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The Voice has obtained a remarkable document — a letter from Scientology’s attorneys which explains how the church would agree to forgive almost $43,000 in court costs if Marc and Claire Headley agree to turn over information about former Scientology executive Marty Rathbun and “others involved in disparaging” the church, “including any media contacts.”
In July, we reported that the Headleys lost in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals after a lower court had dismissed their 2009 lawsuits against the church. In a lengthy and detailed decision, federal appellate judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain found that as longtime members of Scientology’s hardcore “Sea Org,” the Headleys had certainly endured hardships — Claire claimed that she had been forced to have two abortions in order to keep up with the Sea Org’s 100-hour weeks while paid pennies an hour — but Scientology had not violated human trafficking laws.
After that court victory, Scientology was entitled to court costs, and the Headleys received three bills totaling $42,852.06. As a matter of procedure, they say, their attorney asked the church to waive those costs.
They were stunned when they got the church’s response, explaining what it wanted in order to make that debt go away.
The letter, from attorney Robert Mangels of the Los Angeles law firm Jeffer Mangels Butler and Mitchell, listed three conditions under which the Church of Scientology International and the Religious Technology Center — two of the church’s controlling entities — would agree to cancel the debt.
First, the letter says, “The Headleys agree to a full and permanent disengagement between themselves on one hand and CSI/RTC on the other hand. This would include no further anti-scientology activity under any circumstances at any time, including media or internet postings disparaging Scientology or scientologists.”
That would be a difficult condition for the Headleys, who have been outspoken critics of the church since they left Scientology’s International Base east of Los Angeles in 2005. Marc Headley in particular has been vocal, writing a book about their life at the base and dramatic escape, titled Blown For Good.
Which brings us to the church’s second condition, as explained in the letter from Mangels: “The Headleys will turn over to CSI/RTC all rights to the ‘Blown for Good Book’.”
But it’s the third condition which really surprised the Headleys…
“The Headleys agree to discuss with CSI and RTC all of their contacts with Marty Rathbun and any others involved in disparaging CSI and RTC, including any media contacts.”
The Headleys tell me they have no interest in becoming informants for Scientology in its struggles against Rathbun, who was the second-highest ranking executive in the church before his 2004 defection. Rathbun is now associated with a breakaway independence movement that is challenging David Miscavige’s leadership of Scientology. Last year, we reported that Miscavige went to surprising lengths to surveil Rathbun, planting an intimidation squad outside his house for five months. There’s little question that Scientology expends enormous resources to follow Rathbun and watch those who go to visit him in his South Texas home.
Marc Headley says that his attorney responded to the Mangels letter with another offer, asking to pay the debt in four monthly payments of about $10,000 each.
He says the church answered with a verbal offer that they would accept such a payment plan, but only if the Headleys met “some or all” of the three conditions in their letter. (I’ve sent requests for comment both to Scientology’s media office and to Robert Mangels about the letter.)
Uninterested in any of the conditions, Marc says it was obvious they would have to pay immediately. And the church was wasting no time making that point clear.
“We got a letter from the IRS today. They sent us a confirmation letter of the information we had asked for in a phone query. But we never called the IRS. We never inquired about anything. So, they’re already poking around in our companies,” Headley told me recently when I first asked him about the letter.
Headley told me he really only had one option. “We’re just going to pay it.”
I asked him how he would manage it. “I sold my van. We’re selling the kids’ swing set,” he said. “I also sold a ton of my tools and equipment. And I wiped out my savings for the new kid.”
(Claire is pregnant with their third child.)
The Headleys paid Scientology the money by cashier’s check last week, on August 31.
This week, Scientology is reeling from a report in Vanity Fair magazine which alleges that in 2004, actresses were “auditioned” to become Tom Cruise’s third wife before he eventually married Katie Holmes in 2006. The Headleys are named as sources in that story.
In a letter to NBC that was posted on one of the church’s websites, Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw notes that the Headleys paid their debt, and then asks, “did Vanity Fair pay Mr. Headley for his ‘cooperation’ in ‘corroborating’ its tabloid story or was there some other quid pro quo?”
Marc Headley says the accusation is ludicrous. While it’s true that several years ago he was paid by a British tabloid for stories shortly after he first left Scientology, what he told Vanity Fair is virtually the same thing he’s been telling other journalists for years, including material that was already in his own book, Blown for Good. (I asked Vanity Fair for a statement and their executive director of public relations, Beth Kseniak, responded: “Vanity Fair has never paid sources and never would.”)
Headley tells me it wasn’t easy, but he and Claire managed to scrape together the money on their own.
Jason Beghe, the actor and former Scientologist who recently managed to pay off his own legal debt to the church, tells me that he’s leading an effort to raise money to replace what the Headleys just spent.
“The Church of Scientology needs 40 grand like I need more hair on my back,” he says. “I convinced Marc that people are going to want to help out. There’s no reason he should suffer further. The rest of us should share the burden. I’m putting the first grand in that thing.”
That thing being a fund started by Headley.
And here’s a copy of Scientology’s letter to the Headleys…
“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
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Tony Ortega has been the editor in chief of the Village Voice since March, 2007. He started writing about Scientology in 1995. You can catch his alerts at Twitter (@VoiceTonyO), at his Facebook author page, on Pinterest, 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.