CLEARWATER — Is John Travolta, one of Scientology's most celebrated members, inching closer to his religion's international base in Clearwater?
Well, we don't know for sure. But there are solid connections in real estate records.
On July 10, a waterfront home in the Old Clearwater Bay neighborhood sold for $3 million to an investment trust held by Ellen Bannon, the actor's sister.
Reaction to this month's Season 2 premiere of the Emmy-nominated Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath series has been swift, from the religion's international spiritual headquarters in Clearwater and nationwide.
Two dueling online petitions have emerged since the Aug. 15 premiere: one calling for the IRS to investigate Scientology's tax exempt status. That one was launched by Jeffrey Augustine, Scientology researcher and husband of former Scientologist Karen de la Carriere, who served aboard the church's ship Apollo with founder L. Ron Hubbard.
The other, launched by a teenage Scientologist in India, calls for the cancellation of the series, alleging it is a "hate show" inciting violence.
Our readers tend to be very observant, and we were reminded of that again recently when a Bunker regular reached out to us with some things he'd noticed about Scientology's reaction to the new season of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.
"During the premiere episode, I kept noticing all of these spammy, fake-looking outbursts of identical tweets from accounts claiming to be members of the Scientology STAND League, all attacking Leah Remini, A&E, and everyone on the show. I did some research, and it looks like Scientology has a new bot army," he says.
He first noticed it a couple of weeks before the new season began, when the STAND League, Scientology's spiffy new front group that fights against religious discrimination, tweeted a message about that new anti-Leah Remini petition we wrote about earlier:
2016-08-25, Chris Shelton, Critical Thinker at Large
Today we are continuing my analysis of the book Scientology, edited by James R. Lewis with chapters contributed by various religious scholars, sociologists and psychologists all centered around, surprise!, the topic of Scientology. Thanks for carrying on with me in this.
Today, we have Chapter 4 by David G. Bromley, professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia entitled "Making Sense of Scientology: Prophetic, Contractual Religion."
Bromley was known in the anti-cult world as an apologist of the worst kind for new religious movements, having gone on record as accepting money from Scientology and other groups and giving favorable testimony in court against the concept of brainwashing or cult mind control techniques. While I certainly agree that the day-to-day experiences of your average Scientologist do not compare to what Robert Lifton described in his book about Chinese re-education and brainwashing facilities, I don't see any way that an objective observer could possibly suggest that Scientology does not engage in undue or covert influence methods on potential and converted members.
In this video series, I'm taking on Scientology academic apologists by deconstructing the book Scientology by James R. Lewis, chapter by chapter. In this video, I look at Chapter 4, written by David G. Bromley and titled "Making Sense of Scientology; Prophetic, Contractual Religion."
The introduction to this series is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3-lW...
Jeffrey Augustine's site: https://scientologymoneyproject.com/
Imagine telling the entire world you are purchasing an ultra-luxury state-of-the-art $100,000,000 private 757 business jet. As the interior of your jet is designed and built with the most opulent of appointments, you boast to the entire world and show off the spacious interior:
The big day arrives as your magnificent $100,000,000 private jet is rolled out of the hangar to great applause and fanfare. However, there is only one problem: You have no money for jet fuel, pilots and crew, ramp fees, landing fees, maintenance, or any other operating costs. In other words, you are so broke that you can't actually fly your new plane unless people donate money to you for operating expenses. And so your shiny new jet remains parked on the tarmac like a giant useless paperweight.
This, apparently, is exactly what has happened with the recently opened Scientology Media Productions (SMP) facility in Hollywood. As reported by Mike Rinder, the Church of Scientology is now claiming that it needs to raise money in order to fund productions at its $100,000,000 studio. SMP is all set to fly but, alas, has no gas money. Hence, the "Panhandling on the Streets of Hollywood" begging letter from SMP posted by Mike Rinder:
(L to R: Andrew Perez, Steven Mango, and BBC presenter Louis Theroux)
Steven Mango makes an appearance in Louis Theroux's My Scientology Movie, which opens in Australia in less than two weeks and in the US in January. But last night, Mango got more than he bargained for when he tried to warn some Hollywood tourists about his bad experiences with the Church of Scientology and ended up with a sore shoulder, a police report, and plans to sue over what he characterizes as an unprovoked assault.
We first ran into Mango when he told his story in a 2014YouTube video about how, like so many others, he'd been sucked into Scientology as an aspiring actor in Hollywood. In Theroux's film, he makes a brief but memorable appearance explaining that in just a short amount of time, he was convinced to pay huge amounts of money for piles of church publications and courses. (In the photo above, he's pictured with Theroux and Andrew Perez, who plays Scientology leader David Miscavige in the movie.)
