Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Part 3 of SP Times series on Scientology

The third part of the St. Petersburg Times story on Scientology, "Ecclesiastical justice," is out, and it's a bit of a disappointment. It's a few more charges of abuse by the four high-ranking defectors that were already summarized in the first part, plus some accounts of the well-known Sea Org practice of "overboarding," used with swimming pools when ships aren't available. Surprisingly, the story doesn't mention that the Olympic-sized swimming pool at the Scientology "Gold Base" compound in Hemet has a faux ship, the Star of California, built into the hill next to it.

Today's stories also include some more detail about the departures from Scientology of the four senior-level defectors interviewed for the story, and some media and Internet reactions.

All in all, I think this new series of stories is not as damning as, say, Janet Reitman's "Inside Scientology" that appeared in Rolling Stone in 2006, nor as any of the older classic exposures like the six-part Los Angeles Times series by Joel Sappell and Robert W. Welkos from 1990, Richard Behar's "The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power" from Time magazine in 1991, or Richard Leiby's work in the Clearwater Sun in the 1970s and 1980s and the Washington Post in the 1990s.

I hope someday we'll see a more detailed exposure of Scientology's battle with the IRS, and the role of the Church of Spiritual Technology/L. Ron Hubbard Library in the Scientology organizational structure, and why its trustees are lawyers who aren't Scientologists, including a former Assistant Commissioner of the IRS.

UPDATE (August 2, 2009): Other Scientology defectors are now coming forward with their stories, some of which confirm the accounts of abuse given by Rinder, Rathbun, and De Vocht.

12 comments:

dropsy said...

The article is total bullshit from start to finish. Anyone can make kooky allegations about a famous organization like the Church of Scientology, spout them to a newspaper while offering no proof, and then sit back and laugh as that newspaper passes the gossip along with zero fact-checking, and without even getting David Miscavige's side of the story. DM deserves to have his own three-part space in the paper to address these slanderous lies being told about him. I hope he sues the paper into oblivion.

(Of course, if he DOES sue for slander or libel, these same Scientology-hating bigots will automatically bleat like sheep about how "Scientology loves to sue people". There's no ethical or logical way out of the trap of disinfo these pathetic haters have constructed. You're damned if you do, damned if you don't.)

Jim Lippard said...

Dropsy:

Uh, no. Almost everything in the articles is already well-known, and even the new material such as the allegations of abuse by David Miscavige, have already been alleged previously by others. Scientology's negligence and incompetence in the handling of Lisa McPherson which led to her death is well-documented; they escaped criminal liability but settled a civil suit with McPherson's family.

Scientology *is* a highly litigious cult, with a past history of serious abuses and faux reform (e.g., changing the name of the Guardian Office to OSA; repealing the use of the *name* of the "fair game" HCOPL, rather than its content).

I guarantee you that the Church of Scientology will not sue the St. Petersburg Times into oblivion. If they do sue, it will be in accordance with Hubbard policy of "never defend, always attack," rather than to any merit in their case.

dropsy said...

Just because a rumor is "well known" does not make it true. You said it yourself: they're allegations. Alleging something does not make it true. Anyone can allege anything about anyone, especially if you have a paper like the SP Times willing to parrot whatever unprovable tall tales you want to spout.

Whether it's at Gold Base or at a Burger King restaurant, there's one thing you can always count on: disgruntled ex-employees will say anything, no matter how implausible or hateful, to lash out and "get back" at their old boss. True that.

Blaming the entire religion of Scientology, from the top down, for Lisa McPherson's death is typical bigot-spin. It's exactly like when anti-Catholic nuts blame the Pope and the entire Vatican every time some priest somewhere on the planet is accused of doing something wrong. It must be really weird for David Miscavige to have to hear the nonstop barrage of bizarre things he's personally blamed for.

(Hey, I hear he shot JFK from the window just above Oswald! I know it's true because a few lonely cranks said so on the internets, and then a newspaper repeated it!)

Jim Lippard said...

Dropsy: The Catholic church isn't responsible for every molestation, but they are responsible for moving priests responsible for molestation from parish to parish where they continued to act as predators, and for actually having had formal policy to sweep such things under the rug and hide them.

Similarly, Scientology isn't responsible for every case of abuse by a Scientologist, but it is responsible for people who die as a result of its policies or from negligent actions by people acting as agents of the organization.

Disgruntled employees or parishioners are not always reliable, but their stories can be checked for consistency with each other and with the facts, and there are plenty of them that have held up quite well over the years. By contrast, Hubbard himself was a liar and a fraud, Dianetics is a bogus pseudoscience, and Scientology was and is a concocted farrago of nonsense promoted by an organization that extracts money from the pockets of people that it dupes into believing it, and frequently lashes out deceptively, dishonestly, unethically, and sometimes illegally against those who criticize it.

dropsy said...

