Steve and Karen sat down to talk about Scientology issues surrounding the recent divorce of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Both of them have also given interviews to me for my movie, Knowledge Report: The Rise and Fall of the Church of Scientology. Karen was a former exec at the Celebrity Center. Steve’s latest book can be found here.
I have been very busy this past week talking to reporters about the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes divorce. I’ve tried to tamp down the crazy rumors about Suri being kidnapped and sent to the Sea Org and instead concentrated on the real crazy stories going on in Scientology. I did three radio shows within 24 hours for Canadian stations but I didn’t get any of them recorded. They seem to be lost to the wind. However, this morning I appeared on Cincinnati station WLW for a segment with host Scott Sloan. It was a brief piece but I tried to cram in as much as I could in my 15 minutes.
Update: July 8th, 2012
The press is speculating wildly about Scientology being at the core of why Tom and Katie split. No one really knows for sure except those closest to the couple. However, unnamed sources supposedly close to Katie say that is the case. A CBS reporter talks about that and the warnings former members of Scientology are giving to Katie:
Meanwhile, Tony Ortega has been looking at Scientology’s tech for saving a crumbling marriage and not surprisingly it all has to do with the Scientologist pulling it in.
In 1980, Hubbard laid down the policy for how to perform Scientology marriage counseling. (Hubbard himself had been married three times and was briefly a bigamist in the 1940s.)
Below, you will find Hubbard’s detailed instructions for how a couple is to be audited with the use of an e-meter in order to save their marriage. It’s precise and detailed, down to the positions where each of the three people should sit.
But as usual, when you drill down to what is actually supposed to take place as the auditor asks questions, the process is incredibly simple-minded.
In this case, if Katie Holmes actually agreed to be subjected to this, she would be sat down, asked to hold the sensors of an e-meter, and with Tom Cruise watching, she would be asked over and over and over again, just two questions:
“What have you done to Tom?”
“What have you withheld from Tom?”
These questions would be asked until Katie had unburdened herself of numerous secrets she’s been holding back and the needle on the e-meter is “floating,” indicating that she’s told all she knows. This can take hours.
Then it’s Tom’s turn.
According to a 2006 price list that was smuggled to the ‘net, this process would cost a Scientology couple $5,687 for a 12.5-hour block of auditing ($4,550 for IAS Lifetime members).
“Many, many marriages at the brink of divorce have been successfully salvaged with the help of this processing,” Hubbard writes.
There’s much more on the subject over at the Village Voice.
The whole world is abuzz with the news that Katie is dumping the couch jumper. Reports say he was dumbfounded with the news. While he was off filming a movie overseas, Katie and Suri moved into new digs in New York and Katie filed the papers for the divorce.
Quite a change from the last time when Tom blindsided Nicole Kidman, dumping her just three days before their tenth anniversary. I interviewed Marty Rathbun recently and he talked about how intimately Scientology was involved in the Kidman divorce. I’ll dig up that video soon. Meanwhile, Tom has hired the same attorney he used in the Kidman divorce.
The media is running with the theory that Scientology had a lot to do with this latest breakup, and they’ve been coming up with some incredibly wild stories that are way off the mark such as Katie being worried Suri will be kidnapped and sent to the Sea Org. Thankfully, Tony Ortega is the Village Voice of Reason and has been working this story daily at his blog.
He’s even found time to appear on the Young Turks and stopped the host dead in his tracks when the specter of ‘religious bigotry” started to rear its ugly head:
And Tony dug up some great video of a very young Tom Cruise before he joined Scientology. It is clear to see why the actor was easy pickings for recruitment.
I remain a big fan of Tom Cruise and wish all of them well. I see Katie took Suri out for ice cream today so the fear of kidnapping doesn’t seem as pronounces as the tabloids would have us believe.
Susan Elliott (I’m Glib) interviewed a former Scientologist a few days ago at the opening of the new Orange County Ideal Org. There’s a lot of background racket but Andrea cuts through it all with some piercing comments about the group she devoted her life to not so long ago. [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iwugjr_Amvg[/youtube] Her mom spoke out about Scientology’s Narconon program at the Temecula City Council. [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OukPXwXtpg[/youtube]
Harvey Weinstein just showed a few minutes of footage in Cannes from the upcoming film starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a thinly disguised L. Ron Hubbard. The Cannes audience got to see footage of Hoffman who doesn’t appear in this teaser for the film. It appears that Joaquin Phoenix’s character is having some Black Dianetics run on him during a False Purpose Rundown, while we see shots of Sea Org members blowing off some steam away from the Old Man.
