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Scientology Leader David Miscavige Fed Gourmet Meals Every Few Hours: Australian TV

Interesting Scientology news coming out of Australia in this piece which aired during what were the wee hours here for us this morning.

Australia's Bryan Seymour has produced some of that country's biggest scoops about Scientology in recent years, and he has a diverting item in this Today Tonight piece about Lana Mitchell, who helped to lavish gourmet meals on Scientology leader David Miscavige at the church's secretive desert headquarters in California -- until, that is, she was accused of feeding a bad shrimp to Tom Cruise, and as a result lost her job, lost her family, and lost her friends.

Mitchell was a Sea Org member for 15 years, one of the hardcore Scientologists who sign contracts promising to work for the church for a billion years, lifetime after lifetime.

After working at several different posts, by 2003 she had become a cook at "Int," the sprawling, 700-acre international headquarters of the church in the California desert Scientology leader David Miscavige calls home.

Last year, Mitchell first surfaced to tell publicly some of her story at Marty Rathbun's blog, where many other longtime church members are making public their own stories of disaffection with Miscavige and the official church.

Mitchell explained that she had left the church in 2004 and was now part of the growing independent Scientology movement. But in that blog item, she didn't go into detail about what caused her fall from grace at the Int headquarters: "I will not at this time include a long account of how I came to be declared," she wrote.

Now, she's apparently changed her mind. In her interview with Seymour, she explains that as Miscavige's cook, it was her job to lavish on the church leader gourmet meals every few hours, and especially when Miscavige's good friend Tom Cruise showed up.

But when Cruise got food poisoning from a bad shrimp, Mitchell says she was unfairly blamed, and found herself cut off not only from her job, but also from her friends and family.

From the Today Tonight web version of the story:

"I was given no opportunity to defend myself. They needed a head on a pike, as they call it, they needed someone to shoot. Tom Cruise got food poisoning, somebody needed to go so ... that was the end of me at the International Headquarters of Scientology. "I was sent to hard labour," Mitchell said.

Seymour points out that Mitchell's punishment for supposedly poisoning Cruise happened about the time, 2004, that Cruise was receiving a "medal of valor" from Miscavige for his contributions to Scientology. (A video interview of Cruise, produced for the ceremony when he received the International Association of Scientologists' Freedom Medal of Valor, would go on, in 2008, to be leaked and create a sensation on the Internet.)

While Cruise was being feted, Mitchell was cut off from everything she had known for 15 years.

"Every phone call is listened to, every letter is read, in and out -- it gets to a point that people really have nobody left to go to in many cases. In my view it's a violation of human rights," she told Seymour.

Seymour also heard from Australian Senator Nick Xenophon about the matter:

"Not only was Lana's treatment bizarre, it was shocking and unacceptable," said Independent Federal Senator Nick Xenophon, who has long campaigned against Scientology's abuses. Even he has been appalled by its leader's lavish lifestyle. "How is it that these cult leaders can live in absolute luxury whereas their followers live in poverty?" Xenophon asked.

Seymour also asked your humble narrator to contribute to the piece, and yours truly pointed out that Katie Holmes has a reason to be concerned that her husband's church has so consistently retaliated in extreme ways not only with people like Lana Mitchell, but also to people outside the church -- the South Park revelations being a salient example of that.

Seymour also quoted me saying that Scientology workers "expect to be abused," and I wanted to put a little context to that: I was referring to basic Scientology training, which includes subjecting new recruits to routines which have them attempting not to flinch as they are screamed at. This "bull baiting" is intended to instill in Scientologists a flat affect, so that they can endure heaps of abuse without reacting. And from the testimony we are hearing from many ex-Scientologists who reached the church's highest levels, Scientology executives get plenty of verbal and even physical abuse in their jobs.

As I put it in a recent story about Miscavige:

When you take into consideration that Scientologists are indoctrinated, practically from the first day, to accept verbal abuse as a normal consequence of their spiritual enlightenment, you begin to understand just how intolerable Miscavige must be: he's chasing off people who had resigned themselves to being poorly fed, paid almost nothing, housed with no privacy, punished like prison inmates, and screamed at constantly over the lives of their billion-year contracts. When these people tell you their boss is an asshole, it really means something!

So here, from Australia, another voice is added to that chorus. Mitchell says Miscavige was treated "like royalty," fed lavish meals around the clock, and when something upset the tummy of Tom Cruise, someone had to pay.

Your tax dollars at work.


UPDATE: Seymour has put the entire transcript of his interview with Mitchell online.

Feast on this highlight, in which Mitchell describes what it was like to feed Scientology's diminutive leader:

"I was put into the kitchens to work and for several years, some three years. I worked in the unit that serviced, that cooked for David Misgavige, his wife and his entourage as well as his guests."

"We used to cook meals for him every two and a half hours. there was to be a meal prepared and served and ready every two and half hours, fitting to a specific calorie intake, certain amount of fat, certain amount of carbohydrate, certain amount of protein, all very highly regulated but it had to be the best of the best."

"We‟re talking organic chicken breast, we‟re talking Atlantic Salmon flown in fresh, we‟re talking the best materials that are available. The only lamb we ever got was the corn fed lamb from New Zealand."

"We used to spend over a thousand dollars, this is in early two thousand, we spend over $1000 a week just on the food order to service this handful of individuals." "(at the same time staff were getting paid) $50 a week, but often not that because often we‟d already be on reduced pay or some of our pay would be taken to for gifts for Executives or for Christmas or whatever."

Read the rest of the transcript here.

Oh, almost forgot. Here is Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw's response, with the usual stuff about unprecedented expansion, yadda yadda yadda.


The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology #1: L. Ron Hubbard #2: David Miscavige #3: Marty Rathbun #4: Tom Cruise #5: Joe Childs and Tom Tobin #6: Anonymous #7: Mark Bunker #8: Mike Rinder #9: Jason Beghe #10: Lisa McPherson #11: Nick Xenophon (and other public servants) #12: Tommy Davis (and other hapless church executives) #13: Janet Reitman (and other journalists) #14: Tory Christman (and other noisy ex-Scientologists) #15: Andreas Heldal-Lund (and other old time church critics) #16: Marc and Claire Headley, escapees of the church's HQ #17: Jefferson Hawkins, the man behind the TV volcano #18: Amy Scobee, former Sea Org executive #19: The Squirrel Busters (and the church's other thugs and goons) #20: Trey Parker and Matt Stone (and other media figures) #21: Kendrick Moxon, attorney for the church #22: Jamie DeWolf (and other L. Ron Hubbard family members) #23: Ken Dandar (and other attorneys who litigate against the church) #24: David Touretzky (and other academics) #25: Xenu, galactic overlord


Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he's been writing about Scientology at several publications.

tortega@villagevoice.com | @VoiceTonyO | Facebook: Tony Ortega

Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin' Scared


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