2016-08-25, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
Has Jeanie lost her mind?
She is going to deliver the Class 8 course in Cincinnati? Never mind the fact there is no Class VI course which is a prerequisite to Class VIII.
Confirm your attendance in the UK
2015-08-25, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
It's just too damned embarrassing.
Even though they STILL haven't made their "ballpark figure" to able allowed to get started on getting a final figure for construction, it seems Uncle Scrooge McDuck is going to chip in the last few million and get them rolling.
(Though it could be that this is just another of their numerous false promises about how close they are to being done....)
"The way they determined that Scientology was a religion was to make a deal," Lawrence Wright, the author of "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief," told Salon. "Essentially, Scientology bludgeoned them into this tax exemption, which now denominates them as a religion."
For its part, the Church of Scientology told Business Insider that "the IRS recognized Scientology as a tax-exempt religious and charitable organization because it provided substantive proof on the merits, following a two-year examination, that it was entitled to that recognition."
In "Going Clear," Wright describes the Church of Scientology's teaching method in ways that sound a whole lot like televangelism. Both the Church of Scientology and televangelists use a pay-as-you-go models, where the religious organization offers small morsels of its teachings for money. Those morsels become increasingly expensive with each lesson, according to Wright.
What a great time we had last night in Boston. Another full room and a rapt audience who threw us interesting questions. We'll pull together some photos and an anecdote or two later. For now, we want to thank Karen de la Carriere for sending us something interesting from the new issue of Scientology's Planetary Dissemination magazine, which she just received.
Here we were, thinking that things were going to get worse before they got better in the Middle East, when it turns out the area is going to be salvaged with the stable datum of LRH technology!
Karen pointed out that Scientology is actually talking about going into Syria, which is an apocalyptic hellhole right now that spawned ISIS, and she asked us a great question. She said, "Are these guys crazy? They'll get slaughtered if they go over there. Are they really going, or is this just for show to get the donors to fork over more money?"
2014-08-25, Chris Shelton, Critical Thinker at Large
All Scientologists wonder why Scientology isn't as successful as they think it should be. The Ideal Orgs are not filling up with new people and the church is taking a beating in the media and in the court rooms almost every day. You can write this off to the psychiatrists or grand governmental conspiracies against Scientology, but that doesn't really open the door to any handling or make these problems go away.
Working in a Scientology organization can be a maddening experience but it's not immediately obvious to most people why this is.
It seems to us that Chris has put together something that not only helps outsiders understand Scientology's byzantine layers of management, but also helps the people still inside that structure understand why things are going so badly.
As he says early in the film, "By the end of this video you will understand more about how Scientology operates than people who are in it."
He's sure right about that. Set aside some time, and let Chris Shelton explain why Scientology is doomed…
2014-08-25, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
Here we have the latest evidence of the state of the "church" of scientology and its descent into the worship of money.
Of course, the ONLY thing anyone talks about in scientology these days is "donations" and "donator statuses" — primarily to the IAS and Ideal Orgs, but also to numerous other lesser vampire entities that hang out in the dark cave that is the scientology world. It is what determines your status and your ability to negotiate the increasingly arbitrary "church ethics."
But still, who would have ever contemplated a decade ago, let alone when the Freewinds was first launched in 1988 (26 years ago, not 25...) that one would ever see this:
Substance abuse treatment centers in Florida are required to deliver services only at licensed facilities. Since Narconon opened in 2008, it had been licensed by the state Department of Children and Families to provide services at one place, 8213 Cessna Drive.
"My mouth is hanging open," said Department of Children and Families licensure specialist Troy McDermott, when told of the rented sites. In his 21 years at DCF, he never has encountered a center providing services at unlicensed facilities, he said.
Penalties can range from a moratorium on patient admissions to loss of license.
In this video, I explain the unique and unworkable organizational structure behind Scientology and how it creates more trouble than it's worth. But worse than that, control of the entire movement was subverted decades ago by David Miscavige and in this video I show exactly how that occurred.
See my blog for more details of my history in Scientology and my written articles describing specific problems with the Church and how I got out of it. http://mncriticalthinking.com.
Who said the Sunday Matinee was dead? We're doing our best to bring it back today with an all-video edition of Sunday Funnies, when we show you the best that our Scientology tipsters have forwarded to us during the week.
And as with any great Sunday feature down at the Bijou, we have a main feature we'll save for last. It stars that ruggedly handsome man from the northern wilds, David Love (right), who, as you can see, really stretches his acting chops with the addition of a ten-gallon hat.
