmond, a patient who died after overdosing on alcohol and heroin in 2008. The family’s lawyers contend Narconon lied to them and to the drug court that sentenced Patrick to mandatory residential treatment by representing itself as an inpatient facility when it is actually licensed only as an outpatient rehab program.


  52. Scientology leader David Miscavige's twin sister faces marijuana charges

    by Joe Childs, Managing Editor/Tampa Bay Times June 29, 2013

    The black Dodge Durango was parked next to the house that had been such a problem for St. Petersburg police. Street cop Terrence Nemeth was watching. Shortly before 7 p.m., the Durango went out the back way. It turned into an alley and then drove into the street, nearly hitting an ambulance.

    Nemeth stopped it. A middle-aged woman was at the wheel. The officer told her he had seen the car at "a known drug house.''

    Could he search it?

    She said yes.

    Under the driver's seat Nemeth found a black vinyl bag with nine cigars, or "blunts," containing marijuana.

    The woman said she didn't know how it got there. But she slurred her words, belched, smelled of alcohol, and had bloodshot, watery eyes, Nemeth reported. Breath tests showed readings of 0.119 and 0.124, above the 0.08 at which Florida law presumes that someone is unable to safely drive a motor vehicle.

    Police charged the driver with misdemeanor marijuana possession, DUI and failure to yield. Nemeth took her to jail.

    It probably seemed a routine arrest. But the woman was Denise Gentile, and in her world, this was anything but routine.

    Gentile, of Clearwater, is a well-known Scientologist and the twin sister of the church's worldwide leader, David Miscavige.

    Her marijuana arrest is messy for the church because Scientologists have zero tolerance for mind-altering substances. They believe street drugs and psychiatric medicines make spiritual growth impossible.

    "The single most destructive element present in our current culture," church founder L. Ron Hubbard wrote, "is drugs."

    The church treatise What Is Scientology? flatly states: "Scientologists are … drug-free (none at all use illegal street drugs)."

    Gentile's pot bust has remained a secret. But it is just the beginning of the story.

    Miscavige's sister has been involved with drug users and drug sellers for years, an investigation by the Tampa Bay Times reveals.

    Her husband, Gerald Gentile, owned the "drug house'' his wife was seen leaving on Jan. 22. Denise Gentile collected rents from tenants in the four rental units. They called her "Miss Denise.''

    She knew some residents used and sold drugs, but did nothing to stop it, former tenants said.

    Drug sales at the Gentile property got so bad police raided it twice in

    14 months, busting up a marijuana den and what police called a cocaine sales operation.

    The city contacted the Gentiles after the first raid, insisting they curb the drug activity. But the sales continued, according to police and former residents.

    Miss Denise kept coming by, demanding money. And former tenants said she left with more than cash.

    • • •

    Denise Gentile, 53, has pleaded not guilty. She is fighting the marijuana and DUI charges with the help of Tampa criminal defense attorney Jo Ann Palchak. Palchak is an associate at Zuckerman Spaeder, a firm the church has hired to represent it in court. She would not say who is paying for Gentile's defense.

    Gentile's pretrial hearing is July 25. Neither she nor her husband has a criminal record in Florida.

    Both declined to be interviewed. But Palchak said Denise "summarily denies any allegation that she received contraband from anyone." The lawyer said Denise had no knowledge of drug activity at the property.

    A summary of the Times' findings sent to the Gentiles "contains numerous inaccuracies which are shocking, hurtful and defamatory," Palchak said.

    The church and David Miscavige declined to comment. "The church does not discuss Mr. Miscavige's family as it would be inappropriate to do so," spokeswoman Karin Pouw said.

    • • •

    The house at 620 15th St. N and its three detached apartments at 620 ½ were painted bedroom-blue. They stood out in the frayed neighborhood west of St. Anthony's Hospital.

    continued in next comment...

  53. Gerald Gentile, an electrical engineer, bought them in 2005, when property values were soaring. He financed the purchase with a $157,250 mortgage. Monthly payments were $917.

    Rents easily surpassed that.

    Tenants in the house paid $675 a month. The ground floor apartment in the duplex rented for $500. The slightly larger unit upstairs fetched $625.

    Roreco Currie — everybody calls him Rico — paid $500 to live in the cottage by the alley.

    Miss Denise stopped by nearly every month to collect rents. She asked tenants for a separate payment for the water, sewer and trash bills, which usually were less than $100 per unit.

    "She was very nice,'' Currie said. He knew she lived in Clearwater but didn't know she was a Scientologist, let alone a member of its first family.

    For a while, he covered the rent with disability payments he got for sickle cell disease. When that money ran out, he tried selling T-shirts, socks and snacks on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street. But the city chased away street vendors. He fell behind.

    "I was about to get kicked out,'' said Currie, 36. "What I did, I just started selling some marijuana back in that apartment.'' Dealing allowed him to stay.

    The upstairs apartment in the duplex came open in 2010. Currie moved in, but kept the cottage. Total rent: $1,000.

    He now was on-site property manager. He cut the grass and trimmed the bushes. Tenants went to him about leaky faucets and broken appliances.

    Miss Denise knew he was smoking and selling marijuana, Currie said.

    "Every time she would come, people would be coming and knock,'' Currie said. "I was trying to keep everything discreet. But she kind of figured it out. She asked me what I was selling. I told her.''

    The enterprising tenant turned the cottage into a party house. Strippers danced after midnight. People paid $10 to get in — and more after that.

    "To see one of the girls in the back house, on a pole or whatever, they had to come by and buy some liquor,'' Currie said. Guests paid the dancers by throwing money on the floor.

    Currie did business by appointment only.

    "You're not just going to walk up and knock and purchase something.

    That's just not happening.''

    • • •

    Small cigars called blunts are cheap, sold everywhere and easily converted into marijuana joints.

    Currie was smoking one on the steps of his upstairs apartment when his landlord walked up.

    "She asked me, did I have any more?"

    "I told her, 'Yeah.' "

    That night, Denise phoned him, Currie said, asking what he had been smoking. He told her.

    "She was like, 'Well, can you hook me up?' "

    Denise paid for blunts with rent money Currie handed her in an envelope, he said.

    "She would sit in her car, count it. But then she'd say, 'You got any cigs?' " She would give him $30 or $40 for a few blunts, he said.

    He soon proposed a new arrangement. He'd pay the water bills with blunts instead of cash. A blunt was worth $10, he told her, so he'd give her 15 for a $150 water bill. He paid his bill with marijuana for months, he said.

    Denise often called or texted to alert him she was coming by.

    "I'd ask, how did she want it? Half money and half cigs?'

    "She'd say, 'Can I have it all in cigs?' "

    A couple of times, she bought hydroponic blunts. They were $20. Currie sold her just two or three at a time. He paid the rest of his water bill with regular pot.

    Currie said he gave Denise 10 to 20 marijuana blunts nearly every month from summer 2011 until he was arrested and jailed in October 2012.

    "It was a monthly thing,'' he said. Weed for the water bill.

    continued in next comment...

  54. He said he never smoked marijuana with Miss Denise, but she once mentioned a previous batch hadn't tasted good, he said.

    "Denise is not a bad person,'' he said. "She just came around to collect our rent. I don't fault her. She helped me out.''

    • • •

    Denise Miscavige's bloodlines afford her near-nobility status in Scientology circles.

    Her father, Ronald Miscavige Sr., a trumpet player and salesman in the Philadelphia area, first tried Scientology "auditing'' in the early 1970s. The one-on-one counseling sessions are said to help Scientologists purge from their "reactive mind'' negative images believed to be causing emotional or physical pain.

    The elder Miscavige saw such benefit he and his wife moved their four children to England for several months to study and train at a Scientology facility outside London. Twins Denise and David, in their early teens, became auditors before the family returned to Philadelphia.

    On his 16th birthday, David dropped out of high school and left home to work full time for the church. He told the Times in a 1998 interview he did it, in part, because he was "appalled'' at the drug use among his classmates.

    Denise finished high school and later married Scientologist Robert Covington. They settled in New Hampshire and had two daughters.

    David Miscavige quickly ascended in Scientology, working alongside Hubbard. When the founder died in 1986, Miscavige, just 25, took over the church. Now, anyone named Miscavige had prestige.

    Denise's clout was evident in the mid 1990s when she and her second husband, Scientologist Sam Licciardi, moved from New Hampshire to Clearwater to work for a Scientologist.

    Brian Zwan had started the technology company, Digital Lightwave, a maker of fiber optic testing equipment whose stock price soared during the dot-com boom. He elevated Denise, who hadn't attended college, to vice president of administration and gave her a $123,000 salary three months after hiring her.

    Two years later, Denise got caught up in a scandal. Partially filled boxes and unassembled equipment had been shipped to give the impression a $9 million order had been filled. Digital Lightwave executives pressured Zwan to fire her. He refused, noting "whose sister she is," the Times reported in 2002, quoting a former Digital executive.

    She negotiated her severance package: One year's salary, three cellphones, a laptop and forgiveness of a $71,000 company loan.

    In 2000, Denise married Jerry Gentile, whom she had met at Digital Lightwave when both were married to other people. They moved to Maryland for two years, had a daughter, then returned to Clearwater, where the Flag Land Base, Scientology's spiritual headquarters, dominates the downtown skyline.

    Jerry joined the church. He commuted weekly to a technology job in Maryland. Denise worked at a small Scientology mission in Belleair. An "ethics officer," she coached church members making amends for inappropriate behavior.

    . • •

    Denise had progressed far up Scientology's spiritual ladder. She was an "Operating Thetan VI,'' two levels from the top of Hubbard's Bridge to Total Freedom. She would have been well versed in Scientology teachings, including the dangers of drugs.

    Hubbard once wrote: "The planet has hit a barrier which prevents any widespread social progress — drugs and other biochemical substances.

    These can put people into a condition which not only prohibits and destroys physical health but which can prevent any stable advancement in mental or spiritual well-being.''

    His words have inspired Scientologists to back a drug education campaign the church says is one of the largest in the world.

    continued in next comment...

  55. Scientologists donate money and volunteer to distribute millions of free, nonreligious booklets and DVDs warning of the perils of drug use, including marijuana. The Foundation for a Drug-Free World spent more than $2 million in the last five years, according to IRS records.

    The church says "The Truth About Drugs'' materials — translated into 17 languages — are now in more than 180 countries.

    "We are the authorities," Tom Cruise declared, "on getting people off drugs.''

    • • •

    Denise worked at the Belleair mission less than a year, but continued to enjoy special status in the church. As a member of the Miscavige family, she was on Flag's "President's List.'' Scientology celebrities, such as actors Cruise and John Travolta, are on it, as are the church's biggest financial donors. President's List visitors receive you-want-it-you-get-it attention.

    In 2006, Denise started taking classes at Flag to become an auditor again. One of the people she audited during training was Scientologist Tom Brennan, a handyman who worked at her rentals.

    In February 2007, Brennan told Denise he was concerned about his son, Kyle, 20, who was visiting from Virginia. Kyle didn't look good and had been seeing a psychiatrist, he told Denise. Scientologists believe psychiatry and psychotropic drugs are evil — like street drugs.

    Denise thought Kyle may have gotten hooked on street drugs. Brennan and Denise phoned Kyle's mother and urged her to send him to Narconon, the drug treatment program affiliated with the church. Kyle's mother refused. (All of this was later recounted in sworn testimony from Denise and Brennan.)

    Thomas Brennan locked Kyle's antidepressant medication, Lexapro, in his car trunk. Brennan later found Kyle dead of a gunshot wound in his apartment.

    The first person Brennan called was Denise Gentile. Then he called 911.

    Clearwater police ruled the death a suicide. Kyle's mother, who is not a Scientologist, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Gentiles, Brennan and Scientology's Flag Service Organization. She alleged the Gentiles persuaded Brennan to take away Kyle's medication, contributing to his death.

    The suit was dismissed in 2011, in part because Brennan said his son voluntarily turned over his medicine.

    • • •

    Denise and Jerry Gentile began investing heavily in real estate in the boom years of the mid 2000s.

    They bought a rental house in Clearwater in 2003 and four more in the Clearwater-Largo area in 2004. In 2005, they bought five more rental properties in Pinellas, including the house, duplex and cottage on 15th Street N in St. Petersburg. Denise managed the properties.

    In 2008, the U.S. housing market collapsed, and suddenly the Gentiles' properties were worth far less than their mortgaged amounts. The couple defaulted on five properties from 2009 to 2011. All went into foreclosure.

    "The Gentiles find themselves in the same housing market as other people in this country," said Palchak, Denise's lawyer.

    continued in next comment...

  56. By 2011, the St. Petersburg rentals were in rough shape. Code inspectors found decayed wood inside and outside the units. Floor tiles were missing. Refrigerators were broken. Electrical outlets were missing.

    Walls were cracked or damaged by water. Doors needed knobs.

    The city sent Jerry Gentile a violation notice in August, giving him three weeks to make repairs. That month, he stopped making mortgage payments.

    Rico Currie was still around. He and his new girlfriend, Shauton Hines, had moved into the house fronting 15th Street. They had a young son.

    "Miss Denise would come in and pick my son up, hold him and squeeze him and squeeze his cheeks,'' Currie said.

    "She would come by and give him toys and clothes.''

    Currie asked Denise to be the child's godmother.

    His marijuana buyers still came to the cottage. Buyers also were knocking on the door of the lower unit of the duplex. Currie's friend, Demetrius Jackson — nickname: Meat — had moved in there.

    Meat paid his $500 rent directly to Miss Denise. He did not pay with pot, Currie said.

    But an informant told police large amounts of marijuana were being sold in the apartment.

    Undercover detectives saw "heavy foot and vehicle traffic coming to and from the residence,'' a detective wrote in a lengthy affidavit.

    Police sent in an undercover buyer on two occasions. He reported seeing large amounts of marijuana on a table.

    Cops raided the duplex on a Thursday afternoon in October 2011. They found packages of marijuana on a desk, crack cocaine on the kitchen counter and a .38-caliber revolver hidden in the cushions of a couch.

    They arrested Jackson, then 35, and two other men who had small amounts of cocaine in their pants pockets. (Jackson did not respond to an interview request.)

    When police left the rentals, Currie called Miss Denise.

    "She just said: 'Wow. Is everybody all right?'

    "I told her: 'Yeah, everybody is cool.' "

    On Dec. 29, 2011, St. Petersburg police legal adviser Donald Gibson contacted Jerry Gentile by letter, saying police had served a search warrant and documented drug activity. Gibson told Gentile he "must … alleviate the issues arising from this property.''

    Palchak said Denise never got that letter. But according to Lisa Ledbetter, a nuisance abatement coordinator, Denise called and left a message referencing the letter. Ledbetter still has a desk note documenting the call.

    Ledbetter said she left a message in return, but the Gentiles didn't call back.

    • • •

    St. Petersburg police arrested Rico Currie in October 2012 on several charges, some dating back months. One count alleged he sold cocaine to a woman out of the house.

    He pleaded guilty to fleeing and eluding, driving with a suspended license, aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, possession of marijuana, tampering with evidence and possession and sale of cocaine.

    He is serving a 38-month sentence at the Tomoka Correctional Institution in Daytona Beach. The Times interviewed him there this month.

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  57. When Currie went to jail, his girlfriend, Hines, stayed in the house. A married couple, Reginald and Lashawnria McRae, whom Currie had recruited to rent the raided unit, stayed on, too.

    "We had a lot of people knocking at our door that we didn't even know,'' Reginald McRae said.

    "At 3 and 4 o'clock in the morning,'' added his wife.

    They were marijuana buyers, Currie said. But the McRaes didn't have what they wanted. The buyers simply saw the TV on and figured they could score.

    "That's the only reason they were knocking on the door like that," Currie said. "For the weed.''

    One day, McRae walked out his door, bound for the corner store. The upstairs tenant hollered down at him.

    Get me 20 blunts.

    McRae brought back Swisher Sweets. He stayed in the apartment long enough to watch his neighbor cut them open, stuff one blunt with marijuana, roll it and drop it in a clear plastic bag.

    Miss Denise was parked beside the duplex. "She was waiting on that marijuana,'' McRae said.

    "They came (downstairs) with a baggie with all this marijuana in it and just handed her the marijuana and whatever money they had,'' he said.

    The McRaes — he is 46, she is 31 — moved out New Year's Eve.

    They did not have hot water during the nine months they lived at the Gentiles' property.

    • • •

    Police raided the rentals a second time just before Christmas 2012. They charged a St. Petersburg man with operating a drug house and said they found crack, pot, oxycodone and a Glock handgun in the cottage.

    Two raids in 14 months. Drug buyers knocking at all hours. Cops on stakeout. Guns hidden in furniture. Windows boarded up. Two tenants convicted of drug dealing. Another tenant accused of dealing.

    After all that, and only three weeks before the Feb. 15 foreclosure sale, Denise Gentile paid another visit to the property. Then, flashing lights.

    After Officer Nemeth searched the Durango, Denise told him she had stopped at a house she used to own and gone upstairs.

    Someone must have put marijuana in her car, she told Nemeth. She never lent the car to anyone.

    She said she had not smoked marijuana in 10 years, Nemeth reported.

    • • •

    The tenants interviewed by the Times knew nothing about the Gentiles' vaunted status in the church, and weren't aware of Scientology's hatred of drugs.

    They said they never saw any antidrug literature. They never heard Denise or Jerry Gentile say drugs are bad.

    They said they never heard the Gentiles say the word "Scientology."

    That's not how Scientologists are taught to deal with drug users.

    They are supposed to "handle'' them — persuade them to stop using — or cut off ties with them.

    Denise said so in a sworn statement.

    Her comments came during a deposition she gave in the Kyle Brennan wrongful death suit in July 2010. Tampa lawyer Ken Dandar asked for her understanding of the Scientology term "potential trouble source.''

    "That is somebody who is connected to somebody else who is antagonistic to that person's well-being,'' Denise said.

    Dandar pressed, and Denise explained that a Scientologist has two ways to deal with a trouble source: handle or disconnect.

    "If a Scientologist in good standing … is connected to a'' —

    "Drug pusher,'' Denise said, finishing his sentence.

    "Drug pusher?" Dandar asked.

    "Absolutely disconnect,'' she said.


  58. Twin sister of Scientology leader pleads guilty to lesser charge

    By Joe Childs and Curtis Krueger, Tampa Bay Times Staff Writers Monday, July 8, 2013

    LARGO — A plea deal with Pinellas prosecutors has ended an awkward chapter for the Church of Scientology and its long crusade against drugs, allowing the twin sister of the church's worldwide leader to avoid a marijuana conviction.

