Tonight, we talked to Placido Domingo Jr., son of the famous tenor and a well-known musician in his own right, and he had plenty to say about the way Scientology has treated him and his family.
A member of Scientology for 20 years, Domingo says he’s now done with the church and angry for the way it tried to make him “disconnect” from his ex-wife, Samantha Domingo, who is the mother of his three daughters.
He refused, and he says Scientology is retaliating against him in “scary and pathetic” ways.
Earlier today (Saturday, July 9), we talked to Domingo about how Scientology had put out a mass call for church members to “unfriend” him on Facebook. But later in the evening, he called back to say that the church had escalated its attack on him by posting to a blog details of his personal life that he only revealed in confidential auditing sessions.
“It’s an outrage. It’s penitent-privilege information. Imagine if they did that to Tom Cruise or John Travolta. My God!” he said tonight via telephone.
Domingo and his older brother, José, have both long been Scientologists, and their famous father has never questioned it, he says. “He’s never been involved in this. He’s always respected our opinion,” he says. “He respects people and reserves his judgment in this aspect. He’s a wise man.”
Domingo and Samantha met in the church in 1994, and eventually had three daughters. Although they are now divorced, the two remain close as they raise their children. Samantha lives in Kent, England with the girls, Domingo lives in Miami. When we first talked to him tonight, he had returned from taking his youngest daughter, Daniela, to Disney World.
Samantha is currently visiting Marty Rathbun in Ingleside on the Bay, Texas. Rathbun in recent years has become perhaps Scientology’s most problematic former member. Rathbun’s blog, as we’ve been documenting in numerous posts, has become a serious problem for Scientology leader David Miscavige.
Samantha herself has been publicly critical of Scientology, and when she began to communicate openly with Rathbun, she too became a church enemy. “I was speaking about abuses that I’d seen within the church,” Samantha told me tonight by telephone. “The problem is the alterations they’re making in the technology, how it has all been screwed up. And now it’s nothing but greed and corruption.” After speaking out publicly, Samantha then began to communicate with and visit Rathbun. “That was the nail in my coffin, as far as the church was concerned.”
For more than a year, she says, members of Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs — its intelligence and covert operations wing — have been pressuring Domingo to cut off ties with his ex-wife.
“They played nice with him for a year or two, and as long as he did what he was told he was pretty safe. But a number of times they stipulated that he disconnect with me,” she says. “They also asked him to report back on me and what I was doing.”
“Disconnection” is a well-known policy in Scientology. Members are required to cut off all communication with people the church considers problematic, even if that means splitting up families.
“They asked that any communication between us went through an attorney, and so he wouldn’t have to go through me,” Samantha adds.
Domingo told me the same thing. “It was suggested that I get an attorney that I could communicate with my children so I could stay away from my ex-wife. It was insane,” he says.
“I don’t think anyone has the right to tell someone who they can speak to or see. Especially when it comes to spiritual freedom,” he says. “For me it’s easy. I adore my children and I really get along with my ex-wife. I told them you’re nuts.”
Domingo says he decided to stop engaging in Scientology services, even though he still has a high regard for Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and his philosophies. “But I am not going to allow anybody to tell me who I can talk to. So basically I consider myself at a neutral point. I’m no longer a member,” he says.
Recently, he hadn’t heard anything else from the church regarding his status, at least not officially. But then, he was surprised to see that a man he didn’t know named Bruce Wiseman put out a statement about him on Facebook.
As first revealed on Rathbun’s blog earlier today, Wiseman, who is was formerly the U.S. president of Scientology’s anti-psychiatry group Citizens Commission on Human Rights, posted the following on Facebook for other Scientologists to read:
“It’s come to my attention that Placido Domingo has left our group and aligned himself on his Facebook page with people who hate our church. I suggest dropping him from your friends list and letting any mutual friends on Facebook know about this.”
Wiseman asked Scientologists to unfriend Domingo, and then provided instructions for how to do that. Domingo says that about 120 people immediately unfriended him at his Facebook page. Only “3 or 4” he says, contacted him to ask about it.
“It’s not that Facebook is important. But it’s incredible that some people could do this without even reaching out to me,” he says. “I’m just literally being branded, and people who were close to me are being told to disconnect with me.”
As we were preparing this story, Domingo called us back to say that within just a couple of hours after Rathbun wrote publicly about Wiseman’s Facebook shunning of Domingo, there was an even more troubling development, and it involved an anti-Rathbun blog.
