Scientology Jurisprudence: Commenters of the Week!
The underground bunker might need some new paneling after the way we were bouncing off the walls this week. I mean seriously, how are we going to keep up with all of this Scientology news? It's like this is turning into a real job or something.
We started off the week with our regular feature, Sunday Funnies, and especially enjoyed the Sydney org's use of a Star Wars theme -- and we'll have more about that tomorrow!
Monday we had a lengthy story about the death of Ann Tidman -- better known to Scientologists as Annie Broeker, the woman who cared for L. Ron Hubbard in his final years. Tidman died last June of lung cancer, but only now are we finding out about it despite Scientology's attempt to keep it quiet.
That evening, we learned from a Tampa Bay Times story that Scientology had filed a lawsuit against Debbie Cook, the former church executive who shocked the world with a New Year's Eve e-mail daring to criticize the "extreme fundraising" under church leader David Miscavige. Scientology is retaliating by suing her for violating the terms of a draconian gag order she signed in 2007 while taking $50,000. This case looks to be a wild one.
Wednesday morning, we used the opportunity of the lawsuit against Cook to bring up another recent piece of Scientology legal news, a judge's scathing smackdown of a church motion in a case involving attorney Ken Dandar. We also listed the 5 worst things judges have said about the church, which was fun.
Later that morning, we spotted a wild little item -- Indiana's state senate had voted to allow the teaching of Scientology in its schools. Say what? Well, it turned out that there was a very funny reason behind it -- Senate Democrats added Scientology and other religions to a Creationism bill in order to neuter it.
That afternoon, we had a very fun interview with Vi Simpson, the Indiana Senate minority leader who was behind the cheeky Scientology amendment. She turned out to be a real hoot! Someone get her on national television, and soon.
Thursday morning, we got up super early to hear the news from France, where Jerry Lewis is a genius and Scientology is a scam. We mean, of course, that the Scientology's 2009 convictions for fraud were upheld by the Court of Appeal, and we interviewed Jonny Jacobsen about the view from over there.
That afternoon, we learned that Debbie Cook had lawyered up, and we snagged the first interview with her attorney, Ray Jeffrey. He laid out the preliminaries in the case, including Cook's motion to dissolve a temporary restraining order.
Friday morning, we continued our tradition of bringing you exciting dispatches from the Apollo, circa 1968 to 1971, as L. Ron Hubbard plied the Mediterranean and ordered beards trimmed and counted his Christmas gifts.
And finally, yesterday afternoon we learned that Debbie Cook's motion to dissolve the restraining order had been denied, and we'll have to wait until Thursday for the real fireworks in the case to begin.
Whew. I may have to put in for combat pay. At least the bourbon is holding out.
Now, let's get on to the awards...
Our Sunday Funnies this week got a big reaction, perhaps because for once the mailers put out by Scientology orgs actually looked slick. One from Sydney riffed on a Star Wars theme, which led to this memory from Mighty Korgo of Teegeeack...
When Star Wars first came out, the word around the cult office was that it wasn't fiction, it was history. I wonder if the cult members still view it that way?
Another mailer promised a "Safari" at the Hollywood Celebrity Centre, and we enjoyed this quip by Chuck Beatty, at least in part because we've never seen Chuck write so succinctly!
Celebrity Centre didn't mention, but they plan to do some auditing on the monkeys, and then run some OT 5 body thetan exorcism on the tigers.
Monday's story about Annie Broeker produced a huge response, the biggest of the year so far, almost all of it in regards to something Marty Rathbun said. While that was a fascinating debate, I was glad to see that Heather G noted the article's main point...
This is one of the saddest stories I've read about in the ongoing saga that is the Church of Scientology. Rest in peace, Annie.
And as usual, when things get heated in our comments, we can usually count on Jefferson Hawkins to put things in perspective and help us all to cool down...
I am reminded of the words of Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, in his chronicle of the Soviet gulags: "It was only when I lay there on the rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not between states nor between social classes nor between political parties, but right through every human heart, through all human hearts."
Annie had so much good in her heart. She was a kind, gentle woman, and I counted her as a friend. She fought to temper the toxic atmosphere at the Int Base. She did not deserve the fate that she got. At the same time, one could rightly criticize her for supporting and defending the "evil empire" that exists there. One could make the same criticism of me, a guy who energetically promoted and marketed Scientology for years. No one who is or was in that system is blameless for what it became.
One could make the same criticism of Marty, who was a key executive who perpetuated and enforced an abusive system. At the same time, there is much good in Marty's heart, and I say this not as a Marty supporter or advocate - I am not and will never again be a Scientologist of any stripe - but as a guy who knows him. I disagree that Scientology can ever be reformed - I think the toxic factors are too deeply embedded in its DNA - but I respect his attempt at reform. I don't agree with all of his decisions but I think his heart is in the right place.
