Another Saturday morning here in the underground bunker finds us once again picking up the pieces after another hectic week. Let’s review, shall we?
After starting off the week with another edition of Sunday Funnies, that evening we published our lengthy interview with Ramana Dienes-Browning, a former Sea Org executive who corroborated the claims of Valeska Paris, and described her own harrowing adventures aboard the Freewinds.
On Monday, we took time out to remember Lisa McPherson, who died on December 5, 1995, and who still embodies so much of the Scientology story.
On Tuesday, we asked attorney Scott Pilutik to assess the lawsuit filed by soap star and former Church of Scientology member, Michael Fairman. Fairman is suing his chiropractor, a Scientologist, for dumping him as a client after he was declared a suppressive person (Scientology’s version of excommunication).
On Wednesday, we reported that Valeska Paris, the woman who says she was held aboard Scientology’s private cruise ship the Freewinds against her will from 1996 to 2007, had received a threat letter from Scientology’s attorneys in Sydney. We also provided more details about her time on the ship.
We did our usual STATurday roundup of international stories for Thursday afternoon, including items from India to Australia.
And yesterday, we continued our regular Friday feature, This Week Aboard the Apollo, with more wisdom in the daily dispatches issued by the Commodore, L. Ron Hubbard, to his crew while they sailed the Mediterranean from 1968 to 1971.
In other words, another very full week. So let’s get to the awards!
On Sunday, frequent commenter NCSP got off an all-timer in response to our interview with Ramana Dienes-Browning, who was on the Freewinds for five years after being heavily pressured to join the Sea Org at only 15 years of age. NCSP saw an opportunity to slightly alter a well-known line from another Freewinds veteran, actor Tom Cruise:
“When you see a car crash, you know you’re the only one who can help. When you see teenagers being imprisoned and used for slave labor, you think, meh.”
Many readers thanked Ramana for coming forward, and expressed shock that more isn’t being done about Sea Org practices. We liked this comment by Natalie:
Thank you Ramana for speaking out knowing it may mean loosing your mother and brother, if only temporarily. I was in the Sea Org and married at 17. There is a lot of pressure to marry when you are in the Sea Org regardless of your age. Sex outside of marriage is not allowed in the Sea Org. These marriages rarely work out, and it is not uncommon for someone to have been married three times by the time they are 30.
Tony an investigation into the number of underage marriages and number of divorces in the Sea Org would be worth doing. I was a 3rd generation Scientologist. When you are raised in the Church of Scientology you are indoctrinated into a type of thinking that does not allow for disobedience. If you want to disobey or leave, it is because something is wrong with you. That is what they would have you believe. Those chains of control often remain years after leaving.My personal opinion is that it takes a couple of years to de-program yourself, and to get back to a place where you are thinking for yourself. It’s been two years since I officially left. Myself, my husband and one of my children have been declared as “Suppressive Persons” by the Church of Scientology. Friends I had for 20 plus years are no longer allowed to speak to me. The disconnection policy of the Church will be their undoing. Thankfully for me, every member of my family left the Church of Scientology when I did. My family is intact. Ramana I know how hard it must have been for you to come forward and share what you know. You have and will help many by doing so.As to Mr. David Miscavige, the currently leader of Corporate Scientology I give you the one finger salute. The only salute you deserve for what you have done and are doing.
We were also happy to see Synthia Fagen weigh in with a lengthy comment. We’ve excerpted most of it here:
Ramana was pushed to near suicide as the only means of giving her any feeling of control over her own mind or life. Had she committed suicide (as others, under such pressure, already have) that would have been murder, committed by the cult, in my book. Why is this organization above the law? Why do they literally get away with murder?
One of the problems is that it is such a mental control prison, so tortuously mind bending, that the authorities often have little to hang their hats on. The people who are being victimized are so conflicted that they hide their true feelings, even to themselves.
They are pushed and shoved and kept in such horrendous conditions and enslaved by constant emergencies, they never have the normal human right to just sit by themselves and simply reflect on their own lives and happiness. It’s a horrible, toxic environment.
These head honchos, perpetrating this abuse, are no better than two-bit penny-ante thugs with most having less than a high school education and little experience in the real world. They tell others how to act and how to 2nd and 3rd mortgage their homes. They talk about huge sums of money, demanding it be given freely to a cold psychotic, greedy machine that cares nothing about them. WAKE UP cult members. Time is running out.
