Our second annual meetup is in the books, and we won't soon forget it. Kim O'Brien found a charming space for our private party, the Limerick Room at the Irish Rover in Denver, where 75 people gathered last night for HowdyCon 2017.
We had chosen Denver in part because it happens to be where a large number of familiar former Church of Scientology members happen to live. In particular, we looked forward to the participation of Marc and Claire Headley, and they did not disappoint.
"I was honored to have been invited," Marc told us after the event. "Since my wife and I escaped from Scientology in 2005 we have received nothing but support from people hearing our story, and this is one of things that helped us along over the years. When you're on your own and trying to make it in the world and having to start from scratch, you would not believe the power a few hundred people can have when they are pledging their support and cheering you on. I was happy to meet many of these people over the past few days and have conversations with them. I know that there were many people that could not make it this year and I hope that we will meet and get to talk in the coming years! Long live HowdyCon!"
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2017-06-25, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
The spiders on Marty's walls are getting larger and more active and he appears to be increasingly more concerned that he has to explain his hallucinations to the world.
I have tended to ignore pretty much everything he has said, and I could care less what he says about me personally (all anyone need do is go back and look at many of his laudatory comments about me to see that both versions of me that he preached about cannot be true).
But I do not appreciate him taking aim at people who have suffered harm at the hands of scientology and calling them liars. Especially when they have become the target of his lies and vitriol only because they agreed to appear on Scientology: The Aftermath.
2016-06-25, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
Here is a perfect example of scientologist cause and confront from a posterchild for OTishness, our old friend Barbara Dews.
A Special Correspondent sent me this email exchange and if you read down the thread (earliest at the top) you will see BD going from a shark smelling fresh blood, to a somewhat concerned deer caught in the headlights to a rabbit that scurried down her hole in abject terror.
This is cause over life. This is how to confront and shatter suppression. This is how to be OT so you can go OT.
(Megan Shields and her husband, George Duggan)
We learned last night that Dr. Megan Shields, a Glendale physician and OT 8 Scientologist who had been doctor to many Church of Scientology members in the Los Angeles area, died last week after a lengthy battle with cancer. She was 68.
Scientologists who revered her have been posting remembrances of her on Facebook, about how she had a unique way to treat them and save them from seeing more conventional doctors.
2015-06-25, Chris Shelton, Critical Thinker at Large
One of the primary sources of conflict and violence I see in the world are many people's gross
misconceptions about the difference between a belief and a fact.
Let's face it - as a species we buy into some of the most ridiculous nonsense imaginable and then swear it's the only way things could be. We are ridiculous that way. We have grown, educated people who should know better teaching myths to school children who have no ability to judge how rational or irrational that information is. There are instances where those same children are literally beaten if they do not agree. Now I ask you, is that education or is that child abuse?
Tomorrow in New York, Eric Saldarriaga, a 41-year-old Astoria, Queens private investigator, will be sentenced in federal court after pleading guilty to hiring a hacker to access private email accounts on behalf of his clients.
According to a story in the New York Times published in March, Saldarriaga was cooperative with federal prosecutors and is expected to receive a sentence of about six months. The story also explains that none of the identities of Mr. Saldarriaga's victims or of his clients had been revealed.
However, this afternoon, just a day before the sentencing, the court received a "victim impact statement" from Mike Rinder (pictured), the former Scientology international spokesman who featured prominently in Alex Gibney's HBO documentary about Scientology, Going Clear. In his statement, Rinder indicates that he was notified by the Justice Department that he was one of Saldarriaga's targets for hacking, and he was invited to submit a statement to the court.
We had to leave the Toronto Scientology conference to deal with some changes back here in New York, but Jonny Jacobsen remained, and submitted this account of Nora Crest's presentation on Wednesday.
Nora Crest gave a sharp, funny and at times moving account of what it is like to grow up inside Scientology. She was born in 1976, a few years after her mother had started in Scientology. Her mother was working with the Guardian's Office in Sacramento the old intelligence unit.
Her father, while he wasn't officially with the GO, did help out with the Snow White Program, the vast operation to steal government documents relating to the movement. Years later, she learned that he had got a job in a government building in Sacramento, hiding out in the ladies' toilets until after closing, so he could open a window and let the burglars in.
