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2017-12-03, Chris Shelton, Critical Thinker at Large
The weekly show where I answer viewer questions. This week's Critical Q&A was a livestream episode, so the questions asked were done live from the chat box on YouTube and therefore are not listed here.
(This piece was published on Tony Ortega's Underground Bunker on 12.2.2017. It is republished here for archival purposes)
Jeffrey Augustine is once again keeping us up to date on Scientology's financial documents. In this case, he has new figures on how much just one of many Scientology's entities is worth, according to newly available tax documents.
In 2006, a change in the law required all non-profit organizations — even churches — to submit tax returns known as 990-T forms if they generated what is known as "unrelated business income." A few years ago, I began finding and turning over to the Underground Bunker the 990-Ts for Scientology's various entities.
In 2014, friend to the Underground Bunker and Chicago Fire actor Christian Stolte convinced SAG-AFTRA, the actors' union, to stop taking ads from Scientology. And now, Rod Keller catches up with Steven Mango, who has picked up that baton.
Steven Mango is on a mission to help fellow actors avoid the trap he fell into when he was recruited into Scientology. In 2009 Mango answered an ad in Backstage magazine for a seminar for aspiring actors with actor Gino Montesinos. Montesinos is a Scientologist, and the seminars at the Celebrity Center in Hollywood appeal to the thousands who come to Los Angeles seeking fame. Now Mango's mission is to convince the entertainment industry not to accept ads for those seminars, and he has recently succeeded with Actors Access.
Scientology's fixation dates back to 1955 when founder L. Ron Hubbard announced Project Celebrity in which Scientologists were to receive a celebrity "quarry" to be hunted and recruited into the group. The top movie stars and artists of the day were targeted then, but today the Celebrity Center in Hollywood targets those who haven't had their big break yet. They are promised help with finding an agent or manager, access to directors, producers and writers. But the goal for Scientology is not to help aspiring actors, it is to recruit new members.
2017-12-03, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
Scientology makes various claims about 47X expansion and 421.7 people per second reach for scientology and scientology has "the most visited religious site" on the internet blah blah
Out of curiosity I looked up the status of traffic on Scientology.org.
Alexa, if you didn't know, ranks websites by traffic volume.
Valeska Paris joined the Scientology Cadet Org at six years of age. She then joined the Sea Org when she was 14 years old. As a teenager she was sent to Scientology's ship the Freewinds. In this gripping podcast Valeska discusses the surprise raid on the Freewinds by the French police in 1999 when it was anchored at St. Barts. Valeska then describes the suicide of her stepfather Scientologist Albert Jaquier; the suicide of a member of a Sea Org member on the Freewinds; and the punishments she suffered on the ship. Valeska talks about her relationship to Shelly Miscavige who has not been seen in public for over a decade. Other people discussed include Mike Napier, the Captain of the Freewinds, Guillaume Leserve, Heber Jentzsch, and Tom Cruise and his $400,000 birthday party on the Freewinds.
2016-12-03, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
This latest piece from Porn Valley ideal building reminded me what a horrendous self-serving scam this is. You will note the "ideal Valley" is missing a few things — like about 100 staff (in order to have one for each room) and of course their filing is decades out of date.
So, why is there so much effort (extracting of funds) put into these ideal nothings?
The answer is simple: Miscavige is frantically trying to keep the veneer of expansion from peeling off the moldy walls of his shrinking kingdom. He uses these "ideal orgs" to convince his sheeple (and tries to persuade the outside world too, but that stopped working after Going Clear) that scientology is "expanding like never before." He shows them videos of ribbon cutting ceremonies and impressive looking "fly-throughs" of empty office spaces, auditoriums and reception areas. Always empty. And they now equate that to "expansion."
(Kiwis dancing in a conga line in order to pledge money on a whiteboard)
After the week we've had — with the heart-wrenching scenes with Bonny Elliott and Amy Scobee in Leah Remini's A&E series, for example — we thought it would be good to start things off today with a little levity.
It's been a while since we got a look at Scientology's fundraising foibles, which used to be more of a staple around here. But even though it's been some time, we think you'll see that things haven't changed a bit.
