We’ve always been suckers for the final scene of It’s a Wonderful Life. No matter how many times we see it, we tear up at the sight of George Bailey’s friends coming to his aid in his time of need, proving to him that he really is the richest man in town.
Over the last couple of days, we watched something remarkable happen as the readers of this blog rallied to help a family in a somewhat similar circumstance. Only this time it wasn’t old man Potter providing the bullying tactics, but the attorneys of the Church of Scientology.
As we reported on Thursday, Marc and Claire Headley were stunned when the church — their former employer — offered to waive the $42,852.06 in court costs they owed if the couple agreed to spy on former church executive Marty Rathbun and other critics of Scientology, including “media contacts.” (We can imagine a short list of who that might include.)
As Claire explained it to the Tampa Bay Times in a story that came out later that night, “I’m like, over my dead body. … I’ll sell my child’s backpack if have to.”
And they almost had to go that far, selling the van that Marc used for his audio/visual design business, cashing out their savings, and even selling their kids’ swing set. (They have two children, and Claire is pregnant with a third.) They also had to borrow $6,000 in order to come up with the complete amount, which they paid on August 31.
Jason Beghe, the actor who loudly quit Scientology several years ago, told me that he spent considerable time convincing the Headleys that other people who had left Scientology or had enjoyed Marc’s book about their experiences, Blown For Good, would want to help out the couple. Start a fund, he urged Marc, and Thursday, Headley did just that.
In our story on Thursday, we published the bullying letter from the church, as well as a link to Headley’s fundraising site.
The response — well, it was obvious from our comments section that our readers were surprised and overwhelmed by what unfolded. As were the Headleys.
Within 24 hours, more than $27,000 had been raised by Village Voice readers and the readers of Marty Rathbun’s blog.
As of this morning, the total has reached $35,317.00 from 413 different donations, many of them only $10 or $20.
We’ve listed all of those of $100 or more here, and we’ve borrowed some language from Scientology’s own fundraising jargon, just for fun…
Patron Laureate ($2,000) — “Just Saying,” Daryl & Jamie & Tiziano (Lugli)
Diamond Meritorious ($1,000) — Jason Beghe, Karen de la Carriere, Rachel Denk, Matt and Cindy Plahuta
Platinum Meritorious ($650) — Anonymous
Gold Meritorious ($500) — Anonymous (4), Peggy Mitchell, Kim Rainbolt
Silver Meritorious ($300) — Anonymous, David Braverman, Dave & Sindy Fagen, Gibby, Kari, Robin & Adrienne Scott
Patron Meritorious ($250) — Anonymous (2), Richard Dineen, Bobby X. Mangels, Kevin Tighe
Honor Roll ($200) — Anonymous (6), “Approved by the IJC,” Tony & Marie-Joe DePhillips, Heather Graceful, Janela, John Kimball, Mcgins, Bert Schippers & Lynne Hoverson, Michelle Sterling, Tom
Crusader ($150) — Anonymous, Brian P, Radio Paul, Steve Hall
Sponsor ($142) — The Golden Error Musicians
Patron With Honors ($101) — Pnc
Patron ($100) — Alanzo, Liz & James Anderson, Karola Andris, Anonymous (20), Bela, Terry Brawley, Mark Bunker, Cajunette, Carolyn, Colwell, Conrad, Steve Cook, Jacob Dickerman, DMSTCC, Brian Eckert, Ziba & Jim Feulner, Eamonn Fitzgerald, Luis & Rocio Garcia, Dan Garvin, Happy to Help, Jeff Henninger, Bruce Hines, Deana Holmes, Ted Horner, Jackson, Jan, Jenna & Dallas, Jeanne, Janet Kay, Yuliya Keaton, Naula Kelly, Peggy Lauroff-Tourangeau, Lois & Clark, Joe Lynn, The Matlocks, Melinda, Suzanna Nielsen, Lisa O’Kane, Frank Oliver, The Oracle, Martin Padfield, Sinar Parman, Skip Press, Roger from Switzerland, Anna Schultz, Amy Scobee and Mat Pesch, Ervin Scott, Roy Selby, Ms. Smith, Peter Smith, Barbara Snow, Big Stevie, Laurisse Stuckenbrick, Jens Tingleff, Ora Walker, WhereisSHE, Marta & Larry Willson, Astra & Lawrence Woodcraft
Some of the smaller donations were also noteworthy for the messages they contained.