In the end, the amount of money a New York private investigator made from people who paid him to illegally pilfer the emails of possibly dozens of people he was investigating was small just $5,000.
But the privacy violation was so great that federal prosecutors are asking a judge on Friday to sentence the investigator, Eric Saldarriaga, 41, to serve as much as six months in prison to send a stern message about the wrongness of illegal hacking.
At least one of the people who had their email accounts hacked by Mr. Saldarriaga was a journalist who has written articles about the Church of Scientology and suspects that the investigator was hired to look into his work, according to a letter from the victim that prosecutors filed with the court on Thursday.
Paulette Cooper is a legendary name among people who watch the Church of Scientology.
After she wrote a book in the 1970s that was critical of Scientology, the church's security agents framed her for bomb threats.
Now Tony Ortega, a journalist who runs a blog criticizing Scientology, has written a book about Cooper. The two are on a book tour, and on Sunday, they will come to Scientology Central the city of Clearwater.
Two leading Scientology critics are calling upon the FBI and U.S. Attorneys office to investigate the church today after they were notified by the Department of Justice that they have been the victims of a hacker.
Eric Saldarriaga, a private investigator from Queens, NY, pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy in March for hiring a hacker to help him access at least 60 private email accounts, including those of Scientology critics Mike Rinder (a former leader of the church) and journalist Tony Ortega. Saldarriaga will be sentenced to up to six months in prison tomorrow, June 26, and ahead of the sentencing Rinder and Ortega were notified that they were two of his victims.
The two men prepared victims' statements for the court to consider, and both alleged that Saldarriaga was nothing more than a Scientology fall guy.
2014-06-25, Chris Shelton, Critical Thinker at Large
If you look up Scientology in media reports, books or on the internet, you are going to find it described in a lot of places as a cult. I'm sure most Scientologists find this term offensive, but the truth is that they probably don't understand what it actually means. So I thought I would make an effort to clear this up and answer the question of "Is Scientology Actually a Cult?"
For many, the word "cult" has bad connotations, bringing to mind a dark, close-minded, secretive bunch who maybe even gather in the light of the full moon for strange rituals involving chicken blood and chanting incantations to Horus or Beelzebub.
Now those groups may be cults, but what I'm talking about is quite a bit less obvious than that. I was involved with Scientology for almost three decades so I have more than a passing knowledge of this particular group. And I don't think anyone was more surprised than me to find out that I had been a member of a cult all that time.
Jasja Barendsen Former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder has a disturbing story at his blog today that helps illustrate just how upside down Scientology's system of "ethics" is.
In order to maintain control, Scientology encourages its members to snitch on each other, even asking children to turn in their parents if they express any doubts about the church. Families are ripped apart when members are instructed to "disconnect" from a parent or child or sibling who has run afoul of church management.
And that extends to online communities as well, where Scientologists are trained to be vigilant about cutting off all ties from a "suppressive person" someone excommunicated or otherwise judged a threat to the church.
2014-06-25, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
A Special Correspondent alerted me to this, and I happened to have additional information that made it even more interesting.
He originally set forth the proposition: Wanting to stay connected to one's own parent, spouse or child can earn you an SP declare and expulsion from Scientology, but soliciting sex from a minor and going to prison will not, even if you're a former Sea Org Member.
Great premise, based on the facts our Special Correspondent had. But there is more to this story that makes it even more noteworthy.
Note: On the morning of July 8, 1977 134 FBI agents suddenly and unexpectedly raided the Church of Scientology in Los Angeles and Washington D.C. The raid lasted 23 hours and the agents seized ~50,000 documents. While the raid was still in progress, the Church PR machine went into overdrive and issued the following hysterical and bloviating press release. The Church made sensational and bogus claims about the US Government and Interpol in this wild-eyed Hubbard-era Scientology press release:
CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY OF FLORIDA
120 GIRALDA CORAL GABLES FLORIDA 33134 TELEPHONE: (305) 445-7812
By its own estimate, Foundation for a Drug Free World, an education non-profit, has visited at least 20 percent of New York City's schools, public and private. That's over 14,000 children, it says, mainly in disadvantaged schools in outer boroughs. Drug Free World has won accolades from the City Council and the state Senate and been featured by over a dozen local publications, including the Daily News.
