We recently brought you footage of Sacramento’s mayor, former NBA player Kevin Johnson, gushing about Scientology at the opening of an “Ideal Org” in that city.
Since that fancy new building opened in California’s capital, additional celebrations have occurred in places like Orange County and Denver, Colorado.
We’ve written extensively about the Ideal Org program, which is Scientology’s cynical way of trying to convince the public that it’s thriving and expanding — by opening unneeded large facilities when it’s actually been losing membership for years. A key component of this scheme is roping in local politicians for the grand opening events to help contribute to the illusion that the church is actually a benefit to the local community.
Now, Denver Post reporter Eric Gorski has done everyone a big favor by documenting how Scientology put words in the mouth of Denver police chief Robert White when he willingly stroked the church at its Ideal Org celebration in that city last week.
Gorski pointed out that the press wasn’t invited to the Denver ceremony (just as it was barred from the Orange County event, as our colleague Josh Dulaney learned the hard way).
But the Post reporter was resourceful enough to use official records requests to obtain e-mails between the police department and the church which lay out in embarrassing detail how the church managed to get White to sing its praises exactly the way it wanted him to…
“I have seen your fabulous programs, and I know that they are open to all citizens in our community,” White said.
Denver Police Capt. Jennifer Steck, who heads the department’s public-affairs bureau, said she wrote prepared remarks for the chief.
At the church’s request, Steck sent the speech to [Erin] Banks, the church spokeswoman, for review. Banks replied with suggested additions to lengthen the speech, including more references to community respect and collaboration, according to e-mails obtained in a public-records request.
The “fabulous programs” line was among those added by church officials. All the church’s suggestions were accepted, Steck said.
Gorski then talked to White, who admitted that he was “unaware of many of the criticisms of Scientology.”
Years ago, I did a story about a major corporation, Mitsubishi, which we had caught writing scripts for Arizona public officials to use at speaking events in order to generate public support for a dangerous new factory the company wanted to build near a residential neighborhood. We had evidence that Phoenix’s mayor and Arizona’s governor had each used those prepared remarks in speeches.
I’ll never forget what my editor said to me as I worked on that story: “It’s not really surprising or shocking that Mitsubishi would write words for politicians to use,” he said, “it is surprising and shocking, however, that the politicians willingly followed the script.”
My hat’s off to Gorski, who went the extra mile with his records requests and interviews to provide a textbook example of how Scientology makes fools of local politicians who don’t have a clue what kind of organization they’re endorsing.
I look forward to getting my hands on the video of Chief White embarrassing himself at the Ideal Org event at a future date.
Scientology Sunday Funnies!
Just about every day, we receive the latest wacky and tacky fundraising mailers put out by Scientology orgs around the world. Thank you, tipsters, for forwarding them to us! On Sundays, we love to reveal them to you.
From the South Africa org, we get this creative flier featuring Iron Woman….
…and another one riffing on Thor….
…and the Hulk also made an appearance.
Meanwhile, back in this country, David Miscavige continues with his Ideal Org opening spree, this time with the focus on Columbus and the Midwest.
And here’s your bonus video treat: this good old boy is apparently excited for you to join him in the Midwest…
What a salesman.
Commenters of the Week!
Last week’s Sunday Funnies included a fun cameo by Neil Gaiman’s mum, Sheila, who made a splash at a UK event as a “new civilization builder.”
grundoon was one of several readers who noted the children who were pictured among the UK celebrants, and who were said to get involved with the fundraising…
Dad, Happy Father’s Day! You’re a Patron Gold Meritorious! We put it on your credit card!
As for Sheila Gaiman’s grand appearance, mjm had this thought…
if there’s a good reason Neil Gaiman is avoiding Scientology, this may be it.
Readers enjoyed that Skip Press put things in perspective…
Scientology is the longest-playing broken record on Earth. All the tactics displayed on this page have been going on since at least the 1970s. When I was running the Dept. of Procurement at Celebrity Centre in the late 70s, we put Central Files in “present time” (all filing up to date). No other organization, I was told, had ever done it. It’s astonishingly pathetic how these people get paraded up on stages thinking they’ve accomplished something worthwhile for Mankind when all the while the whole thing is about is raising money for the sake of money. Just like way back when, they’re hamsters on a wheel that society doesn’t care about, but they think they’ve become the center of the universe.
Tuesday morning, we scrambled when we realized that a second trailer from the movie The Master had been released. We marveled at Philip Seymour Hoffman channeling L. Ron Hubbard, and we can’t wait for this movie to open in October.