    St. Petersburg police arrested Denise Gentile in January on charges of DUI, possession of marijuana and failure to yield. But, after negotiations between her attorney and the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office, she pleaded guilty Monday to a reduced charge of reckless driving. She did not appear in court, and a formal finding of guilt will be withheld.

    Gentile, 53, of Clearwater, will be required to attend DUI school and pay $800 in court costs. Assistant State Attorney Frank Piazza said she also must receive an alcohol evaluation and attend a "victim's panel" in which people discuss firsthand experience of the danger of drinking and driving.

    Gentile was the subject of a recent Tampa Bay Times story that detailed her Jan. 22 arrest as well as the chronic drug activity that took place at a St. Petersburg rental property owned by her husband, Gerald Gentile.

    The circumstances were at odds with the teachings of Scientology, which has spent millions vigorously campaigning against psychiatric and street drugs. Having reached one of the highest levels of "spiritual awareness" in the church, Denise Gentile would be expected to take an equally strong stand in her daily life.

    Her defense attorney, Jo Ann Palchak, could not be reached late Monday. Gentile's twin brother, David Miscavige, has been Scientology's leader since 1986. The church does not discuss Miscavige's family.

    During a 2010 deposition in an unrelated lawsuit, Gentile indicated it was a Scientologist's duty to "disconnect" from anyone pushing drugs.

    However, the officer who pulled her over in St. Petersburg reported seeing her leave "a known drug house" minutes earlier. The property at 620 15th St. N was where she routinely collected the rent.

    continued below

  59. The officer also searched Gentile's car and found nine cigars or "blunts" containing marijuana under the passenger seat.

    The Times interviewed former tenants at the property who described heavy drug activity there. One said Gentile often accepted blunts as payment for water bills or used rent money to buy them.

    Records show police raided the property in 2011 and 2012, finding marijuana, crack and handguns. In a letter, the city warned Gerald Gentile about the drug activity. Denise Gentile called and left the city a message about the letter, records indicate, but didn't follow up.

    Palchak has said that Denise Gentile never received the letter, had no knowledge of drug activity at the property and denies receiving "contraband" from anyone.

    On Monday, Piazza said a defense argument about the traffic stop figured significantly in how the case unfolded.

    Gentile was stopped after she turned out of an alley onto 16th Street, allegedly turning too close to an ambulance. This became the probable cause that gave the officer the right to pull her over.

    But authorities obtained surveillance video showing Gentile's car wasn't that close to the ambulance after all, Piazza said.

    That was a problem for the prosecution because removing the legal reason for stopping a car generally nullifies any evidence found as a result.

    In this case, the evidence included the nine blunts in her car and breath tests that put Gentile's blood alcohol above the level at which Florida law presumes someone is too intoxicated to drive.

    A defense motion on these points could have led a judge to throw out the evidence, destroying the prosecution's case.

    Though the DUI and marijuana possession charges no longer stand, the plea deal comes with consequences, Piazza said, citing her guilty plea and her required attendance at DUI school.

    "This way we were able to address her issues," he said.


  60. In Texas lawsuit, judge orders Scientology and its leader to stop harassment

    By Joe Childs and Thomas C. Tobin, Tampa Bay Times Staff Writers August 21, 2013

    A Texas judge has issued a temporary restraining order against Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige, two church entities and two men alleged to be church operatives — part of a lawsuit that contends they have waged a campaign of surveillance, dirty tricks, intimidation and harassment against the wife of a church critic.

    Monique Rathbun, 41, filed the lawsuit last week in Comal County, Texas, near San Antonio. She is married to Marty Rathbun, a former church executive who once worked at Miscavige's side but since 2009 has been a high-profile critic of the leader.

    Her complaint says she is not a Scientologist, has never attacked the church and her only involvement is being married to a once-prominent church member.

    In the lawsuit and a four-page affidavit, Monique Rathbun describes "three years of ruthlessly aggressive misconduct" by the church, allegedly supervised by Miscavige.

    Church spokeswoman Karin Pouw said Wednesday that the church had not been served with the suit. But she added: "Based on your questions, the complaint filed in Texas is nothing more than a pathetic get-rich scheme cooked up by unemployed blogger Marty Rathbun, a self-admitted suborner of perjury who is now resorting to using his wife in an attempt to extort money from the church."

    Monique Rathbun says Scientologists or church representatives have:

    • Showed up at her home to question her while her husband is away.

    • Set up hidden surveillance cameras on the couple's homes.

    • Sent a sex toy to her at work and flowers to a female co-worker with a romantic note purportedly from Rathbun.

    • Followed and videotaped the couple as they ran errands, went out to eat or took evening walks.

    • Questioned her parents, co-workers and friends.

    • And posted "vile allegations" on websites tied to the church.

    According to the lawsuit, the Rathbuns, who married in 2010, tried to escape those tactics by moving from a tiny coastal town near Corpus Christi, Texas, to a rural home near San Antonio. However, church representatives have continued to surveil them, Monique Rathbun says.

    She says she and her husband recently spotted surveillance cameras directed at their new home from the undeveloped property next door.

    "We can't get away from them," Monique Rathbun said in an interview Wednesday. "I can't spend the rest of my life running away from cameras. I have to have a life."

    continued below

  61. District Judge Bruce Boyer signed the restraining order Friday, legally preventing Miscavige and the other defendants from surveilling Monique Rathbun, threatening her, following her or contacting people she knows.

    A hearing is scheduled for September. The suit also seeks damages of more than $1 million.

    Besides Miscavige, the suit names as a defendant Monty Drake, listed in the Texas Department of Public Safety as a long-time private investigator.

    Monique Rathbun's affidavit says Drake leased a house across the street from her home near Corpus Christi. She says he set up surveillance cameras that were visible behind the house's blinds.

    Reached by phone Wednesday, Drake said he didn't know anything about the suit and hung up.

    Rathbun says the surveillance by Drake followed 199 days during which a handful of Scientologists leased another nearby home and followed the couple everywhere, taking video, hurling insults and peppering them with questions.

    The Rathbuns decided to leave Corpus Christi for a more protected location: a rural area near San Antonio. There they found a rental home on a 3.5-acre wooded lot.

    After recently finding two cameras trained on this home from an adjacent property, Marty Rathbun says he confronted a man named Steven G. Sloat who said he had rented the property. Sloat is the other defendant.

    His website says he has experience as a former police officer, deputy U.S. marshal, corporate turnaround specialist and writer. Sloat did not return a call to his business Wednesday.

    Marty Rathbun, 56, was a primary figure in The Truth Rundown, a 2009 investigative report on Scientology in the St. Petersburg Times, now the Tampa Bay Times. He and others, including former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder, said Miscavige physically attacked church staff and encouraged a culture of violence and intimidation in the church's upper ranks. The leader has denied those accusations.

    Rathbun and Rinder also told how they orchestrated some of the same behavior against church critics that is alleged in Monique Rathbun's lawsuit. The two have expressed regret for those actions.

    Pouw, the church spokeswoman, said Rathbun has "shopped made-up tales and myths to virtually every media outlet" since he left the church in 2004. She said he is frustrated the church is flourishing, having opened 37 new churches worldwide in recent years.

    Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

    Documents online: To read the lawsuit, affidavit and restraining order, go to Links in today's Times at tampabay.com.


  62. The Man Who Got Me Out of Scientology - Scientology's Devastation

    By Skip Press, Contributor The Morton Report November 07, 2013

    In 1996, I had been involved in $cientology (that's how I spell it now) off and on for a couple of decades. It started off innocently enough. I was estranged from my family, had dropped out of college, had recollections of past lives, and wanted some answers and direction in life. I wrote about this previously for The Morton Report.

    After getting married in 1989, I hadn't been that active in the cult (I didn't call it that then). My new wife Debbie had done the beginning Communications course, had some auditing, did some auditing on others, and wasn't too enamored of $cientology. I couldn't blame her, given her experience in Los Angeles. She'd been diagnosed with a tubal pregnancy shortly after we married. Penny Keaton, a registrar (salesperson) at American St. Hill Organization (ASHO), where I had volunteered for years as a $cientology "ethics officer" (someone who helps keep people ethical, unfortunately using Hubbard ideas of ethics), worked very hard at trying to convince us that buying an intensive (12.5 hours) of auditing would handle the condition. Penny swore that would work — she'd seen it happen many times, she said.

    Thank God we opted for a medical solution. The doctor told us that had we waited another day or two, the tube could have burst and killed my wife.

    Then there was the time Debbie waited for me outside ASHO while I counseled people in the Ethics area. She was cornered by a Sea Organization ($cientology's paramilitary staff) recruiter from Germany who almost browbeat her into signing a Sea Org contract (a billion-year full-time commitment to staff service for the cult). I hit the roof over that, told the jerk (he really was) that he was a Nazi (he just laughed at me) and wrote $cientology leader David Miscavige about it. I had a good "communications line" with Miscavige at the time, which ended after my "Sea Org Nazi" letter.

    I was a $cientology "Clear" at the time and burgeoning on doing my Operating Thetan (OT) levels and suddenly I was informed that I needed "security checks" — $cientology interrogations which are not confidential like auditing. (Although as most people know by now, the auditing folders—session records—are regularly combed by $cientology for blackmail material.) I informed the registrar at the Advanced Organization of Los Angeles (AOLA) that I'd been doing stellar free volunteer work for ASHO (both their day and night groups) and AOLA for years with no complaints and many accolades. Since I was only two small courses away from being a $cientology Magistrate, the equivalent in $cientology ethics of a Class 8 (top-notch) auditor, and since I knew ethics and overts ($cientology's word for sins) as well as anyone, I knew I didn't need any "sec checks" so if they thought I needed them they could give them to me, because I certainly wasn't going to pay thousands of dollars for them.

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  63. Surprising me, they agreed, and I received 37.5 hours—three intensives—of sec checks, and at the end of each the auditor had to run a "repair" form (list of questions) to fix any damage that had been done. Each time, the question "Was there nothing wrong in the first place?" would result in a Floating Needle (F/N, meaning the right answer, feeling good).

    While receiving the last intensive, I was driving from the Palos Verdes peninsula through downtown Los Angeles to reach AOLA and the fires that resulted from the Rodney King riots were burning in L.A. I felt like the world was on the verge of melting down, and one night I thought my pursuit of $cientology had gotten about as productive as those riots.

    Shortly thereafter, now with a two-year-old son and a daughter about to be born, we moved to Burbank to be closer to the Hollywood industry and my contacts. I wasn't doing anything with $cientology and one night Debbie was very nervous in discussing something she'd done. She feared I would leave her, she said. I laughed; that was something I would never have done, as family meant everything to me. She explained how she had put on a disguise and met with a writer named Jon Atack in secret. He'd written a book called A Piece of Blue Sky exposing $cientology and she'd been followed to their meeting place.
    I laughed again, amused to no end about her in disguise, but I didn't like the fact that she'd been tailed by $cientology goons — which I knew plenty about. So I went to the library, found Jon's book, read it, and told Debbie that was the end of my involvement with the cult.

    Not long after that I got a call from Penny Keaton, and I told her the same thing. A couple of nights later, Keaton and Bill Yaude, whom I'd been in the Sea Org with at the Celebrity Centre in Hollywood, showed up at our house unannounced, in full mock-U.S. Navy Sea Org uniforms. They wanted to change my mind about leaving. They had a "dead agent pack" with them about Jon Atack, a $cientology method of totally discrediting any critic. Their big bad claim about him was that he'd once been a heroin addict.

    "Oh," I replied. "You mean, like Chick Corea, or my old roommate Nicky Hopkins? Are you saying $cientology did nothing for his heroin addiction?"

    They had no answers. Finally, I told them to get the hell out of my house and if they ever showed up unannounced again, I might hurt them. I would certainly call the cops, and I would sue $cientology. They left and I never heard from them or $cientology again.

    Atack's book had filled in a few gaps of discrepancies about $cientology that I'd already discovered on my own and/or verified my own research. Examples: Hubbard claimed that during a hospital stay at Oak Knoll Hospital after World War II, he restored himself from being blinded and crippled using Dianetics "technology." I knew from two separate sources who had been in the hospital with him those claims were a crock, and that Hubbard had been considered a pain in the ass by hospital personnel. I also knew that Hubbard had received U.S. government disability checks the rest of his life, despite his $cientology claim of "OT powers."

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  64. While in hiding in Queens, New York Hubbard had written the "Way to Happiness" booklet which was cobbled from other philosophies and he "researched" (plagiarized) from many sources. I'd been roommates with one of the Sea Org members who'd been with him the whole time.

    Hubbard never "exteriorized" from his body which he claimed (and repeatedly used as a carrot to sell "OT levels" to $cientologists). I actually had left my body for a short time pre-$cientology, and wanting to do it at will was one of the reasons I'd stayed in.

    There were many other exposé examples. It was an extremely well-written book and I was impressed. I'd only published a few books of my own at that point, but I'd sold lots of other writing and knew good journalism when I saw it.

    So Jon Atack got me out of $cientology, God bless him, and the wildest thing happened — my writing career exploded after that. No longer concerned with "going up the Bridge to Total Freedom," I concentrated on my career and family. I began studying other religions again, as I had pre-$cientology. I would repeatedly laugh, every time I sold another book, at how I'd been continually told that if you left the cult, your life would fall apart. $cientology — the cult of lies.

    Now Jon Atack has revised his great book and this time included things his legal advisors told him to leave out previously. Thankfully, there have been many more books exposing the evil cult, with more coming every day. The new book, Let's Sell These People a Piece of Blue Sky: Hubbard, Dianetics and Scientology, uses the full cynical phrase Hubbard declared when he started $cientology, knowing it was a total fraud with the only workable parts stolen from other sources. (And by the way, Jon Atack was never a heroin addict, although Chick Corea and the late Nicky Hopkins had been.)
    I could write several articles about how good Atack's revised book is and what is newly added and amazing to read, but it's better that you read it and learn for yourself. I helped Lawrence Wright with his excellent Going Clear but this book is better, more scholarly, and Jon Atack was actually involved with the cult and lived it, unlike Wright. Anyone who wants to understand the devious, insane nature of the fraud known as L. Ron Hubbard should read this book cover to cover, and investigate all the footnotes. You will not only want $cientology ended forever, you'll feel the same way about any similar spiritual huckster that comes along in Hubbard's wake.
    Thank you, Jon Atack, for helping me leave the cult so long ago. You're a blessing.



    Skip Press is an author and teacher who has been active in Hollywood for decades. He knows as much about the inner workings of celebrity Scientology as anyone alive.


  65. Scientologists at War

    CBC NEWS NETWORK, The Passionate Eye

    NOVEMBER 10 AT 10 PM ET/PT [Rebroadcast Sunday, November 17, 2013 at 11 PM ET/PT]

    Episode only available within Canada for a limited time after broadcast.

    Scientologists at War investigates the pressure tactics used to discredit and silence members who leave the church. The documentary provides a rare insider’s view of one of the world’s most mysterious organizations courtesy of its highest level defector. As the former Inspector General of Ethics, Marty Rathbun worked closely with leader David Miscavige and celebrity follower Tom Cruise. He claims that for many years he was Number 2 to Miscavige and acted as an enforcer punishing anyone who questioned the church’s leadership.

    “I didn’t think twice about quelling opposition, or silencing critics or punishing someone,” Rathbun admits. Now that he’s defected, he says the same tactics he helped devise are being used against him.

    For months, Rathbun’s home is besieged by a group of people waving video cameras and shouting at him whenever he steps outside. The church denies any involvement but Rathbun says these are high-level Scientology members “sent down to get in my face and to make my life a living hell.”

    “They’ve sent sex toys to my job, they’ve sent PIs (private investigators) to my dad’s house, to my ex-husband, to all my ex co-workers, my ex-boss,” Rathbun’s wife adds. “You name it, they’ve done it.”

    Scientologists at War documents how Rathbun’s life has become a daily battle of taunts, insults and surveillance – a battle he now considers as payback for the wrongdoing he carried out in the Church. "In a way its my karma. I've done it to others and so … you reap what you sow".

    The church may contest Rathbun’s status now, but in 1993 Miscavige describes taking on the head of the IRS, side by side with Rathbun, as they prevailed in Scientology’s greatest victory to date, becoming tax exempt in the US and dodging a billion dollar tax bill.

    In the film, Rathbun also claims that he was the man charged with finding a celebrity poster boy for Scientology and attracting Tom Cruise when his marriage to Nicole Kidman was failing . “Cruise started making some noises about getting some help. Miscavige had me drop everything and that became the number one priority. I helped them on his divorce with Nicole and then I was auditing him and helping him get Penelope audited.”

    Rathbun says his close relationship with Cruise became his downfall. “Miscavige had to start undermining me in front of Cruise". Out of favour, Rathbun found himself at the other end of his own methods. He says he was sent to a Scientology behavioural modification facility then escaped and went into hiding before starting up an independent Scientology movement.

    Scientologists at War is directed by Joseph Martin and produced by Danielle Clark and Michael Simkin for Channel Four.


  66. Judge: Scientology leader can be deposed

    by Joe Childs, Tampa Bay Times Staff Writer December 13, 2013

    Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige must submit to a deposition in a lawsuit filed against him and two church entities by Monique Rathbun, wife of high-profile church critic Marty Rathbun, a Texas judge ordered Friday.

    The ruling was a blow to Scientology's legal team, which had tried to keep Miscavige distanced from the contentious action. Miscavige has testified in only a handful of cases during his 27 years as the church's leader.

    From the start, church lawyers argued he should be dismissed as a defendant. They also vigorously opposed the effort to depose him.

    The 53-year-old leader, who rarely is seen in public, focuses solely on Scientology's ecclesiastical matters, church lawyers said.

    He had no connection, his lawyers said, to what Rathbun describes in her suit as a three-year campaign of surveillance and harassment directed at her and her husband.

    Forcing Miscavige to testify also would run afoul of First Amendment guarantees of the free exercise of religion, church lawyers said.

    But Rathbun contends Miscavige supervised the church's tactics.

    Her lead attorney Ray Jeffrey, of San Antonio, argued Miscavige is a central figure in the case, that he micro-manages church operations and that Rathbun's team has a right to question him about any ties he may have had to the allegations in her suit.

    Comal County District Judge Dib Waldrip agreed.

