Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A former Scientologist, who left that organization after being abused and/or exploited, and who put up with harassment from that Church even after having left, publishes a memoir of that ordeal, revealing Scientology’s depravity and the lengths it will go to in order to silence its critics.
Yeah, what I just described, sadly, isn’t new. Not by a mile. Just in the past week, this very scenario played out once again. This time the “informant” is none other than Ronald Miscavige, father of David Miscavige, who’s headed Scientology since the death of its founder, Lafayette R. Hubbard (better known as “L. Ron”). He was interviewed on ABC’s 20/20 in conjunction with the release of his book (WebCite cached article):
Ron Miscavige, the father of Scientology’s leader David Miscavige, and his wife Becky moved onto [Scientology’s “Gold Base” compound in California] in 2006, where he said they were forced to live under serious restrictions.
“I’m living on a compound…where your mail going out is read before its seal and sent out, where before you get your mail, it’s opened and read before you get it,” Ron Miscavige told “20/20” in an exclusive interview. “Phone calls, you’re on the phone, somebody else is listening on an extension.”
Gary Morehead, a former Scientologist turned Church critic, says he was once director of security for the Church and would go through people’s belongings at Gold Base to collect information on them.
“I would go through people’s personal belongings out of their berthing, where they slept… obtaining bank records, date of birth, passwords, any personal information, where their family addresses were,” Morehead told “20/20.”
Before he moved to the base, Ron Miscavige had joined the Sea Organization, or “Sea Org,” the clergy of the Church, in 1985 and was working as a musician and composer for the Church’s Golden Era Productions. But Miscavige said by the late 2000s, the crushing workload, rigid lifestyle and lack of sleep on the base became unbearable.…
For months, Ron Miscavige and his wife Becky said they planned what they called their escape from Gold Base by conditioning guards into letting them make regular Sunday trips to the music studio across the street. It all came to a head one day when Ron drove his car up to the security gate and pressed the button. To his relief, the gate opened.
“I drove out slowly so it wouldn’t arouse suspicion,” Miscavige said. “When I turned left, I put my foot right to the floorboard… I knew we were free. I knew they couldn’t catch us.”
“It was an escape,” he continued. “You can’t leave. You think you can just walk out? No. You will be stopped. I escaped.”
The Church denies that this was an “escape.” [Scientology attorney Monique] Yingling told “20/20” that Gold Base “is not a prison.”
“People can come and go as they please, and they do,” she said.
When contacted by ABC News, the Church also disparaged Ron Miscavige as a terrible musician and a disgusting pig, and that his exposé was fabricated for money. Which is pro forma for them … they vilify — on a deep and personal level — any and all critics. Their contention that what Ron reports should be dismissed, is belied by the fact that they’d hired private investigators to track him after he left Gold Base and figure out what he was up to (cached).
Here’s Ron Miscavige’s interview on 20/20:
A lot of the allegations made by Ron Miscavige are similar to those made by other ex-Scientologist whistleblowers, so they’re at least credible, and can’t be dismissed as easily as the Church of Scientology would like. It’s a very strange outfit that works in its own way and exploits its followers — beyond the abusive tactics to which Ron Miscavige was subjected. For instance, Scientologists are charged thousands of dollars over a long period to be “audited” using what’s called an E-meter, a simplistic and crude kind of lie-detector, which is — as such — bullshit. It’s probably more fair to refer to Scientology as a scam, or con game, than a religion … especially since, prior to creating it, its founder had quipped that the easiest way to become wealthy was to invent a religion.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Tags: church of scientology
, david miscavige
, gary morehead
, gold base
, ron miscavige
, ronald miscavige
, sea org
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As I’ve remarked before, religious folk have a lot of really strange, if not barbaric, notions about mental illness. They consider it a spiritual problem, not a medical one. What’s more, they’ve been known to use it as a tool to hook people and stay in their lives. Slate magazine just published an exposé of a Christian ministry which ostensibly treats troubled girls, but in reality, it does nothing of the sort (WebCite cached article).
