From the "you have to be kidding us" department, we have this last-minute 2017 news. A week ago, Scientology's attorneys Eric Lieberman and Bert Deixler filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the Church of Scientology International in California.
The defendant? Laura DeCrescenzo.
Yes, the church has filed a federal lawsuit against the woman who has been suing Scientology for more than eight years in a forced-abortion and abuse case that we've been following closely, and which has managed to survive being dismissed once, brought back on appeal, vindicated through two motions for summary judgment, and delayed with appeals all the way to the US Supreme Court.
But now, in maybe the most cynical (and yet completely characteristic) Scientology legal filing we've seen in a long time, CSI's attorneys are telling a federal court that it should erase the last eight years of litigation that have occurred at the state-level Los Angeles Superior Court and toss out Laura's lawsuit entirely.
2016-12-29, Chris Shelton, Critical Thinker at Large
We're back for our next round with Scientology apologetics, taking apart this book "Scientology" edited by James R. Lewis and featuring essays from various religious scholars, sociologists, psychologists and the like.
This week, we have chapter 16 by Bernadette Rigal-Cellard and titled "Scientology Missions International (SMI): An Immutable Model of Technological Missionary Activity." She is the Director of the Center for Canadian Inter-University Studies in Bordeaux, France and a specialist in North American religions. Unlike some other authors in this book, Bernadette manages to not gush over with enthusiasm while explaining how wonderful Scientology's missionary activities are, but I will say from the start that I found the quality of her research to be lacking. As with almost all these authors, she fails to critically examine the information she is presenting and so skews or distorts the reality of Scientology's popularity and growth in the real world. Now this week's topic is pretty interesting stuff, so let's dive right in and I'll just fact check and offer commentary along the way. She starts with this:
"The following study looks at the way religions undergo transformations when they migrate from the country in which they were born to other cultures. With all the problems it has engendered in Europe in particular, where it is mostly held as the Trojan horse of American imperialism, the Church of Scientology offers a perfect case study. How do its missionaries, called mission holders, react to their new environment: Do they try to adapt to it, or, on the contrary, do they seek to adapt it to their own vision of the world? I will present here only the foundation of SMI, its European missions, its franchise system, and the duty of the mission holders." (p. 325)
This week, Leah Remini hit the Church of Scientology with one of the biggest weapons in her arsenal: Forced abortions.
For those of you who read this website regularly, you already knew that from about 1982 to 2010, Scientology somehow considered it acceptable to motivate young women in its "Sea Org" to work around the clock for pennies an hour by forcibly sending them down to the nearest free clinic for an abortion if they happened to get pregnant. (It only stopped because the Tampa Bay Times exposed the practice that year with a terrific short film. Now, women who get pregnant in the Sea Org merely get kicked out.)
If you've seen Claire Headley talk about this subject before, you knew that she was going to deliver a serious shock to the system for viewers Tuesday night, and she did not disappoint. So what could David Miscavige possibly do to counter what was sure to be a wave of stunned press reactions describing Scientology's barely believable reliance on forced abortion to keep its workers childless?
2016-12-29, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
The lead article in last month's (Dec '16) National Geographic Magazine is about the placebo effect, or as they subtitled the piece on the cover, "The Healing Power of Faith."
Since everything is true on the Internet, I pulled this definition of the placebo effect: "a beneficial effect, produced by a placebo drug or treatment that cannot be attributed to the properties of the placebo itself, and must therefore be due to the patient's belief in that treatment."
For thousands of years humans have been going to "healers with the hope that they can make us feel better. And just as a good performance in a theater can draw us in until we feel we're watching something real, the theater of healing is designed to draw us in by creating powerful expectations in our brains. These expectations drive the so-called placebo effect, which can affect what happens in our bodies as well." NG. Scientists are now, "seeing placebos as a window into the neurochemical mechanisms that connect the mind with the body, belief with experience." NG.
We love these last few days of the year. Winter is finally setting in here, and it's nice having two four-day weekends in a row. Also, it means were still looking back at the most significant stories we covered this year at the Underground Bunker. In this post we're remembering the stories of September.