    Church lawyers indicated they would appeal. Waldrip told Rathbun's attorneys not to schedule a deposition for seven days.

    If Miscavige is questioned, it could become a ticklish session.

    Rathbun's attorneys could ask:

    Did Miscavige order surveillance cameras hidden in the homes Rathbuns' neighbors? The Rathbuns found several cameras focused on their property.

    Did he order church operatives to stalk the couple? Rathbun has testified she and her husband frequently were followed and photographed — even in other states and in Germany.

    Did Miscavige direct the band of Scientologists who called themselves "squirrel busters'' to stand outside the Rathbuns' home for 199 days and confront the couple — often testily?

    "The prime witness we need is David Miscavige,'' said Jeffrey following Friday's ruling.

    Monique Rathbun, 41, never has been a Scientologist. A manager at a health services company, she says in her suit she never attacked the church. She says she became a church target because she married, in 2010, a church enemy.

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  67. Marty Rathbun, 56, was a top Scientology officer for 22 years, working closely with Miscavige, often on the most sensitive matters facing the church.

    He ran away from the church's religious order, the Sea Organization, in 2004, dismayed at what he considered inhumane treatment of staffers.

    He lived quietly for five years. In 2009, he began speaking out about abuses he said he'd seen.

    He wrote a blog sharply critical of Miscavige. He also figured prominently in the Tampa Bay Times'investigative series on Scientology, "The Truth Rundown." Rathbun and other former church officers alleged Miscavige physically attacked Sea Org staffers and encouraged a culture of violence — accusations the church denied.

    The Rathbuns lived then in a small town near Corpus Christi. Monique Rathbun said in her suit that church agents stalked and taunted her at home and at work, trying to drive a wedge between her and her husband.

    The "squirrel busters'' were a second wave of hecklers, Rathbun alleged. Riding in golf carts and carrying video cameras, groups of four or five church members confronted the Rathbuns in front of their house.

    They wore T-shirts emblazoned with the words "squirrel busters'' and a photo of Marty Rathbun's head atop a squirrel's body. Rathbun was delivering Scientology services in his home, outside the auspices of the church. Scientologists deeply oppose that, and refer to those who do it as squirrels.

    The squirrel busters said they were filming a documentary. Church lawyers have argued the group had a constitutional right to protest Rathbun's unauthorized delivery of services. They say his wife's suit should be dismissed because it infringes on those free speech rights.

    The "squirrel busters" disbanded in 2011, but surveillance continued. Seeking solitude, the Rathbuns moved to a remote, wooded lot outside San Antonio.

    This summer, they discovered cameras on an adjacent property focused their way. Monique Rathbun sued in August, saying later: "We just can't keep running.''

    Claiming she suffered emotional distress as a result of the church's "scorched earth'' tactics, Rathbun seeks damages of more than $1 million.

    At the time she sued, a judge issued a temporary order restraining Miscavige, the church and two church operatives from further harassing and stalking her. That order remains in effect.


  68. Judge to Scientology: Leader must testify in Texas case

    BY JOHN MACCORMACK , San Antonio Express JANUARY 22, 2014

    NEW BRAUNFELS — Despite the best efforts Wednesday during four hours of argument by his blue-chip local legal team, Scientology leader David Miscavige apparently will be coming to Texas for a deposition in a high-profile harassment case.

    Miscavige is one of the defendants named in a suit filed last year by Monique Rathbun, a non-Scientologist, who claims she was subjected to a four-year campaign of dirty tricks, harassment and surveillance by the church.

    She's married to Mark Rathbun, a former first lieutenant to Miscavige who left the church in 2004 and five years later began speaking out against it, triggering a swift response.
    According to the lawsuit, the aggressive harassment by a bizarre church unit called the Squirrel Busters began in Ingleside on the Bay in 2009 and followed the Rathbuns when they moved to Comal County last year.

    The suit claims Miscavige was behind the campaign, and as his lawyers made clear Wednesday in strenuous argument, he has emerged as the central figure in the fight.

    “I can't emphasize enough how opposed we are to having Mr. Miscavige sit for a deposition in this case,” Scientology lawyer Lamont Jefferson told District Judge Dib Waldrip.
    “This is the end game. From Day 1, I said their whole goal in this case is not to find out if Mrs. Rathbun has been harassed, it's to depose Mr. Miscavige,” he said.

    But in declining to reconsider his December order that Miscavige be deposed to determine the court's jurisdiction, Judge Waldrip appeared to be even more convinced there are sufficient grounds to make him testify about his contacts to Texas and to the Rathbun case.

    “As I said in December, I think there is enough and I've not been persuaded to the contrary. Actually, I think there is potentially more now,” Waldrip said at the close of the hearing.

    In arguing that the longtime church leader should be spared, Jefferson raised a litany of reasons, ranging from constitutional grounds to Miscavige's status as an clesiastical leader of a major religion, to his own brief sworn statement that he had nothing to do with the whole matter.

    “What's the cost to the First Amendment? What's the cost to freedom of religion? There is far more harm than good done by forcing Mr. Miscavige to take a deposition,” Jefferson argued.

    And, he said, the plaintiff has produced no evidence that Miscavige was involved.

    “They've done a ton of discovery and none of their discovery and none of it supports their theory that Mr. Miscavige had anything to do with the operation against the Rathbuns,” Jefferson said.

    “They say everyone is lying, but they have no evidence to support their bald-faced accusation,” he said.

    Ray Jeffrey, Rathbun's lead lawyer, repeatedly has accused the defendants, who include the Church of Scientology and its Religious Technology Center, of providing incomplete, misleading or false answers to discovery questions.

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  69. And he said the defense lawyers have been equally uncooperative.

    “It's like trying to punch your way out of a paper bag,” he told the judge.

    And Jeffrey ridiculed Jefferson's depiction of Miscavige as a high-minded religious figure, or comparisons to corporate leaders such as Michael Dell or Jack Welch, who should be protected from frivolous attempts to depose them.

    “He literally beats people and imprisons them in the compound out in the desert,” he said, adding that it defies everything known about Miscavige to think he was not involved in the campaign against the Rathbuns.

    To support their claims, the plaintiffs filed with the court 20 pages of text messages from 2007 that they claim shows Miscavige's personal involvement in an Office of Special Affairs operation against a BBC reporter who was trying to do a report on the church.

    “I reported daily to Mr. Miscavige on my activities (and) Miscavige sent me daily, detailed written orders concerning the assignment by encrypted email as well as routine phone calls,” wrote Michael Rinder, the former official who recorded the texts on his Blackberry.

    The texts purport to show Miscavige haranguing Rinder and another operative with a stream of abusive, obscenity-laden orders on how to thwart the reporter.

    “This shows incredible micro-managing and browbeating of high-level OSA people in dealing with external threat,” Jeffrey said.

    In ruling that the church leader come to be deposed, Waldrip said he might have to preside over the sure-to-be contentious legal exercise.

    “It sounds like it might have to be done right here in the courtroom so I can rule on the objections,” he said.


  70. Bombshell Scientology Film Revealed: Alex Gibney on Cruise, Travolta and 'the Prison of Belief'

    by Kim Masters The Hollywood Reporter January 21 2015

    This story first appeared in the Jan. 30 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

    Lance Armstrong is not mad at Alex Gibney. No, not even though Gibney's 2013 documentary, which was supposed to be about Armstrong's triumphant emergence from retirement to compete in the Tour de France, turned out to be an exposé on doping called The Armstrong Lie.
    "I remember vividly when he reached out to me to tell me he had selected the title," Armstrong says. "I said, 'OK, it doesn't make me feel great,' but I don't blame him. I did lie. What the f— are you going to say?" He still thinks Gibney portrayed him as more untruthful than he actually was, but he admires the filmmaker's brains as well as his willingness to tackle subject matter such as that of Gibney's new film. "This Scientology thing — that just takes a huge set to take on," Armstrong says. "But he has the courage to do it."

    Gibney's film, based on Lawrence Wright's 2013 best-seller Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief, is set to become one of the most-talked-about documentaries at the Sundance Film Festival. The exhaustively researched (and lawyered) exploration of the controversial church and its ties to Hollywood is set for a Jan. 25 premiere at the MARC Theater and will air March 16 on HBO after an awards-qualifying theatrical release in New York and Los Angeles.

    Going Clear is the latest film to emerge from what has become Gibney's amazingly prolific factory of awards-magnet documentaries. (Having written about Scientology over the years, I should state that I am a talking head in the film.) It features vintage footage of enigmatic church founder L. Ron Hubbard as he builds his empire as well as rare sequences shot inside Scientology gatherings, some of which include the church's biggest star, Tom Cruise.

    "I think what viewers will get from this is a visceral sense of what it's like to be inside the church," says Gibney. Hint: a lot of upbeat oratory from church head David Miscavige, often followed by rapturous applause. The film brings to life much of the material covered in Wright's book — one former church member alleges on camera that Miscavige privately heaped ridicule on aspects of Cruise's personal life — but there is also material that was not in the book and is being kept secret until the premiere.

    Featuring interviews with several fallen-away high-level church officials, the film paints a damning portrait of the involvement of Scientology's highest-profile members, Cruise and John Travolta, which continues despite numerous allegations against the church that claim forced labor and other abuse under Miscavige's leadership. At one point, Wright ponders what might curb Miscavige's power. The IRS could strip Scientology of its nonprofit status, he muses, or "some of these celebrity megaphones could turn against the church. And Tom Cruise should be leading that chorus."

    Representatives for Cruise and Travolta declined to comment on the film (which they obviously haven't seen). On Jan. 16, the Church of Scientology took out full-page ads denouncing the film in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, featuring a large photo of Gibney. A headline, alluding to a notorious article on campus rape that did not stand up to scrutiny, asks, "Is Alex Gibney's Upcoming HBO 'Documentary' a Rolling Stone/UVA Redux?"

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  71. The text that follows alleges that the movie relies on discredited sources. "The ad speaks for itself," says Scientology spokeswoman Karen Pouw in an email to THR, adding that Gibney and HBO have not provided the church with the allegations in the film, so it could respond. (Gibney says he approached church members and officials and was either rebuffed or asked to comply with what he calls "unreasonable conditions.") While the church supports free speech, Pouw adds, "Free speech is not a free pass to broadcast or publish false information."

    Certainly the film includes extensive interviews with former longtime church members, including Crash director Paul Haggis, Miscavige lieutenant Mike Rinder and Spanky Taylor, who says she worked in the church's Los Angeles Celebrity Centre and was Travolta's liaison until she fell out of favor with Scientology officials and was forced into a prison-like setting that wouldn't meet Geneva Convention standards. Taylor recounts her dramatic 1978 escape with her baby — a story that she revealed for the first time in Wright's book — in her first and likely only on-camera interview. Though she spoke to THR, she says she will not talk to the media in connection with the film.

    "I was certainly courted by NBC and a lot of people to be a spokesperson for Larry's book," she says. "But I have not been part of the church for decades. And I have a healthy respect for what they're capable of doing to their critics." Still, she felt that Wright, who had done Pulitzer-winning work, offered the best opportunity to tell her story if she was ever going to tell it. And Gibney, with an Oscar for Taxi to the Dark Side, his 2007 film about torture and the war on terror, also seemed like the right choice. "He sent me a great body of his work," Taylor says, including his Emmy-winning 2012 film, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, which explored pedophilia in the Catholic Church. "I was very impressed. I thought he was unbiased and honest and forthright."

    At 61, Gibney, a soft-spoken, married father of three grown kids, says he is not opposed to telling uplifting tales, but he does seem to repel them. Torture, pedophilia, financial malfeasance (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) and a prostitution scandal (Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer) contributed to his being recognized in 2013 with a career achievement award by the International Documentary Association. He attempts to make each of his films a cinematic experience rather than a straight-ahead narration. He's got a number of music documentaries under his belt (among them Finding Fela! and Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown), but Gibney is best known for his unerring instinct for flawed, delusional characters like the subject of Client 9. "Spitzer and his aides would always talk about how powerful people had it in for him and he had to be super-careful," Gibney says. "And then he'd call 22-year-old Ceci[Suwal] about an escort. Lance Armstrong — everybody in the world is gunning for him so [he thinks], 'I'm going to come out of retirement and challenge everybody all over again.' "

    When Gibney agreed to make the Armstrong film, he was hoping it would be an inspirational story for a change — but as the truth about the cyclist's doping became undeniable, the director tossed a completed version and started over. Armstrong acknowledges that he was aware of Gibney's reputation for thorough reporting going in. "That was always the word, that this guy will get to the truth," he says. So why allow Gibney to film him? "At that point in my life, I felt totally invincible," he says, then adds, "Let's not try to go back to try to figure out what the f— Lance Armstrong was thinking."

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  72. Wright met Gibney in 2006 when the author was doing a one-man show called My Trip to Al-Qaeda, which Gibney turned into a film. (Wright won the Pulitzer for his 2006 book, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11.) "I felt an immediate kinship with him because he's a very aggressive reporter, and I love people like that," Wright says. "I find him to be a great collaborator. We rarely disagree trying to decide what's the story to tell. He does so much work, it's a miracle what he's accomplished, but it's because he knows what story is."
    Wright sent Gibney the galleys of his Scientology book before it was published. Given his experience on his film about the Catholic Church, Gibney was intrigued. He had observed himself, a lapsed Catholic, bristling when he accompanied his wife to her Protestant church and the congregation recited a longer version of the Lord's prayer than the one used in Catholic services. "Even though I didn't believe, I was adamant about not saying this Protestant version," he says. "It's that terrifying certainty: 'I am this, not that. This is right and the other version is wrong.' " With Scientology, he says, "I wanted to get deeper into what [Wright] calls the prison of belief."

    HBO came aboard with much of the financing (the total cost was in the low six-figures). Sheila Nevins, the channel's president of documentary films, recently joked to THR that the network had "probably 160 lawyers" vet the material. Those involved with the film are wondering what, if anything, Scientology might do in response, whether via lawyers or protestors at the Park City premiere. In years past, the church was known for extreme litigiousness and hardball tactics. "Their reputation precedes them," Gibney says. "They scare everybody."

    So far there have been legal threat letters, but Wright notes that he had those for his book and an article in The New Yorker that came before it. He also says he's heard that a private investigator has been asking questions about him, and recently a reporter from a Scientology magazine turned up at a gig of his Austin-based band, WhoDo. (Wright plays keyboard and sings.) "I'm a little afraid they're going to publish a picture of me in a country western outfit," he jokes.

    Even as the Scientology film taxis down the runway, Gibney is at work on a multiplicity of other projects, including a Frank Sinatra film for HBO and an online TV version of The New Yorker for Amazon. He appears to have cracked the toughest of nuts: how to crank out quality documentaries without falling into a time-sucking morass of financing and licensing troubles.

    Gibney developed his multitasking skills by accident when, while confronted with delays in making his 2008 film Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, he started working onTaxi to the Dark Side: "Just by happenstance I had two films in the cutting room at the same time, and I actually found it engaging and useful."

    He handles almost all the interviewing and directing himself and has a producer on each project to keep the films on track. Working on one film at a time would lead to frustration, as investigative movies take time to tease out. "You never know when somebody's going to talk," he says. "We get breaks pretty late in the game, usually. If we had rushed films out, they never would have been movies, they would have been reports." On Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Gibney didn't get the brutally revealing audiotapes of the company's energy traders talking among themselves until the recordings surfaced in court proceedings at the last minute. "Everybody remembers the electricity traders laughing about taking down the grid," he says.

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  73. Gibney has practical reasons for working on many projects at once, but he admits he also needs the action. As a staunchly sleep-resistant infant, he got the childhood nickname Tiger. And when his own son was diagnosed with mild attention deficit disorder in high school, Gibney says, "I realized that I probably had something like that, too." He tried the medication Concerta but stopped when it made him feel "hyperfocused." ("Sometimes it's nice to hear birds sing," he says.)

    Born in New York City, Gibney was raised outside Boston. His Catholic journalist father and atheist mother, who was head of health education for Boston Children's Hospital, divorced when he was 3. (Gibney was nonetheless raised as a Catholic.) He lives in Summit, N.J., with his wife of more than 30 years, Anne DeBevoise, and is the father of three children, ages 29, 26 and 19.

    After graduating from Yale with a focus on Japanese literature, Gibney went to UCLA film school but left before he finished, getting a job with the Samuel Goldwyn Co. "I did a little bit of everything," he says. "I recut a Paul Verhoeven movie. I recut [Bill Forsyth's 1981 film] Gregory's Girl. That's not a source of pride, but I did insist we telex them to tell them the changes we were making."

    For years, success eluded him. "It was just brutal," he says. "I spent a lot of time in the wilderness, doing occasional writing gigs and God knows what all." In 1992, he produced and wrote a PBS program about the rise of modern Asia that won an Emmy and other awards. "I was just waiting for the phone to ring," he says. "It was a long wait. I learned: If you're an independent, you always have to have one or two things going. The timing doesn't work out the way you want. Something falls through or the estate that you thought had the rights to material doesn't, so you work on more than one project."

    The game-changer for Gibney came when he was hired to work on the eight-part MartinScorsese-produced series The Blues, which launched on HBO in 2003. "It taught me — wow — you can do docs and do them with the mind-set of a feature film director," he says. When Mark Cuban was attempting to launch the HDNet channel in the early 2000s, Gibney pitched him the idea for the Enron movie. Gibney was instructed to submit a proposal that was less than a page long. He got a yes. "What I've always liked about Mark is it's never the Hollywood answer: 'I love this project,' meaning there's no way in hell I'm going to do this. 'It's so smart,' meaning I don't see any commercial potential," Gibney says. The film "was financially successful, critically successful, and it was nominated for an Oscar. Suddenly there was a model."

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  74. Three years ago Gibney made another significant move. Rather than "retreating to my house and making an occasional film," Gibney sold half his company, Jigsaw, to Content Media, a company run by longtime friend John Schmidt, a veteran of Miramax and co-founder of October Films. Schmidt brought capital and the opportunity to expand in several directions, even potentially including scripted programming. "It's about trying to stay true to the Alex Gibney mission and being able to spread his wings a bit more," Schmidt says. Gibney's core staff is small (about eight employees), and he hires teams to work on each of his projects, so at times there are as many as 60 people in his New York offices.