The article is a long one, telling a number of troubling stories, and I recommend reading it through. But here’s an important passage:
[Mercy Multiplied, formerly Mercy Ministries] doesn’t require its counselors to be licensed mental health practitioners, which Christy Singleton, Mercy’s executive director, confirmed in an email. Moreover, Mercy’s licensed counselors or those in training are forbidden to practice psychotherapy, alleges one former counselor who worked for the organization between 2011 and 2012. “They say they do clinical interventions, but I wasn’t allowed to use my clinical experience,” she says. (She requested anonymity so as not to jeopardize her current employment as a secular psychologist.) Instead, the counselor said, executives in Nashville instructed her to walk each woman through the same seven-step counseling model and assign a prescribed regimen of readings, response papers, and audio sermons, which residents were meant to complete as homework before their weekly one-on-one counseling sessions.
[Mercy founder Nancy] Alcorn doesn’t describe the doctrinal origins of Mercy’s counseling in her writings, but [Baylor Univ. psychologist Matthew] Stanford says the Mercy model appears to combine two religious philosophies, Theophostic Prayer Ministry and Restoring the Foundations Ministry. (Alcorn’s original counseling model and RTF Ministry share a name and are similar but not identical.) Both are rooted in the Charismatic Christian movement, which believes in spiritual warfare, the gifts and healing powers of the Holy Spirit, prophesy, the laying of hands to anoint or empower an ailing individual, and salvation from demonic forces through deliverance. “We’re talking about demons in the literal sense,” says Stanford. “[Practitioners might say] ‘You have a spirit of depression,’ meaning an actual demon is causing you to be depressed. Or you could be experiencing depression because generations ago in your family, someone gave an opening for the demonic.”
Multiple former Mercy residents told me that staff members shouted at demons to flee their bodies. Bethany M., a 2007 resident of Mercy’s St. Louis home (who asked that Slate withhold her last name due to privacy concerns) says staff threatened to expel her from the program if she didn’t let a visiting evangelist lay hands and prophesy over her during a sermon. When mononucleosis swept through the Lincoln home, Hayley says staff blamed the outbreak on evil spirits and asked the residents to walk through the halls calling for the spirits’ banishment.
Mercy’s public statements on demons are inconsistent. Its website states that the group does “not perform or endorse exorcisms” [cached]. And Singleton says Mercy neither emphasizes Charismatic teachings nor mandates the laying of hands on residents. The enemy, she says, isn’t some evil force “but the lies we tell ourselves.” Yet in a 2008 speech at the Capital Christian Center in Sacramento, Alcorn said that Mercy “deals with areas of demonic oppression.” Then she laid out her feelings on the matter: “If there’s demonic activity, like if somebody has opened themselves up to the spirit of lust or pornography or lots of promiscuous sexual activity, then we’ve opened the door for demonic powers. And secular psychiatrists want to medicate things like that, but Jesus did not say to medicate a demon. He said to cast them out. And that’s supposed to be a part of normal Christianity.”
As a former fundamentalist Christian, I can confirm that the idea that illnesses — especially of the mental variety — are of demonic, not natural, origin is very common. Obviously this ministry isn’t in the business of treating mental illnesses, they’re just using these troubled girls to extort money from their families, who often — and erroneously — think they’re being “treated.” The Slate article goes on to describe how Mercy’s so-called “treatment” methods also resemble the long-ago-debunked “repressed memory” trope that ruined so many lives just a few decades ago.
You may be asking why this outfit is allowed to operate this way, using unscientific treatment methods as they do. But answering that question leads to the most troubling aspect of all: Mercy’s facilities are unlicensed, because they are, supposedly, religious ministries. They can essentially do whatever they want. There’s no oversight, no regulation, no nothing. Because Jesus:
In 2011, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals received a call about Mercy’s home in West Monroe. The caller said the residence was operating without a license from the department, according to a DHH spokeswoman. But when DHH investigated, it determined the home didn’t actually need a license because it wasn’t providing “services for compensation.” Instead, the program was “operating in a way that is similar to a homeless shelter,” where residents receive food and lodging for free, according to the state’s DHH lawyers.
