Our thanks this holiday season to Phil Jones for sending us this dispatch from the frozen north…
Willie and I were in Toronto for the weekend so we decided to check on the Scientology Toronto building at 696 Yonge Street to see how (or if) their renovations were coming along. I met up with the building caretaker, Blair Sisson, at the property. Blair is an old time Scientologist whom I've known for more than 35-40 years. Nice guy but still 100 percent committed to Scientology. He had no idea that Willie and I were out of Scientology. I did tell him we were out during our conversation at which time he seemed to become anxious and left.
The building shows no signs of any improvements and actually looks worse than the last time I saw it. I asked Blair if he'd give us a tour of the inside but he said no. I asked him several times whether the renovations had started on the inside but each time he didn't answer so I'm pretty sure they haven't done anything inside either.
New court documents indicate that the Church of Scientology has asked for an emergency "ex parte" hearing on Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court so that it can ask that Valerie Haney's lawsuit alleging kidnapping and slander be stayed so the church can force her to take her grievances to an internal Scientology arbitration panel instead.
The church also indicated that it will ask for additional time so that it can file an anti-SLAPP motion, which, as we pointed out in the case of Monique Rathbun's Texas lawsuit in 2013, is ironic that Scientology, known for its bullying tactics, would seek the protection of an anti-SLAPP motion which is intended to keep private citizens from being bullied by large corporations filing frivolous lawsuits in order to silence them.
Scientology's legal bullying is part of the reason anti-SLAPP laws were developed in the first place, so Scientology saying it's going to seek protection of an anti-SLAPP against the big bad bully Valerie Haney is exactly the kind of scorched-earth legal strategy Scientology is known for.
We spoke with Bill Franks a few weeks ago on the phone after we heard he had entered hospice care. We wanted him to know how much we appreciated the help we got from him on our book about Paulette Cooper. He was characteristically humble about it, saying that he hadn't done much.
In fact, Bill Franks was one of the longest tenured whistleblowers of Scientology, a top former executive who tried time and again to help get the word out about what he'd seen during his meteoric rise in the organization.
He joined Scientology in 1968 and met L. Ron Hubbard aboard the yacht Apollo two years later. Hubbard vanished early in 1980 in the turmoil after the disastrous "Snow White Program" that had church operatives infiltrating US and foreign government agencies, resulting in eleven top Scientologists being prosecuted and eventually going to prison. As Jon Atack explained in his book A Piece of Blue Sky, major reorganizing after the Snow White debacle was needed, and a young Bill Franks suddenly found himself elevated to the organization's highest spot…
An unexpectedly mirthful moment during Tuesday night's Scientology and the Aftermath episode about Shelly Miscavige was Tom DeVocht's explanation that remaining wretches like Norman Starkey put up with imprisonment and abuse from Scientology leader David Miscavige because they are waiting for L. Ron Hubbard to return and put things right.
Hubbard died in 1986, and church members were told at the time that he had decided to leave his body to pursue his studies elsewhere. But it made for awfully good television to see Leah Remini react to the news that some high-level Scientologists are waiting for Hubbard to return to Earth.
It was a great moment, but we were also struck by the big reaction from the audience (judging by what we saw online). Was this really a surprise? Have people forgotten how much Scientology comes from a tradition of spiritualism gussied up as midcentury science, of ghost stories passed off as advances in "technology"?
A lawyer representing Shelly Miscavige, the wife of David Miscavige, Scientology's leader, has demanded that Jezebel remove a story we ran yesterday on Shelly's alleged disappearance. The attorney, Jeffrey K. Riffer, writes "Mrs. Miscavige is not missing" and that she is "appalled" by claims that she has disappeared. He adds that in running our piece, Jezebel furthered the harassment of one woman by another.
The allegations that Shelly Miscavige has disappeared come from Leah Remini, an ex-Scientologist turned one of the church's most prominent critics, via her show Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath. Our blog yesterday featured a recap of the most recent show, which dealt entirely with the fact that Miscavige hasn't been seen in public since 2007, as well as how Scientology responded to the airing of the program. Remini filed a missing persons report in 2013, asking that Shelly's whereabouts be investigated, which Riffer correctly says was closed and labeled "unfounded" by the Los Angeles Police Department.
