Scientology Relents: Will Hold a Memorial for Son of Church President, Mother Not Invited
The Voice has received a reliable report that Heber Jentzsch, president of the Church of Scientology International -- who has not been seen in public since about 2004 -- is being allowed to leave Scientology's desert base east of Los Angeles in order to attend a memorial for his son, Alexander.
Heber's coming to town!
A church official told our source that Heber, 76, would be giving a eulogy at the service, which is to take place at the Hollywood Celebrity Centre on Franklin Avenue on Thursday morning at 11 am.
When our source asked the official if Alexander's mother, Karen de la Carriere, would be allowed to attend, the official answered that de la Carriere would be barred because "she opted out of this sector of the universe."
What she meant is that de la Carriere was excommunicated from the church in 2010, and as a "suppressive person," her son was forced to "disconnect" from her. Karen had no contact with him in the last two years of his life.
On Tuesday, July 3, Alexander was found dead at the house of his in-laws in Los Angeles. That news was kept from de la Carriere for more than two days, and she was not allowed to see her son's body before it was cremated on orders from Alexander's wife, who is still a Scientologist. Karen was also told that the church had no plans for a memorial. She then planned her own event, for this Friday.
Heber Jentzsch was named president of the Church of Scientology International in 1982. For the next 20 years he was a very visible face for the church, often dealing with reporters and leading church events. Former top church spokesman Mike Rinder tells us that at some point, Scientology's supreme leader, David Miscavige, began using Jentzsch for events less, and after 2004 or 2005, Rinder says Jentzsch stopped showing up to church events entirely.
From 2006 to 2007, Mike Rinder was a prisoner in "The Hole," the crude office-prison where dozens of out-of-favor executives were held in a bizarre punishment scheme that consisted of daily mass confessions, eating barely edible slop, and sleeping on the floor. Rinder says one of his fellow prisoners was Jentzsch. John Brousseau, who escaped the base in 2010, says Jentzsch was still in The Hole when he left.
Now, Heber is reportedly coming to Hollywood for his son's funeral, but we have a feeling the press won't be invited.
I called the Celebrity Centre this evening to confirm that the event is happening tomorrow morning -- we had also heard that it might take place Friday morning. When I identified myself, however, I was shunted to voice mail.
I then called Karen, to ask her how she felt about not being invited.
"Disconnection continues after death, Tony. You are shunned and excommunicated because you are viewed as an evil, anti-social personality, and you can't contaminate their glorious universe. Of course I'm not invited," she said.
"Heber must be heartbroken. But he will be at the funeral, and then Alexander's mother will have her own memorial for him, so that is twice as good," she added, referring to the memorial service she has arranged, which is taking place on a boat on Friday. She assumed that Scientology's service was hastily arranged because of all the press her situation has received in recent days.
"It's damage control," she said. "My memorial has created such a flap. TV stations will be there. Sam Domingo is flying in from London. I have people coming from other states."
She assumed that TV and other journalists would try to get a look at Heber. "He'll be surrounded by people. They won't let him loose. He won't be allowed to flee. As soon as it's over, he'll be escorted back," she said.
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Tony Ortega has been the editor in chief of the Village Voice since March, 2007. He started writing about Scientology in 1995. You can reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you ask nicely he'll put you on his mailing list for notifications of new stories. You can also catch his alerts at Twitter (@VoiceTonyO), at his Facebook author page, on Pinterest, a Tumblr, and even this new Google Plus doohickey.
New readers might want to check out our primer, "What is Scientology?" Another good overview is our series from last summer, "Top 25 People Crippling Scientology." At the top of every story, you'll see the "Scientology" category which, if you click on it, will bring up all of our most recent stories.
As for hot subjects we've covered here, you may have heard about Debbie Cook, the former church official who rebelled and was sued by Scientology. You might have also heard about the Super Power Building, Scientology's "Mecca," whose secrets were revealed here. We also reported how Scientology spied on its own most precious object, Tom Cruise. (We wrote Tom an open letter that he has yet to respond to.) Have you seen a Scientology ad on TV lately? We debunked some of the claims in that 2-minute commercial you might have seen while watching Glee or American Idol.
Other stories have looked at Scientology's policy of "disconnection" that is tearing families apart. You may also have heard something about the Sea Org experiences of the Paris sisters, Valeska and Melissa, and their friend Ramana Dienes-Browning. We've also featured Paulette Cooper, who wrote about Scientology back in the day, and Janet Reitman, Hugh Urban, and the team at the Tampa Bay Times, who write about it today. And there's plenty more coming.