Scientology Scuffle Over Xenu: When a Protester is Attacked!
Getting a face full of unhappy Scientologist
Tommy Gorman has a pretty in-your-face way of protesting the Church of Scientology. He positions himself outside the entrance to San Francisco's Scientology "org" holding a video camera and another device that plays an audio recording.
As workers at the org arrive or leave, Gorman plays for them the recording, which is from a tape of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard describing Xenu, the galactic overlord that is part of secret upper-level teachings in the church, and which Scientology publicly denies is part of their religion.
While he's playing Hubbard's words, Gorman himself barks things at the workers intended to make them question their faith. He's not subtle about it. He's deliberately trying to get under their skin. Many of them, in fact, know Gorman well. He grew up in Scientology and worked at the San Francisco org for years until leaving in 2001. In 2005, he began protesting Scientology, and his intense -- but peaceful -- demonstrations have resulted in more than one org worker taking a swing at him.
On Saturday, Gorman found himself being charged by a large, angry Scientologist whose rather remarkable bull-rush was caught on video being filmed by Gorman's wife, Jennifer. The man took several swings at him, Gorman says, and after reporting the incident to the police, he was told charges would be filed against the man. After the jump, what we've learned so far about the angry Scientologist, the incident, and Tommy and Jennifer Gorman and their history with the church...
First, take a look at the video that Jennifer was filming from a car as Tommy stood outside Scientology's building a little after noon on Saturday. The two are discussing Tom Cruise and Scientology's upper-level secrets as Tommy plays his Hubbard tape for some workers who leave the building. Then, the real action starts at about the 2:38 mark...
After getting in Gorman's face, the man doesn't stick around as Tommy and Jennifer called police.
I called the San Francisco org yesterday and left a message for its president, Jeff Quiros. He didn't call me back, which is disappointing, because Quiros has given some really interesting and colorful quotes to reporters in the past. This one he gave the San Francisco Chronicle in 2001 seems relevant in this case:
"It's not a go-to-church-on-Sunday kind of religion. It's an intense religion. If people get in your way, they need to be dealt with one way or another."
Gorman knows Quiros very well. In his family, Quiros was known as "Uncle Jeff."
Gorman's father was only 18 when he joined Scientology, his mother was even younger. They met and raised a family in the church. Tommy met his future wife, Jennifer Stewart, at about 14 when they were both in a Scientology school.
In a lengthy 2008 profile of Gorman, my colleague Lauren Smiley at our sister paper in San Francisco, SF Weekly, explained that as Gorman grew into adulthood, he wanted to help Scientology with its enemies. Tommy began picketing the houses of church critics as a volunteer for Quiros, who is also an executive in Scientology's Office of Special Affairs, the church's intelligence, public relations, and covert operations wing.
In 2000, Gorman ran into Jennifer Stewart again when he became a staff member at the org in nearby Mountain View, California. She had left school and was working at the org as a receptionist. She also had a terrible secret: for months, a man named Gabriel Williams, a course supervisor at the Mountain View org, had been raping her at his apartment, where she claimed she had been ordered to stay by Scientology officials. (Scientology denied that she had been ordered to stay there, and claimed that Williams had merely offered to let her stay there to shorten her commute to work.)
Jennifer -- who was only 16 at the time of the attacks -- would later tell police that she had been raped more than 100 times. She was terrified that if she told anyone about it, she would be excommunicated as a "suppressive person," and her family, per Scientology's policy of "disconnection," would be forced to cut off all ties with her.
Eventually, with the support of the Gorman family, she did go to police. Williams was arrested, and ultimately pled guilty to sexual battery and sodomy with a minor, and was sentenced to a year in jail and five years' probation. Jennifer also filed a civil suit against the church.
Tommy says that when he found out about the rapes, he went to Quiros.
"He told me to disconnect from her. I told him to fuck off," Tommy says. "When he told me that, that's when I realized something was wrong."
Tommy, Jennifer, and both of their families left Scientology in 2001.
As a result of leaving the church, and for filing the lawsuit, the Gormans say they were then subject to a hellacious program of "fair game" by the church, which has a reputation for retaliating against people it perceives as enemies. From Smiley's 2008 story:
As documented in police reports Gorman has since posted online, his father answered the phone to hear someone say, "SPs don't live long! Your son and his wife Jennifer will be dead soon!" Gorman's mother was tailed in her car for 45 minutes. After Jennifer lost control of the couple's 1991 Lexus while on the way to her attorney's office, a mechanic showed police that all six bolts connecting the left axle to the transmission were missing, which was probably done deliberately. City child protection workers showed up at the Gormans' house on an anonymous tip that Gorman's father may have sexually abused Tommy's sister, Christle. Gorman has no proof it was Scientology other than the timing, and Quiros denies the church was involved. About the axle, he says, "the most likely story is [Gorman] did it himself."
