Wednesday evening, Mark Bunker went to the ClearwaterDowntown Development Board to explain something about Scientology.
Now, to understand what ensued, it helps to know a few different sets of circumstances that led up to this being a pretty remarkable evening. For example, it's not the first time that Bunker has spoken at various Clearwater government meetings. Even before he announced his intention to run in the next campaign for city council, Bunker has appeared at council meetings and the downtown development board, expressing his concerns about Scientology's influence on the lovely beach town and its dead downtown.
And his interactions with at least one of the people on the board Wednesday night — its chairman, Scientologist and "One Stoppe Shoppe" owner Paris Morfopoulous — goes back much further. When Bunker was a part of the Lisa McPherson Trust filming activism around Scientology's buildings in the year 2000, one of the people he ran into was a very aggressive Morfopoulos, who ragged Bunker about his weight, and asked him if his appetites also included sex with children and sex with barnyard animals.
Rizza Islam paid bail and was released. The LA County Sheriff's website shows the two felony charges against Rizza Islam were reduced to misdemeanors. This suggests a plea bargain may have been reached in his case.
A plea bargain makes sense as Rizza and his co-defendants were bound over for trial on felony charges. Taking a plea deal on misdemeanors in this particular case seems better than going to trial on felonies. There are so many risks and uncertainties at trial.
The evidence against the defendants consists, in part, of the entire paper trail of the alleged crimes. The CA DOJ literally got everything in the raid. The witnesses at trial would include the ghost writers.
Donald Trump might not be president were it not for Fox News, the right-wing network that for years gave the blustery game show host a political platform and in 2016 promoted his long-shot candidacy. His symbiotic relationship with Fox has continued as president, with the outlet essentially acting as state media, not to mention an employee pipeline. But lately there's been trouble in paradise. While hosts like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham are as loyal as ever, the president has grown increasingly angry with other of the network's reporters, including Chris Wallace and Shep Smith, along with polls that suggest its viewers are coming around on his impeachment. "It is so different than it used to be," Trump lamented Thursday.
It was against this backdrop that William Barr, Trump's dutiful attorney general, met with Fox News mogul Rupert Murdoch on Wednesday night. Why they met, or what they discussed, is not clear, according to the New York Times, which first reported the rendezvous. But the timing of the meeting—as Trump, under siege from Democrats, ramps up his criticism of Fox News—raised eyebrows, leading to questions about whether the administration is attempting to get the network back in line. "What is the Attorney General of the United States doing meeting with the owner of a private television network?" CNN's Vicky Ward tweeted Thursday.
The tête-à-tête underscores the ties between the Trump administration and the conservative network where, as NPR's David Folkenflik noted, several former Trump aides (Hope Hicks, Raj Shah, Sarah Huckabee Sanders) are now on the payroll. That relationship has come under strain as Smith and Wallace cut through Trump allies' efforts to spin the president's Ukraine scandal. Even some of the typically supportive opinion hosts on the network, like Tucker Carlson and Steve Doocy, have shown small cracks in their support; Carlson co-wrote an op-ed opining that "there's no way to spin" the president's July 25 phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky (though he then implied impeaching Trump would be a bridge too far), and Doocy has suggested it would be "off the rails wrong" if Trump did indeed seek a quid pro quo with Kiev.
We were saddened to learn from Ron Miscavige and Becky Bigelow last night that Dave Richards died unexpectedly yesterday at his home in Phoenix. He was 69.
Dave Richards was one of the most congenial of the longtime former Scientology executives to leave the church and then speak up about its abuses. He had joined Scientology in Alberta in 1970, then had gone to DC in 1971 and was soon put in charge of the Founding Church of Scientology there as its commanding officer in his early 20s.
(Just a quick note, because we find that even some veteran Scientologists seem unclear on this — FCDC was called the "Founding" church, but it actually wasn't the first. L. Ron Hubbard created his first "Church of Scientology" corporation in Camden, New Jersey in December 1953, and the first actual physical church was started a few months later in Los Angeles in February 1954. The "Founding Church" in DC wasn't created until the following year, 1955.)