We think you'll really enjoy the thrills and chills of that main event. But first, we have a killer lineup of preliminary items to get you into the mood.
2013-08-25, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
Smoke and Mirrors
Putting together some backlogged material that has been sent in over the past couple of weeks. There has been so much news and so many things happening that some of these are a bit stale, but nevertheless, worth noting.
This "Ideal Org" program is such an abject disaster it is difficult to overstate the magnitude of the fail.
The volunteers on Clearwater's Code Enforcement Board got it right Wednesday when they voted unanimously to require one of downtown's biggest property owners to pay $413,000 in building code fines. If the Church of Scientology chooses to appeal, a circuit court judge should be just as hard pressed to find any reason to give the church a break after it so flagrantly defied the rules.
When the building was finally finished in June, that $450,000 bill became due. But the church asked the city to reduce its fine by 90 percent, to reflect its "good faith" effort in bringing the building to code.
That request went to the city's resident-led Code Enforcement Board, which has a record of leniency and decimating fines. But board members voted unanimously to keep the fines mostly untouched, saying the church had long ignored the city's rules.
"This board's order was not taken seriously," member Sheila Cole said. "That really bothers me."
2011-08-25, Tony Ortega, Runnin' Scared, Village Voice
Will and Scarlett called me this morning to give me the details on their totally spontaneous wedding. The event actually took place on July 28 at the Chumash Casino near Santa Barbara, where Will has worked for the past three years.
He and Scarlett met through "mutual things," Will says, referring to an extended worldwide ex-Scientologist network. "We became Facebook friends, and talked over Skype over the course of a year, rather casually," he says. But then a little over a month before they were married, they began to date.
It took 40 years to build the Mormon Tabernacle, 83 to finish the National Cathedral.
So 12 years isn't that long to wrap up work on the spiritual center of the Church of Scientology, the church's attorney argued.
But unique as the building may be, with features including a black-domed running track for purging the body of toxins, that's not how the Clearwater code enforcement board saw it.
The board voted unanimously Wednesday to fine the church $413,000 for failing to get cracking on the building when ordered to, plus five years of late fees and interest.
A new group has been formed by people concerned with the huge numbers of people dying in New Zealand from suicide. CASPER or Community Action on Suicide Prevention, Education & Research was launched at a function on the North Shore last night.
North Shore woman Maria Bradshaw who lost her 17 year old son Toran presented up to date damning research to a large group of people including bereaved family members, health professionals, youth workers, young people, businessmen and women, NGOs and counsellors. Many were visibly shocked by information from the Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee that 10% of deaths of 10 year olds in New Zealand are from suicide, that Maori and Pacific youth account for almost 50% of youth suicides and that suicide amongst young women show an upward trend.
Wikipedia has already locked out individuals and entities - notably, the Church of Scientology, which got the boot in May for repeated and deceptive editing of articles related to the controversial religion. Wired.com readers also pulled in an award for discovering the most egregious Wikipedia whitewashes by corporation and government agencies.
But now, if you want to sow the seeds of doubt about President Obama's country of birth, don't bother to edit his Wikipedia entry. It'll never see the light of day.
2004-08-25, Nanette Asimov, San Francisco Chronicle
An anti-drug program with ties to the Church of Scientology will be barred from San Francisco classrooms because of concerns about its scientific accuracy, city schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman said Tuesday.
Ackerman's decision followed a review of the Narconon Drug Prevention & Education Program by school health officials, who found that some of its teachings were not "100 percent accurate."
A Church of Scientology security guard, charged with false imprisonment late Thursday after police said he tackled and handcuffed a 21-year-old Clearwater man, was released on $5,000 bond Friday.
Roy Rosa Rodriguez, 30, who listed his address as the sect's headquarters at 210 S. Fort Harrison Ave., was arrested after he tried unsuccessfully to spray a suspected vandal with "Paralyzer" mace and subsequently tackled him and handcuffed the man's hands behind his back, police said.
A Church of Scientology official refused Friday to comment on the incident.
U.S. District Chief Judge William B. Bryant ruled late yesterday that an FBI search of the Washington offices of the Church of Scientology two years ago was unconstitutional because it amounted to a "general exploratory seizure" of documents.
However, Bryant's ruling -- the second time he has found the Washington raid unconstitutional -- is unlikely to have any direct effect on a pending criminal case against 11 Scientology officials and agents who are accused of conspiring to plant spies in government agencies, break into government offices, steal official documents and bug government meetings.
That trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 24 here before U.S. District Judge Charles R. Richey.