Tuesday, November 03, 2009

More Scientology exposure from the St. Pete Times

The St. Petersburg Times has published another three-part exposé on the Church of Scientology based on interviews with former high-level members. (The first three-part series from June is discussed here; I missed the second three-part series from August about new defectors; all three series may be found on the SP Times website here.)

Part 1 (October 31): "Chased by their church: When you leave Scientology, they try to bring you back"

An overview of this new, third series of exposures based on information from former high-ranking members of the Church of Scientology such as Mark "Marty" Rathbun and Mike Rinder.

The story of how the church commands and controls its staff is told by the pursuers and the pursued, by those who sent spies and those spied upon, by those who interrogated and those who rode the hot seat. In addition to Rathbun, they include:

• Mike Rinder, who for 25 years oversaw the church's Office of Special Affairs, which handled intelligence, legal and public affairs matters. Rinder and Rathbun said they had private investigators spy on perceived or potential enemies.

They say they had an operative infiltrate a group of five former Scientology staffers that included the Gillham sisters, Terri and Janis, two of the original four "messengers" who delivered Hubbard's communications. They and other disaffected Scientologists said they were spied on for almost a decade.

• Gary Morehead, the security chief for seven years at the church's international base in the desert east of Los Angeles. He said he helped develop the procedure the church followed to chase and return those who ran, and he brought back at least 75 of them. "I lost count there for awhile.''

Staffers signed a waiver when they came to work at the base that allowed their mail to be opened, Morehead said. His department opened all of it, including credit card statements and other information that was used to help track runaways.

• Don Jason, for seven years the second-ranking officer at Scientology's spiritual mecca in Clearwater, supervised a staff of 350. He said that after he ran, he turned himself in and ended up locked in his cabin on the church cruise ship, the Freewinds. He said he was held against his will.

Part 2 (November 2): "Scientology: What happened in Vegas"

How ex-members Terri and Janis Gillham, who had been Sea Org "messengers" for L. Ron Hubbard and whose legal guardian had been Hubbard's wife Mary Sue, had their mortgage business in Las Vegas infiltrated by spies working for the Church of Scientology to keep tabs on what they were up to. Mark Fisher, Scientology head David Miscavige's aide de camp for seven years, was spied on by the man he thought was his best friend.

Part 3 (November 3): "Man overboard: To leave Scientology, Don Jason had to jump off a ship"

After leaving the Church once and returning, Don Jason was put aboard the Freewinds, a Scientology ship, and monitored constantly. He managed to get off the ship in the Bahamas by effectively zip-lining down a cable with a home-made device, and getting on a plane to Milwaukee by way of Tampa and Atlanta. Someone from the Church booked the seat next to his, and Rathbun (still in the Church at the time) met him at Tampa, and then bought a ticket on his flight, to try to talk him into returning.

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