    Over at HBO, Nevins is watching a bit anxiously — and not because she's taking on Scientology. She's sold on Gibney's skills as a documentarian, of course, having picked upTaxi to the Dark Side after Discovery decided it was too controversial to air and suffered through an onslaught from Catholics offended by Mea Maxima Culpa. "I'm always amazed by how respectful and yet gentle his questioning is," she says. "And informed."
    But she worries as Gibney grows a company and builds a library. "Documentary filmmakers in the main are not entrepreneurial," she says. "It's as if they're supposed to live in a garret for the rest of their lives. Can you have it all? I don't think you can. I think you have to paint one picture at a time." As Nevins speaks, her ambivalence is audible. Gibney has earned the right to try it his way, she allows. "I'm a selfish tyrant," she says. "I like owning people. But I have not seen him sell any project short — yet."

    Gibney says the deal with Content Media has freed him by providing infrastructure so he doesn't have to worry so much about matters like accounting. Though "everybody's worried" that he'll be stretched too thin, he says, "Each one of these films, to me, is handmade. There shouldn't be concern."

    His latest handmade project, he acknowledges, is likely to bring as much blowback or more than he's experienced on any of the others. But he feels that the message of this film applies well beyond Scientology or any one organization. "You can see how abusive institutions get when they have a lot of power and money and when they become guided by a small group of people at the top, perhaps even one person," he says. And then there's a theme that resonates across any number of religions: "It's really hard-wired into all of us, the psychology of wanting to find certainty in faith that allows you to do the most reprehensible things because you believe the ends justify the means."


  75. Scientology Doc ‘Going Clear’ Claims the Church Split Up Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman

    by Marlow Stern, The Daily Beast January 25, 2015

    Alex Gibney’s highly anticipated documentary Going Clear, which premiered at Sundance, makes some shocking claims about Scientology A-lister Tom Cruise.
    Alex Gibney’s Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief is arguably the most hotly anticipated film premiering at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

    HBO Documentary Films, which is releasing the eye-opening documentary on the Church of Scientology later this year, hired a team of 160 lawyers to look over the movie, and the church, despite not having seen it, took out a recent ad in The New York Times accusing Gibney’s film of being “a Rolling Stone/UVA redux.”

    I just attended the first screening of Going Clear, which is based on the book of the same name by Lawrence Wright, and can report that it is a scathing exposé on Scientology and makes some startling accusations about its most famous member, Tom Cruise.

    The film alleges that the Church of Scientology used a number of intimidation tactics to force Cruise to split from Nicole Kidman.

    According to the testimony of Marty Rathbun, formerly the second-highest ranking official in the Church of Scientology who left in 2004, Scientology head David Miscavige was suspicious of Cruise’s second wife, whose father was a renowned psychologist in his native Australia. Scientology is vehemently opposed to psychiatry and psychology, and Rathbun claims that because of Kidman’s father, she was labeled a “Potential Trouble Source” (PTS), defined by the Church of Scientology as “a person who is in some way connected to and being adversely affected by a suppressive person.”

    Gibney’s film claims that Kidman, who was raised Catholic, convinced Cruise to distance himself from the Church of Scientology between 1992 and 2001, and that during the filming of Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, Cruise wasn’t returning Miscavige’s phone calls, though Miscavige was one of Cruise’s best pals and served as best man in his wedding to Kidman. Cruise’s silence allegedly infuriated Miscavige, who then assigned Rathbun to the A-list couple.

    “I was to facilitate the breakup with Nicole Kidman,” Rathbun says in the film.
    Rathbun alleges in the film that the Church of Scientology then waged an aggressive campaign to get Cruise to dump Kidman, including having a private investigator wiretap her phone—at Cruise’s apparent suggestion, according to Rathbun—and sending the tapes to Miscavige. The Church of Scientology also began “auditing” Cruise around the clock, according to the film, aggressively psychoanalyzing him and gathering personal information. The information was then allegedly sent to Miscavige, whom Rathbun claims blasted Cruise for his “perverted” sexual fetishes.

    Furthermore, Rathbun says the Church of Scientology “re-educated” Cruise’s adopted children with Kidman, Connor and Isabella, into turning against their mother so that Cruise could retain custody.

    Cruise divorced Kidman in 2001 and following the split became more active in the Church of Scientology, receiving the church’s Freedom Medal of Valor in 2004 and becoming Scientology’s de facto Hollywood spokesman.

    Going Clear also claims that the Church of Scientology takes great pains to accommodate Cruise, including installing all the audiovisual equipment in his home, purchasing him limousines and airplanes, and once even having its members design a meadow for Cruise and Kidman to run through—an alleged fantasy of Cruise’s.

    Cruise and Kidman, the film notes in a card before the film’s final credits, both refused to be interviewed for Gibney’s movie.



  76. Scientology Reps Slam 'Going Clear' After Well-Received Sundance Debut

    By Christopher Rosen The Huffington Post January 26, 2015

    After Alex Gibney's new documentary, "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief," debuted to a standing ovation at this year's Sundance Film Festival, representatives for the Church of Scientology slammed the film as "false information."

    The Church has documented evidence that those featured in Gibney’s film regurgitating their stale, discredited allegations are admitted perjurers, admitted liars and professional anti-Scientologists whose living depends on the filing of false claims. All have been gone so long from the Church they know nothing of it today. Yet Gibney and HBO stonewalled more than a dozen requests by the Church to offer relevant information about them, with more than 25 individuals with firsthand information eager to speak. To this day, neither HBO nor Gibney can deny that they have yet to present the Church with a single allegation from the film so the Church may have an opportunity to respond. The Church never sought special treatment, only fair treatment.

    Gibney's film, based on a book by Lawrence Wright, includes multiple allegations against the Church of Scientology and its most high-profile member, Tom Cruise.

    "Cruise is one of those who emerges from this the worst; Gibney's film makes the claim that the actor’s reluctance to distance himself from the faith was the key factor in his split with Nicole Kidman," wrote Brian Moylan in a review of "Going Clear" for The Guardian. "Footage of Cruise from official church events and video is chopped and spliced to put him in as dubious a light as possible; the film also accuses him of using Scientologist workers paid 40 cents an hour to trick out his cars and houses."

    As Marlow Stern at The Daily Beast noted, Gibney's film includes an interview with Mark "Marty" Rathbun, "formerly the second-highest ranking official in the Church of Scientology who left in 2004," who alleges that Scientology leader David Miscavige disliked Kidman on account of her psychologist father. According to the film, Cruise apparently had Kidman's phone tapped before the couple's eventual divorce.

    HuffPost Entertainment contacted a representative for Cruise to comment on the allegations; this post will be updated if and when they respond.

    As for the film itself, critics were enamored with Gibney's work. "Going Clear" was hailed as "jaw-dropping" and a "game changer." It will air on HBO in March. "We have probably 160 lawyers [looking at the film]," HBO’s president of documentary films, Sheila Nevins, told The Hollywood Reporter in December.


  77. The Church Of Scientology Thinks “Going Clear” Is “‘Rolling Stone’/University Of Virginia Redux”

    Director Alex Gibney’s exposé of the church includes allegations about Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and its leadership, and the church is firing back.

    by Adam B. Vary, BuzzFeed News Reporter January 26, 2015

    PARK CITY, Utah — Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, which premiered to a packed theater on Sunday at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, contains a litany of damning allegations about the secretive and litigious church from several former high-ranking Scientology officials and high profile ex-members.

    But virtually none of the revelations are all that new.

    Directed by Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) and based on Lawrence Wright’s book of (almost) the same name, Going Clear alleges, among other things, that Scientology leader David Miscavige orchestrated the divorce between Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman after Cruise grew too distant from the church, including having Kidman’s phone tapped and turning her children against her.

    It alleges that the church subsequently groomed actress and Scientologist Nazanin Boniadi to be Cruise’s girlfriend, including hair coloring and $20,000 in designer clothing, only to be summarily dumped and punished with menial labor after she was perceived to have slighted Miscavige at Cruise’s home.

    It alleges that the church has leveraged a trove of deeply personal information about member John Travolta — including implications about the actor’s sexuality — to keep Travolta in the Scientology fold.

    It alleges that Miscavige confined top lieutenants in what is characterized as a “prison camp,” and also called “the hole,” and subjected them to regular bouts of physical abuse.

    It alleges that while tax documents reveal the church is valued at over $1 billion (at least), its membership rolls roughly number at just 50,000.

    It alleges that church members are forced to sever all ties, or “disconnect,” with family members who aren’t a part of Scientology and/or are deemed a “suppressive person” by criticizing the church.

    And it alleges that the church’s core beliefs, written by founder L. Ron Hubbard and available only after years of involvement and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on church teachings, are rooted in a wildly outlandish science-fiction narrative. It involves a supreme alien overlord named Xenu and frozen alien bodies dropped in volcanos on Earth who then become “body thetans” that attach themselves to our bodies and are the source of all our fears and anxieties.

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  78. When reached for comment regarding the allegations in Going Clear, a spokesperson for the church provided the following statement to BuzzFeed News:

    The accusations made in the film are entirely false and alleged without ever asking the Church. As we stated in our New York Times ad on January 16, Alex Gibney’s film is Rolling Stone/University of Virginia redux. The Church is committed to free speech. However, free speech is not a free pass to broadcast or publish false information. Despite repeated requests over three months, Mr. Gibney and HBO refused to provide the Church with any of the allegations in the film so it could respond. Had Mr. Gibney given us any of these allegations, he would have been told the facts. But Gibney refused to speak with any of the 25 Church representatives, former spouses, and children of their sources who flew to New York to meet and provide him and HBO with firsthand knowledge regarding assertions made in Mr. Wright’s book as that was all we had to guess from. Gibney’s sources are the usual collection of obsessive, disgruntled former Church members kicked out as long as 30 years ago for malfeasance, who have a documented history of making up lies about the Church for money. We invite you to view our complete statement, correspondence, and documented facts at freedommag.org/hbo.

    Of course, church spokespeople have denied many of the aforementioned allegations in the past as well.

    In response to the church’s statement, a representative for Gibney directed BuzzFeed News to the director’s comment that recently appeared in the New York Times:

    In a statement, Mr. Gibney on Thursday said he had “requested interviews with various people — including current church members and officials — who could shed light on specific incidents discussed in the film.” All of those asked, he added, “either declined, did not respond or set unreasonable conditions.”

    Despite the overwhelming number of allegations Going Clear levies against the church, anyone hoping to glean brand-new information about Scientology from the film is likely to be disappointed. Between Wright’s book and the trove of reporting on Scientology starting from at least a 1991 Time magazine cover story on the church, virtually all the information in Going Clear has been reported in some fashion before. That includes the video that leaked in 2008 of Tom Cruise expounding on Scientology’s virtues, and Oscar winning filmmaker Paul Haggis’ scathing open letter renouncing Scientology in 2010. South Park famously took on Scientology in a 2005 episode called “Trapped in the Closet,” which depicted Hubbard’s Xenu/”body theatan” theology in a sequence with the subtitle, “This is what Scientologists actually believe.”

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  79. But bombshell revelations are not the point nor the power of Going Clear. When HBO premieres the film on March 16, an audience likely much larger than the cult of people obsessed with the church will learn several of its allegations for the first time. At the Sundance premiere, in fact, several audience members could be heard guffawing at the section on Hubbard’s Xenu theology, and a few gasped at the revelations about Cruise’s divorce from Kidman.

    The most damning section of the film is arguably its explication of how Scientology achieved tax-exempt status from the IRS in 1993 as an officially recognized religion — and the First Amendment protections that come with it. Over 2,400 lawsuits were filed against the IRS and individual IRS employees by Scientology members in thecChurch’s efforts to become tax exempt, an unprecedented attack on the agency that proved to be profoundly effective. Again, that is not new information, but the way Going Clear lays it out drives home just how aggressive Scientology’s tactics were to achieve the goal — and raises the question of whether the church should have that status at all. (In the post-screening Q&A, Gibney noted that Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden had asked the IRS to explain Scientology’s tax-exempt status.)

    The other powerful element in Going Clear is the human one. It is one thing to read about the church’s allegedly abusive practices, but it is another to see one ex-Scientologist tearfully recall saying good-bye to her daughter for the last time after she had been labeled a suppressive person. Or to watch Miscavige deliver the news of Scientology’s tax-exempt status to an arena of church faithfuls from an outlandishly elaborate stage that one ex-member compares to Nazi iconography. Or to witness another ex-Scientologist, a member of the church’s elite Sea Organization, recount discovering her infant daughter in the church’s in-house nursery for children of Sea Org members in a urine-soaked crib with so much mucus in her eyes that they had been sealed shut.

    It’s that kind of direct emotional impact that feature filmmaking can have that print investigative journalism, for all its virtues, usually cannot. At the very least, Going Clear is the most high profile exposé of Scientology yet. And given the well over-capacity crowd waiting for hours to see the film at Sundance, it will be far from the last.

    Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief will premiere on HBO on Monday, March 16.


  80. 5 Surprising Revelations From HBO’s New Scientology Documentary 'Going Clear'

    Alex Gibney's adaptation of Lawrence Wright's book premiered at Sundance.

    By Anna Silman / Salon January 26, 2015

    There were reports of crazy lines to get into the Sundance premiere of “Going Clear” last night, Alex Gibney’s new HBO documentary about the Church of Scientology. While we haven’t seen the movie, we’re confident that the buzz is well deserved. The film is based on New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright’s 2013 book “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood & The Prison of Belief,” a masterpiece of in-depth reporting packed to the brim with insane details and shocking revelations about the shadowy organization that L. Ron Hubbard founded. The film doesn’t premiere on HBO until March, but in the meantime, here are some of the most juicy tidbits from the book you can look forward to hopefully seeing on screen:

    1. L. Ron Hubbard’s personal affirmations
    One of the most interesting aspects of the book is its exploration of L. Ron Hubbard’s fascinating and disturbing inner life. As Wright explains, “The tug-of-war between Scientologists and anti-Scientologists over Hubbard’s biography has created two swollen archetypes: the most important person who ever lived and the world’s greatest con man.” Particularly revealing are the excerpts culled from an autobiographical document by L. Ron Hubbard called “The Affirmations” or “The Admissions,” a book whose legitimacy the Church disputes. These range from fairly normal self-help stuff to unhinged reassurances about reptiles in his bed. Examples: “You will live to be 200 years old,” “You have no fear of what any woman may think of your bed conduct. You know you are a master,” “You can read music,” “Snakes are not dangerous to you. There are no snakes at the bottom of your bed.”

    2. “Scientology Jail”
    Wright’s book depicts Scientology as a brutal and totalitarian organization, complete with a Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF)—essentially, a Scientology jail where wayward Scientologists are made to do heavy labor while they undergo “rehabilitation.” Prisoners in RPF wear rags and eat scraps, are separated from their children and loved ones, and are subjected to something known as a “blow drill” if they try to escape. It is unbelievable and horrifying.

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  81. 3. Operation Snow White
    The extent of the Church’s covert operations are likewise often too shocking to believe. Wright details a Church operation known as Snow White, beginning in the 1970s, wherein the Guardians Office, the Church’s intelligence agency, infiltrated 136 government organizations across the globe. In the U.S. alone, they penetrated the IRS, the treasury, the labor department and the federal trade commission, as well as newspapers including the Washington Post. “Nothing in American history can compare with the scale of the domestic espionage of Operation Snow White,” Wright writes.

    4. Hollywood intrigue
    The fascinating “TC and COB” chapter focuses on the Church’s wooing of Tom Cruise, their distrust of Nicole Kidman and their hunt for a new mate for Scientology’s golden child. Even though it’s not new, the extent of Cruise’s commitment is astonishing. In one passage, he sits in a Home Depot parking lot doing “tone drills,” where he tries to intuit the emotional state of random people exiting the store. As Wright puts it, “No other member of the church derives as much material benefit from his religion as Cruise does, and…none bears greater moral responsibilities for the indignities inflicted on members of the Sea Org, sometimes directly because of his membership.” Other important Hollywood figures like John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, and Paul Haggis are also major characters in Wright’s story.

    5. How insanely science-fictiony it all is
    At this point the origin details of Scientology are well-known: 75 million years ago, Xenu, tyrannical leader of the Galactic Confederacy, brought aliens and stacked them around volcanoes before blowing them up, releasing “thetans” that later attached to human bodies. Still, the fact that this is a deeply-held religious belief and not just a “South Park” parody never ceases to astonish.


  82. Church of Scientology combats Alex Gibney documentary with online campaign

    Church accuses Gibney of using discredited sources in his film Going Clear, and launches new Twitter account to drum up viral support

    by Ben Beaumont-Thomas, The Guardian January 28, 2015

    The Church of Scientology, the subject of a scathing new film from Enron and Wikileaks documentarian Alex Gibney, has intensified its campaign to combat what it calls ‘false information’ in the documentary.

    A special report published on the Scientology website Freedom seeks to discredit Gibney’s film Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, which premiered at Sundance this week. A new Twitter account, Freedom Media Ethics, has been set up to promote the site.

    In the film, based on Lawrence’s Wright’s muckraking book of the same name, Gibney talks to defectors from the church, including Crash director Paul Haggis. He explores the history of the religion from its founder L Ron Hubbard through to current leader David Miscavige, who is accused during the film of intimidating, beating and imprisoning insubordinate followers; high-profile followers like Tom Cruise also have their involvement raked over.

    The Church is now distancing itself from the ex-members who feature in Gibney’s film. “Wright and Gibney cherry-picked expelled, discredited former Scientologists who would help them advance their propaganda,” the website reads. “The one-sided result is as dishonest as Gibney’s sources.”

    They lambast Gibney’s choice of Haggis as a contributor, saying Haggis hadn’t been involved in the religion for decades leading up to his departure from it, and that “all he did was read falsehoods on a blog by anti-Scientology zealot Marty Rathbun”. A long article on the site is devoted to individually discrediting Gibney’s sources. The Church claims it tried to get in touch with Gibney and HBO regarding his sources, but they were rebuffed; Gibney meanwhile has said that the Church resisted his invitation for comment.

    On Twitter meanwhile, the Church is trying to drum up a viral campaign against the film, comparing it to Rolling Stone’s article about rape at the University of Virginia, which was shown to have discrepancies and inaccuracies. It links to a New York Times advertisement it took out earlier in the month entitled “Is Alex Gibney’s Upcoming HBO ‘Documentary’ a Rolling Stone/UVA Redux?”

    Going Clear will screen on US network HBO later in the year.


