SCIENTOLOGY CRUMBLING: An Entire Church Mission Defects as David Miscavige Faces Leadership Crisis
David Miscavige with his friend Tom, in better times
For several years, we've been reporting about a crisis in Scientology as key members of the church -- including some of its highest-ranking former executives -- have left the organization and spoken out about its abuses. One by one, longtime, loyal Scientologists have announced that they are fed up and are leaving the church.
But now, for the first time in memory, an entire mission has announced that it is defecting from the church en masse.
Israel's Dror Center, in Haifa, announced in a lengthy statement that it is rejecting the leadership of David Miscavige and the official church. It now plans to become a part of the burgeoning "independent Scientology" movement. (We sent a request for comment to the Church of Scientology's media office Wednesday evening, but our message has not been answered.)
Dani Lemberger and his wife Tami founded the Dror Center in 1992 -- twice, Tami has been recognized by the church as the world's best auditor, in 2000 and 2002. The Lembergers were in the US this week to meet other members of the independence movement. The church used that opportunity to serve them in Tampa's airport with notices that they had been "declared suppressive persons" (the church's jargon for excommunication). On their way home to Israel, we sat down with Dani during a layover at Newark Airport.
"Our mission is one of the few on the planet that's actually expanding," he told me. But now, his group has notified Miscavige that it will no longer answer to him. "We have left the church."
Let Freedom Ring
Scientology makes much of its network of missions and field groups, which are smaller than its "orgs" -- short for organizations -- but more numerous.
In Israel, there is one org in Tel Aviv, the Lemberger's mission in Haifa, and then two smaller missions and, Lemberger estimates, four or five additional field auditors. The Dror Center, with about 50 people associated with it, is a healthy size for a mission, and it's a significant part of Scientology's modest presence in the country.
On January 2, Lemberger received a copy of Debbie Cook's infamous New Year's Eve e-mail. Cook, a well-known former executive in the church, stunned her fellow Scientologists by putting out a lengthy message detailing how Miscavige has turned the church over to "extreme fundraising" and is getting away from the precepts of Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard. The church sued Cook for sending the e-mail, then it later reached a settlement with her in return for her promising to say no more publicly about her experiences.
But Cook's New Year's Eve message continues to do major damage, as other longtime, loyal Scientologists announce that they are leaving the organization because of the same concerns with David Miscavige's leadership.
Lemberger reacted to Debbie Cook's e-mail by forwarding it to church officials, asking them to comment on it. Instead, the church's Office of Special Affairs put him "in ethics" -- under a kind of interrogation program -- and asked him to read a copy of the church's propaganda magazine, Freedom, which contained attacks on the credibility of numerous former church officials who spoke up for a 2009 Tampa Bay Times expose, including Marty Rathbun, Amy Scobee, and Tom DeVocht.
"The magazine is disgusting. It's evil," Lemberger says. "It has a photo of Tom DeVocht scratching his balls, like every man doesn't do that. It had a photo of Amy Scobee that made her look bad. And the writing, it's gross and ugly. So gross, you know they're lying. It's just hatred, and a Scientologist never hates."
As we've seen in the past, OSA's use of Freedom backfired badly.
"The Freedom magazine had referred to Marty Rathbun having a blog. So I went to the Internet, finally," he says. A loyal (if often complaining) member of Scientology for more than 30 years, Lemberger had never explored the 'Net to see what people were saying about his church -- and he knew nothing about the crisis it was in.
But now he absorbed as much he could stand.
"I found out that the world has changed," he says.
Besides the controversies, he also realized that there was a burgeoning independence movement that takes several different forms in Europe and the US. And these groups are using the same materials as the official church, but without the layers of control and constant demands for large donations.
"Everything now is on the Internet. All the Bridge, all the training Bridge, the auditing Bridge. There's no more monopoly," Lemberger says. He was stunned to realize that L. Ron Hubbard's entire "Bridge to Total Freedom" is now available to anyone with a computer and Internet access.
Dani said he came to the realization that his entire mission could continue to honor Hubbard's ideas, but break away from the church itself.
"My people in the mission know Tami, they know me. All of our staff are well paid. All of our customers get great service. I manage it my way," he says. "I took my staff together and told them about Debbie Cook. I encouraged them all to do their own research."
He even cited a Hubbard policy to justify their research project.
