NEW: See all of our most recent stories detailing the crises currently facing Scientology.
Multiple sources are telling the Voice that Scientology’s International Base in California has experienced stunning new defections — Roanne Leake, who is L. Ron Hubbard’s granddaughter, has “blown” the base, which was her home for more than 20 years. But just as shocking, at about the same time, the base was also abandoned by David Miscavige’s father, Ron Miscavige Sr.
We sent a request for comment to Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw, but have not received a reply. But starting several days ago, we began hearing from multiple, independent sources that Leake had left the base about two months ago, and about a month earlier she was preceded by Ron Sr. and his wife, Becky.
Our sources tell us that in each case, these are crucial, longtime Scientologists who have abandoned the only world they have known for many years, and is the latest, most dramatic evidence of a crisis in David Miscavige’s leadership of founder L. Ron Hubbard’s odd organization.
We pressed our sources — could these people have left the base but still remain in the church, on a mission or some kind of outreach?
“No way. They’re all talking to SPs right now,” said one of our sources, referring to “suppressive persons,” Scientology’s jargon for ex-members who have been excommunicated and cannot be contacted by members in good standing.
Through intermediaries, we have put in interview requests to the defected members, and hope to ask about their reasons for leaving David Miscavige’s church.
But 2012 is turning out to be disastrous for Scientology — the year started off with a stunning note of dissent by a popular former executive, Debbie Cook, who, in an e-mail distributed to thousands of her fellow church members, accused Miscavige of putting too much emphasis on “extreme fundraising” and driving the church away from the aims of its founder. The church sued Cook, excommunicated her, and then settled its lawsuit with her after she promised never to speak publicly about Scientology again.
Just this week, Wendy Honnor, a well-known Australian Scientologist and former winner of the Freedom Medal of the International Association of Scientologists, dramatically announced her own defection and cited Debbie Cook’s e-mail as a major reason for it. Reached through e-mail, Honnor told me, “As you can imagine, I am very taken aback by the huge response to my resignation.”
As we were trading e-mails with Honnor, trying to set up an interview, the defection of an IAS Freedom Medal winner was dwarfed by the spectacular news from “Int Base.”
It was Ronald Miscavige Sr. who introduced his twelve-year-old son David to Scientology in 1972, hoping to find a cure for his asthma. (See this excellent recent history of the Miscavige family by Philly.com writer Jason Nark.) Within a few years, David was working directly with Hubbard, and then as Hubbard went into hiding in the 1980s, Miscavige began to consolidate his own control over the organization. Since Hubbard’s death in 1986, David Miscavige has run Scientology as an absolute dictator.
But he’s had trouble in the past holding on to his own family. His older brother Ronald Jr. (known as “Ronnie”) left Scientology in 2000 and has never talked publicly about it. Ronnie’s daughter, Jenna Miscavige Hill, who had grown up in the church, left in a much more vocal way, becoming the subject of a 2008 Nightline special on the way children in the church are treated — often harshly, doing hard menial labor for little or no pay.
And now news that Miscavige’s own father and stepmother have left — “blown” in Scientology parlance — is spreading like wildfire among the ex-Scientology community.
But the news about a Hubbard family member breaking free is even more shocking.
Of L. Ron Hubbard’s seven children, only one, Diana, 59, the first of his children by his third wife, Mary Sue, is still a loyal member of the church.
Diana was a favorite of Hubbard’s, and served with him aboard his yacht Apollo, as he ran Scientology from a floating armada in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Diana was married to Jonathan Horwich on the Apollo, and they had a daughter, Roanne, who is now in her early 30s.
Roanne and Diana have been living at the secretive Int Base east of Los Angeles since at least the late 1980s (Jonathan Horwich is no longer a church member.)
Only members of the “Sea Org” — Scientology’s most hardcore elite — live at the base, and most spend lives completely cut off from the outside world. A particularly dramatic example of that was the death last year of Ann Tidman, a woman who was one of Hubbard’s caretakers at the end of his life, who remained so sealed off from the world outside the base, her own sisters didn’t learn about her death to cancer until six months later.