Over at Ain’t it Cool News, Quint saw the expanded footage and describes it in detail. Quint doesn’t know anything about Scientology but from his description it would appear that Amy Adams (as Mary Sue Hubbard) is being all Tone 40 about attacking the Suppressives in their midst.
It seems this unstable seaman has “episodes” and the interviewer wants to know if he remembers the last one. Phoenix clearly doesn’t. “Was there a fight? What happened? Sir?” “Well, let’s just see if we can’t help you remember what happened.”
Enter Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Lancaster Dodd, a mustachioed self-described writer, doctor, nuclear physicist and theoretical philosopher (“and, above all, I am a man”) and then you get why people have dubbed this the “Scientology Movie.” While Dodd is not L. Ron Hubbard, he sure as hell feels a lot like the man.
Primarily he seems to fit into this story to help Phoenix’s character, much to his wife’s displeasure, it seems. Amy Adams plays Hoffman’s wife and she’s looking a lot like Sissy Spacek in her prime in this film, I gotta say.
She seems to be the extreme one of the two, actually. She goes on a wide-eyed tirade at one point in the footage that was pretty off-putting. The speech goes like this:
“And this is where we are at; at the lowest level… to have to explain ourselves. For what we do we have to grovel! The only way to defend ourselves is to attack. If we don’t do that we will lose every battle that we are engaged in. We will never dominate our environment the way we should unless we attack!”
I like adorable, bubbly Amy Adams! This crazy lady scares me! Make the bad woman go away! I liked the nice one!
Adams distrusts Phoenix’s character, maybe sees that he’s beyond care… or maybe there’s more than meets the eye here. I don’t know. But one of the meatier dramatic moments in the footage comes from Adams trying to get Hoffman’s character to stop Phoenix’s care, paranoia rising in her voice as she states that this man will be their undoing.
Hoffman’s response: “If we are not helping him, then it is we who have failed him.”
That hint of drama makes me more curious to see the movie than anything else in the footage. Hoffman’s just so damn good, his desperate passion showing through in just a few words… and Adams comes across as his biggest fan and supporter in this footage, to see them at odds over this patient is a very interesting dynamic.
I also have to mention a shot of Phoenix opening a suitcase and fire erupting out of it. It was just a quick shot in amongst a bunch of other scenes, like a guy jacking it on a beach and a shot of an insane man rapidly punching a plate glass window like it was a boxer’s speed bag, so I have no idea the context, but Phoenix doesn’t seemed to be all that shocked at fire coming out of his trunk-like suitcase.
The whole vibe of the footage made a bit anxious. Between Jonny Greenwood’s ticking-clock score, the shot compositions (lots of close ups), the length of the camera moves, the slightly disconnected look in Phoenix’s eye and the juxtaposition of image the footage both impressed me and put me on edge, which I’m sure is exactly what Anderson hoped to do.
In other words, very impressive… and again… very Kubrickian. Maybe it was the period and armed forces setting or the long dolly shots, but it really did feel a bit like Full Metal Jacket in terms of the filmmaking angle. Not that it’s any surprise, but I can’t wait to see the full film this October.
A second teaser was released a couple weeks after the first and gives us our first look at Hoffman as the Hubbard figure.
Looks like an intriguing film which is supposed to hit theaters October 12th.
Here’s a 90 minute show broadcast on both German and French TV. It’s a very compelling look at Scientology’s intelligence division featuring interviews with Gerry Armstrong, Marc Headley, Ursula Caberta and Mike Rinder, among others. Tony Ortega wrote about it at the Village Voice.
A big thanks to everyone who who helped us reach our $7000 goal for this campaign. Your contributions and your support are making this film possible. I’ll be flying off shortly for some major interviews for the film and you’ll be seeing some new clips very soon.
Recently, I spent time in L.A. and Hemet shooting some footage for the film. While at Gold I hand delivered a letter for David Miscavige, inviting him once again to do an interview for the film.
Here’s a copy of the letter:
I spoke with Tory about my adventures a few hours after the visit to Gold.