"As the church says, 'Think for yourself'," his wife Tami adds.
So the people at his mission began reading stories about Scientology on the Internet.
"Everyone came to the same conclusion -- the church is fucked. The orgs are useless. Miscavige is a lunatic," Dani says. "We decided we wanted to leave the church."
The Lembergers own the mission, and under a franchise license send ten percent of their income to the church. In a letter, Lemberger notified David Miscavige that they now consider themselves independent from the church and will no longer be sending money.
Last month, the Lembergers flew to south Texas to meet with Marty Rathbun, formerly the second-highest ranking official in the church who now is the most visible member of the independence movement because of his blog, which is harshly critical of Miscavige.
"It is unprecedented, as far as I can recall...no mission, certainly no group of this size and productivity, has told management to shove off," Rathbun says. The only thing like it he can remember were some mission holders refusing to sign new charters in the early 1980s. But there's never been a mission that simply defected because of its problems with how the church itself is being run. Rathbun calls it a tectonic shift in the world of Scientology.
But he also wanted the Lembergers to understand that they shouldn't go looking for anyone else to be their new leader.
"I really tried to emphasize that independents have got to get over the idea that they need a leader or any type of management. They were sort of looking for me to supervise or direct them," he says.
After a week with Rathbun, they then flew to Tampa to visit other independents in the area. But when they arrived and went to pick up their luggage, a woman approached them.
[Click to enlarge] The letter Dani Lemberger was handed in the Tampa airport.
"She asked, 'Are you Dani Lemberger?' I said yes, and she handed us two envelopes," Lemberger says.
Inside were letters from the church notifying Dani and Tami that they have been declared suppressive persons. They said they could only come to one conclusion: church operatives had spotted them visiting Rathbun, which today is considered grounds for immediate excommunication.
Dani is still surprised not only that Rathbun's house was under surveillance, but he wonders how the church was able to get his flight information. (Former OSA operative Frank Oliver explained to us how, in the early 1990s, the church gained flight info using frequent flyer programs.)
"I inform anyone wishing to visit that they must assume their visit is being recorded from a distance," Rathbun says. (For five months last year, his south Texas home was besieged by a very overt surveillance program, a group of Scientologists who called themselves "Squirrel Busters.")
"I told Dani and Tami that, but I think they only half believed me until they were served with suppressive person declares at baggage claim," he says.
When they got home, however, the Lembergers found that church letters were the least of their worries.
Sitting in the food court of Newark Liberty International Airport's terminal B, Dani Lemberger's face was flush, the hair on his arms was standing up, his eyes were getting a bit misty.
"You're being a good auditor right now," he told me.
He had been telling me about his early years in Scientology, when he and his wife Tami, then newlyweds, took up the practice in San Francisco in 1980. As he described his "wins" while auditing, he explained the church's counseling techniques in vivid detail. I was fascinated, and I just listened and took notes.
"Auditing? No one has ever told me that before," I said.
"Well, you're listening. You're paying attention. That's what an auditor does."
Lemberger was born in Haifa in 1952. He spent some time in London, got a bachelor's degree in economics and statistics at Haifa University, and an MBA at INSEAD in Fountainebleu, near Paris. After spending some time working as a business executive in Tel Aviv, he met Tami and they were married in 1979. They decided to take a year off and travel before having kids, and that's how they ended up in San Francisco, trying Scientology.
Tami Lemberger, on the far left, is named a worldwide auditor of the year, 2002
"I had been into self-improvement, into spiritual, mental stuff for years," he says. "I did psychoanalysis, yoga, meditation. I read zen, Alan Watts, Carlos Castaneda. Each one, it quickly came to a plateau, and then there was no place to go farther." He was still looking for something that would hold his interest when he started courses at the SF mission.
But in Scientology, he right away started having "major wins," and was soon "going exterior" -- having out-of-body experiences through Scientology auditing.
"You could ask any questions. And there was an answer to any question from the writings of Ron Hubbard," he says. And he wants to make sure that I don't think he's a credulous man: "I was never about to believe anything. Scientology is not a belief. There was never a demand to believe anything -- this is key."
"We have no god. We have David Miscavige," he says, and then grins. "I'm kidding."
Through his early course work, he was rapidly discovering his true nature. "You come easily to the awareness of yourself as a spirit, not a body. Nobody before Hubbard made it so simple, so easy to grasp," he says. "It's natural law. It's true."
