](/images/2016/04/tyler-glenn-neon-trees-kobbydagan.jpg)Tyler Glenn of Neon Trees performs on stage at the 2014 iHeartRadio Music Festival Village on September 20 in Las Vegas. Photo © 2014 by kobbydagan and used under license.
In 1979 and 1980, I worked at the Church of Scientology, Mission of Orange County in Tustin. I worked in Treasury. My primary role was Director of Income, which isn’t as interesting as it sounds. I left because, frankly, I was going broke quickly. I felt bad about leaving and returned in January 1984 on a 5-year contract. It had recently increased its status from Mission to Org. I worked there through most of 1989. Like before, I worked in Treasury, both as Director of Income and later as Deputy Treasury Secretary.
This post came about because of this tweet:
— Edwin Dearborn (@edwindearborn) March 30, 2015
You see, I know Edwin Dearborn. In the late 80s, he was in charge of the “field staff members,” which is basically the affiliate program for Scientology. His job was getting people to bring other people in and paying them their commissions.
Director of Income (my job) consisted of a bunch of things including:
Let’s talk numbers. In 1979 and 1980, a good week was $10,000 and a more average week was $7,000. We had thirty staff at the time. Scientology policy says that 30% of the week’s budget (and yes, budgeting is done weekly) is used to pay the staff. In cash. Around then, the average staff member made $70 per week. The mission had about $450,000 in savings and a paid-off mortgage on its building.
By 1984, there were quite a few more staff—about double—and the average weekly income had risen to around $20,000-30,000. When I returned, there were almost no savings, and the building had a mortgage. After the 1982 Mission Holders’ Conference, a lot of the “wealthy” mission coffers were raided. In addition, the mission had been seized from Ray and Pam Kemp, who’d sued and had gotten paid back. Hence the mortgage.
Average staff pay at the newly-minted church was ~$110. I remember the first hundred-thousand dollar week. Because the org was growing a lot, eventually the average week became $250,000. At that point, we had consistently 200-250 staff and had to rent significant space at the building across the street. Average staff pay ran around $150. If you note, the numbers don’t add up for a couple of reasons: 1) the budget sum excluded book and e-meter sales (which had their own budgeting), and we had a much higher percentage than in earlier days; 2) we got a lot of refund requests and bounced checks (more the latter than the former), frequently in excess of $50,000.
I’m told that for many orgs, including Orange County, the peak Scientology money expansion was in 1988-1992, though the peak expansion in number of Scientology students was far earlier—in the late 60s to mid-70s.
The big game at the time was to make all organizations “Saint Hill Size,” supposedly the pinnacle where we’d all get paid living wages, yada yada yada. (I’m not the first—nor the last—to be taken in by a long con.) Orange County, along with Stevens Creek and Los Angeles, achieved this in the late 80s.
L. Ron Hubbard did not believe in donations. He didn’t believe in fundraisers. In fact, he had rather scathing words to say on the subject:
SOLVE IT WITH SCIENTOLOGY
[Excerpt from HCO Policy Letter of 24 February 1964
If the Org slumps: Don’t engage in “fund raising” or “selling postcards” or borrowing money.
Just make more income with Scientology.
It’s a sign of very poor management to seek extraordinary solutions for finance outside Scientology. It has always failed.
For Orgs as for pcs “Solve It With Scientology”.
Every time I myself have sought to solve finance or personnel in other ways than Scientology I have lost out. So I can tell you from experience that Org solvency lies in More Scientology, not patented conibs, or fund raising Barbecues.
And, in practice, you never saw fundraising.
L. Ron Hubbard didn’t care about how impressive buildings were. He cared whether the org was making it, he didn’t like debt, he didn’t like fundraising. For all his faults, he thought Scientology should sink or swim on its own merits.
We own a tremendous amount of property. We own a tremendous amount of material, and so forth. And it keeps growing. But that’s not important.
