Addition to Chapter 40
Stories Scientology Doesn’t Want You to Know
From print page 349:
AROUND 2000, I developed Wings of Love Ministry to help people who had come out of Scientology or other cults, and affiliated with Atlanta Community Ministries. I simply offered a listening ear and a caring heart; I had no counseling experience or training. I signed on with the Robinson Agency in Atlanta that booked me for speaking engagements at churches, women’s and youth groups, and special events across Georgia, Alabama, Florida, the Carolinas, Mississippi, Kansas, Missouri, and to Oregon. I also partnered with the Interfaith Evangelism team at the North American Mission Board…particularly Phil Roberts and Tal Davis, who provided guidance and networking opportunities that led to speaking at large conferences and universities. I had developed a major interest in comparative religious studies, and developed presentation materials comparing Gnosticism, Christianity, Christian Science and Scientology.
Tal Davis introduced me to Evangelical Ministries to New Religions (EMNR), and Watchman Fellowship, interesting forums for discussions and study of different religious groups that had birthed in recent decades, including Scientology, from a Christian perspective. EMNR conferences gave me the opportunity to lead break-out sessions around the US, and to deliver a keynote speech in 2007, “Scientology: A View from the Inside” in Birmingham. My session topics included titles such as “Scientology Celebrities: War of the Worlds or Peaceful Revolution?”, “What is Scientology?” and “Secrets of Scientology Revealed.”
From print page 351:
Her other friend reached out to shake my hand. “I would be glad to talk with you some day.” I reciprocated and let her know that I would be glad to talk with her, too. I never heard from either one again.
Through EMNR, I met Craig Branch, head of the Apologetics Resource Center (ARS) whose ministry studied Scientology from a Christian perspective and published articles about it. Craig became a target for Scientology’s vigilante fair game. They went so far as planting a young woman within his ministry office that was actually spying for Scientology to gather information about him, his contacts, and upcoming publications. One day, she just disappeared, totally betraying their trust. Craig Branch and his wife invited me to speak at an event in Birmingham, Alabama and hosted me as a guest at their home. They straightforwardly asked me if I was another plant for Scientology! I said “You are kidding me, right?” But they were serious. Their caution helped me to see how twisted Scientology’s lies and cunning vigilante actions had affected them. Later, Craig published my Scientology story in his Areopagus magazine.
I appreciated any opportunity to share my story, in hopes that learning about my experiences in Scientology would help at least one person in the audience to prevent the same from happening to them. My favorite event format was speaking in academic settings where people were interested in exploring differences and similarities within various religious systems, versus debating whose beliefs were correct. Little information about Scientology was accessible online, other than the organization’s propaganda about itself, and celebrity-related gossip in tabloids. Academic research on Scientology was minimal. Schools, youth groups, women’s associations, colleges, churches, pastor’s organizations and others asked me to explain Scientology beliefs, and share my story about how I got involved, why and how I got out, and what has happened in my new life. My earliest invitations to speak or do media interviews mainly focused on educating people about Scientology beliefs and operations versus providing a critique of it. Within a few years, I had shared my story at about 100 events around the U.S., from small groups to groups of 1,800 people.
Word traveled to mainstream media that someone who had gotten out of Scientology’s International Management would speak to media, during a time when only a few exes from the Int base would speak out, other than in court cases. Scientology was still a secretive operation with a reputation as the most litigious organization in the U.S. with a bottomless well of money for legal battles. Because there were few public testimonies on record, its vigilante attacks on critics remained relatively undetectable, while the organization continued to harm individuals and families under the protective banner of “religious freedom.”
Connecting with ex-Sea Org members who had blown before or after me still felt dangerous, partly because I didn’t know who I could trust. Eventually becoming friends with a few exes made up for some of the loss I felt after severing ties with my group dynamic of Scientologists. Even as destructive and volatile as being a member was, I sometimes missed the solidarity it offered. I compare it to being like a former addict who misses a drug, even if that drug was destructive.
Listening to stories of ex-Sea Org members, and speaking with Paulette Cooper about her fiasco helped me realize how important it is for people to tell their story whether in a memoir, a media interview, a personal blog, legal testimonies or personal speaking engagements. I had to summon up some courage to get past my phobias about exposing Scientology to the public. It’s one thing to tell all with reckless abandon. It’s another thing to think through the ramifications and know that you have to deal with unreasonable consequences from their vigilantes. Trepidation about speaking out also stems from the phobias Scientology instilled in us—phobias about the merchants of chaos; phobias about not revealing any confidential information regarding Scientology operations; phobias about SPs and critics who are supposed to be treated as unpersons without rights; phobias about reporting to the police or FBI,which is why we wouldn’t turn to them for help.
There are at least four people who died in Scientology where Scientologists reported it to Scientology officials first instead of reporting the deaths to the police first: Lisa McPherson, Alexander Jentzsch, Kyle Brennan, and Jim Carrey’s ex-fiancee, Cat White. There are probably more. Many people leaving the Sea Org accept a gag order where they are paid off to keep their mouth shut. Others sign the infamous $500,000 bond of confidentiality that buys them protection from the organization’s vigilante justice actions as long as they keep quiet. I didn’t sign anything.
My book makes no attempt to document even an overview of Scientology’s list of enemies, which has expanded so much over the years. People named here have either been personal friends, people I worked with in Scientology or collaborated with outside of Scientology, or the ramifications of their actions or Scientology’s actions against them affected me personally or directly affected others whom I care about.
There is only so much space in one book, so I abridged the print versions and add that material here:
EARLY MEDIA INTERVIEWS
My first media contact was Tom Tobin from the St. Petersburg Times. He had interviewed me about the Flag image transformation in the mid ‘90s, so I called him to let him know I had left Scientology. I also heard from Robert Farley, Tampa Bay Times. They’d ask me questions about Scientology beliefs, and about the Super Power building in Clearwater sitting unfinished for years. I provided some backstory info, drawing from my experience working in the Int Landlord’s office and knowing full well that the building designs weren’t done, nor was the Super Power program even fully written, much less finished being piloted. I tipped them off to Hubbard’s beliefs in 55 perceptics, and Super Power’s concentration on building abilities beyond the five senses, which contributed to their research into the Super Power debacle. I sent them copies of excerpts from Hubbard’s writings about that which they used in a subsequent story.
Glamour Magazine asked me to do some fact checking on a story about Astra Woodcraft, who had given them a controversial interview about enforced abortions and disconnections, and did some fact checking for stories aired on CNN, CBS and Dateline NBC. Some of the people involved in the Lisa McPherson Trust reached out to me, but I wasn’t sure who I could trust yet, so I didn’t respond. After Bob Minton and Stacy Young were turned back to Scientology, I avoided connecting with anyone else involved. I knew Scientology used counter-intelligence, and I had trouble discerning who was working for or against Scientology at that time.
