Scientology Intervention: Commenters of the Week!
It's not often that things are calm and soothing here inside the underground bunker. But after Judge Stryker gave the order yesterday for everyone just to chill out, we took it to heart. Even the cats are taking a break from tearing up the furniture.
There was plenty of activity this week, though, and let's take a look at what transpired. Things started early for us as, last Saturday afternoon, we scrambled to post copies of the motion for summary judgment filed by Scientology's attorneys in its lawsuit against Debbie Cook. We know that the church's lawyers aren't thrilled that we're posting their filings for our readers to take apart, but maybe they're just shy.
We got back to our regular schedule the next morning with another installment of Sunday Funnies, and this time things weren't so funny: we posted examples of the San Fernando Valley org using their children in fundraising fliers. Icky.
Monday morning we revealed a lengthy story that was close to our heart. For several weeks now, we've been working with Paulette Cooper to nail down surprising new information about how she and her sister Suzy escaped Nazi extermination in Belgium in 1943. This piece meant a lot to us, and readers seemed to appreciate it just as much as we did.
On Tuesday, we had even more court documents to post as Debbie Cook went on the offensive, filing notice that she intended to depose church officials and requested voluminous records from them.
The next day, we had the church's answer: they wanted the deposition delayed, and in particular wanted to make sure former executives Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder would be excluded whenever a deposition does occur.
For our Thursday Stats weekly press roundup, we took another look at the troubled charter school in Florida, and wondered again about Paul Thomas Anderson's upcoming movie, The Master.
Friday morning saw our return to the high seas with L. Ron Hubbard, circa 1969-1971, with a wild example of mid-1970s "OT Phenomena" thrown in as well.
That afternoon, we provided an update from the Debbie Cook case in Texas, where Judge Cathy Stryker dealt a blow to Scientology's hurry-up strategy.
So let's get to the awards!
Saturday's report that Scientology had filed for summary judgment -- and our posting the entire pleading -- really generated a lot of great discussion about how the lawsuit against Debbie Cook is going to go. But many of us were stunned at this hilarious bit of movie reskinning by Brainslugged...
I keep dreaming of little Miscavige taking the stand in his toy soldier outfit and giving us a "A Few Good Men" moment.
"You want the truth? You can't handle the truth! We live in a world that has spirits of dead aliens floating around. And dead alien spirits have to be eradicated by men with tin cans, and cool-looking outfits. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Judge? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Lisa McPherson and Shelly Miscavige, and you curse the $cientologists. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not being the ultimate authority on psychiatry. That Lisa and Shelly's deaths, while an inconvenience, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me and Tom Cruise on those bespoke motorbikes tricked out by the hard labor of my Sea Org slaves. You NEED us on those bikes. We use words like enturbulate, entheta, ethics. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent following the rambling words of a drug-addled schizophrenic drug addict. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a set of cans, remortgage your house and sign a billion year contract. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to."
One of the key issues in Cook's case is the idea that she not only was under duress when she signed her 2007 non-disclosure agreement, but that she's been under duress ever since. Richard Dineen helped us understand how that might be the case...
Duress is systemic in Scientology and it does not stop when you escape. Yeah things get a lot better in many ways, but one should never lose sight of: "Disconnection, Fair Game, Declaring someone to be a Suppressive Person, maintaining a website( of people brave enough to speak out) of religious bigots, Private Investigators following , Hounding and Harassing, Suing the Apostates, etc., etc...It never stops! L Ron Hubbard designed a system that would make the North Koreans proud. Attack and destroy critics and especially former members who are critics. As a former member since declared to be a Suppressive Person I can no longer speak with my children or see my grandchildren, my former friends, and I regularly thank god my income is not dependent upon being in their good grace. Nonetheless I am under duress. Anyone who wakes up and switches from Kool-Aid to Coffee is under duress!
