Posts Tagged “church of scientology”

Photograph of Leah Remini, via Wikimedia CommonsA month ago I blogged about Leah Remini’s documentary series exposing the excesses of Scientology, on the occasion of it winning an Emmy. As I said then, Remini’s series is by no means the first major exposé of the Church of Scientology and its abusive practices. There have been many of them over the last several decades. One of the more noteable early exposés was a book, The Scandal of Scientology, by Paulette Cooper, published in 1971 (which resulted in her being “fair gamed” and nearly destroyed by CoS). A biography of Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, Bare-Faced Messiah by Russell Miller, was published in 1987. Much more recently there was Beyond Belief by Jenna Miscavige Hill, published in 2013. There was also BBC’s Scientology and Me in 2007, and Going Clear on HBO in 2015.

Really, the inanity of Scientology has been well-known since Martin Gardner released Fads & Fallacies in the Name of Science in 1952 (before the CoS existed and Hubbard’s bullshit was known only as “dianetics”).

So none of what Remini (and co-presenter Mike Rinder) reveal in the series is news. It’s not. But Scientology and the Aftermath reaches more people than ever and shining a much brighter light on CoS than before.

As far as I know, CoS’s main response had been to draft Web sites critical of Remini, Rinder, and some of their contributors. But as the Wall Street Journal reports, the popularity of her series has forced CoS to ramp up that response a bit (Archive.Is cached article):

Scientologists are emailing advertisers and demanding they boycott the A&E show “ Leah Remini : Scientology and the Aftermath,” claiming the documentary series is inciting threats and acts of violence against members of the church.

Individuals who say they are Scientologists sent multiple versions of the letter in recent months to advertisers and ad buyers, according to people familiar with the matter. The group behind the effort, Scientologists Taking Action Against Discrimination (STAND), also posted a handful of letters addressed to Anheuser-Busch InBev SA, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s Chrysler brand and Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s Geico, among others, on its website.

I have no idea how “Scientologists Taking Action Against Discrimination” extracted the “STAND” acronym from their name. I mean, “STAAD” works better. Maybe they avoided that because putting a “G” in front of it might confuse them with a ski-resort town in Switzerland. But hey, what could I know about it?

As the WSJ explains, at least one advertiser (Geico) did bend over for CoS and they’ve pull its ads from the series — but not from the network (which kind of makes clear that they’re specifically avoiding Remini’s show). Way to go, Geico. I knew geckos are flexible, but I didn’t know they had no backbones.

With this development, it’s clear Remini and Rinder have had an effect on Scientology. Good for them! The more is revealed about CoS’s shenanigans, the better.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Leah Remini & her Emmy / David Crotty, Patrick McMullan/Getty Images, via PeoplePardon me, Dear Reader, for taking the time to rectify a major omission. I haven’t mentioned Scientology or “dianetics” (which is its core) in quite some time. And it shouldn’t have gone so long below my radar.

It’s not as though the Church of Scientology and its minions haven’t been up to no good, all this time. Oh no. Just a month ago, The Hollywood Reporter revealed yet more forged court orders directing Web search engines to purge themselves of links to sites and pages critical of its Narconon* wing (Archive.Is cached article). No, CoS is still up to its usual shenanigans, and likely will continue to be, for quite some time.

I’d just like to point out that ex-Scientologist Leah Remini’s anti-Scientology series — which just started its second season — won an Emmy award (for Outstanding Information Series), as People magazine reports (cached):

On Saturday night, Leah Remini won her first Emmy for her A&E series Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.

Remini, 47, teared up as she accepted her award at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles.…

Back in the press room, Remini told reporters about how moving the experience of winning was — and how the award doesn’t really belong to her.

“Well, it’s — as an actress, you always want to get an Emmy nomination or win an Emmy and as you get a little older you realize what’s really important and you are exposed to stories like this,” Remini said. “It becomes more about doing the right thing and so it doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to our heroes and so it’s so much more fulfilling.”

