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Scientology Raided, Smacked Down in Court, and Accused of Killing Trees -- a Thursday Roundup

Yes, the video we're embedding here is in Russian, (Update: there are now English subtitles, press the "cc" button) but the action is understandable enough: Moscow law enforcement raiding the Church of Scientology there, and getting rather medieval on its locked doors.

We made a rare foray out of the underground bunker this week, and what a strange trip it's been. On a school visit, we created controversy just by our very presence, and it doesn't even have to do with our Scientology watching! A note about that later. For now, we hear the cats are OK back at the bunker, so we're going to try to keep to our regular schedule with our weekly Thursday 2pm Stats report, in which we decide whether it's been an upstat or downstat week for the church.

First, to Moscow, where things seem to be getting rather hardcore for Scientology's continued existence.

We had reported earlier that a Moscow court had judged L. Ron Hubbard's writings to be extremist literature. And now, apparently, officials there are taking the next step.

Have to say, these pictures are pretty startling. A news story from a Russian website sheds no light on the matter, saying the nature of the investigation really is unknown.

Any help from readers on the words being spoken in the video would be of great help (and I know some of our loyal commenters are familiar with the language, so please chime in).

Thursday's Stats: Upstat or Downstat? I know this looks very bad for Scientology, but I warned when news first reached us about the Russian court judgment that banning Hubbard's books had serious backlash potential. Hubbard's books are extremely dumb, and will lower your IQ by significant amounts just trying to get through them, but extremist? There are plenty of reasons for the government to be concerned about the practices and abuses of Scientology. But its books? Harmless nonsense. This could end up a big upstat for the church in the long run.


Story #2: Expansion plans smacked down

Despite its dwindling numbers, Scientology can't seem to cure its real estate fever.

In Sandy Springs, Georgia, however, that urge to expand has been put in check. A judge there denied Scientology's request to add an extra floor to its church there.

Scientology, naturally, is crying about its freedom of religion being violated, but at least somewhere -- in a suburb of Atlanta, at least -- some government officials aren't bending over for an organization that never saw a local rule it didn't intend to break.

Thursday's Stats: Upstat or Downstat? This seems a pretty clear downstat situation for the church. Stories about them fighting the city to expand a building will only get the locals reading into what Scientology is all about, and that never ends well.


Story #3: OSA hates trees?

Over at Marty Rathbun's blog, former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder told a fascinating tale this week claiming that his boss, a man named Robert Almblad, has been getting the usual OSA harassment treatment. even though he's never been in Scientology or said a word about the church (Oops. Didn't read Rinder's piece carefully enough, I guess. Almblad was in Scientology. But he's clearly being targeted because he employs Rinder. I'll have more on this story when I get back to town.)

Almblad is being targeted, it seems, merely because he employs a man, Rinder, who is a huge threat to Scientology.

I'm hoping to talk to Almblad directly about this after I return home, but in the meantime, I have to say my favorite part of Rinder's story was his assertion that when OSA goons wanted to keep an eye on Almblad's office but found that there were some mature oak trees blocking the view from their perch, the trees mysteriously were chainsawed in the middle of the night.

Now that's low.

Thursday's Stats: Upstat or Downstat? OSA thuggery is always a major downstat for the church when it's made public. I mean, why is a church involved in this kind of skullduggery, even if it doesn't like a former member speaking out? And especially when someone, like Almblad, has no connection to Scientology whatsoever?

Overall, a down week for the church, I'd say. And an odd one for your narrator. I came to Southern California for a visit at my alma mater, Cal State Fullerton, where I've been visiting classes and talking about the state of journalism in this economic morass. Tonight, there will be a social event held by the alumni association, and they've been good enough to name me the host. (I won't even be speaking; I'm just there to mingle with folks and maybe give a sentence or two publicly in thanks.) We learned earlier in the week, however, that an activist group is using the opportunity to put on a protest -- and no, it appears to have nothing to do with our Scientology watching. One of the groups that doesn't like the adult ads you find in the Voice is calling me a pimp. Well, I've been called worse. We hear CNN may even be sending over a crew, but it's hard to imagine that my having a few drinks with fellow alumni really rises to the level of national news. I'll let you know what happens!


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


SCIENTOLOGY IN THE VILLAGE VOICE

[All recent stories] | [Top 25 People Crippling Scientology] | [Commenters of the Week]

FEATURED INVESTIGATIONS

[Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis secretly recorded discussing "disconnection"] [Benjamin Ring, LA deputy sheriff, wants you to spend your 401K on Scientology] [Scientologists: How many of them are there, anyway?]

