CLEARWATER — For what appears to be the first time ever, an elected city board could be made up by a majority of people associated with the Church of Scientology, downtown's largest and most influential property owner.
The Downtown Development Board, which oversees a special taxing district tasked with marketing downtown and promoting events, has three of its seven seats up for grabs in an election that will be counted Tuesday. Four of the nine candidates, who are required to live, work or own a business downtown, are Scientology parishioners.
Two of the seven current board members are also parishioners and business owners, setting up the potential for the board to be represented by a clear majority of officials associated with the Church of Scientology, which owns $207 million worth of property under its name and at least another $27 million under anonymous LLCs.
2017-10-06, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
RB remains on hiatus, but I pulled out one of my early favorites. Back in the days when Going Clear was first released, RB introduced a memorable character, the Going Clear elephant in the room. Priceless. You could insert his twin, the Aftermath elephant and this strip could have been written today.
We want to thank a reader for sending us the latest Freewinds magazine, which contained the absolute gem you see here.
In the last couple of years, Scientology leader David Miscavige has been showing up more often in church publications looking like he's sitting for a Vanity Fair photo spread. But this shot really takes the cake. It's part of an issue of the magazine which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Sea Organization.
Yes, it was in 1967 that L. Ron Hubbard first assembled the force that would become the hardcore inner elite of Scientology, and to mark the occasion, Miscavige went down into the engine room of the Freewinds to pose for this hunky snap.
Chris Shelton continues his new video series, interviewing a young woman, Larisa Smith, who grew up in Scientology and suffered the consequences...
Here is Part 2 of my three-part series with Larisa Smith and Tim and Sylvia DeWall about the culture of Scientology and what it's really like to be raised in and around it. Larisa's story is not so different from any other American teenager except for the fact that Scientology was always there, behind everything and always pretending to help but consistently making things worse and worse. The experience of going to the Mojave Desert School for a couple of years changed Larisa and the influence of her friends from Los Angeles was very strong, so much so that it pervaded her whole life after going back to Clearwater. As she got more and more involved in this scene, Scientology became a stronger and stronger influence on what happened to her.
There has been a lot of positive feedback on the first part of this series, but I want to stress that the whole series really should not be missed as the reveals and things that Larisa experienced really do become more and more intense as we go forward. In fact, the first two parts and all the details and minutiae we cover are really just setup for what is talked about in Part 3. I hope that when this whole series is done, Larisa's story goes far and wide. People need to know that Scientology is a lot more than just some "stupid people falling for a con." For those of us who were second, third or even fourth generation Scientologists, we had no choice in getting involved in this insanity and we never asked for any of it. Destructive cults like Scientology don't just prey on the pocketbooks of the gullible. They work to influence every aspect of their members' lives under an umbrella of ruthless control. Larisa's story is but one of many and I hope as we move forward, that I'll get the chance to somehow tell the entire story of the multi-generationals. This video series is a start.
Chick Corea has Grammys sprinkled all over Clearwater. He keeps a few at his recording studio on Fort Harrison Avenue, a few more at his mansion farther inland. And he always has to plan for more coming.
"That's always a yearly question that my wife, Gayle, asks about," said Corea, calling from Kiev, some 5,700 miles from all those golden trophies.
Deciding where to store your Grammy awards — 22 in all, tied for sixth most all time — is not a bad problem to have. It's one of the few that the legendary jazz fusion pianist has in Clearwater, the city he has called home since 1997.
L ike all of us, Michael Peña is talking about Donald Trump. "But what do you think?" He looks at me curiously. I blurt out something garbled about the stealthy rise of fascism. "I just can't believe he's made it this far. That's my thing. I mean, having absolutely no experience. It's like this guy just picked up a tennis racket and now he thinks he can beat Djokovic."
Peña is a movie star, although you might not know it from his sweatshirt and Nikes, or his hey-brother affability. He turned 40 this year, his face boyishly round but with grey whispers in his beard. He is also the son of Mexican immigrants, so abused in the speeches of the US presidential candidate. His parents were undocumented – illegals, Trump would say – starting a family in North Lawndale, Chicago, before securing green cards.
"He just wants to be elected," Peña says. "So that's him trying to relate to the majority of white Americans." And do most white Americans feel the same way? He rephrases the question. "Is there an immigration problem? There's an immigration problem in every country that has money, in that people there have a problem with immigration. Look at England. You guys have money, and maybe you can call that luck, and maybe you don't think about how lucky you are. Me, I'm an American, and I live pretty well. But go down to Mexico and a lot of people really don't. So what, we're going to blame them for trying to get out?"