We adore Scientology's testimonials videos. David Miscavige puts out one every year or so, and they always feature a pounding, manic soundtrack as dozens of Scientologists tell you how much a course or level has changed their lives. It's frenetic fun, punctuated with some truly astounding statements ("I'm me for the first time in trillions of years!"), and in September we were sent a testimonials video from 2006 that had not previously been made public. Imagine our surprise when we noticed that one of the gushing Scientologists was none other than actress Erika Christensen. Oh, you have to think she never thought this would get to the outside world.
That testimonials video was actually part of a longer presentation — the 2006 Maiden Voyage opening night celebration. It's pretty rare to see the Maiden Voyage events outside of a Scientology org. We found a lot of great nuggets in this one, including scenes of Scientologists doing wacky exercises that they are more careful about showing these days.
2015-12-29, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
This one is a monster.
Give your money to the US IAS Member Trust and you are "supporting the most effective humanitarian campaigns in the world that are truly saving lives every day."
Every part of this is a lie.
2014-12-29, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
This is a report sent in by Peter Bonyai. He wrote a book I highly recommend about his years in Scientology and the Sea Org in Hungary that I covered in a blog post entitled Money, Power, Servitude.
Peter keeps tabs on the goings on with scientology in Hungary and has some news on that front that indicates all is not so rosy in the straight up and vertical, 47X expansion world of scientology.
OTL Central Europe (also known as OTL Hungary), the local Sea Org unit in Budapest, will be dissolved in the next few weeks. They have already vacated the building they rented (I am sure they left quite a few unpaid bills behind) and almost every staff member has to report to Copenhagen for reassignment. A few Sea Org members will remain in Budapest, though all I know for sure is that the WISE office stays (judging from current trends, I guess there will be an IAS Reg as well).
Myles Binford The last time we checked in on Myles Binford, the Orange County, California businessman was organizing a running race in order to benefit a couple of Scientology's front groups.
Binford is an OT 8 — the highest step on the Bridge to Total Freedom is Operating Thetan Level Eight, and the people who have completed it should be able to affect matter with their minds and fly around outside their bodies and all sorts of other superhuman stuff, but they are always too modest to show those abilities, for some reason.
Before he had organized the race, Binford had also founded a Scientology-based drug rehab facility in Dana Point called Pur Detox.
2013-12-29, Mike Rinder, Something Can Be Done About It
Is the "Church of Scientology" a fundamentalist organization?
In my view, it is. And if you read the criteria for fundamentalism above, there is not much doubt that the hard core members of the church fit right in to these 5 points.
I was prompted to write this by an interesting post on Marty's blog a little while ago entitled Trained To Lie.
As 2014 approaches, we're continuing our look back at the wild year that was. And now, we dive into the crazy month of August.
The month debuted with one of our most popular stories of the year — while everyone seemed to be asking if actress Leah Remini would suffer retaliation for defecting from Scientology, we reported that instead, other church critics were suddenly experiencing a huge increase in harassment. Claire Headley, while out with her children, was photographed by private eyes. Karen de la Carriere found her neighbors being questioned by PIs. And Mike Rinder was being swarmed by church investigators. Scientology seemed to be taking out its exasperation about Remini with a new round of retaliation on its other perceived enemies.
On August 6, another strange story. We learned that Mary Sue Hubbard's beloved dog T-Zu had finally died, more than a decade after its owner. Why was that important? Because only now, according to Mary Sue's will, could her multimillion-dollar home in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles be put up for sale, with remaining Hubbard children benefiting from the sale. Since then, the sale has been put on hold, at least temporarily.
Federal prosecutors in Belgium have charged Scientology's operation there and two leading executives with fraud, extortion and other offences. And it looks like they have learned from the Paris convictions.
It took a few years, but the wheels appear to be moving in Belgium.
Federal prosecutors have charged the Church of Scientology there with a range of offences, more than four years after police raided their Brussels offices. Two senior executives with the movement have also been charged.
Tiziano Lugli does his best Tom Cruise And so we come to the end of this lengthy year in review, which no doubt has already gone on far too long for some readers.