In an email last April, Singleton told me that Mercy’s three adult facilities are licensed by social services agencies in their respective states. But agency representatives at both Louisiana’s and Missouri’s departments of social services, health, and mental health could find no records of Mercy in their systems. When I emailed Singleton in April 2015 to ask for clarification, she stopped responding. When I wrote her again this month, a full year later, she said she had nothing to add.
It’s long past time for religious folk, especially of the fundamentalist Christian variety, to stop exploiting the mentally ill. Religiously-flavored pseudopsychology is not a valid alternative to the real thing. It should be obvious that it’s not ethical to target a vulnerable population and use them to one’s own spiritual — or worse, financial — gain. Yet Alcorn, Singleton and their ilk happily do so, nonetheless. It’s time for state authorities to stop giving phony treatment centers like Mercy’s a “pass” merely because they’re religious in nature. If they claim to treat mental illness, they should be evaluated, licensed, and monitored just like any other such facility — period.
Photo credit: ferobanjo, via Pixabay.
, christy singleton
, demonic oppression
, mental illnes
, mentally ill
, mercy ministries
, mercy multiplied
, nancy alcorn
, religious exploitation
, restoring the foundations
, restoring the foundations ministry
, theophostic prayer ministry
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The recent Religious Rightist bullshit over transgender access to bathrooms continues. Christianists’ sanctimonious fury has only ramped up in light of the various criticisms that have been leveled at them. They just can’t handle being told they’re out of their fucking minds.
The latest example of their juvenile outrage is over the retail chain Target, which — in light of the laws and other assorted bellyaching the R.R. has thrown at transgenders — declared that they’re free to use any bathroom they want, in their stores (WebCite cached page). As the Christian Post reports, Christofascists have called for a boycott of Target (cached):
More than 392,000 people have signed an online pledge to boycott Target after the retail giant said that transgender employees and customers could use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity, irrespective of their biological sex.
“This means a man can simply say he ‘feels like a woman today’ and enter the women’s restroom…even if young girls or women are already in there,” says American Family Association’s online #BoycottTarget pledge, which was launched after Target announced Tuesday, “We welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.”
“Target’s policy is exactly how sexual predators get access to their victims. And with Target publicly boasting that men can enter women’s bathrooms, where do you think predators are going to go?” the pledge asks.
“Corporate America must stop bullying people who disagree with the radical left agenda to remake society into their progressive image,” says AFA President Tim Wildmon in a statement.
First, let me get something obvious out of the way: In spite of its name, the “American Family Association” does not represent “American families.” It represents “American Christofascists.” Moreover, the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled them a hate group (cached).
Second, note their laughably reductionist view of transgenderism: To the AFA it amounts to nothing more than “he ‘feels like a woman today’.” Last I knew, there was a lot more to it than just how someone feels on any given day.
I note, too, that after working to disparage transgenders and implying they’re all rapists or something, the AFA backpedaled from that:
“We want to make it very clear that AFA does not believe the transgender community poses this danger to the wider public,” Wildmon clarifies.
Gee, thanks for that “clarification,” Timmie. Yeah, that makes it all clear … as clear as mud.
The Christian Post‘s headline for this article reads, “392,000 Signers Pledge to Boycott Retailer Target Over Transgender Bathroom Decision.” The large number of petition signers, presumably, grants this boycott veracity or something. That large a number of people simply must be right … right? Actually, no. It doesn’t work that way. This sort of thinking is known as “the bandwagon fallacy,” “appeal to the masses,” “the democratic fallacy,” or more formally, argumentum ad populum, and it’s fallacious. Lots of people can be, and often are, very wrong about things. So call me unimpressed with this 392,000 number. They could have said 392,000,000 and I still wouldn’t give a flying fuck what any of them think.