Ramana, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
On Monday, which was 16 years since the death of Lisa McPherson, I asked for reader tributes about what Lisa’s story had meant for them. There was also some interesting enturbulation going on in the comments section, and while some of it was trollish, I just wanted to thank our excellent readers for keeping the debate civilized and lively. We are fortunate that such an intelligent group of returning commenters make this a great place for a conversation, even when things get a bit heated.
After the dust settled, I, for one, was stunned to see this next comment, by Frolix8, who is new here, I believe…
I have thought long and hard about what I wish to say about Lisa McPherson’s case. I am a former prosecutor as well as a former public defender. I was a prosecutor just shy of thirteen years. A public defender for a bit more than four.
I saw excellent cases collapse because of a single witness getting cold feet, being threatened, or changing his/her mind. On one occasion I had a child sexual assault victim who was so angry with the length of time it took to get to trial that the child made it clear if the child’s testimony didn’t start at 2:30 p.m. there would be no testimony (I juggled to get the testimony in on time — we won).
In some cases the lab or a tech team would contaminate the evidence. Once a lab failed to report critical information until the day of the trial. It was so damaging the case had to be dismissed. Had we received the full report when we should have, it would not have been dismissed.
There are many cases where it goes sour. Ethically a prosecutor cannot take a case to trial that he/she doesn’t believe can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Whether or not the prosecutor is certain as to the guilt of the defendant is irrelevant. The critical issue is whether the necessary evidence is available and whether it will be admitted. If it can’t be done, then the case should not go to trial.
Myself and others in the office had to dismiss cases because we knew we wouldn’t be able to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. It is horrid. It is horrid to dismiss cases which you are certain happened. It is most horrid when it comes to a death. You will spend years with the pain of the dismissal. You will have seen the pain of the family and friends who were hurt and will continue to be hurt, knowing you could do nothing else.
The horror of Lisa’s case was that a key witness essentially recanted. The medical evidence was critical to a successful prosecution. News of a witness going backward (pissing backward we’d say in private) was always a kick in the gut. How does one explain to the family that, yes, we know the defendant is guilty, but . . .
There is no explanation which is sufficient. There can’t be. The defendant walks and the family and friends are in pain for the rest of their lives. It is being ethical. It is playing by the rules. It is not pleasant.
My mentor said that we as prosecutors were collectors of souls. We were. The souls of those whose cases where justice could not be done are forever with you.
Frolix8, please accept my thanks for taking the time to write this for us. And I hope you stick around.
On Tuesday, we offered some analysis of Michael Fairman’s lawsuit against his chiropractor. Fairman claims that he was dumped as a patient once he was declared a suppressive person and joined the independent Scientology movement.
This is a bit of inside baseball, and I apologize for not taking the time to explain it for newcomers, but I had to chuckle at this question by hgc:
Is there such a thing as squirrel chiropractic?
On a more substantive note, Schockenawd offered this analysis:
It’s payback time. In the early 90s, the Church of Scientology used the same law now being used against it — the Unruh Civil Rights Act — to sue the Cult Awareness Network out of existence. It was a massive campaign, in which hundreds of Scns wrote to the comparatively tiny CAN demanding membership. And when their requests were denied, they sued, claiming religious discrimination — over and over again, in multiple courts throughout California. The courts mostly ruled against the Scientologists (in the first lawsuit, Scientologist Philip Hart “…failed to identify any state interest, let alone one which is sufficiently countervailing or compelling, as to justify the infringements on the constitutional rights of CAN-LA”). But the lawsuits were counted as a big win for Scientology anyway, because they were so expensive that they forced CAN into bankruptcy court, where the COS promptly purchased CAN’s assets, including the name “Cult Awareness Network.” Afterward, if you called the Cult Awareness Network to find help or comfort because your kid had disappeared with, say, the Moonies, your call would be answered by a Scientologist who would presumably either scold you for trying to infringe your child’s religious freedom or try to sell you a book by LRH that would help you “handle” the situation.
On Wednesday, we reported that Valeska Paris had received a threat letter from Scientology’s attorneys for speaking out about her time being held against her will on the Freewinds. I am repeatedly stunned by the amazing people who come to add to our commenting community. And never more so than this week, when I saw that Andre Tabayoyon had left a message…
Wow, history is repeating itself. In the early days on the ship, the lower holds always had a lost soul wandering around. Some were tied to a chair until they answered the auditing question. Some were just cleaning the bilges. It was part of the game then. We had a huge party on New Year’s and we danced till the late hours, knowing we had prisoners in the lower hold. I also remember being on the RPF when TC was at the Gold base. We created a very nice meadow for him and Nicole. It was picture perfect. Tom and Nicole walking in the meadow, while within 100 feet RPF were slaving away.
