Scientology Overseas: More Bad News in Australia, Israel, and the UK (UPDATED)
Reporter Steve Cannane e-mailed this morning to alert us to a story on Lateline, a program on Australia's ABC network. The piece describes the defection of yet another Scientology executive who says he witnessed church leader David Miscavige violently assaulting his employees. As you'll see in the video, Chris Guider was a professional rugby player who gave up his sports dreams to become a member of Scientology's hardcore Sea Org. Now he regrets that decision.
Chris Guider, the latest Scientology executive to leave and say that David Miscavige gets slappy
Cannane's story is just one of several interesting things happening overseas this week in the world of Scientology watching, and between countdown items (#5 popped up yesterday, #4 shows up tomorrow morning at 9 am), we thought we'd round up several of them in this post.
Besides, it's Thursday, and in Scientology, that's the day to turn in your stats and review a week's worth of progress. So what better day to review this overseas enturbulation!
Guider's story is sadly repetitive. Only yesterday, I was extolling the virtues of "The Truth Rundown," the epic 2009 series by Tom Tobin and Joe Childs which appeared in the St. Petersburg Times. The duo convinced several former high-ranking Scientology executives to come forward and talk about what they saw in the highest levels of the church -- that Miscavige beat the crap out of people who worked for him.
Now there's Guider, and Australia has its own expose of life with DM. There's one really sick detail in this new glimpse of Scientology's leader: Guider claims that when he refused to beat someone with a stick on Miscavige's orders, he was thrown into the RPF -- the Rehabilitation Project Force, the Sea Org's prison detail. (Cue the standard language from the church that the RPF is really just a lovely rehab program and something like a tropical retreat, but with jumpsuits.)
Thursday's Stats: Upstat or Downstat? Oh, I'd say the Guider story is a big downstat for the church without a question. Cannane seemed to go out of his way to get several different denials from the church, but as is often the case, these blanket denials only come off inauthentic and actually kind of bizarre.
Story #2: Hell continues to break loose in Israel
Back in May, we told you about a bizarre story coming out of Tel Aviv. An attorney there named Gur Finkelstein had been arrested for a string of crimes, including attempted murder. Finkelstein is Scientology's man in the region, and he was overseeing some expansion of the Tel Aviv org. But when a local bureaucrat objected to the expansion and threatened to tear it down, Finkelstein allegedly tried to have the man killed and wanted to make it look like the hit was done by right-wing ultra-orthodox Jews, not a gang of thugs actually hired by Scientology's attorney!
Well, while Finkelstein awaits trial, more bad news for the church there. It turns out that the attorney is also a trustee on Scientology's building in Jaffa, a historic cinema that was undergoing renovation. But payments on those renovations have fallen short, and now the building has been put into foreclosure.
Jaffa. New Haven, Connecticut. Northumbria, UK. Does this string of recent foreclosures and setbacks with Miscavige's "Ideal Org" program mean Dede and the Birmingham Solid Gold Dancers have to work even harder? Yikes.
Thursday's Stats: Upstat or Downstat? Another big downstat, I'd say. Israel just doesn't seem like the most fertile place for planet clearing right now.
Story #3: A sucker born every minute.
We brought you some amazing material recently that was leaked from Scientology's "org" in Birmingham, UK. Photos and an audio track painted a picture of a rather un-glamorous fundraising event at the org, which included a conga line.
We mentioned in that story that one way the members of the Birmingham org were convinced to fork over cash for the purchase of a new building was that they were asked to watch a video of a man who had made a large donation.
Well, now more material about that man has also been leaked, and I have to say, it is heartbreaking stuff.
The man, Stephen Cox, can be seen in the video talking about how he's been convinced to turn over 20,000 pounds for the Ideal Org program, even though he's only been a Scientologist for a couple of months.
Even more distressing, some of Cox's e-mails were also leaked, which seem to indicate that he is in no position to be pledging 20,000 pounds (more than $30,000). It will put him in debt at a time when he's apparently going through a divorce. (He's assured by a Scientology handler, however, that his donation will help change the world.)