FIRST BOOK CONTRACT
In 2000, Dr. Phil Roberts and Dr. Tal Davis, Interfaith Evangelism leaders at the North American Mission Board, took me under their wing as I found my voice. Tal contacted Broadman & Holman Publishers in Nashville, which led to my first book contract. I wanted to write the story myself, even though I had little prior experience. The publisher assigned me a writer who interviewed the story out of me and assembled it into a publishable format within five months—a task I was incapable of fulfilling. Coming to terms with my life was already enough of a challenge, whether an experienced writer or not. It’s one thing to rattle off a timeline of events that happened. It’s another thing to do any critical thinking about them, to know what I felt about what happened, and to question things within the framework of a more rational and logical mindset outside of a Scientology perspective. In the process, I didn’t feel like a very good source for my own story. When he asked me pointed questions about people, events, circumstances, I discovered that certain areas of my memory were blank. I couldn’t access details related to the physical and psychological abuse that I had experienced or witnessed; this blockage was a sign of undiagnosed PTSD.
We drafted a 288-page manuscript. The details in the story seemed shallow compared to what I had actually experienced. I realized that unfolding my story was going to be like peeling layers of an onion that would take time before I could feel satisfied as a storyteller about my own life. The reasoning I had used in the group had made sense then; outside the group, that reasoning no longer worked but I had not sufficiently scoured the details or concluded why I did many things then that I wouldn’t do now. We met our deadline and the manuscript for Chasing After the Wind was accepted by the publisher. My co-writer got paid for his work, and they paid me an advance per our contract. The book would come out in 2001.
The acquisitions editor called me like a messenger who didn’t want to be shot for delivering bad news. Broadman & Holman made the difficult decision to not publish my book because Scientology officials had threatened B&H with a lawsuit if they published it. I was being fair gamed. I was disgusted with Scientology for intervening in my life and suppressing my freedom of speech, but not surprised. I felt seriously disillusioned about the ministry of B&H; evidently, their faith in God that should have been foundational to their ministry was not as strong as Scientology’s belief in its own powers.
I considered suing Scientology, as I would have gladly testified in a courtroom to my observations of human rights violations. Instead, I decided that the cancellation was a blessing in disguise. I would have more time to peel the layers of the onion to figure myself out and get on with my life. This was a turning point—the beginning of a renaissance era that sparked a tsunami of communication opportunities for both writing and speaking at a new level of creativity.
SCIENTOLOGY AGITATORS DISRUPT A UNIVERSITY LECTURE
In 2001, Tal Davis and I spoke at Biola University in Los Angeles, on behalf of NAMB’s Interfaith Evangelism Department. Tal is a religious studies expert on cultic groups, and invited me to partner with him in a seminar on Scientology. Our already filled room started piling up with Scientologist dissidents who crowded in between registered conference attendees. Instead of acting like respectable guests, some of these agitators moved to the front of the room along the aisles, and made faces, grimacing and glowering at me. Some shifted in their seats noisily and snickered during my story, generally disturbing the room. We carried on while they made fools of themselves. I was embarrassed to have ever been one of them. Neither the new CAN leader nor any of the Scientologist agitators were courageous enough to speak with me personally. After disturbing our session, they left by slithering away into the crowds.
We learned that the ringleader of this charade was the woman who had taken over the Cult Awareness Network (CAN) after Scientologist vigilantes sued it into non-existence in 1996. CAN used to take about 16,000 calls per year helping families concerned about love one’s involvement in any cultic group. After the takeover, the CAN phones were answered by Scientologists appearing as representatives of religious freedom.
SPIES AND PIS
One early hazy morning at my home in Woodstock, GA, I discovered a spy posing as a Real Estate Appraiser parked in a car down the street. I was hosting Marcia Montenegro from Washington D.C., who would speak about Wicca and other cults at NAMB that day. As she and I drove away, I noticed the car suddenly pulling forward. I watched in my rear view mirror as that car stopped in front of my home. I turned around and went back, only to see that man photographing my house. When I asked him who he was and why he was photographing my house, he said he was a real estate appraiser. I told him I knew he was a spy and that appraisers don’t take pictures at 6:30am in the morning haze of houses not for sale, and to get away from my property. That fool was a poor spy, incompetent enough to be fully visible to me, including his license plate.
While living in a townhouse in Marietta, GA, my husband Greg took our dog for a walk through the adjacent parking lot. He discovered a couple sitting in a parked car, looking through binoculars into our home windows. As a former U.S. Marine, Greg didn’t hesitate to bang on their car window and tell them to stop spying. The startled couple drove away. Their license plate was fully visible and he saw them clearly so could have ID’d them.
NBC DATELINE AND OTHER MEDIA, CIRCA 2005
In 2005, Hoda Kotb with Dateline NBC interviewed me about how Scientology recruited celebrities into Scientology, and what was up with other celebrity strategies such as Lisa Marie Presley’s marriage to Michael Jackson. The NBC crew took extra precautions to avoid discovery by Scientology people about this interview. Instead of filming at NBC studios, they used a brownstone in another area of New York as the set. Hoda Kotb put me at complete ease and was a pleasure to speak with. While I shared some useful insights, I was still not yet freed up enough to access many of the disturbing events of the past, but did talk about recruiting celebrities and some of the threats used against us if we failed. After the Dateline episode aired, spokesman Mike Rinder told NBC that Scientology absolutely does not recruit celebrities, thus positioning me as a liar; then he discredited me with, “Just because someone says something, particularly a former someone who is seeking to get their fifteen minutes of fame by making statements that sound sensational…that doesn’t make it true.” I take pleasure knowing that as I write this in 2017, Mike Rinder is Scientology’s foremost critic exposing Scientology’s destructive ways.
Los Angeles Times reporters Kim Christiansen and Claire Hoffman asked for my assistance with their story, “At inland base, Scientologists trained top gun” in December 2005, about the Int base. I was glad to provide details and confirm facts. Their story was one of the early ones that got behind the scenes of church operations at the secretive headquarters.
The Atlanta Sunday Paper did a front-page story on Tom Cruise, representing me as an Atlanta resident who had negative experiences in Scientology, compared to Cruise’s glowing reports.
THE CRUISE/KIDMAN DIVORCE & THE TOMKAT WEDDING
When Tom Cruise divorced Nicole Kidman in 2001, reporters asked me what involvement Scientology had in their breakup, and how it would affect raising their children. Scientology’s superstar was put under a microscope, giving media ways to inform the public about the mysteries of Scientology that had been previously barred. Though I hadn’t been in personal touch with Cruise or Kidman, I was aware of some of her disenchantment with Scientology compared to TC’s fanaticism, and understand her desire to protect the children from Scientology’s stranglehold.
The wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes in 2006 created a media frenzy, also marking Cruise’s infamous scene of jumping on Oprah’s couch looking unleashed. These events brought another wave of media interviews. On CNN, I explained the meaning of the Scientology wedding ceremony for the TomKat wedding in Italy; ironically, in 2012, on CNN and CBS, I gave my views about Scientology’s role in the TomKat divorce.