For Roanne to break free from that kind of insular environment is remarkable, and another indication of how things at the base are deteriorating. Earlier this year, Debbie Cook gave stunning court testimony about high-level executives being rounded up and held in a primitive office-prison at the base for a period of several years. Since about 2002, Miscavige has reportedly been purging the upper ranks of Scientology management of its executives. Many of them have abandoned the base, and in 2009 several former officials went public with allegations that Miscavige was not only imprisoning and humiliating his employees but also physically assaulting them. The church denied that any assaults by Miscavige had occurred and blamed some of the executives for creating an environment of violence. Either way, a hellish picture of the base emerged, and ex-members had predicted that other high-level defections would be likely to occur.
This is the first defection from the base since 2010, when John Brousseau left and gave us our last clear view of what was happening behind its razor-wired walls. Now, there’s a flood of new information, some of which we have heard from multiple sources and can piece together at this point.
What we can tell you today may be limited, but for Scientologists, it is earth-shaking news.
As if church members hadn’t been asked to give enough already, we’re hearing that several new expensive initiatives have been launched or are in the works, and soon David Miscavige will be announcing one of the biggest revelations of his 26-year leadership of the church: there’s a new Bridge to Total Freedom.
Before we detail the changes, let’s quickly summarize the burden of “extreme fundraising” that Debbie Cook was referring to in her infamous e-mail:
— For years, members have been hit up for money to build the $100 million “Super Power” Building in Clearwater, Florida, which has been under construction since 1998. When it finally opens, it will promise high-end services to wealthy church members who have already given hundreds of thousands of dollars and are still seeking superhuman abilities.
— Members are also constantly pressured to increase their status with the International Association of Scientologists by donating higher and higher amounts. The IAS was started in the 1980s as a legal defense fund for the church, and Cook claimed in her e-mail that it’s turned into a billion-dollar slush fund.
— Members have also been heavily pressured to donate for the purchase of new, unneeded buildings for Miscavige’s “Ideal Org” program. After years of donations, Miscavige has coordinated things so that quite a few of these buildings are opening this year in order to give the impression that Scientology is expanding — when more reliable evidence suggests it’s actually dwindling.
Ideal Orgs have been opening practically every week, but Miscavige can’t keep up that pace. Soon, he’ll have big, fancy, and very expensive empty buildings from Hamburg to Buffalo, but this is not a guy who looks back. He’s always looking forward.
And now we’re learning that he has big plans to keep his flock donating, donating, and donating some more.
Already, he’s launched a new “30 by 30” campaign to increase the coffers of the IAS by another $30 million by June 30.
We’d heard about this push from one of our sources, and then noticed this logo at the bottom of one of those fundraising fliers that we often feature here in our Sunday posts:
The zero in that top “30” is the logo of the IAS, and the zero in the bottom “30” implies that there’s very little time left — church members have only until tomorrow to raise this money.
Why the push for so much sudden cash? What’s the hurry?
Well, there’s a lot on Miscavige’s plate, as we’re learning from our sources.
Normally, early in June, Scientology’s private cruise ship the Freewinds is the site of a celebration lasting a week or two which is called the “Maiden Voyage.” It’s an annual event that marks the anniversary of the release of New OT VIII, the highest current level of spiritual enlightenment, which is only delivered to church members on the ship.
We’ve heard from multiple sources that this year, Maiden Voyage was put off until the first week of July.
This St. Kitts music listing for a concert on July 7 to celebrate the Maiden Voyage also appears to confirm that fact.
Why is that significant? One of my sources tells me that it really is a big deal. It’s on Maiden Voyage that Miscavige, surrounded by some of his wealthiest followers, reveals new initiatives and new products which he’ll ask the rest of the flock to fork out for later in the year. And we’re told that this year, Miscavige has a whopper of a package to preview, and getting it just right has involved delays which have moved back the celebration.
