We spoke yesterday with Lt. Tony Taylor of the Sylvania Police Department in Georgia, which investigated the March 16 death of noted Scientology critic Arnie Lerma.
He confirmed much of what we had already gathered in our previous reporting. Lerma's wife, Ginger Sugerman, told us that Arnie shot her in the face with a handgun. She had been sitting on the couch of their home when he approached her. She remembered running and falling before Lerma shot her, but the two bullet holes in the wall behind the couch suggest that he shot before she ran.
Ginger said she was surprised when she was told that, but it's understandable given what she went through.
2018-03-30, Chris Shelton, Critical Thinker at Large
For each new generation, the events of their time always seem to be the precursor to the End of Days. Yet in the cold hard light of dispassionate objectivity, we can easily see that predictions of doom and gloom have been popular for many thousands of years. The end of the world has been said to be coming and has then gone by while the birds continue to chirp and we continue to slog through our lives, making our way as best we can.
I love history and the perspective that it can give. While doing some Scientology research collection, I came across this article from The Aberree, a newsletter from the 1950s and 60s published by Agnes Hart and edited by Alphia Hart. Its author is unknown but since the work was never copyrighted and is just as relevant today as when it was first released in September of 1961, I'm re-printing it in full.
Here is someone talking turkey about societal worries and concerns that existed just as strongly 56 years ago as they do today. There will always be doomsday preachers like Alex Jones, Marshall Applewhite, David Icke or L. Ron Hubbard: people willing to say anything no matter how outrageous, unfounded or patently false just for the sake of making a buck or amassing a cult following (or both). And there will always be people who become a bit too overly concerned about the End of Days, in whatever form it is said to be coming, and who unfortunately are willing to shell out dollar after dollar to try to prevent that imagined threat that is no more going to kill them than their shadow. Of course, the lasting damage is not financial, but psychological and ultimately, societal. These doomsayers are like a cancer and we don't really act strongly enough to excise them when they are detected because we live in a country where anyone has the right to say anything, no matter how destructive those words might end up being. It's a tough situation to be in, weighing freedom of speech and freedom of thought with the overall good of society as a whole. Much smarter people than me have tried to figure that problem out and I don't know that it ever will be truly resolved.
Larry Elmore has been called the best thing that ever happened to Dungeons & Dragons art (although personally, your proprietor is more of a Trampier man), and we wondered what Elmore's legions of role-playing fans might think if they knew that for the past four years, he's been helping out the Church of Scientology.
This Sunday, Scientology will host its annual "L. Ron Hubbard's Writers and Illustrators of the Future" award ceremony at the Wilshire Ebell Theater in Hollywood.
Back in 2012, we dispelled some of the myths about the contest. Contrary to what some of its participants may like to believe, the contest is very much a Church of Scientology owned and funded project whose sole purpose is to promote Hubbard's image and pretend that his reputation as a science fiction writer is really on par with the contest's illustrious judges.
There are some things Cathy Schenkelberg can't forget, memories that bring back the shame. They burn like lava from that volcano, the famous one on the cover of Dianetics, the bible of the Church of Scientololgy.
Her story of one of those moments takes place at a dinner in the mid-1990s: Schenkelberg and her daughter were at the church's Clearwater headquarters. It was the "celebrity's table," and Schenkelberg was a minor celebrity. She was one of the most prominent voice-over actors in the country, making nearly $400,000 a year in commercials. • A member since her early 20s, Schenkelberg said she had given increasing chunks of her income to the church, paying for courses in L. Ron Hubbard's way of thinking, expensive "auditing" sessions, and advanced several levels up the church hierarchy. The training, fellow members told her, would allow her to be free, to become truly herself. • There was always a price. More courses, more training, more everything. The price to sit at the celebrity table was $2,500. • "You're going to have to move," the maître d' said. "Somebody else wants the seat." • Then, she said, she saw Tom Cruise walking up to the table.
2017-03-30, Chris Shelton, Critical Thinker at Large
I have been asked many times whether Mormonism is a destructive cult. This is my second talk with former Mormon Jonathan Streeter and we go over control methods, beliefs and authoritarian practices within both Scientology and the LDS Church and how they compare and contrast. I think anyone who is curious about this will find this interesting.