  83. Tom Cruise wiretapped Nicole Kidman, Scientology documentary reveals

    Alex Gibney's Going Clear, based on 2013 book of same name, premiered at Sundance Film Festival

    The Associated Press January 27, 2015

    Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief premiered Sunday at the Sundance Film Festival to a packed house — not with a star-studded red carpet, but with police protection.

    A week before the premiere, the Church of Scientology took out full-page ads in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times claiming the documentary is filled with falsehoods.

    Based on Lawrence Wright's 2013 book of the same name, Oscar winner Alex Gibney's film claims that the church routinely intimidates, manipulates and even tortures its members, tracing the rise of the religion and its founder, former science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, and his successor as head of the church, David Miscavige. Gibney also interviewed several former Scientology believers, including past executives.

    Canadian director speaks out

    Canadian Paul Haggis, director of the Oscar-winning Crash, left the church in 2009 after decades of membership.

    "I was really stupid. I was part of this for 30 years before I spoke out," he says in the film. "I was deeply ashamed."

    As Haggis climbed "the bridge" to the most enlightened levels of Scientology, he finally learned Hubbard's ultimate theory: That a tyrannical galactic overlord named Xenu dropped frozen bodies from millions of years ago into volcanoes, and those spirits attach themselves to modern people today. Scientology is the means of ridding the body and mind of those spirits to become "clear."

    The Church of Scientology released a statement Sunday that characterizes these former believers as "the usual collection of obsessive, disgruntled former Church members kicked out as long as 30 years ago for malfeasance, who have a documented history of making up lies about the church for money."

    The church says Gibney refused to meet with the 25 members it offered as sources. Gibney says the church declined all requests for interviews, as did Miscavige and movie stars John Travolta and Tom Cruise, both of whom are Scientologists.

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  84. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidmans split

    The film traces Cruise's relationship with the church, and claims it intentionally broke up his marriage with Nicole Kidman because she was not a believer. Scientology's biggest celebrity spokesman was largely absent from the church during his nearly 10-year marriage to Kidman.

    4 takeaways from Going Clear, as observed in reviews of the film:

    The documentary alleges that church leaders worked to "facilitate the break-up" of Kidman and Cruise by, among other things, making Cruise feel paranoid about his relationship, so much so that he ordered a tap on Kidman's phone.

    The film claims church members worked to turn the couple's children, Connor and Isabella, against their mother in an attempt to sway decisions about custody.

    Going Clear also alleges that the church tried to set Cruise up with future Homeland actress Nazanin Boniadi and even tried to give her a makeover to make her more attractive to the newly divorced actor.

    The film also suggests that the church is holding sensitive information about John Travola's sexual orientation over the Saturday Night Fever star's head in an attempt to ensure his loyalty to Scientology

    Degradation and torture

    Members deemed to have somehow erred against the church were subject to degradation and torture, according to the film. They were deprived of sleep, fed scraps and forced to do hard labour. Sometimes they were beaten. One man was required to mop a bathroom floor with his tongue, according to the film.

    Gibney and Wright said the church has threatened them with litigation. Former members have said they have fared far worse: they've been slandered online, followed, filmed and seen their loved ones stalked and intimidated.

    Former Scientology spokesman and senior executive Mike Rinder said he hopes the film will raise public awareness about the church's methods.

    "I would love it if the FBI, after seeing this film, said, 'We need to do something more energetic.'"

    The Sundance Film Festival continues through Feb. 1.


  85. Once A Gateway For Scientologists, Beverly Hills Playhouse Critiques Church In New Play

    LAist January 29, 2015

    For about a quarter of a century, celebrated director and acting teacher Milton Katselas's Beverly Hills Playhouse offered a point of introduction between aspiring TV and film stars and the Church of Scientology, of which Katselas was a member. According to the much-lauded 2013 Scientology exposé Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief by Pulitzer Prize winner Lawrence Wright, Katselas "was a vital link to the Hollywood celebrity machine that Scientology depended upon" and many performing arts professionals came to the Church through the BH Playhouse company he owned and ran.

    When Katselas died in 2008, his protégé Allen Barton, a playwright and classical pianist, took ownership of the BH Playhouse, and two of his plays have recently premiered there to favorable notices. Barton was also a Scientologist for several years, but he became disenchanted when Katselas fell out of favor with the Church about a decade ago. After he spoke with Wright and was directly quoted in Going Clear, Barton has said in a recent interview, he was "declared" a "Suppressive Person" and subjected to Scientology's policy of "disconnection," requiring Church members to sever all contact with him. Even Barton's "cherished" 90-year-old piano teacher and mentor Mario Feninger was compelled to shun him and to reject the extra financial assistance that Barton had been providing him in his old age.

    The first act of Barton's new, essentially anti-Scientology play Disconnection, which opened this weekend at the Beverly Hills Playhouse, revolves around Landon (played by Jay Huguley the night we attended), once a promising young classical pianist and now a successful attorney in his 40s seeking to rediscover his musical chops. A contact in their mutual Church—which goes unnamed throughout the play—refers him to the insightful elderly piano teacher Michel (Dennis Nollette), who provides not only musical instruction but also informal life crisis counseling to Landon (who reveals that in a moment of careless driving four years earlier, he got into a car accident that killed his wife).

    Landon's 16 year-old daughter Tess (Carter Scott) joined the Church after their family tragedy and has since risen through the organization's hierarchy into a position as aide-de-camp to its Chairman, a "blunt instrument" of a man modeled on Scientology leader David Miscavige. Disconnected from her father, Tess has not communicated with him even once during that whole time. Still, once she discovers she's gotten pregnant, in violation of the rules for the Chairman's staffers, Tess tries in vain to convince her husband (Luke Cook) to abandon their life of servitude to the Church, but he insists he has to stay where he is and devote "a billion years to fight for this planet and fucking win!"

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  86. Meanwhile just before the play's intermission, we learn, too, that Landon has become professionally involved in a lawsuit against the Church involving the mysterious death of a member named Lisa McFadden (obviously echoing the real-life suit filed against the Church of Scientology following the 1995 death of member Lisa McPherson). As a result of this perceived betrayal, Michel sadly informs Landon that in order to remain in "good standing for the next life," he also has to disconnect, and to spurn much-needed checks, from his devoted pupil for the rest of this one.

    After all these dramatic events, Disconnection takes a disjointed turn in the second act, and Tess is the only one of those four original characters who makes a substantial reappearance. (Another one silently returns in the play's final moments, while a third also steps out on stage for no discernible reason other than director Joel Polis's evident recognition that we may have remained curious about what happened to him.) Rather than pick up where we left off, Barton gives us a long end-of-life monologue from the Church's founder, an L. Ron Hubbard stand-in named Oldman, powerfully delivered by actor Robert Hughes. Then we meet the Chairman himself (Everette Wallin), a menacing sociopath who browbeats Tessa so severely that she has little choice but to take decisive action in response.

    Barton's criticism of Scientology in Disconnection has nothing to do with its theology (no snarky references here to thetans or Xenu) or its celebrity promoters (no snarky allusions to Tom Cruise or John Travolta, either). His primary accusations concern the Church's mistreatment of its own adherents and its policy of enforced separation of members from any friends or family who try to challenge its authority or credibility. (The Church of Scientology itself, for the record, denies that "disconnection" necessarily demands this extreme alienation.) Scenes at the beginning and end of the play also suggest that the culture of Scientology may be more enticing to a susceptible person in a vulnerable position than most people recognize: "Don't be too comfortable in your judgment," one character directly advises the audience. "More of you would sign on than you think—trust me."

    Premiering just as Alex Gibney's new documentary based on Going Clear receives accolades at the Sundance Film Festival, Disconnection rides in on a wave of critical examinations of the Church and its activities. Thanks in large part to a very strong cast, Disconnection merits a look as well. It's certainly not what anyone would have ever expected to see at the Beverly Hills Playhouse back in Katselas's heyday.

    Disconnection plays Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings through March 1 (no performances on Super Bowl and Oscar Sundays). Full-price tickets $33 and $38 ($22 and $26 for seniors, $10 and $15 for college students, free for high school students). Discount tickets to some performances $13.50-$21.75 on Goldstar, $19 and $21 on lastagetix


  87. Scientology Attacks!

    Going to war with L. Ron Hubbard’s disciples


    In January, director Alex Gibney premiered Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Based on Lawrence Wright’s acclaimed 2013 book of a similar name, the documentary presents a history of Scientology and a profile of its controversial founder, L. Ron Hubbard. The film also examines some of the many claims of abuse alleged by former followers.

    The Church of Scientology has a long history of responding to its detractors with litigation and scathingly worded paid advertisements. In anticipation of such attacks, HBO Documentary Films reportedly hired 160 lawyers to examine the content of Going Clear.

    The church responded to the film’s release with a full-page ad in the New York Times, which directed readers to Scientology’s online magazine:

    Free speech is not a free pass to broadcast or publish false information. More than two years after Alex Gibney, Lawrence Wright and HBO started secretly working on their film glorifying bitter, vengeful apostates expelled as long as three decades ago from the Church, the one-sided result is as dishonest as Gibney’s sources. The Church has documented evidence that those featured in Gibney’s film regurgitating their stale, discredited allegations are admitted perjurers, admitted liars and professional anti-Scientologists whose living depends on the filing of false claims . . . That Gibney, co-producer Lawrence Wright and HBO have intentionally covered up relevant facts discrediting their sources speaks volumes about their bigoted agendas and the bias they hold toward people of any faith that doesn’t carry their stamp of approval.

    The church also has contacted film critics who reviewed Alex Gibney’s documentary, with an email reading, “Your article reflects the film which is filled with bald faced lies.”

    Sixteen years ago, the Church of Scientology launched a similar campaign against University of Alberta sociology professor Stephen Kent. This excerpt has been adapted from a letter he wrote on September 17, 1998, detailing the harassment.

    I AM A sociologist of religion, specializing in the area of alternative religions. Scientology is among the groups that I have studied. One of my articles on Scientology has appeared in a peer-reviewed journal, and I refer often to the organization in other articles that I publish on related “sociology of religion” topics. In 1997, I made invited presentations about Scientology before the German parliament’s commission to study “sects and psychological groups,” and later presented an academic paper on Scientology’s forced labour and re-indoctrination program—the Rehabilitation Project Force—at the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion conference in San Diego, California.

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  88. In September, 1997, what I consider to be an active “fair game” campaign began. [“Fair Game” is the term that Hubbard began using, in the 1950s, to describe his strategy of aggressively counterattacking people and groups he perceived to be enemies of the church.] First, local Scientologists picketed the area where thousands of U of A students were registering for classes. Within days, Scientologists picketed again on campus at the Students’ Union Building. Reports from numerous students indicated that the Scientologists carried placards that accused me of religious intolerance.

    I believe that the campus protests, apparent media announcements, and provincial radio appearance were attempts to ruin my reputation in the communities in which I work and live.

    In early June 1998, 3,000 home-delivered copies of the Edmonton Examiner contained a sixteen-page insert. The insert was printed on fairly high quality newsprint, and was entitled Freedom. This same insert also appeared in Canada’s national newspaper, the Globe and Mail, on June 12, 1998, in some delivered copies of the newspaper. Previously, the Globe and Mail had circulated the insert in newspapers distributed in Toronto.

    On pages 8–9 of the issue (identified as Volume 2, Issue 1) was an article (without an author) entitled “Sowing the Seeds of Intolerance,” with smaller letters stating that “the intolerant and unorthodox views of University of Alberta sociologist Stephen Kent take on their full odour when viewed in context.” (The previous article in Freedom, entitled “Mass Suicide or Mass Media Deception,” also mentions Stephen Kent.) In my opinion, numerous statements in the
    Freedom insert are libellous.

    The insert compared me to the neo-Nazi hate-monger Ernst Zundel, as did the first leaflet that Scientologists distributed against me on campus. The insert also says that my “support of discrimination and intolerance which has led to human rights violations and even violence—in Germany as well as in Canada—should disqualify Kent totally from government funding and support.

    [On October 16, 1998, the Globe and Mail apologized “for any embarrassment caused” and published a correction stating that the newspaper was “not aware of any factual foundation for the printed allegations made against Dr. Kent in those articles.”]

    When they fail to silence me with each level of attack, they escalate. So, at first a Scientologist was writing against me to my department chair. Then the attacks against me elevated to include the campus community, my city, and my province. Then it escalated to include the most influential city in English-speaking Canada.

    As an academic who works on controversial material involving allegations of abuse in reputedly religious contexts, I expect intense debate about some of my findings. The character assassinations, the harassment, the libel, and the attempts to ruin my professional reputation for speaking truthfully about Scientology’s abuses, however, reinforce my conclusion about the organization posing threats to democracy.

    Among the reasons that I continue to research, write, and speak about Scientology is because I fear it, and I also fear its implications for civil society and for the lives of many of its members.


  89. Secrets of the Scientologists Why people do horrible things for belief

    "Going Clear" gives a glimpse into how indoctrination really works. A 20th century tragedy reveals even more.


    “My goal wasn’t to write an exposé, it was simply to understand Scientology.”

    So says Lawrence Wright at the beginning of HBO’s blockbuster documentary “Going Clear.” The film, which Wright adapted from his bestselling book of the same name, describes Scientology as a criminal cult that harasses former members who become critical of the church; physically and emotionally tortures some current ones; and once strong-armed the IRS into granting it tax-exempt status as a recognized religion. Beneath the sensational and harrowing stories, however, “Going Clear” amounts to a study of belief more broadly — of “why people believe one idea rather than another,” as Wright puts it.

    One by one, former church members recount their involvement in the Church with a mix of shame, puzzlement and resignation. “I was really stupid,” says Academy Award-winner Paul Haggis, one of Scientology’s most famous apostates. “I was part of this for 30 years before I spoke out. […] Why didn’t I do it earlier?” Others are even more self-critical: “Maybe my entire life has been a lie,” says Spanky Taylor, an ex-Scientologist who alleged that, as a pregnant mother, she was held in a “prison camp” and punished with grueling physical labor for objecting to the way the church “denied medical treatment to her boss.” Their embarrassment about their pasts becomes even easier to understand when Wright describes the church’s creation myth: A galactic overlord Xenu expelled hordes of people to a prison planet (Earth) 75 million years ago, dropped them into volcanoes, then dispersed their spirits (or “thetans”) with nuclear bombs. These spirits still possess humans to this day, and Scientologists expend a great deal of energy and money trying to exorcise them.

    But “Going Clear” avoids the trap of incredulity. Those interviewed for the film, while eccentric, are accomplished, well spoken and, most of all, sincere. Parallel to their stories of abuse and warped belief are understandable explanations of their choices: Haggis explains that as a young man, worried about his relationships and anxious to get his start as a documentary filmmaker, he was partially seduced by Scientology’s reputation for advancing careers, and was comforted by their undogmatic facade. Indeed, the Church’s website still boasts that “[u]nlike religions with Judeo-Christian origins […] Scientology does not ask individuals to accept anything on faith alone.” As a curious and hopeful 21-year-old, he contributed a modest $50 to begin his training. Like many of those interviewed for “Going Clear,” he says that Scientology more resembled a self-help organization at first glance.

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  90. But while there seems to be an unbridgeable gap between self-help and alien exorcisms, Scientology’s rigid, diagrammatic structure provides a clue to how one idea can lead to the other. According to the documentary, after signing up, a Scientologist embarks on something called “The Bridge,” a step-by-step course of spiritual advancement, through which one could eventually achieve a “Clear” state of mind. (“Every step to ‘Clear’ had a price tag,” notes the film’s narrator.) Along “The Bridge,” Scientologists attend compulsory and successive “auditing” sessions, which Wright describes resembling a sci-fi version of Freudian therapy. Scientologists discuss the most intimate details of their lives during auditing, details which the church records diligently — and can later allegedly use for blackmail. It’s only after years of training, after they have told the church every private fact about themselves, that Scientologists hear about Xenu and humankind’s alien origins. Unsurprisingly, even after many years, Haggis and others still found the creation myth hard to stomach. Haggis even wondered if it was an “insanity test.”

    Curiously, none of those interviewed in the film exited Scientology at that junction. As Haggis put it, “you have already paid for the next [session],” your social life centered around the church, and, besides, you weren’t required to believe it. “If you were told [about Xenu the galactic overlord] on day one,” wonders the journalist Tony Ortega, “how many people would join?” He describes the Scientologist strategy as a “bait and switch.” But Scientology has perfected something more nuanced–a technique that separates the process of investing in belief from that of belief itself: By the time Scientologists are told about the creation myth, they have many persuasive emotional reasons to believe in it, or rather, to try to believe it.

    In Philip Gourevich’s study of the Rwandan genocide, “We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families,” he describes another case where acts proceed beliefs. When the Hutu Power movement led mass killings of ethnic Tutsis in the mid-’90s, the true measure of allegiance was not belief, but action. “Everyone was called to hunt the enemy,” says Theodore Nyilinkwara, a survivor interviewed for the book. If a Hutu was reluctant, the militias required him to attend massacres, then, later, to kill a Tutsi. “So this person who is not a killer is made to do it,” says Nyilinkwara. “And the next day it’s become a game for him. You don’t need to keep punishing him.” Once a person has killed for an idea, their ethical opinion of themselves relies on embracing that idea. Vicious, conspiratorial state radio broadcasts spoke of outlandish Tutsi plots against the Hutus that people readily believed because they partially justified the violence.

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  91. In the language of the Mafia says Gourevitch “a person who has become invested in the logic and practices of the gang is said to be owned by it.” When Jason Beghe, an actor and ex-Scientologist featured in “Going Clear,” describes the strange sensation of self-policing — “the best traps are when you get a guy to keep himself in jail” — he sounds remarkably like Nyilinkwara. Once a person has acted on a belief, they don’t need to be continually pressured. Ex-Scientologists who alleged that they were placed in “The Hole,” a holding facility in California where upper-level church members were held and beaten, found themselves actually fighting to stay there. If the FBI came to rescue them from what some described as a “prison camp,” says one of the captives, Tom De Vocht, they would have responded: “We’re doing this voluntarily. We like living in these conditions.”

    The technique is so effective that it appears to be at work on L. Ron Hubbard himself, the science fiction writer and founder of Scientology. According to his ex-wife Sara Northrup, he once cynically claimed that “the only way to make any real money was to start a religion.” But as his power over others grew, she says, “he began to believe that he was a savior, that he really was this god figure.” Over time, “he degenerated into a really paranoid and terrifying person.” “If he were just a fraud,” adds Wright, “at some point he would have just taken the money and run.” Marty Rathbun, a former high-ranking Scientologist, says that the current leader David Miscavige “has to believe because, if he looks at it rationally and sees that it is as I say, it will destroy him.” “He’s done a lot worse than I’ve done,” he adds.

