It’s that time of the week again — at 2 pm on Thursdays, Scientology orgs turn in their stats for the week, and so we like to do our own accounting of how things went for the church with our weekly roundup.
After the jump, an eye-opening look inside an “Ideal org” by our sister paper in Phoenix. But first, watch this video segment released by Mark Bunker, in which he interviews Jamie DeWolf for his upcoming documentary, Knowledge Report.
Jamie puts on another fine performance here. Listed at #22 in our countdown, DeWolf is the great-grandson of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, and he’s also a noted slam poet and stage performer who lives in the Oakland area.
As in his previous appearances, he tries to convey what life was like for his grandfather, L. Ron Hubbard Jr., who changed his name to Ron DeWolf as he distanced himself from Scientology.
“Imagine if your father was a cult leader. Imagine if your father was literally referred to as ‘The Source,’ and people have to salute his picture, even when he’s dead. Imagine that’s your dad. Where are you going to get guidance from?”
Thursday’s Stats: Upstat or Downstat? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — I think Jamie DeWolf could become a huge problem for David Miscavige and the Church of Scientology. He’s likable, he’s charismatic, and he says the kinds of things about Hubbard that only a family member could — devastating things that tear at the fabric of the LRH mystique. A huge downstat for the church, and we have to hand it to Mark Bunker for always finding a way to make Knowledge Report even more anticipated.
Story #2: Ideal Times in Phoenix
From my old friend Ray Stern at our sister paper in Arizona, Phoenix New Times, comes a delicious expose of the “Ideal Org” under development by the church there.
Ray called me up after we posted the notorious “Dede” video, showing Phoenix Scientologists begging fellow church members for funds to purchase a new building. It was Mark Bunker who alerted us to the cringeworthy spot, which shows some middle-aged folks putting on fake enthusiasm while pretending to be accepting donations in a boiler-plate phone-bank setup. It’s a rare glimpse into the reality of outlying orgs like the one in Phoenix, and far from the celebrity-soaked image Scientology normally likes to convey. But what was the status of the new “org” that these poor folks were raising money for? Ray wondered if there wasn’t a larger story there.
Boy, did he find one. Ray’s a digger, and he found amazing details about how Scientology purchased its new building, how it kicked out the remaining tenants, and how it continued to hit up parishioners for big bucks even after the purchase had been completed. Please take the time to read his entire piece, which is the cover story for this week’s issue.
Thursday’s Stats: Upstat or Downstat? Another big downstat for the church. The media has really been behind the curve on the “Ideal Org” program (and I include myself in that criticism), but Ray’s piece should prove a blueprint for other journalists who want to understand this bizarre real estate expansion at a time that Scientology is dwindling. (And a note about that: Ray talked to the author of the study which found in 2008 that there are only 25,000 Scientologists in the country. We have previously noted that this is mostly a guess, and the study itself noted that its margin of error was actually larger than the number of Scientologists it found. In Ray’s story, the author says that the margin of error is so large, there could be up to 325,000 Scientologists in the country. That’s fine, but there are other, more solid, sources of data on the number of Scientologists: we are most confident in the estimates of Jefferson Hawkins, who for years oversaw enrollment figures for the church while he was a high-ranking member. He puts the worldwide church population at only 40,000.)
Story #3: Ideal Times in Inglewood
Another Ideal Org is opening in Inglewood, California, to mixed reviews by the locals. Olu Alemoru of the community paper The Wave polls folks in the neighborhood near the new church, and finds that some are unhappy, others nonplussed, and some are actually enthusiastic.
Well, that vocal support included a Nation of Islam guy, so maybe not the best endorsement.
All of Scientology’s expansion plans are mystifying, but this one especially so. Why does a notoriously creepy organization that is already having trouble convincing gullible wealthy white people to fork over hundreds of thousands of dollars to exorcise their inner alien cooties think it’s going to have success expanding into a working-class black neighborhood? Beats us. But it should be interesting to see what happens.
Thursday’s Stats: Upstat or Downstat? Have to call this one a downstat. When even a community newspaper is calling you “controversial” as you (supposedly) bring new business to town, you know your mission may be dead on arrival.
Hey, keep those tips coming. Things are a bit crazy here in the underground bunker as we help prepare next week’s big Best Of NYC issue at the Voice, but we’re doing our best to stay on top of Miscavigey developments around the globe.
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]
[Lori Hodgson and Disconnection: “No one’s going to take my eternity away”]
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]
[Philip Boyd, Saving Grace actor, rips “the business that is Scientology”]
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 dodges a bullet in Australia] | [Scientology exec Jan Eastgate arrested]
[All hell breaks loose in Israel] | [Scientology sees fundraising gold in the UK riots]
[Aussie former rugby pro Chris Guider calls David Miscavige “toxic” and “violent”]
[Stephen Cox, UK church newbie, pledges 20K pounds] | [Biggi Reichert: A German Lisa McPherson?] | [The Birmingham trove: 7,000 internal e-mails]
ODD VIDEOS AND ODDER NEWS
[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]
[Scientology High School, Dating and Super Powers!]