For a year and a half, he says, he and Tami trained to be auditors in San Francisco. "That's when I cognited that this is the way. The answer to mankind's quest for an understanding of life," he says. "Tami and I decided to dedicate our lives to clearing the planet."
The Lembergers were fully on board. But Dani says he couldn't help being worried about something: "What happens to Scientology when Ron Hubbard dies?"
It was 1981, Hubbard had turned 70 years old, and since the 1977 FBI raid on church offices in Los Angeles and DC (which would bring prison sentences for 11 church operatives -- including Hubbard's wife, Mary Sue), Hubbard had made himself scarce.
"I had the audacity to write Hubbard a letter -- what happens to Scientology after you die?" Dani says he received a response, but it was a generic-sounding letter, saying that the church had good management in place. It had a stamp of Hubbard's signature.
"I shrugged and put it away," Dani says.
Meanwhile, his Scientology coursework was going straight up and vertical. While on his second session of New Era Dianetics, he made a huge leap forward.
"I went whole track," he says. And he explains that he wasn't supposed to do that so early in his career.
He had already accepted the idea that he was an immortal being -- called a "thetan" -- and that he had lived countless times while inhabiting numerous bodies, lifetime after lifetime. But now, through auditing, he suddenly got a vision of deep time -- his existence over his "whole track" of existence.
"I was seeing experiences I had undergone millions of years ago," he says. "I accepted it."
Scientologists believe that problems in their lives are the result of experiences that might have happened to them eons ago. Only Hubbard's auditing, they believe, can get them back to those experiences to "handle" them so they no longer produce problems in the present time.
"It works with 100 percent true scientific accuracy," he says. And in the meantime, it was just a hell of a good time at the mission.
"It was a year and a half of great experiences, full of people having fun. Tons of laughs. Fun drills. And you saw yourself by the hour having wins and gains," he says. "And all along I questioned and argued because I'm a skeptic by nature."
In 1981, the Lembergers returned to Israel and began doing further Scientology coursework at the org in Tel Aviv.
Five years later, on January 24, 1986, L. Ron Hubbard died. After three days, thousands of Scientologists were called to the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles to receive the word that Hubbard had discarded his body so he could continue his research on another plane of existence. The announcement was videotaped for Scientologists in other parts of the world.
"I saw it two or three times. I felt uneasy. I was in shock. Sad. They made too much effort to make it seem a joyful event," he says.
Two years later, Dani had moved to New Jersey for an executive job, and he traveled to Scientology's "advanced org" in Los Angeles and attested to "clear." After eight years of coursework and auditing, he had finally cleared away the last of his "reactive mind" -- the place where, Hubbard believed, we store up the traumas of our lives (in "engrams") so that it keeps us from seeing our true nature. Having spent that time clearing away his engrams, he had no more reactive mind of his own, and was ready to proceed to even higher levels as an "operating thetan."
In 1989, he made his first trip to "Flag," Scientology's spiritual mecca in Clearwater, Florida. Over the next couple of years, he saw people like Debbie Cook, who had become "Captain FSO" of Flag, running the huge operation where Operating Thetan levels one to seven are delivered.
And that's when, Dani says, he started noticing the distance between top executives like Cook and ordinary "publics" like himself. There was a gulf between them that he didn't think was a good reflection on management.
But in general, he was thrilled to be doing his OT levels at Flag. In 1991, he reached the most legendary level of all -- OT III.
"It's all on the Internet," he says, knowing that now much of the public is aware of the bizarre story about Xenu the galactic overlord which Hubbard wrote in 1967 while running Scientology from the yacht Apollo. (The story of Xenu being responsible for an infestation of thetans on Earth 75 million years ago has entered popular culture through a 2005 episode of South Park.)
"OT levels have two parts. First, there's the course. It consists of whole track stories. I won't repeat it. But I won't deny what you already know," he says. "Some of it is handwritten. It's science fiction. It's a tale. You want to believe it, believe it. It's of no importance. It's a fable. Legend."
More important than the space opera tale, he says, is the second part of the process -- drilling the story through exercises with the e-meter. "The results come from the drill, not from the story," he explains. (This auditing is done solo, with the subject using an e-meter to quiz himself. In a 2006 price list smuggled to the Internet, OT III on its own carried a price of $8,800, discounted to $7,040 for IAS lifetime members.)