2018-10-11, Chris Shelton, Critical Thinker at Large
This week I interview Jesse Prince, former Scientologist and Sea Org member as well as the author of The Expert Witness, a book I reviewed a few weeks ago. Jesse worked at the highest levels of Scientology during its most turbulent and defining time directly under David Miscavige and he has some amazing stories to tell.
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(This article by Jeffrey Augustine was originally published on Tony Ortega's blog and is republished here for archival purposes)
As covered in our previous article, the Church of Scientology proclaimed the imminent release of the highest auditing level on the Bridge, OT 8, in 1971. "Imminent," however, turned out to be another 14 years of waiting before it was L. Ron Hubbard announced the release of the level in Ron's Journal 39. Hubbard declared that OT 8 was his 1985 New Year's Gift to Scientologists…
On OT 8, Scientologists would finally discover the primary reason for amnesia on the Whole Track — why they had forgotten most of what they had experienced in their trillions of years of previous existence. Such a huge technological advance would need a special location to deliver, and a new Advanced Org dedicated solely to OT 8. An elite team of Sea Org auditors would need to be selected and trained.
For more information please see these stories at The Underground Bunker...
CLEARWATER — One of the city's top government employees was arrested over the weekend after police said he drove a golf cart while intoxicated into outdoor tables at the Clear Sky restaurant on Cleveland Street, grabbed a patron filming the incident out of a chair by the neck and fled the scene.
Community Redevelopment Agency director Seth Taylor, 38, was transported to the Pinellas County Jail but was not booked, according to the arrest affidavit. Instead he was entered into the Adult Pre-Arrest Diversion Program at 4 a.m. Sunday, which allows adults arrested for low-level crimes to avoid jail by completing community service, counseling or drug treatment.
He was placed on paid administrative leave by the city on Monday, according to communications director Joelle Castelli.
Right on schedule, the Church of Scientology posted a new page attacking Leah Remini's guests just before her newest episode of Scientology and the Aftermath aired last night on the A&E network.
In last night's show, Leah spoke with Nathan Rich and Tara Reile, who had spent some of their childhoods at Scientology's notorious "Mace-Kingsley" ranches in California and New Mexico. Longtime Scientology Watchers were already aware of the horror stories that have come out of the reform-school ranches, which were designed to take troubled children off the hands of their Scientology parents. In last night's episode, Nathan and Tara described the ranch as a labor camp, with extreme punishments and mind games played on children who had been abandoned by their families.
We interviewed Tara before the show aired, and she predicted that Scientology would talk with her family members and put together videos of them trashing her. And they did. Both Nathan and Tara got the usual Scientology treatment, with a page smearing them for speaking out.
2016-10-11, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
This is an essay contributed by a third-generation "Scientologist," Elizabeth Gale.
I think it is an important message for many reasons.
Elizabeth comes from a prominent scientology family. She attended school at Delphi, Oregon, took courses at CCint and Flag, among other places, and had a stint on staff, though never joined the Sea Org. Her parents attained high level OT status - her father, David died in 1995 of heart failure.
Jefferson Hawkins sent us this dispatch from the great state of Oregon after he attended a screening of My Scientology Movie there. If you've seen the film, you know that Jefferson provides some of the most sobering words about the state of Scientology and the role its enforcers played. We're glad to hear that Jeff got some recognition for his part in the movie...
I was invited by the Bend Film Festival to come down this past weekend and do the Q and A after the showing of Louis Theroux's My Scientology Movie. The festival discovered that I was only a few hours away in Portland, so contacted Magnolia Pictures, who contacted me. I was happy to do it - always glad to have a chance to talk about Scientology!
I had seen the film before - Magnolia Pictures had sent me a link - but this was the first time seeing it on the big screen. The auditorium was nearly full, about 200 people I'd say. The audience reception was very positive. They laughed at all the funny parts (Louis was a bit concerned that American audiences wouldn't get his subtle British humor, but they definitely did!), and applauded at the end.
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Piers Morgan calls scientologists 'gutless cowards' and 'sinister little weirdos' in a fascinating interview with John Sweeney, a journalist whose previous investigations into Scientology sparked harassment from the group.