In Scientology we were taught to think in black and white - people are either good or evil, with us or against us. Every fanatical group tries to tell us who to hate. I have made an earnest attempt, since leaving the cult, to not be as judgmental as we were inside, and to be aware of that line that passes through every human heart. We all are capable of both good and evil - Scientology, in my view, is ultimately destructive as it seeks to convince people to do evil - to hate, to lie, to oppress, to imprison - all in the name of "good" - a future "Clear" utopia.
We got another big reaction to the news that Debbie Cook had been sued by the church, which revealed that Cook had signed a gag order some years earlier. Many of us were impressed by this bit of clear-eyed perspective by Gina Smith...
Thing is we don't know how many people have signed these agreements. This isn't so much about attacking Debbie Cook as Miscavige sending out a reminder to other exes who might speak out.
Debbie Cook hasn't given us an interview, but it was hard not to agree with JustCallMeMary, who tried to divine Cook's thoughts...
The church bribes Debbie and Wayne to shut up and they agree just to get the hell out of there and get their minds back. Then they get out, take some time to recover and see more of what is really going on and say, 'F that'. Welcome to the Gerry Armstrong club. They might as well spill all the beans now, declare bankruptcy and move to Canada... This is going to be a long drawn out painful series of legal maneuvers of Scientology using these two as the sacrificial lambs to prove they enforce their gag agreements. Perhaps its time for a gag revelation party.
And we can usually count on CofS Exit Zone for some blunt wisdom...
Debbie Cook is the new SMERSH. Prove me wrong.
After we reported that Indiana Democrats had inserted Scientology in an amendment in order to neuter a Republican-sponsored Creationism bill, SFF offered this caveat...
I'd rather have my kids taught the Xenu story in school than have them taught that intelligent design is a science. Besides, Xenu is an effective inoculant.
And Miles Biondo chimed in with this summation...
Never thought I'd see the day when a spirit-crushing headline such as "Indiana Senate Votes to Teach Scientology in Schools", crowns a story that contains more-or-less GOOD news. I'm four-square against tax-supported public schools teaching religious fairy tales as scientific possibilities, so if the inclusion of Scientology in that curriculum effectively neuters that proposal, then Hallelujah. And while Scientology is always trying to worm its way into our schools, this is not what they had in mind. There's no way in hell they want their "origin of mankind" story to be anybody's entree into their mind-bending belief system. Well done, Indiana Democrats. Very crafty of you.
We also couldn't help enjoying LeeAnne Clark's enthusiam for Vi Simpson and her stratagem...
I cannot get over the absolute awesomeness of this move by Vi Simpson. Not only is it a brilliant means to torpedo yet another effort by Christian extremists to use the government to foist their religion on Americans, it's also a fabulous way to publicly ridicule Scientology. Yes, it will bring more attention and exposure to Scientology - but in a way that highlights the fact that it's laughable and absurd! It's a no-lose proposition for those of us who 1) believe in the separation of church and state, and 2) work to end the abuses of Scientology. If it passes, we very well could have Xenu brought to the attention of millions of Americans - which is GOOD! We NEED more people to understand that Scientology is not the warm-and-fuzzy self-actualization group that it portrays itself to be in TV commercials. And if it fails, it will protect Indiana kids from being forcibly indoctrinated into Christianity, whether their parents want it or not. Bravo Senator Simpson!
And Lisa Derrick gave us a chuckle: we have to agree...
Hey Tony, you realize that David Miscaviage is gonna use this as a major win in his next speech: "And the State of Indiana recognized Scientology as a major religion, and is requiring that it be taught alongside Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism!"
Thursday morning, we got very lucky and managed to catch Paris-based journalist Jonny Jacobsen for a quick phone interview. We're glad Damian DeWitt enjoyed the result as much as we did...
Kudos, Tony, for interviewing Jonny Jacobsen. I hope more people will follow his excellent blog. He is one of the finest minds and stylists writing about Scientology today.
This is one of the most important things you our anyone has written about the Paris Fraud Trial: "What makes the French convictions so remarkable, on the other hand, is that two church entities and five individuals received fraud convictions for simply doing the basic business of Scientology."
What is organized fraud in Paris is organized fraud in New York, Washington DC, Los Angelels, Montreal and Quebec. Scientology's core businesses are inherently fraudulent in whatever city and nation they are carried out.
And Chuck Beatty also gave Jonny his due...
Have to give Jonny Jacobsen a big thanks. He was one of the few journalists willing to even listen in the mid 2000s, to the violence abuse stories from the ex Int Base staffers. He ran the first story when Jenna Miscavige spoke up publicly. Big thanks to Jonny!
Thursday afternoon, we got lucky again, catching attorney Ray Jeffrey for a phone interview about his new client, Debbie Cook. We enjoyed this bit of perspective on her situation from scnethics...
I can't think of a similar case. No one widely known to the membership has ever managed to reach the entire membership with a criticism of management.
