Scientology, "The Money Machine:" Explosive New Series by the St. Pete Times

Categories: Scientology

This is the one we've been waiting for, the next big investigative project by Tom Tobin and Joe Childs, the deans of Scientology reporting, who toil for the (formerly) St. Petersburg Times (which for some reason recently changed its name to the Tampa Bay Times -- Go Bucs, or whatever).

We only have a minute to alert our readers to this new bombshell from Tobin and Childs -- it looks like they're going to be revealing multiple chapters this week in their harrowing look at what it was like to work as a Scientology "registrar," and pressure church members to turn over huge amounts of money for counseling, memberships, and books.

We'll be following along and we'll also try to keep up with supplementary material from our own sources about the money-mad church. This should be an exciting week!

The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology
#1: L. Ron Hubbard
#2: David Miscavige
#3: Marty Rathbun
#4: Tom Cruise
#5: Joe Childs and Tom Tobin
#6: Anonymous
#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. | @VoiceTonyO | Facebook: Tony Ortega

Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin' Scared


[All recent stories] | [Top 25 People Crippling Scientology] | [Commenters of the Week] [Thursday 2pm Stats!] | [Scientology vs. South Park]


[Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis secretly recorded discussing "disconnection"]
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[Scientology hates clean ice, part 2: Another target, and the web as weapon]


[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]


[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]
[Lori Hodgson and Disconnection: "No one's going to take my eternity away"]


["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]
[Philip Boyd, Saving Grace actor, rips "the business that is 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?]


[A review of Urban's scholarly history of the church] | [An interview with Hugh Urban]


[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 dodges a bullet in Australia] | [Scientology exec Jan Eastgate arrested]
[All hell breaks loose in Israel] | [Scientology sees fundraising gold in the UK riots]
[Aussie former rugby pro Chris Guider calls David Miscavige "toxic" and "violent"]
[Stephen Cox, UK church newbie, pledges 20K pounds] | [Biggi Reichert: A German Lisa McPherson?] | [The Birmingham trove: 7,000 internal e-mails]
[Australian farmer blamed for giving Tom Cruise a bad shrimp, loses her friends, family]


[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"]


[A scientologist's letter to the Voice and its readers] | [Scientology silent birth]
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Follow the money. It's always the money.

Nixon managed to get re-elected even as the seeds for his ultimate downfall were being sown by the Washington Post. I think history may be repeating itself. As Miscavige cuts another ribbon for another empty org, simultaneously, many people are fighting to expose his cult and bring him down. Tick tock. Tick tock.

SP 'Onage
SP 'Onage

I've come to praise Xenu and confess, that I've been thinking way to much about the dwarf lately. Secretly hoping he's in his bunker crying like a baby, staggering around drunk in a "Members Only" jacket, speed dialing Jim Baker over and over again...all because of the excellent SP Times article. :-P


This series by the SP Times is going to be devastating for the cult. Most cult members haven't witnessed David Miscavige's abuse and temper, and they can't even imagine it. However, they've ALL experienced cult "regging." I think the audience within the cult is much wider than for the story of Miscavige's violence. It is going to reach the many members who feel they are tapped out, as well as inform people who are considering involvement with this scam.

Anyone who grew up in a mainstream religion knows how money collection and fund drives are conducted. In constrast, the way money was squeezed out of Brian Culkin is shocking!

Even though Hy Levy didn't reg Brian Culkin, I wish they had paired those two most powerful testimonies on the same page, the high pressure cult salesman vs. the spiritual seeker getting taken for every penny they could get.

In my mind, the Culkin video is unique, and has very high potential. I've read plenty of stories about members getting gang regged, 2nd mortgaging the house etc. but I think Brian Culkin's story is so outrageous, considering he was new to it all, that it should hit a big chord in the media. Culkin's video would be a great companion to the Tom Cruise video. Cruise's video shows the crazy, and Culkin's video shows what it is really about: The Money.

Also, Culkin's video would be a great companion piece for the media to use, when the Stupid Powers makes its splashy debut. The is the house the crazy cult built, and how they did it.


This is just one installment, with more to come this week?  I'm positively giddy with anticipation.  Praise Xenu!

Chuck Beatty
Chuck Beatty

What Hy's done is so important.  

It's a demoralizing insider look into why the movement remain's financially viable.  

My first wife, who is still today herself a "reg" for the Flag church, she works the Western United States continental "Flag Service Consultant" office, when we were married, she was "GIEI" (Gross Income Executive International) for a few months.  