If we've been longwinded, our excuse is that 2012 has been such an exceptional year for Scientology, and there were so many disasters for the church right up to the last few weeks.
On December 10, with Gawker's help, we brought to the world a very unusual video. During our recent visit to Los Angeles, former church member Tiziano Lugli played for us a funny song that featured several ex-Scientologists rapping about what it was like to work for David Miscavige at the International Base. We thoroughly enjoyed the rap stylings of Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder (seriously, it was dope), but what made the video go viral was that one of the people who performed on the song was Nazanin Boniadi, and she specifically name-checked the church's three big celebrities, Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Kirstie Alley. Boniadi had become famous in Maureen Orth's Vanity Fair story in September, but here was the first evidence of Boniadi speaking out on her own about her disillusionment with Scientology.
2011-12-29, Tony Ortega, Runnin' Scared, Village Voice
Feeling upstat, feeling sexy! On Thursdays, we like to put together a rundown of stories related to Scientology watching from around the world. We do this on Thursdays, because it's that day when Scientologists rush to turn in their weekly stats.
Most of the time, those stories are embarrassing for the church and cast Scientology in a harsh light. We say that those items are "downstat" in the church's own parlance.
But this week, our last news roundup of the year, Scientology scored some significant "upstat" stories to finish out 2011 on a high note.
Wednesday Nov 3rd 2010 SF Giants Victory Parade started at 11 AM in front of the SF Scientology Org. We were there!
Also, a wee tribute to the most epic critic and mother, Ida Camburn. Rest In Peace, Mum. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdaTzK...
Hello Germany! http://www.hidemyass.com/youtube-proxy/
2010-12-29, Jefferson Hawkins, Leaving Scientology
I heard on the grapevine that the big "release" at the New Year's Event will be the announcement of a huge new book printing plant in Los Angeles, a supposed "dissemination center." In fact, it appears that it's the old Bridge Publications warehouse on Bandini Blvd in Commerce, but with a facelift.
Of course, in this age of Kindle and e-books, only the Church of Scientology would consider a brick-and-mortar book printing facility as any kind of newsworthy breakthrough. To the rest of us, it's kind of quaintly retro.
But what else is new? The Church has always been on the trailing edge of technology.
Carmel Underwood's letter listed a number of abuses: but her experience of a series of devastatingly hostile interrogations recalls similar incidents in the US that drove another woman to a mental breakdown.
Carmel Underwood, in her letter to Senator Xenophon, outlined a catalogue of abuse, ranging from pressure on pregnant staffers to abort and the cover-up of child abuse to verbal and physical assaults.
But it is her account of a series of devastating hostile interrogations to which she was subjected that stands out. The experience left her "an emotional wreck", she wrote.
The purchase brings the church closer to controlling an entire city block along Court Street. The only properties remaining in that block are three small publicly owned parking lots and an alley that runs the length of the block. The city owns the alley and two of the lots. The county owns the third lot, which it uses for employee parking.
City and county officials say the church has approached them about trading land to get the remaining lots. The church wants to develop most of the block into parking spaces for a massive new Scientology building planned on S Fort Harrison Avenue, across from the church's Fort Harrison Hotel.
The secret campaign against Erhard would span more than a year and become one of the Church of Scientology's top priorities. In Sausalito, where Erhard then lived on a yacht, private detectives spied on him and interviewed scores of disgruntled followers. They dug deeply into records of his personal and financial affairs.
In the end, Erhard received so much notoriety -- including a scathing segment on "60 Minutes" last March -- that he sold his business and now lives in Costa Rica. Although he blames Scientology for his troubles, it is hard to gauge what the organization actually accomplished behind the scenes because those who know most are not saying.
As Scientology's chief lawyer, Earle C. Cooley, put it: "I'm not going to comment in any way on the use of material that was obtained as a result of the investigation."
The selling of est also got San Francisco-based Erhard some $6 million in 1975, although he emphasizes that he collects a relatively modest $48,000 salary. In addition, he has a $100,000 house, a Mercedes, a yacht and a company plane. "You know, if est really accomplishes what it seems to," muses Erhard, as if surprised by est's success, "it could really be something in the world."