I was in full agreement with Kate Bornstein, who reacted to Andre’s comment with this…
It’s good to hear your cybervoice, Andre.
On Thursday, we did our usual roundup of Scientology stories around the world. I don’t know about the church, but I know that it always feels like my stats are up when I see a Jefferson Hawkins comment in the mix:
The video, pathetic as it is, is really a microcosm of Scientology itself. It was probably made to show to fellow Scientologists. It screams “Look at me! Look at me! See how badass I am! See how OT I am! I’m just like Tom Cruise! Watch how I can save the planet by reaching out to this sad sack, unhappy wog with my leather-clad wonderfulness.” But the reality is an empty, shuttered building. Scientology claims over 300 of these local “missions” but when you actually go there, more often than not, you find they’ve closed. Well, that’s just like Scientology as a whole – their leader, Miscavige, struts and postures at their internal events: “Look at me! Look at me! See how badass I am? I’m just like Tom Cruise!!” Meanwhile their orgs are empty, their missions are nonexistent, and members are leaving in droves. It’s all about narcissism, image and appearances. The reality is quite something else.
One of our Thursday items was about Stacy Francis, who continues to deny that she’s long been involved in Scientology. That brought out this reality check from VickySlyter:
I worked with Stacey Francis about 5 years ago at a fundraiser at Celebrity Centre. She was DEFINITELY a “group member” and was friends with all the other Scientologist celebrities who were performing at the event. She, herself, was treated like a celebrity. That she is now denying that she is a Scientologist is really odd. I bet CC and her Scn pals aren’t too happy about it. The wittle hearts of those who work in “The President’s Office” at CC must be broken…..”after all they did for her!”
And finally, another installment of “This Week Aboard the Apollo” brought out plenty of howls from readers who can’t get enough of L. Ron Hubbard’s seaborne dissertations. We liked MarkStark‘s takeaway…
Doesn’t reading this make you want to buy a bunch of bronze busts of Hubbard, at only $5700 each (discounted to $5100 if you are an IAS member), and put one in every room?
I don’t know, Mark. For that price, can I get an LRH bust that is this manly?
Remember to check back tomorrow morning for another installment of Sunday Funnies. We have a great set of wacky and tacky Scientology mailers for your perusal.
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?]
[Scientology hates clean ice: The “Fair Game” operation that should turn your stomach]
[Scientology hates clean ice, part 2: Another target, and the web as weapon]
[Paulette Cooper, Scientology’s original and worst nightmare: a Thanksgiving tribute]
HELD ABOARD THE FREEWINDS: TALES OF THE SEA ORG
[Valeska Paris, held against her will from 1996 to 2007 on Scientology’s cruise ship]
[Ramana Dienes-Browning, marriage at 16, sexual interrogation, life in the engine room]
[Melissa Paris, Valeska’s sister: forced to marry at 16]
SCIENTOLOGY VS. SOUTH PARK: INVESTIGATION AS RETALIATION
[Scientology targeted South Park‘s Parker and Stone in an investigation]
[More documents in the South Park probe: instructions to send in a young mole]
[Scientology responds in typical fashion] | [Lloyd Kaufman confirms the probe]
[Mark Ebner also investigated after South Park involvement]
[Mark Chauppetta, private eye, explains what Scientology operatives look for]
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
[Hey, Scientology Celebrity, Here’s Your Media Training Checksheet!]
[Tom Cruise and X Factor‘s Stacy Francis singing together on the Freewinds]
[X Factor’s Stacy Francis: Her first husband, Michael Sandlofer, answers abuse claims]
[Tom Cruise and Baby Suri embarrassed by news item, so someone must pay]
[“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
[“The Money Machine”: another blockbuster St. Pete Times investigation]
[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 in Israel: Arson, attempted murder, paranoia — and a visit by the Voice!]
[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]
[Australian farmer blamed for giving Tom Cruise a bad shrimp, loses her friends, family]
ODD VIDEOS AND ODDER NEWS
[Scientology chillin’ with hip hop!] | [The curious career of Scientology rapper Chill EB]
[Chill EB and me: the Voice interviews Scientology’s in-house rapper]
[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]
[Desperate Scientology fundraising caught on video]