When buildings get important to us, for God’s sake, some of you born revolutionists, will you please blow up central headquarters. If someone had put some H.E. [high explosives] under the Vatican long ago, Catholicism might still be going.
Don’t get interested in real estate. Don’t get interested in the masses of buildings, because that’s not important.
Tape: The Genus of Scientology
Anatomy of the Human Mind Congress
31 December 1960
The first attempts at an Ideal Org strategy—by which I mean putting Scientology in a vastly nicer building came in the late 80s, only a couple of years after L. Ron Hubbard died.
Big impressive buildings would become Scientology’s icons. Rumor has it that this was at the behest of Tom Cruise, who purportedly told David Miscavige, Scientology’s leader, that a lot of orgs looked ratty (which was true). Regardless of the real reason, there came to be huge, and nearly endless, fundraising campaigns.
(Source: Tony Ortega)
When I was in, there was simply no way that you would ever pay $5,000 for status. Heck, even the International Association of Scientologists was only $300 per year back then. Before that, there were no formal memberships; it was free.
Remember Edwin Dearborn? He’s now selling himself as a marketer. In 2010, my friend Mark and I visited Orange County Org for the first time in many years. My goal? To find out whether or not I’d been declared a suppressive person. Oh, and the lulz.
Edwin was then the organization’s head and came to say hello. He was also working part-time in marketing at that point.
Yet, his marketing skill was such that he couldn’t save his own organization, who’d supposedly had a metric ton of money raised for a new building, from having a disconnect notice for the water bill tucked into the side of the building (photo up top).
Here are other photos I took that day.
We drove in during the busiest part of Scientology’s week, but the parking lot looks unmaintained. The vehicles all seemed to be staff; neither of us saw anyone who seemed to be public (parishioners).
Some parking places are marked off for “humanitarians,” by which Scientology means people with big wallets. Srsly.
And here’s the way back of the parking lot. Check this out.
That sure looks like massive expansion…of potholes.
What hit me the hardest in talking to all the overly earnest staff members was that each and every one of them—including people I’d known twenty to thirty years before—held one of the core Scientology beliefs: that Scientology was expanding. Even when, to their very own eyes, the evidence was there to the contrary.
Mark and I just were kind of dumbstruck by the whole concept. It’s fairly obvious to me that that no longer looks like an organization with 200-250 staff, let alone the public to go with.
Then we went to the “new” location, which has since become their new “ideal” org, where Mark found the disconnect notice. In fact, you can see the entire parking lot in this picture.
Because there is no parking lot. It’s just enough outside downtown Santa Ana that it also gets no foot traffic.
I’m going to quote the Scientologese to you, then translate.
Im pressing charges against a scientologist who molested my daughter when I was a staff member. He is still in scientology with his wife and other family on staff, so the church’s Dir I&R, (kylie Roe) decided that since I was no longer a scientologist, they would not be interviewing him.
The ED, Ed Dearborn then requested I be comm-ev’d from post for allowing his only introductory auditor to moonlight.
So, by reporting that her daughter was being molested by another staff member, Scientology decided that Maggie was no longer a Scientologist, and therefore there was no need to interview the molester. The OC Church’s head, Edwin Dearborn, wanted to bring Scientology justice actions against Maggie to remove her from her job.
Remove the person reporting and, voila, there’s no more problem.
Remember how I said Orange County became a Saint Hill Size organization in the late 80s?
(Source: Tony Ortega)
As Mike Rinder says:
They have apparently (and conveniently) forgotten they did this already, back in the 90’s […].
Actually, I believe it was 1988.
So typical of Kool Aid drinkers. They have selective memory.
Despite Rinder’s comments, OC really was big, we had blocks of parking problems, especially at night, and we had a lot of public coming in. I don’t know what LA Org was actually doing, but Rinder says they were falsifying stats. If OC was, it definitely wasn’t the quantity of money stats, because I did some of those audits.