Those wealthy Scientologists who sail on the Maiden Voyage will learn next week that come this Auditor’s Day — a big Scientology holiday that happens on the second Sunday in September — church members will learn they have a lot more to pay for…
— Finally, the new Mark VIII Ultra e-meter will be released, and each and every Scientologist will be expected to purchase one, at about $4,000.
— Because the new e-meter has to be written into materials, an entirely new “Bridge” is going to be released, with a new structure and with new pricing.
— And the Super Power building will finally, finally be opened.
We’re told that part of the reason for the Bridge do-over is to rewrite materials for the new e-meter, but another reason is that Miscavige is trying to address the bad press over how expensive Scientology is.
If you’re new to Scientology watching, you may have some basic understanding that church members are taught that we are immortal beings who have lost a sense of our true nature, and through church founder L. Ron Hubbard’s “auditing” we can wipe away the fog of countless lifetimes of trauma and become “clear.” Then, moving along increasingly more expensive levels of auditing (also known as Hubbard’s “technology” or “tech”), we can perfect the ability to “exteriorize” from our mundane bodies and get more control over our immortal inner “thetan.” This process of increasing control and power is known as “the Bridge” and can cost years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to ascend.
Our source on this says the many steps up the new Bridge are going to get split out with individual pricing in order to give the impression that prices are lower, even though that’s not really the case. One step on the current Bridge costing $2,000, for example, might get broken up into four smaller steps at only $500 each.
Miscavige’s overhauling of materials has caused serious strife in the organization before. In 1996, he announced “The Golden Age of Tech” and said that some training levels were in error, and after fixing them, required many Scientologists to redo training that cost them tens of thousands of dollars. In 2007, he republished Hubbard’s essential texts in a new package called “The Basics” and pressured all members to buy multiple sets of them at up to $3,000 per set.
At Int Base, the new Bridge restructure and pricing is being referred to as “Golden Age of Tech II” — a name that had been leaking out among ex-Scientologists in recent weeks.
It’s not clear yet whether members who have already moved up the Bridge will have to redo its steps once it is repackaged and repriced. But my source told me there’s no question that every church member will have to shell out for at least one new machine. (The Mark VIII Ultra has been in the pipeline for nearly a decade, as Carnegie Mellon University’s Professor David Touretzky reveals in lengthy notes about its development. Other rumors had it being priced lower, under $1,000. But my source says Miscavige wanted it cheaper to produce, but even more to buy.)
The wealthy “ambassadors” who go on the Maiden Voyage will, my source tells me, get an opportunity to buy the new machine at a slight discount, and try out new materials, so when the big reveal is made for the rest of the flock in September, they can provide influential testimonials.
Suddenly, the mad push to get Ideal Orgs to open this spring and summer is making more sense. As we saw at the Birthday Event — Scientology’s holiest night, celebrating Hubbard’s March 13 birthday — Miscavige used much of the evening (about forty minutes of a 3-hour program) to show speeches at Ideal Org openings in Hamburg, Cincinnati, and Sacramento. For the big crowd at the Auditor’s Day gathering, he’ll have film of even more grand openings — at Denver, Phoenix, Orange County, Buffalo and more — as he whips up the crowd to prepare for news of all the new things they need to pay for. (As usual, we’ll be looking for a video of that event soon after. It should be a doozy.)
With this step, Miscavige is taking a huge risk. Discontent over his first redo of Hubbard’s technology — the 1996 Golden Age of Tech — has never really died down, and was one of the key reasons for the exodus of longtime, loyal church members, some of them very high profile, like actor Jason Beghe. With intense fundraising driving away even more people like Dave and Synthia Fagen, Miscavige risks another wave of defections by announcing yet another alteration of Hubbard’s tech and even more demands for re-payments.
We are working hard to get you even more information about what’s been happening at Int Base and expect to have more soon.
