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…
#18: Amy Scobee
Amy Scobee was among several longtime Scientologists who not only left the organization, but then helped change the conversation about it.
Scobee, like several other recent defectors, had worked closely with Scientology leader David Miscavige. And as a group, these former executives came forward to tell the world how bizarre and awful it was to work for a leader so irrational, impulsive, and violent. Since Scobee and others came forward in the landmark 2009 St. Pete Times series, “The Truth Rundown,” a new picture of Miscavige and Scientology has emerged, one that is focused on the abuses of an organization rotting from its apex.
In her book about her experiences, “Abuse at the Top,” Scobee describes her entire 27-year journey in Scientology, which began in 1978 when she was only 14 and went to work for the church. That first year, she writes, she was raped by her 35-year-old boss, but the incident was swept under the rug. Still at only 16, she joined the Sea Org and signed its billion-year contract.
Scobee’s narrative is especially moving for the way it describes a talented, hardworking and dedicated young woman who was selected for ever more important jobs and increased responsibility, but that climb was interrupted repeatedly with harrowing stints in the Sea Org’s “RPF” — Rehabilitation Project Force — a kind of prison duty that she was sent to for sometimes the most capricious of reasons. For months at a time, she was assigned to the degrading conditions of the RPF, and was even sent to the lowest situation of all — the RPF’s RPF — and had to work to get herself back in good standing.
Much of this occurred when she worked at Scientology’s secretive California desert headquarters, Gold Base. Between her stays in the RPF and otherwise having no contact with the outside world, she describes how unreal it was to learn that her uncle, Dick Scobee, had been killed while he commanded the space shuttle Challenger, which disintegrated in 1986.
Another odd detail of her story: she rose to the highest of positions, working directly under Miscavige, while actually doing very little actual study of Scientology’s precepts:
“I really had minor understanding of Scientology teaching since I very rarely studied, hadn’t read any of the basic books and received little counseling, other than confessionals asking for transgressions. Yet, somehow I ended up at the top of the organization.”
When she finally did get to study, and moved up “the Bridge,” she was shocked to find how little of what L. Ron Hubbard spoke about was actually in use in the organization’s upper management:
What struck me the most was how little the information contained in these books was applied, even by the top Scientologists in the world. It was as if the technology was one thing and what was really done was something else entirely. LRH preaches about freedom, happiness, raised awareness, improving communication and relationships yet at the very top of the church, these basic fundamentals are banned with such force.
Scobee’s story is also remarkable for how intimately involved she was with some of Scientology’s most intriguing developments. She oversaw a major renovation of the Hollywood Celebrity Centre, for example, worked closely with some of Scientology’s most famous celebrity figures, and even managed the hiring of Scientology personnel for Tom Cruise’s house in the early 1990s.
But with Miscavige, she writes, you were never safe from a sudden reversal. She found herself back in the RPF again, this time for several years. And, as we’ve seen many times in the history of the church, things Scobee confessed to in supposedly private auditing sessions was instead used against her publicly. In particular, she writes, Miscavige humiliated her with sexual details that she had divulged, supposedly under strict priest-penitent secrecy.
The abuse, she says, became too much. She was determined to get out with her husband, another Sea Org member named Mat Pesch. It wasn’t easy, but they managed to leave in 2005.
Mark Bunker has interviewed Scobee for his upcoming documentary, “Knowledge Report.” I asked him his thoughts on her:
I think her warmth and her strength shine through in the many interviews she’s given. Scientology paints people who leave the group as the lowest of the low; criminals who should not be trusted. They’ve plucked info from her supposedly confidential confessional files and twisted and distorted her words and actions, as they always do. They picked a fight with the wrong SP. Anyone who meets her can tell she is a terrific person and will not back down from a righteous fight.
And here’s a portion of her interview with Bunker, in which she talks about the infamous Tom Cruise video…
And a sample of her interviews at the St. Pete Times series, “The Truth Rundown,” in which she talks about seeing David Miscavige leap across a table to attack Jeff Hawkins:
Many Scientologists have left the organization and then spoke up publicly about its eccentricities and toxicities. But Amy Scobee has stood out for how much she obviously gave of herself to the church, even through the degradations of the RPF. And for how credibly she comes across, and helped shift the focus of how we all think about this odd group.
Coming Wednesday morning, look for No. 17 on our countdown. And also this week, an update on Janet Reitman’s book, Inside Scientology.
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
#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]