Former Scientology executive Marty Rathbun made another leak of formerly secret, internal Scientology documents today, and this time he claims to have uncovered that a Huffington Post blogger who defends minority religions, and Scientology, has been on the church’s payroll.
That accusation has been made previously about Joseph K. Grieboski, who blogs at Huffington Post’s Religion section and runs something he calls the Institute on Religion and Foreign Policy. In 2009, former Scientologist Gerry Armstrong accused Grieboski of taking money from Scientology, claiming that he’d talked to a former Institute employee who told him of the connection.
And now Rathbun comes forward with a document from Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs — the church’s intelligence and covert operations wing — which suggests that Grieboski was employed to actively temper anti-Scientology sentiment in European countries. Previously, we’ve authenticated Rathbun’s leaks of OSA documents, including spying operations against Marc Headley, Mark Ebner, and South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
And besides, another former top Scientology official tells the Voice that he has personal information about Grieboski’s employment with the church.
I’ve e-mailed Grieboski at his consulting business and I left a phone message at the Institute, and I’m hoping to get him on the phone soon to discuss Rathbun’s OSA document.
I’ve also been in touch with the Huffington Post, and I’m helping their media relations team understand the background on this somewhat complex story. They have been very helpful, and I’m hoping to get a statement from them at any time.
What I do know is that Grieboski is not a “featured” writer at HuffPo’s Religion section, and his posts don’t seem to generate a large amount of comments.
However, it was a post he did in May that first brought him to my attention. A fellow Scientology watcher pointed out that Grieboski’s reaction to a task force report by Israel’s Special Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs calling for closer watch on destructive groups was surprisingly voluminous and agitated…
“No democracy would admit to being intolerant of minority faiths or opposed to religious liberty. The tactic used to discriminate against targeted minority faiths in some countries is to redefine the notion of ‘religion’ to exclude disfavored minority groups by labeling them as so-called ‘cults’ or ‘sects.’ This is the tactic embraced by the Task Force in the Report,” Grieboski wrote.
Grieboski didn’t mention Scientology by name, but he did lambaste claims that groups use “mental manipulation.”
Grieboski’s use of the Huffington Post to go after something so apparently obscure — a government task force report in Israel — did make me curious. So I looked around and found Gerry Armstrong’s 2009 open letter to Grieboski. Armstrong, who suffered almost unbelievable harassment at the hands of Scientology’s legal corps (overseen, ironically enough, by Rathbun), claimed that he had talked to a man who had worked as Grieboski’s former public relations man, and who confirmed to Armstrong that Grieboski (or his Institute) was receiving substantial Scientology payments. I tried to contact the PR man, but he didn’t return my call.
Rathbun tells me his own interest in Grieboski was piqued by something the Huffington Post blogger wrote just yesterday. In a post titled “This Christmas, Charities Are In Crisis,” Grieboski included this line…
As Americans, it is easy to take such fundamental rights for granted. The majority of us are sheltered from the daily horrors that affect Christians in China, Ahmadiyyas in Pakistan, Scientologists in Belgium and Muslims in France.
That reference to Scientology, Rathbun says, convinced him to search through OSA documents in his possession, leading to his discovery of the “Grieboski Program” memo.
Its initial paragraph suggests that Grieboski, in 2007, is being switched from a flat regular payment to a piece rate, based on what he can do for Scientology:
Joe Grieboski (JG) operates the Institute on Religion and Public Policy, an identity he uses to ally individuals in the RCC [Roman Catholic Church] and other major religions as well as political personalities. He contributed in this manner to the handling of several situations in Europe. However, he is not being run for product to ensure viability and bean return for what he is being paid. He is on a flat rate that is being changed to payment on a “by product” basis. This program lays out needed production that he can generate in exchange for funding from the Church. It must become clear to him that if he does not get products, he will not get any more funds from us.
What follows is a sort of long “wish list” of things Scientology would like for Grieboski to accomplish in countries where the church is under attack:
To protect and advance religious freedom interests of Scientology
where threatened or blocked.
1. Get Joe Grieboski to utilize existing or develop new power
comm lines to resolve our major European situations.