Xenu, $10.00: “Sorry it couldn’t be more but I’m still paying off those DC-8s.”
L. Ron Hubbard, $10.00: “Dude, I totally never meant for everyone to take this crap so seriously! I was just trying to get rich. And I liked boats. Sorry Little Davey has been such a pain in your arse. If I was still around I’d slap him silly.”
Shelly Miscavige, $20.00: “Meet me at the back fence at 2am. Bring a ladder and a spare pantsuit”
Suri, $25.00: “My Daddy gave me money for a new pair of high heeled shoes. But your kids need their swing set back much more. Maybe they will invite me to swing on it some day.”
Many more have left humorous notes — but with real cash attached.
Late last night, Claire added a message to the fundraising page.
“I think I have shed more tears these last few days than I can remember… Not sad tears, but the tears that come automatically when you see incredible acts of kindness,” she wrote.
She said that their three years of litigation had been tough.
“I sought therapy after being grilled by Scientology lawyers on the subject of forced abortions, simply because I could not stop crying,” she wrote.
But now, she can make those depositions public. And we look forward to reading them.
“I will remain forever changed by this,” Claire wrote. “I may have lost some faith in the legal system, but ultimately I have gained a whole new view of the power of love and humanity.”
ABC Once Again Delays Broadcast of a Scientology Story
In 2008, Jason Beghe flew to New York after news broke online that he’d left Scientology. I met him at a restaurant here, and he told me that he’d just spent several hours being interviewed by Elizabeth Vargas for ABC’s program 20/20. He’d told her very detailed information about his time in Scientology and why he’d decided to leave.
None of that material ever aired.
That memory came back to me recently when I had my own experience being interviewed by Elizabeth Vargas and a producer for 20/20 for two hours after the news of the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes divorce had broken. I was one of about a dozen people interviewed for what we were told would be a full hour on Scientology — four separate segments dealing with Cruise and Holmes, children in the church, Scientology leader David Miscavige, and the abuses of the Sea Org.
On Monday of the week that special was scheduled to air, just 11 days after news of the split had first broken, Cruise and Holmes reached an agreement that would settle their divorce.
The next day, we were told that the show had been “postponed.” Two separate ABC producers told me the purpose of the delay was just to take more time to put the show together — with the divorce settlement done and some of the immediacy gone, 20/20 wanted to be methodical and not rush things.
But just before they told me that, ABC producers had been pestering me with follow-up questions which showed they were getting heat from their own attorneys. I had said in my interview, for example, that Scientology was known for violating the supposed confidentiality of confessional “auditing” sessions that church members go through (when Scientologists run afoul of the organization, they find that things they admitted to supposedly under the strictest secrecy would suddenly show up in slimy anonymous attack websites, for example). Sounding a bit panicked, ABC’s producers wanted to know how I could back up that statement. With literally decades of court documents, I said. That seemed to calm them down. But then they postponed the show, saying they just wanted to take their time.
Another reason to doubt that assertion, however, came from two other people who had been contacted to be interviewed for the show. Both were scheduled to be flown to New York that week, and then were suddenly told their trips had been cancelled. If ABC had just wanted more time to edit or vet their upcoming special, why would they cancel those interviews, both of them with key former Scientologists?
Over the past several weeks, I gave ABC the benefit of the doubt as they sat on what was reportedly amazing material. (They interviewed the Headleys, for example, and I’m told that Claire’s harrowing tales — including the two abortions she was forced to endure as a Sea Org member — had the entire film crew at her house openly weeping.)
Then, Friday night, ABC caved again, and this time much more publicly.