Jezebel contacted an attorney connected with Scientology and their media relations department yesterday and didn't receive a reply. After several hours, we ran our post, with a note that they had been contacted for comment and we would update if we heard back. About 30 minutes after the post went live, we received a response from the media relations department, asking only when our deadline was. When I replied that the story had gone live and I would update it with comment from them as soon as they provided it, I did not receive a response. The legal letter was sent at 9 p.m. California time, via email, about six hours after the post went live.
Gosh, we not only had a correspondent at the New Year's event at the Shrine Auditorium on Saturday who heard David Miscavige's claim that Mexico has officially recognized Scientology as a religion, but we also have audio to prove it.
Some of our readers were pretty skeptical of our report on Sunday that Scientology has achieved such a thing. Well, there should be no doubt now that Miscavige at least made the claim. As you can hear in the audio, he's very specific about it being federal recognition, and our correspondent said Miscavige showed a document from Mexico's Secretary of the Interior to prove it. But does that document back up what Miscavige is claiming?
We have no confirmation from the Mexican government itself yet, but we figure Miscavige is going to hold back that document until video of Saturday's event can be shown in the orgs around the world on New Year's Eve itself.
The Howard Stern Show is an American talk radio show hosted by Howard Stern. It gained wide recognition when it was nationally syndicated on terrestrial radio from 1986 to 2005. The show has been exclusive to Sirius XM Radio, a subscription-based satellite radio service, since 2006. Other prominent staff members include co-host and news anchor Robin Quivers, writer Fred Norris, and executive producer Gary Dell'Abate.
2017-12-20, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
I like to keep tabs on the largest and most important Ideal Org on earth — especially as it is my local org when I am in Los Angeles. At least it can rightfully lay claim to having the largest and emptiest parking lot of any scientology org on earth (others are just as empty, none are nearly so big...)
First, they sent out this terrific Holiday Greetings card:
Interesting they selected this particular sentence from the "Ideal Org" Policy Letter. It's so nebulous. People come there to get freedom, they have confidence in the fact it will happen and then they run smack into reality and find out there is no such thing happening in this activity. Hell, check out the picture they selected to highlight their accomplishments and holiday cheer. An empty room that looks like a set design from Six Feet Under.
2016-12-20, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
The Reddit AMA ("ask Me Anything") special has now aired, and now it's on to Episode 4 tomorrow (The Rise of Miscavige).
As always, I am interested in your views - including criticisms and things you think might be better explained or covered.
I also suspect there are quite a number of new people who are coming to this blog for the first time. To all of you, welcome.
The Underground Bunker has obtained court documents which describe a stunning attempt by a Milwaukee attorney to secure secret government-held documents that are potentially crippling to the Church of Scientology.
That attempt came very close to being successful.
In June of last year, the attorney, Jeremy P. Levinson, arrived at the West Allis, WisconsinPolice Department, demanding to see the department's then chief, Charles Padgett. Levinson had with him a court order instructing the police department to turn over to him a trove of information that had been collected as evidence in a criminal investigation from a couple of laptop computers. Levinson said he wasn't going to leave without the entire collection of evidence.
2015-12-20, Chris Shelton, Critical Thinker at Large
The weekly show where I answer questions from viewers in the comments of my Q&A videos or by email at AskChrisShelton@gmail.com. This week, the questions I take up are:
(1) My question has to do with the comments that you have made throughout you Q&A sessions about COS. In particular with the downfall of the COS. I think that the only way to have any hope of a real (soon) solution is to have the FBI/CIA/HS raid Big Blue, CC, Gold, Flag, Freewinds (hard, int waters) and CST at the same time and get all the evidence at once to make any impact. What do you think about this and what advice do you have so any potential law/department if they want to really do something about COS?
(2) I never knew that the method of rote memorization you described was a) called "Chinese school", b) a cult technique or c) foreign to most people. I was taught that way in school for everything from grammar lists (prepositions, being verbs, etc.) to Bible verses. I went to a fundamental Christian school which taught a lot of propaganda-like theories which I always questioned (and received negative responses for doing). It has always confused me that my teachers were so defensive and refused to discuss doctrines of other faiths. It shows an insecurity in one's own faith to turn a blind eye to different opinions. Do you think that insecurity in belief could be one reason why Scientologists are so closed-minded? In your experience, is there something that can be done to help someone so engrossed in any one way of thinking to learn to think critically??