2017-03-30, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
We start out Thursday Funnies with some REAL funny.
Cathy Shenkelberg's one woman show Squeeze My Cans is opening in Tampa today for a limited engagement through Sunday.
I encourage everyone in the local area to support her...
2016-03-30, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
This is one of the most recent "ideal orgs" on the planet. In fact, according to scientology, this specific org is the fastest growing org on earth over the last year. It is also a perfect example of what these orgs really are. Empty buildings accomplishing absolutely nothing once they have had their choreographed and video'd ribbon-yanking. After the video is fed to the sheeple as the "proof" of "international expansion" the empty building is left to sit like an abandoned military base. This is true for "ideal orgs" in large cities like London, NY, Rome and Moscow just as it is in small ones like Basel or Malmo. Any time of the day or night you happen to go by these buildings, they are empty. It is difficult to find a single soul visible anywhere.
On Sunday, Rod Keller gave us the scoop: This coming Saturday at 2 pm, Scientology will open its newest "Ideal Org," in the Atlanta area.
It's always interesting to know where the elusive David Miscavige is going to pop up. And he usually shows up at these grand openings, giving a short speech before pulling down a giant ribbon on the new Scientology cathedral.
Will Atlanta hold true to form? We're guessing that Miscavige will be there, and of course there's always a (slight) possibility that one of the organization's glittering celebrities will be there as well.
Yesterday, Alex Gibney's documentary Going Clear introduced millions of Americans to Scientology's concepts about declaring people "suppressive" and ordering them to "disconnect" from each other, resulting in families being ripped apart.
Today, we have one of the most dramatic examples of it ever caught on tape. The Underground Bunker has obtained a stunning audio recording which captures the moment when a woman is told she is being declared a "suppressive person" or "SP" by a Scientology ethics officer, and she realizes that it may tear apart her family.
Even more remarkable, we hear from the ethics officer's own mouth that Sylvia DeWall (pictured) is being declared suppressive for...
Scientologists hold a 'blackmail file' on John Travolta to stop him leaving the faith, which includes 'damaging material' from his sessions with auditors at the church, it has been claimed.
A documentary investigating the religion and its secret California-based headquarters features a number of allegations about how members are threatened and tortured in prison-style camps and cut off from their family if they decide to leave Scientology.
Others belonging to the most senior order of the faith have been forced to play musical chairs to the sound of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody in a fight to secure a chair to stay in the church, it was claimed.
"I'm a reporter, and I just had a few questions," Wright recalled the visitor saying earlier this month. He quickly deduced that Joe was from Freedom magazine, the publication that bills itself as the voice of the Church of Scientology. Freedom had been trying to interview Wright since the publication of his 2013 book, "Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief." With a documentary based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning author's work set to debut on HBO, the magazine had ramped up its efforts to talk to Wright.
That documentary, directed by prolific filmmaker Alex Gibney, became a trending topic on Twitter after its debut Sunday and sparked discussion about the faith's most high-profile followers, Tom Cruise and John Travolta.
Using Wright's reporting as a springboard, Gibney persuaded eight former Scientologists to give interviews on camera about their experiences inside the church.
Some of the film's participants say they have been physically harassed and vilified online as a result of speaking out against the high-profile organization — allegations the church denies.
One night about seven years ago, the actor Jason Beghe stumbled upon his own Wikipedia page. At the bottom he found a four-word phrase that nauseated him: "Public supporter of Scientology." Beghe, who currently stars in the hit NBC show Chicago P.D., had left the church in disgust months earlier, though he hadn't yet made that public. "I wrote a non-confrontational assertion that I wasn't a Scientologist anymore, and Wikipedia kept rejecting it," he says. "My buddy explained the information had to be verified."
Celebrities Who Have Left Scientology
LOS ANGELES, March 30 (UPI) -- Leah Remini has praised the filmmakers behind Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, a documentary about the controversial church.