One project was to enlist Les Dane to do several continental region seminars for the regs who were pulled to the continental church headquarters for these Les Dane salesmanship seminars.

My impression is that Les was repulsed by the over aggressiveness reputation of the Scientology registrars (registrar is the Hubbard redefined term for salesman, and fundraiser is NOT the correct redefinition, since the registrar accepts the donations for spiritual services, and the term fundraiser is NOT appropriate with spiritual service donations gathering).

Les was troublesome, my then wife (GIEI-Gross Income Executive International) told me.

He was way more laid back compared to the Scientology seminar "registrar"  trainees.

It's almost as if his legacy as salesman he realized was being tainted by Scientology's centering upon his career won book published experience.   The Hubbard "hard sell" salesman tactics cannot, at this point, be erased by the Hubbard church staff policies.

Scientology is so unwitting about how it taints those it touches.

Hubbard's admissions to David Mayo, about Hubbard's greedy desires for money, while revealing private confessions is unethical, in the case of the Scientology movement's Founder's confessed thoughts, the Mayo anecdote is an important piece of the puzzle for the public to understand.

When I was a Scientologist, and I recognized Hubbard's blatant human irrationalities peppered all through his church policy rules, I looked around me, and saw that in not all cases were these irrationalities employed, thankfully.    It's the false hope of my fellow staffers own innate good behavior that tempered and made me counter mentally  the harsh brutal "hard sell" and "unreasonable"  and the "Keeping Scientology Working" desperate fanatical mindset that Hubbard's worst irrational church staff policies direct.

But going forward in history, the movement will always be battling internally, amongst its members, because their own consciences will tell them NOT to press their fellow members so harshly, and then there are the Hubbard scriptures that tell them the MUST press hard on their fellow members.

Scientology is a brutal system, at its worst.

Tony, Village Voice, thank you so much for this media coverage.

Chuck Beattyex Sea Org bureaucrat (1975-2003)412-260-1170


so the Honorary Oscars were handed out last night and of course Oprah got hers (which she most likely bought) and Travolta and his "wife"/pc folders handler were there (when is he gonna get a brain and wake up and see that she's used him as a tool for the cult?)

can anybody look up and see if JJ Abrams is a Scilon because I'm starting to think he is too..


I find the comments from the cultists at the St. Pete Times very sad. They are so strident and they come off as so deluded. The mere fact that the ONLY source of information favorable to them that they rely on comes from the cult itself would be, I think, a huge red flag for most thinking people. Freedom Mag? Really? It's farcical at best, and libelous more often than not. I dunno folks. It's hard to watch the brainwashed fanatically defend their right to be brainwashed.

I vascillate between very sad and very angry...

Wake the fuck up you morons! (I guess we know which emotion won, huh?)


Marco—Mark: Where are you to defend your so-called [have to hold down the vomit even though I can taste it] "Religion"? Where are your footbullets, tortured syntax and typos? Where's your "Superpowerz'?

We'll be waiting.


I think they changed their name to the Tampa Bay Times so that the Co$ can no longer have the satisfaction of calling them the "SP" Times. 


There is one HUGE omitted in the "Church" response by the Tommy Davisreplacement KAREN POUW.

The actual TRUTH of the real estate scam.Duped Parishioners think they are PURCHASING their local Org.They are not.It belongs to the "Church of Scientology International" who then LEASES it back to the local Church for $$$$Every week the CSI cut which must come right off the top of their financial planning  before the staff get any payroll.The local  Church weekly revenue must pay  utilities, property taxes and renovations, furnishings,But  CSI owns it. Every single "Ideal org" is a huge revenue source as they have to PAY the MOTHER CHURCH to lease it back, after all the locals paid for it !

Chuck Beatty
Chuck Beatty

Thanks so much to Hy for covering this.

The whole Scientology bureaucratic setup and all the tight internal pressure on the members and staff rules just keep this money grubbing going year after year.

Flag is the biggest money making  machine in the Scientology movement. 

I wonder for real, what other religions have salesmen that fund raise this aggressively for the individual parishioner's spiritual services?

What church withholds spiritual services until the parishioner pays the fixed donations first!

And to top it off, for years, the Flag church has collected over a hundred million dollars for spiritual services that the Flag church has yet to deliver to those who made their donations.   This per the internal rules is considered a huge liability, in that Hubbard also made it iron-clad church policy to repay funds NOT used, if the parishioner asks for the unused funds back.