On the next page: Our regular Friday feature, Scientology on the High Seas, a special announcement about TV journalist Bryan Seymour, and surprising news from Steve Cannane — Scientologists in Australia are now outnumbered by Jedi…
Scientology on the High Seas
In November the Voice obtained hundreds of copies of L. Ron Hubbard’s previously unpublished “Orders of the Day,” which he gave to crew members as he sailed the Atlantic and the Mediterranean on the yacht Apollo. Our documents cover the period from late 1968 through 1971, and this time we’re looking at what was happening the week of June 24 – 30 during those years.
This week, the Apollo experiences an enduring mystery…
June 28: More Smershy Rockefeller skank.
Nelson Rockefeller finances and pushes forward the Totalitarian idea of Population Control by Psychiatry and his foundations try to shove us around. In the news he and his family interests are under heavy attack in South America.
Rhodesia’s anti-Ron government just gets in deeper and deeper. I wrote Smith a Constitution permitting black representation while maintaining white interests that Britain and the Rhodesian white both would have bought. The govt answer was refusal to extend my visa. That the people of Rhodesia remained on our side is attested by three orgs there now. That Smith is on the side of psychiatry is attested by a new big psychiatric clinic next door to the jail.
The enemy is having a very hard time. He is going counter to a world where comm is pushing freedom into being. We are going with the flood tide of world opinion. The enemy is floundering against it. We only have to expand and endure to win.
GRADUATION: Apparently nobody read Flag Order 2031 on Recognition of Technical Achievement. Graduation last night was an unannounced casual hippie shambles. Graduation is a formal occasion, announced with time and place in OODay, the senior officer of the ship (currently the Chief Officer) officiates, the crew are expected to attend, the graduates attend, certificates are ready and signed. Get with it! Graduation is a proud occasion. It is recognition of accomplishment towards a ship whose total crew are OT, Class VIII auditors, and able to Con the ship.
Brian Livingston, CS-5
We have been 10 DAYS AT SEA SINCE REPLENISHMENT OF FRESH FOOD. (Greens and fresh fruit average this length of time in hot climates) ALL FRESH GREENS ARE USED UP. IN FUTURE FOR YOUR OWN INTEREST AND HEALTH EAT WHAT YOU ARE GIVEN, AS THERE IS NO OTHER CHOICE.
TINNED FOOD IF WELL PREPARED TASTES GOOD.
DON’T DEPRIVE YOUR BODY OF MEAT AND GREENS BECAUSE OF LOOKS OR FINICKY TASTE. LEGITIMATE COMPLAINTS TO F/MAA.
Ens. Ron Pook, Chief Officer
June 29: LRH kids, he kids.
A shark swam alongside today and said, “Who is it?” and I said “Who is what?” and he said, “Who is petitioning to leave out here in mid ocean?” And I said “How’d you know that?” And he said, “you’re not tearing up your despatches very good before you throw them over.” He was real put out. Thought I was invalidating him by saying he couldn’t read. I ordered him to Review to get rid of the ARC Break but he hasn’t any priority — and anyway he’ll have to wait for our waterproof E-Meter. He’s out there now muttering.
Do I get some Dianetic sessions today or do I put the shark on course?
June 24: The planet is ours by 1990!
The cross-section survey just done regarding what we are doing showed “very good results, and the answers were quite consistent”.
We sure have group agreement on what we are doing!
There were very good indicators on this survey. There was an overall feeling of confidence among all those surveyed (a 28 person cross-section of the ship). There was confidence that we are progressing on a steady and positive uptrend and that the next few years will show monumental victories in our favour.
Time opinions on how long it would take were
Current Ship Pgms = 2-6 months
Scientology Org Pgms = 1-2 years
Planetary Scn Influence = 2-5 years
Real Planetary Control = 10-20 years
June 24: Don’t propitiate.
The fastest possible way for a senior to get into trouble is to fail to get in Ethics on a downstat junior.
The US “solves” all this with huge government pay offs and propitiation. And look at the upsurge of riots.
Capitalism works only on the reward side. It takes two sides to make a game.
If an I/C lets Ethics go out on his juniors he pulls the rug out from under himself — and slaughters the juniors also.