But in two recent presentations witnessed by a City Limits reporter, the organization-which is connected to the Church of Scientology-presented information on the dangers of drug abuse that had little basis in fact and could be traced to the works of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
Tom Padgett is a former Scientologist. He faced Scientology's disconnection policy when he left the cult and his wife did not.
He was also a producer, on-site technical adviser and played the acting role of a tortured parent in the anti-Scientology film "The Bridge".
Recorded at Flag Down 2014 - Exposing the fraud and abuse of the Scientology cult
Claire Headley is taking us on our journey to train as Scientologists. She and her husband Marc were Sea Org workers who escaped from Scientology's International Base in 2005. She spent years working with Scientology's "tech," and was trusted to oversee the auditing of Tom Cruise. Go here to see the first part in this series.
Claire, last time you steamed us up in Scientology's sauna program, the Purification Rundown. What's up next?
CLAIRE: TRs and Objectives. The concept is that you have now freed yourself from the harmful effects of drugs and toxins in your body, so now you're ready to be rehabilitated on the subject of control, communication, and havingness.
A PROPOSAL to run live-in drug rehabilitation programs at Green Gables Conference Centre in Warburton has sparked concern about both the use and the lack of information about the project in the wider community.
The Association for Better Living and Education has applied for a planning permit to change the approved use of the LaLa Avenue property from a conference centre to an education centre.
The proposal is to relocate Narconon, a drug treatment program based on the teachings of Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, from O'Shannassy Lodge in East Warburton.
Justice Anthony Kennedy With just days before a court order will force the Church of Scientology to turn over thousands of pages of evidence in Laura DeCrescenzo's lawsuit alleging abuse during her employment in the church's "Sea Org" including an abortion she says was forced on her when she was only 17 Scientology has applied to the U.S. Supreme Court for an emergency stay to stop the lawsuit in its tracks.
Los Angeles Superior CourtJudge Ronald Sohigian has already decided that DeCrescenzo is entitled to her own "pc files" confessional material that was compiled while she worked for the church from only nine years of age, joining the Sea Org at twelve and then finally leaving it at 25 in 2004. Scientology has appealed and lost that decision twice, most recently at the California Supreme Court.
Now, Scientology wants the U.S. Supreme Court to review that state supreme court decision, but in the meantime, it wants an emergency stay to freeze the case so the church doesn't have to turn over the documents on July 2.
2012-06-25, Marty Rathbun, Moving On Up a Little Higher
Apparently, I may have reacted too soon. A second listing for What Is Wrong With Scientology showed up on Amazon books. When I inquired of Amazon, they indicated it appeared someone hijacked my title to divert sales; would investigate and get back to me within a day. So, if anyone saw the original short-lived version of this post, you'll understand why this initial comment and the revision below. Apparently these initial sales results of What Is Wrong With Scientology? have got some outlets looking to turn a profit:
Broke into overall top one hundred books in first 24 hours.
Continues at day three as #60 on overall Hot New releases list.
The grand opening near the former home of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard follows a bitter eviction process for the former tenants of the building complex at the northeast corner of Indianola and 44th Street, which New Times detailed in our October 13, 2011 feature story, "Alien Invasion."
It also follows severe criticism of the religion's mission of recent years to build Ideal Orgs in major U.S. cities. Critics including former top Scientology officials like Debbie Cook have accused the organization and its leader, David Miscavige, of greedily sucking its members dry with incessant fund-raising tactics for real-estate projects that don't advance members' needs.
Extended Data: Please expand and read the following information. Part 2 - http://youtu.be/JNkuzfvQrDw Noelle Nichelle North,Eden Stein, Ed Parkins, Luc Dubois, OSA Commandeer a Subway
On July 12, 2008, a family went to protest the Scientology Organization in Hollywood, CA. In awareness of the cult's practice of "Fair Game," they wore masks to protect their identities.
Upon arriving six blocks from the protest area, mother and children were blocked in their automobile by a sleazy looking private investigator who came up inches from the passenger side of the vehicle and took photos of the children.