The Church of Scientology is a deeply strange organisation and, appropriately enough, Louis Theroux has made a strange film about it. It works as a companion piece to another documentary, the one that I think is the definitive takedown: Alex Gibney's Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, from 2015. It's an interesting, if flawed piece of work; Theroux's opaque manner masks an uncertainty as to exactly what he wants to say, and he finally seems to turn on his own chief witness.
Theroux's Scientology movie is undoubtedly a smart piece of what could be called improv-ocation. He shows up in LA, advertising his intention to film a series of scripted and unscripted scenes recreating key moments from the life of the Scientologists' sinister chief, David Miscavige. (Theroux may here have been inspired by Josh Oppenheimer's modern-classic documentary about the Indonesian tyranny, The Act of Killing.) He will audition actors, film the audition process, and use as his adviser a famous apostate and whistleblower, former Scientologist enforcer Marty Rathbun – a man now hated in the church for his betrayal.
It's the mysterious religious, often considered a cult and followed by various high profile celebrities, actors and business elites. But what is Scientology all about?
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2016-10-06, Chris Shelton, Critical Thinker at Large
This video continues the story of Larisa Smith, former Scientologist and daughter of Tim and Sylvia DeWall. In part one, we covered Larisa's upbringing through attending the Mojave Desert School. Once Larisa got home from Mojave for good, she and her parents found things to be even rougher than they were before. The Scientology ethics and education had done nothing to improve the situation and things just went right back to how they were before; in other words, not great.
2016-10-06, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
The Ideal Playground and Ideal Lake
This is not a shoop or spoof. They are seriously promoting the "re-newed" lake and ideal playground. And just in time for Dear Leader breezing in... They must be so proud of their complete idealiness.
Applied Scholastics Online?
In a fascinating and wide raging interview with Jeffrey Augustine, former Sea Org member Aaron Smith-Levin discusses the topics of Scientology's controversial Freeloader bills, the Clear Cognition, and other topics.
Companion documents for this interview:
Aaron and his wife's Freeloader Bill totaling $129,344.27 itemized on an Excel spreadsheet. Note: You must download this document on Scribd to view it as an Excel spreadsheet: https://www.scribd.com/doc/283151307/Freeloader-Debt-Itemized-Church-of-Scientology
The Daily Mail today reported that Cathriona White had been married to a man named Mark Burton after the two met on the set of a web TV series.
Our sources tell us that the series was "The Online Gamer," part of the "Restless Tortuga" web channel, and that the show was largely made by young Scientologists, including Burton.
Cathriona — Cat to her friends — moved to California from Ireland in 2009. She then met a group of young Scientologists who got her to start taking courses at the HollywoodCelebrity Centre beginning in 2010 or 2011. Then, in 2012, she met comedian Jim Carrey and began dating him, but the relationship ended about five months later.
In the wake of Jim Carrey's on-off girlfriend's apparent suicide, White's family arrived stateside last week in order make arrangements to bring her body back to her native Ireland. However, news of her body's release comes one day after it was discovered that White had a husband listed as a next of kin.
According to Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter, her husband – who PEOPLE has learned is named Mark Burton – has control of the release of White's body, and in order for White's stepmother and sister to take her body back to Ireland, Burton would have to sign over control.
"The next of kin has to relinquish the body to her family," says Winter.
2015-10-06, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
So anyone who has not been able to see the film on HBO or in a local theater can now order it from Amazon or watch it as a streaming video.
Miscavige's annus horribilis is just not getting any better.
Next up: Louis Theroux's My Scientology Movie at the London Film Festival on October 14.
Followed by Leah Remini's 20/20 ABC TV interview on 30 October and release of her book Troublemaker on 3 November.
Cathriona White, the on-again off-again girlfriend of Jim Carrey, was married to another man at the time of her death.
White had been married to Mark Burton, a cameraman she met in Los Angeles while the pair worked on an online comedy series.
Her body has now been released to Burton who is working with her family to make arrangements for a funeral in Ireland.
One of our most reliable sources, former Scientology executiveClaire Headley, tells the Underground Bunker that in 2001 she was personally involved in a high-level project to entice actor Jim Carrey to begin taking Scientology courses, a project that not only involved the now-disappeared wife of Scientology's leader, but it also made use of a spy in Carrey's personal life.
Scientology and Jim Carrey are currently in the news after we broke a story on Wednesday that Carrey's girlfriend Cathriona White, who took her own life last week, had been a Scientologist. According to one report, her involvement in the controversial organization had become an issue in her relationship with the actor.