A team is composed of teammates. Those who mess up the team aren’t teammates.
The decline of the FSO and FAO WHY is really — the seniors let ethics go out on their juniors and sought to be “good fellows”. This dumped the lot back onto me.
The VFP or our 3 orgs is not juniors who think their seniors are good fellows.
And it isn’t “good fellows” either.
Effective SO Members is one of our VFPs.
We have some.
We will have more.
June 25: Somehow, the Nazis are to blame for all this entheta.
Ever since SA refused me a visa South Africans aren’t allowed to enter this country and many others. This of course is pure coincidence?
Anyway, we’re routing them now to EULO which has orders to start an OEC.
Why doesn’t somebody tell people we’re trying to better SA?
That country needs friends, man. And so does its populace.
Did you know that only in those countries where Nazis infiltrated have we had any trouble. Yes. You read that right.
On June 25, 1971, crew member Susan Meister died aboard the Apollo, which was docked in Morocco. Several days later, her father, George Meister, arrived to take possession of his daughter’s body. He was shown a photograph showing that Susan had been found on her bunk, a revolver in her hands, and a bullet hole in her forehead. He was told she had committed suicide, but he immediately doubted it. He didn’t see how she could have fired a bullet into her own forehead with a long-barrelled revolver, and just ten days before her death she had sent an effulgent letter to her mother, expressing her total dedication to her work on the boat.
Jon Atack, in A Piece of Blue Sky, goes into more detail about why the circumstances of Meister’s death remain mysterious.
I looked carefully through the Orders of the Day that followed Meister’s death. I could find no mention of her or the incident. (I had been looking for her name in the weeks leading up to her death and didn’t see a mention of her in those dispatches either.) The closest thing I could see to a shift in tone, or an acknowledgment of an issue on the boat were the following two, short entries.
If you have any complaint about a service provided by the FSO — please contact me.
If you feel you should be getting better service from the FSO contact me.
I take pride in my org and its VFPs and would like to add you to our “Satisfied Customers” list.
Lt. N.F. Starkey
To settle any rumours there is a straight fact rundown on the crew’s notice board near the entrance of CIC in the ‘tween decks.
Facts are always available.
More 1970s Awesomeness!
While L. Ron Hubbard had moved HQ from the yacht Apollo to the Florida coast, Advance! magazine was thrilling Scientologists with tales of “OT Phenomena.” Those church members who had reached the higher levels of spiritual training shared their stories of superhuman powers with fellow dupes — er, enthusiasts. This excerpt is from Issue 39, March/April 1976. (And another cover featuring a photo by the Commodore!)
One of my “hidden standards” about going Clear and OT was that I would be able to increase my abilities in sports, particularly in golf.
Before I went to the AO, try as I might, I couldn’t get my golf score below 95 and usually shot around 100 — sometimes as high as 105. You might imagine (correctly, too) that I was a “walking bank” on the golf course. I would usually finish a round of golf in anger (rage) or sometimes even in apathy.
Well, after a layoff of 4 to 5 months, during which I went Clear and OT I, I went to play my first game of golf as a new OT. I played 9 holes and shot a 42. A week later I played 18 holes and shot an 87.
I was amazed! It was so easy and effortless. I just mocked up the way I wanted the ball to go, hit it, and it went right where I knew it would. The several times that I made some bad shots, I got careless and didn’t mock up the first shot with 100 percent certainty and intention.
Playing a game without a bank is sure a lot of fun! — David V. White, OT
While working on OT III I found several abilities that were rather astounding to me. I had gone to visit at a house of a friend and was receiving a tour of the house. I looked at the paintings and could feel the impressions of pictures from them. I pointed one out and said that someone with grey hair had owned it and that they liked it very much. She replied, “Yes, that was my grandmother’s favorite painting.” Further on in the house I saw a wood carved piece of furniture that I did not quite understand. Looking at it I felt a lot of grief and remorse. Looking closer it turned out to be an old hand-carved Spanish confessional booth. I told my host, “You know, there seems to be a great deal of grief just out here to the front of the booth about three feet.” I kept perceiving and I felt a death had occurred at that very location. I told her and she was very amazed. “You’re right,” she said. “My grandfather had a heart attack and died on that very spot.”