(Isaac Hayes (1942-2008) tells an audience about becoming the international spokesman for the World Literacy Crusade )
We could not have broken the big story of felony charges against Scientologists operating a Scientology drug rehab clinic in Compton without the help of our sources. We've had invaluable help here in New York with the Underground Bunker's man on the scene, Jeffrey Augustine, who lives in Los Angeles.
This week, he volunteered to get some looks at the venues we've been talking about. The story we revealed on Thursday was that several Scientologists are accused of running a Narconon clinic out of the World Literacy Crusade, a longtime Scientology front in Compton. Arrangements were made with three prominent local educators (since fired) to provide high school kids to the "clinic," where they were put through Scientology exercises, and the clinic then billed Medi-Cal as if the students had been treated for drug addictions. According to court documents, this scam was running at least from 2010 to 2013 (but we found evidence that it had been using foster children as early as 2005). The clinic was raided by a state law enforcement agency in March 2014. But what's happened to the clinic, and the World Literacy Crusade, since then? Jeffrey Augustine is our man on the scene.
Jon Atack is the author of A Piece of Blue Sky, one of the very best books on L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. He has a new edition of the book for sale, and for more than a year on Saturdays he helped us sift through the legends, myths, and contested facts about Scientology that tend to get hashed and rehashed in books, articles, and especially on the Internet. He was kind enough to send us a new post.
Jon, it's been another great year with you here in the Underground Bunker. What better way to head into the holidays than with another deep dive from you into what challenges people face when they leave the Church of Scientology...
JON: I wanted to start this week by thanking the comments crew at the Bunker for the many stimulating remarks these last few weeks. Let me admit that when I came back to the fray, 18 months back, I was very apprehensive. So much so that I have only actually read the comments on about seven or eight of my pieces, just in case the hounds of the Thunderdome were on the prowl.
2014-12-20, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
Here is another chapter in the sad tale of the demise of Jobur Ideal Org.
To begin, let me remind you that this is the second "ideal org." Dear Leader himself made the long trip to bless the "new org" and in finest shermanspeak, pronounced this the beginning of the new age in Africa and THE thing that would make S. Africa the first cleared country. And the goodness would spread from there and overtake the entire continent.
Of course, no such thing happened and Jobur has struggled since. So much so that a Sea Org "Command Team" was dispatched to get things back "under control." They rolled into town and proceeded to declare the main opinion leaders in the area and as a result, things have gone from bad to worse. They even have a local blog that documents the demise of organized scientology in S. Africa with a steady stream of information exposing the ugly truth about just what a fail the orgs are in S. Africa and Zimbabwe. Of course there are no other orgs in the entirety of the African continent — an area nearly 4 times bigger than the contiguous United States, with a population that now exceeds 1 billion — this despite the promises of Miscavige with his little arrows springing out of his ideal org graphic to indicted how they would "in turn" generate more and more groups and eventually more orgs. There aren't even any new missions or groups in South Africa in 11 years since its opening, let alone new orgs. And of course, NOTHING in all the rest of the vast expanse of Africa.
Starting today, we're beginning a new weekly feature that we think is going to impinge. (That's Scientology talk for "have a big effect.")
The Underground Bunker has heard from a source who has access to a large number of Scientology's internal videos. We believe that some of the videos have never been online before. Others, like today's, did make it to the Internet, but then were pulled down by threats from Scientology.
We're not getting a lot of information from our source about the videos except where to find them online. But we did some quick research and so we know that today's piece, "Boots in the Sky," is something that Scientologists know very well. The words you will hear are spoken by L. Ron Hubbard — it's from a lecture he gave as part of the Philadelphia Doctorate Course in December 1952.
2013-12-20, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
Things are degenerating quickly inside the bubble.
How many more "statuses" can they come up with to use to beg for money?
I wonder if these people are going to be presented with red tights and cape? They could then really show off their new found hero status....
"For me, this matter is over with," Mike Kasem told PEOPLE outside the courtroom. "I just pray that my father's younger brother will get to say goodbye to him. It'll be great for them to see each other."
Mike, in addition to a lawyer for daughter Kerri, declined to specify why Kasem has been hospitalized.
Troy Martin, Kerri's attorney, clarified that the settlement reached applies only to Julie and Mike, but not his client.
