When Scientologists Attack!
SECOND UPDATE: The Video from the other side.
The saga of Marty Rathbun just keeps getting stranger and stranger.
At one time, Rathbun was one of the highest ranking members of Scientology, privy to its innermost secrets, a man who "audited" (counseled) members as important as Tom Cruise, and a key figure in the organization's efforts to fend off curious reporters.
Since Rathbun "blew" a few years ago (Scientology's word for defecting), it's been fascinating to watch him become the organization's biggest problem.
That was never more clear than this week, when Scientology sent a bizarre goon squad to intimidate Rathbun at his Corpus Christi home.
After the jump: We are from Scientology, and we have cameras attached to our heads!
Even if you're somewhat familiar with Scientology and all of its wackiness, the video posted Monday by Marty at his blog, "Moving On Up a Little Higher" may seem disorienting and bizarre.
Who are these morons at Rathbun's front door? Why do they have cameras in their hands or strapped to their heads? Why are they all wearing goofy blue T-shirts that bear a likeness of Marty's head on the body of a squirrel?
And what in Xenu's name does any of this have to do with religion?
Well, as in anything having to do with Scientology, the answer to that last question is always the same -- not much, if anything -- but let's back up a little and try to make sense of what happened on Rathbun's porch.
First, it's important to understand why a single ex-member of Scientology living in Texas has become such a threat to a globe-spanning organization headquartered in Los Angeles and Clearwater, Florida.
Rathbun scares the bejeezus out of Scientology leader David Miscavige for an important reason: unlike many other disaffected former members who have bolted from Scientology over the years, Rathbun still remains a firm believer in L. Ron Hubbard and his "technology."
Rathbun has attracted a dedicated following at his blog by attacking Miscavige's leadership of Scientology but not the underlying beliefs of Scientologists themselves. Rathbun writes repeatedly that Miscavige and his paranoia is the problem, not Scientology itself, and he encourages longtime members to ditch the organization and practice Scientology independent of the "church" itself.
There has long been an "independent" Scientology movement of sorts, and traditionally, the church has referred to these outsiders as "squirrels."
(And no wonder Scientology demonizes "squirrel tech" and its practitioners. Auditing done outside the church means a loss of income, which, critics will tell you, is really the primary "religion" of Miscavige's money-grubbing empire.)
And Rathbun is not just talking about practicing Scientology outside of Miscavige's control -- he's doing it quite openly. And that's what he was doing -- auditing another former member -- when Scientology's strange delegation knocked on Rathbun's front door.
What ensues is pure comedy, as the two sides videotape each other while Rathbun orders the Scientologists off his porch:
As you'll see, at one point Rathbun loses his temper and grabs what appears to be a microphone from one of his interrogators, who identifies himself as John Allender. (Marty, Marty, you should know not to give them that kind of advantage.)
Rathbun then calls the local sheriff's office, and he indicated on his blog that the sheriff may be treating it as seriously as it deserves:
After the Sheriff got done interviewing me and Allender and co separately, the Sheriff told me Miscavige's boys wanted to make a deal. If I did not bring CRIMINAL TRESPASSING, STALKING, AND CRIMINAL HARASSMENT charges, Allender and co would not bring "assault" and "criminal mischief" charges (the latter for having took the microphone Allender shoved in my face out of his hand and off its cord - the former for a 250 pound guy who looks like Sonny Barger on a bender sticking his stomach into my path of progress in the doorway of my own home).
Whatever the legal outcome, the visitation of Scientology's intimidation squad is a sure sign of one thing: Rathbun must really be getting to Miscavige.
UPDATE: Just got off the phone with Rathbun, who explained what set him off during the encounter, leading to his grabbing the microphone from Allender.
The auditing he was doing that day was with Lori Hodgson, who left Scientology in August. Like many other defectors, she experienced harassment by the organization after she left it, as she explains in a public declaration about her defection.
In particular, she felt harassed by an agent of the Office of Special Affairs (Scientology's covert operations wing) named John Allender:
That same day while leaving work, I saw John Allender, (an undercover OSA operative of the COS and the husband of my C/S through Grades and into NED). He showed up in my parking lot and came toward me as I headed to my car. He said, "You did some squirreling over the weekend." This indicates he knew my whereabouts and has either been following me or stalking me for a few days, since I returned from town only the day before and not even my own son knew where I'd been. Then he got closer, within 3 to 5 feet of me, and blocked my access to my car and confronted me saying, "Do you enjoy beatings?" I looked at him and said "NO" and was thinking to myself is he threatening to beat me up or giving me a warning? The comm was crazy! Then he said, "How did he know how to audit you with no PC folders?" He said other things but I cut his comm. I said "I'm not having this conversation with you!" and I turned to go back into my office where I felt safe. My heart was racing and I could not run due to my knee replacement surgery.