"Thank you to the brave who did something about it. And to those who didn't have a voice, you do now. #GoingClear," the former King of Queens star and television personality tweeted Sunday.
Remini, 44, left Scientology in 2013 after decades as a member.
Actress Leah Remini, a former Scientologist, has spoken out about HBO's investigative documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.
The 44-year-old King of Queens alum, who made headlines after her high-profile exit from the Church of Scientology in 2013, Tweeted a heartfelt thank you to the moviemakers for following through with a film about the controversial church.
"Thank you to the brave who did something about it. And to those who didn't have a voice, you do now," Remini Tweeted on Monday.
2015-03-30, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
To be honest, I am still catching my breath from the airing of Going Clear last night. Thank you to everyone who wrote, texted, tweeted, called and otherwise made their support and appreciation known. It was a bit overwhelming.
Also, I am not as industrious as Tony Ortega. And despite what the church says, I have work I need to do in order to make a living.
Those are my justifications for not doing a posting of my own this morning, and I am sticking to them.
Brian Kingman, the managing director for Gallagher Entertainment, which insures studio films, says that safeguards and qualifications make it possible for big stars to do their own stunts — if someone's willing to pay.
"I mean, if you've got enough time, talent and money, anything is insurable," he says. "All insurers want to know is that things are done safely and any risk is a reasonable one."
The HBO documentary "Going Clear" has once again focused a critical eye on the Church of Scientology and its founder, L. Ron Hubbard.
In 1996, the Los Angeles City Council agreed to rename a portion of a street next to the Scientology headquarters in honor of Hubbard.
Here's the history of that move from The Times' archives:
TO Scientologists, founder L. Ron Hubbard is a larger-than-life figure - a war hero, philosopher and humanitarian.
But the real man was a dissembling, emotional wreck who made up most of his legendary exploits out of whole cloth, writes British journalist Russell Miller.
2014-03-30, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
How is it possible that 4 MONTHS after the release of GAG II and its super, incredibly fast training line-up, the IDEAL ORG in Orange County the MOST ADVANCED auditor trainee on the GAG II line-up is on PRO TR's?
Maybe GAG II isn't all it's cracked up to be? Surely D/Source for Lost Tech didn't misrepresent his wondrous breakthroughs?
Or maybe Orange County only has ONE person on auditor training?
Hey, we sure had a fun time last night live-blogging the Scientology episode of H2's 'America's Book of Secrets.' It turned out to be an excellent show, and covered an amazing amount in only an hour. The episode will be on many more times, and as soon as it's available at H2's website, we'll let you know.
Also, if you didn't get a look at it yet, we're happy that the New York Post let us go on at length about Russell Miller's terrific book, Bare-Faced Messiah, being republished 27 years after Scientology's litigation tactics kept it out of this country.
So let's get on to our regular weekly feature, Sunday Funnies! Our tipsters send us the latest Scientology fundraising fliers from around the world, and we pick the best of them to show you. Let's dig in!
Bill Robertson In 1990, author Jon Atack published what is still one of the very best books on L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology, A Piece of Blue Sky. Atack now has a new edition of the book out, and it reminded us what an encyclopedic resource he is. So join us as we rely on Jon's expertise to sift through the legends, myths, and contested facts about Scientology that tend to get hashed and rehashed in books, articles, and especially on the Internet.
Jon, a big part of the current Scientology story is the large breakaway group of "independents" who have left the official church but still adhere to the ideas of founder L. Ron Hubbard. Church leader David Miscavige most definitely perceives these "indies" as a big threat, and it seems like this is the most significant schism the church has ever experienced.
But there were previous groups of Scientologists who left the church to form their own independent groups, and they formed practically from the beginning, when Hubbard got things going in the early 1950s. Before the present indie scene, probably the biggest breakaway happened in the early 1980s, isn't that right?
Mirror video from whythemask (with changed audio)
July 5th 2008 was the premier of the OT Celebration and FreewindsMaiden Voyage in Los Angeles, CA. Scientology was scared that Anonymous would show up and spread truth to it's members; their only defense would be to abuse the city's permits dept and block off a ridiculous amount of space, restricting access to a residential neighborhood as well as a HOSPITAL. In doing so they attempt to stop a 61 year old disabled woman in a walker from using the sidewalk to go home. Unfortunately for them she has balls of steel and tells them exactly where they can stuff it.