2015-10-11, Chris Shelton, Critical Thinker at Large
The weekly show where I answer questions from viewers left in the comments section of my Q&A videos or sent to me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. This week, the questions I answer are:
(1) You do not display anger on your videos. You smile and chuckle at the silliness of it all, including your own silliness. Are you mad at your parents for having temporarily become Scientologists in the first place, and possibly leading you to become one? Are you mad at the Church of Scientology? People you worked for or with in the Church?
(2) What do you think is the value of exposure? I assume it is a good thing for people to be aware of what horrible things Scientology is doing, but I think it isn't that clear with other issues. For example sharing links about suffering and social issues on Facebook instead of doing something tangible like donating. Or even pirating movies and arguing that advertising those movies to your friends makes that okay or even better than actually paying for them. Do you think that position is defensible or is it just a way to sooth your soul / to trick yourself into thinking you are helping without actually spending effort or money?
Yesterday, former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder posted a statement about Scientology's homophobia which not only collected founder L. Ron Hubbard's statements about homosexuality's "perversion" but also explained, from his personal experience, how Rinder observed the organization's baked-in hate for gays and lesbians.
It was a remarkable personal essay and we highly recommend that you read it and bookmark it for whenever Scientology's attitudes about homosexuality come up in future news stories. We're thinking of a recent attempt by Scientology celebrityLaura Prepon to claim that the situation was otherwise.
We've also written about Scientology's homophobia. One of the more intriguing stories we got to look into while we were at the Village Voice described the struggles of a man named Keith Relkin. In that 2011 piece, we explained that Relkin, who lived in West Hollywood, had taken on the role as the church's token gay guy, and tried to convince the press that Scientology was actually gay-friendly. Privately, however, he complained to friends that the church undermined him at every turn, had him spy on other people in the film business, and denied him any chance to move up to the courses offered only in Clearwater, Florida because of his orientation.
Attorneys for the secretive NXIVM corporation were heavily involved in a State Police investigation that resulted in criminal charges against four people accused of hacking into the organization's computer system, according to court records.
Records from the two-year investigation, which began in April 2012, indicate the State Police's lead investigator in the case, Rodger Kirsopp, had contact dozens of times with NXIVM's attorneys, who pressured him to file criminal charges. The records show NXIVM officials, and their attorneys, also provided much of the evidence used by Kirsopp to build the unusual criminal case against the four defendants, all of whom were considered adversaries of NXIVM.
By the time the investigation ended in March 2014, three attorneys from the Albany law firm of O'Connell & Aronowitz, whose attorneys have represented NXIVM for years, had contact with the investigator more than 30 times, including attending interviews he conducted with NXIVM employees and delivering documents and other evidence, including computer records, to the investigator's State Police barracks in Clifton Park.
2015-10-11, Growing Up Scientology: From Cradle to Slave, YouTube
This video covers my personal experience with Scientology's practice and enforcement of Homophobia.
For the link to my blog and the story of how I left the Scientology RPF:
Hanging in the atmosphere like a malevolent black cloud in Scientology communities is the suspicion of the *EVIL* ::::Cough :::::Cough :::: "EXTERNAL INFLUENCE".. Laughter.
Current Tony Ortega's BUNKER (due to very high stats on Alexa, way way higher than Scientology.org) ~~ The Bunker is THE most threatening, most high risk of creating an external influence.
Any person, internet site, YouTube video, Amazon book, daily Blog, TV programs and especially a relative or friend who is even mildly critical of Church conduct, or even REVEALS current affairs the Church wants hushed up is an "EXTERNAL INFLUENCE".
The Garcias have produced declarations by former church officials who say Scientology's rules of arbitration are illusory. Scientology fired back with a 1963 policy written by L. Ron Hubbard outlining the church's internal justice system, which is built on hearings known as "committees of evidence" or "comm evs."
Ted Babbitt, the attorney for the Garcias, pointed out that comm evs are for handing out punishment, not evaluating financial disputes. And Judge Whittemore seemed to agree, giving Scientology a few days to come up with an explanation of how its comm ev rules relate to arbitration.
2014-10-11, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
They just raised the quota from 7,000 to 10,000 because Dear Leader pr0nounced that 10,000 should be in attendance.