    Scientology’s persuasiveness is not in the logic of its beliefs but in its ability to control behavior. People believe in Xenu and thetans because it becomes exceedingly difficult not to in light of all they have committed to the church. At the close of “Going Clear,” Haggis reflects on his time within Scientology: “We lock up a portion of our own mind. We willingly put cuffs on. We willingly avoid things that could cause us pain if we just looked.” Each time Marty Rathbun is confronted with his past, he keeps “dying deaths. I don’t know how many more deaths I have left.”

    Peter Finocchiaro is the deputy editor of Salon.


  92. Scientologys First Victim

    by M.L. Nestel, The Daily Beast May 11, 2015

    L. Ron Hubbard called her a bitch, the FBI found files on her in its raids: The story of Scientology's most famous critic.

    “That bitch Paulette Cooper!”

    Those were the choice words belted out by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard back in 1974 as he pounded on his desk while playing Commodore aboard his yacht, the Apollo.

    Cooper, one of the earliest writers to look into the Church of Scientology’s inner workings, has long maintained that Hubbard (or LRH, as he’s often referred to) had it out for her. Just tally up the 19 lawsuits slapped against Cooper by the Church, the 40 lawyers she retained, and the 50 days of depositions—including one reportedly involving a Scientology lawyer who pressed Cooper for a stool sample. (Cooper quipped back: “If you want one, you’ll get it—on your head.”)

    This story of Hubbard’s maritime rage is an incredible nugget in the middle of Tony Ortega’s new book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely, which lands on bookstands this week. Ortega managed to unearth the anecdote after poring over a deposition of Tonja Burden, who was only 15 at the time. Burden was one of Hubbard’s "Messengers,” young females tasked with lighting his cigarettes, prepping his showers, and laundering his shirts “13 times to get any smell out of them.” LRH apparently had a nasty aversion to flowery scents, especially “rose perfume,” the book reveals.

    The book’s title plays off Cooper’s supposed code name within Scientology, “Miss Lovely,” which she gained “because she was so beautiful,” Ortega told me.
    Other citizens have reported being harassed and bullied by Scientology, but nothing to the extent of Paulette Cooper’s story. She’s the first one many people think of when it comes to Scientology’s alleged victims.

    The book is a wallop of a read and Cooper is presented as sympathetic, tragic, and, for a brief bit, unreliable, as she allegedly plots against the Church in her own way. But Ortega also makes some incredible claims that seem to rely upon deep reportage, tracking down people Ortega identifies as long-lost Scientologists and weaving their testimonials into a gripping narrative.

    A Church of Scientology spokeswoman, in a statement, emphatically denounced the book and called Ortega “a parasite” for using “bigotry and false allegations about the Church of Scientology to create a cottage industry of hate.”

    The statement went on to suggest that out of the many claims in the book, none of them dignify a thorough response.

    “Despite Tony Ortega’s desperate need for publicity, we see no reason to revisit the subject or respond to debunked falsehoods concerning events three to four decades old involving individuals who have long since been expelled,” the statement read.

    Out of all the writers who have gone head to head with Scientology, Cooper’s story is perhaps the most incredible. She was dashing and easily made hearts skip a few beats during her early years in Manhattan, where she lived and plied her craft as an independent journalist.

    Cooper says she remembers how Scientology came knocking at her front door on June 6, 1968. It was the day after Robert F. Kennedy had been assassinated and Cooper was a twenty-something advertising copywriter trying to cut her teeth as a magazine stringer in New York City.

    The Brandeis psych grad, who spent some time at Harvard studying mental health patients, says she received a former boss at her Manhattan apartment.

    Cooper recounts in her own book how the man began singing Scientology’s praises and how he’d been doling out wads of charity cash to random homeless people. Then, Cooper says, he told her he was God, the lord and savior, and that "God has decided to rape you.”

    Cooper managed to fend him off.

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  93. But her journalist instincts kicked in and she enrolled in classes at the Scientology Org in Midtown Manhattan under a pseudonym. She says she only lasted a few days before higher-ups in the organization's Ethics department were onto her. But Cooper says she remembers engaging in staring contests where she hallucinated—and says she was subjected to “bullbaiting,” wherein Scientologists allegedly chastised her for no reason and made propositions like, “You know what I’m going to do to you," supposedly to see if she would break.

    Cooper ultimately began cobbling together her intel on this new religion and turned it into a feature story for the magazine Queen.

    Before long, Cooper was living every day in fear, as she claims she was fielding death threats. She was convinced she was being followed and that her phone line was tapped.

    In 1977, when the FBI raided the Los Angeles and D.C. offices of the Church, they found scores of documents that they used to send several high-ranking Scientologists to the slammer.

    These same documents, Ortega's book says, also indicated that the Church had been monitoring Cooper’s movements since 1971 and ordered some members to lift pages from her diary, according to Ortega’s book. The group seemed particularly interested in the pages that catalogued teenage angst aimed towards her parents, the book says, or the ones that included sexually-charged thoughts.

    Ortega’s book says that, in an attempt to frame Cooper, Church members typed up two anonymous bomb threats and sent them to the Church of Scientology headquarters in New York with Cooper’s fingerprints on them. Cooper maintains the Church got her fingerprints by getting a stranger to goad her into signing a petition to help the activist Cesar Chavez.

    Soon, Cooper was hauled in front of a grand jury in Manhattan to answer for the terroristic threats and almost faced a trial until her attorneys used Cooper’s passing of a Q&A test, while on sodium pentothal, to get the charges chucked.

    In the course of his research, Ortega says he managed to track down the FBI’s Special Agent Christine Hansen. She was one of the few women at the bureau in the 1970’s. This is apparently the first time anybody has managed to interview the former special agent. Because of her tenacity and eagle eye, on June 11, 1976, Hansen says she caught a Scientology member named Gerald Bennett Wolfe in the act of cribbing files from the IRS, the Department of Justice, and a dozen other government offices. He ended up serving five years in prison. His colleague Michael Meisner ultimately ended up flipping for the Feds.

    The reported effort to steal the files from different government agencies and law firms was known as the “Snow White Program,” Hansen told Ortega.

    Ortega also dives into “Operation Freakout,” the Church’s apparent attempt to target Cooper and frame her as insane, in order to get her committed.

    Ortega’s book claims that a Scientology spy approached Cooper at a popular NYC watering hole and asked her to read a bad joke off of a piece of paper. Her fingerprints on the joke stationary were used, Ortega says, in threatening letters sent to then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. The Church allegedly enlisted a woman who sounded like Cooper and would be tasked with calling Kissinger’s office to make phone threats, as well as another woman cast to dress like Cooper and to play her doppleganger.

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  94. According to Ortegas account of the documents seized in the FBI raid, Scientologists had instructed, “Several different outfits should have been obtained by [Paulette’s double] so that when the caper goes down, she can immediately change into the color or type of outfit that Paulette has on.” Then, the book says, calls would be made to Arab embassies with the Cooper lookalike claiming: “I’m going to bomb you bastards!”

    After the raids, Ortega says, "Operation Freakout" was never fully completed.

    Still, even after Cooper appeared on “60 Minutes” to talk about Scientology, Ortega’s book suggests that several plots continued to target “Miss Lovely.” In one of them, a supposed friend called Jerry Levin, who had come into Cooper’s life suddenly and mysteriously, allegedly told Cooper to jump from a 33-story ledge above a rooftop swimming pool.

    “Why on earth would Jerry want me to climb that ledge,” Cooper told The Daily Beast. “He was up there it would have taken the slightest push and that would have been in it.”

    According to Cooper, Levin was a secret Scientologist who had befriended her and lived with her during some of the lowest months of her life.

    Not long after Levin moved out, and as Cooper was awaiting trial for making bomb threats (which she says were actually made by her Scientology impersonators), she says the only thing that saved her from a suicide-by-Valium attempt was a friend’s phone call wishing her a happy birthday.

    By 1980, Cooper had decided to fight back against the Church. That was the year, the book says, that she met a private investigator named Richard Bast. (He passed away in 2001.) Cooper says Bast told her he was working for a rich Swissman who had lost his daughter to suicide. The girl had been a Scientologist and after her death, Bast said the man had hired him to build a case against the Church.

    The book says the two began to cook up ways to undermine the Church. Cooper would find every news clipping related to Scientology and bring them to Bast. But soon, the book says, Cooper started to hatch some of her own schemes to fool the Scientologists.

    Ortega lays out how Bast suggested Cooper sleep with people in order to get intel and even allegedly suggested that a friend should plant drugs in the Church’s D.C. office, so that Cooper could then tip off the cops. “The point I want to make is, if we have any kind of police raid, this gay friend of mine.... probably [could] get us some. A couple of things you might want to consider—leaving them there that might make much bigger headlines. Like cocaine,” she told Bast, unaware that he was taping her statements, according to court transcripts that Ortega included in the book.

    But Bast wasn’t working for a Swiss tycoon at all—he was doing the Church’s bidding, the book says. And he had caught Scientology’s Public Enemy No. 1 with dirty hands. Before they went through with some of the alleged schemes to attack Scientology, Cooper had discovered the damage she’d caused herself.

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  95. Her reputation now seemed undone again.

    Cooper’s lawyer Mike Flynn believed the tapes could actually benefit her case. “Whatever is on them, the fact that they hired someone to befriend you, given your vulnerabilities, will only backfire on them. Whatever you said would pale in comparison to what they put you through,” he said at the time, according to Ortega’s book.

    Cooper’s lawyers expected that they’d have to spin Bast’s tapes in her favor in the many lawsuits she was facing. Yet not much was made of the taped chats with Bast until years later, when Cooper says was confronted by researchers from a Scientology hub website, who asked her several questions about them.

    The Daily Beast provided a Church spokeswoman with a list of some of the book’s claims, including Ortega’s contention that he found the man who called himself Jerry Levin (Ortega says he was known in Scientologist circles as Don Alverzo); that a Vanity Fair writer (who was friendly with Cooper) had been on Scientology’s payroll for years; and that Charles Manson was a Scientologist. Ortega says he worked off of many sources, including The New York Times and Cooper’s own book, in which she wrote that “one famous, in fact infamous person interested in Scientology that they do not boast about, talk about, or probably even want is Charles Manson, the convicted murderer of Sharon Tate and her friends.”

    The Church stressed that it’s erroneous to say the convicted serial killer was a Scientologist. In the statement, a spokeswoman wrote that “the Church debunked the Manson myth four decades ago… Manson never had ties to Scientology.” While the Vanity Fair writer wasn’t named, Ortega says he did track down Alverzo, who allegedly played dumb on the phone. “I’m sorry, I don’t even understand what language you’re talking. I guess you have the wrong person,” Ortega says Alverzo told him.

    Cooper says that she still has to look over her shoulder to make sure she is not being followed or watched by Scientology operatives. Since her run-in with Scientology, she’s gone on to pen almost two dozen books, though she’s steered clear of writing about the Church again.

    Her newest book—Was Elvis Jewish? Plus Hundreds of Fascinating Facts: & Amazing Anecdotes no Rabbi Ever Told You—takes on the King of Rock & Roll and sets out to prove that his great-grandmother on his maternal side was Jewish. “He loved matzo-ball soup, his mother wanted him to be a doctor, and he had a nose job,” she told The Daily Beast. “Convinced?”

    Meanwhile, “I’m hoping not to have too many problems when [Tony Ortega’s] book comes out,” she told The Daily Beast in a recent interview. “But the reality is that if you ever write a book against Scientology you have to be prepared to have them keep tabs on you for the rest of your life and I did a tremendous amount of damage to them over many many years so I have to accept the consequences.”



    by Janene Van Jaarsveldt, NL Times Amsterdam May 21, 2015

    Youth Alderman Simone Kukenheim is very concerned about the revelations made by the VARA program Rambam about the Amsterdam Church of Scientology. “If the media reports are correct, I find it very disturbing”, the alderman said to AT5.

    Journalist Rinke Verkerk infiltrated the Amsterdam Church of Scientology to get information for a documentary, which aired on Wednesday. During the infiltration Verkerk had to do a number of “audits” at the church, during which she was asked to live traumas of the past, AT5 reports. One of these sessions were led by an 11 year old boy. “Go back to the earliest moment of pain or discomfort”, the boy asked her.

    According to the program, Scientology does not see children as inferior to adults. The church believes that an adult is hidden in a child’s body. “We did not believe it at first. A boy of eleven!” said Linda Hakeboom, the presenter of the program, according to Het Parool. “They find it very normal. Once a child can read he is seen as a full adult. That can’t be? Such a child must then ask you about childhood traumas and other terrible experiences”

    “The issue of the 11 year old boy leading therapeutic convesations concerns us as well.” Kukenheim said to AT5. “We have picked this up and passed it on to “Safe Home”, the advice- and reporting point for domestic violence and child abuse.”

    The journalist also discovered that Amsterdam primary school Onze Toekomst and Karin Bijles Centrum make use of Applied Scholastics – an educational method developed by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. Every school that uses this teaching method has to pay 4 percent of its turnover to the church annually.

    Alderman Kukenheim finds this very disturbing. “Primary school Onze Toekomst is a private school with eight students I’m not talking about the quality, that is the responsibility of the education inspectorate. I am discussing this with the education superintendent.”

    In a response, the Church of Scientology called the broadcast “sensational and inaccurate”. “If they simply made a record of what they encountered, then you would have seen kind people, who immerse themselves together in the Scientology philosophy and so gain new insights”, a spokesperson said to the Volkskrant.


  97. Brian Meets An Ex Scientologist

    Brian Tells Stories (blog) February 17, 2016

    Sharone came on the show to walk us through her experience. She was a Scientologist from the age of 6 and she shares her stories from her childhood in Scientology. Her stories are incredible and ridiculous and unbelievable. She spent time on the Sea Org and was L. Ron Hubbards assistant….sort of.

    We return with a truly fascinating tail. An extra long episode but it is worth it. I have always been fascinated with Scientology and Scientologists. Truth be told, I find all religion and believers fascinating. However, particularly Scientology. This topic and interviewee is something that I have been dying to do a piece on for quite some time.

    Sharone was only 6 when her family got involved in Scientology. Even then, she had a bad feeling about it all. At 10, she signed a billion year contract to join the Sea-Organization. Naturally. Sharone worked very closely with the infamous L. Ron Hubbard. She was L. Ron's personal assistant of sorts.

    Sharone joins the podcast to share her truly incredible time in Scientology, living on the Sea-Org, her relationship with L. Ron Hubbard, escaping Scientology and her subsequent life afterwards. You can read Sharone's blog here http://theapolloseries.blogspot.ca/ and a big shout out to Ex-Scientologists Ireland http://exscientologistsireland.org/wp/ss/ for putting me in touch. A huge thank you to Sharone for sharing her story.


  98. We wont stop fighting - Parents use billboard to reach children inside Church of Scientology

    By Lindsey Bever, Washington Post April 11, 2016

    There’s a billboard in Los Angeles dotted with dozens of faces representing Scientologists who have separated from their families. It reads: “To my loved one in Scientology … call me.”

    The massive message was placed in Echo Park this month by Phil and Willie Jones, former Scientologists who say they have lost their two adult children, Mike and Emily Jones, to a practice known as “disconnection,” which believers describe as a last resort — ending communication with people who are “antagonistic to Scientology” to protect themselves from being torn from the religion.

    Phil Jones told NBC’s “Today” that his son has told him he never wants to speak to him again.

    “That’s what they do,” Jones said, sobbing. “It’s a cruel and vindictive organization to do something like that.”

    The Joneses, from Las Vegas, were in the church for 40 years and have now begun a campaign called Stop Scientology Disconnection to raise awareness about the religious practice that they say separated them from their children.

    The purpose, according to their website, is to “make people more aware of Scientology Disconnection, as well as hopefully entice those in Scientology to take that step of calling their loved ones, family, friends, or whoever they have disconnected from due to pressure from the Church of Scientology.”

    The couple launched a GoFundMe page to help raise the more than $8,000 needed to pay for printing and installation costs. By Monday morning, they had raised about $16,500 and secured the billboard for a second month.

    They hope to have it up through August.

    The Church of Scientology was founded by former science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in 1952 and the religion has become popular in recent years, in part because of celebrity members such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

    But the church has generated considerable controversy.

    Since the 1970s, Scientology has taken heat from academics, journalists and ex-members who have described near-slavery conditions they say they lived through.

    Scientology slipped back into the spotlight after more recent allegations of physical abuse by some top ex-officials. The church denies many of the claims and says the former members are liars.

    Lawrence Wright’s book, “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief,” and an HBO documentary, also called “Going Clear,” exposed such alleged abuses.

    The Joneses told the Hollywood Reporter that they began to have questions about the religion about five years ago and that Phil Jones’s sister, who is also a Scientologist, went straight to church leaders to tell them that her brother and sister-in-law were having doubts.

    The couple said they were excommunicated and have not heard from their children the past few years.

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  99. Phil Jones told the Hollywood Reporter that he got involved in the church when he was a teenager.

    “Once you’re in it, there is a process that has a creep factor, there’s a degree of hypnotism, of mental conditioning,” he said. “Once you get in too deep, it’s tough to break out. My wife and I met in Scientology when she was 17 and I was 18. We’ve been together ever since.

    “We raised our children in it.”

    The problem, Jones told the Hollywood Reporter, is trying to get someone out of the church.

    “Every single person will say, ‘No, I want to be here. I’m here of my own choice.’ Because there is a brainwashing to it, a hypnosis,” he said. “If I’d try to take my kids out, they will not want to go.”

    Jones said their children joined the Church of Scientology’s Sea Organization,which is described as “a religious order for the Scientology religion and is composed of the singularly most dedicated Scientologists.”

    “That’s where you sign a billion-year contract,” Jones said. “You work there, eat the food there, you work 100 hours a week for 10 cents an hour. It’s just brutal.”

    “In 20 years, our kids were never allowed to leave for Christmas or visit us,” he added. “We could visit them and maybe get an hour with them. What usually happens is, something triggers them to want to leave. Sometimes something changes in their life, or they get beat up badly. The other thing is, the majority who get out say, ‘I read something on the Internet’ or ‘I saw something on the news.’

    “That’s why we’re doing the billboard.”