Tony Ortega has an amazing article at the Village Voice in which he details how the FBI’s investigation of human trafficking in Scientology went off the rails. It’s very discouraging but not surprising to see the government shy away from taking on Scientology. That cloak of religiosity Hubbard sought so eagerly back in the 50’s still is their strongest defense. When the going gets tough, the weak can just say, “It’s a religion” and let them off the hook. In effect, Scientology has a God given right to abuse. It’s up to us to stop it when the officials won’t.
Last week, I was in Clearwater, Florida for a couple of days interviewing Mike Rinder, who until 2007 was the top spokesman in the church and also was the executive director of Scientology’s intelligence wing, the Office of Special Affairs.
Over those two days, Rinder and I talked about a lot of subjects for several future stories. Near the end of those sessions, I asked Rinder what many of our readers have asked over the past year — what happened with the FBI?
What he said inspired me to call up several other former high-ranking Scientologists who had all been interviewed by the FBI in 2009 and 2010. Piecing together what they told me, I’ve been able to come up with an outline which describes how seriously the US government considered raiding the International Base — and how long ago the FBI suddenly changed its mind.
“I saw them in November 2009. I had to give them a history lesson. They had no clue,” Marty Rathbun tells me, describing his first meeting with FBI agents. “I told them they were no match for the Church of Scientology.”
Until 2004, Rathbun was the second-highest ranking official in the church, answering only to Miscavige in his role as Inspector General-Ethics of the Religious Technology Center, Scientology’s controlling entity. After he left, Rathbun laid low for several years until, in 2009, he started up a blog and began harshly criticizing Miscavige and the way the church is being run. And it was also that year that he began talking to the FBI, whose investigation was being led by Tricia Whitehill and later Valerie Venegas, agents who each specialize in human trafficking cases, which can include allegations of slave labor.
”I told them everything. Everything I’ve said publicly and then some,” he tells me. But Rathbun, who helped oversee Scientology’s “fair game” campaigns against enemies that used complex methods of surveillance and control, was disappointed by how little the federal agents seemed to know of that history.
“They were goodhearted, but so unsophisticated,” he says. “They told me the church didn’t know about the investigation. Are you kidding me? I said. I already know all of the people you’ve talked to. You think the church doesn’t know that too?”
I asked Rathbun what the agents seemed to be interested in, and what he told them over days of talks.
“How Miscavige lords over Scientology from the minute he gets up in the morning and until he goes to bed at night. That his number one priority is, ‘Who’s blown?’ And he had his inspector general — that was me — on it. It’s his number one priority. He micromanages every security measure. And every unlawful measure to track people and get them back to the reservation and keep them quiet,” he says, using Scientology jargon — “blown” — for escape. “I went through it chapter and verse, and had it corroborated by Mike Rinder and other people.”
More than a dozen ex-Scientologists participated in the investigation; each was given a confidential informant number and a code name. They were told that under no circumstances could they tell anyone that they were cooperating with the agents. For months, Whitehill and Venegas gathered information, and learned the ropes of Scientology’s complex ways.
By June 22, 2010, when Tiziano Lugli met with them at the federal building in Los Angeles, the agents seemed to have learned a great deal.
“They knew Miscavige, Int Base, auditing, all the lingo. They were at the same level as Larry Wright or Janet Reitman, someone who had really done their homework,” says Lugli, an Italian musician and music producer who was excommunicated — declared a “suppressive person” — by Scientology two years ago.
“I had to drop my PIs before I went there,” he says, laughing about how at the time, up to ten private investigators hired by the church were trailing him, and he had to shake them before meeting with the FBI.
“I was there for three hours. They couldn’t tell me anything about what would happen, but they said trust us, justice will be done,” he says.
By that time, June 2010, the investigation seemed to have benefited from a key break. Rathbun and Rinder and others had given detailed information about church executives being held against their will at the Int Base, which is about 90 miles east of Los Angeles, near the town of Hemet. The executives were held in a place Miscavige called “the Hole” — an office-prison made up of two double-wide trailers where fallen officials were kept day and night, sleeping on the floor and being forced to take part in mass confessions. But there was a problem — it had been two or more years since Rathbun and Rinder had left the base. Without fresher information, it would be difficult for the FBI to act, they were told. But then, in April 2010, a worker named John Brousseau escaped from the base, and he managed to bring with him damning evidence of Sea Org members toiling for the benefit of Miscavige and Tom Cruise.