UPDATE: Sorry, it was late and I flubbed.. the hidden osa guy is Ed Parkin (not perkins)
2013-03-30, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
Today it seems more likely that those no longer in the church will recall the actual "LRH Birthday Game" than those who have suffered through years of David Miscavige's propaganda by redefinition of terms.
Described in LRHED 339R and 339R-1 the real Birthday Game address the subject of the "gift" LRH wanted for his birthday from Scientology org staff. It was specifically NOT MEST. Addressed to staff, he talked about expanding production across all Divisions and even doing programs to accomplish this in each Department. He made an important point that staff should be well paid and this was one of the results of achieving St Hill size which is the ultimate objective of the game. And the other result of that of course was the Universe Corps that would be sent to all St Hill size orgs to move the staff through Clear and the OT Levels.
Nowadays, in the name of the "LRH Birthday Game" and even using some selected LRH quotes, David Miscavige and his band of squirrel managers have utterly subverted the entire subject. The "LRH Birthday Game" is now the "Miscavige Birthday Game".
2012-03-30, Marty Rathbun, Moving On Up a Little Higher
In late 2003 I came back to the Scientology Inc international headquarters near HemetCalifornia after eighteen consecutive months away on a variety of missions. I have described the experience before as like having returned to the set of Apocalypse Now. David Miscavige was well on his way toward complete madness. Already he had all International Scientology Managers engaged in marathon group confession sessions. Already he was beating people physically almost daily and by then had at least a dozen lower level executives doing the same to their staffs.
Miscavige would go into several hour rambling rants (sort of like Al Capone meets Colonel Kurtz) with all of international management required to sit attentively around a table watching and listening to him.
Re-enactment of arrival - starring Dennis Hopper as Dan Sherman
2012-03-30, Marty Rathbun, Moving On Up a Little Higher
Tony Ortega has done a comprehensive article critiquing David Miscavige's latest Scientology Inc L Ron Hubbard Annual Birthday Celebration. While I don't particularly cotton to Tony's anti-Scientology tone and joking and degrading digs, he has done a splendid job of chronicling the fraud and insanity that pass for Scientology Inc events.
Later today I intend to complete and post an article on why Tony's work is so skilled and important. I am going to connect some dots on how it evidences that Miscavige is L Ron Hubbard's worst enemy. In the interim, I highly recommend people read and watch and listen to Tony's presentation.
Ortega Calls Bullshit on Miscavige
Leading opponents of Scientology say the Paris appeal court convictions of two of its organisations mark the beginning of the end for the movement in France. It is no idle threat.
The fallout from the Paris Court of Appeal's ruling against Scientology was not long in coming.
On Thursday, February 2, the court confirmed the convictions for organised fraud of two Scientology organisations, the Celebrity Centre and Scientologie Espace Librairie its books outlet.
2012-03-30, Tony Ortega, Runnin' Scared, Village Voice
As you can see, the people in the audience are dressed very nicely and fill the hall, which has a seating capacity of 2,180. They roar with approval when church leader David Miscavige takes the stage to begin what will be a three-hour presentation on the life of Hubbard and the achievements of his movement, Scientology.
We have spared you the task of sitting through all three hours by pulling out only the very best highlights, including several short video segments.
2011-03-30, Manya Brachear, The Seeker, Chicago Tribune
"We had already determined that the ordinance prohibiting protests within a certain distance of churches was unenforceable based on earlier Supreme Court decisions," said Jennifer Hoyle, a spokeswoman for the city of Chicago's legal department.
The Supreme Court decision did say protests may be regulated as long as laws are neutral and narrowly tailored.
Questions about the city ordinance arose when Alex Hageli, a suburban lobbyist who regularly protests outside the Illinois headquarters of the Church of Scientology, was cited last fall for violating a city code banning pickets from houses of worship.