2011-06-25, Tony Ortega, Runnin' Scared, Village Voice
Was this a week, or was this a week, fellow Scientology watchers!
We started out with a hallelujah chorus, Scientology style! We're talking about the 1990 "We Stand Tall" singalong that a tipster posted to YouTube and that we put up on the blog Monday morning. Later that day, we revealed that NatGeo's "Turnaround King," Grant Cardone, is a high-level, wealthy Scientologist who, e-mails show, slimed famed acting coach Milton Katselas. On Tuesday, we tided you over with video of Scientology goons hassling reporters Down Under. Then, on Thursday, came the big surprise: Scientology's Enemies List -- a handy guide to the fallen Scientologists and no-good journalists and other church critics in the Western U.S.
And then, what a Friday. We started out with an interview with Janet Reitman, author of Inside Scientology, then revealed a brand-new tease of Mark Bunker's upcoming documentary "Knowledge Report," and then finished off the day with a heartbreaking follow-up on the Milton Katselas story, showing how much Grant Cardone's slime job affected the 73-year-old acting coach.
2008-06-25, John DeSio, Runnin' Scared, Village Voice
He doesn't get into the Scientology stuff until a minute or so into it, so be patient.
If you've participated in an anti-Scientology rally as part of "Anonymous," and if the Church figured out your identity, chances are you've received a letter accusing you of inciting violence against Church outposts and engaging in terroristic activities.
Some, like Queens Anon Mike Vitale, were emboldened by the letter to continue their criticisms of the Church of Scientology. When comedian Billy Lyday received his own threatening letter from Scientology attorneys after he attended a Los Angeles protest, he worked his own response to the Church into his act.
When the Times told officials at the Church of Scientology in Clearwater about plans to write a story about its suppressive person and disconnection policies, Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw aggressively sought to refute the story and persuade the newspaper not to tell it.
Pressley left Scientology in 1998 and refused to come back for sec checks. She has publicly denounced "substandard" child care at church facilities around the world and criticized the church for the "condition of poverty" that staffers lived in. After she left the church, her husband "faithfully applied the rule (of disconnection)," she said.
She calls the suppressive person declare "a form of psychological terrorism. It obliterates families. ... People who leave are afraid to talk about Scientology."
But SPs who have felt the sting and other church critics say the suppressive person policy is a sledgehammer to keep marginal members in line - and in the flock.
Whatever Scientology's motivation, its suppressive person policy results in wrenching pain, say a dozen SPs interviewed by the St. Petersburg Times.
Some have gone years without seeing or talking with sons, daughters, mothers, fathers - all of whom abide by Scientology's no-contact requirement.
Okay, should we address him as Dr. Tom Cruise from now on? Or will the Rev. Dr. Cruise suffice?
Whatever: Anybody who watched the actor's performance on NBC's "Today" show yesterday witnessed an unsettling transformation. The movie star, who has long embraced Scientology, launched a full-bore assault on the psychiatric profession, sticking to a script that his church (founded, mind you, by a hack science fiction writer) has been promoting for decades.
The past few weeks have been full of excitement for Tom Cruise. "Today" host Matt Lauer sat down with the actor and talked about his new love, his new movie, "War of the Worlds," and the recent firestorm he caused when he commented on Brooke Shield's use of therapy and drugs to cure her postpartum depression. [Transcript]
The clean-up operation was organised by the East Grinstead Scientology Volunteer Minister Group, assisted by residents and town clerk Chris Rolley, who made several journeys to the tip to dispose of the rubbish.
The organization uses sophisticated sales tactics to sell a seemingly endless progression of expensive courses, each serving as a prerequisite for the next. Known collectively as "The Bridge," the courses promise salvation, higher intelligence, superhuman powers and even possible survival from nuclear fallout -- for those who can pay.
Joseph Yanny, a Los Angeles attorney who represented the church until he had a bitter falling out with the group in 1987, said Scientology portrays itself as a religion only where it is expedient to do so -- such as in the U.S., where tax laws favor religious organizations.
As far back as 1955, Hubbard recognized the value of famous people to his fledgling, off-beat church when he inaugurated "Project Celebrity." According to Hubbard, Scientologists should target prominent individuals as their "quarry" and bring them back like trophies for Scientology.