The San Jose Police Department are aware of the incident on Thursday December 9th and I will continue to expose and report any harassment I encounter from the COS because I am not going to be threatened by anyone.
Rathbun says that when one of the four men on his porch identified himself as Allender, he realized that it was the same man who Hodgson says had harassed her. Allender had apparently traveled from San Jose, California to Rathbun's house in Corpus Christi for the intimidation tactics.
"It was the same guy," Rathbun says. "That's one of the reasons I reacted the way I did."
He says he learned the identities of the other three men -- who may have come from as far away as Seattle and Florida -- with the help of the many commenters on his blog.
I asked him if he was certain that it was Scientology leader David Miscavige who would have been behind assembling a scare tactic made up Scientologists from around the country.
"I know he's behind it. I worked with him for 23 years. I know him better than he does," Rathbun said. "You don't send four people dressed like that without orders from the top."
But why? What was the point of sending them to his porch?
"It's clearly an intimidation tactic. It seems like something out of a Stanley Kubrick movie, doesn't it?" he asked. "I think they wanted me to shove that guy down the stairs. I think that's what they were trying to accomplish."
Rathbun says he hasn't heard if charges will be made against him, but he says he is determined to have his four visitors prosecuted.
UPDATE 2: The same event, filmed from the other side.
So what did the intimidation crew see from their perspective during the encounter? Turns out the Scientologists put together their own movie of the event, posted it briefly, but then thought better of it and took it down -- but not before eagle-eyed members of Anonymous could mirror it in numerous locations.
Watch the movie. I have a few observations to make below.
1. The Scientologists preface their video with a scene of Rathbun jawboning with employees at the Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater, Florida, a Scientology headquarters. The point here is to suggest that if Rathbun can show up and demand information at the doorstep of a major Scientology installation, then Scientology is in its rights to do the same to him. But that hardly explains why a church would send a goon squad to intimidate a former member at his home as a way to disrupt his private religious practices.
2. The video is consistent with what Rathbun had told me earlier. When Allender gives his name, you can see a look of recognition wash over Rathbun's face. It dawns on him that Allender has traveled all the way from California to disrupt Rathbun's auditing of Lori Hodgson, who had told him that Allender, while still in San Jose, had intimidated her about leaving Scientology. Enraged, Rathbun then pulls the microphone from Allender's hand.
3. To me, the creepiest part of this video comes near the beginning, and is not seen or heard on Rathbun's version. You hear Allender telling Rathbun that the reason the group is there is to check his equipment. It's a taunt, meant to rattle Rathbun about the fact that he is not allowed by official Scientology rules to deliver Scientology auditing using Scientology equipment (an e-meter) outside of the purview of the "church."
To understand how chilling that is, let me give you an analogy. Imagine that Rathbun had been a high-level member of a Baptist organization who has left over a doctrinal dispute. And say that individual Baptists who share his views also shun the organization and instead join him at his house to hold Bible study or prayer.
Can you imagine the spurned Baptist organization sending a goon squad of four camera-wielding men taunting Rathbun that he shouldn't be holding Bible study without first making sure his "equipment" -- his Bible, say -- had been checked out and approved by the goons?
The mind boggles, doesn't it?
Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he's been writing about Scientology at several publications. Among his other stories about L. Ron Hubbard's organization:
The Larry Wollersheim Saga -- Scientology Finally Pays For Its Fraud
The Tory Bezazian (Christman) Story -- How the Internet Saved A Scientologist From Herself
The Jason Beghe Defection -- A Scientology Celebrity Goes Rogue
The Robert Cipriano Case -- A Hellacious Example of Fair Game
The Paul Haggis Ultimatum -- The 'Crash' Director Tells Scientology to Shove It
The Marc Headley Escape -- 'Tom Cruise Told Me to Talk to a Bottle'
The Aaron Saxton Accusation -- Australia turns up the heat on Scientology
The Jefferson Hawkins Stipulation -- Scientology's former PR genius comes clean
The Daniel Montalvo Double-Cross -- Scientology lures a young defector into a trap
A Church Myth Debunked -- Scientology and Proposition 8
Daniel Montalvo Strikes Back -- Scientology Hit with Stunning Child-Labor Lawsuits