The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology, No. 11: Nick Xenophon
On August 5, we started a countdown that will give credit -- or blame -- to the people who have contributed most to the sad current state of Scientology. From its greatest expansion in the 1980s, the church is a shell of what it once was and is mired in countless controversies around the world. Some of that was self-inflicted, and some of it has come from outside. Join us now as we continue on our investigation of those people most responsible...
#11: Nick Xenophon (and other public servants)
Nearly five years ago, Nick Xenophon, the independent federal senator from the state of South Australia, was discussing a story with Seven Network journalist Bryan Seymour when the topic turned to Scientology. Seymour says that Xenophon expressed some concern about the tax breaks given to Scientology, and said he was going to look into it further.
Boy, did he. In November, 2009, Xenophon stood up in Australia's federal Parliament at the capital, Canberra, and detailed the shocking stories of several Australian ex-Scientologists. He made a declaration that day in Parliament that is still ringing in the ears of Scientology watchers Down Under: "Scientology is not a religion. It is a criminal organization that hides behind its so-called religious beliefs." Two years later, Scientology in Australia is battered and bruised, and a government decision coming in the next couple of weeks could bankrupt the church there.
I asked Seymour, who has closely followed Xenophon's moves since that first conversation five years ago, to describe the senator's progress there...
Senator Xenophon's speech led to a Federal Senate Inquiry into the tax arrangements for groups like Scientology. The Church gave evidence at the Senator Inquiry and were clearly desperate to keep their tax exempt status. The result? Australia is introducing a Charities Commission and a Public Benefit Test which means that Scientology will have to prove it delivers benefits to the wider community or start forking out millions of dollars in tax.
The Senator has also championed the individual cases of former survivors of Scientology, including Scarlett Hanna and Carmen Rainer. (Carmen is the former Scientologist who has alleged CCHR President Jan Eastgate told her to lie to the police about being sexually abused when she was 11 years old and her family was in the Church -- Eastgate now faces charges of perverting the course of justice in Australia).
The Senator has also been instrumental in having the South Australian government examine the tax arrangements of Scientology in the United Kingdom, (Scientology claims its whole outfit in the UK is a South Australian Charity!), and he is involved in ongoing investigations by Australian Federal Police and the FBI into claims of human trafficking and employment breaches. His efforts have inspired hundreds of people around the world to speak out and thousands more to take action. His impact might be less extraordinary but for the fact that he is a politician; truly bound in mind and spirit to serve those who elected him and the community he has the power to influence.
Or as we say -- he's a ripper bloke you can count on.
Seymour is certainly correct that Xenophon's impact is made greater because of his position as a federal senator. In fact, relatively few public servants have involved themselves in Scientology one way or another. We wanted to recognize the contributions of a few more.
Ursula Caberta just this week welcomed former Scientology executive Marty Rathbun to Germany. We're on pins and needles waiting to see what happens during his visit. In the meantime, I asked attorney Graham Berry, who has made multiple trips to Germany, to describe Caberta's role there.
In 1992 Ursula Caberta had been a Hamburg State legislator when she was appointed Commissioner for the State of Hamburg's Scientology Task Force. Since then Ms. Caberta has been one of the most significant critics of corporate Scientology and one of the major influences upon Germany's decision to monitor the cult as a potential threat to democracy and the German state. She has written several books on the organization. In response, Scientology has sued Ms. Caberta in both Germany and Florida, attacked her publicly and horribly harassed her, her family, and her superiors. The pressure exerted upon the State of Hamburg by Scientology and the United States State Department led to the closure of the Hamburg Task Force in late 2010. However, Ms. Caberta continues to be responsible for educating Hamburg's school children and others upon the dangers of corporate Scientology to both the individual and the state. No one person or group can claim responsibility for the implosion of Miscavige's cult. However, Ms. Caberta is one of a handful of people most responsible for the dramatic decline of Scientology in northern Europe. The impact of her work continues to ripple across the world and to highlight some of the human rights and civil rights abuses that organized Scientology engages in against its members, staff and critics.