White left Ireland for California in 2009 and about a year later became involved in Scientology through its HollywoodCelebrity Centre. In 2012, she met Jim Carrey and began dating him, and her friends tell us that Carrey was aware of her involvement in the church. After about five months they broke up, but then earlier this year they started dating again. By then, our sources say, Cathriona had been paired with a Scientology actor, Travis Case, as her "twin," and she had completed Scientology's grueling "Purification Rundown" and had begun her "objectives," part of a course called the "Survival Rundown." She stalled on the course, we're told, and then, after Carrey reportedly broke up with her on September 24, she took her own life, and was discovered on September 28 by friends.
Jonny Jacobsen As 2007 was ending, and then as the Anonymous movement reacted to the Tom Cruise video incident in January 2008, a British journalist living in Paris, Jonny Jacobsen, was racing to put together a book about the Church of Scientology. More than a year before "The Truth Rundown," the blockbuster series in the Tampa Bay Times that came out in 2009, Jacobsen was ready to expose the shocking nature of physical brutality in the highest echelons of Scientology at its secretive base in California, and many other previously unpublished secrets.
But Jonny struggled to find a publisher for his work, and after writing his introduction, he turned instead to another medium: He began his excellent blog, Infinite Complacency.
Now, years later, Jonny, who has become a favorite contributor here at the Bunker, has given us the rare treat of publishing the introduction he had prepared in 2008. It holds up spectacularly, and we're proud to be chosen for its debut.
2014-10-06, Chris Shelton, Critical Thinker at Large
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us..." Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Whenever one looks at the press releases or promotional materials of Dianetics and Scientology, one is presented with the picture of amazing success. Claims of "straight up and vertical expansion" are made, citing hundreds of thousands of square feet of new church building space as proof of this success. Far be it from me to challenge these claims, but I don't know that a building's girth ever helped enlighten anyone. I'm quite sure that the last time I was looking for help sorting out my relationship with the universe, I did not look in the yellow pages under "largest construction site in town."
In fact, using "expansion" as a gauge of success for a religious movement is itself an alteration of importance and a misdirector. It is not expansion that is important - it is the help that is supposed to be provided to the individuals and their personal success in life that would gauge the worthiness of a self-help organization, which is what Scientology claims to be. On that count, Scientology has failed time and again.
Four years and more than 75 formal complaints later, the Texas Education Agency finally moved to bar some of the most egregious offenders - including two companies operating with fake tax identification numbers and one that did not certify that its employees had passed criminal background checks - from the list of approved providers, which until 2012 included a company using Scientology-based instruction.
We want to thank Bunker regulars Bury The Nuts and Dee "DeElizabethan" Findlay for tracking down a copy of the new "Florida Edition" of Freedom magazine for us yesterday.
We've been curious about the relaunched publication since it was taken over by new editor John Sugg. And it is very different than previous editions of the magazine, which had been taking such comical shots at Scientology's perceived enemies.
Now, it's more earnest, more narrowly focused, more professionally edited, slickly art directed, and...
2013-10-06, Marty Rathbun, Moving On Up a Little Higher
From Lieh-Tzu, A Taoist Guide to Practical Living, by Eva Wong (Shambhala Publications, 1995):
An eye that is about to lose its sight tends to be extremely sharp in making out details. An ear that is about to become deaf tends to be very acute in its hearing. A tongue that about to lose its sensitivity can make out the differences between water from two sources. A nose that is about to lose its ability is most sensitive to fragrances. It is as if the senses are fighting to maintain their usefulness. However, no matter how hard they fight, they will eventually lose their effectiveness.
It is the same with people. People who are beginning to weaken will push their bodies to the limit. People who are about to lose their minds will become unusually argumentative. This is because they are not willing to admit that all things must end, and they want to make a show of their strength to cover their weakness.
2013-10-06, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
There has been enormous effort expended to prevent "leaks" from Graduation so the morning after dose of bs has been curtailed at all costs.
But the Scientology "grapevine" cannot control itself when there is such amazing, astonishing good news coming straight from the horse's mouth. It is however, sort of ironic that the massively, incredibly good news about how the planet is being saved at light speed isn't suitable for anyone outside of Flag to know. Maybe this is just another "marketing gimmick" to make people come to Flag — you cannot know about anything anywhere else in the world?
Or maybe it is really that there is NO NEWS at all. And they don't want anyone to know that things have ground to a halt at Flag and everyone is wandering around completely confused about what is going on when and how anything is supposed to go...
Stacy Dawn Murphy Friday turned out to be an incredibly busy day for Scientology watchers. After putting up our morning post about the church's troubles in Atlanta, where its drug rehab program, Narconon, is being investigated by the state of Georgia, we then had to scramble when we received an e-mail from a state agency in Oregon.
That e-mail contained the 69-page order that requires Bend dentist Andrew Engel to pay nearly $348,000 to his former dental hygienist, Susan Muhleman, for religious harassment because she felt forced to quit her job when he kept insisting that she attend a three-day Scientology symposium.