Reminding me that a Clear has no reactive mind of his own, Dani tells me that when you experience "charge" at the OT levels, it comes not from your own reactive mind but from a being nearby.
"Some of the charge can be very close, or a distant charged area that's far away and connected to you invisibly," he says. "During my second session on OT III, I had an experience of a massive blow of charge that was distant. Maybe 100 yards away. When the charge blew my body started shaking, and I started crying. It's something that follows you wherever you go. What was it? Where did it come from? The needle on the e-meter was going back and forth, exactly as Hubbard said it would. It was quite mind blowing."
On levels OT IV and higher, Scientologists learn that they are infested with thousands of other thetans -- known as "body thetans," each with their own reactive minds and carrying their own charge from experiences millions of years in the past. Over the next several years -- while purchasing 12.5-hour "intensives" of auditing for tens of thousands of dollars per level -- they work to rid themselves of these "bt's." Critics call it a form of science-fiction exorcism, and point out that while Scientologists are paying such huge amounts, there always seem to be more body thetans for them to clear away. (And more intensives to pay for to handle it.)
By 1991, Dani had finished OT VI and was started on OT VII, the highest level he could complete at Flag. (OT VIII, Scientology's highest level, is only delivered on the church's private cruise ship, the Freewinds.)
About that time, he and Tami returned to Israel, and began thinking of opening their own mission in Haifa at the urging of Tami's father, who had also taken Scientology courses. He owned a nail and wire factory, which had some adjacent property. It was perfect for a center of their own.
In 1992, they opened the Dror Center. And then Dani started breaking rules.
"There were no Hebrew materials then. So I started translating Hubbard into Hebrew. You weren't supposed to do it, but I did it anyway," he says.
Dani translated Hubbard's book, "Learning How to Learn," and printed 1000 copies of the book, in full color. "The first copy off the press, I put into an envelope and mailed it to COB. 'Dear Sir, I did this,' I wrote." Lemberger mailed it off to David Miscavige, who, as Chairman of the Board of the Religious Technology Center, Scientology's controlling entity, is known as "COB."
On August 17, 1994, Miscavige mailed Dani a letter, commending him for producing the book.
[The Lemberger's mission in Haifa attracts members who are both Jewish and Arab.]
He was also commended by Scientology's president, Heber Jentzsch, for the way he helped quash an investigation of the church by Israel's Knesset.
If management was pleased with Lemberger, Lemberger was increasingly becoming frustrated with management.
Each summer, Dani was traveling to Flag to continue work on OT VII, which he had been stuck on for years. But what concerned him more than his own case was the state of the organization.
"I could see very clearly that the orgs, the missions, the groups, the field auditors -- they were obviously managed incorrectly. They were doing things totally backwards," he says.
He found that in 1965, Hubbard had written a policy explaining that top-heavy, top-down management was what stifled growth. "I was worried that it was what was happening in Scientology. It was too top heavy, with no middle management. It was destroying the orgs because the executive directors can't do anything."
In 1993, he started writing letters to Miscavige, explaining his concerns. "The orgs are not doing well, I told him. And you're not supposed to say that."
Personally, things were good for Dani. "Life was good. The factory, my wife, our kids. I was having good wins on OT VII. But one thing that was bugging me -- my ruin, as we say in Scientology -- is that the organization is not doing well. It was shrinking and it was mismanaged. I was remembering how much better it was in San Francisco."
As the years went by, he complained more and more to auditors and other officials. "My language got worse over the years," he says.
The officials at Flag responded by putting him through intense "sec checking" -- interrogations intended to get a subject to admit to transgressions. He went through hundreds of hours of sec checking, he says. It wasn't fun. But he did enjoy another part of the program they designed to handle his attitude -- the False Purpose Rundown.
"It was a tailor-made FPRD program they designed for me. They believed that if I was always complaining about Miscavige's mistakes, I must have mistakes of my own in my whole track. So we handled it in all my overts and withholds [moral transgressions and lies to cover them up]. We turned up all the goofs, errors, and misdeeds I made as an executive or leader," he says. "For the past millions of years I've always been a leader or an executive."
And along the way, he's made mistakes, resulting in the people he led rising up against him. "I was guillotined repeatedly over my whole track. That happened to me many times over the past million years."