With Brousseau’s fresh information, the FBI seemed to have what it needed, and the investigation reached a fever pitch.
To find out how the investigation unraveled, read Tony’s full article.
Yesterday I appeared along with Jeff Hawkins on a Portland radio show called Mad as Hell in America. Producer Jesse Singer hosted the show and he invited us on for a full two hours to talk about Scientology. I was on the phone and Jeff was in studio. We covered a lot of ground. There’s never enough time but between us we talked about such things as the Scientology mindset, recruitment and progress up the Bridge, the use of celebrities, control mechanisms in the group and the abusive nature of David Miscavige. In case you missed it, here it is in two parts:
[audio:http://xenutv.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/3-10-12-Hour1.mp3|titles=Mad as Hell in America – Hour 1]
[audio:http://xenutv.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/3.10.12.Hour2_1.mp3|titles=Mad as Hell in America – Hour 2]
A few days earlier, another radio host had the chance to talk with Marty Rathbun. Rather than shedding light onto some of the problems in the Church of Scientology, the host (Peter Boyles) decided to let the conversation degenerate into mockery of Rathbun, derailing whatever conversation they might have had. I know I will take some flack for this but I’m siding with Marty on this one. While I agree Marty wasn’t being forthright about the upper level materials, there were greater points which could have been made without just mocking him and driving him off the show. Anons have been taking delight over at Why We Protest but I think it’s better to keep talking and shed light than just get the heat of a confrontation. That said, I would welcome the chance to debate any Scientologist on any show and point out when they are less than open or blatantly lying. It seldom happens but when I get the chance it is fun.
[audio:http://xenutv.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Peter-Boyle-Interviews-Marty-Rathbun.mp3|titles=Peter Boyles Interviews Marty Rathbun]
Over the past couple of weeks, the Tampa Bay Times has exposed the takeover of a Dunedin charter school by the combined efforts of Church of Scientology and the Nation of Islam. In a series of terrific articles, the paper has shown how the Life Force Arts and Technology Academy has shifted gears since the executive director of Scientology’s World Literacy Crusade (Hanan Islam) has put Hubbard’s Study Tech into the school and funneled some of the taxpayer’s $800,000 into Scientology’s coffers. The first article detailed the takeover.
Islam told the Times in July that she wanted to “save the school” using the World Literacy Crusade’s experience in setting up “programs in churches and schools” worldwide. “There are no intentions of taking over,” she said.
But as the 2011-2012 school year began for about 95 students in August, Islam and other Life Force administrators began insisting on the use of Hubbard’s “study tech” in the classroom, former teachers said.
Every teacher was given Learning How to Learn, an illustrated children’s book and starter’s guide to study tech that includes a biography of Hubbard. Teachers also were trained in Smart Way, a phonics program designed by Scientologists.
One teacher took photos of white boxes stacked in the principal’s office labeled “L. Ron Hubbard Books.”
Teachers were required to attend training sessions at Scientology’s flagship resort in downtown Clearwater, the Fort Harrison Hotel.
Islam posted pictures online with a caption saying teachers were “trained on the barriers to study,” a Hubbard study tech fundamental. Teachers were taught extensively about one study tech solution, “word clearing,” in which fatigued or frustrated students must trace back their problem to a “misunderstood word.”
Though teachers believed their students’ struggles often stemmed from broken homes or social problems in their neighborhood, they were taught to point troubled students to a dictionary.
“The only reason a person gives up a study or becomes confused,” Learning How to Learn states, “is because he has gone past a word that was not understood.”
Teachers who questioned study tech were told they had no choice but to implement it. Fifth-grade teacher Jason Lowe, who was fired in January, said Life Force director of operations Vikki Williams told him, ” ‘We are a study tech school,’ and that if any of us had a problem with it, we had to get over it.”
Three teachers said they were terminated last month without explanation. Lowe said he was fired because school leaders suspected he spoke with the Times. Several parents and teachers who talked with the Times were reluctant to be quoted because they feared retribution.
Study tech combines common educational concepts like hands-on learning and word comprehension with what Hubbard defined as “barriers of study” and their manifested responses. “The real things or the objects that you study about are called mass,” explains Learning How to Learn. Studying something without having the “mass” of it could make a student “feel squashed” or “sort of spinny,” the book states. To get past that barrier, the student might be instructed to craft the idea with clay.