Remini called her contributors “heroes” is because many of them face harassment by CoS. If you doubt that CoS is capable of destroying people, look no further than “Operation Freakout,” a plot in which they framed author Paulette Cooper, who’d written a magazine article and then a book critical of Scientology, for a felony (cached). She only got out from under this due to another CoS plot, “Operation Snow White,” in which CoS agents tried to remove unflattering information about CoS from government files. The thefts of some documents was discovered, CoS offices were raided, and documents found there laid bare the whole scheme to destroy Ms Cooper (cached). Some CoS personnel (including Mary Sue Hubbard, wife of founder Lafayette Ronald aka “L. Ron” Hubbard) were jailed, and the “Fair Game” policy which had spawned both “operations” was ostensibly rescinded.

But CoS still hounds anyone who crosses them. And for years they’ve worked to purge the Internet of anything unflattering about CoS or “dianetics.” Fortunately, that hasn’t entirely worked … in spite of things like fraudulent court orders (as I mentioned).

At any rate, I’m glad to see Ms Remini’s series was renewed, and has been getting good ratings. Hers is hardly the first exposé of Scientology’s excesses … there’s been no shortage of articles, books, or documentaries on the subject, going back almost to CoS’s origins. But this is, arguably, the highest-profile production of its kind. She’s shining a brighter light on the fetid swamp of Scientology than it has ever had to endure. Let’s hope it leads to meaningful changes, or better yet, to the destruction of CoS.

P.S. CoS only has itself to blame for having made Ms Remini their enemy. She has said her exit from Scientology was chiefly triggered by the disappearance of Shelly Miscavige, CoS agent and wife of its leader David Miscavige. Ms Remini had asked about Ms Miscavige’s whereabouts, and was harassed by CoS personnel because she’d asked about her (cached).

*Note: Even though it looks like a shortened version of its name, Narconon isn’t connected in any way with Narcotics Anonymous or NA. Both programs are bullshit, of course; Narconon is based on “dianetics,” while NA is a religion-based 12-step program.

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Church of Scientology building in Los Angeles, Fountain AvenueStop 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.

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Photo of Dianetics, by L. Ron HubbardThe Church of Scientology has found the going tough, the last few months. A court defeat in France, exposées based on accounts by ex-Scientologists, published in more than one venue, have plagued the so-called “religion” of a deceased sci-fi pulp author, once championed by Hollywood stars. Its latest setback is a bit of a drastic one; Scientology has been banned in Russia. That’s right … the whole country! The Moscow Times relates the story (locally cached version):

Works by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard will be added to the country’s list of extremist literature for “undermining the traditional spiritual values of the citizens of the Russian Federation,” the Prosecutor General’s Office said Wednesday.

The ruling — initiated by transport prosecutors in the Siberian city of Surgut and Khanty-Mansiisk customs officers — is the latest use of the hotly debated law on extremism to target systems of belief that are not traditional in Russia.

The government review of Scientology was triggered in Surgut, Siberia:

Prosecutors said they intercepted 28 individual titles, including books, audio and video recordings by Hubbard that were sent to residents in Surgut from the United States. The materials were sent for study to “psychiatrists, psychologists and sociologists,” who determined that they should not be distributed in Russia, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement [Russian-language link].

The Russian government’s concerns are at least partly ideological in nature:

According to the research requested by prosecutors, the seized works contained “ideas justifying violence in general and in particular any means of opposing critics of Scientology,” the statement said. “The works have clear as well as hidden calls for social and religious hatred” and call for hindering the work of the state.

These particular objections don’t make a lot of sense to me, but then, this is Russia after all, where everything the government does is cloaked behind language of this sort … I don’t presume this is an accurate explanation of what they truly think about Scientology.

Hat tip: Skeptic’s Dictionary.

Photo credit: puck-man.