Here’s what I mean. This is a screenshot from my cable television system that night, showing what was scheduled to appear on that night’s edition of 20/20…
Not only was an interview with Orth prepared for the show, the Headleys had also been hastily re-interviewed for what they were told would be segments on both 20/20 and Nightline — but nothing about Scientology showed up on either of those two programs Friday night.
Instead, 20/20 was on air for two hours that night, and with the Orth interview spiked, the show’s producers clearly had to pull out some musty evergreens to fill all that time — your house cat, they proved, is actually a predator, and people video themselves doing the darndest things these days.
What’s going on? Well, we can only imagine that Scientology is hitting ABC with around-the-clock heat from its attorneys. And you can see for yourself what that’s like. For some unfathomable reason, on Wednesday, the church made public on one of its websites several letters that it sent to Vanity Fair in an attempt to intimidate editor Graydon Carter and writer Maureen Orth from publishing her story on Tom Cruise and Nazanin Boniadi.
The most unhinged of these is from church attorney Jeffrey Riffer to Carter. Riffer not only hyperventilates about the sanctity of David Miscavige, he also makes the most bizarre sort of taunt to Carter, asking the editor why he didn’t require Orth to work with a Vanity Fair employee who also “works for Mr. Miscavige in a professional activity.”
Say what? Wednesday evening I e-mailed Riffer, asking him about this, but he hasn’t responded. I wondered if he was referring to a Vanity Fair writer who former church executives Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder claimed has been on the Scientology payroll for years. But both Rathbun and Rinder tell me they think Riffer is not referring to that writer in this letter. (I hear that Riffer is apparently talking about a freelance photographer who has shot some of Miscavige’s ribbon-cutting ceremonies.)
Anyway, reading Riffer’s letter should give you some sense of the kind of bullying that ABC is going through right now.
But here’s the thing. That kind of intimidation didn’t stop Graydon Carter, Maureen Orth, and Vanity Fair. It also hasn’t stopped NBC, whose Rock Center program has aired two significant pieces recently about Scientology — one about Rathbun and Rinder, another about the Narconon mess in Oklahoma. And we hear they’re hard at work on a third piece, about “The Hole.”
So what’s your excuse, ABC?
We’d hate to think the entertainment division is keeping the news division from growing a pair.
As for what Scientology’s war with the media is like from the other side, there’s this classic description of the church’s stall tactics against CNN as described by Rathbun and Rinder in a video they made last year. We imagine ABC is being put through something similar right now…
On the next page: Our countdown, Sunday Funnies, and Hubbard at sea!
The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology — 2012 Edition
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.
#4: Paul Thomas Anderson
As we revealed in a cover story last week, director Paul Thomas Anderson’s research into Scientology for his movie The Master was painstaking and thorough — he even read 1950’s-era newsletters to get a sense of the organization’s early days. Even if Anderson is now playing down how much his movie is about Scientology, there’s little doubt that The Master is going to be a monster. It will play around the world for months, and legions of fans will go online after seeing it to learn more about its background. At Oscar time, early next year, when Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams and Anderson get talked about for awards, another round of curiosity about the movie will only lead even more people to look around for clues about the reality behind the outlandish fictional con man “Lancaster Dodd.” This is a disaster for Scientology. And it will be around for years.
#3: Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder
Two of the highest-ranking former officials in Scientology, Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder continue to rock the church years after they defected. Both of them write at Rathbun’s blog, and both are getting more television time than ever before. (Make sure you haven’t missed Rinder’s video interview with us, a real eye-opener about conditions in “The Hole” and why it’s so hard for abused executives to get out of their imprisonment.) As we’ve pointed out numerous times before, what makes Rathbun and Rinder such a problem for Scientology leader David Miscavige is that both are so well known and respected among the church membership. Rathbun’s blog reaches deep inside the church, and beckons to longtime members who are frustrated with Miscavige’s leadership. One by one, those disillusioned believers are coming out and announcing their independence at the blog. And it’s becoming obvious from the press stories appearing lately that many journalists now understand how Rathbun’s blog may be the single best source for explaining what’s splitting apart Scientology as it’s actually happening.