REVOLTS AGAINST INTERNET CENSORSHIP & NARCONON ABUSES
In the mid-to-late 2000s, I received numerous requests to educate civic groups about Narconons that were attempting to open drug rehabilitation centers in the southeast US. I spoke at events in Alabama and nearby Gulf coast area, and West Georgia, to explain that Narconon was part of Scientology, and that it had a religious motivation versus being a rehab facility only. Their questions were prompted by the presence of a Narconon representative who had been lobbying to open a facility in their areas, and who denied any connection between the drug rehab facility and the Church of Scientology.
For nearly two decades, I had been aware of just how much Narconon has been included as one of Scientology’s community betterment programs, with religious motives, managed from local to international management levels by church officials. I had known two WDC ABLE executives while working at the Int base, so for any church rep to deny Scientology connections or management of Narconons was ludicrous, and easy to disprove. I had also pulled nearly two dozen publications and promo pieces for Narconon that provided evidence of its religious motivations and Scientology internal management. I was able to provide factual information that helped local citizens inform themselves so they could attend community meetings armed with facts that differed from propaganda spouted by the Narconon reps.
An Oklahoma attorney asked me to be an expert witness for his case representing the tragic death of a young woman who died while in the Narconon program, but he evidently changed his plan and I did not serve in that case. I was living in Atlanta at the time, when one Narconon center near my home was closed down due to tragic circumstances, and the closure of other Narconon centers followed suit due to more wrongful death lawsuits. There was so much information reported in the news about Narconon’s fraudulent services and lawsuits against them, I cannot cover that here.
SP PROFILES IN THE TAMPA BAY TIMES
My former husband stood against me when a letter attributed to Peter Schless appeared in the Tampa Bay Times June 25, 2006 stories, “The Unperson” and “SP Profiles” by Robert Farley. He wrote about Scientologists who cross their religion, are declared suppressive persons, shunned by peers and ostracized by family. Farley reported that Peter wrote a letter to the Times, saying that I had been “unfaithful in our marriage, and that I came to resent his success,” that I “walked out on him in 1998, took his BMW car, left him with $17,000 in credit card debt and insisted on taking half his income.” Peter’s letter also said, “If someone did that to you, you probably wouldn’t be too interested in speaking to your ex-wife either–and it would have nothing to do with whether you were a Christian, Buddhist, Jew or Scientologist.” Looks like David Miscavige strikes again with a letter written in his word choice that came out in Peter’s name.
The claim of me being unfaithful in our marriage was fabricated. Claiming that I came to “resent his success”: Since I helped contribute to his success as his strongest supporter throughout the years is just more evidence that the person who wrote that statement didn’t know me. Claims about the car, income or debt were not fact-checked. In our divorce agreement, Peter gave me the car and half our music royalties, and he agreed to pay off $6,000 to credit cards. I would have also told Farley that Peter defaulted on his share of paying taxes from our former music corporation, and the IRS put a lien on my home in Atlanta for nearly $7,000 that I paid off.
DEATH OF JETT TRAVOLTA
In 2009, after Jett Travolta suffered his fatal seizure, CBS Inside Edition asked me to explain how Scientology’s views of illness and medicine might have affected John Travolta and Kelly Preston’s choices about treating Jett’s condition, whether it had been autism and seizures or some another condition. While Scientologists are not against all medication, Hubbard asserts that all illness is psychosomatic and can be handled with auditing versus medication. I pointed out that their choice to stop Jett’s medication that controlled Jett’s seizures could have put Jett at risk for what fatally happened; this is a deduction anyone could make. I personally believed that the Travolta’s choice of putting Jett on the Purification Rundown to “sweat out” any chemicals, instead of continuing to manage/prevent his seizures through his medication, put Jett at high risk. Unfortunately, the thin clip the show aired did not reflect the facts I provided that would have given better insight into what happened. The next day, Travolta was interviewed on The View, where he was consoled by Barbara Walters about statements made by people who suggested that the Travolta’s were responsible for Jett’s tragic death.
THE MID-2000s SCIENTOLOGY DIASPORA
I learned from escapee friends that the abusive culture at the Int base headquarters had continued to worsen after I left in 1998 with so many repercussions from various events. The organization was involved in a heap of messes following the death of Lisa McPherson and their attempted cover-ups. 1999 brought on an explosive turning point for DM when he was named to be deposed in the McPherson case and his name would potentially become embroiled in the media surrounding the case. Vigils for Lisa were being held in Clearwater and reports were coming to Miscavige about it. Miscavige and his right-hand men, Rinder and Rathbun, worked nearly full-time on the McPherson criminal and civil cases, working diligently to influence people related to the case to not depose Miscavige and to change the outcome away from Scientology’s responsibility. The “Truth Rundown” stories on tampabay.com provide the details.
Friends who left the Int base reported horrendous stories of beatings and use of humiliation against staff. By 2004, Miscavige had ordered a multitude of the most senior executives in Scientology to be put into the “SP hall” which became “the hole.” Stories I had been told said that Miscavige did daily beatings of someone, from slapping people on the side of the head to grabbing their collars and choking them, to knocking people to the floor and kicking them. I had seen him do a lot of this prior to my leaving. This had a domino effect of him inciting the executives to beat each other for not confessing their crimes.
The hole became a sadistic place of vigilante discipline for staff who had been deemed suppressive by Miscavige. Physically, it was located in the CMO Int double-wide trailers on the north side of the property that I mentioned earlier. I knew it well; this was our temporary office location after CMO INT moved out of Del Sol. The Friday night in 1998 that I walked out of my last staff meeting, I had walked through the doors of those trailers that would eventually be locked and barred to keep in dozens of Int base detainees. It is now public record what kind of psychological and physical abuse has taken place in the hole. The place was infested with ants; didn’t provide air conditioning in the desert heat which exceeded 100 degrees; inmates slept on the floor under desks and showed occasionally down in the garage; ate slop food; participated in gang bank attacks on each other to enforce admission to “crimes,” and on. Debbie Cook, the former Captain of the Flag Land Base, provided legal testimony to the humiliation she had been subject to while in the hole, including being made to stand in a trash can, get slapped in the face, and being threatened to have her finger broken if she didn’t admit to being a lesbian (which she was not).
The floodgates opened at the Int base around mid-2000, with hundreds of staff blowing, being sent to the RPF, offloaded out of the Sea Org, or routing out with a payment to keep quiet. I kept checking various Internet sites to see if Peter was one of the escapees, but I never saw his name. Several people I had known or worked with who left included Marc Headley, Claire Headley, Amy Scobee Mortland, Jeff Hawkins, Marty Rathbun, Mike Rinder…a very long list. Within a few years, exes started blogging, putting up websites and message boards that revealed horrific details about abuses at the base and within the Scientology world. In response to the growing negative press from the exes speaking out, Scientology spokespeople resorted to using cookie-cutter retorts to critics’ claims, such as calling us “a few disgruntled apostates with axes to grind.”