One of the biggest threats to the Flag church, is the parishioners who ask for their unused prepayments back.

When there are rashes of repayment requests, the Flag church gets really crazy internally.

Even though society doesn't think a church ought give its donations back to the parishioners, that Hubbard made it church rules that churches must give unused prepayments back, is another pressure factor that makes staff life this dire predicament pressure situation.  

Scientologist parishioners  and Scientologist staff get it coming and going, from all the Hubbard money rules!


Scientology is dehumanizing. Plain and simple. This investigative series is excellent in exposing that and the outrageous greed of this cult.

In the interviews, it's clear that Levy has a ways to go before he gets out from the spell to see what he became but I am grateful he saw enough to leave and do these interviews. They speak volumns.

Culkin's story is the magnification of the insanity that went on when I was a member. That he is still a believer in Scientology is baffling. I hope he reads the article on Hy Levy, where Childs and Tobin explain where this whole money game came from. Regardless, kudos to him for speaking up and demonstrating what Hard Sell is in Scientology. It will resonate with many 'members' in hiding from the regs.

CofS Exit Zone
CofS Exit Zone

An exciting week indeed! Oh how I love it when the most persistent journalists all start following the money!!


Nice fast pickup on this one, Tony! Bravo!

This stuff is more industrial strength dynamite from Childs and Tobin!

Yep. Exciting week coming up. Thank you again for staying on top of everything! <3 it!

SP 'Onage
SP 'Onage

Oops, wrong thread. Thought I was in Sundays church.

While I'm here, I have to agree, Tom Tobin and Joe Childs knocked this one out of the ballpark.

Kudos to Hy Levy and Brian Culkins. You did a good job exposing the cult.


Chuck, I didn't understand what you meant on this comment:"Hubbard's admissions to David Mayo, about Hubbard's greedy desires for money, while revealing private confessions is unethical, in the case of the Scientology movement's Founder's confessed thoughts, the Mayo anecdote is an important piece of the puzzle for the public to understand."Can you explain this?


Has anyone ever mentioned to you that you tend to post off-topic to the thread or article?  I know you are not a scientologist but I just thought I would mention that Scientology tech teaches their members, and particularly their OSAbots on forums and articles about the cult, to divert attention off the topic, redirect attention off the issue.  I mention this as well his because I have noticed that you do this often on this blog, whether you know it or not.


Found this quote from JJ.. you can rest easy.

"I was aware that Tom [Cruise] was such a huge part of that (Scientology) thing, so very early on, when we started hanging out together, I was very clear with him that (Scientology) was not going to be my path," Abrams says. "I'm Jewish, my wife is Catholic, and we've got our own system."


I think every time Kelly Preston appears in a news article, I'm gonna have to bring up the video of her walking the runaway high as a kite at Studio 54 in 1978 with her roomies Janice Dickinson and Gia Carangi.


Hush......( They are trying to duck the reg  ;)


Yes, Karen, I recall a frustrated Phili Org staff member posting anonymously to whywewprotest forum a couple of years ago, saying that Org staff were burdened by these financial obligations,that staff were taking this and mortgage payments off the top and staff were not getting paid, that bills were not getting paid...  that one Exec Dir he/she knew of had to co-sign on the mortgage; that staff had to work many hours a dayt beyond their contracts to try and make the payments when there wer no people coming into the org....

That was my first inking into the scam... we didn't hear back from this poster but what he wrote made it clear that a scam such as what you wrote was going on. I believe this org is dead now. Empty. in Foreclosure. But I am not certain. Maybe someone else can fill us in.


Isn't it interesting how the CO$ managed to come up with the same Usury that the big banks are inflicting upon the world right now, with the CO$ developing this "Money Tech" so many years ago? Hubbard was the ideal representative of the 1 % at its most egregious. And David Miscavige is his one true disciple, praise Xenu.

Middle Aged White Guy
Middle Aged White Guy

Chuck, getting a refund wasn't so iron-clad then. My uncle got his money back when he CC'd a letter requesting refund for unused services to the local lawyer who litigated against the cult and the local journalist who wrote about them. This was about 1978.