Debbie's case means a lot to a lot of people. This isn't Daniel Montalvo. Debbie is widely known and respected among many longtime and wealthy members in good standing, and I wouldn't be surprised if she received support from some of these. She has the full support of the independent crowd. There is a lot more at stake here than another black eye for the church. This could mean another large exodus, larger than any in the past.
And as her attorney points out, the church's position is difficult in the matter of shutting her up. How do they explain the damage she is doing, without admitting that their whole operation relies on keeping their members ignorant!
I always appreciate it when readers tell us their own experiences in relation to our stories. After we printed an excerpt from one of L. Ron Hubbard's "Orders of the Day" in which he boasted about his number of Christmas gifts from admirers, Skip Press sent us this sobering anecdote from his time in the church...
I remember standing in line on payday at Celebrity Centre at Christmas 1976. I was collecting money to buy "the Commodore" a Christmas present from the staff. John Dries, the Qualifications Secretary, said "Why should I give him anything, he's a millionaire." The truth of that resonated immediately with me. We were getting paid $17 a week and out of that had to buy clothes and toiletries. Frankly, I have no idea how anyone did it.
And let's finish up with another pat on the back given to a journalist on the front lines, in this case John MacCormack of the San Antonio Express-News, who covered Friday's hearing in the Debbie Cook case and will, we trust, keep a close eye on things as the case unfolds. mirele tells us we're in good hands...
Whew! Even if TonyO can't be there, at least the local press sent someone competent out there. John MacCormack did a story about Marty Rathbun and the Squirrel Busters last year. Before that, he covered, pushed, pulled and prodded through a story that helped solve the murder of Madalyn Murray O'Hair and her son Jon Garth and adopted daughter Robyn. I'm less worried about getting good coverage out of the hinterlands of Texas...(yeah, I know SA is a big city and all that, let me have some fun).
Wow, what a week. And there's so much more coming. Thursday will be a big day in the Debbie Cook lawsuit, with a temporary injunction hearing that should produce some dramatic testimony. But first, on Monday, we have a treat that I hope you enjoy. All I can say now is this: it's the first press interview with a former Scientologist who had one of the more unusual jobs in the church. I better not say anything more. But first, later today, Scott Pilutik and I will have more on the bizarre dual legal strategy the church is employing in Texas and Florida, and tomorrow, the Force is Really Going to Be With You, mate, so blimey, check us out with your Sunday morning coffee!
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
[All recent stories] | [What is Scientology?] | [Top 25 People Crippling Scientology]
[Commenters of the Week] | [Thursday 2pm Stats!] | [Scientology vs. South Park]
[This Week Aboard the Apollo] | [Sunday Funnies]
[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?]
[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]
[Paulette Cooper, Scientology's original and worst nightmare: a Thanksgiving tribute]
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 | 12. Tommy Davis | 13. Janet Reitman | 14. Tory Christman | 15. Andreas Heldal-Lund | 16. Marc and Claire Headley | 17. Jefferson Hawkins | 18. Amy Scobee | 19. The Squirrel Busters | 20. Trey Parker and Matt Stone | 21. Kendrick Moxon | 22. Jamie DeWolf | 23. Ken Dandar | 24. Dave Touretzky | 25. Xenu
HELD ABOARD THE FREEWINDS: TALES OF THE SEA ORG
[Valeska Paris, held against her will from 1996 to 2007 on Scientology's cruise ship]
[Ramana Dienes-Browning, marriage at 16, sexual interrogation, life in the engine room]
[Melissa Paris, Valeska's sister: forced to marry at 16]
SCIENTOLOGY VS. SOUTH PARK: INVESTIGATION AS RETALIATION
[Scientology targeted South Park's Parker and Stone in an investigation]
[More documents in the South Park probe: instructions to send in a young mole]
[Scientology responds in typical fashion] | [Lloyd Kaufman confirms the probe]
[Mark Ebner also investigated after South Park involvement]
[Mark Chauppetta, private eye, explains what Scientology operatives look for]
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]
[Lori Hodgson and Disconnection: "No one's going to take my eternity away"]
SCIENTOLOGY AND CELEBRITIES
[Hey, Scientology Celebrity, Here's Your Media Training Checksheet!]
[Tom Cruise and X Factor's Stacy Francis singing together on the Freewinds]
[X Factor's Stacy Francis: Her first husband, Michael Sandlofer, answers abuse claims]
[Tom Cruise and Baby Suri embarrassed by news item, so someone must pay]
["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"]
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
["The Money Machine": another blockbuster St. Pete Times investigation]
[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 in Israel: Arson, attempted murder, paranoia -- and a visit by the Voice!]
[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]
ODD VIDEOS AND ODDER NEWS
[Scientology chillin' with hip hop!] | [The curious career of Scientology rapper Chill EB]
[Chill EB and me: the Voice interviews Scientology's in-house rapper]
[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]
[Desperate Scientology fundraising caught on video]