Now, there were, as I said, a lot of bounced checks and refunds, and I thought there were a lot of badly handled financial situations, including trying to make special payment arrangements through third parties, as apparently happened here. There may well have been falsified statistics in various areas, but the amount of money deposited, to the best of my knowledge, matched the reported income.
Still, how can an organization shrink 75% (my estimate) and staff who’ve been there all along don’t notice? I just can’t even.
As Susan Garbanzo said on Twitter, “PR helps only when a co. is really ready to open up. Else it’s just room freshener.”
Scientology “expansion”? Is just room freshener.
Xenu Is My Homeboy. Available from Redbubble in a bunch of sizes and styles, including a hoodie. Thanks to Deana for the idea.
Marriage Hats was a thin booklet written by L. Ron Hubbard’s last wife, Mary Sue Hubbard. It was published in 1974 by Scientology, a white volume with black uncial type on the cover. Later, they’d pull all Scientology-related books that weren’t written by LRH, and this would be one of items pulled.
This was published well after the concept of equal opportunity for women was embodied in law (though not in practice) in the United States.
So, let’s look at how enlightened Scientology was in 1974, shall we? Let’s look at five (of 23) directives for women are in marriage:
And how well did that work for MSH, as she was known?
She was the primary defendant in Operation Snow White, the largest civilian infiltration into US Government systems in history. She was sentenced to five years in prison.
Meanwhile, L. Ron Hubbard remained on the run throughout the remainder of his life and never rose above the level of unindicted co-conspirator.
I guess she supported him, all right.
That’s what a Church of Scientology official said when explaining why the President of the Church of Scientology’s ex-wife Karen (de la Carriere) would not be permitted to attend her 27-year-old son’s memorial.
I’m glad that Heber (said president) will be permitted out of The Hole for the memorial, though. It shows a very small amount of humanity.
Karen will be holding her own memorial for her son in a few days.
I keep hearing about people who want to have religious exemptions for contraception in medical policies. Few people realize there’s another side to that coin: a religious exemption for coerced abortions.
Well, right, but who would do such a thing you ask?
The Church of Scientology, of course.
I’d previously mentioned Claire Headley’s case, but she wasn’t speaking at the Human Trafficking in Scientology Press Conference I went to two years ago because of that case. There was, however, a similar story.
Laura Decrescenzo talks about joining the Sea Org at 12, being coerced into an abortion despite wanting kids, and how she attempted suicide to get out of the Sea Org:
Maureen Bolstad was camera crew for Gold, here’s some of her story (including some of the conditions she did camera work under). Note that she did what some of the other Gold crew have done for Writers of the Future. Note in particular the circumstances in the second video when she talks about some of the conditions she worked under while severely injured. She is a representative sample of the Gold camera crew filming the Writers of the Future events.
Here’s part of the ruling (currently under appeal) in Claire Headley’s case:
Even so, she [Claire Headley] argues that she is a victim under the TVPA [Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act] because: (1) Defendants coerced her into having two abortions; (2) Defendants placed restrictions on Sea Org members’ ability to leave; (3) Defendants pursue Sea Org members who leave without routing out and attempt to dissuade them from their decision; (4) Defendants discipline Sea Org members who even express a desire to leave; (5) Defendants censor Sea Org members’ communications; (6) Defendants’ discipline of Sea Org members includes sleep and eating deprivation and heavy manual labor; and (7) Defendants attempted to force Plaintiff to divorce her husband. (Pl.’s Opp’n 17-18.)
In contrast to Bollard and Elvig, Defendants here represent that the challenged conduct was doctrinally motivated. (E.g., Defs.’ Reply 10-11, 15-18.) Therefore, inquiry into these allegations would entangle the Court in the religious doctrine of Scientology and the doctrinally-motivated practices of the Sea Org. It would also require the Court to analyze the criteria Defendants use to choose their ministers and the reasonableness of the methods used to enforce church policy and encourage members to remain with the organization and the religion itself. For example, inquiry concerning the pressure Plaintiff allegedly faced after becoming pregnant would require review of Scientology’s doctrine prohibiting Sea Org members from raising children. In order to determine whether Defendants’ means of persuading members to remain with the Sea Org, etc. fall within the purview of the TVPA, a trier of fact must inquire into Scientology’s policies,practices, and scriptures.
