After the jump: Paulien Lombard takes on the supervisors for a second time.
Tuesday, a woman named Paulien Lombard appeared before the Riverside County, California Board of Supervisors to tell them what only a few years earlier she had kept secret: that she was a Scientologist who had worked as a spy for the church.
It’s a dramatic moment, and even more so if you know the back story that led to Tuesday’s surprising scene. Admitting that she’d spied for her church, Lombard says, was just the right thing to do.
“I knew that if I shut up, I would feel badly for the rest of my life,” she told us yesterday on the telephone from California.
In September of 2008, Lombard was not only still a member of the church of Scientology, she was one of Orange County, California’s most dedicated adherents. She had first joined the church in Amsterdam in 1978, and after 30 years, she was a person known by her peers for her dogged determination to interact with the public and sell Scientology’s products.
“I was always out on the street, selling books. I was considered to be a person who was rough and tough. I could talk to anyone I met on the street. I was trusted,” she says.
So trusted, she says, she was approached to help the church with a little problem: protesters at its desert headquarters near Hemet, California.
“In 2008, they showed at an event a video they had made about Anonymous. They scared the living daylight out of you about Anonymous. All these Scientologists were made to believe that protesters were terrorists,” she says. “Somebody asked me, ‘Can you do this?’ Sure, I can do this. I want to fight terrorism. I didn’t think twice about it.”
Lombard says she was asked in part because as an OT V — someone who had achieved high levels of training, including the infamous space opera elements of OT III — she could remain calm if protesters started shouting something about church secrets.
“You know about the secret scriptures, like Xenu. if the protesters blurted that, you wouldn’t get flustered,” she says.
In particular, her help was needed regarding a protester who was giving the church headaches, a man who called himself “AnonOrange.”
As Lombard pointed out to the Supervisors this week, they are well aware of AnonOrange, whose real name is Francois Choquette.
“I was at the monthly protest since March 2008,” AnonOrange told me this morning by telephone. “My approach is to dress up in something funny. I try to ridicule them. I make serious speeches at the Board of Supervisors, I write letters, I meet with reporters. But then I do silly stuff.”
The reason? “Scientology can’t fight funny. Because they aren’t funny. They’re the most unfunny group in the world.”
Scientology didn’t appreciate AnonOrange’s sense of humor. it wanted to gather more information about him — like where he lived. And that involved a pretty elaborate mission which included luring AnonOrange to a supposed magazine interview that didn’t happen, and then following him for 11 hours until he finally went home late at night.
The next morning, AnonOrange says, one of Scientology’s private investigators showed up at his home to serve him with a cease-and-desist letter.
“A few days later, at 5:45 am, Paulien showed up with a guy. We called him ‘Blue shirt guy’,” he says.
“They asked me to go out there and stand with a sign outside of Mr. Choquette’s house saying that he was a terrorist,” Lombard says.
It has become a common OSA tactic: hand out leaflets or put up signs in the neighborhood where a protester lives, trying to convince neighbors that they’re living next to someone suspicious or dangerous.
“It didn’t last long. It was a closed community. Cops came. We had to leave,” she says.
However, during the encounter Lombard got to know a neighbor, and procured his business card.
“I told OSA [the Office of Special Affairs, the church’s intelligence wing that runs such spying operations]. They were excited.” Lombard says she was asked to call the neighbor and pump him for information about AnonOrange.
“For the operation I was called Sarah White. I called this neighbor back, and then I was supposed to find out what was AnonOrange’s source of income. I never found out much, but the whole intention of OSA was to get the juice on AnonOrange. His source of income, his plans,” she says.
A month later, things got much more serious for AnonOrange. During a protest at Gold Base — the Scientology HQ — he was wrestled to the ground by Scientology security officers and then was arrested by Riverside County sheriff’s deputies, as can be seen in this video:
Charges against the protesters were eventually dropped, and then AnonOrange filed a lawsuit against the church. (It was recently settled, and AnonOrange says he can’t discuss the terms.)
Meanwhile, Lombard, the avid Scientologist who was ready to spy against protesters she saw as terrorists, was starting to have her doubts.
“My son found a story on the Internet, on Digg, a story that Mike Rinder had left Scientology. And that was it for us. We love Mike Rinder,” she says.
“That was the initial thing, that made us think, let’s look into this.” She found the excellent 2009 St. Petersburg Times series, with denunciations of Scientology leader David Miscavige by former high-ranking officials such as Amy Scobee and Marty Rathbun. “Then we were thinking, holy crap, these people are telling the truth. They had no benefits from speaking out. The church is going to come after them, and yet they tell the truth,” she says.
“At that point we were out.” Over time, she says, her entire familyl left the church with her. “We tried to get some friends out. One of them spied on us for OSA,” she says, noting the irony.
And now that she was out, she had to confront her own behavior while she was in.
“I felt really bad about what I’d done,” she says, which is why she reached out to AnonOrange directly.
They both say she was prepared to testify on AnonOrange’s behalf as his lawsuit made its way through the courts. Now that it’s settled, Lombard says she was ready to go public with what she knew.
And that’s why, this week, she stepped up to a podium to address the county’s Board of Supervisors, who have been involved in ongoing disputes over protests at the Scientology Headquarters. One supervisor, Jeff Stone, has been especially sympathetic to the church, and has denounced Anonymous as a hate group. (He also proposed dividing California in two in order to create a 51st state, but that’s another matter.)
She says she plans to provide more information to the Board, and wants to address Supervisor Stone directly.
But for now, she knows that she’s put a big target on her back by speaking out.
“When I left yesterday to the Board of Supervisors, a private investigator took a picture of me and my daughter,” she says. “OSA always wants to be first with the information.”
[Update: Paulien contacted me to point out that I’d heard her wrong on that last quote. She was photographed as she left her home to go to the Board of Supervisors chamber, not after she gave her speech to the Supes.]
UPDATE: Paulien makes her follow-up appearance and takes on Jeff Stone directly.
See all of our recent Scientology coverage at the Voice
Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin’ Scared
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 Robert Cipriano Case — A Hellacious Example of Fair Game
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 Aaron Saxton Accusation — Australia turns up the heat on Scientology
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
Placido Domingo Jr: Scientology’s Retaliation is “Scary and Pathetic”
An Interview with Nancy Many, Former Scientology Spy