See also: 25. Xenu, 24. Kate Bornstein, 23. Lisa Marie Presley, 22. Dani and Tami Lemberger, 21. John Brousseau, 20. Jamie DeWolf, 19. Jefferson Hawkins, 18. Amy Scobee, 17. Marc and Claire Headley, 16. Dave Touretzky, 15, Mark Bunker, 14. Tory Christman, 13. Karen de la Carriere, 12. Debbie Cook, 11. Astra Woodcraft, 10. Anonymous, 9. Tom Tobin and Joe Childs, 8. Stacy Dawn Murphy, 7. David Love and Colin Henderson, 6. L. Ron Hubbard, 5. Tom Cruise
Look for the final installment of our Top 25 on Wednesday. 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 Sunday Funnies!
We’re getting more wacky Scientology fundraising fliers than ever here at the underground bunker. And that’s surprising, because the church appeared to make a concerted effort to shut down our fun little operation. Scientologists were urged to turn over their e-mail lists to the Office of Special Affairs so they could be scrubbed. After we heard about that effort, we noticed that our supply of Sunday Funnies slowed to a trickle — at least for a few weeks. But now the hose is back on full force. These are just the best of what was sent to us this week!
The church is choosing a funny time to make a big push for a “national” office in order to influence power brokers in DC…
Alaska is ours! New Hampshire is in our clutches! On to New York!
We’ve never seen so much promotion for a single event as the Bowlarama happening on September 23 in Studio City. (Remember the OTC gals?) This thing is going to be off the hook. And just look at these sponsorship opportunities!
So many OT VIII women, so little time…
SUNDAY FUNNIES BONUS: This e-mailed appeal was sent to some UK church members about a paragon of Ideal Org virtue from South Africa. We thought you’d appreciate a look at it…
Why I donate to the Ideal Orgs — Dr. Ilmarie Rencken
I have been making donations to the Ideal Orgs drive for almost ten years now, starting with Jo-burg Org, which was the Ideal Orgs pilot in South Africa, then for Pretoria Org, then for the re-fit of the Jo-burg Org, and now I continue to donate for my new local Org — Plymouth.
It has not always been comfortable, and I have at time stretched myself too far financially — but then, how comfortable is it going to be if we do not win? If there are no Orgs, no Scientology, and entreat has won?
The creation of entheta on this planet is speeding up and we need to speed up too!
I am asking all Scientologists to do the right thing, that is, as per LRH: “The greatest good for the greatest number of dynamics or the least harm to the least number.” Donate what you can and even stretch yourself a little bit to a point that it is somewhat uncomfortable — then we will get it done faster.
When you move on, your MEST will stay behind, be owned by someone else, or disintegrate. However, your donation for the Ideal Org, however big or small, will endure. It is one of the best investments you can make — an investment in the future creation of theta on this planet. What can be more valuable than that — you will benefit from it for eternity, and so will all your dynamics.
You can say “I helped!”
I have been in Scientology for sixteen years and I have never seen such expansion as I have in the last few years with the creation of the Ideal Orgs around the world and so many PC’s moving up the Bridge so fast and smoothly these days.
All Scientologists knows that any worthwhile accomplishment begins with the decision to do it — decide today, and make a donation for Plymouth Ideal Org!
Dr. Ilmarie Rencken
Humanitarian — Pretoria Ideal Org
Founding Member with Honours — Plymouth Ideal Org
Family Patron of the IAS
Power/Power Plus completion
If you would like to help us get the next Ideal Org opened in the uk then call us now on 01752 202150
And now, our delayed Friday post of dispatches from somewhere out in the Atlantic…
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 September 2-8 during those years.
This week, the Commodore turns the dictionary into a festival!
September 4: What’s this? Mary Sue and Diana slacking off?
NOTICE: Diana and I are going for three weeks leave, Sunday, September 5th.