The Court rejects Plaintiff’s argument that the challenged conduct was not doctrinally motivated.
The judge is, essentially, full of it. In fact, L. Ron Hubbard’s writings are very much anti-abortion, so you could argue that the theology of Scn is anti-abortion but the current practice, at least for Sea Org members is exactly the opposite, and therefore it is a triable matter of fact as it can’t possibly be doctrinally motivated.
Here’s the background for how Scn prevented Sea Org members from leaving Gold base, including coercion and motion sensors. Here’s the judge’s statement in a hearing (pacer link, which requires a fee):
You submitted evidence that they did believe that the Church did not want them to leave the property, and if they did, that they couldn’t be members of the Church anymore. That’s an entirely different thing from being held against one’s will and being forced to work.
I can’t lather up enough rage for the judge’s complete inability to consider testimony.
A longer history of Scientology and abortion can be found in the Wikipedia article. Possibly the best reference on the change from anti-abortion to the coerced abortion situation, though, is this post about the institution of the “no kids” in the Sea Org when one of L. Ron Hubbard’s kids, Suzette, was pregnant. However, it should be noted that there were coerced abortions before, too, including time in the 60s on the ships with L. Ron Hubbard at the head of the church, but it was not as widespread or among as many people as it later became. So, really, the implied policy has always been more about serving the church’s goals and needs than about the actual theoretical doctrine.
I have been following the contest (and some of the people involved in its administration) since 1984 when I first worked the combined Battlefield Earth / Writers of the Future booth at the World Science Fiction convention in Anaheim.
All Scientology organizations are legally separate from one another. This is a manifestation of L. Ron Hubbard’s paranoia about Scientology being taken over (by your paranoid theory of choice). Nevertheless, all things are micromanaged from the top down.
Regardless of the nitty-gritty details of any separation between WotF and the church, you’ve still got the problem of putting the name of a guy who put kids in chain lockers on the cover. This should not be forgotten about.
Trigger warning for those of you who need such, especially about bullying.
For a long time, I supported Scientology’s “Writers of the Future” contest. A couple of years ago, I quietly dropped my support for it as my views on the current state of the organization changed. (Note: I am a former CofS member and staff member.)
There have been tales going on for years about some of the bad stuff the Church of Scientology has been into, including the largest known infiltration of the US Government in history, and a secret IRS agreement that gives Scientology preferential tax treatment over all other faiths despite having lost a US Supreme Court case.
But that’s old news.
Why I’m posting about this now? On Feb 9, 2012, for the first time, a senior insider to the organization documented inhuman behavior at the highest levels under oath.
Cook: We were made to do these confessions…one time in front of 100 people, yelling at you. I was put in a trash can, cold water poured over me, slapped. One time it went on for 12 hours…There were times I was accused of being a homosexual, a lesbian.
For the next twelve hours Debbie was made to stand in a large garbage can and face one hundred people screaming at her demanding a confession as to her “homosexual tendancies”. While this was going on water was poured over her head. Signs were put around Debbie’s neck, one marked in magic marker “LESBO” while this torture proceeded. Debbie was repeatedly slapped across the face by other women in the room during the interrogation. Debbie never did break. And fittingly she was rewarded with what turned out to be a break in another sense of the word.
Debbie Cook is also saying that she would have been unable to leave, and that is why she signed the document she did. Some people find that difficult to believe, but I challenge any of you to read the first chapter of Marc Headley’s book Blown for Good, where Scientology staffers from the same base came after him in an SUV to run his motorcycle off the road so he could not escape. You can read the opening on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or download a sample from iBooks. There is contemporary evidence; here’s the sheriff’s report. Here are spikes that would have kept both Debbie and Marc from escaping, along with inward-facing motion sensors, cameras, and guards (some of which are documented here).