2009 brought an unprecedented wave in public testimonies, given by these recent senior Int base execs and staff escapees. Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder, the highest-ranking execs who had escaped, began to spill stories that contradicted their earlier claims supporting Scientology. Their interviews seemed to be all over the media, from CNN and major networks and newspapers to the BBC. I started hearing details that filled in the gaps since I left in 1998, corroborating many of the signs I had witnessed in Miscavige 10 to 15 years prior.
As Rinder and Rathbun were asked questions in interviews such as, “Did you lie to the media about what had been happening in Scientology?” I was stunned by Rinder’s confession of spouting lies for years because that was what he had been trained to do, and had to do to survive on his job. I knew that to be true; they were implementing lines straight out of the Scientology Ethics book.
When Rathbun was asked “Did you abuse people at the Int base, like David Miscavige did?” he admitted that he had perpetrated abuse, but in the context that abuse was part of the culture of the Int base. I also knew that to be true. I knew Rathbun to be a perpetrator of violence, abuse, and fear in the footsteps of Miscavige, but I also knew it was normal for orders to be given to him to do so. Rathbun did too many media interviews to mention here that are easy to access online. But a consistent theme throughout his comments boil down to this: Anything to do with Miscavige is bad, anything to do with Hubbard is good, and he was leaning toward an independent practice of Scientology.
I often visited Mike Rinder’s blog, “Something Can Be Done About It,” and Marty Rathbun’s blog, “Moving on Up a Little Higher,” that became a gathering point for Scientology watchers, whether ex-Sea Org members, ex-Scientologists, or indie Scientologists. Marty and Mike made it a point to publish stories about people’s escapes, experiences with disconnection, abortion, abuse, and legal battles. Marty also published essays covering his own views about David Miscavige, different aspects of Scientology, and philosophical diatribes. I think his blog became one of the most major threats to David Miscavige and Scientology at the time.
I disagreed about abuse being an application of Scientology until I realized that there are numerous policy letters where Hubbard condones abusive behavior by encouraging Scientologists to do anything you deem suitable to people who are “degraded beings” and “suppressive types.” In any case, to hear Rinder and Rathbun admit to abusing others had a cathartic, healing effect on me. Suppression and abuse had not, in fact, been “normal.” I would have liked to hear some apologies for what they had done to specific people they had harmed, but knew it would take time for them to come to terms with their past, and the apologies would come eventually. Actually, I would have said yes if they asked me to assist in any efforts of exposing Scientology. The best part of all this was that the truth about the abusive culture at the Int base was finally becoming broad public knowledge.
PAUL HAGGIS LEAVES SCIENTOLOGY
In 2009, Oscar-winning writer/director Paul Haggis (Crash, Million Dollar Baby, Casino Royale, Flags of our Fathers) left Scientology after 34 years. Paul was the first prominent Scientologist from Celebrity Centre who had left the organization and publicly disavowed Scientology. His story was most notably covered by Pulitzer-prize winning author Lawrence Wright in his story for the New Yorker.
I had last talked with Paul Haggis in the late ‘80s, when Peter and I had been friendly with Paul and his former wife, Diane, while we attended Celebrity Centre around the time Paul was a writer for the TV show, “Thirty Something.” I read the New Yorker story, some details Paul shared about the investigation he had done into the church, and Paul’s resignation letter on Marty Rathbun’s blog, “Moving on Up a Little Higher.” I respected Paul for confronting Scientology spokesperson Tommy Davis about Proposition 8, how it would have threatened same-sex marriages, the church’s hidden policy of encouraging homophobia and Tommy’s online denials of the church’s disconnection policies, before he cut ties with the church. As a father with a daughter who had come out as a lesbian, Paul chose to depart from Scientology rather than to continue to ignore Scientology’s hypocritical policies and egregious acts. A most touching realization that Paul shared was his regret that it took him 34 years to realize that he had been in a cult. I shared a similar sentiment, since thought control and undue influence are not something that avid Scientologists are aware of being subject to. I responded to several radio talk show hosts who wanted to understand what might have been Paul’s breaking point that led to him calling Scientology a “cult.”
Leah Remini’s character continued to shine through, when she was one of only a few of Paul Haggis’ Scientology friends whom he said did not disconnect from him when he left. Years later, when Leah left Scientology in 2013, Paul penned an open letter to her that was published in the Hollywood Reporter. After Paul had been declared a “suppressive person” by the organization, Leah had stood in his defense, and had gotten in trouble with Tommy Davis who had tried to keep her quiet. Paul knew first hand Scientology’s kinds of hurtful harassment that would likely repeat in Leah’s life as what had occurred in his. Visit whoispaulhaggis.com to read denigrating comments written by Scientologist hate-writers about this amazingly successful writer/director who followed his conscience and left Scientology.
Both Paul Haggis and Leah Remini displayed such integrity and compassion about the circumstances each knew the other had to endure about breaking from the organization.
My personal hope, which was shared by many of my ex-Scientology friends, was that Paul Haggis would use his celebrity position to speak with moral authority to bring about badly needed reform in the organization. Wright’s New Yorker article about Paul developed into his superb book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief, (Knopf, 2013) that led to Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney’s unprecedented exposure of Scientology through his HBO documentary, Going Clear. Wright and Gibney accomplished the ultimate message about Scientology that had never before been made clear to the public, and which deeply resonated with me: They explored Scientology as a prison of belief based on the idea that when you’re self-imprisoned, you don’t leave even when the cell door is open, and you do the most reprehensible things under the banner of belief, which somehow makes those actions okay to do. Wright and Gibney’s works carried the message of Paul Haggis and other ex-members that a reckoning in Scientology was coming. Knowing first-hand the power of celebrities in Scientology, I was fully aware of the potential influence that any of their statements could have. Wright and Gibney emphasized that only people like Cruise, Travolta and other celebrities had the pull to bring about such reform. Their documentary was nominated for seven Emmy awards and won Best Documentary, Best Writer, and Best Director.
Although I didn’t participate in Wright’s book or Gibney’s documentary, I felt protected and encouraged by the accomplishments of all the contributors. The book and the documentary have made it safer for media to discuss Scientology in the open without fear of immediately being attacked. Easy to predict, Wright, Gibney, Haggis and others were subjected to Scientology’s smear campaign tactics.
I did get to make a very small contribution to the release of Going Clear on Anderson Cooper. In January 2013, a CNN journalist asked me about abuse within the ranks of Scientology leadership and other human rights violations; clips of that interview were used in a preview for their release of Wright’s book. CNN revealed that I had been sent to Scientology’s prison camp after one of my escapes from the desert headquarters. In response, Scientology officials provided CNN a copy of the document I had signed, “agreeing” to submit myself to the RPF. Church officials omitted the information about the coercion used to get me to sign it, the duress involved, and the lack of legal representation for me. To counter that, CNN showed a close-up of the document, and reported the fact that I had signed it under duress including the threat of disconnection from my husband if I didn’t succumb to the imprisonment.