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Gee, it seems only a short time ago that I blogged about the Church of Scientology’s failed “investigation” of the St Petersburg Times, which late last year ran an extensive multi-story exposé of that so-called religion. This weekend, the estimable New York Times ran its own single-story (to date) exposé of Scientology (WebCite cached article):

Defectors Say Church of Scientology Hides Abuse

Raised as Scientologists, Christie King Collbran and her husband, Chris, were recruited as teenagers to work for the elite corps of staff members who keep the Church of Scientology running, known as the Sea Organization, or Sea Org.

They signed a contract for a billion years — in keeping with the church’s belief that Scientologists are immortal. They worked seven days a week, often on little sleep, for sporadic paychecks of $50 a week, at most.

But after 13 years and growing disillusionment, the Collbrans decided to leave the Sea Org, setting off on a Kafkaesque journey that they said required them to sign false confessions about their personal lives and their work, pay the church thousands of dollars it said they owed for courses and counseling, and accept the consequences as their parents, siblings and friends who are church members cut off all communication with them. …

They soon discovered others who felt the same. Searching for Web sites about Scientology that are not sponsored by the church (an activity prohibited when they were in the Sea Org), they discovered that hundreds of other Scientologists were also defecting — including high-ranking executives who had served for decades.

The large number of recent defections from the CoS likely explains this rash of newspaper stories on Scientology’s abuses. At any rate, the story acknowledges that the “average” CoS member may not be aware of all of this:

The defectors say that the average Scientology member, known in the church as a public, is largely unaware of the abusive environment experienced by staff members. The church works hard to cultivate public members — especially celebrities like Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Nancy Cartwright (the voice of the cartoon scoundrel Bart Simpson) — whose money keeps it running.

But recently even some celebrities have begun to abandon the church, the most prominent of whom is the director and screenwriter Paul Haggis, who won Oscars for “Million Dollar Baby” and “Crash.” Mr. Haggis had been a member for 35 years. His resignation letter [cached version], leaked to a defectors’ Web site, recounted his indignation as he came to believe that the defectors’ accusations must be true.

The Times continues by relating the Collbrans’ harrowing story of trying to leave Scientology, which included impediments such as taking their passports so they couldn’t travel. It also recounts things like beatings of Scientology members and employees, some at the hands of the head of the CoS, David Miscavige.

Marvelous people, eh?

I wonder if the CoS will try the same stunt they attempted with the St Petersburg Times and try to hire other reporters to investigate the New York Times. Even if they do, I’m betting they will also refuse to reveal the contents of that investigation.

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Late last year, the St Petersburg Times published a series of stories which, together, were an exposé of the Church of Scientology. This project, known as “The Truth Rundown,” is extensive, and must have been a massive undertaking. The paper has a long history of exposing Scientology, dating back decades, so this is, perhaps, not unusual. The CoS’s response — aside from simply dismissing the comprehensive reports as “total lies” — was to commission its own investigation of the St Petersburg Times and of “The Truth Rundown” itself … i.e. to “fight fire with fire” as the saying goes. That investigation, however, has ended, at Scientology’s direction, and will not be disclosed. TV station WUSF in Tampa reports on this development (WebCite cached article):

The Church of Scientology is deploying a new weapon in its three-decade battle with the St. Petersburg Times: award-winning investigative journalists.

Those reporters completed their own review of the newspaper’s coverage of Scientology, but church officials won’t release it.

In 1980, The St. Petersburg Times won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the secretive religion, headquartered in Clearwater. Since then, church officials have said the newspaper’s coverage is unfair.

So church officials decided to do something about it, according to spokesman Tommy Davis.

“To be honest, I think we just took a playbook from the media,” Davis said. “Media pay reporters all the time to investigate things.

“So we thought it warranted some investigation, and so we hired some reporters to investigate. It’s pretty straightforward, in that regard,” he said.

To the CoS’s credit, they’re correct about this. It is fair to investigate the investigators, so to speak. But since they’re not disclosing the results of that investigation, it’s likely that it never turned up whatever dirt that Scientology had expected to turn up.

Those reporters are Christopher Szechenyi, an Emmy-winning television producer from Boston, and Russell Carollo, a Colorado-based reporter who won a Pulitzer for uncovering medical malpractice in the military. …

Carollo and Szechenyi declined to be interviewed for this story. In a statement, they said they never misrepresented themselves or who they were working for. They also said they were paid in advance and had complete editorial control of their work.