Supporters of study tech say the methodology is effective with struggling students. Academic critics say, however, that it hasn’t withstood enough peer review.
Representatives from Applied Scholastics, a nonprofit founded by Scientologists to promote study tech, defend the methodology as secular and appropriate for public education. According to online writings, their interest is not in Hubbard as Scientology’s founder but as “one of the most prolific and successful wordsmiths of all time.”
But study tech’s controversial links to Scientology have generally kept the program out of public schools. The Florida Department of Education has approved Applied Scholastics as a supplemental educational services provider, but schools and school districts in Georgia; San Antonio, Texas; St. Louis; Nevada and Toronto have backed away from study tech after complaints from teachers and parents.
Greg Blunt, whose 11-year-old daughter, Ta’Shannia, was one of Life Force’s first students in 2009, removed her from the school last month because of what he called Scientology’s “takeover” of the school — something the church denies.
School administrators, Blunt said, have long lied to parents about the church’s involvement. When Ta’Shannia returned home from the Ybor Christmas party with The Carnival of Death, one of Hubbard’s pulp-fiction books, he burned it.
“Everyone knows the easiest way is through a child,” said Blunt, who has some convictions for nonviolent crimes. “Here, little girl, have some candy. Here, little boy, have some books to read. … Kids are kids. They’re impressionable. If you can get through to the kids, trust me, you can rule the world.”
Pinellas County School Superintendent John Stewart called for the school’s charter to be pulled and the school closed within 90 days.
The school’s curriculum, Stewart notes, was changed “without permission” from district officials. He adds that the school also has been operating under an unauthorized new name, the SMART Academy, since last month.
In an evaluation of Life Force, district officials questioned the school’s treatment of its faculty. Teachers there are paid $85 a day — the same rate paid to substitute teachers in Pinellas public schools — and are not given benefits or contracts.
One teacher said he was fired because administrators believed he had spoken with the Times. Two other teachers who were fired recently said they were given no explanation.
District officials also expressed doubt that the Life Force board of directors, which has had frequent turnover, is really in charge of the school. Board members tasked with overseeing Islam’s management rarely responded to district requests for information. Most communication came from Islam.
“Their evasiveness and deception has made them very difficult to work with,” Clark said. “Very disappointing, very sad.”
The Times followed up with an editorial about the dangers of charter schools in this Scientology case.
Since Islam came to Life Force some parents and former teachers charge that the school’s children have been targets for recruitment by the Church of Scientology. The student body of about 95 students was taught using the “study technology” of Scientology’s late founder, L. Ron Hubbard, according to former teachers. The school’s children attended a Christmas party at a Scientology church in Tampa’s Ybor Square, where they were given Scientology books and DVDs. And another endeavor of Islam’s was as executive director of the World Literacy Crusade, a California organization that promotes Scientology education methods.
All of this exposure to Scientology-related material violates prohibitions in the U.S. and Florida constitutions on religion in public schools. The school may claim that the material is secular in nature, but since Scientology insists it is a religion, anything produced by it or by Hubbard should be considered religious. The church may freely open its own private schools, but it cannot infiltrate public schools like charter schools or have its teachings influence the curriculum. Life Force receives about $800,000 in taxpayer support per year.
Today the school board voted to give the school their 90 days notice to close.
Superintendent John Stewart accused the school of changing its curriculum “without permission” from the district, among a host of other concerns. Board member Linda Lerner said there was “overwhelming evidence to terminate.”
Acting on Stewart’s recommendation, the board also voted to deny a proposed amendment that would have extended the school’s charter for another three years and granted sweeping changes to its budget, curriculum and leadership structure.
School leaders still have the right to request a public hearing to defend the charter.
The School Board will need to vote again to finalize the termination within 90 days. School Board attorneys will also need permission from a bankruptcy judge to close the school, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July and was granted court protection during its reorganization.
In 15 years of Pinellas charter school operations, the School Board has never terminated a school’s charter. Charter schools receive tax funding but are operated by their own independent boards of directors.
Tampa’s FOX13 ran a report of the charter school without mentioning Scientology’s involvement.
As always, Tony Ortega is all over this story at the Village Voice.