Lemberger insists that he found the program useful. "It was terrific. I loved it. That's why I didn't mind paying the tens of thousands."
However, after years of the FPRD program and intense sec checking, his original problem remained.
"I still thought Miscavige was a lunatic."
In January 2005, his case supervisors gave up and took him off OT VII. Since then, he's had very little auditing at all. But he's not in a rush to get back on the Bridge.
"As long as Miscavige is COB, I'm not getting back on the level," he says.
While his case stalled, his mission thrived. Tami was named best auditor on the planet in 2000 and 2002. Customers and income flowed through the center steadily. They moved "pre-clears" up the Bridge and on to the Tel Aviv org and to Flag. And all along the way, Dani carped and complained about what a lousy job Miscavige was doing.
Then, on January 2 of this year, one of Dror's auditors, Aviv Bershadsky, brought Dani a copy of Debbie Cook's e-mail.
"Aviv said, 'I'm sorry. All these years I thought you were a nut. Now Debbie is saying everything you've been saying for ten years.' I wrote Debbie Cook an e-mail. I told her, I agree with most of what you have written. But you're 15 years too late."
Drug Dealers and Psychos
After we'd talked for nearly four hours, Dani, now joined by Tami, had to dash to get to their plane to Israel on Tuesday night.
When they got home, they learned that they'd been targeted by a classic Scientology smear campaign.
"The church is now putting out information that we are drug dealers, that we've gone psychotic, that we are controlled by Marty Rathbun," he says. "They're showing friends an SP declare with horrendous lies, but they never show it to us, so we can't defend ourselves."
The "fair game" campaign has managed to convince about ten members of their mission to abandon them. But the rest -- about 40 auditors, staff, and public -- are sticking with them, Dani says.
"They'll all get their declares, one by one, we know," Dani says.
After getting to know Dani Lemberger, the sharp business executive, spiritual seeker, ardent believer in L. Ron Hubbard's expansive vision of the cosmos, cantankerous but loyal organization man -- in other words, just about the Platonic ideal of a deep-rooted Scientologist -- it's shocking to think that he's taking an entire mission away from Miscavige's church.
Dror Center is breaking away. Last night, we learned of the death of Alexander Jentzsch, son to the disappeared president of the Church of Scientology International, Heber Jentzsch. Last week we learned about the defections of a granddaughter to L. Ron Hubbard and the escape of Miscavige's own father.
There's a celebrity divorce causing a bit of a flap, too.
And as this story comes out, independent Scientologists from around the country are gathering in Brainerd, Minnesota for an annual reunion. They will have much to discuss. And Rathbun may be right -- Miscavige just might feel the earth under his feet move.
See also: What Katie is saving Suri from: Scientology interrogation of kids Scientology's new defections: Hubbard's granddaughter and Miscavige's dad Tom Cruise's former auditor: "He should let Katie have everything" Secrets of Scientology marriage counseling: "What have you done to Tom?" Scientology's disgrace: our open letter to Tom Cruise Scientology president's son dies; Death of Alex Jentzsch kept from mother
On the next page: Our regular Friday feature, Scientology on the High Seas...
In November the Voice obtained hundreds of copies of L. Ron Hubbard's previously unpublished "Orders of the Day," which he gave to crew members as he sailed the Atlantic and the Mediterranean on the yacht Apollo. Our documents cover the period from late 1968 through 1971, and this time we're looking at what was happening the week of July 1 - 7 during those years.
This week, the Commodore has the world's press beat...
July 2: Newspapers are just too busy to bother with Scientology!
The news current in US papers for the past week has concerned the unauthorized release of McNamara's secret documents while Secretary of Defense of the US. The NY Times and Washington Post and another paper got hold of these and an uproar is ensuing. The US Govt has done nothing but lie to the people about reasons for the Vietnam war. Documents, the papers have published have revealed that our old friend John F. Kennedy with the connivance of McNamara (now head of World Bank) ordered the murder of the ruling family of Vietnam -- their closest allies -- and got it done. There is every possibility that the government has suffered untold harm. Nixon was foolishly offered to tell all in secret to Congress, which of course just makes it worse.
Congress has not dared to extend the conscription (draft) law which expired June 30th.
Thus US news is too busy with its own affairs to pay any attention to us.