"We think the visitation terms are too restrictive," Martin said after the hearing. "There hasn't been an agreement reached between Kerri and Jean. It could require us to file another conservatorship. We're still in negotiations."
Local chiropractor Dennis Nobbe, a rotund, ruddy-faced Scientologist allegedly forced employees to scream at ashtrays, perform lengthy staring contests, and convert to his church.
Now, the man who says he "used L. Ron Hubbard Technology to build the largest chiropractic office in all of South Florida." is backtracking. After former employees filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Nobbe's Dynamic Medical Services signed a consent decree agreeing to pay $170,000 and to stop dictating employees' religious beliefs.
2013-12-20, Marty Rathbun, Moving On Up a Little Higher
The next book preview follows, working title Deconstructing Scientology: Mental Therapy or Thought Reform? Reference, Antidote to Scientology Slavery.
This book traces and contextualizes the origins of Scientology's cosmology.
Topics of treatment:
For five years Marty Rathbun and his wife's lives have been made a 'living hell' by The Church of Scientology furious that he stepped down from his lofty position inside the powerful organization and then dared to speak out against it.
Their house was besieged by minions, known bizarrely as 'Squirrel Busters', harassing them at every turn. Private investigators were allegedly hired to follow them and monitor their movements, renting neighboring properties and setting up surveillance cameras trained on their home.
A handful of employees - now ex-employees - of a South Florida chiropractic office say they got more than a paycheck for their labors.
The workers say they were force-fed an indoctrination in the rituals of the Church of Scientology. Those rituals, the workers complained, included occasionally having to sit perfectly still in a spare room at the office, facing one another for an eight-hour staredown - as well as yelling at ashtrays and talking to the walls.
The Hollywood Reporter broke the news today: Tom Cruise has finally given up on his dumb lawsuit against In Touch and Life & Style magazines.
He was seeking $50 million in damages because the magazines had claimed that Cruise had "abandoned" his daughter Suri after his 2012 divorce to Katie Holmes. But then, after a tough year of discovery, it turned out that the magazines had done their homework, and the facts showed that Cruise had only seen his daughter a handful of times over a 110-day period.
After that, any chance of convincing a jury that the magazines had lied about Cruise with malice were pretty much nil. So, no big surprise that he gave up the suit. It only brought him waves of additional media laughter based on some of the things he'd said in a deposition that was put into the court file.
With the year winding down, we thought we'd ask several fellow Scientology watchers to give us their thoughts on how the church fared in 2012. Here are their responses, and we're looking forward to reading your reflections about 2012 in the comments. Tell us what were your highlights, and how you think 2012 fits in the 60-year history of the church.
First up, BBC journalist John Sweeney, who has a book coming out on January 7, The Church of Fear: Inside the Weird World of Scientology.
John Sweeney: Five years on since I lost my temper so spectacularly with the Church, the world's take on Scientology seems to have changed beyond recognition. Back in 2007, the Church's power to intimidate people was strong and I felt, if not alone, then there were not very many people who would take it on, openly. By 2012, that has changed. The Church's apostles, Tom Cruise and John Travolta, are under pressure as never before to explain their support for Leader David Miscavige. The number of people leaving has become a flood. In 2013, three books on the Church will come out, but Lawrence Wright's publisher in the UK has pulled out — proof that the Church, though wounded, remains powerful. My book, The Church Of Fear: Inside the Weird World of Scientology, will be published, come hell or high water. The Church says that I am psychotic, etc, etc, etc...
2011-12-20, Marimer Matos, Courthouse News Service
The mother of a boy who killed himself cannot sue his father and the Church of Scientology for taking away his antidepressants, a federal judge ruled.
Victoria Britton filed suit in 2009 over the death of her 20-year-old son, Kyle Thomas Brennan, after he visited with his father in Clearwater, Fla., in February 2007.
2011-12-20, Tony Ortega, Runnin' Scared, Village Voice
On Sunday, we published a disturbing new document which was produced by Scientology recruiters in Australia. It purports to be the testimony of an 18-year-old named Denny Chang, who extols the virtues of Scientology's most hardcore contingent, the Sea Org, and urges other young church members to join.