I since have been able to pick up pictures from objects and have done some practicing on seeing objects while driving through the countryside that are hidden from view. Coming around the bend in a road or over a hill I’ll find just what I perceived before I saw it with my physical eyes. — Heber C. Jentzsch, OT
Does Tiger Woods know about this? Somehow, professional athletes have not discovered the cheating possibilities inherent in going Full OT. I mean, at the least you could go exterior to find out what play the other sides is calling in the huddle, or see the catcher’s sign to figure out if you were going to get a fastball.
As for that ghost story from Heber, well, that brings us down. Now he’s practically a ghost, and we’d love to bust him out of his prison.
A Special Announcement: Bryan Seymour Jumps Ship
We received an e-mail last night from a man we like to think of as a colleague, Australian journalist Bryan Seymour.
Over the last several years, no television reporter anywhere in the world has produced as many hard-hitting exposes about Scientology as Seymour for Australia’s Seven Network.
It was just in February that we were stunned by Seymour’s reporting about a surburban labor camp for children operated by Scientology in a Sydney suburb.
But now, Bryan tells us, he’s moving on. He’s soon leaving the Seven Network and begins work on July 9 as a senior advisor to Australia’s Environment Minister, Tony Burke.
I asked Bryan for a statement to his many fans, and he sent me this…
Goodbye… for now…
Thank you to all the courageous ex-members of the Church of Scientology and the whistle blowers who could not stay silent. I did not foresee so much of my life being devoted to unveiling the stunning truth about what really happens inside the “celebrity cult” of Scientology.
I must pay particular tribute to Joe Childs and Tom Tobin, (“The Truth Rundown,” Tampa Bay Times), for their extensive research and reporting and to Tony Ortega for his unrelenting quest to shine a light in the darkest corners of Scientology’s engrams.
For me, once it started, it was all I could do to keep up with every shocking revelation; from women forced to have abortions, children separated from their parents, families torn apart, child labour, unfair work practices, physical and emotional brutality, and on and on it goes…
After more than 50 stories reporting on the harmful practices of the Cult of Scientology I am, frankly, surprised this group is still opening centres. Yes they’re empty, yes their numbers are dwindling as more and more people are made aware of their true agenda.
I believed this year we would see some major celebrities leave Scientology, along with some major staff and, perhaps, begin to see the end of the harm that continues to be imposed on the vulnerable, the insecure and the unsuspecting.
It is with some comfort I move into a different job, at least for a while, knowing that so many talented and motivated journalists are working to keep us all informed about the things that really matter — people’s lives, their livelihoods and their quality of life.
I don’t how it is on other planets or how it was three billion years ago on Koltis… but here, many people have given their all to earn the basic Human Rights we enjoy on this planet — keeping an eye on groups like Scientology helps ensure we keep them.
Finally, I won’t say good bye… just so long… and to everyone reading this… try to be nice.
AUSTRALIAN UPDATE: Journalist Steve Cannane alerted us this morning that he was reporting surprising new survey numbers showing that Scientology has dwindled to such a low presence in that country, it is now outnumbered by people who identify as Jedi. After several miserable years of bad press Down Under, constant protests by Anonymous, and the attentions of federal senator Nick Xenophon, new survey results show that there are fewer than 3,000 people who identify as Scientologists in Australia.
Cannane sent a transcript, and here’s an excerpt:
Figures released to Lateline from the Australian Census show that in 2011, just 2163 Australians called themselves Scientologists, a decrease of 13.7 percent from the 2006 Census.
In 2009, Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis told ABC’s Four Corners program there were “tens, if not hundreds of thousands” of Scientologists in Australia.
Just in: Here’s the video…
There’s more big news to come, so please check our Facebook author page for updates and schedules.
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.