JASON BEGHE TAKES ON SCIENTOLOGY
Actor Jason Beghe had been a high-profile Scientologist at Celebrity Centre for about 15 years before he, in his words during an NBC interview with Charles Gallay, “realized he was in a fucking cult” and left Scientology in 2007. Jason told Andy Greene of Rolling Stone that his “last 10 years in the organization was really the worst time of my life.” In a simple assessment of his life, he realized that Scientology was just not him, that he couldn’t maintain his own integrity and remain a member of Scientology. He decided to step out of it.
Jason had come into Scientology through Celebrity Centre’s biggest FSM, Milton Katsales and his Beverly Hills Playhouse. He championed Scientology’s social betterment program, Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) along with Paul Haggis. Jason had achieved success as an actor in many films and TV shows including Chicago Hope, GI Jane, Thelma & Louise, Melrose Place, and later Chicago P.D. When I had worked as the costume designer in the Cine Division, I enjoyed working with Jason on costumes for his character when he came up to Gold to play parts in some of our films.
After he departed Scientology, he didn’t appear to hold back on sharing his views about the organization with major media, including Rolling Stone magazine, NBC and many more before he participated in the HBO Documentary, Going Clear directed by Alex Gibney. In a Rolling Stone interview March 30, 2015, Jason told Andy Greene that he had researched Scientology on the Internet where he found stories about physical abuse of staff. He said, “It was one thing to take money and rip me off, but when I heard about the shit with the Sea Org, the violence and the cruelty…It’s one thing to take someone’s bread. It’s another thing to take their soul. I felt like I had something to do with it, so I became a little more active. For a couple of years I became a real pain in the ass to them, so they started to attack me with phony lawsuits. They tried to bankrupt me and they came close.”
Especially powerful for me was Jason’s two-hour video he posted on YouTube, which brought on attacks from Scientology. Jason claimed Scientology was, among many other things, “dangerous for your spiritual, psychological, mental, emotional health and evolution.” I truly appreciate and respect many of Jason’s comments that proved him to be a celebrity with a moral compass who would stand up to Scientology’s bullying and abuse.
TAMPA BAY TIMES GOES INSIDE SCIENTOLOGY
I was living in Atlanta and going to college when the Tampa Bay Times’ explosive story started a firestorm from Joe Childs’ and Tom Tobin’s “Truth Rundown” series starting in June, 2009. The journalists reached out to many of the Int base defectors who had most recently left the Sea Org, starting with Marty Rathbun, Amy Scobee, Steve Hall, Shelly Corrias, Jeff Hawkins and Gary Morehead. They disclosed the abusive culture at the base and emphasized that Sea Org conditions deteriorated rapidly in the wake of the Lisa McPherson death. Marty Rathbun also admitted that he ordered the destruction of incriminating evidence in the McPherson case. A series of subsequent stories unfolded throughout 2009 to 2014 that covered testimonies to Scientology’s destructive disconnection policy, the organization’s use of private investigators to spy on former members, enforced abortions among Sea Org women, celebrities who had left and wanted refunds, and testimonies from high OT level public Scientologists who had lost confidence in Scientology because of David Miscavige’s mismanagement of the organization. I had never seen such explosive facts exposed in the news so vigorously, and pretty much stayed glued to their reporting to see what they would expose next to blow Miscavige’s cover.
BLOWING MISCAVIGE’S COVER – PHASE 2
I remember the summer of 2010, when record high temperatures scalded Atlanta, but they paled beside CNN’s exposé about violence and abuse in Scientology recounted in interviews with some of the staff who most recently escaped. But how surreal it was to see several of my former friends and co-workers (mentioned above) exposing Scientology’s human-rights violations on public television—a dream come true for someone like me who had similar observations. These people were among the many who had the courage to break out, even if they had to make a Sophie’s choice of leaving behind a beloved spouse. I heard testimonies from Jeff Hawkins, the church’s former marketing executive; Amy (Mortland) Scobee, a former Watchdog Committee member who had overseen the Scientology, Sea Org, and Celebrity Centre sectors of Scientology; Marc Headley, a former Golden Era Productions executive; Claire Headley, who had worked under Miscavige in the Religious Technology Center. Some of them had been Scientologists for more than twenty years and had never held a job elsewhere. Between 2009 and 2010, several of them had self-published their memoirs: Marc Headley, Blown for Good; Amy Scobee, Abuse at the Top; Jeff Hawkins, Counterfeit Dreams. Around that time, ex-Sea Org executive Nancy Many also published her memoir, My Billion Year Contract.
Airwaves, newspapers, blog posts buzzed with controversy triggered by Anderson Cooper’s interviews with the ex-staff as they gave testimony to beatings, physical punishments, coerced abortions, familial disconnections, and other abusive tactics imposed by Scientology leadership. There hadn’t been as many dissenters when I escaped in 1998, so for the first time, I felt a sense of safety in numbers. Their collective corroboration of the abusive Int base culture would have to start making a difference in the public eye, as it was already making it my personal life.
Their testimonies triggered counterclaims by rival church loyals, including Tommy Davis and the ex-wives of Jeff Hawkins, Tom DeVocht, Mike Rinder, and Marty Rathbun. Cathy (Hawkins) Fraser, Jenny (DeVocht) Linson, Cathy Rinder, and Anne Rathbun defended Miscavige with accusations and rancor against the ex-members, arguing passionately against their husband-opponents’ claims about abuse at the Int base. My jaw dropped as I heard these women, the latter three whom I had known for years, tell their version of events, especially Jenny and Cathy Rinder lying that Miscavige had never abused their husbands. Neither Jenny nor Cathy revealed the fact that they lived separate from their husbands for weeks to months on end. Tom DeVocht worked at Flag in Clearwater while Jenny worked at the Int base as WDC FLB before he moved to the Int base. Mike Rinder spent extensive time in Los Angeles working at OSA, while Cathy lived at the Int base. Because they spent extensive time apart, these women had no way of honestly knowing whether their husbands’ bodies had bruises or showed any sign of physical harm. These women spewed vitriol showing no signs of love or compassion for their husbands. Their focus was on supporting the third dynamic of the Sea Org and David Miscavige’s reputation, and on damaging the repute of their husbands. No better example of thought control, hate tactics, and Scientology’s disconnection policy could have been displayed in the public eye.
But there is definitely safety in numbers, as I saw numbers of people breaking the silence and Miscavige’s cover after that. Finally being exposed as an abusive man based on eyewitness testimony would surely hold Miscavige accountable. This identity as an abuser will shadow him until the justice system stops tolerating abuse under the exploited banner of religious freedom.
Reading and hearing all these stories enabled me to understand what Peter had probably been experiencing there since I left, and also filled in the gaps with updated information about the base. Their stories showed that they had arrived at conclusions similar to ones I had made before I left in 1998. Most of them shared regret about taking as long as they did to come to their senses.