In the UK, the Common Market has accepted England. And for many days now the papers have rowed continually over this as it is a serious step and apparently means the loss of all the Commonwealth and the end of English independence.
Thus the UK press for the past week has been a flood of uproar.
There was no space in either Country to pay much attention to anything else.
Interesting that BBC was silent on all this in foreign broadcasts. Probably a heavily censored news source.
It's a wild world from all appearances.
July 4: It's practically over except for the shouting.
We have had stacks and stacks and stacks of excellent US press on the FDA matter, all favorable to us.
Any govt allegations were in quotes and our accusations were stated straight!
In Melbourne all our accusations against the "Enquiry judge" Anderson are being printed straight and Anderson, who mis-conducted that enquiry grossly is being sued heavily and, as a judge there now, is in deep trouble.
The UK National Association of Mental Health magazine, their own organ, has come out saying that Scientologists are extreme but their position is essentially right!
This "war" is entering the mop up stage.
I don't know what happened to our daily radio news and ALSO why we use radio news. There's nothing much on it. Recent radio news was carefully censored of all major actions. US news magazines and Herald Tribune headlines are available daily in the port.
The Ext Comm Bu pick up Newsweek and Herald Tribune and excerpt the headlines weekly from Newsweek and daily from the Herald Tribune.
(By the way, the Manson trial prosecutor says Manson said nothing about Scn and was worlds away from it and BBC is sweating to find out WHO sait it on their pgm! Fair shook them. Our PR people are all over them and our legal is sharpening up an axe. BBC has stuck its neck out half mile.)
All but Anzo UP.
Int GI UP.
All honest stats.
THE WORLD & SCN
The general improvement of press and our general situation over the world is excellent.
Country after country is swinging over to us.
The "war" is in a mop up stage.
A general estimate is that the key leaders in enemy ranks are retired, disabled or dead and we are handling a relatively uncoordinated and leaderless enemy. The hot pockets left are held by die-hard juniors who haven't gotten the word. They will.
So, if we keep right on doing better what we're doing, we'll make it. It will be rough and it will require lots of hard work. But the point is we are making it and we will make it.
More 1970s Awesomeness!
While L. Ron Hubbard had moved HQ from the yacht Apollo to the Florida coast, Advance! magazine was thrilling Scientologists with tales of "OT Phenomena." Those church members who had reached the higher levels of spiritual training shared their stories of superhuman powers with fellow dupes -- er, enthusiasts. This excerpt is from Issue 40, May/June 1976. (And another cover featuring a photo by the Commodore!)
Upon completion of OT Section VII I was walking home from work in the countryside of England when I encountered a bit of a humorous situation.
Some farmer's cows had gotten out of their pasture and were blocking traffic at an intersection of two country roads. Four or five cars were backed up in each direction; some of which were honking their horns which was scaring the cows even more than they already were, due to being in unfamiliar surroundings. One cow had gone up into the front yard of a house at the intersection and two more were in a garden across the street.
Another person walking down the road very cautiously walked around this confusing scene but I thought, "Oh boy, here's a chance to put some of my new-found intention into play!" I walked to the center of this scene and took control.
I intended the herd of cows to start moving down the "wrong way" lane out of the intersection and saw them jump to it and start running down the road. I then spotted the cows in the yard and garden and intended them onto the road and to follow the herd. They jumped the fences enclosing the yard (which is quite something for a cow to do if you are not familiar with such animals!).
So I now had a herd of some 15 or so cows trotting down a country lane which was bordered by very high hedges; going down the wrong way lane. Great! But now what? I couldn't just let them continue as they were or a similar situation would develop elsewhere. So leaving my body behind I went down the lane ahead of the herd and found a break in the hedge a hundred or so yards down the twisty lane and when the cows arrived at this point I intended the lead cow to turn into the pasture beyond this break in the hedge. The rest of the cows followed his lead. All handled!
Finding the farmer's house and informing him of where his cows were completed the cycle.
I thought to myself, "I could go into the herdsman business and sure have an easy go of it." Laughing, I continued on my way home. -- Mark Johnson, OT
Jumping cows. Will wonders never cease. I hope next week we get back to miraculous automobile maneuvers.
Whew, this has been some week. We may need to send out for a few more cases of hootch for the underground bunker to get through the weekend. In the meantime, please check our Facebook author page for updates and schedules.
********** 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 email@example.com, 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.
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