"Hubbard himself was a liar and a fraud, Dianetics is a bogus pseudoscience, and Scientology was and is a concocted farrago of nonsense promoted by an organization that extracts money from the pockets of people that it dupes into believing it"

Hmmm.... alrighty then! Don't mince words, Jim, what do you really think? ;)

Funny, I'm supposed to be the cultist here, but clearly I'm talking to a ideological brick wall here, who already knows everything there is to know with great certainty about people he's never met and Churches he's never set foot in, and cannot be told any different, no matter what.

Get well soon.

Jim Lippard said...

Dropsy: You didn't substantiate anything you said. I can (and have, in past writing) substantiate everything I said.

I've been to Scientology orgs, I've met with Scientologists and ex-Scientologists, I've read Scientology materials, I've read Russell Miller's biography of Hubbard and some of the supporting documents, I've read HCOPLs, and I've read numerous books about Scientology. I've even been threatened with legal action by Scientology.

I'm more than willing to hear any evidential case or logical argument you care to present, but you haven't presented one--all you've done is make the unsubstantiated assertion that *everything* in the SP Times articles is false (an absurdity), that the allegations against Miscavige are false, and that he somehow deserves his own three-part article of equal size to rebut them. That's not how the newspaper business works. The SP Times did give Scientology space for a response, and they did give Miscavige ample opportunity to meet with or talk with them over a period of months, which he failed to make use of.

So, do you have anything of substance? Can you identify any specific falsehoods in the SP Times coverage that you can provide any actual evidence for? If so, please post it, and I'll be happy to concede whatever points you can demonstrate.

Ktisophilos said...

JL: “The Catholic church isn't responsible for every molestation, but they are responsible for moving priests responsible for molestation from parish to parish where they continued to act as predators, and for actually having had formal policy to sweep such things under the rug and hide them.”

Yet sometimes this was done in collusion with the secular government. For example, according to this report, the state of Ireland "colluded with religious authorities to hide child abuse".

And as we have discussed before, “The LA Times recently reported on many cases of sexual abuse in the Los Angeles Unified School District where the offender is simply put back into a classroom elsewhere.”

Jim Lippard said...

Ktisophilos: That others have also been complicit or engaged in similar behavior doesn't reduce the responsibility of the RCC, does it?

Ktisophilos said...

Jim: certainly not. Nor should other organizations be exempt from the same sort of contempt for allowing the same sort of abuses.

Jim Lippard said...

Looks like dropsy is practicing what Scientologists call "non-confront," and has suffered an "ARC break" ("a sudden drop or cutting of one's affinity, reality, or communication with someone or something") and is "not there."

Let's hope he recovers and returns.

Plompton said...

Clearwater Flag Base's official response:

"The St. Petersburg Times' June 24 editorial The abuse behind Scientology's facade proves beyond doubt that any aura of objectivity in the Times' so-called "special report" was illusory. The report attempted to give the appearance of balance by quoting statements from Church of Scientology representatives, but the editorial exposes this exercise as a hollow pretense.

The editorial uncritically accepts as true statements from a handful of former church staff without ever addressing their lack of credibility, their underlying motivations and the voluminous evidence proving their stories were false. These individuals lost their positions of authority within the church for incompetence and for serious misconduct. Your sources' statements to the Times plainly targeted the man who removed them, David Miscavige.

Times readers should be aware that Miscavige had agreed and made arrangements to be interviewed in Clearwater by the Times in early July. The Times' rush to press without hearing from Miscavige, much less the dozen other church executives who traveled to Clearwater last week to talk to the reporters, amply shows that the editors already had their minds made up.

The paper and its editorial staff have single-mindedly pursued a vendetta against the church from the moment it arrived in Clearwater more than 30 years ago. Since 1993, the Times has railed against the church's tax exemption rulings from the IRS without ever once giving serious attention to the voluminous public record upon which those rulings were based. The Times takes every opportunity to dredge up past false allegations from their own archives. And now, absent anything tangible and relevant, the Times has launched a scurrilous attack on the character of the church's leader, David Miscavige.

Finding none of the usual avenues of attack viable — no alcohol or drug issues, no financial misdeeds, no sex scandals — the Times has seized on tired, old allegations from the "grassy knoll" of the Internet to falsely portray Miscavige, a beloved, albeit demanding religious leader, in a manner that is completely contrary to his true personality. This caricature is belied by the respect and admiration he has earned from millions of Scientologists who have witnessed a renaissance in the church and unprecedented growth and expansion under Miscavige's stewardship.

In the end, the "special report" and its culmination in the editorial say far more about the Times than they do about the church. A more accurate title would be "The bigotry behind the Times' facade of responsible journalism."

Jim Lippard said...

Plompton: "The editorial uncritically accepts as true statements from a handful of former church staff without ever addressing their lack of credibility, their underlying motivations and the voluminous evidence proving their stories were false."

If these spokesmen lack credibility, that reflects badly on the Church of Scientology for allowing them to be in positions of leadership for many years. This is a serious problem with the "dead agent" technique applied to people who were running significant parts of the Church.

As for the "voluminous evidence proving their stories were false"--that doesn't seem to be forthcoming. Where and what is that evidence?