So, whether there are 500 or 5,000 people that show up (they are being HEAVILY pushed from ALL OVER THE WORLD to attend) it will "officially" be 10,000 in attendance. They will stage a bunch of shots as usual where the frame is filled with bodies and you cannot see the surroundings so there is no way of telling how many there are. But they will assert the shots are "proof" of the massive attendance for the monumental event.
2013-10-11, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
There are a few of these "briefings" that say nothing at all from the ED's who have returned from Flag.
Clearly things are NOT going according to the Master's masterplan. These ED's including those all the way from South Africa, flew to Flag, spent 8 DAYS being briefed (most of which was sitting around doing busy work waiting for Miscavige to free up an hour from reading the internet to pay them any attention) and then when they could not hang around any longer, He sent them home with some brilliant orders to get everyone enthused and "through the Basics." Meanwhile their tech staff are still at Flag, waiting to be able to leave, racking up more food and accommodations bills on top of what they have been charged for their "training." GAG II flounders around like a ship without a rudder. What a well-oiled machine this isn't... Perhaps Dave need a bit of oiliness table drilling?
But here is what is really astonishing. How they are positioning GAG II. Of course the thing He CAN say is that THIS is now totally on Source and doing things "the way Ron wanted." Gee Dave, doesn't anyone ever notice that you have been saying that for 20 YEARS, every new release is NOW the way Ron wanted.... when does anyone go "Hey, wait a minute, why have you been having us do it the way Ron DIDNT want it for the last 17 years?".
Wednesday afternoon, Laura DeCrescenzo filed explosive new information in her four-year legal odyssey against the Church of Scientology, submitting 928 pages of new declarations and exhibits in anticipation of a crucial October 23 hearing in her lawsuit against the church which alleges abuse, including allegations that she was forced to have an abortion at only 17 years of age.
Key to the new filings is information gleaned from thousands of pages of previously secret files that the church fought mightily to keep under wraps. But on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Scientology's final appeal regarding the files, paving the way for DeCrescenzo to make use of the evidence, and she wasted no time getting some of that information on the record.
For months, the Church of Scientology has been pursuing expensive appeals, arguing that forcing it to turn over Laura's "pc files" was like asking a Catholic priest to give up information admitted in a confession. Repeatedly, Scientology's attorney Bert Deixler, in his petitions to the California and U.S. Supreme Courts, has referred to the information in Laura's files as "deeply religious," and central to the nature of Scientology itself.
2013-10-11, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
Please read the lengthy and compelling article on Tony Ortega's blog this morning about Laura Dieckman (Decrescenzo)'s case.
Using information from her pc folders (that the church was forced to turn over) she has filed documents in the court to refute the church's latest gambit to try to get rid of her case.
It is a chilling account. It will make your blood boil.
2013-10-11, Marty Rathbun, Moving On Up a Little Higher
The report on Laura Decrescenzo's ordeal filed by Tony Ortega is a must read.
It is sobering. It probably catches the reality of being subjected to Sea Org captivity more authentically than anything I have read to date.
Godspeed to Laura and her team.
Nigel Hall argued that he had been unlawfully discriminated against because other Canadians had access to tax credits if they chose to donate to registered charities. Income Tax Act provisions requiring a "qualified donee," he maintained, violate the Charter of Rights.
But the court ruled that there was no Charter breach because no one who donated to non-registered charities was entitled to tax credits. The statutory scheme of registered charities also did not offend the Charter because no specific group was barred from applying for registration.
Marty Rathbun and his wife, Monique say that for three years they have been targeted in a campaign to destroy their lives.
Marty described a bizarre confrontation that took place at his front door, explaining, "They have this whole group of people with cameras on their heads, screaming and hollering."
We have a treat for you today from a new copy of Advance! magazine. Yes, the same magazine whose issues from the 1970s we've been mining for their excellent "OT Phenomena" testimonials. We're happy to say that Advance! is still ticking along in 2012, and virtually in the exact format as it was 30 to 40 years ago, bringing exciting news about the OT life for upper-level Scientologists.
As in the past, Advance! issue 213 features a fascinating piece by L. Ron Hubbard himself — an excerpt from a 1952 lecture — and we found it quite illuminating. We thought we'd summarize it for you, and provide a few direct quotes (under the "fair use" doctrine) to give you its flavor.