At the same time we were jamming to get that story up, however, we were aware that the Murphy family in Oklahoma was making public that it had filed a lawsuit against Narconon's flagship operation in that state, where their daughter Stacy Murphy, 20, died in July. And much more was happening. So let's catch up this morning with some links...
2012-10-06, Marty Rathbun, Moving On Up a Little Higher
Please see this story in the Corpus Christi Caller Times, Scientology's Rathbun questions why cameras are trained on his house in Ingleside on the Bay.
The Times told only a partial story, hamstrung by THREATS and FALSE denials that will come back to haunt David Miscavige, as per usual.
The Private Eye Monty Drake, who admits in the story to doing business out of the house with the cameras at issue, has been the church of Scientology's go-to gumshoe in Texas since the late eighties. He was retained then to go after former Inspector General RTC (Vicki Aznaran) after she and her husband sued RTC. In the nineties he investigated every detail of the life of Lisa McPherson prior to David Miscavige causing her untimely death.
The church's payment came on the last day before deadline. Today, the fine would have reverted to more than $450,000 and the city would have begun its collections process, city attorney Pam Akin said. Among the options to collect the debt: foreclosure.
A dramatic video report of the police raid can be seen on the website of Russia's NTV network. The report calls the org a "Scientology school" and shows police breaking down doors. The reporter wanders around the org finding shelves of literature and high-tech equipment and looking at the papers on desk tops.
Moscow police have been searching the Church of Scientology on Taganskaya Street since Thursday morning, a law enforcement source has told Interfax.
The search could be part of a criminal investigation by the Moscow region's Investigative Committee into the distribution of scientology literature of the extremist nature, the source said.
2011-10-06, Tony Ortega, Runnin' Scared, Village Voice
Yes, the video we're embedding here is in Russian, (Update: there are now English subtitles, press the "cc" button) but the action is understandable enough: Moscow law enforcement raiding the Church of Scientology there, and getting rather medieval on its locked doors.
We made a rare foray out of the underground bunker this week, and what a strange trip it's been. On a school visit, we created controversy just by our very presence, and it doesn't even have to do with our Scientology watching! A note about that later. For now, we hear the cats are OK back at the bunker, so we're going to try to keep to our regular schedule with our weekly Thursday 2pm Stats report, in which we decide whether it's been an upstat or downstat week for the church.
First, to Moscow, where things seem to be getting rather hardcore for Scientology's continued existence.
TAMPA — The Nation of Islam will bring its convention to downtown Tampa Oct. 14 to Oct. 17 to commemorate the Holy Day of Atonement and the 15th anniversary of the Million Man March in Washington.
Minister Louis Farrakhan is scheduled to deliver the keynote address at 2 p.m. Oct. 17 in the East Hall of the Tampa Convention Center. The theme of the convention is "Atonement, Reconciliation and Responsibility," according to its website.
Activities start Oct. 14 with the Nation of Islam Golf Classic at the Westchase Golf Club. The $125 entrance fee covers golfing, lunch and dinner. Proceeds support the Muhammad University of Islam. Vendors will be set up in the convention center all weekend. Tickets are available online at noi.org and at local outlets listed on its website.
A drug treatment center in Chilocco seeking state certification apparently violated a court order by accepting a new patient, an attorney with the state Department of Health says.
But Gary Smith, a spokesman for Narconon Chilocco New Life Center, said the patient had been enrolled before Kay County District Judge Neal Beekman's ruling.
Lisa Marie Presley, the 20-year-old daughter of Elvis, has wed a musician she dated for three years, her publicist said Wednesday.
Lisa Marie wed Danny Keough, 23, this week in a private ceremony at the Hollywood headquarters of the Church of Scientology, said the publicist, Paul Bloch.
"In attendance were the mother of the bride, actress Priscilla Beaulieu Presley, family and a few close friends," said Bloch, who represents the mother and daughter.
Rejected the Church of Scientology's attempt to revive a 9-year-old lawsuit against the FBI and other government agencies accused of harassing the religious group. The justices let stand a ruling by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which dismissed the suit because the group had failed to abide by the rules of litigation.
Mr. Chambers, who is accused of murdering 18-year-old Jennifer Levin during a sexual encounter in Central Park in August 1986, visited the Celebrity Center on East 82d Street in October 1985 and March 1986, said a Scientology official, John Carmichael.
The church on both occasions rejected applications for counseling from Mr. Chambers, now 21 years old, Mr. Carmichael said. He said the organization gave the center its name because well-known people attend programs there, including, he said, the actor John Travolta and the jazz musician Chick Corea.
Mr. Carmichael said the organization would provide the records "unless there's a court order that says we shouldn't."