Rathbun has said that he is going to Germany to "handle" Caberta. He may find that she's a handful, all right!
Gabe Cazares was mayor of Clearwater, Florida when Scientology invaded the town in late 1975. For years, church leader L. Ron Hubbard had been sailing the seas from one port to another, staying ahead of government investigations and tax collectors. Now he wanted a land base for the flagship of his little fleet -- which is why to this day Scientology's Clearwater operations are referred to as "Flag."
Cazares, however, soon caught on that the "United Churches of Florida" group which was buying up so much land in Clearwater was actually a front for Scientology. When he questioned the motives of the church -- and why it needed so many security people carrying mace -- Scientology retaliated with a smear campaign against the mayor, and planned to tarnish his reputation with a fabricated sex scandal.
Cazares was unable to keep Scientology from virtually taking over Clearwater, but when he died in 2006, Cazares was remembered by the St. Pete Times as an accomplished civic leader.
Unlike Xenophon, Caberta, and Cazares, some public servants have not been able to see through Scientology's obfuscation about its methods and motivations. So we're also going to recognize a motley trio of government officials who have run interference for the church, or otherwise have embarrassed themselves by not paying better attention to the public good.
Scientology seems to have Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone convinced that anyone who protests at the church's secretive desert headquarters near Hemet is a bomb-carrying terrorist. He proposed a draconian anti-protesting ordinance that would have made it impossible to picket Scientology's Gold Base (which is in Stone's district). The ordinance was eventually watered down, but Stone's image as Scientology's water carrier wasn't dimmed. And he apparently hasn't changed his mind about things even after a former Scientologist, Paulien Lombard, recently owned up in a pair of remarkable public appearances at the Board of Supes that she was part of Scientology's anti-Anonymous spying wing which has been blowing smoke up Stone's skirt.
Sharron Angle briefly became a Tea Party icon in her bid to unseat Nevada Senator Harry Reid. She failed at that attempt, and one of the reasons may have been her inability to shake the public perception that she was sort of nutty. Where did that notion come from? Oh, well, if you're going to push Criminon, a Scientology front group, on Nevada prisons as a state legislator, and advocate against psych drugs with Scientology celebs Kelly Preston and Jenna Elfman, and pal around with Scientology execs like Bruce Wiseman at the National Foundation of Women Legislators, people will talk.
Lee Baca is the Sheriff of Los Angeles County, and his spokesman, Steve Whitmore, told me recently that as an elected official, it's Baca's right to say the nice things he has about Scientology and its drug-treatment front group, Narconon. But many of us have wondered why the Sheriff seems so tight with Scientology -- he appears on Scientology floats in parades, and has pushed Narconon as a legitimate drug treatment program -- but what concerns us even more is the way that Baca's department is the one that Scientology tends to run to for special treatment. When Daniel Montalvo escaped from the church last year but then was talked into the clutches of church attorneys, it was to a Sheriff's detective that the attorneys dragged him for questioning, for example. And we also had to raise an eyebrow when a Baca deputy, Ben Ring, appeared on a Scientology mailer in full uniform, extolling the benefits of turning over your 401K money to the church rather than save it for retirement. We're still waiting to hear something about the inquiry into that matter, which Whitmore promised us would start forthwith.
As always, we expect to hear from our readers about other figures they would have liked to see in this list. Believe us when we say we hear you -- and tomorrow, we're going to prove it.
What we mean is that tomorrow, before we plunge into this countdown's final ten, we're pausing to make a couple of announcements. First, we'll be revealing details of how you, our loyal readers, will be able to vote on your own Top 25 list, and how the results of that poll will be reported. Second, before we plunge into our Top Ten, we're going to look back at the first fifteen entries by announcing some additions to those entries. So check back tomorrow morning for that update!
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.
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?]
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
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]
[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]
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.