The objection that male sexual predators will use the pretense of being transgender in order to get into women’s restrooms so they can expose themselves or attack them, is just ludicrous. There’s no evidence that any of them ever have done so. As Chris Wallace of Fox News said earlier today, “bathroom laws” like the one that passed in North Carolina are “a solution in search of a problem.” What’s more, it would still be illegal for such a person to expose him/herself or attack someone in a restroom, whichever one they go into and regardless of whether or not s/he is transgender.
I also love how these so-called “conservatives,” who ordinarily would love to let American businesses run themselves however they wish without undue “government regulation,” somehow disapprove of what a private company is doing and want to pass legislation preventing them from doing so. What fucking hypocrites.
Look, I understand Christofascists are creeped out by transgenders. Yeah, I get it. Christianists don’t understand them. For that matter, neither do I. Nor do I expect I ever will understand what it means to be transgender. But do you know something? That doesn’t matter! I don’t need to “understand” transgenderism in order to realize that transgenders are people, too! They’re people who deserve to be treated like fellow human beings, and with dignity, not used as pawns in a religio-political game to acquire more power. What these putative “people of God” are doing in the name of their god — i.e. harassing transgenders, gays, and other “undesirables” — is horrific and inexcusable. They’d do well to re-read their own scriptures, particularly this little part:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23)
With all of this said, I plan to do more of my shopping at Target. Even if something costs a little more there. I encourage everyone to “reverse-boycott” this retail chain.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
, american family association
, bathroom law
, bathroom laws
, christian right
, religious right
, target stores
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Good morning, Dear Reader. I’ve made another change to blog comments. Intense Debate worked well enough, but creating and editing comments with HTML markup (especially Web links) was problematic. So I switched to another, better (in my opinion) comment platform, which happens to be very common on the Web (and that means, any given commenter will already be familiar with it): Disqus.
You’ll have to have a Disqus ID in order to comment here, but that’s easy enough to do, so go ahead — comment away!
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Tags: blog business
, blog comment
, blog comments
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The Roman Catholic Church is very good at conjuring excuses, especially for things it’s done. I’ve cataloged a large number of its — and its defenders’ — excuses for the worldwide “priestly pedophilia” scandal.
But that’s hardly the limit of the hierarchs’ excuse-making. Case in point: As Spain’s edition of The Local reports, the archbishop of Toledo blamed women for domestic violence (WebCite cached article):
The Archbishop of Toledo, Braulio Rodríguez, has caused controversy with a series of comments on domestic violence he made during a sermon.
The majority of cases of domestic violence happen because the woman’s partner “does not accept them” or “rejects them for not accepting their demands” he told the congregation.
He went on to lay the blame for many cases of domestic violence on the woman in the relationship.
“Often the macho reaction comes about because she asked for a separation,” the archbishop said, according to local newspaper, Periódico CLM.
This is another of those times when a Catholic official has carried on about a topic that he — by definition as a celibate — knows absolutely nothing about. One wonders why they repeatedly do so.
Photo credit: darkuncle, via Flickr.
Hat tip: Rational Wiki.
Tags: archdiocese of toledo
, braulio rodríguez
, catholic church
, domestic violence
, roman catholic
, roman catholic church
, toledo spain
, victim blaming
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I blogged about the
gay oppression “religious freedom” laws recently passed in North Carolina and in Mississippi. Christianists in both states are ecstatic that they now have additional legal weapons to use against a class of person they despise. But there’s been something of a backlash. Businesses, for example, are boycotting both states.
But things ramped up when two famous rockers canceled shows in those states. Bruce Springsteen canceled a concert in Greensboro, NC (WebCite cached article), and Bryan Adams canceled another in Biloxi, MS (cached).
As one would expect, the Religious Right is none too pleased about any of this. They view these counter-measures as a vile attack upon their beliefs and, in turn, their persons. They remain steadfast in their refusal to bend, and they continue to press the lie that these laws promote “safety.” For example, as The Hollywood Reporter explains, an NC Congressman went after Springsteen over his Greensboro cancelation (cached):
A U.S. congressman who represents portions of Greensboro, N.C., is accusing Bruce Springsteen of being a “bully,” after the rock star canceled a concert there to protest a new law that’s being described as anti-gay.