    The Church of Scientology dismissed the billboard in a statement to The Washington Post.

    “The billboard in Echo Park is simply the latest in a series of publicity stunts by Phil and Willie Jones to stalk and harass their adult offspring, Mike and Emily Jones, who are in their 30s and 40s,” the statement said. “For the past several weeks Phil and Willie Jones have been working with a reality TV producer staging stunts intended to harass their adult children, despite their children telling them directly to back off and stop.

    “Clearly, there is no fact checking with billboards. It is shameful that two people desperate for publicity would hook up with a reality TV producer to shamelessly exploit and harass their two adult children for money. It is equally despicable that these individuals would use a private family matter to promote anti-religious hate and bigotry and harm their kids.”

    Jones confirmed to the Hollywood Reporter that the couple is “documenting our journey.”

    Willie Jones told the “Today” show that the church has torn their family apart.

    “Scientology is not allowing me to be a mom,” she said. “They’re not allowing Phil to be a dad.”

    Then, she addressed her children.

    “We love you guys so much and miss you so much,” she said.

    “And we won’t stop fighting for you — ever,” Phil Jones said. “Ever.”


  100. This man made a new movie exposing Scientology's inner workings and received physical threats

    by Jason Guerrasio, Business Insider April 18, 2016

    Since the release of Alex Gibney's Emmy-winning documentary "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief," fascination over the Church of Scientology has been at an all-time high.

    Now the church is being examined through the unique style of BBC filmmaker Louis Theroux. Known as the Michael Moore of Britain, Theroux often stars in his docuseries projects featuringoff-beat cultural subjects like "America's Most Medicated Kids" and "Twilight of the Porn Stars." "My Scientology Movie," Theroux's first feature film (directed by John Dower), is less of a broad historic look at Scientology, like Gibney's film, and more a spotlight on the alleged incidents church members have experienced under the thumb of current Scientology leader David Miscavige.

    "I had tried to do something on Scientology in 2002, but I reengaged with the subject after our producer Simon Chinn read the Lawrence Wright New Yorker piece [in 2011]," Theroux told Business Insider hours before the film's international premiere on Sunday at the Tribeca Film Festival.

    The film follows Theroux as he travels to Los Angeles to investigate what goes on at the church's headquarters. With the church unwilling to cooperate, Theroux enlists ex-Scientology executive Marty Rathbun (who also stars in "Going Clear") to give insight into what goes on there.

    This then leads to Theroux asking Rathburn to help him in casting reenactments of incidents that allegedly happened to church members, many of which involve the church's leader, David Miscavige, bullying and physically abusing Scientologists.

    As with "Going Clear," making "My Scientology Movie" involved lawyers dissecting every piece of footage in the final cut to make sure BBC Films and others with stakes in the film weren't making themselves legally vulnerable.

    Due to differences in liable rules in the UK versus the States, Theroux believes "My Scientology Movie" was scrutinized more by legal than "Going Clear."

    "When you don't have access to a subject and all you have is ex-members and critics, there is this gravitational pull toward telling a certain version of events," Theroux said. "Scientology would say this, and they have a point, that it's like doing a portrait of a marriage in which you're only hearing from the ex-wife and not the ex-husband. So as a journalist it's this nagging feeling that I'm not getting the full picture."

    In the movie, many title cards giving information about alleged incidents also include counter-statements from the church. But Theroux believes Scientology's side comes through in its actions during filming.

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  101. In a few instances Theroux finds camera crews allegedly Scientologists, filming him making the movie. (Scientology informed Theroux that it's making a film on him.) Rathburn also films alleged Scientology members harassing him.

    "When they show up saying they are making their own film on me, or filming Marty, as a viewer you no longer have that thought, 'I wonder how Scientology would characterize this?' It strengthens the film," Theroux said.

    But Theroux admits he may have gone too far in a key moment in the film. Following an encounter Rathburn has with alleged church members, Theroux and Rathburn discuss the incident, with Theroux reminding Rathburn that when he was in Scientology these were the kind of tactics he instructed people to use on ex-members. This sets Rathburn off, and he curses out Theroux.

    "I think I was probably over the line," Theroux said. "Every screening I've been in when that moment plays, it's tense and people think, 'I don't know what I feel about this.'"
    But director John Dower believes it needed to be addressed.

    "Louis needs to ask that question because Marty had consistently batted it away so many times before," he said. "It so happens that's the only time he could get an answer out of him."

    "My Scientology Movie" offers the impression that even if you decide to leave the church, members will never leave you alone — especially if you go public with what goes on inside it.

    Since filming wrapped, those involved with the movie have thought the church was behind bizarre moments in their lives.

    Dower knows his Instagram account was hacked by the church because, according to Dower, Scientology officials admitted to doing it in one of their cease-and-desist letters to the BBC regarding the film.

    Then there are the threats toward Theroux.

    The morning of this interview, Theroux was locked out of his email account due to, as he called it, "suspicious activity." He believes it might be Scientology-related. And a few months ago, the police came to his house telling him they'd been tipped that someone wanted to do bodily harm to him due to his Scientology movie.

    "I asked the police where the threat came from and they said Scientology called them saying they had heard it," Theroux said. "I was like hold on, that doesn't sound right. They were the ones who made the call? Now I'm on a special list where if I call the police they are on the fast track to where I am. But my take is it sounded like Scientologists were just trying to wind me up by getting the police to come to my house."

    Numerous attempts to contact Scientology to comment for this story were not successful.

    Here's a clip from the movie:


  102. Something Huge Is About to Go Down With Scientology That Could Destroy the 'Church' Once and for All

    The church may be in danger of losing one of its most important celebrity members.

    By Travis Gettys / Raw Story April 21, 2016

    A brewing power struggle between Lisa Marie Presley and Scientology leader David Miscavige could inflict crippling harm to the controversial “church.”

    The only daughter of rock icon Elvis Presley has been slowly pulling herself away from Scientology, to which she was introduced as a child by her mother, since at least 2008, reported Tony Ortega.

    Ortega, who served as executive editor of the Raw Story from 2013 until 2015, said Presley has quietly been orchestrating a damaging media campaign against Miscavige as the church slips further into long decline.

    Miscavige’s father, Ron Miscavige, will release a “ruthless” memoir May 3 about his own life as the musical director of the hardcore Sea Org sect and his increasingly strained relationship with his son, and he’ll appear April 29 on a “20/20” episode devoted to Scientology.

    His 55-year-old son has headed Scientology since founder L. Ron Hubbard’s death in 1986, and he maintains a close—and, according to sources—strange friendship with actor Tom Cruise, probably the most famous member of the church.

    The elder Miscavige escaped—literally—four years ago from the church’s International Base near Hemet, California, and two heavily armed private investigators arrested about three years ago near his new home in Wisconsin told police they had been hired by the Church of Scientology to trail him.

    Ron Miscavige decided to write the book after that—but first he called Presley, according to Ortega’s sources.

    Presley has been nurturing doubts about Scientology for years, but Ortega reported she decided to leave after speaking with Ron Miscavige and others who had escaped Int Base—known as “The Hole”—where the church officials banish their enemies.

    She begged her mother, Priscilla Presley, and daughter, Riley Keough, to leave the church with her and prepared to confront David Miscavige, Ortega reported.

    Presley strategically fed the story about the private investigators’ arrest to the Los Angeles Times, NBC and TMZ, rather than reveal the pair’s claims in Ron Miscavige’s book, Ortega reported.

    She believed that would bolster his credibility—which could prove damaging to David Miscavige as his father begins promoting the tell-all book due out next month.

    see the links embedded in this article at:


  103. Fathers memoir spurs Scientology leader David Miscavige to threaten lawsuit

    by Libby Hill, Los Angeles Times April 26, 2016

    The leader of the Church of Scientology, David Miscavige, is looking to stop the publication of a new tell-all memoir written by his father Ron Miscavige.

    In a document first published by Tony Ortega, noted Scientology reporter, lawyers from Johnsons Solicitors, working on behalf of David Miscavige, contacted Silvertail Books, the publisher responsible for “Ruthless” in the U.K. and Ireland asking them to halt release of the book, scheduled to debut May 3.

    Asserting that they were “putting them on notice,” the letter claimed the material contained in the memoir was “highly defamatory” and that “[i]n the event that you proceed with the release of this book, in total disregard for the truth, our client will be left with no alternative but to seek the protection of UK/Irish defamation and other laws.”

    The letter sent by David Miscavige’s counsel also suggests that a similar missive had been sent to St. Martin’s Press, the publisher in charge of the book’s U.S. release.

    Among the allegations the younger Miscavige takes issue with is the idea that members of the church were exposed to “deprivation and violence” while detained at a punishment facility known as “The Hole,” as well as the accusation that the Scientology leader hired private detectives to surveil his father.

    In March, The Times reported on documents detailing that the Church of Scientology had paid $10,000 a week through an intermediary, to monitor Ron Miscavige, including eavesdropping, spying on email and GPS tracking.

    David Miscavige and the church denied culpability.

    The threat of legal action has not swayed Silvertail Books, whose publisher, Humfrey Hunter, told The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday: "My plans for the book haven’t changed at all since I received the letter. Full legal due diligence has been carried out on the manuscript and I am both confident in its integrity and very proud that Silvertail is publishing it. Ron’s story is an important one, and he is a brave man to be telling it."

    “Ruthless” is the latest in a growing number of books looking to demystify the unseen aspects of Scientology. “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief,” an exposé on the church written by Lawrence Wright, was released in 2013 and made into a 2015 documentary for HBO. Former Scientologist Leah Remini released her memoir, “Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology” detailing her time with the church in 2015.

    Ron Miscavige will appear on “20/20” Friday to speak about “Ruthless” and his son.

    The Church of Scientology did not respond to a request for comment.


  104. Scientology leader threatens UK publisher with legal action

    by Patrick Clarke, The Bookseller April 27, 2016

    British independent publisher Silvertail Books has been threatened with legal action by lawyers representing Scientology leader David Miscavige.

    Silvertail is due to publish an account by Miscavige’s father Ron on 3rd May titled Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me in the UK and Ireland.

    However, the publisher has received a letter from Johnsons law firm, seen by The Bookseller, warning that if the book is published next week then the company will be sued for defamation.

    Despite this, Silvertail’s publisher, Humfrey Hunter, said he intends to go ahead with publication next week.

    “The letter has had no effect at all,” he told The Bookseller. “I’m going to publish the book because I believe it’s an important story told in good faith and a brilliant read.”

    He added that he had already received a “good number of e-books pre-orders already” through Amazon and his own website, silvertailbooks.com.

    Silvertail’s website describes the book as tracing Miscavige’s life from his early years to his rise to power as the current leader of Scientology, told from his father’s perspective.

    However, in the letter, Miscavige’s lawyers said the book contains “false, misleading and highly defamatory allegations”.

    Hunter added to the Hollywood Reporter: "Full legal due diligence has been carried out on the manuscript, and I am both confident in its integrity and very proud that Silvertail is publishing it. Ron’s story is an important one, and he is a brave man to be telling it."

    Johnsons’ letter also implies that the American publishers of the book, St Martin’s Press, have also received similar correspondence from the Church of Scientology’s US attorneys.

    Silvertail has previously published a number of other books related to Scientology, including The Unbreakable Miss Lovely by Tony Ortega, about how the church allegedly "tried to destroy" journalist Paulette Cooper, and John Sweeney’s The Church of Fear: Inside The Weird World of Scientology.

    Last month, The Bookseller reported that Silvertail was set to publish Going Clear, an investigation into Scientology by Pulitzer prize-winning author Lawrence Wright, three years after it was pulled in the UK by Transworld.


  105. Scientology Leader David Miscaviges Father Says His Son Changed After Joining Church Leadership


    Ron Miscavige said that by the time his son David Miscavige was 15 years old he wanted to be fully committed to the Church of Scientology.

    “He says, ‘I want to go and help L. Ron Hubbard,’” Ron Miscavige told ABC News "20/20." “And I thought to myself… I would be pretty proud of him… So, I said, ‘OK, I’ll help you, whatever I can.’”

    At the time, David was already an auditor and a minister of the faith. When David turned 16, he left home and school in Pennsylvania with his family’s consent and went to Scientology’s spiritual headquarters, the Flag Land Base, in Clearwater, Florida, for "Sea Org" training.

    The members of the “Sea Organization” or “Sea Org,” are like the clergy of the Scientology. Ron Miscavige would eventually join Sea Org himself, but he said as the years went on something in his son changed.

    Ron Miscavige spoke to ABC News in an exclusive interview for “20/20” about his experience as a former Scientologist and about his son David’s rise to power within the Church. Miscavige also talked about his new memoir, “Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me,” out on May 3, which he wrote with Dan Koon, a former Church official who is now a vocal critic.

    Ex-Scientologist Lois Reisdorf told ABC News she first met David when she was at Flag looking for recruits to join Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s personal elite Sea Org unit called the Commodore’s Messenger Organization.

    “Dave was just like a 16-year-old kid,” Reisdorf told “20/20.” “He was very… gung ho. He had a lot of spark.”

    The Church told ABC News in a statement that Reisdorf’s comments about recruiting David Miscavige are “utterly false.”

    Before long, David Miscavige was in Hubbard’s circle and moved West without his family where Hubbard, who was also known by his initials LRH, was building new secret bases and shooting Scientology training films.

    “He [David] ended up being a cameraman,” Reisdorf said. “But in the beginning, we used to call him ‘the kid,’ and LRH would call him ‘the kid.’”

    Ron Miscavige wasn’t in Sea Org at the time and doesn’t have direct knowledge of this.

    The Church says Hubbard decided early that Miscavige would eventually succeed him.

    “Mr. Hubbard viewed David Miscavige as one of his closest and trusted aides, and he essentially groomed him to become the leader of the Church,” said Church lawyer Monique Yingling. “So really while there wasn’t an anointment or anything like that, it was clear to everyone… that David was the person that Mr. Hubbard would want to take the Church forward.”

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  106. But that claim is intensely disputed by Church critics. Reisdorf said originally Hubbard wanted the Church to be run by a committee after he died, not one person. But she said that after Hubbard went into seclusion in 1980, David Miscavige’s influence and power grew as he evolved from the Commodore’s Messenger Organization into a Gatekeeper.

    “He started to get power and started to pull in people … onto his side, and it ended up being like a coup, where you had half of the management took over and kicked out the other half,” Reisdorf said.

    Reisdorf claims she was part of the “other half” and that she was relieved of her executive duties.

    “It was a betrayal,” she said.

    In a statement to ABC News, the Church said, “Lois Reisdorf was removed from Church staff and expelled in 1982.”

    “Hubbard was the one who personally removed Lois Reisdorf from her management post, never to hold an executive position again,” the statement continued. “Hubbard found that she had ‘systematically crashed’ production by issuing destructive orders, … He stripped her of all rank, and assigned her to clean rooms.”

    “Her claims regarding Mr. Hubbard’s plans and intentions for the future of Scientology are lies,” the statement said. “She has no knowledge of them, because she had long since been removed.”

    Ron Miscavige joined Sea Org in 1985 when his son David, then in his mid-20s, was already established in the Church’s leadership. His father said he learned shortly after he arrived at Sea Org that things were different between them.

    “I saw him walking, oh about 20 yards from me,” Ron Miscavige told ABC News “20/20.” “I says, ‘Hey Dave.’ And he turned to me and he looked at me like, ‘Who are you talking to?’ No words were said but that glance told me those days were over. I would never, I could never do that as a father to a son.”

    At first, Miscavige said he enjoyed himself. A longtime practicing musician, he joined the Church's Golden Era Productions as a musician and composer and traveled the world. He said he believed he was helping change the world through Scientology. But he said his son's management style reflected his short temper and often involved yelling or shouting, citing one particular incident where he said David yelled at him at a music event for almost an hour in front of other people.

    "I'm the one that got him into Scientology. I raised him, good or bad," Miscavige said. "And to come to this? What the hell is this? This is nuts."

    The Church insists Ron Miscavige doesn't know much about David's management style because they didn't spend much time together.

    When L. Ron Hubbard died in 1986, David officially became the head of the Church, taking the title of Chairman of the Board.

    "There were no checks and balances on him [David], at a certain point, where he could just go ahead," Ron Miscavige said. "He just assumed that power. And he had an authoritarian figure. He was a great talker.... he used to say, 'You have power if people will listen to you.' And people did listen to him."


  107. Scientology Leaders Father Ron Miscavige Describes the Moment When He Says He Escaped


    Two hours east of Los Angeles, in Hemet, California, sits a 500-acre Scientology compound known as the “Gold Base.”
    The Church characterizes the base as a slice of Scientology utopia, with state-of-the-art facilities and gorgeous landscaping.

    “If you talk to the staff, they'll tell you it's a worker's paradise,” Scientology attorney Monique Yingling told ABC News “20/20.” “It couldn't be a better place to work.”

    But that’s not how Ron Miscavige remembers it.

    Ron Miscavige, the father of Scientology’s leader David Miscavige, and his wife Becky moved onto the base in 2006, where he said they were forced to live under serious restrictions.

    “I’m living on a compound…where your mail going out is read before its seal and sent out, where before you get your mail, it’s opened and read before you get it,” Ron Miscavige told “20/20” in an exclusive interview. “Phone calls, you’re on the phone, somebody else is listening on an extension.”

    Gary Morehead, a former Scientologist turned Church critic, says he was once director of security for the Church and would go through people’s belongings at Gold Base to collect information on them.

    “I would go through people’s personal belongings out of their berthing, where they slept… obtaining bank records, date of birth, passwords, any personal information, where their family addresses were,” Morehead told “20/20.”

    Before he moved to the base, Ron Miscavige had joined the Sea Organization, or “Sea Org,” the clergy of the Church, in 1985 and was working as a musician and composer for the Church’s Golden Era Productions. But Miscavige said by the late 2000s, the crushing workload, rigid lifestyle and lack of sleep on the base became unbearable.

    The Church rejects those claims, telling ABC News in a statement that “long and hard hours” and a “restrictive lifestyle” are part of the mission that Sea Org members sign up for.

    “These are people that have dedicated their lives to something they really believe in,” Yingling said. “They may work hard. They may work really long hours… but they enjoy it.”

    As for Ron, he “was working with first-class musicians in one of the best studios in the world,” she continued. “He had nothing to complain about.”

    To prove it, the Church gave “20/20” photos of Ron enjoying fancy birthday meals they said his son David Miscavige provided and a car David and his two sisters had bought their father for his birthday.