Our Sunday Funnies included some startling mailers produced by the San Fernando Valley org, which used small children to make fundraising appeals. We appreciated this exercise in satire by KidsAreLazy...
It's about time those lazy adults in little bodies did something for the cause of saving humanity from the ghosts of dead space aliens. If the voice of Bart Simpson can donate $10 million, the least they can do is give a measly $100. They should hurry up and sign the billion-year Sea Org contract if they can't give more money, the bums.
Meanwhile, OLD OT7 made a clever connection to a previous story about the Life Force charter school in Dunedin, Florida, where children were being punished with menial labor...
It was just a matter of time. If kids can have their own RPF, then, by God, they can shake down members for money to build their Idle Morgue. What's next, child registars?
Our Monday story about Paulette Cooper's harrowing escape from Nazi extermination -- with facts she has only now unearthed -- really moved readers in heartfelt ways. This note from BlackPR seemed to capture how much Paulette means to so many of us...
Paulette has been a hero of mine since I first learned of her story in the 90's. My children have been told about her scientology story probably a dozen times over the past decade. Now there's more to the story. How many people can say that they escaped death at the hands of the Nazi's AND the Scientologists?
Jefferson Hawkins was also moved, and he had a message for indies...
Paulette, as I have said before, you are an extraordinarily brave woman to have taken on Scientology when you did. I can see how, given your past, you recognized the dangers of Scientology as an authoritarian group who would stop at nothing to achieve their goals -- even attempting to destroy the lives of those who got in their way -- a practice they continue to this day. And for my Independent Scientologist friends who believe that the only thing wrong with Scientology is David Miscavige -- I would point out the obvious: Miscavige was only ten years old when the despicable, evil campaign against Paulette was launched. If you are sincere in reforming Scientology, and I know you are, dig deeper.
We also felt humbled to see this message from Kim O'Brien...
This blog has turned into a teaching tool for me as a parent. My 10 year old daughter is reading the Diary of Anne Frank now. This morning..I had her sit and read this story after I did. She was so moved ..it brought home to her that there are people still around us today who can attest to the horrors of Nazi Germany. To her it seems like a million years ago . Thank you so much for this story and the work that you do.
And this one by Aragorn_ii gave us a lump in the throat...
Did anyone else want to somehow leap through time and space into that picture of the two little sisters holding hands? I would in a heartbeat. One arm opened wide to hug them tight and the other clinched in a fist to beat the crap out of anyone who would dare harm them. That image brings to mind the most disgusting practice of the church of Scientology. Disconnection. From where does anyone or any organization get the balls to break up families? Man I need to take a walk or something to cool down.
On Tuesday, we showed how Debbie Cook had gone on the offensive in her lawsuit. And we passed on a note from her attorney, Ray Jeffrey, who wanted our readers to know how much the comments here are helping him work out his strategy. That brought this retort from Derfty...
Are we getting paid for this?
Debbie's filings brought out another lengthy and informative analysis from John P., of which I'll just post a portion here...
* "Be careful what you wish for" department: In a filing last week, Church attorney George Spencer demanded that Debbie Cook promise not to have Rinder & Rathbun testify in the case. Looks like his wish was granted... The deposition notice says that Mike & Marty will be "in attendance" during the deposition on Monday. It sounds like their presence is to advise Mr. Jeffery, which may well make them ineligible to serve as witnesses later on. But, of course, they're far more dangerous sitting next to Mr. Jeffery whispering in his ear after every answer, "He's lying. Now ask him x to catch him at it." This ought to be causing David Miscavige to have a heart attack on about now.
* "Hang 'Em High" Texas justice in action: Exploiting the unusual Texas rule that says they can compel a deposition almost immediately if the party requesting it doesn't care who it is, is just brilliant. Notice how Mr. Jeffery uses the list of the matters to be testified to in such a way that there are only a handful of people who can show up? I am sure that if the Church tries to send some low-level underling who doesn't have direct knowledge of the requested issues, they'll be sanctioned for it massively. We probably won't know who they're sending until somebody shows up. But Mr. Jeffery must have a pretty good idea, since he'll have Mike & Marty sitting there. The short list of witnesses all undoubtedly knew Mike and Marty well.