I recalled how I had been treated when I was trying to get out through OSA in 1998, when I had been treated as a suppressive person for blowing. Rinder and Rathbun had even taken action against me. Now that they were out, all I could feel toward them was compassion and appreciation.
I regret not being more receptive when Marc Headley reached out to me after he got out. We spoke on the phone, and emailed several times. Marc invited me to attend a get together in Southern California that summer that was attended by many people who had left the Int base or Scientology most recently. I couldn’t cover the expenses of the trip at the time and deeply regret not being able to reconnect with him and all the others. This was a missed opportunity to unite with ex-Int base people who went on to support each other’s efforts in media interviews and other opportunities to expose the cult’s abuses.
THE WISE BEARD MAN
It was great to finally meet Mark Bunker, a broadcast journalist and videographer, nicknamed the “wise beard man” by some of his Anonymous friends. Around 2010, he began work on a feature-length documentary, Knowledge Report: Scientology’s Spies, Lies and the Eternity Prize, that he has been self-funding and crowd-funding. Mark traveled around the US to interview ex-Sea Org and ex-Scientologists. He came to my home in Atlanta around 2012 to interview me about my experiences recruiting and working with celebrities at CC INT. His objective for the documentary was to release it by 2016, and we are awaiting it. Mark created the critical Scientology site, Xenu TV, around 1999. After Lisa McPherson’s death, Mark worked for the Lisa McPherson Trust in Clearwater producing videos, and also filmed his interview of actor Jason Beghe after he left Scientology. In 2009, Mark was arrested outside of the Int base where he was videoing the arrest of a protestor, but charges were dropped.
LATE 2000s – WRITING ABOUT SCIENTOLOGY
Public curiosity about Scientology seemed to be growing, so this opened up opportunities to write about it. One non-Scientologist started an energetic project to assemble a dictionary through Baker Publishing that defines terms from various cultic groups including Scientology. I signed a publishing agreement to write five definitions of Scientology terms for that dictionary. Later, then President of Midwestern Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO, Dr. Phil Roberts asked me to research and co-write two chapters about Christian Science and Scientology for his upcoming book on world religions. To my knowledge, both of these publications are forthcoming.
Two of my articles that got published in 2010 and 2011 were great opportunities to exhort people who had helped me on the outside. I was particularly proud of a peer-reviewed research article that Dr. Miriam Boeri, my mentor and professor from Kennesaw State University, and I co-authored for the Cultic Studies Review special edition, The Last Draw: Cults and Creativity, Vol. 9. Our article, “Creativity and Cults from Sociological and Communication Perspectives: The Processes Involved in the Birth of a Secret Creative Self” was edited by New York psychoanalyst professionals Dana Whele and Libbe Madsen. In our article, Miriam and I posited that creativity is suppressed in cult environments, and that power dynamics that result in extreme suppression can stimulate individuals to birth a secret creative self. We used our own experiences as members of two different cults, the Family/Children of God and Scientology, as case studies. Our article suggests that after one leaves a cult, a secret creative self may develop into a strong creative self that is more resistant to power dynamics outside the cult. Our findings suggest that the birth and life of a secret creative self in a suppressive environment such as a cult can result in this strengthened creative self when the individual is free of the cult suppression.
Miriam and I also developed a visual presentation explaining the concepts in the research article mentioned above, and gave the presentation together at an ICSA conference in New York.
“From the Fire to a Blessing Field: Transitioning from an Unhealthy Relationship to a Life of Creativity,” edited by Dr. Michael Langone, came out in ICSA Today, the magazine of the International Cultic Studies Association. This article explores the unlikely event that unfolded in my life when I took a sociology class at Kennesaw State University, taught by Dr. Miriam Boeri, and found that she had escaped the Children of God cult years prior. As a former cult member who had completed a college education and earned a Ph.D, and who was the professor of my course, Miriam Boeri took me under her wing after she learned about my experiences in Scientology. How likely was it that I would be in a classroom with a professor like this? That was one of the points of my story. My story imagines the life of a woman living as a sacred prostitute to help support the leader of a religious cult that controlled her existence for 15 years; and imagines my life as a woman feeling trapped in a cult’s desert headquarters with no phone or computer access for nine years while laboring to support the cult’s celebrity membership. I explore Miriam’s and my story about breaking free of psychological captivity, where our essence—our individual creativity—was thoroughly oppressed, and started over, finding meaningful and joy-giving work in the world outside our cults, and then meeting in this classroom. She went out of her way to help me learn specific research skills that enabled me to investigate topics of interest and write effective findings in research reports that met the requirements of academic peer reviewers.
I escaped Scientology’s fair gaming for these articles, probably because by then they had much bigger enemies (like Rinder and Rathbun) to worry about who were doing more high-profile media interviews. Meanwhile, I thrived in the new academic environment I had become part of at Kennesaw State University. Because of my mentors, sociology professor Dr. Miriam Boeri, and Dr. Anne Richards, professor of English, doors opened for me to speak at various classes across the KSU campus and in many other academic settings. I loved speaking in Sociology classes where students studied about religions in a social context versus a religious doctrine context. Two talks I gave, “Deviance and New Religious Movements: A Look at Quakers, Krishna Consciousness, Wicca, Scientology, and Counter-Cult Apologetics,” and “Deviant Religions: Deviance from What?” led to vigorous conversations and debates about traditional or conventional beliefs and behaviors versus what might be considered deviant, which is how I positioned Scientology. It was always interesting for me to have students in the classroom who were Scientologists or who had Scientologist loved ones that they supported. I received a few glaring faces, but no one threw tomatoes.
Dr. Boeri opened up an opportunity for me to speak at the Georgia Sociological Association’s 2010 conference, “Healthy, Just and Sustainable Communities” in Decatur, GA. I wrote and prepared a visual presentation, “Not in My Backyard: Cults, Communities, Concerns” in which I took an academic researcher position and discussed Scientology as a topic without personal bias. I remember being criticized by ex-Scientologists on various online message boards for this, because I did not take advantage of the opportunity to expose Scientology’s harmful policies and practices. Instead, I discussed their unwanted expansion into communities from the “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) perspective. I used the NIMBY phenomenon from a sociological perspective to show how people say they would support a controversial thing (like a nuclear power plant) but only if that plant was put “elsewhere” instead of in their back yards. It was hard for me to be academically objective about Scientology without inserting my personal experiences into the mix.
Through EMNR and the North American Mission Board, I also connected with the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA), a group that I came to respect and appreciate for their educational, non-religious reach-out efforts to people who had left various cultic and high-demand groups. This organization is shaped by various professionals and scholars in the fields of psychology, religious studies, sociology, social psychology, psychoanalysis, social work, family counseling, medicine, and more. They provide information that enhances understanding of all aspects of the cult phenomenon, including how groups function, how they affect members, techniques of influence, dealing with harmful effects, educational and legal implications. I began attending ICSA conferences with my friend, Tal Davis, and then met some amazing professionals including Dr. Steve Kent from the University of Alberta, and Steven Hassan.
