Voice Readers Raise Thousands For Couple That Refused to Spy for Scientology
We've always been suckers for the final scene of It's a Wonderful Life. No matter how many times we see it, we tear up at the sight of George Bailey's friends coming to his aid in his time of need, proving to him that he really is the richest man in town.
Over the last couple of days, we watched something remarkable happen as the readers of this blog rallied to help a family in a somewhat similar circumstance. Only this time it wasn't old man Potter providing the bullying tactics, but the attorneys of the Church of Scientology.
As we reported on Thursday, Marc and Claire Headley were stunned when the church -- their former employer -- offered to waive the $42,852.06 in court costs they owed if the couple agreed to spy on former church executive Marty Rathbun and other critics of Scientology, including "media contacts." (We can imagine a short list of who that might include.)
As Claire explained it to the Tampa Bay Times in a story that came out later that night, "I'm like, over my dead body. ... I'll sell my child's backpack if have to.''
And they almost had to go that far, selling the van that Marc used for his audio/visual design business, cashing out their savings, and even selling their kids' swing set. (They have two children, and Claire is pregnant with a third.) They also had to borrow $6,000 in order to come up with the complete amount, which they paid on August 31.
Jason Beghe, the actor who loudly quit Scientology several years ago, told me that he spent considerable time convincing the Headleys that other people who had left Scientology or had enjoyed Marc's book about their experiences, Blown For Good, would want to help out the couple. Start a fund, he urged Marc, and Thursday, Headley did just that.
In our story on Thursday, we published the bullying letter from the church, as well as a link to Headley's fundraising site.
The response -- well, it was obvious from our comments section that our readers were surprised and overwhelmed by what unfolded. As were the Headleys.
Within 24 hours, more than $27,000 had been raised by Village Voice readers and the readers of Marty Rathbun's blog.
As of this morning, the total has reached $35,317.00 from 413 different donations, many of them only $10 or $20.
We've listed all of those of $100 or more here, and we've borrowed some language from Scientology's own fundraising jargon, just for fun...
Patron Laureate ($2,000) -- "Just Saying," Daryl & Jamie & Tiziano (Lugli)
Diamond Meritorious ($1,000) -- Jason Beghe, Karen de la Carriere, Rachel Denk, Matt and Cindy Plahuta
Platinum Meritorious ($650) -- Anonymous
Gold Meritorious ($500) -- Anonymous (4), Peggy Mitchell, Kim Rainbolt
Silver Meritorious ($300) -- Anonymous, David Braverman, Dave & Sindy Fagen, Gibby, Kari, Robin & Adrienne Scott
Patron Meritorious ($250) -- Anonymous (2), Richard Dineen, Bobby X. Mangels, Kevin Tighe
Honor Roll ($200) -- Anonymous (6), "Approved by the IJC," Tony & Marie-Joe DePhillips, Heather Graceful, Janela, John Kimball, Mcgins, Bert Schippers & Lynne Hoverson, Michelle Sterling, Tom
Crusader ($150) -- Anonymous, Brian P, Radio Paul, Steve Hall
Sponsor ($142) -- The Golden Error Musicians
Patron With Honors ($101) -- Pnc
Patron ($100) -- Alanzo, Liz & James Anderson, Karola Andris, Anonymous (20), Bela, Terry Brawley, Mark Bunker, Cajunette, Carolyn, Colwell, Conrad, Steve Cook, Jacob Dickerman, DMSTCC, Brian Eckert, Ziba & Jim Feulner, Eamonn Fitzgerald, Luis & Rocio Garcia, Dan Garvin, Happy to Help, Jeff Henninger, Bruce Hines, Deana Holmes, Ted Horner, Jackson, Jan, Jenna & Dallas, Jeanne, Janet Kay, Yuliya Keaton, Naula Kelly, Peggy Lauroff-Tourangeau, Lois & Clark, Joe Lynn, The Matlocks, Melinda, Suzanna Nielsen, Lisa O'Kane, Frank Oliver, The Oracle, Martin Padfield, Sinar Parman, Skip Press, Roger from Switzerland, Anna Schultz, Amy Scobee and Mat Pesch, Ervin Scott, Roy Selby, Ms. Smith, Peter Smith, Barbara Snow, Big Stevie, Laurisse Stuckenbrick, Jens Tingleff, Ora Walker, WhereisSHE, Marta & Larry Willson, Astra & Lawrence Woodcraft
Some of the smaller donations were also noteworthy for the messages they contained.
Xenu, $10.00: "Sorry it couldn't be more but I'm still paying off those DC-8s."
L. Ron Hubbard, $10.00: "Dude, I totally never meant for everyone to take this crap so seriously! I was just trying to get rich. And I liked boats. Sorry Little Davey has been such a pain in your arse. If I was still around I'd slap him silly."
Shelly Miscavige, $20.00: "Meet me at the back fence at 2am. Bring a ladder and a spare pantsuit"
Suri, $25.00: "My Daddy gave me money for a new pair of high heeled shoes. But your kids need their swing set back much more. Maybe they will invite me to swing on it some day."
Many more have left humorous notes -- but with real cash attached.
Late last night, Claire added a message to the fundraising page.
"I think I have shed more tears these last few days than I can remember... Not sad tears, but the tears that come automatically when you see incredible acts of kindness," she wrote.