CS-G Comm, Lt. Nikki Freedman will be handling my lines while I am away.
Further, the Guardian Offices WW and US are fully on post and completely capable of handling any matters which may arise. In case of extreme emergency, these Offices will also be in communication with me.
Therefore, if any matter arises which has to do with Guardian Office functions and duties, place these on CS-G Comm’s Lines an such will be handled via the appropriate Guardian Office.
The word is: BUSINESS AS USUAL.
Love, Mary Sue Hubbard, Capt.
September 5: A galactic first — dictionary mania!
Method 1 on their Education.
Method 2 on their Hats.
Nothing like this has ever before been seen on this planet!
Flag has 100 Auditors Class III or above 100. From this stellar assembly will be chosen the most upstat fantastic auditors you have ever seen.
For 12 stupendous days 12 these auditors will be assembled in the largest space of the ship performing acts UNDUPLICATED in any other Galaxy.
Three inch grins will be turned into 10 inch grins.
VGIs will turn into VVVVVVVVGIs before your very eyes.
The Upstat Crew is about to move up to the Stellar Band.
Stand by for further announcements of
Once only never to be repeated on this crew!
September 6: Shyness about Clear bracelets?
The only hole in word clearing is the dictionaries themselves. Child’s dictionaries are best. We are working on getting good dictionaries.
ATTENTION, ATTENTION: For this afternoon at 1500 when the Newsreel cameraman will come aboard to film the ship, please be sure to not wear the clear bracelet, otherwise it could be noticed in the film. Thank you!
I have found GROSS INSECURITY ON THE POOP DECK TRASH BARRELS. Scientology promo torn but not in small enough pieces. The word Scientology was evident on several piecees. Dir of I&R to investigate an take appropriate action on OFFENDERS. All crew should refer to FO 2834 Disposing of Security & Confidential Materials.
App HCO Cope Off I/T
September 8: Oh, now it’s a party…
After considerable data on the subject, any bad effects from a birth control pill are handled by changing BRANDS or STRENGTHS (amounts) and with these handled there should be no trouble with dizziness or auditing, according to data from the M.O.
Therefore, please note there is NO restriction on taking such pills except to report any odd effects to the MO.
The previous MO, whose data was taken, did not do enough research on it.
As trouble has been caused by this, it should be broadly know that there is now no restrictions on birth control pills.
More 1970s Awesomeness!
After 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 49, November/December 1977. (And another cover featuring a photo by the Commodore!)
I had recently started negotiations to purchase an Anglo-Arab filly foal [a young female horse] from a breeder of extensive experience with horses.
I was sitting with him in his house when he received a phone call that the dam [mother] of the foal I was negotiating to purchase was down on her back.
We hurried to the paddock and found the report true. The mare was groaning with pain. The owner examined her swollen front offside knee and leg. He had become very distressed at the prospect of having to have the mare put down — and the consequent threat to the foal’s survival. He diagnosed a broken leg. The mare appeared unable to rise and was groaning.
The owner left us to talk to a man at the fence. There were several horses standing around the observing me, and I became convinced from their attitudes that the entire situation was a game.
I located and addressed the thetan who was being the injured mare. I indicated the definition of a touch assist and proceeded to give one, quickly over the entire body, working from the front legs to the rear. Within a few minutes, the mare was on her feet.
Suddenly we were in direct telepathic communication. She knew I was going to take the foal. The whole act of going down injured was part of her plan. Everything would be great if she could stay with the foal. I agreed.
The man came back, amazed that the mare was now grazing contentedly nearby. He asked what had happened, and I told him I was a Scientologist and had been in communication with the mare and had restored her communication with the injured leg.
The owner was so impressed by the way I handled his horses that he decided to give me the mare — as a gift!
So now, I have a lovely 11-year old thoroughbred bay mare and a beautiful Anglo-Arab filly foal! — Michael Cownley
OK, sure, he convinced the thetan “being the injured mare” to stick around, but did he bother to chase off all of her body thetans? Is there a special L-Rundown for that?
“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 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.