I’ve had several phone and email conversations with Steve Kent about Scientology’s RPF and other abusive practices, and always enjoyed sharing stories when I’d see him at conferences. He gave me an opportunity to co-author a chapter of one of his books about Scientology celebrities, but I couldn’t meet his deadline; that book is coming out in 2017.
Steve Hassan honored my request to write a foreword to this book. He has been a powerful and positive influence in my post-Scientology life, through his books, our interviews and conversations. I continue to learn from Steve’s extensive knowledge about undue influence and though control every time we talk.
MISCAVIGE FAMILY BREAKS APART
Learning about troubles within the Miscavige family did not bolster my confidence in the leader’s ability to solve problems with Scientology. I had already observed some of the decline before I left, specifically through the troubled relationship between David and his father. After I left in ’98, stories about David’s family members leaving his “church” did not surprise me. Ronnie Miscavige, David’s older brother with whom I worked while he was posted as Marketing Executive International and I was IMPR, left the Sea Org two years after I did, with his wife, Bitty Miscavige. Ronnie was one of my favorite people in Exec Strata. He had such a positive attitude and jovial demeanor despite his brother’s frequent nullifications, and treated others with respect and kindness. Bitty had worked in RTC, but I knew her while she was CO CMO INT, and came off as an unnecessarily abrasive woman. Just one small example of her leadership style was how she had overseen the utilization of the Cine Division to serve as the slave labor force that rebuilt the mess hall, and had sent a security guard to shag me out of isolation the night I was sick. I learned that COB used his two most powerful fixers, Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder, to prevent Ronnie and Bitty from leaving, but that didn’t work. I’m sure Dave’s greatest fear was the potential of Ronnie or Bitty disclosing any information about Dave supervising Lisa McPherson’s auditing before she died.
At age 21, Jenna Miscavige, whom I knew when she was a child at the Ranch adjacent to the Happy Valley prison camp, left the Sea Org in 2008. The daughter of Ronnie and Bitty Miscavige, Jenna had been born into Scientology and raised at the Ranch, void of her parent’s nurturing and supervision throughout her childhood and teen years. As the niece of David Miscavige, and grand-daughter of Ron Miscavige Sr., her departure from the Sea Org meant that she chose to leave everything and everyone she had ever known, to build a life outside the influence of Scientology, where she could enjoy marriage and a family of her own. She later established a powerful website, ex-Scientologykids.com, with the slogan “I was born. I grew up. I escaped.” There, Jenna, Astra Woodcraft, and Kendra Wiseman share heart-wrenching details of being raised in Scientology, and advocate for children subject to Scientology’s abuses. Kendra Wiseman was the daughter of Bruce Wiseman, co-owner of Wiseman & Burke, whom Peter and I had retained to manage our finances before and while we were in the Sea Org. I had known Astra Woodcraft’s parents in the Sea Org, and had the opportunity to fact check Glamour Magazine’s story on her. I was both glad and saddened when I later read Jenna’s excellent book, Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape (Harper Collins, 2013). She described her unthinkable living conditions at the Ranch that I had observed in my days on the RPF at Happy Valley, and the controls Scientology placed on her life. I respected and admired Jenna for giving many major media interviews that disclosed Scientology’s maltreatment of children, and life under her Uncle Dave’s leadership.
David Miscavige’s wife, Shelley Miscavige, disappeared from public view around 2006. Friends who left the Int base have speculated that Shelley has been stashed at the Church of Spiritual Technology’s (CST) remote camp near Lake Arrowhead, CA. Among other things, CST is responsible for preserving Hubbard’s technologies that are inscribed on titanium plates in secret underground storage vaults that they believe will survive earth’s eventual nuclear apocalypse.
David’s father, Ron Miscavige Sr., whom Peter and I had lived with in the early 90s’, escaped from the Int base with his wife, Becky Bigelow, in 2012. See “Ruthless” below that completes this story.
“RUTHLESS: SCIENTOLOGY, MY SON DAVID MISCAVIGE, AND ME”
Well after Ron Miscavige Sr. and his wife Becky escaped the Sea Org in 2012, word traveled on private Scientology watcher Internet groups that Ron would be releasing a book. St. Martin’s Press published it in 2016 and it became a New York Times bestseller. I could see by Ron’s choice of anecdotes to share—which I considered to be mild compared to what I had observed—that he and editor Dan Koon chose his words carefully, and that this must have been really difficult for Ron to write. Ron had tolerated nearly two more decades of life at the Int base than I did, I think due in great part to Becky’s resilience, tenacity, and hope for change. But one factor that I believe kept Ron there all along was the very thing that had also hurt him.
His assessment of his son’s mindset and motivations, and about Dave becoming a monster who used “domination by nullification” starkly contrasted with his underlying message of fatherly love and his hope for a better relationship with his son that never came. To add insult to injury, his daughters Lori and Denise (David’s twin sister), disconnected from him, which has prevented Ron from seeing his grandchildren. Even after he left, he didn’t seem to want to write or say anything about Dave until that turning point, when he was told by his son-in-law Jerry that he and Denise would never again have anything to do with him and Becky. That occurred after the private investigators observed that he was clutching his chest, as if having a heart attack. They had reported this to David Miscavige who, the PIs reported, said, “If it’s Ron’s time to die, let him die. Don’t intervene.”
Knowing how Ron felt about his son, I’m sure these incidents must have cut him like a knife. The fact that Ron took the high road as he forgives David shows that a father’s love never dies, no matter the circumstances. I hope Ron continues to share his valuable insights in radio interviews that help us all to better understand this enigma.
After Ron escaped the Sea Org and his book came out, I witnessed a deplorable act from Peter Schless. He recorded a video for Scientology’s hate site in response to Ron’s book, which Peter couldn’t have read.
INSPIRED BY THE TROUBLEMAKER
No other celebrity ex-member has made such significant headway in the effort to expose human rights violations committed by the Church of Scientology as Leah Remini. I remember when teenage Leah attended the Celebrity Centre while I was the Commanding Officer, and our staff were debating whether they could count her in their celebrity stats while she was an up-and-coming artist. Leah had carved out her own path all along, not caring what other people thought, and tenaciously achieved her goals in acting. While the “King of Queens” co-star, a co-creator of “The View,” or appeared in various other shows, she was the ideal celebrity Scientologist supporting Scientology. As a woman with enough courage to never back down from Scientology bullying after she reported David Miscavige for inappropriate behavior at Tom Cruise’s wedding in Italy, she became an apostate as of July 2013 and renounced her membership after 30 years. Leah has become a bold voice for others by spearheading efforts to expose Scientology’s abuses.
Her book Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology (Ballantine, 2015) gives a clearly stated purpose that personally resonates with mine:
“I wrote this book because I feel an urgency and responsibility to reveal the injustices and hypocrisy that were perpetrated against those who left and spoke out before me. Those who again and again have been harassed and bullied into silence. This book is also a personal act of defiance—against intolerance, which I have witnessed, lived with, and been part of for far too long.”