She said that their three years of litigation had been tough.
"I sought therapy after being grilled by Scientology lawyers on the subject of forced abortions, simply because I could not stop crying," she wrote.
But now, she can make those depositions public. And we look forward to reading them.
"I will remain forever changed by this," Claire wrote. "I may have lost some faith in the legal system, but ultimately I have gained a whole new view of the power of love and humanity."
ABC Once Again Delays Broadcast of a Scientology Story
In 2008, Jason Beghe flew to New York after news broke online that he'd left Scientology. I met him at a restaurant here, and he told me that he'd just spent several hours being interviewed by Elizabeth Vargas for ABC's program 20/20. He'd told her very detailed information about his time in Scientology and why he'd decided to leave.
None of that material ever aired.
That memory came back to me recently when I had my own experience being interviewed by Elizabeth Vargas and a producer for 20/20 for two hours after the news of the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes divorce had broken. I was one of about a dozen people interviewed for what we were told would be a full hour on Scientology -- four separate segments dealing with Cruise and Holmes, children in the church, Scientology leader David Miscavige, and the abuses of the Sea Org.
On Monday of the week that special was scheduled to air, just 11 days after news of the split had first broken, Cruise and Holmes reached an agreement that would settle their divorce.
The next day, we were told that the show had been "postponed." Two separate ABC producers told me the purpose of the delay was just to take more time to put the show together -- with the divorce settlement done and some of the immediacy gone, 20/20 wanted to be methodical and not rush things.
But just before they told me that, ABC producers had been pestering me with follow-up questions which showed they were getting heat from their own attorneys. I had said in my interview, for example, that Scientology was known for violating the supposed confidentiality of confessional "auditing" sessions that church members go through (when Scientologists run afoul of the organization, they find that things they admitted to supposedly under the strictest secrecy would suddenly show up in slimy anonymous attack websites, for example). Sounding a bit panicked, ABC's producers wanted to know how I could back up that statement. With literally decades of court documents, I said. That seemed to calm them down. But then they postponed the show, saying they just wanted to take their time.
Another reason to doubt that assertion, however, came from two other people who had been contacted to be interviewed for the show. Both were scheduled to be flown to New York that week, and then were suddenly told their trips had been cancelled. If ABC had just wanted more time to edit or vet their upcoming special, why would they cancel those interviews, both of them with key former Scientologists?
Over the past several weeks, I gave ABC the benefit of the doubt as they sat on what was reportedly amazing material. (They interviewed the Headleys, for example, and I'm told that Claire's harrowing tales -- including the two abortions she was forced to endure as a Sea Org member -- had the entire film crew at her house openly weeping.)
Then, Friday night, ABC caved again, and this time much more publicly.
Here's what I mean. This is a screenshot from my cable television system that night, showing what was scheduled to appear on that night's edition of 20/20...
Not only was an interview with Orth prepared for the show, the Headleys had also been hastily re-interviewed for what they were told would be segments on both 20/20 and Nightline -- but nothing about Scientology showed up on either of those two programs Friday night.
Instead, 20/20 was on air for two hours that night, and with the Orth interview spiked, the show's producers clearly had to pull out some musty evergreens to fill all that time -- your house cat, they proved, is actually a predator, and people video themselves doing the darndest things these days.
What's going on? Well, we can only imagine that Scientology is hitting ABC with around-the-clock heat from its attorneys. And you can see for yourself what that's like. For some unfathomable reason, on Wednesday, the church made public on one of its websites several letters that it sent to Vanity Fair in an attempt to intimidate editor Graydon Carter and writer Maureen Orth from publishing her story on Tom Cruise and Nazanin Boniadi.
The most unhinged of these is from church attorney Jeffrey Riffer to Carter. Riffer not only hyperventilates about the sanctity of David Miscavige, he also makes the most bizarre sort of taunt to Carter, asking the editor why he didn't require Orth to work with a Vanity Fair employee who also "works for Mr. Miscavige in a professional activity."
Say what? Wednesday evening I e-mailed Riffer, asking him about this, but he hasn't responded. I wondered if he was referring to a Vanity Fair writer who former church executives Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder claimed has been on the Scientology payroll for years. But both Rathbun and Rinder tell me they think Riffer is not referring to that writer in this letter. (I hear that Riffer is apparently talking about a freelance photographer who has shot some of Miscavige's ribbon-cutting ceremonies.)
Anyway, reading Riffer's letter should give you some sense of the kind of bullying that ABC is going through right now.
But here's the thing. That kind of intimidation didn't stop Graydon Carter, Maureen Orth, and Vanity Fair. It also hasn't stopped NBC, whose Rock Center program has aired two significant pieces recently about Scientology -- one about Rathbun and Rinder, another about the Narconon mess in Oklahoma. And we hear they're hard at work on a third piece, about "The Hole."
So what's your excuse, ABC?
We'd hate to think the entertainment division is keeping the news division from growing a pair.
As for what Scientology's war with the media is like from the other side, there's this classic description of the church's stall tactics against CNN as described by Rathbun and Rinder in a video they made last year. We imagine ABC is being put through something similar right now...
On the next page: Our countdown, Sunday Funnies, and Hubbard at sea!