Anon anon song noted that the movie puts the church in a dicey situation…
I suspect this movie puts the Church of Scientology in a deliciously awkward position: as the indubitable buzz accompanying the movie reveals that LRH was the inspiration for the movie, Scientology putting up a PR or legal fuss on its release would only serve as confirmation that The Master’s portrayal is true.
They’re damned if they do and they’re damned if they don’t.
Jgg took the studio’s official line…
This movie has nothing to do with Scientology because Scientology was founded by a great humanitarian named L Ron Hubbard, who invented the dictionary, liberated Australia in WWII, wrote an oscar-winning script, discovered the quark, had a successful marriage and destroyed black magic. This movie is about a cult that brainwashed people.
Longtime Chuck Beatty, meanwhile, gave the film an interesting endorsement…
Hoffman’s got Hubbard’s hair combed pretty spot on.
And media_lush pointed out how awkward the talk shows may be….
what’s going to be hilarious is how the chat show hosts are going to have to deal with the elephant in the room when the actors go on the regular PR promo circuit….. Conan, I imagine is going to have fun with this one.
Even more scrambling happened later that night when, just after midnight, we noticed that Joe Childs and Tom Tobin at the Tampa Bay Times had posted the surprising news that Debbie Cook is moving to the French island of Guadeloupe.
Chocolate Velvet wondered what was motivating Debbie Cook…
God, what kind of sword is dangling over the heads of Debbie and Wayne? Clearly, this is not a decision that free people would make. I just wonder, how much was Debbie complicit in any inurement, that the COS could put so much pressure on them as to keep driving them to run and hide?
Gerard Plourde raised a question that we’ve been thinking about for days…
This really is a strange turn of events, not the least of which is the choice of destination. Guadeloupe is more than a mere territory or possession of France. Its legal status is officially that of an “Overseas Department”, meaning that it is as much France as Hawaii is the United States. Why move to the place where Scientology has recently been convicted of fraud in a very public trial and is generally viewed as a cult?
And Ivy Mapother never fails to crack us up….
New Sea Org orders from David Miscavige: Continue to clear the planet with the exception of the island of Guadeloupe.
Friday, we brought you an odd story explaining how Hooters restaurants may end up affecting Scientology‘s ability to find off refund requests from its ex-members.
The story referred to the large number of ex-Scientologists demanding refunds from the church, and Mat Pesch gave us even more food for thought…
I was the Treasury Secretary of the FSO (Flag Service Organization) in Clearwater from 1995 to 2002. The FSO brings in more money per week than the rest of Scientology combined. By 2002 our cash reserves had gone from around $25 million to under $1 million. I called the Treasury of the hundred largest churches and found almost one for one that they were in financial ruin. By 2002 Sea Org Reserves had been reduced from over $400 million to less than $20 million in cash.
At the same time the FSO alone owed over $400 million in undelivered services. By 2002 the FSO was returning about $100,000 a week to members resigning from the church.
And finally, Radio Paul knocked this one out of the park…
I always knew it would be a pair of big Boobs that would bring down Scientology, I just thought that they would be DM and LRH.
Hey, make sure to check our Facebook author page, where we post updates and schedules. We have some good stuff coming down the pike.
Tony Ortega has been the editor in chief of the Village Voice since March, 2007. He started writing about Scientology in 1995. You can reach him by e-mail at email@example.com, and if you ask nicely he’ll put you on his mailing list for notifications of new stories. You can also catch his alerts at Twitter (@VoiceTonyO), at his Facebook author page, on Pinterest, a Tumblr, and even this new Google Plus doohickey.
New readers might want to check out our primer, “What is Scientology?” Another good overview is our series from last summer, “Top 25 People Crippling Scientology.” At the top of every story, you’ll see the “Scientology” category which, if you click on it, will bring up all of our most recent stories.
As for hot subjects we’ve covered here, you may have heard about Debbie Cook, the former church official who rebelled and was sued by Scientology. You might have also heard about the Super Power Building, Scientology’s “Mecca,” whose secrets were revealed here. We also reported how Scientology spied on its own most precious object, Tom Cruise. (We wrote Tom an open letter that he has yet to respond to.) Have you seen a Scientology ad on TV lately? We debunked some of the claims in that 2-minute commercial you might have seen while watching Glee or American Idol.
Other stories have looked at Scientology’s policy of “disconnection” that is tearing families apart. You may also have heard something about the Sea Org experiences of the Paris sisters, Valeska and Melissa, and their friend Ramana Dienes-Browning. We’ve also featured Paulette Cooper, who wrote about Scientology back in the day, and Janet Reitman, Hugh Urban, and the team at the Tampa Bay Times, who write about it today. And there’s plenty more coming.