    The Church also sent ABC News video testimonials and letters from Ron’s former bandmates and other staffers in which they called Ron “lazy,” and claimed he used “racial and ethnic slurs,” was a “poor musician” and a “disgusting pig.”

    All of which Ron Miscavige disputes, pointing to a video showing him being allowed to play at a birthday party the Church threw for Tom Cruise, and asking why he would be allowed to be a part of the celebration if Church members thought so little of him.
    Ron also claims he was subjected to a practice called “over-boarding,” a disciplinary measure in which a Sea Org member in trouble with the Church is thrown overboard from the Sea Org ship into the water with clothes on. The Church claims over-boarding is voluntary.

    “When you jump off… you commit yourself to the sea, so that you’ll be cleansed and come back, you know, better,” Yingling said. “There’s… some sort of an ecclesiastical discipline thing or it can be done as a group, and when a group does it, it’s more, sort of, because they’re all agreeing that somehow they screwed up, and ‘let’s get together and cleanse ourselves of it.’”

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  108. But Ron disagreed.

    “I’m going out there and I’m thinking to myself, this is straight lunatic asylum stuff,” Ron Miscavige said. “This is going to make me better? The only effect it had on me is make me all the more want to possibly get out of there.”

    For months, Ron Miscavige and his wife Becky said they planned what they called their escape from Gold Base by conditioning guards into letting them make regular Sunday trips to the music studio across the street. It all came to a head one day when Ron drove his car up to the security gate and pressed the button. To his relief, the gate opened.

    “I drove out slowly so it wouldn’t arouse suspicion,” Miscavige said. “When I turned left, I put my foot right to the floorboard… I knew we were free. I knew they couldn’t catch us.”

    “It was an escape,” he continued. “You can’t leave. You think you can just walk out? No. You will be stopped. I escaped.”

    The Church denies that this was an “escape.” Yingling told “20/20” that Gold Base “is not a prison.”

    “People can come and go as they please, and they do,” she said.

    But Gary Morehead said he had many ways to discourage would-be deserters from leaving the base.

    “I wouldn’t open up the gate,” he said. “I would send my rover guard down there to meet up with them face-to-face in case he started scaling in and I would try to calm, cool and collectively talk to him on the intercom.”

    During his tenure there, Morehead said he tracked people down who he said had deserted and got them to come back.

    “I used to have to keep a statistic which is a printed out graph of security threats, and that was the people who wanted to leave or the people to had left that we brought back and were undergoing handling,” Morehead said. “So every time somebody left, I learned something new to make it that much quicker for me to find somebody… the amount of sheer pressure that I would get until that person was back here was incredible.”

    At the time, he said he thought that he was “helping that person.”

    “They’re obviously having troubles, they’re leaving for a reason,” Morehead said. “So I’m going to be the one to help bring them back and… regain their spiritual enlightenment… and that sheltered my true view of the way I should look at it.”

    The Church told ABC News in a statement that Morehead hasn’t worked at “any Church of Scientology” for 20 years, his comments are false and, “He is a teller of tales with no credibility.”

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  109. Once Ron and Becky Miscavige were off the base, they said they drove for three days to Wisconsin where Becky’s mother lives. But despite all of Ron’s complaints about the Church, he said he sent his son David Miscavige a letter asking for money soon after they left.

    “In that letter, I said, ‘Hey, listen, I spent a lot of years in the Sea Org, I couldn’t live under those conditions, and I have very little money paid into social security. If you can give me some financial help, I would appreciate it,’” Ron Miscavige said.

    He said his son David gave him $100,000, from money David had inherited from his mother, to buy a house.

    “Maybe he read it and he’s thinking, you know, ‘he is my old man and he’s old, maybe I’ll help him out,’” Ron Miscavige said. “And then on the other hand… I think, ‘well, maybe he did it just so it would be insurance that I wouldn’t do anything.’ And I wasn’t going to do anything.”

    Ron Miscavige wrote a memoir, “Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me,” with Dan Koon, a former Church official who is now a vocal critic. It's out in stores on May 3.


    Church of Scientology International's April 29, 2016, Statement to ABC News Regarding '20/20' Ron Miscavige Interview

    BY ABC NEWS Apr 29, 2016

    Ronald Miscavige is seeking to make money on the name of his famous son. David Miscavige has taken care of his father throughout his life, both financially and by helping him in even the most dire circumstances. Ronald Miscavige was nowhere around when David Miscavige ascended to the leadership of the Church of Scientology, mentored by and working directly with the religion’s founder L. Ron Hubbard, and entrusted by him with the future of the Church.

    Any father exploiting his son in this manner is a sad exercise in betrayal.

    Mr. David Miscavige’s far-reaching vision and unrelenting dedication has brought the Church of Scientology to where it is today, guaranteeing its future for generations to come. Scientologists worldwide love and respect Mr. David Miscavige for his tireless work on behalf of their religion.


  110. Ron Miscaviges life in Scientology - “It was inhuman as far as I’m concerned”

    Salon speaks to the author of "Ruthless," a memoir about Scientology and its leader, his son David Miscavige

    by SCOTT TIMBERG, Salon SATURDAY, MAY 7, 2016

    What’s it like to have a son drift away from you? What’s it like to be virtually imprisoned in an abusive facility? And what’s it like to see a religion you believed in turn into what you feel has become a nasty cult? Those all are things Ron Miscavige describes in his new book, “Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me.” His tale is one of the most extreme examples of “disconnection” – the absolute breaking of ties between a Scientologist and a friend or family member — made even more extreme because the leader of Scientology is the son he raised in the church.

    Except for a chilling prologue, the book starts innocently enough. Ron raises his four children, gets drawn into something that seems like a kind of self-help movement, and moves his family to a small town in England to get to know it better. According to his account, he gradually begins to see through the church at the same time he observes his son becoming vicious and calculating. Ron also describes escaping Gold Base – the church headquarters in the California desert – and leaving the church completely in 2012. Ron, who served in the Marine Corps and worked for decades as a professional jazz trumpeter, makes a likable narrator.

    The book’s publication, however, has been met with protest from Scientology and David Miscavige — lawyers have sent letters to the book’s British and American publisher warning of a lawsuit for defamation. A statement from the Church calls the book “a sad exercise in betrayal” and claims that “Ronald Miscavige was nowhere around when David Miscavige ascended to the leadership of the Church of Scientology, mentored by and working directly with the religion’s founder L. Ron Hubbard, and entrusted by him with the future of the Church.”

    Salon spoke to the Milwaukee-based writer from New York, where he was touring behind the book. The interview has been edited lightly for clarity.

    It’s important to understand what the appeal of Scientology was for you and other people. What made you want to get involved with the church?

    Years ago, I got involved with a multi-level marketing scheme called Holiday Magic. We had an opportunity meeting and there were some people there; one of them was a guy by the name of Mike Hess. He happened to mention to somebody that he was a Scientologist, and I heard this and I kind of pinned him down and said, “What is that?” I made him tell me about it for about 30, 40 minutes. It just interested me right off the bat. He told me of a Scientologist who used to have meetings at his cafeteria every Tuesday or Wednesday night and I started going to them. I found it interesting that you could apply some of this data on an everyday basis and it helped you, such as in communication or maybe interpersonal relationships, and that’s how I got interested.

    How drastically has the church changed since you got involved?
    It’s a 180. That’s how drastic it is. In ’69 and ’70, it was kind of very laissez-faire. You could go to an organization, referred to as “orgs,” and you’d go in there and find people were friendly; you could do courses that just were immediately helpful. It was like a self-help movement. It’s hard to explain how nice it was to go there. Everybody was there for the same purpose and you met a lot of friends, and it was reasonably priced.

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  111. Today basically the prices are aimed at people who are very affluent or wealthy. It’s not accomplishing any of the purposes that I thought it was set out to do in the ’70s. In those days, what you were trying to make is “auditors.” An auditor is a person who counsels another person and brings them to a greater awareness of life and how they are, and maybe get over some of their failings and some of the things that upset them. These days, most of the emphasis is on raising money to buy new buildings, which is not the same as it was then.

    Do you think the church should lose its tax-exempt status?

    I don’t see how belonging to the Church of Scientology is going to do the same thing as just maybe a normal mainline religion like Catholicism or being a Protestant or whatever. Because the one thing that you’d find, I think, in people having a religion, is someplace where they can go and find some [solace] to some of the sufferings or the upsets they have in life.

    I know with the Catholic Church, I was raised that way, they had confession. You could go tell a priest your sins and kind of get it off your chest and he’d give you some little penances to say and you’d do that and feel better. You go to Scientology and you go to a confessional and anything you say in there is recorded and written down. There’s a documented record of it and they will use that against you if you were to leave them or be critical of the church. The Catholic Church doesn’t do that. Scientology does it as a matter of course. Because of that, in [that] definition of a church I just don’t see how they can qualify.

    Tell us about The Hole, which you describe in the book, and what kind of an effect it had on the environment.
    The Hole was started as a “handling” to the marketing area of Scientology being reduced in effectiveness. L. Ron Hubbard said if management destroys or knocks out marketing, they should all be disbanded, taken off post, and marketing should be built up again. That’s the central marketing unit. That happened, and David took all those executives and put them into these trailers and that’s how The Hole started. They spent all day in there writing up their transgressions, or supposed transgressions, and questioning each other. They lived sequestered from the rest of the base. They would march down to our mess hall for their meals sequestered from the rest of the base. They’d go as a group and take a shower down in the garage.

    It was like a little prison within the bigger prison of the base. Because the base itself turned into that, where you were sequestered from life. You usually couldn’t leave that place and go to a store or call on your own. You didn’t have cell phones; all of your phone calls went through an operator; people listened in on the calls; your mail was checked before it came in and before it went out. But The Hole was even lower than that, and these people were on their own, put in that place to kind of rehabilitate them as very bad sinners. It was destructive, as far as I’m concerned, to the people who lived there, because they became shells of their former selves.

    When did you get the sense that your son was changing?
    First of all, he was a terrific little kid. I’d get along with him great. A lovable little kid; he had a great sense of humor. We had a lot of fun together. When he joined the Sea Organization he was 16 years old. He really wanted to do that and I allowed him to do it because I felt if he wants to do this and this is his life’s purpose, why stop him? Because even prior to that he trained to be an auditor and he was a very good auditor.

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  112. Then I joined the Sea Organization about nine years later, and one day I’m at the base and I’m coming out of the music studio and I saw him walking with his entourage about 30 yards away from me. I shouted out, “Hey, Dave!” And he turned and gave me a look that I knew that I would never do that again. I then realized that I was not his father on that base, but I was another staff member. I think that particular moment was when I sensed there’s something that’s gone different than prior in his life with his relationship with me. I firmly believe the statement that Lord Acton made, that “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” I guess it turned out I was right, because the more power he got, the more alienated he became to me, as a father-son relationship. As a matter of fact, on the base, he never referred to me as “Dad;” he called me “Ron.”

    And you started to hear and see things that he was doing to the whole base; it wasn’t just his relationship with you.
    Oh yeah. We had a torrential rainstorm that had a mudslide and it almost crushed these buildings, and he took us into our eating area, which was a big hall, and for 30 minutes just said that it was [the staff] that caused that to happen. Not an act of God, but it was our bad wishes and our bad thoughts, and we were just a nothing after that point. That was in the ’90s and we never recovered from that. That day stands out in my mind as a day that I didn’t think things would ever change for the better after that. As it turned out, I was right.

    You’ve described David developing a whole range of antisocial tendencies.
    One of them is not caring for another person. That’s almost like you have no conscience. You can just do something to somebody and just walk away and you’ve done it.

    I’ll give you an example. We were on the Freewinds, which is the ship that Scientology has for their uppermost level, and we had a performer there who said something onstage that he shouldn’t have said and it embarrassed David. The band was sent to the bilges as a punishment. The bilges in a ship, the temperature down there is between 125 and maybe 135 degrees. I was in my 60s, and prior to this I had somewhat of a heart condition, and he knew this but I had to go down there with the rest of the guys in that heat. It was inhuman as far as I’m concerned.

    There are a lot of examples like that in your book of people being punished in harsh ways.
    Oh yeah, absolutely. There’s just no concern for the person. Yet they will say that it’s totally the opposite, that he’s a kind and compassionate person, which just couldn’t be further from the truth. I personally know people who he punched, like Mark Fisher, like Tom De Vocht… I’m not going anonymous on any of these guys. There’s their names. They’ll go on camera and tell you what happened. Yet when it comes to anybody in the church who’s an official making their presence known and going on camera and being interviewed, they won’t do it.

    Was this book painful for you to write? To recount all of these painful events and have your son drift away from you must be really hard to take.
    You know the story about the PI’s, when they saw me grabbing my chest? Thought I was going to have a heart attack and they called… A few minutes later, David, or a person who identified himself as David Miscavige, got on and said, “Listen, if it’s his time to die, let him die. Don’t intervene. Don’t do anything.”

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  113. Even after I heard that—which was very painful for me, devastating as a father; I changed his diapers when he was a kid for Christ’s sake—even with that, I wasn’t going to do anything. I figured, alright, let me get in communication with him, and I called and I couldn’t talk to him. An attorney for the church got on the phone and said to me, “David won’t talk to you because he doesn’t feel he can trust you.”

    He said that to me. After two PI’s getting paid $10,000 a week followed me around for a year and a half recording everything I did from eight o’clock in the morning to eight o’clock at night. That’s the convoluted type of thinking that goes on. But I said, “OK, then just tell him, ‘Don’t have people follow me anymore.’ I don’t like it, and just don’t do it.” I was going to let it slide.
    So then I took the opportunity to go down to Florida with my wife in October of 2014 to talk to my daughters and see if I could repair the relationship, because by then they had stopped talking to me. So I went to my daughter Denise’s home and her husband came to the door, Jerry, and I said I want to talk to Denise and he says, “Well you can’t talk to her, she’s not here.” But she probably was there. After about 20 minutes of tap dancing with me, I said, “Hey Jerry, what’s the story here? Are you through with us?” And he said, “Ron, Denise and I are through with you and Becky forever.” That was the moment I decided to write the book.

    Yes, it was not easy to sit down and do it, but I felt I had an obligation to do it. Not just for myself, but for the hundreds of other people who have been the subject of disconnection. People who no longer talk to their children, who no longer talk to their parents, friends of decades no longer talk to them. I felt somebody had to do something about it and I knew that I could get pretty good attention because of who I was. That’s why I wrote the book.

    Once I started it, it just rolled out of me. Because I didn’t sit down at a typewriter or a computer. I tried doing that, but my fingers couldn’t keep up with my thoughts. I tried voice to text, but you spend 90 percent of your time correcting the words. So I got together with this friend of mine, Dan Koon, and we sat down at my house and he asked me questions. That book is a spoken narration of what happened and he took the recording and he put it into book form. That’s how it happened.

    Once I got into it I knew that I was doing the right thing. Not only for my own self, but for the sake of a lot of people that I felt it might help. Will it help? Will it end disconnection? I don’t know, but I’ll tell you this: I couldn’t not do anything after that conversation with Jerry saying that they were through with me forever.

    Who is your favorite trumpeter?
    [Laughs] That’s a good question and it’s easy for me to answer it. There were two of them. One was Doc Severinsen and the other one was Louis Armstrong.

    Scott Timberg is a staff writer for Salon, focusing on culture. A longtime arts reporter in Los Angeles who has contributed to the New York Times, he runs the blog Culture Crash. He's the author of the new book, "Culture Crash: The Killing of the Creative Class."


  114. Bizarre Scientology Case Comes to Bizarre Conclusion

    by John Council, Texas Lawyer May 18, 2016

    In a move that stunned her lawyers, a Texas woman has dropped her lawsuit alleging that the Church of Scientology engaged in a relentless and bizarre harassment campaign against her—including sending her a sex toy at work.

    After winning significant victories against the church at trial and on appeal, the Texas Supreme Court recently granted an unopposed motion that allows Monique Rathbun to drop the civil law she filed in a Comal County district court.

    Last year, Rathbun won an unusual ruling from Austin's Third Court of Appeals, which concluded the church didn't have a constitutional right to stalk her, send her a sex toy at work and publish allegations that she had a secret sex-change operation. [See "Court Rules Against Church of Scientology in Bizarre Case," Texas Lawyer, Nov. 17, 2015.]

    Rathbun, who wasn't a member of the church but is married to a former member, filed the civil suit against the church alleging invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The church tried unsuccessfully to dismiss Rathbun's claims under the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA), also known as the Texas anti-SLAPP statute.

    The TCPA allows the trial court to dismiss tort suits filed against defendants who speak out on matters of public concern, and in some cases, allows them to recover their attorney fees. The church argued that Rathbun's lawsuit was related to their rights of free speech, association and right to petition found in the First Amendment, and appealed the Third Court's ruling in Church of Scientology v. Rathbun to the high court earlier this year.

    But before the high court could decide whether to hear the case, Rathbun fired her lawyers. She concluded her lawsuit was no longer worth it financially and that her attorneys had plead defects in her complaint over her objections, according to a pro se motion she filed in the Supreme Court in April.

    "I do not have the resources, the time, nor the motivation to litigate in the Supreme Court of Texas against Scientology's army of lawyers in the defense of errors made by attorneys who subordinated my wishes in favor of interests inimical to my own," Rathbun wrote in her motion.

    The move came as a surprise to Elliott Cappuccio, a partner in San Antonio's Pulman, Cappuccio, Pullen, Benson & Jones, whose firm had represented Rathbun at trial and on appeal.

    Cappuccio said his firm received a letter from Rathbun in January in which she stated she was terminating the representation without cause.

    "She said specifically in her letter that she was terminating us without cause. We were surprised to hear anything critical in her motion and in fact we had succeeded at every level, both at the trial court and the court of appeals," Cappuccio said. "We were confident that the Supreme Court was going to uphold the Austin Third of Court of Appeals' decision. And we were on our way to having her day in court in the Comal County trial court.''

    "We were engaged on a contingency fee basis and we invested a lot of blood, sweat, tears and time into this case. We were disappointed,'' Cappuccio said.

    "I wish her the best. I'm just not sure why she did what she did.''

    Rathbun, whose contact information was blacked out on her pro se motion, could not be reached for comment.

    Doug Alexander, a partner in Austin's Alexander, Dubose, Jefferson & Townsend who represents the church at the Supreme Court, did not return a call for comment.