Scientology Sinking Like a Cruise Ship: Time for Thursday Stats!

The Guiders: Chris, Valeska, and baby Declan
Each Thursday at 2 pm, Scientology workers madly dash to finish up their work before turning in their weekly statistics.

We like to do the same thing here at the Voice, and on Thursday afternoons add up the wins and losses for the church around the world.

We took last week off in order to highlight our special Thanksgiving tribute to Paulette Cooper and the 40th anniversary of her book, The Scandal of Scientology.

This week is also unusual. Instead of a variety of stories from around the globe, Scientology watching this week, across several continents, was rocked by a single blast.

Its name was Valeska.

Monday morning at 5 am, I heard from our good friend Steve Cannane, a journalist at Australia's ABC network, that he was breaking a big story -- that for 12 years, Valeska Paris had been held against her will on the Scientology cruise ship, Freewinds.

Born in Switzerland to Scientologist parents, she joined the Sea Org in the UK at only 14 years of age. At the age of 17, the church demanded that she disconnect from her mother, who had changed her mind about Scientology and had denounced it on French television. In order to keep her disconnected from her mother, Valeska says, church leader David Miscavige then moved her to the Freewinds in 1996 when she was 18 years old. She was stuck there until 2007, when she was put in the RPF, Scientology's prison detail, in Australia. There she met her husband, former Australian rugby star Chris Guider, and they now have a boy, Declan, and another child on the way. They have both left Scientology and have both appeared on television with Steve Cannane.

A few hours after Steve's e-mail arrived, we posted our first story about Valeska, with Steve's video report. I added a postscript -- if Valeska was on the Freewinds until 2007, that means she must have been on the ship for the notorious Tom Cruise birthday party in 2004.

Steve's story started getting picked up by numerous Australian news organizations throughout the day. And that night, a nice piece by Australia's A Current Affair showed up, and it too made the connection between Valeska, the Freewinds, and the infamous Cruise party.

Late that night, Valeska and I connected through Skype, and we talked for about an hour and a half. There were so many questions I had for her, and she patiently explained things, including arcane Sea Org terms. I posted the lengthy story the next morning, with her memories of Tom Cruise's visit, her family background, and what it was like to be forced to separate from her family.

Meanwhile, the story jumped another ocean. Tuesday evening, the Swiss newspaper Le Matin wrote about the Genevan-born young woman who had been held on Scientology's ship. And since then, additional stories have showed up in Ireland and the UK.

Then, yesterday, Eric Pfeiffer at Yahoo News wrote about Valeska for its news blog The Sideshow. I notified Eric that we had done a lengthy interview with Valeska, and he kindly added a link to our story. (Oh, how I love when that happens. Journalistic cooperation!)

This morning, we added even more to the story with an interview with Valeska's sister, Melissa Paris, who had her own story of family separation and escape from Scientology. And we expect that the Paris family saga will continue to be picked up by more news organizations.

Thursday's Stats: Upstat or Downstat? As Synthia Fagen remarked to me, this one feels like a tsunami. This is some of the worst Downstat publicity that Scientology has had since, oh, last week when it was being ridiculed for its attempts at hip hop. Or the week before, for its greed. Or the week before that for its hapless X Factor contestant who wouldn't talk about her connection to the church...

Well, you get the idea. It's been a rough month for Scientology. But this story about the Freewinds? That barge has sprung a serious leak. And something tells me it's going to be taking on water for some time.

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"]
[Tom Cruise and Baby Suri embarrassed by news item, so someone must pay]
[Benjamin Ring, LA deputy sheriff, wants you to spend your 401K on Scientology]
[Scientologists: How many of them are there, anyway?]
[Scientology hates clean ice: The "Fair Game" operation that should turn your stomach]
[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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It's true that this is a particularly bad story for them. Several people I know who have no particular interest in opposing Scientology but who know that I do have asked me in the last week to fill them in on the details of this story. More people are paying attention every day. May it continue that way.


I just happened to be reading the "official response" to the story, and something caught my eye and raised some potential red flags, and I will quote it here. "It also serves as a training vessel and has become the regional authority on maritime security, training law enforcement and military personnel. A recent Meritorious Public Service Award from United States Homeland Security, awarded to the Freewinds by the United States Coast Guard describes the Freewinds as the "premier training platform throughout the Caribbean Basin." I'm wondering- just how much of this can actually be confirmed? Perhaps this is something the Coast Guard should be contacted about. If this is, in fact, legitimate, then perhaps they need to be informed as to just who they've given this award to and how it is being utilized. If it's not accurate, then something tells me the United States Coast Guard won't take too kindly to being used as a promotional tool for a cult.