* Look carefully at the list of documents to be produced: Number 11 is "all surveillance videos and photos taken during this litigation, including those of Defendants, their home, their legal team, their law offices and their witnesses." This is a masterful counterstroke against the surveillance. By now, Mr. Jeffery undoubtedly has his own videos of Scientology OSA goons running around taping him, complete with license numbers. Even better, he may have gotten the Bulverde PD to investigate reports of stalkers, and they may have conclusively linked people taking video and photos of Mr. Jeffery back to the Church already. If the Church denies taping Mr. Jeffery, and then a Bulverde police officer gets on the stand and says "In response to a citizen complaint, I observed someone videotaping Mr. Jeffery's law office. I approached said person who informed me that they were a private investigator retained by the Church of Scientology." Who is the court going to believe? The Church or a police officer?
And Jgg seemed to speak for many who were impressed by what they saw in Jeffrey's court filings...
Would it be fair to say that they underestimated their opponent?
On Wednesday, we posted the church's response to Debbie Cook's request for discovery. Scientology's attorneys, for example, complained that it would be burdensome to expect the church to make available in Texas one of its Florida officials for a deposition. That prompted this comeback from Skydog...
Let me see if I get this straight: On a moment's notice, the church can send out half a dozen private eyes, OTVIII's, and photographers clad in squirrel buster regalia, complete with "head cameras," to harass Mark Rathbun for several months -- but cannot send a "corporate representative" to attend a deposition that will take a few days at most?
Gerard Plourde, in a similar vein...
What an amazing document -- The plaintiff, who as an out of state party willingly chose to place itself under the jurisdiction of the Texas courts and controlled the timing of initiating the action, is now claiming that it needs time to designate representatives who can be deposed. What kind of preparation did Clemens and Spencer do before filing the initial pleading? I'd be embarrassed to submit this to a judge.
There was also some fun back-and-forth in this thread about whether our resident satirist, OTVIIIisGrrr8! is actually me, to which I can only say, the very notion that some of you would think I could edit the Voice, work on multiple ongoing Scientology investigative pieces, watch for breaking Scientology stories around the world, post at least something every day, read all the comments for this weekly feature and even join in the comments now and again, and still have time to write lengthy satirical comments under another name -- well, I am truly humbled that you think that much of my powers of stamina. (And for the record, I only post in the comments under my own name.)
In our Thursday roundup, we extolled the virtues of the Tampa Bay Times expose that has resulted in the planned closing of a charter school that had been invaded and sucked dry by Scientology, which prompted this comment by Villagedianne...
In the true manner of a Scientology org, the charter school was funneling money "uplines" while the teaching staff went without salary or basic supplies. They weren't only training the kids to be Scientologists, they were training the teachers to be org staff members.
The post also garnered us another smart observation by Jefferson Hawkins...
The only value that Scientology sees in these "LRH Study Tech" schools is PR. They convince Scientologists to start them up, playing on their altruism and sense of purpose. The Scientologist has to establish such a school on their own dime - the Church sends no financial assistance and never has, despite their insistence that the IAS "funds" such endeavors. They don't. Scientologists are taught that to expect a handout from the Church is "downstat" and they are expected to make their own way - that is "upstat." That doesn't prevent the school from asking for a government handout - that's "proof" that such and such a government is "supporting Scientology," and they will say so loudly in their events. Of course, the local government has not been told that it is Scientology, and if they ask, such a connection is vehemently denied. Meanwhile they will brag in events about how all of these children were "saved" with LRH study tech and use it as evidence of how Scientology is taking over the field of education. They will add this figure to their total of all the children who have ever been involved in any of these scam schools and come up with a total of "millions" of children who have been "saved" with LRH Study Tech. But if you were to contact the local governments or parents you would find they had no idea it was Scientology. Meanwhile, the "LRH Study Tech" school is tithing to the World Literacy Crusade for "consulting fees," the World Literacy Crusade is tithing to ABLE, and ABLE is tithing to the Church. That's the REAL money flow. Then when the scene goes sour, as it did in Dunedin, the Church is nowhere to be found. They will deny any connection and throw the local Scientologists under the bus, possibly even declaring them SP for "creating a public flap." There's your altruistic "Church" of Scientology. And there's the real story that the local Fox station was to lazy or too craven to uncover.