Jennifer's lawsuit was ultimately ended with a settlement.
In 2003, Tommy and Jennifer were married (they now have three young daughters). In 2005, they started going back to the San Francisco org, this time armed with cameras.
Tommy explained to me why he plays the tape of Hubbard to the workers going in and out of the org, who tend to be low-level employees.
"I do that for the workers at that level, because they haven't been told about the stuff in the tape," he says. "When I was in, we were told that if we heard certain things above our level, we could get pneumonia and die. So I play them those words of Hubbard and ask, you're fine, so what's wrong?"
The tape he plays is from a lecture L. Ron Hubbard reportedly gave in October, 1968 aboard the ship Apollo, which was sailing the Mediterranean at the time. In the lecture, which Wikileaks made available in 2008, Hubbard is heard talking about Scientology's infamous story of Xenu, the galactic overlord, who solved an overpopulation problem 75 million years ago by bringing hundreds of billions of alien beings to Teegeeack -- Earth's name at the time -- and pulverizing them with hydrogen bombs. Their disembodied souls were then fed false memories -- mental implants -- with the use of 3D movies, and those false memories included the current world's religions.
"There was no Christ," Hubbard can be heard to say on the tape.
Scientologists are not exposed to such ideas until they have spent several years, and hundreds of thousands of dollars, in the religion. Hubbard himself claimed that he'd risked death to learn such secrets, breaking through a "wall of fire" of traumatic memories that resulted from the implants, and suspected that whoever was protecting these secrets had booby-trapped them so that anyone not ready to learn them might perish of pneumonia.
Gorman says low-level employees really believe those warnings, and so exposing them to the Xenu story on the street is a way to convince them that they've been told lies.
But Saturday, someone didn't appreciate his message.
"He swung at me. He tried to hit me in the face," Gorman says. "I'm a boxer, and I moved so he missed. He tried to hit my shoulder and he was trying to grab my neck. I put my hands up and he grabbed them and tried to pull me around...He came at me three times, trying to hit me in the face."
Not happy about Xenu
I asked him why he thought the man rushed him.
"I believe he was trying to get me to hit him. I don't have any criminal record at all. And they want to get you charged. That's policy. I think he wanted me to hit him in the face and get me charged," he says.
That's part of the reason Jennifer accompanies him when he protests, to provide a video record to show that Gorman is not assaulting anyone.
I asked Jennifer if it was hard for her to go to the org after being victimized by a Scientologist and then suing the church.
"It's extremely hard, but when I show my face, I feel a sense of satisfaction because I'm proving to them that I have not disappeared," she says. "And by my being there, it reminds them of what they did to me and others like me. I hope it will make one day make other victims want to show their faces too."
This isn't the first time he's been assaulted, Gorman says. In 2008 and 2009 org workers attacked him. He's suing the church for the 2008 attack, which he says left him with nerve damage in his hand.
And this time, he and Jennifer were quick to call police.
"This guy ran away. The other guys were idiots, they came back to the org or stood around. This guy took off," Gorman says.
Gorman says that the officer who arrived looked at the video, then went into the org to talk to workers there. Gorman claims that the officer told him Scientologists confirmed that the man was a Scientologist, but denied that he worked at the org.
Christopher Krzywicki, from his Facebook page
Gorman himself identifies his attacker as Christopher Krzywicki, and showed the Voice Krzywicki's Facebook page. I called Krzywicki's telephone number, but I reached a recorded voice which said that the number was not accepting phone calls.
Krzywicki does look very much like the angry man in the video, and his online footprint is rife with Scientology connections.
No arrest has been made in the case, but Gorman says police called him afterwards to say that charges would be filed. We're checking with the SF police department to confirm that.
Gorman, meanwhile, plans to return to the org to continue his protesting Friday evening.
"I go at 6 pm for the shift change. You get more people that way," he says.
Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he's been writing about Scientology at several publications.
Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin' Scared
SCIENTOLOGY IN THE VILLAGE VOICE
[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?] [Scientology hates clean ice: The "Fair Game" operation that should turn your stomach] [Scientology hates clean ice, part 2: Another target, and the web as weapon] [Paulette Cooper, Scientology's original and worst nightmare: a Thanksgiving tribute]
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[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] [Lori Hodgson and Disconnection: "No one's going to take my eternity away"]
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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
EX-SCIENTOLOGISTS SPEAK OUT
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