MARTY RATHBUN AND THE SIEGE OF SOUTH TEXAS

[Scientology has Rathbun arrested] | [Rathbun and Mark Bunker reveal surprising ties] In Germany with Ursula Caberta: [Announcing plans] | [Press conference] | [Making news about Tom Cruise, Bill Clinton, and Tony Blair] | [Post-trip interview] The Squirrel Busters: [Goons with cameras on their heads] | [Rathbun's open letter to neighbors] | [Ingleside on the Bay, Texas rallies to Rathbun's cause] | [Squirrel Buster's claim to be making a "documentary"] | [VIDEO: "On a Boat"] | ["Anna" sent to creep out Monique Rathbun] | [Squirrel Busters go hillbilly] | [A videographer blows the whistle on the goon squad] | [Ed Bryan, OT VIII, shows the power of Scientology's highest levels]

SCIENTOLOGY SPYING AND "FAIR GAME"

[Secret Scientology documents spell out spying operation against Marc Headley] [Scientology's West U.S. spies list revealed] | [Scientology's enemies list: Are you on it?] Spy operation against Washington Post writer Richard Leiby: [Part 1] | [Part 2] [A Scientology spy comes clean: Paulien Lombard's remarkable public confession] [Scientology advertises for writers in Freedom magazine] [Accidental leak shows Scientology spy wing plans to "handle" the Voice]

SCIENTOLOGY AND CELEBRITIES

["Tom Cruise told me to talk to a bottle"] | [Tom Cruise likes coconut cake] | [Tom Cruise has a sense of humor] | ["Tom Cruise not a kook!"] | [Paulette Cooper on Tom Cruise] [Paul Haggis, director of Crash, issues an ultimatum, leaves the church] [Character actor Jason Beghe defects noisily] | [Actor Michael Fairman reveals his "suppressive person" declaration] | [Michael Fairman talks to the Voice] [Giovanni Ribisi as David Koresh: Scientology-Branch Davidian link makes sense] [Russell Brand weds ex-Scientologists in wild ceremony] | [Skip Press on Haggis] [Placido Domingo Jr.: Scientology's retaliation is "scary and pathetic"] Grant Cardone, NatGeo's "Turnaround King": [Doing Scientology's dirty work?] | [Milton Katselas complained about Cardone's smear job] | [Cardone runs to Huffpo]

JANET REITMAN'S INSIDE SCIENTOLOGY

[Our review of Inside Scientology] | [An interview with Janet Reitman] | [A report from Reitman's first book tour appearance] | [At the Half-King: Reitman not afraid] [Scientology doesn't like Inside Scientology] | [Q&A at Washington Post] [A roundup of Reitman's print reviews, and why isn't she on television more?]

HUGH URBAN'S THE CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY

[A review of Urban's scholarly history of the church] | [An interview with Hugh Urban]

EX-SCIENTOLOGISTS SPEAK OUT

[Marc Headley: "Tom Cruise told me to talk to a bottle"] | [The Nancy Many interview] [Sympathy for the Devil: Tory Christman's Story] | [Jeff Hawkins' Counterfeit Dreams] [86 Million Thin Dimes: The Lawrence Wollersheim Saga] | [Mike Rinder on spying]

OVERSEAS NEWS

[Scientology dodges a bullet in Australia] | [Scientology exec Jan Eastgate arrested] [All hell breaks loose in Israel] | [Scientology sees fundraising gold in the UK riots] [Aussie former rugby pro Chris Guider calls David Miscavige "toxic" and "violent"] [Stephen Cox, UK church newbie, pledges 20K pounds] | [Biggi Reichert: A German Lisa McPherson?]

ODD VIDEOS AND ODDER NEWS

[Scientology singalong, "We Stand Tall"] | [Captain Bill Robertson and "Galactic Patrol"] [Scientology wins a major award!] | [Scientology wants your money: Meet Dede!] [Birmingham in the House! The "Ideal" dance mix] | [Scientology and the Nation of Islam] [When Scientology was hip] | [Sad: David Miscavige makes fun of his own fundraisers] [Freedom magazine parodies The New Yorker. Hilarity ensues.] [Scientology surf report: Anonymous parties outside the New York "org"]

THE VIEW INSIDE THE BUBBLE

[A scientologist's letter to the Voice and its readers] | [Scientology silent birth] [Tad Reeves: Scientology might listen to this guy] | [More Tad Reeves and family] [Scientology never forgets: A heartwarming telemarketing holiday miracle] [Scientology High School, Dating and Super Powers!]


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