Although the audio sucks in this film, perhaps you can at least get a sense of what is being portrayed here: a fragile, confused man whose pockets are being picked clean:
Thursday's Stats: Upstat or Downstat? This is a tough one. On the one hand, 20,000 pounds is a lot of dough, and would have made somebody happy at the org. But as for what it means for Cox? Hard to say. We're trying to reach him, and will let you know what we find out.
Finally, there's this item.
Several Friends of Runnin' Scared e-mailed me with this screenshot from the recent Freedom magazine parody of The New Yorker. I hadn't noticed it before, but the parody extended even to the familiar back-of-the-book cartoon caption contest in the venerable Conde Nast publication:
Let me help you decode this little joke from David Miscavige and his minions at Freedom. That's Lawrence Wright at the center of this send-up of Da Vinci's "Last Supper." And around him, playing the apostles, are various Scientology defectors.
Now, my loyal tipsters are all telling me they're outraged -- OUTRAGED! -- that Scientology would play off iconic Christian imagery to make a point (however muddled) about its enemies. After all, according to L. Ron Hubbard's bizarre upper-level teachings, Jesus Christ is just a fiction that was implanted in the minds of disembodied alien souls by Xenu, the galactic overlord some 75 million years ago.
Well, I'm sorry, but Miscavige using "The Last Supper" to make a joke just isn't registering at all on my outrage meter.
In fact, I think the cartoon is actually kind of funny. And let me tell you, it's not often that Scientologists are ever funny or clever. So I think in this case...
Thursday's Stats: Upstat or Downstat? This is a big UPSTAT! Congrats, Sea Orgers. Help yourself to an extra ladle of rice and beans!
[PS: I'm going to try to find a better scan of the cartoon, and I would love it if our readers could help me identify all 12 apostles. I see Rathbun and Headley in there, but let's get them all ID'd!]
UPDATE: Thanks to Warrior (Mark Plummer) for coming through with these hi-res scans of the cartoon. Now let's try to figure out who is being skewered in these badly-done caricatures.
We'll start with the right side of the table. That's pretty clearly Gerry Armstrong in the middle, and is that pie-faced Mike Rinder on the left?
Next up is the three figures just to the right of Lawrence Wright. The consensus so far is that it's Rathbun in the baseball cap, and I think that's Marc Headley on the left. Is that Claire Headley on the right? Nancy Many?
Next is the three figures to the left of Lawrence Wright. I think most figure that's a cheap-shot at Amy Scobee on the right, and isn't that Jeff Hawkins on the left? Could that be Larry Wollersheim in the middle?
And finally, on the left side of the table are the last three. A bad representation of Jason Beghe in the glasses? The other two really don't ring a bell for me. But shouldn't Paul Haggis and Tom de Vocht be in here somewhere?
Thanks again to Warrior for the clearer view. Looking forward to more ID's in the comments.
The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology
#5: Joe Childs and Tom Tobin
#7: Mark Bunker
#8: Mike Rinder
#9: Jason Beghe
#10: Lisa McPherson
#11: Nick Xenophon (and other public servants)
#12: Tommy Davis (and other hapless church executives)
#13: Janet Reitman (and other journalists)
#14: Tory Christman (and other noisy ex-Scientologists)
#15: Andreas Heldal-Lund (and other old time church critics)
#16: Marc and Claire Headley, escapees of the church's HQ
#17: Jefferson Hawkins, the man behind the TV volcano
#18: Amy Scobee, former Sea Org executive
#19: The Squirrel Busters (and the church's other thugs and goons)
#20: Trey Parker and Matt Stone (and other media figures)
#21: Kendrick Moxon, attorney for the church
#22: Jamie DeWolf (and other L. Ron Hubbard family members)
#23: Ken Dandar (and other attorneys who litigate against the church)
#24: David Touretzky (and other academics)
#25: Xenu, galactic overlord
Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he's been writing about Scientology at several publications.
Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin' Scared
SCIENTOLOGY IN THE VILLAGE VOICE
[Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis secretly recorded discussing "disconnection"]
[Benjamin Ring, LA deputy sheriff, wants you to spend your 401K on Scientology]
[Scientologists: How many of them are there, anyway?]