Mayo was interviewed in 1986 by Russell Miller, the British writer and journalist. In the course of the interview, Mayo told Miller a small amount about what Hubbard had said during auditing sessions:-

"In auditing there were things he revealed about himself and his past, things that he had done. There were absolute contradictions of his biography and reputation. Revealing things like that was not a great risk to him because I had a duty to keep such things confidential. and I was well trusted as a loyal subject. Had it even entered my mind I would have been kicked out of Scientology and that would have been a serious penalty. Also there was a risk, if I revealed my information, of severe harassment, if not even being killed by the GO. I had also audited Mary Sue and supervised both of their auditing; I have read their folders. A lot of the top people in the GO talked to me about things that weighed on their conscience.

It wasn't just what I discovered. I didn't care where he was born or what he had done in the war, it didn't mean a thing to me. I wasn't a loyal member of Scientology because he had an illustrious war record. What worried me was when I saw things he did and statements he made that showed his intentions were different from what they appeared to be. I began to realise he wasn't acting for the public good or for the benefit of mankind, it worked partly that way and he may have started out like that, but in later years, in his own words, he had "an insatiable lust for power and money".

He told me he was obsessed by "an insatiable lust for power and money". He said it very emphatically. He thought it wasn't possible to get enough. He didn't say it as if it was a fault, just his frustration that he couldn't get enough."


that answers the question.

plus, Katie Holmes's new flick w/ Adam Sandler where he just reprises his Gap Girl character from SNL bombed big time (Tommy Boy wasn't at either of the premieres in NYC or LA. maybe Tony's report is true, that they have indeed split!) Katie should definitely seek career advice from Nicole Kidman, ditch the midget and you'll get better roles.


Mary ~~

 When the Org is dying/fading out, the "Church" SELLs it. Guess who keeps the cash  $$$$$$    ? I am good friends with a couple of high rollers who paid in $250,000to $500,000  for the local "Ideal Org".  But they were declared SP  before the new Ideal org opened and their donations were kept by the "Church" who refused to refund. That's right, ex-communicate the person  AND KEEP THE $$$$$$$$$$ !  This is the Al Capone of Religions.  I hear more about their darker side every day.One at a time, as more defections occur, we learn a little more and none ofthese revelations can be taken back or "cancelled."  You can't un-ring the bell !


Hi Sid, I read that many years ago but it has a different ring to it when you put it into the Miscavige perspective. Thank very much for this and for answering my question.


I took Chuck to mean that although it was unethical of Mayo to reveal some of Hubbard's confessed thoughts, it does shed some light on the background of the church's lust for money.

Miscavige was a cameraman with the Cine Org aged just seventeen. Read what Mayo has to say about that time:-

"He was trying to start in the movie business and the org was called Cine, the Cine Org, and they were supposed to make films. He was writing scripts, but the crew could never do anything right. It was a very, very violent period for the people working for Cine. They'd have to stay up all day and night trying to do something and him being dissatisfied. He would walk around with electric bullhorn to yell orders through, even if the person was only a few feet away. He'd tell them to build the set, describe the set. They'd build the set and were going to shoot. He'd arrive, decided he didn't like it, scream that they had altered it, he wanted it blue, not green! Some of the crew would be sent to the RPF and others were running round quickly, trying to find blue paint. Then he'd want to know why it was blue, not yellow.

One incident was quite dramatic and revelatory. The crew were in a constant state of fear. Every order that came from him, they would work in a frenzied state to get it done, often through the night, not stopping for meals, praying it would be right and they wouldn't get into trouble. It was a very hot area. The temperature when I got there was frequently 120 to 130 degrees in the hot desert. It was extremely dry and you can dehydrate very easily. There was one period when things had got very, very bad. Some of the crew thought it got too serious and tried to lighten things up. They did a little video recording intended as a joke, a little humourous sketch that they thought would amuse him. The theme was to do with something that happened day or two earlier, a big upset. They reenacted it as a little skit to make it funny and sent him the video. He started playing it and because they were being funny he took offence and took it to mean they didn't take what he said seriously, and were mocking him, ridiculing him, making him subject of the joke. He sent them all to the RPF. It was very, very heavy."

(Just to be clear the person Mayo is referring to here is Hubbard, not Miscavige.)

So here was a young Miscavige, watching the behavior of his idol, and we wonder why Scientology is the way it is???


Thank you. But I don't get this part:"Hubbard's admissions to David Mayo, about Hubbard's greedy desires for money, while revealing private confessions is unethical,."Is he saying that the admisssions to Mayo are unethical ( these were during auditing, so how could they be?) Or is he saying that Mayo's mention of them (to Miller) is unethical? Or is he just trying to say that Hubbard was unethical?Just hard to understand the sentence.

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