2015-12-03, Chris Shelton, Critical Thinker at Large
I met Rachel Bernstein through a referral by Karen de la Carriere and I am so happy I did, as she is very knowledgeable and articulate about destructive cults and Scientology in particular. She has counseled over a thousand people through the exit/recovery process in leaving a cult behind and has a great deal of experience with Scientology practices and the harm it causes psychologically and emotionally. I thought interviewing her about this would be informative and helpful to anyone who has ever had anything to do with Scientology and would also help increase understanding for those never-ins who struggle to decipher why anyone would get involved with a destructive cult in the first place. This interview is the first of three parts. In the final part, we will cover the Fair Game tactics Scientology engaged in against Rachel directly when she first began her practice, but first we cover what destructive cults are all about and what can be done about them. I hope everyone gets as much out of this as I did.
A day after Alex Gibney's Going Clear was shortlisted for the 2016 Oscar nomination for best documentary, the filmmaker and Lawrence Wright, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the book behind the film, sat down at N.Y.C.'s 92nd Street Y to talk about the allure of Scientology — both as a subject of investigation for their own work and as a powerful belief system for its followers. The discussion was moderated by Janice Min, co-president/chief creative officer of the Entertainment Group of Guggenheim Media.
Some of you may have noticed that, in our comments the other day, we mentioned that we were looking forward to a new article coming out about Tom Cruise and Scientology, written by a reporter we know who had hit us up for some quotes.
We were really anticipating this story, because we knew from what the reporter told us that he was going to begin to set the record straight about a lot of really dumb tabloidy nonsense about Cruise and his kids Connor and Isabella supposedly breaking away from Scientology. Our reporter friend had good evidence that the opposite was true — the Cruise clan is, if anything, tighter than ever with their fellow Scientologists. And anyway, we love seeing tabloid nonsense getting its comeuppance.
So we're really disappointed that the story which did appear — in Grazia magazine in England — turned out to be such a dud, and only spawned some new incorrect notions about Tom Cruise and Scientology.
2014-12-03, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
The full transformation into a bank is well underway.
Why have people take out loans with a bank or run their credit cards to the limit when they can extend credit with "in house financing". Of course, this is EASY to do when you are selling from already manufactured inventory with massive markups. There is little risk of any loss. After all, these people are under the thumb of the church. And if they ever did have anyone default on their loan they would just divert a bit of the "library donation money" to cover the "loss" and carry on as if nothing had happened.
2013-12-03, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
This was sent in some time ago by a Special Correspondent, but there have been so many other things going on that I have not been able to get around to posting it. I think it is a good topic for discussion and this is a thoughtful and insightful writeup from someone who has considerable experience from which to base their estimates.
Though there is no figure placed on the number of Scientologists, my estimate is 25,000-30,000 worldwide. These are people who may still do an extension course to maintain appearances, buy a book when it is released or attend an event — though not necessarily go on course or actively engage in auditing. The hard core is more like 15,000 composed of SO, staff and those actively on lines. These figures are based on the number of IAS members and the numbers that show up for events. I am interested in others' thoughts about this.
I find the membership question interesting and have some opinions based on my four decades of experience with the CofS. My speculation is the ratio of committed members versus OPENLY independent or disaffected ex-members is 4:1. BUT, the ratio of under-the radar members and ex-members to committed members is 25:1. This is extrapolation from my own circle of friends, family and acquaintances.
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.
And now we come to it. After taking us all the way up from the bottom rung of Scientology's "Bridge to Total Freedom," Claire Headley has brought us to the most legendary level of all, Operating Thetan Level Three. Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard claimed to have nearly died learning its secrets. He warned that anyone unprepared for it would catch pneumonia and perish.
Before we dive into those secrets ourselves, we wanted to ask Claire and her fellow tech expert Bruce Hines about expectations.
Using $7.85 million in donations, the church bought the 15-story Cunningham Piano building in downtown Philly back in 2007. The idea was to renovate the tower into a "cathedral" called the Philadelphia Freedom Org, which would broadcast L. Ron's message to the good people of greater Philly. Instead, the building has sat untouched for six years.
Now, the city's Department of Licenses & Inspections is taking the church to "blight court," a special municipal court that deals with violations like an ordinance that outlaws any building from boarding up multiple doors and windows (the church's tower has several).
Police have raised concerns over student management and behaviour at the Narconon facility in East Warburton.
A submission from Warburton Police to the Yarra Ranges Council has now led to a FOI request from opposition group SayNoNarcanon.
In a second submission to the council's planning department regarding the controversial proposal to move Narconon drug rehabilitation facility from East Warburton to Warburton township, the officer in charge at Warburton police station, Sergeant Tom Wilkinson commented on information prepared by town planners Millar Merrigan which he said was helpful in providing an overview but raised some concerns.