In any case, the newspaper declined to cooperate with the investigation, saying it would fuel the religion’s ongoing campaign to discredit The Times.

“They have, at various points, threatened litigation against us for performing this kind of journalism,” Brown said. “When you’ve been threatened with lawsuits, it doesn’t make sense to have a conversation with subjects who are threatening you about the work.

There was an added layer of the investigation, too, that being an editorial one:

The reporters completed their review and turned it over for an edit to Steve Weinberg, a long-time University of Missouri journalism professor and former executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors.

While the CoS hasn’t released the report, they’re using it indirectly against their foes at the Times:

But that didn’t stop Davis from speaking about the report to Washington Post columnist Howard Kurtz, who broke this story Monday [cached article page 1 and page 2]. Davis called the report “highly critical” of the Times.

In their statement, the reporters said Davis “did not accurately portray the full scope of our work” and urged the Church to release the report.

But they say they can’t talk about their findings, because of their contract with the Church.

Unfortunately for Scientology, they don’t get to claim that this report condemns the St Petersburg Times if they refuse to disclose its contents; a report that says the Times is in the wrong, but they won’t allow anyone to see, is inseparable from a report that does not, in fact, state that the Times is in the wrong.

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In the fine tradition of using catastrophes to one’s own advantage, the Church of Scientology has decided that Haitians injured in the recent earthquake require their dubious pseudo-medicine. AFP reports via Google News (WebCite cached article):

Scientologists ‘heal’ Haiti quake victims using touch

Amid the mass of aid agencies piling in to help Haiti quake victims is a batch of Church of Scientology “volunteer ministers”, claiming to use the power of touch to reconnect nervous systems.

Clad in yellow T-shirts emblazoned with the logo of the controversial US-based group, smiling volunteers fan out among the injured lying under makeshift shelters in the courtyard of Port-au-Prince’s General Hospital.

An anonymous benefactor is sending Scientolgists in, at great expense, to provide this important service to Haiti:

“We’re trained as volunteer ministers, we use a process called ‘assist’ to follow the nervous system to reconnect the main points, to bring back communication,” she said.

“When you get a sudden shock to a part of your body the energy gets stuck, so we re-establish communication within the body by touching people through their clothes, and asking people to feel the touch.”

Yeah, folks, this is yet another kind of “energy medicine,” which is just as bogus as every other kind of “energy medicine,” such as reiki, therapeutic touch, and more. Nevertheless, these Scientologists claim to have performed miracles:

Next to her lay 22-year-old student Oscar Elweels, whose father rescued him from the basement of his school where he lay with a pillar on his leg for a day after the deadly January 12 quake.

His right leg was amputated below the knee and his left leg was severely bruised and swollen. …

“One hour ago he had no sensation in his left leg, so I explained the method to him, I touched him and after a while he said ‘now I feel everything’,” said [the Scientologist known as] Sylvie.

“Otherwise they might have had to amputate his other leg. Now his sister knows the method and she can do it.”

The news isn’t all bad, though, as AFP goes on to say:

Another group of Scientologists distributed antibiotic pills. “The doctors said give everyone with wounds antibiotics,” said Italian volunteer Marina.

The Scientologists’ questionable care hasn’t gone unnoticed by true medical professionals on site; they appear to have taken advantage of the chaos to insinuate themselves into the clinics:

Some doctors at the hospital are skeptical. One US doctor, who asked not to be named, snorted: “I didn’t know touching could heal gangrene.”

When asked what the Scientologists are doing here, another doctor said: “I don’t know.”

Do you care? “Not really,” she said, wheeling an unconscious patient out of the operating room to join hundreds of others in the hospital’s sunny courtyard.

Sorry, but foisting quackery on Haitians, in the time of their greatest need — and when they are at their most vulnerable — in order to promote an ersatz religion, is — quite simply — wrong.

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