Amen, sister. In late 2016, Hurricane Leah touched ground: The A&E Channel aired eight episodes of Leah Remini: Scientology and The Aftermath. Season One won the TV Critics Award in the reality/documentary category in August 2017, and has been nominated for an Emmy. It features unscripted testimonies of former members, executive produced and moderated by Leah’s fiery commentary, with partner Mike Rinder as consultant. Mike adds keen insights and laser-focused commentary, drawing from more than 30 years of experience next to LRH and as a top exec in Scientology. I concurred with the testimony from former Int base exec Tom DeVocht, who explained why “Scientology doesn’t work.” After spending years in Scientology, it’s not easy to admit that our inability to heal issues through Scientology’s mechanisms is not a function of our own deficiency, but deficiencies in Scientology “technology” itself that we had once so staunchly supported. To say we had been fooled or deceived is a lot of crow to eat.
The testimonies inspired me to break my own silence and tell my story. Between 2000 and 2006, I had been a bold activist, spoke at about 100 events plus media interviews. But after the publication of Escaping Scientology was stopped in 2006, I redirected my energy and finished my college education, wrote articles, and expanded in other areas of my life. I mistakenly questioned whether my story would still interest others. I went through a phase when I even chose to ignore how Scientology was bullying others and hurting critics because I had come to believe it was like fighting organized crime that would take monumental efforts to make a difference. But I couldn’t keep turning a blind eye when I heard new stories about another family disconnection, or another critic attacked.
As I watched Leah’s actions of exposing Scientology’s abuses, she re-ignited my own flame. Her acknowledgement helped me to dispel concerns I had about publishing this in 2017 when the crux of my experiences happened between the mid ‘80s until the late ‘90s. I edited my manuscript extensively to reflect my current views and finally made this book happen.
It’s been difficult to bring this to a close, because the Scientology saga continues to affect my life, and I will continue to affect its operations in my own ways. As a Florida resident on the Gulf coast, I live within a short drive of Clearwater and Scientology’s Flag Land Base. I read the Tampa Bay Times, and have been happy to contribute information for an article published March 31, 2017 about Scientology’s desire to “safe point” Clearwater, buy up more land, improve the downtown area, and ultimately control it as a Scientology city. The Times has reported that Hubbard and his Sea Org team lied to the people of Clearwater when they moved into town in the 1970s and purchased the Fort Harrison hotel under a false name with a front group development company, to prevent Clearwater residents from knowing that Scientology was moving in. Their “Truth Rundown” series has made major strides in exposing the organization.
In May 2017, A&E released a two-hour special, “Merchants of Fear,” that also introduced the upcoming season of eight more episodes that promise to reveal incidents that Scientology has worked to cover-up. It explained the significance of enforcing Hubbard’s policies that shape the destructive mindset of Scientologists and that codify damaging rituals that can never change.
“Merchants of Fear” featured six individuals who shared their experiences of writing about Scientology, and the aftermath imposed by the organization’s fair game tactics: Bryan Seymour, the journalist who has done an excellent job exposing Scientology in Australia, and whose work contributed to Senator Nick Xenophon’s efforts of examining Scientology in the Australian Parliament; Ford Greene, attorney who won the Larry Wollersheim vs. Scientology case in the late ‘80s and collected $8.7 million in damages; Dr. Steve Kent, religious studies scholar from the University of Alberta who has written extensively on Scientology and has assembled a massive collection of Scientology materials; Janet Reitman, journalist and author of Inside Scientology; Mark Ebner, an American journalist and a bestselling New York Times author who has covered Scientology; and Len Zinberg, former Scientology Guardian’s Office member who contributed to the defamation and destruction of Paulette Cooper after she authored Scandal of Scientology. Len repented on the show and we learned that Paulette forgave him.
I was glad to hear Ford Greene’s comments, since he represented an infamous case that I had marched against around 1985 without first researching the details of the case. I marched with picket signs as our Scientology protestors chanted, “Not one thin dime for Wollersheim.” Now Ford Greene was receiving recognition for his accomplishment, and shared how Scientology had defamed him in the aftermath of the case. Greene was nominated in 2003 for Trial Lawyer of the Year for Wollersheim v. Church of Scientology. This case actually holds profound public interest beyond the Scientology world. Greene defines “public interest” to include “what traditionally has been called the ‘police power’ of the state to act on behalf of the health, safety and welfare of its citizens, the impact of the multi-million dollar Wollersheim jury verdict, a subsequent published appellate decision, and collection of the full judgment with interest sixteen years thereafter.” Greene with attorney Charles O’Reilly and Wollersheim “vindicates the rights of citizens to be free from deception, coercion, exploitation and abuse perpetrated against them by a ‘religion’ which enjoyed the full panoply of protections conferred by the religious liberty clauses of the First Amendment and in its defense asserted such protections at every conceivable turn.”
Anyone who cares about seeking justice for harm that has come to a former member of any cult would be interested in reading more about the Wollersheim case, because it carries heavy significance for such matters: “…it could be accomplished only by the most precise charting of deep and perilous constitutional waters so as to define, distinguish and constitutionally protect the differences between individual liberty on one hand and religious liberty on the other such that any religious prerogative exercised by a group or cult did not improperly predominate over the rights of an individual. Given that Wollersheim’s adversary throughout was the terrible and broad-ranging Scientology Organization—which post-verdict publicly employed the jingo, ‘Not one thin dime for Wollersheim’—his victory stands as a beacon that, notwithstanding intractable denial, resistance and opposition, complete redress can be an achievable reality for an injured and zealously represented plaintiff.”
Greene’s Wollersheim case description compared Scientology’s modern-day “fair game tactics” on its apostates to the Spanish Inquisition that targeted and neutralized heretics of Christianity when, in Medieval times, they used incarceration, torture, and death. Greene also compared Scientology’s auditing and disconnection practices to what the Chinese and North Koreans practiced on American prisoners of war. Scientology tried to appeal the rulings to escape paying $30 million in damages, and even re-organized its corporate structure during the case so the Church of Scientology of California wouldn’t have enough assets to pay the bill, but the courts called this “jiggery” and simply reduced the bill to $8.7 million. (From fordgreene.com).
Leah and Mike’s Aftermath show continues to have a cathartic effect on me each time I hear another person’s experiences with Scientology after they come out of it, especially seeing the drastic changes in their conscience and integrity in their life on the outside, such as with Mike Rinder and Len Zinberg. Watching live testimonies helps relieve certain pent-up emotions from personally similar experiences, and stirs up tremendous compassion for people who have been harmed. At the same time, they continue to emphasize that the Scientology organization’s continually destructive actions need to be stopped. This organization has made a mockery of “religious freedom” through its exploitation of privileges granted under this banner. Fewer and fewer people, including me, are willing to tolerate it without taking action to expose it. I appreciate Leah, Mike, A&E, and every contributor, for their contributions that have personally helped me and, I’m sure, have helped many viewers.