We’ve been documenting the ways Scientology is retaliating against Rathbun for his criticisms of Scientology leader David Miscavige. His house is under constant surveillance by church operatives. And Rathbun is also subject to constant ridicule by a number of anti-Rathbun blogs with names like “Marty Rathbun Blog” and URLs meant to siphon traffic from his own site.
Domingo noticed tonight that at the site “Mark ‘Marty’ Rathbun Blog” (martyrathbunblog.com), an article appeared tonight referring to him as “Placebo Domingo,” and containing accusations about his personal life–that he admitted to adultery–that Scientology could only know from his confidential auditing sessions. [As was pointed out in our comments, below, this page has now been pulled down — exactly as Domingo predicted would happen. However, a copy of the page was snagged by the folks at the excellent Anonymous site, WhyWeProtest.net]
In auditing, Scientologists hold onto something called an “e-meter,” a device that measures skin galvinism and that Scientologists believe can reveal something about their inner thoughts. They are encouraged to talk about upsetting events and otherwise bare their souls about intimate details in their lives. An auditor, meanwhile, writes down these details in something called a “PC folder,” and parishioners are assured that these details are confidential and can never be used against them.
However, the history of Scientology is rife with examples of the church doing just that, pulling information from PC folders to use against people who the church believe have become enemies.
“I didn’t attack the church. All I did was give Marty information about this man Wiseman attacking me. I didn’t say anything about the church or say anything negative about it,” Domingo says. “And look, within three hours, the church posts that. And I know it is the church because only it can react that fast.
“I mean a priest, a normal priest, could never reveal that kind of information…The information about adultery. That was only mentioned in session,” he says.
Domingo sounded incensed. “They have people by the balls. It really makes you think,” he says. But he wanted his experience known so that others would understand how Scientology operates. “If I can get other people not to fall into this trap, I’d be doing them a favor.”
UPDATE: I just spoke with Domingo again this (Monday) afternoon. He was unaware just how much his story has been picked up since we posted this interview Saturday night just before midnight. The L.A. Times, Washington Post, and the Daily Mail in London are among the places that have noted our story.
“This is the last way I wanted to be famous. I’d rather be known for singing or performing,” Domingo said to me.
He pointed out that the slanderous information about him had been taken down since our article appeared, and he was interested to hear that Anonymous had managed to snag a copy. I explained to him how to find it.
Otherwise, he hasn’t heard from the church about the incident, and he says he hopes it stays that way.
“I hope this is the end of it and I don’t have to hear any more defamation of me. All I did was pass on the information about Wiseman’s statement to Marty. I never attacked the church.”
Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he’s been writing about Scientology at several publications. Among his other stories about L. Ron Hubbard’s organization:
The Larry Wollersheim Saga — Scientology Finally Pays For Its Fraud
The Tory Bezazian (Christman) Story — How the Internet Saved A Scientologist From Herself
The Jason Beghe Defection — A Scientology Celebrity Goes Rogue
The Paul Haggis Ultimatum — The ‘Crash’ Director Tells Scientology to Shove It
The Marc Headley Escape — ‘Tom Cruise Told Me to Talk to a Bottle’
The Jefferson Hawkins Stipulation — Scientology’s former PR genius comes clean
The Daniel Montalvo Double-Cross — Scientology lures a young defector into a trap
A Church Myth Debunked — Scientology and Proposition 8
Daniel Montalvo Strikes Back — Scientology Hit with Stunning Child-Labor Lawsuits
When Scientologists Attack — The Marty Rathbun Intimidation
A Scientologist Excommunicated — The Michael Fairman SP Declaration
The Richard Leiby Operation — Investigating a reporter’s divorce to shut him up
The Hugh Urban Investigation — An academic takes a harsh look at Scientology’s past
Giovanni Ribisi as David Koresh — A precedent for a Scientology-Branch Davidian link
Janet Reitman’s Inside Scientology — A masterful telling of Scientology’s history
The Western Spy Network Revealed? — Marty Rathbun ups the ante on David Miscavige
Scientology’s Enemies List — Are You On It?
Inside Inside Scientology — An interview with author Janet Reitman
Scientology and the Nation of Islam — Holy Doctrinal Mashup, Batman!
Scientologists — How Many of Them Are There, Anyway?
Roger Weller’s Wild Ride — Scientology When it was Hip
The Marc Headley Infiltration — A Scientology Spying Operation Revealed
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 9, 2011