MARTY RATHBUN AND THE SIEGE OF SOUTH TEXAS
[Scientology has Rathbun arrested] | [Rathbun and Mark Bunker reveal surprising ties]
In Germany with Ursula Caberta: [Announcing plans] | [Press conference] | [Making news about Tom Cruise, Bill Clinton, and Tony Blair] | [Post-trip interview]
The Squirrel Busters: [Goons with cameras on their heads] | [Rathbun's open letter to neighbors] | [Ingleside on the Bay, Texas rallies to Rathbun's cause] | [Squirrel Buster's claim to be making a "documentary"] | [VIDEO: "On a Boat"] | ["Anna" sent to creep out Monique Rathbun] | [Squirrel Busters go hillbilly] | [A videographer blows the whistle on the goon squad] | [Ed Bryan, OT VIII, shows the power of Scientology's highest levels]
SCIENTOLOGY SPYING AND "FAIR GAME"
[Secret Scientology documents spell out spying operation against Marc Headley]
[Scientology's West U.S. spies list revealed] | [Scientology's enemies list: Are you on it?]
Spy operation against Washington Post writer Richard Leiby: [Part 1] | [Part 2]
[A Scientology spy comes clean: Paulien Lombard's remarkable public confession]
[Scientology advertises for writers in Freedom magazine]
[Accidental leak shows Scientology spy wing plans to "handle" the Voice]
SCIENTOLOGY AND CELEBRITIES
["Tom Cruise told me to talk to a bottle"] | [Tom Cruise likes coconut cake] | [Tom Cruise has a sense of humor] | ["Tom Cruise not a kook!"] | [Paulette Cooper on Tom Cruise]
[Paul Haggis, director of Crash, issues an ultimatum, leaves the church]
[Character actor Jason Beghe defects noisily] | [Actor Michael Fairman reveals his "suppressive person" declaration] | [Michael Fairman talks to the Voice]
[Giovanni Ribisi as David Koresh: Scientology-Branch Davidian link makes sense]
[Russell Brand weds ex-Scientologists in wild ceremony] | [Skip Press on Haggis]
[Placido Domingo Jr.: Scientology's retaliation is "scary and pathetic"]
Grant Cardone, NatGeo's "Turnaround King": [Doing Scientology's dirty work?] | [Milton Katselas complained about Cardone's smear job] | [Cardone runs to Huffpo]
JANET REITMAN'S INSIDE SCIENTOLOGY
[Our review of Inside Scientology] | [An interview with Janet Reitman] | [A report from Reitman's first book tour appearance] | [At the Half-King: Reitman not afraid]
[Scientology doesn't like Inside Scientology] | [Q&A at Washington Post]
[A roundup of Reitman's print reviews, and why isn't she on television more?]
HUGH URBAN'S THE CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY
EX-SCIENTOLOGISTS SPEAK OUT
[Marc Headley: "Tom Cruise told me to talk to a bottle"] | [The Nancy Many interview]
[Sympathy for the Devil: Tory Christman's Story] | [Jeff Hawkins' Counterfeit Dreams]
[86 Million Thin Dimes: The Lawrence Wollersheim Saga] | [Mike Rinder on spying]
[Scientology singalong, "We Stand Tall"] | [Captain Bill Robertson and "Galactic Patrol"]
[Scientology wins a major award!] | [Scientology wants your money: Meet Dede!]
[Birmingham in the House! The "Ideal" dance mix] | [Scientology and the Nation of Islam]
[When Scientology was hip] | [Sad: David Miscavige makes fun of his own fundraisers]
[Freedom magazine parodies The New Yorker. Hilarity ensues.]
[Scientology surf report: Anonymous parties outside the New York "org"]
THE VIEW INSIDE THE BUBBLE
[A scientologist's letter to the Voice and its readers] | [Scientology silent birth]
[Tad Reeves: Scientology might listen to this guy] | [More Tad Reeves and family]
[Scientology never forgets: A heartwarming telemarketing holiday miracle]