“It’s disappointing he’s not following through on his commitments,” said Rep. Mark Walker, a Republican freshman congressman.…
“Bruce is known to be on the radical left,” continued Walker, “and he’s got every right to be so, but I consider this a bully tactic. It’s like when a kid gets upset and says he’s going to take his ball and go home.”
Walker explains the reasoning behind this law:
“I choose to stand with our sheriffs, who support this bill, which doesn’t target the LGBTQ community; it targets imposters,” said Walker. “It’s a little crazy to think sexual predators wouldn’t be devious enough to pull something off if they were free to go into any bathroom they want.”
There are some problems with this rationalization. First, just because sheriffs support a bill doesn’t automatically make it a good law. Second, there are already laws against “sexual predators” and this one does nothing to stop any of them (since, unless police are posted at restroom doors to prevent entry, it can be enforced only after-the-fact, and by that time a true sexual predator could already have attacked someone). Third, this justification assumes that transgender folks are “sexual predators” in disguise, which isn’t generally true. Yes, I suppose a criminal might pose as transgender, but how often does that really happen? Can Walker or anyone else show it’s common enough to merit such a law? I haven’t seen any statistics along these lines, just a lot of innuendo and slander against gays and transgender folks.
Oh, and it’s nice how Walker dismisses Springsteen as a “radical leftist” and a “bully.” He doesn’t seem to realize his own fellow Religious Rightist movement is, in its own way, also quite “radical” and guilty of a lot of “bullying” of its own. What a fucking hypocrite! I hope he understands his own Jesus explicitly forbid him ever to be hypocritical, at any time or for any reason.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Tags: bathroom law
, biloxi MS
, bruce springsteen
, bryan adams
, christian right
, greensboro NC
, homosexual laws
, mark walker
, north carolina
, religious freedom laws
, religious right
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Note: There’s a little more to say about this story; see below.
As I’ve frequently discussed, the problem with religions is that there’s really nothing supporting anything they teach. Since they all move in the world of metaphysics, it’s generally impossible to confirm them. Believers in a religion, therefore, are usually left foundering in a sea of insecurity. They have few means to relieve this insecurity.
The most common such tactic is communal reinforcement; i.e. they all get together and collectively reassure each other that their religion is true. This might seem like a form of social circular reasoning, and a virtual open-door to delusion, and it is … but it’s a remarkably effective way of relieving the insecurity of adhering to a package of metaphysics.
Even so, it can only provide just so much reassurance. After all, if one looks around and sees the very same people (e.g. the members of one’s own church) all the time, the apparent confirmation they offer each other begins to seem hollow. It’s necessary to expand that pool of mutual-reassurers from time to time; and what’s more, the process of convincing someone to join a religion s/he hadn’t been part of, is another kind of confirmation that can be extremely compelling.
Hence, a lot of religions put a strong emphasis on proselytizing, and some of their followers can essentially become addicted to it. A great example of this is an Indiana state trooper, as WXIN-TV in Indianapolis reports, whose compulsion to proselytize during traffic stops has left him unemployed (WebCite cached article):
Indiana State Police terminated a trooper Thursday after a second complaint in 18 months that he was preaching to citizens after stopping them for traffic violations.
State police say this was in direct violation of an August 2014 counseling statement where Senior Trooper Brian L. Hamilton, 40, was told in writing, “During the course of his official duties, S/Trp. Hamilton will not question others regarding their religious beliefs nor provide religious pamphlets or similar advertisements.”
The most recent traffic stop happened in January of this year, but Hamilton was sued in September of 2014 in a similar case, which was settled.
That’s right, this is Hamilton’s second ride on this particular merry-go-round. He was already caught once doing something he shouldn’t, was documented as having been instructed not to do it again, but then proceeded to do it anyway.