I am having trouble keeping up with all the Scientology news on the net.  "The Stir" has a story, a new one at Tampabay, and several links to the slave ship story.  What fun and educational reading!The Mayor of Munchkintown must be blowing a gasket about now.

G Sekigahama
G Sekigahama

Just so glad to be out of that insanity now. You get so conditioned to the rules, pressure, and other cultish practices while in there.   

SP 'Onage
SP 'Onage

The media (press) that doesn't run Valeska's and Melissa's stories are either:

1. In $cientologys pocket.

2. Scared of $cientology and are chicken-shits.

So, basically $cientology is walking around with a pocket full of chicken-shit press.

Plus, Scientologist have been known to actually infiltrate and sway certain media.Greta Van Susteren of FOX news comes to mind.

anon anon song
anon anon song

I wrote a post which had a link in it and it seems to have been caught in mod purgatory. I'll post again, without the link. Sorry if this ends up as a double post.

This week's articles have been devastating as far as what the Co$ is willing to do in human and financial ways to advance its agenda. It claims far and wide a commitment and influence in "helping" communities where they are present. Yet, I have googled and CCHR ranks nowhere. I found a Forbes U.S. top 200 (this is where I put in a link in my previous post) and CCHR or known scilon entities are nowhere to be found! It says a lot about the seriousness of scientology's commitment "to help". It ranks lower than the American SPCA (at 177)!

For an expanding religion, with an alleged "devoted and enthusiastic" membership in the hundredfold more than the SPCA, that's a mighty sad sack of stats.

My question is: what is CCHR's charitable work track record? I'd like to know more about it.


Hey there Mr. Travolta - right now would be a good time for you to finally say, "Uh, I kinda think that Scientology has helped me and all, but unfortunately I have to say that I really don't want to be associated with this kind of criminal shit anymore."

anon anon song
anon anon song

Reading this week's articles made me think of an interesting angle I'd like to know more about (sorry in advance if this has been done before): scientology claims high and wide its charitable works (in dollars and effort) in communities. I've googled and they rank nowhere, not even in Forbes' top 200 US charities... that puts them lower than the American SPCA which ranks at 177!

Pretty sad sack of stats if'n you ask me. So, no dears, you are NOT helping people.


Yup, what a week. Undeniably DOWN STAT! btw, AOL is running a headline to a story called  "Cruise Ship prison? Not so fast say Scientology captors"

The author quotes your article and the church's response but the from the title and the author's replies in the comments section, it's clear that he's minimizing Valeska story, playing devil's advocate. to comment it up !


The Yahoo blog with Valeska's story has over 6000 comments and Xenu knows how many people read the link to Tony's interview with her.

It's an extremely powerful story, and the cult does not know what to do about it but crawl in a hole and hide, while issuing absurd statements which are transparent lies, even for people who know little about Scientology.

Could this be the story that brings them down? In Australia, this could be a death blow. The story captures the total control this cult can exert over a young person's life. Why? Simply because she had the misfortune to be born into a family where the parents took a strong interest in it.

Self determinism? Freedom? Is that what this cult is about, that would snatch a young woman of 14 and draft her into their paramilitary Sea Org for the next billion years, keeping her away from her mother, all to salvage this sector of the galaxy?


Here's a toast to the members of the press who think that kidnapping and enslavement are more important than losing 39 pounds.

Kate Bornstein
Kate Bornstein

One little mention in Valeska's story stood out for me: she said that aboard the Freewinds, she spent time cleaning out asbestos. Does that mean that they're still sailing that ship despite the presence of massive quantities of blue asbestos? And doesn't that mean everyone aboard, including Tom Cruise and all those OT VIIIs, are going to be breathing that stuff—and they're *still* breathing that stuff today? Do they seriously believe that their OT levels or ethics presence is going to protect them from that? Gahhhhhhh.


Please contact pr peep for celeb scn responses. What is Tom Cruise's excuse for supporting this horrific behavior?


  Is it a sinking cruise ship or a sinking Cruise ship?  And when are the celebrities going to have a sinking feeling something is wrong with Co$?  How can Co$ stay above water now?