After talking with experienced former Sea Org members, it's now clear that young Chang, judging by his own words, probably started his career in the elite troop at only 14 or 15 years of age. And now at 18, when his former schoolmates might be heading off to college, Chang is convinced that Scientology provides an answer for everything: "I started to realize that Scientology is really the only way out," he writes.
The mailer Chang appears on was not one of Scientology's advertisements to the general public. It was an e-mail flier sent out to church members -- the Voice regularly obtains such mailers from various Scientology organizations around the US and Australia, and we publish three of them each Sunday morning.
2011-12-20, Marty Rathbun, Moving On Up a Little Higher
Here's a little something in response to the handful of cur dogs who criticize our efforts to cease the spiritual carnage that has become in the public mind Scientology. It is something from L Ron Hubbard, the Founder of the subject. This is likely so obvious that it goes without saying to the majority involved in this grassroots movement called Independent Scientology. But, I re-iterate as there are OSA bait dupes on the fringe who expend a lot of energy on attempting to drag down folk who are taking responsibility for this thing called Scientology. As confusion is their stock in trade, let us have a little stable data as remedy.
Excerpts from L Ron Hubbard lecture, Formative States of Scientology - Definition of Logic.
Let's take the subject of Scientology and let's see if there's any logic involved with it at all. There isn't a mathematics that can embrace the subject of Scientology, because it is an invented mathematics. It's an invented mathematics that accepts gradient scales and "absolutes are unattainable." And it is a method of thinking about things. And it is just as true as it is workable. And no truer. And is not, in itself, an abitrary, fascistic police force to make sure that we all think right thoughts. It's a servant of the mind, and servo-mechanism of the mind. It is not a master of the mind. Scientology will decline and become useless to man on the day when it becomes the master of thinking. Don't think it won't do that. It has every capability of doing that.
Rahdert and Hollingsworth, a former vice president of the now-defunct Triangle Development, met in 2005 when Triangle paid Rahdert $6.5 million for 2 acres of his family's land on the Clearwater waterfront. Two Triangle partners, both Scientologists, sold the land to the Church of Scientology when their plans for an upscale condo development failed. The land remains vacant.
Hollingsworth, a Scientologist for more than 30 years who has publicly criticized press coverage of the church, has helped with the Fenway's redevelopment since Rahdert's purchase, attending site visits, meeting with city staff and seeking condo buyers and financiers.
Alexander Godelman and Marc Le Shay, two Diskeeper employees (Godelman was CIO and Le Shay hired as the Automation Planning Officer) have filed a complaint in the Los Angeles Superior Court alleging that Scientology training was a condition of employment and that their refusal to participate led to their dismissal. According to the complaint, "[t]he working conditions and work environment at DISKEEPER were inextricably intertwined with the Scientology religion such that a non-Scientologist cannot escape constant impositions of said religion."
What about Scientology's reputation for proselytising and recruiting and the cyber campaign of "Anonymous", the group of ex-Scientologists protesting its activities. Isn't it a form of thought-control religion?
"Do I look brainwashed to you?" he said, as if life for him has been more than the answer to a trivia question.
The Ramona building, a 78-year-old former hotel at Sixth and J streets, will be converted into Sacramento headquarters for the Church of Scientology.
Two years after it paid $4.75 million for the downtown Ramona building, the Church of Scientology is about to gain full control of the property.
Goodwill spokeswoman Michael Ann Harvey said Wednesday that the purchase is still "uncertain." The nonprofit won't know whether it will buy the property until next month.
Goodwill has not received all building inspection reports from its due diligence, she said. And some completed reports show potential problems with the condition of the buildings.
The 3-acre site, assessed at $3.06-million for tax purposes, is listed for sale at $6-million. The proposed purchase price has not been disclosed.
The city's Development Review Board approved a request Tuesday from the Church of Scientology to transfer the development rights for 82 residential units at its power plant on Court Street to the Oak Cove building. Oak Cove is a 13-story waterfront high-rise on the west side of Osceola Avenue that the church intends to develop as a 252-room hotel. The church is in the midst of renovating Oak Cove, once an assisted living facility, but which has been vacant since 1999. The church plans to use the building for activities during the renovation of the Fort Harrison Hotel and the massive Super Power building across the street. When those two projects are completed, which the church said will be in mid 2008, Oak Cove will be converted into a hotel for visiting Scientologists.