The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology -- 2012 Edition!
We counted down the 25 people and groups who had been doing the most to get word out to the wider world about the Church of Scientology's many alleged abuses, and who have contributed to its steep recent decline. Our list included current and former church members, academics, attorneys, activists, and a couple of dead people.
This year, summer has not been languid and lazy. In the wake of the TomKat divorce, media interest in Scientology has never been greater and we've never been busier. But with August half over, we thought it was time to update our list from last year. This time, we've put a premium on what's happened in the last twelve months, so you might see some of your old favorites drop off the roster. But never fear -- you can always revisit our choices from last year, or the choices of our readers.
Now, get yourself a cool drink there by the pool, and let's plunge in!
The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology -- 2012 Edition
Our favorite galactic overlord manages to hang on to his place in our list, even though much of the news in the past year has been more about Scientology's questionable practices, and not so much about its beliefs. But for many people, their interest in all things Scientology begins with curiosity about the church's space opera secret teachings. And it's still most fun to learn them through South Park's epic 2005 episode, "Trapped in the Closet."
Xenu made his strongest showing at this blog in July, when we made the case that Scientologists accept L. Ron Hubbard's story about ancient alien genocide because they've been dreaming up their own personal stories of galactic swashbuckling for years before encountering the weird teachings of "OT III." (And here's what we said about Xenu last year.)
#24: Kate Bornstein
In May, we put Kate Bornstein on the cover of the Voice, a testament not only to the significance of her new memoir, but also to what she means to New York City. To the theater world here, Kate is a well-known performance artist who for many years has challenged the notions of gender and sexuality in controversial but always entertaining ways.
Before she was the country's most famous "gender outlaw," Kate grew up as Al Bornstein, a deeply dedicated Scientologist who had served as first mate of the Apollo with Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard in the early 1970s. In Kate's memoir, A Queer and Pleasant Danger, she writes about those years in a way that may be the best account yet of the fervor and then disillusionment that characterizes so many people who get involved with the church. And besides, the book is a riot, from beginning to end. If you haven't yet picked it up, you really should.
#23: Lisa Marie Presley
In May, we stopped kidding around and made a definitive statement: Lisa Marie Presley is out of Scientology. How did we know that? Well, we can read, and we're not friggin' idiots. A few weeks earlier, we had pointed out that in "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet," the single Presley released ahead of her new album, Storm & Grace, she was referring to herself as "a bit suppressive," something that a Scientologist would never say, even as a joke. (When a church member is excommunicated, he or she is "declared" a "suppressive person.")
We had heard for years that Presley was disaffected with Scientology and had quietly stepped away from it, and that lyric seemed like a dead giveaway that she wanted the world to know.
But that was nothing. When the album itself came out in May, we got our hands on the lyrics to the rest of the songs (all of which she wrote herself), and that's when we saw what she says in the track called "So Long"...
This here is a city without lights
Those are all the people without eyes
Churches, they don't have a soul
Soup for sale without a bowl
Religion so corrupt and running lives
Farewell, fair weathered friends
I can't say I'll miss you in the end
So long, seems that I was so wrong
Seems I wasn't that strong
Dead wrong, and now I'm long gone
Wrong side, I've been sleeping on the wrong side
Stains all over my soul I can't hide
Nothing's more clear than goodbye
These roads they don't lead to anything
These people they talk, they say nothing
Actors who don't have a part
Heartfelt people with no heart
I'll find a new crowd
Make a new start
Farewell, fair weathered friends
I can't say I'll miss you in the end
So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, say nothing at all if you've nothing nice to say
Lisa Marie has not answered questions about leaving Scientology, but that's understandable. The church's toxic policy of "disconnection" keeps some people quiet who leave Scientology for fear of being cut off from loved ones. Lisa Marie's mother, Priscilla, is still a dedicated church member, we hear, and we figure that keeps Lisa Marie from speaking out.
However, her actions, and her lyrics, say plenty all on their own. (And if she did want to tell us more, of course, she'll move up much higher on this list. Hey, Lisa Marie, give us a call!)
Look for the next installment of our Top 25 on Sunday. We'll dole them out every couple of days, and we think we have things timed so that we'll reveal this year's winner just a few days before the opening of "The Master," Paul Thomas Anderson's new film that should explode interest in all things Scientology.
Scientology's Desperate Reaction to NBC
For days, we've been giving our readers lots of background on Scientology's drug treatment program Narconon and its history in Oklahoma in advance of last night's report about deaths at the facility on NBC's Rock Center.
We'd heard that in the last week, NBC had been experiencing a big pushback from Scientology and its attorneys.
Then, last night, former Scientology executive Marty Rathbun leaked an e-mail at his blog that showed just how desperately the church tried to derail NBC's coverage.
Rathbun said the e-mail was sent by a Narconon official, who beseeched her fellow Scientologists to bombard NBC producer Anna Schecter with calls...
We need you to call the station and leave a message for the producer. Anna Schecter. It is getting harder and harder to reach her (email full, voice mail full) so that is why I need someone like you, tone 40 who won't back off by a couple of barriers. You call 212-664-4444, ask for Rock Center (that is her show), you want to talk to Anna Schecter, she won't be there, you want to talk to her secretary, you do not want to leave a comment in the general mail box, you want to talk to someone in her office or talk to her personally. Don't use Scientology lingo. Leave a message and let me know when done.
"Don't use Scientology lingo."
Well, as another writer recently put it, Scientology keeps showing up with a squirt gun to put out a forest fire.
Narconon is in the grips of nearly a full-scale meltdown, with local and state officials appearing to be very engaged in the Oklahoma investigations (and perhaps having never forgotten the way they were snowed and intimidated back in the day), and the drug treatment program has been chased out of Quebec, sued in Georgia and Michigan, and reportedly gave up on the UK.
As we've pointed out before, what makes Narconon especially vulnerable is that its "students" have not voluntarily chosen to be indoctrinated in Scientology training, but in most cases had no idea that they were being sent to the church's bizarre and unscientific drug treatment program. Deception, in other words, lies at the heart of Narconon's business model.
With the media now on heightened alert about Scientology and its methods, even a concerted telephone campaign isn't going to fool anybody.
But we'll give it marks for effort. Right?
On the next page: Our regular Friday feature, Scientology on the High Seas...