When it hits, it may strike like a tsunami... unstoppable.  Yahoo! News has over 6000 comments on the Scientology Prison Ship story alone.  

Let's hope the momentum continues.


An informative exercise is to check who is participating in completely open charitable efforts, like efforts to cure diseases and solve other scientific problems, through people donating CPU time on their computers.  There are scores of projects to pick from, so almost anyone can find something that appeals to them, whether it's researching climate change modelling or finding a new approach to fighting HIV.

The largest group of projects like that is called BOINC, run out of UC Berkeley.  You can monitor participation at several sites like boincstats(.com).  There you can look up who is participating, by searching team names.  Buddhists, Baptists, Hindus, Methodists, Pagans, Sikhs, all have teams donating time.  So, for that matter, does Anonymous.  Now look for Scientology, Dianetics, CCHR, Applied Scholastics, Narconon, or any other scilon group you can think of.  You will find that there was one kid who participated as 'Delphi Dragons' a while ago.  And that's it.  One schoolkid, who no longer participates.  He donated less than 1.2 years of CPU time, while Santa Clara Anonymous alone has donated over 250 CPU years.  The broader critic community has donated maybe a thousand CPU years between them.  And the "millions" of Scientologists can only provide 1.1?

Yet, as an ex, that doesn't surprise me in the slightest.  It's exactly what I expected.

anon anon song
anon anon song

If he were to do such a thing, he would've done so when his (allegedly autistic, but denied appropriate medical care) son died.

In a way, I think he's a hopeless case, even more so than TC.


$cientology says they haven't moved on with their lives and that's why they are speaking out. As Oscar Wilde said, "Living well is the best revenge." So true.


That picture of them is the best fucking advertisement you could have for leaving that awful cult.


  Remember the Anita Hill line--"she had no reason to lie...she had no reason to lie...she had no reason to lie..."  If Co$ were as good to her as it was to John Travolta, I'm sure there would not have been a story.


  No Kate, but when they get cancer they will blame it on the shrimp they ate, or big  Pharma.


A predictable response:  Tom Cruise is too busy saving the entire world to be bothered with one little slave girl.  Oops.  One little volunteer slave.


 This is what Cruise (or his management) must surely be worried about now....what other scandals has Miscavige got Tom inadvertently involved with?

There will be other skeletons in Tom's Scientology closet.

SP 'Onage
SP 'Onage

Thanks! Going over to Yahoo news now to read the comments, wait...6000 comments...holy long will that take to read? lol


  Another is traffic stats at alexa dot com.  Scientology now gets 0.002% of the internet traffic--a fifth of what it had one year ago, and about the same as the flat earth society dot org and the brand new Kabbalah dot com (Kabbalah has 4,000 members).  The Co$ visitors spend about 3 minutes on the site each visit, much less than the other two.  Gawker gets 100 times as many visitors, and they stay twice as long.


Which highlights another part of the entire Scientology tragedy. As best as I can tell without actually knowing him, Travolta seems like a genuinely decent person, one who wants to do good. What a shame that his time has been spent so often supporting Miscavige's tyranny and Hubbard's quackery.

anon anon song
anon anon song

Don't forget carpet cleaning products and vaccines.

Kate Bornstein
Kate Bornstein

All too true, that's what they'd do. The pisser is that my daughter is a Flag officer in Clearwater, and chances are she's spent some time on the Freewinds. Damn damn damn. 


How did you know?!!  Must be some OT powerz.

Seriously, do hope that checkups with the doctor, specifically for mesethelioma, are done by those that should. 


Why has the president for the church of scientology, Heber Jentzsch, not been heard from in so many years? I called the celeb center in LA and the receptor said he is still the president but unable to be reached at this time. Can you please do story on him and Shelly Miscavige, wife of thé cult leader David Miscavige?


I know right?! That's where they've held most of their CW events for years, isn't it? I actually thought it was a Scientology-owned theater until I saw those articles. Good for them!

SP 'Onage
SP 'Onage

I was instantly intoxicated with joy when I read Ruth Eckerd Hall announced it had canceled an upcoming fundraiser.

I bet the scilons are livid..haha


I know.  Being there are 6000 comments, who knows how many people have read this!BTW, Tampabay now has a story about a "Fund-Raising" event which was scheduled at the Scientology facility in Tampa has now been cancelled.  A Scientologist named David Pomeranz was going to perform.  


Fair point.

