Last summer, we put together a little list that took on a life of its own.
We counted down the 25 people and groups who had been doing the most to get word out to the wider world about the Church of Scientology’s many alleged abuses, and who have contributed to its steep recent decline.
A year later, we thought it was time to update our list. This time, we’ve put a premium on what’s happened in the last twelve months, so you might see some of your old favorites drop off the roster. But never fear — you can always revisit our choices from last year, or the choices of our readers.
So let’s see who’s next on the list!
The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology — 2012 Edition
#20: Jamie DeWolf
L. Ron Hubbard’s great-grandson moves up a few spots on our list this year after the way his profile has been rising lately. After the TomKat split, DeWolf was asked to make some comments, and an interview he gave to a Bay Area local television station got picked up and went around the world a few times. We’d predicted big things for Jamie, who has a lot of talent and charm, and isn’t afraid to speak freely about his great-grandad.
Jamie’s grandfather was L. Ron Hubbard Jr., the first of his father’s children. Nicknamed “Nibs,” LRH Jr. tried to fit in with his dad’s weird invention, Scientology, but after being in and out of the movement, Nibs finally walked away from the church and for good measure changed his name to “Ron DeWolf.” His grandson was born Jamie Kennedy, but as Jamie’s career as a “slam poet” and performance artist blossomed, he found himself getting confused with a comedian by that name. So he too adopted the name “DeWolf,” and he developed a spell-binding bit about his grand-dad’s relationship with LRH. As the media fascination with Scientology stays hot, we expect to see Jamie get more opportunities to talk about his odd family.
#19: Jefferson Hawkins
Last year, when we cited Jeff Hawkins, we talked about his role as the man who marketed Scientology to the world, helping it expand to its greatest extent in the 1980s. Since making our previous list, he’s put out a new book and has been an invaluable resource for this blog. Hawkins has proved time and again to be among the most rational and reliable former Scientologists, and can be counted on to put the church’s changing fortunes into perspective and context.
#18: Amy Scobee
Amy Scobee has been much in demand since the TomKat split. She spent 27 years in Scientology, and as a high-ranking Sea Org official, she was witness to the harrowing conditions at the church’s secretive International Base east of Los Angeles. Recently, Amy helped us out enormously by putting together short and informative descriptions of the many Scientology executives who have spent time in Int Base’s notorious office-prison, “The Hole.” She put a lot of effort into it, and we figure it’s going to be a valuable resource for years to come. Amy was also invaluable for our story this week about Isabella Cruise considering the Sea Org as a career. When we asked if Tom Cruise’s daughter would really have to put up with harsh conditions if she signed the Sea Org’s billion-year contract, Amy nearly shouted her response: “Yes! You are signing over your entire life.”
#17: Marc and Claire Headley
Marc and Claire Headley may have lost their recent appeal and their lawsuit against the Church of Scientology on human trafficking violations, but this couple remains one of the most important sets of former Scientology workers ever to come out of the church. We’re still hoping someone gets around to turning Marc’s book Blown For Good into a major Hollywood film.
Look for the next installment of our Top 25 on Sunday. We have things timed so that we’ll reveal this year’s number one just a few days before the opening of “The Master,” Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film that should explode interest in all things Scientology.
Scientology’s Tel Aviv Ideal Org Finally Opens
We’ve written several times about the fairly astounding problems dogging Scientology’s attempts to open an Ideal Org in Tel Aviv. It’s a sordid tale of arson, attempted murder, and lawsuits. But finally, this week, the beautifully renovated former movie theater in Jaffa was opened with the usual pomp and circumstance.
As we’ve noted before, Scientology leader David Miscavige seems to enjoy flying in for the photo opportunities that come with opening a new building. We couldn’t help point out that he almost always ends up being shot standing in the same exact position, whether it’s in Seattle or Nashville, as in the following two photos.
But this week, Miscavige was in the Holy Land, and even the leader of a billion-dollar organization has to pay attention to local customs.
At least, that’s what we figure he must have been thinking when he posed in his usual style at the Jaffa opening, but surrounded by signs in Hebrew, he remembered to read things right to left…
Astra Woodcraft at AOL
After the TomKat split, Astra Woodcraft told her story of escaping the Sea Org at the Daily Beast and it got a huge reaction. Now she’s made a video for AOL, and this thing should bring even more attention to what the Sea Org is like for young people. Wow…
“Tom Cruise worships David Miscavige like a god”
Scientology’s president and the death of his son: our complete coverage
What Katie is saving Suri from: Scientology interrogation of kids
Scientology’s new defections: Hubbard’s granddaughter and Miscavige’s dad
Scientology’s disgrace: our open letter to Tom Cruise
Scientology crumbling: An entire mission defects as a group
Scientology leader David Miscavige’s vanished wife: Where’s Shelly?
Neil Gaiman, 7, Interviewed About Scientology by the BBC in 1968
The Master Screenplay: Scientology History from Several Different Eras
And a post that pulls together the best of our Scientology reporting
Please check out 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.