As one would expect in cases like this, Hamilton is defiant and unrepentant:
FOX59 spoke with Hamilton over the phone after news broke of his termination.
“Oh well…I’m just following what the Lord told me to do and you can’t change what the Lord tells you to do. So if the Lord tells me to speak about Jesus Christ, I do. And that’s why they fired me so that’s where we’re at,” he said before disconnecting.
Yes, it’s true, he is doing what his deity instructed in what is known as “the Great Commission”:
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
So that provides Hamilton a ready excuse for indulging his compulsion to reassure himself of the veracity of his unfounded religion. It also provides him what he will consider justification for him proselytizing during traffic stops — as a Christian, by this scripture, he’s been explicitly instructed to spread his religion. He and his lawyers will, I’m sure, sue the state of Indiana on the grounds that his “religious freedom” was infringed, and the Great Commission, I’m equally sure, will be their Exhibit 1 in that case.
The problems with what Hamilton did are myriad, though, and are quite obvious. Quite aside from simply offending people who don’t want to be pelted with his Christianity during a traffic stop, it places those he stops in untenable positions, and can create conflicts of interest. First, someone who has no intention of doing so may promise Hamilton that s/he will go to his church, just to get out of a ticket; but what happens a few weeks later when s/he hasn’t shown up? Hamilton has that driver’s information, and could track him/her down later. I dare not think how that might work out! Second, what happens if the driver responds some other way, such as saying s/he won’t go to his church (whether because s/he isn’t religious, or is already committed to some other faith)? That driver risks offending Hamilton so that, perhaps, he might treat him/her more harshly. Moreover, what would Hamilton have done if he’d stopped someone who attended his own church? Might he have let that driver go without taking any action?
Put simply, Hamilton’s proselytizing compromises his job and, in turn, how the Indiana State Police relate to the public. It’s just not something they can tolerate.
In addition to suing Indiana over his firing, I also predict Hamilton will also go on the Christian lecture circuit, whining to rapt church audiences how he was fired for Jesus and simply because he “offended” people. His Christianist audiences will, no doubt, sympathize, and wonder what the problem is; why shouldn’t drivers want to hear Jesus’ gospel during traffic stops? After all, Hamilton is just looking out for their mortal souls and providing them what they need. How dare he be fired for having “offended” people?
I won’t even address the (poor) ethics of proselytizing to a captive audience … which is what a driver whom Hamilton has stopped, is. Christianists generally dismiss this particular issue; they happily proselytize in all sorts of closed settings, such as in prisons, schools, etc. It never occurs to them that it’s an underhanded tactic.
These Christianists won’t understand — or worse, will simply refuse even to begin to comprehend — what I explained above, which is that “offending” stopped drivers is the least of the problems which result from what Hamilton did. All they care about is their precious Jesus and making sure everyone else worships him as they do. Because really, what this boils down to is, Christianists are both selfish (seeing things only in their own way and never through anyone else’s perspective) and infantile (always demanding they run things whereas no one else is permitted to have any say in anything, ever).
P.S. I love how proselytizers like Hamilton always assume people have never heard of their Jesus … as though someone could have lived in the US for at least 16 years (thus being eligible to drive) yet never have heard of him. No American of driving age can possibly fail to know about Jesus, period. So why do Hamilton and his ilk think they have? I’ve never understood this assumption.
Update: Former trooper Hamilton truly is the unrepentant militant Christianist I’d assumed he is, as this story by WRTV-TV in Indianapolis reveals (cached). He’s a “soldier for Jesus” who’s simply following the commands of his Almighty. The poor little thing just can’t help but shove his Jesus down the throats of drivers he stops. Also, as I’d assumed, he clearly has a cadre of supporters who are just as unrepentantly militant as he is. I expect an uproar over his firing.
Photo credit: Indiana State Police, via Indianapolis Star.
Tags: brian hamilton
, brian l hamilton
, great commission
, indiana state police
, mt 28:19-20
, proselytizing trooper
, religious freedom
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