So then we're back to the point that continually comes up in this whole sordid business - "what the hell were they thinking?" The one thing that Scientology continues to prove is how surprisingly far people can be deceived and how far they are willing to be active participants in that deception.

Just yesterday, Mike Rinder posted a long essay on Marty Rathbun's blog about Miscavige's obvious lies about the state of Scientology and asked the question himself, "how these people keep buying it is a wonder of the modern world."

When I read that, I thought, "Yeah, Mike. How do people like you keep buying it?" Here's a guy who has wised up and stopped believing Miscavige's lies, but like Rathbun and the Indies, continues to cling to Hubbard's. It takes the breath away how they identify and hate the one liar but are blind to the other. They so desperately need to believe that Hubbard's "tech" and their years spent studying it wasn't a huge waste of their lives. So they stop using their critical faculties when the question of Hubbard's actual credentials, background, methods, and claims arises, and instead focus all their power on blaming the current Hubbard stand-in - Miscavige. It's incredible.

If we could figure out how the brain can so easily hold two completely contradictory and often dangerous conclusions at the same time, Scientology and all other quack religions would be history.

anon anon song
anon anon song


But you remind me of a poignant Oprah Winfrey show (e-gad, of all things, but it makes my point, I think it's from at least 15 years ago). The subject was Christian Science and guests had lost their children to injury or illness despite their prayers.

An audience member stood up and asked a guest (paraphrasing): "you prayed for god to save your child's life?"

Guest: yes I did

Audience member: you wouldn't let doctors help?

Guest: no, I didn't

Audience member: are those prescription glasses you are wearing?

Guest: uhhh,*busted*  yes

Audience member: that's all I have to say. Thank you.



Again, I assume that you, like me, don't know him. So, we're only guessing. He could be a great guy or he could be an asshole. I have no idea.

Surely, he wanted his son alive and with him at any cost, if he saw clearly. I doubt that he ever consciously said, "I'll risk my son's life rather than expose my own background." I suspect that he may have actually bought into the BS and thought that there was another explanation. He wouldn't be the first person to trust his religion over the opinions of doctors and come to regret it.

anon anon song
anon anon song

I disagree. JT "acts" like a decent person.

Scientology sold him the solutions for his son's illness which obviously never worked. People with one thousand times less his ressources would fully inform themselves about autism and selflessly act to give their child the help he/she needs.

 I'm going to guess that he sticks with it because of stuff in his PC folder and fears that a few juicy details would get out. What JT doesn't realise is that he has a lot of public goodwill. Unless he right out killed someone, I don't think the public would care a jot about his freaky hangups, whether it be homosexual tendencies, a fear of clowns, or whatever...

Bottom line: he needlessly cared more about squashing rumors about himself than saving his own son's life.


Lets hpe she didn't spend too much time there.

I believe that the church had the ship repaired of all blue asbestos after the media got hold of Lawrence Woodcreaft's story about it being a major problem on the ship. From wikipedia:

"Environmental issuesIn April 2008, the Freewinds was shut down after cancer-causing blue asbestos was discovered during maintenance by the Curaçao Drydock Company.[21][22] Blue asbestos is the most dangerous form of asbestos, and the ship is reported to be "extensively contaminated".[6] According to InsuranceNewsNet, "Decontamination, if it is even possible, is likely to cost tens of millions of dollars and would result in the ship being in dry dock for many months."[6] The discovery confirmed a 2001 allegation by former Scientologist Lawrence Woodcraft, who had overseen the original renovation of the Freewinds in 1987.[23][24] The Captain also admitted that during previous maintenance performed by his personnel, asbestos was released into the ventilation system but not reported.[21][22]

The Church of Scientology denied that there is an asbestos problem, commenting in May 2008 that "there is not now and never has been a situation of asbestos exposure on the Freewinds." [25] Karin Pouw, spokesperson for the Church of Scientology, told Radar Magazine that the air quality on the ship was regularly tested and "always meets or exceeds US standards",[26] even though she has never docked in the United States, and has never received reviewing there. The Church contracted Nordica Engineering to perform renovations on the Freewinds and denied the presence of blue asbestos during talks. To remove material from the ship, Nordica brought in 240 Polish workers, who lived on the Freewinds for a month and a half. When workers told Nordica there was blue asbestos on the ship, they stopped renovations and workers returned to Poland. Witold Maliński stated that Nordica was looking to demand compensation on behalf of its workers.[27] "

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