2. Power commlines and OL allies in place to help open getting
Scientology into Muslim countries.
Specific goals are laid out for Scientology’s trouble spots: Belgium, France, Germany, Poland, and “Muslim Nations.”
It’s important when looking at OSA documents to keep in mind, however, that these detailed reports are written by OSA operatives trying to please bosses with their industry. So although this report lays out a myriad of things Grieboski will be asked to do, little of the agenda might have actually been accomplished. What the document is unequivocal about, however is that Grieboski had been, at least at that point in 2007, a paid agent for the church.
I just talked to Mike Rinder, formerly Scientology’s top spokesman and the executive director of OSA until he left the church in 2007. I asked him whether Grieboski really was on the church’s payroll.
“Yeah. I hired him,” Rinder told me.
“He was absolutely employed by the church, and it was because of his Catholic connections,” Rinder continued. “He had connection into the Vatican, and all of the Catholic countries where the church was having problems. Italy, France, Belgium. That’s why he was on the payroll. He’s a lobbyist. That’s what the guy is.”
Rinder had to go into a business meeting, but he promises to call back soon with more detail about Grieboski’s history with Scientology.
We’ve been unable to reach Grieboski himself., but we at least know something about his day. According to his Twitter feed, this morning he took part in a meeting “on issues in Japan, Korea, Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia.”
And he had lunch at Gadsby’s Tavern.
We’ll keep trying to reach him.
Update: We just noticed that Grieboski makes an interesting claim about his Institute at its website. He says quite clearly that it does NOT accept money from religions:
The Institute on Religion and Public Policy does not accept funding of any type from religions, religious institutions, or government agencies of any kind, unless government funds are specifically earmarked solely for the Interparliamentary Conference on Human Rights and Religious Freedom.
Looks like Joe might have to edit that statement a little.
2nd Update: The sharp researchers over at WhyWeProtest.net are on the case. They’ve pulled up a 2006 tax filing for Grieboski’s Insititute that lists several Scientologists on its board of directors, including Monique Yingling, one of Scientology’s most prominent attorneys.
UPDATE: JOE GRIEBOSKI RESPONDS.
Just got this e-mail from him…
I’m sorry I wasn’t able to get back to you earlier; as you can imagine, things get busy around the holidays.
I had been hoping that you would consider waiting for my response before running your piece.
In response to your question, THE INSTITUTE on Religion and Public Policy does not take nor has it ever taken funds from any religious institution or denomination
Further, THE INSTITUTE’s programs have never been focused on any particular religious community. In fact, THE INSTITUTE has labored on behalf of the rights of countless religious organizations around the globe – from Baha’is in Iran and Ahmadiyyas in Pakistan, Catholics in Saudi Arabia and the Salvation Army in Russia, Falun Gong in China to Evangelicals in Algeria, Serbs in Kosovo to Muslims in Latin America. THE INSTITUTE’s track record on advancing freedom of religion and belief for all believers and non-believers is well-documented and well-respected.
In a personal capacity aside from my work with THE INSTITUTE, I have advised a number of institutions – religious and non-religious – on policy issues. I have advised the Scientologists as I have numerous other groups.
Best wishes for a happy holiday season,
I appreciate Grieboski getting back to me. But he didn’t really address the central question of this story. Which is this: as a blogger writing for Huffington Post about religion, shouldn’t he disclose that he’s taking money from those religions?
I’ve asked him that in a followup e-mail, and I’ll provide his response here if he sends one.
Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he’s been writing about Scientology at several publications.
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]
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 | 6. Anonymous | 7. Mark Bunker | 8. Mike Rinder | 9. Jason Beghe | 10. Lisa McPherson | 11. Nick Xenophon | 12. Tommy Davis | 13. Janet Reitman | 14. Tory Christman | 15. Andreas Heldal-Lund | 16. Marc and Claire Headley | 17. Jefferson Hawkins | 18. Amy Scobee | 19. The Squirrel Busters | 20. Trey Parker and Matt Stone | 21. Kendrick Moxon | 22. Jamie DeWolf | 23. Ken Dandar | 24. Dave Touretzky | 25. Xenu
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]
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 21, 2011