I was in my car yesterday listening to C-SPAN (yes, I do that sometimes), when to my stunned surprise I heard Congressman Dan Burton launch into a diatribe on how mercury in vaccines causes autism. No, this was not a replay of a recording from a decade ago. The hearing was held just a few days ago by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Congressman Burton used this hearing to rehash a series of some of the most thoroughly discredited anti-vaccine positions of the past decade. Burton is a firm believer in the myth that vaccines cause autism, and he arrogantly holds the position that he knows the truth better than the thousands of scientists who have spent much of the past decade doing real science that proves him wrong.
In a classic political move, the committee called on scientists Alan Guttmacher from the NIH and Colleen Boyle from the CDC to testify, but in fact the committee just wanted to bully the scientists. Committee members lectured the scientists, throwing out bad science claims, often disguised as questions, thick and fast. Alas, Guttmacher and Boyle weren't prepared for this kind of rapid-fire assault by pseudoscience.
A woman who recently defected from the Church of Scientology has claimed that she was held against her will and forced to spend almost 12 years touring the Caribbean on a cruise ship owned by the organisation.
Valeska Paris told a TV interviewer that she was 18 when she joined the crew of the Freewinds, a vessel the Church describes as its floating "cathedral" and which once hosted Tom Cruise's birthday party. She alleged that her passport was confiscated, and that, until she was 24, she was prevented from setting foot on dry land without an escort.
2011-12-03, Tony Ortega, Runnin' Scared, Village Voice
"And we thought the asbestos was bad!" The scene here in the underground bunker is like the quiet after a major storm. A hurricane blew up out of the Caribbean this week and hit us square on. The place is a mess. The cats are skittish. But the excitement has finally died down a bit, the lights are low, the empty bottles have been cleared out, and we're trying to regain some composure here as we reflect on what happened...
We seem to say it every Saturday, but this time we really mean it: what a week, Scientology watchers!
Early Monday morning, we first heard from Australian journalist Steve Cannane about Valeska Paris, the woman who says she was held against her will aboard Scientology's private cruise ship the Freewinds from 1996 to 2007.
A. Rhodes Wilson wants to use his single-family home on Easton Road as a mission for the Church of Scientology.
Looking for approval from the Plumstead Township Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Wilson, represented by Doylestown attorney Robert Gundlach, testified he intends to keep the house exactly as it is but convert its use to a place of worship.
A Dublin woman who claims she was controlled by a cult has begun a High Court legal action for damages.
40-year-old sports shop owner Mary Johnson from Westwood, Foxrock, was a member of the Church of Scientology for two years between 1992 and 1994.
She is now suing the organisation because of the experiences and pressures she claims she suffered while a member and the threats and intimidation when she tried to leave.
By noon, about 30 protesters had gathered across the street from the church's Fort Harrison Hotel with anti-Scientology T-shirts, camcorders and picket signs with messages critical of the church.
The protesters say they hold the demonstration this time of year to commemorate Lisa McPherson, the 36-year-old Scientologist who died Dec. 5, 1995, after a 17-day stay at the Fort Harrison Hotel. The demonstration, the sixth, will continue today from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
ANN ARBOR, MICH. ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) _ A jury Thursday rejected a lawsuit that accused Sally Jessy Raphael and her talk show of invading the privacy of a Church of Scientology member who was secretly taped.
The Circuit Court lawsuit sought $72 million for Dorothy Dickerson, saying her comments broadcast on the show in 1991 made her look foolish.
Two of Dickerson's daughters appeared on the show, saying the church brainwashed their mother. One of the daughters secretly recorded a conversation with her mother. Dickerson, 61, was heard on the show saying she makes only $5,000 a year and loves washing dishes for the church.
Cathia Riley said Bare-Faced Messiah: The True Story Of [L. Ron Hubbard] by British author Russell Miller, is "simply an attempt to capitalize" on Hubbard's popularity because his book sales number in the millions.
"The favorable ruling by the (court) supports our position that Bare-Faced Messiah deserves to be published in the country," he said. "The court's decision is to be applauded."
"Our church is a religion," she added. "It is not a cult, and L. Ron Hubbard is a great religious leader. There is an anti-religious movement that likes to attack religions under the heading of 'cults.' You start there and move on to attack other religions."
The Church of Scientology updated its battle with Pinellas County on Wednesday, filing a lawsuit for the sixth consecutive year to challenge the county's tax assessments on its properties.
The Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization contends that it is a non-profit, religious group that should be entitled to tax-exempt status, according to the suit filed Wednesday in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court.