Now, before we do that, we want to first deal with the heartburn that our independent Scientologist readers are probably already feeling.
2011-10-11, Tony Ortega, Runnin' Scared, Village Voice
Lori Hodgson keeps telling me she's going to give me the entire story of her time in Scientology. Well, I'm still waiting. In the meantime, she talked to Mark Bunker for his upcoming movie Knowledge Report, and this morning he released a segment of that interview.
For those of you still confused about Scientology or its effects on families, please watch this short video carefully. I don't think I've ever seen the church's cruel policy of "disconnection" explained so well or with such impact.
2011-10-11, Marty Rathbun, Moving On Up a Little Higher
Rachel Denk is a productive member of the independent community, having contributed finances, meters, books, lectures on CD, lectures on cassette tape, an LRH framed photo, friendship and advice, and lots of data. She comments on this blog as Hallelujah and TheWidowDenk. It is her sincere hope that – through her contributions – others are made aware of the gross misapplication of Source by Miscavige and his minions, and find the initiative and wherewithal to do something about it. She has shared with me the facts surrounding the church's treatment of legendary Scientologist, L Ron Hubbard's personal doctor, and her husband Dr Gene Denk.
Dr. Denk was head of the Shaw Health Center. His many years of service to Hubbard, Sea Org and staff members, and public Scientologists created a large, loyal patient base. Chiropractor Stephen D. Price was Dr Gene Denk's partner and, supposedly, his friend.
After Hubbard died and Miscavige anointed himself king, Stephen Price apparently began to value another "friend" more highly than Dr. Denk. Stephen became a personal pet of Miscavige, visiting him every weekend at the Int base since the eighties to the present. Stephen gave Miscavige chiropractic services and special, lengthy massages. He also regularly went out to play golf and go to the movies with Miscavige, and when at the Freewinds they would go scuba diving and to lavish dinners with one another. Miscavige had Price hang around the base all weekend long (almost every weekend, and many times extending into the work week) for years waiting for whenever Miscavige needed or wanted Stephen's magic fingers or a recreation break from his fellow Sea Org members whom he considered to a one to be riff raff. For the last two decades Price has regularly accompanied Miscavige on his trips around the world, along with Miscavige's entourage of hairdresser, stewards, and chefs. Whenever Price happened to mention a personal problem with any org, Miscavige would be on it like white on rice, as if Tom Cruise himself had squealed like a stuck pig.
2007-10-11, Mitch Stacy, Associated Press, North Country Times
Sure, says Mayor Frank Hibbard. It can be a little unsettling sometimes -- -- throngs of Scientologists wandering Clearwater's streets in their blue or khaki trousers and crisp dress shirts.
Sometimes, it makes the neighbors a bit uneasy.
"When you come to downtown, no one likes being a minority," Hibbard says.
But mostly, folks in this picturesque Gulf Coast city have come to accept that Clearwater is to Scientologists what Salt Lake City is to Mormons, what Mecca is to Muslims. Though not everybody is happy about it.
"I think there's been a slow shift from a very strong adversarial relationship to a tolerance," says Ron Stuart, who clashed with church officials as an editor of the now-defunct Clearwater Sun in the '70s.
2007-10-11, Christopher Sablan, Letter from Samoa, New Zealand Herald
The visit hit a bad patch when claims were made that the tour received the blessings of the National Council of Churches (NCC). Reverend Oka Fauolo, NCC Chairman, publicly denied the claims ,even turning down a request by Mathew Adams (head of the Scientology group) to give the opening prayer at the exhibitions launch as this might give the impression that he endorsed the organisation.
Furthermore, a protest march at last Wednesday's opening was held by pro-Christian supporters. They alleged the Church was attempting to make inroads into Samoa. Mr Adams said much of the criticism laid against the Church was gleaned from faulty information and general misunderstanding.
Reverend Oka Fauolo cautioned against forming quick opinions about the Church of Scientology but thought the organisation should, more appropriately, be associating with professional groups like doctors and lawyers and not the Council of Churches as the group had told him that they were in fact not a Church