It’s all very nice to dangle a few dollars in front of talented sf/f writers and illustrators so new blood can give new cred to L. Ron Hubbard, but please remember there are people’s lives being destroyed by the surrounding organization.
If that’s okay with you, feel free to continue to support the contest. (Look, past winners are past as far as I’m concerned. I’m more interested in people’s actions from this point forward.)
If it’s not, I ask that you link to or repost this (but please include the trigger warning at the top).
I have never spoken out in this context about my own harassment. In February, 1995, Scientology goons came to visit me in rural Vermont. However, I lived on a rural route and they couldn’t find me, so they harassed my friends they could find, sending private investigators around. I was the first ex-member to have a personal bully on the ‘net. One of the things I was accused of (to give you an idea of the truth level): marrying a post-op transsexual. At that point, I’d never been married. I do have an ex who transitioned, but our romantic relationship was before, not after.
Not even that was enough to make me speak out against the contest (having rationalized that the contest was good and only tenuously connected to the organization at large). In the larger sense of things, my own experience was small potatoes. Thankfully.
Cook said she was held there seven weeks with more than 100 other Scientology executives. They spent their nights in sleeping bags on ant-infested floors, ate a soupy “slop” of reheated leftovers and screamed at each other in confessionals that often turned violent. For two weeks, she said, Miscavige had the electricity turned off as daytime temperatures in the desert east of Los Angeles topped 100 degrees.
Cook testified Thursday that the experience in the summer of 2007 gave her nightmares and was part of the reason she was so eager to leave the Scientology staff later that year and sign a severance agreement never to speak ill of the church. (source)
Just keep that in mind.
Just as the year changed, Debbie Cook sent an email to 12,000 people that rocked their world.
It was a letter to active Scientologists. Debbie was the head of the largest public-facing Scientology church in the world (in Clearwater Florida) for 17 years. In the four years she’s been off their staff, she’s been busy accumulating information.
Here’s a layman’s translation of her letter:
So here’s my take on this: the fallout’s going to be interesting. For the most part, Debbie’s email has reached “new blood,” people who were so far in they don’t know about the Internet, Anonymous, the various blogs and sites full of ex-members — or any such thing. They still think Scientology’s expanding like gangbusters (present evidence to the contrary).
There will be pressure to pull in each of the 12,000 people for debriefing and forced loyalty testing (no doubt in the form of pushing them to donate to the things that are against Hubbard’s policies). That will push some people who hadn’t considered Debbie’s email to realize that it really is a problem, and then they’ll have to figure out how to respond.
Right now, though, there’s a lot of disavowal of Debbie, so it’ll be interesting to see how many waves she’s actually caused.
The WBC is a unique organization in that it feeds most directly on people who hate their work.
Most businesses feed on people who love (or at least like) their work.
But no, the WBC pre-announces their events to foment hatred. Enraged people do stupid things, such as interfering with the free speech rights of lawyers. Then the WBC members sue for interfering with a law practice and use the settlement money to lather, rinse, repeat.
So, with all due respect, if people stopped re-posting their stuff, stopped paying them attention, and made fun of them rather than acting enraged (and thus stopped doing stupid things that would make the opposition pay for the WBC’s next gig), they would die out.
WBC is a clever social hack. Snip the social and it falls apart.
Don’t be a part of their pretty hate machine.
This is a remarkable story of forgiveness and a change of heart.
It’s the kind of story that Susan Sarandon could direct, and it needs to be told and retold.
“It is due to Rais’ message of forgiveness that I am more content now than I have ever been,” Stroman said in the interview with the documentary filmmaker. “If I don’t make it I want Rais to carry on his work teaching people not to be prejudiced.”
I’m sort of torn between sites these days, but for those of you who are interested in such subjects, my notes about Pantheacon can be found on my LJ.