2011-03-30, Marty Rathbun, Moving On Up a Little Higher
Adjective: Having or showing a composed or serious manner that is worthy of respect. (Dictionary.com)
That is the first word that came to mind when I read the following story of Richard and Vicki Palmer.
2010-03-30, Jefferson Hawkins, Leaving Scientology
We had a bunch of people over to watch AC 360 last night, and among them was a guy who knew very little about Scientology or the current controversy. He's a very intelligent and perceptive man, so I was interested to get his take on the show and on the various Church spokespeople. Here are some of his observations (in italics):
Tommy Davis: His denial just went on and on. He kept repeating himself. It was like that was what he had been coached to do. Repeating his denial over and over just made it less credible to me. Despite more and more evidence, he just kept repeating his flat denial.
Good observation. Of course Tommy has nothing else to say - all he is trained to do is either deny everything or attack his critics.
HAWKINS: Miscavige was always threats, bullying, haranguing people, verbal abuse, physical abuse. That was his game. He's -- he is a bully.
COOPER (voice-over): Jeff Hawkins was a Scientologist for 35 years. A marketing director for the church, he was a member of the Sea Organization, the group that runs church operations worldwide. He had dedicated his life to Scientology. A true believer, he earned just $50 a week and lived in church-provided communal housing with other Sea Org members in California.
(on camera) You've worked with Marty Rathbun. You've worked with Mike Rinder. The church told us that they were the ones leading this rein of terror, that Marty was the one responsible for -- for these beatings.
HAWKINS: Absolutely not true. Absolutely not true. David Miscavige was the one leading this whole physical violence kick. And it was him who was beating people up. COOPER (voice-over): Hawkins, who left in 2005, says Miscavige attacked him several times, including once during a marketing meeting.
Up until the late 1990's, each person inside received five cards. There's a pay card, a berthing or "housing" card, a chow card, a social card, and, a bonus card. If the production statistics for a worker or their team go down, management took a card or two away.
If you lost your chow card, you had to make do with rice and beans. If you lost your berthing card, you lost your apartment. If you lost your pay card, you didn't get money.
The card system was dropped some years back, but the system of privileges and punishments remain. Workers typically get $50 a week in cash on Fridays. To keep up with management production goals, some work up to a hundred hours a week.
2005-03-30, Clarification, San Francisco Chronicle
A story in Sunday's Chronicle about the California Medical Association adopting a resolution supporting schools that have dropped "factually inaccurate approaches" to anti-drug instruction should have more fully explained how the organization arrived at its decision.
The director of the new ClearwaterNarconon, Cheryl Alderman, a Clearwater resident and a longtime Scientologist, sank $100,000 of her own money into the venture and opened it quietly 10 months ago.
She obtained a license from the state's Department of Children and Families to operate as an outpatient detox center. The program got a boost from Clearwater Mayor Brian Aungst, who issued a proclamation for "Narconon Day."
"My goal is for every Scientologist or ex-Scientologist to be able to speak freely about his experiences," says Armstrong. "I was lured into Scientology the same way everyone else is — by its false promises. The cult promised to raise IQ a point per hour of 'auditing.' It promised stable psychological states — 'Clear' and 'OT' — far above what man has achieved before. It promised superhuman abilities... I bought the package."
Even calling Scientology a religion is controversial. "Since the KGB and mafia are not considered religions by thinking people, neither is Scientology," says Armstrong.
The Church of Scientology International has settled a long-standing legal battle to repossess about 2,000 unpublished and copyrighted documents and keep them from being accessed by computer users in the future.
Under a settlement reached in a U.S. district court earlier this month, a Colorado-based nonprofit group called FACTNet is permanently enjoined to pay the church $1 million if FACTNet is found guilty of future violations of church copyrights.
1992-03-30, Gary Smith, Guest Opinion, Tulsa World
Over 190 people have benefitted from our rehabilitation services since Narconon Chilocco opened. The majority of these are now leading drug-free lives. During this time, the broad support we have received from members of the community who sincerely want to win the war on drugs has only been opposed by a small but vocal group of desperate critics who follow another agenda and have other motives.