On Friday, we returned to the high seas, and Kate Bornstein filled us in on this fun bit of ship trivia...
There were two bathtubs on the entire ship: one for the old man, and one for his wife. All the rest of us took showers. Just sayin' -- there was no way any of us knew about that dirty brown ring unless he wrote about it, or... no, I don't wanna go there.
Friday's post also included a wacky example of "OT Phenomena" which described a church member leaving his meat body and playing hide-and-seek in the tomb of an ancient Pharoah. It's always good to hear from Mat Pesch, who hit us with this retort...
I reached OT 7, did 90% of what Scientology offers, audited (counseled) others, studied the auditing folders of other "OT's", etc. I saw individuals handle upsets and considerations through counseling but NEVER anything like what Mike is describing. I don't think Mike and Wanda were out of their bodies. I think they were out of their minds....
Yesterday, Judge Cathy Stryker dealt a serious blow to Scientology's hurry-up strategy in its lawsuit against Debbie Cook. What I love most about these stories is that it brings out such amazing legal analysis from our lawyer-commenters. I particularly enjoyed this exchange...
Scott Pilutik: I know I'm beating a moot horse, but ordering discovery while a summary judgment motion is pending is like ordering two families to pay in advance for a wedding they're unsure will take place. Depositions eat up attorney fees fast. Texas is bass ackwards. Still, good on Ray Jeffrey, and I hope he's got his bullshit detector set for 11 because he's about to find out just how uncooperative Scn can be when it needs to drag its feet.
mirele: It's "judicial economy," tikk. No reason to stop the wheels of justice from grinding just for a motion for summary judgment. The philosophy is that there's not likely to be a summary judgment, so if they get the discovery going, they're just that much further towards resolution. Yeah, so it doesn't always work out that way in practice, but hey, you have to admit, this is rather different than what we've seen in the past. And, of course, Scientology's not going to be at all cooperative about discovery. Not in the least.
Wow. Now that's great stuff. And we still have depositions, discovery, a summary judgment hearing and so much more to come! I just hope Davey doesn't drop out.
Please come back tomorrow morning for a special Sunday Funnies as we count down the days to L. Ron Hubbard's big 101st birthday on the 13th. And on Monday, a special pre-birthday gift for the Commodore: an investigative story we've been working on for several weeks, and that should be a hoot!
********** 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, which tend to come out each and every morning at 8 am, but can suddenly appear at any time of the day. 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 our regular features, on Thursdays we do a roundup of world press, on Fridays we visit L. Ron Hubbard on the yacht Apollo circa 1969-1971, on Saturdays we celebrate the week's best comments, and on Sundays we publish Scientology's wacky and tacky advertising mailers that people send us.
As for hot subjects we've covered here, you may have heard about Debbie Cook, the former church official who rebelled and is now being 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.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.
- Group for Homeless LGBT Youth Moves a Step Closer to Buying Terrible Anti-Gay Church...
Fri., Feb. 12, 7:00pm
Sun., Feb. 14, 12:30pm
Sun., Feb. 14, 2:00pm
Sun., Feb. 14, 7:30pm
- Voice Letters: Readers Share Their Energy Service Company Horror Stories
- Landlords Can't Stop Evicting Latino-Owned Businesses in Washington Heights