(Note: This article was first published at Tony Ortega’s Underground Bunker)
On Wednesday, Tony Ortega wrote that a Tampa federal judge continues to uphold his ruling that a California couple, Louis and Rocio Garcia, must submit their allegations of fraud to Scientology’s internal arbitration scheme — which doesn’t, actually, exist. And part of their frustration, the Garcia’s allege, is that every time they select a Scientologist they want to make an arbitrator in the Orwellian scheme, Scientology finds a way to declare that person “not in good standing.” Even the judge admitted it was pretty impossible to figure out who is and who isn’t in “good standing” in the church.
What is a Scientologist in good standing anyway?
It ought to be easy to decide who a Scientologist in good standing is. After all, there are millions of ’em, right?
For many years, Scientology officials openly claimed that the church had about eight million members.
In the ABC Nightline episode of February 14, 1992 Forest Sawyer was able to get church president Heber Jentzsch to clarify Scientology’s eight-million-member claim:
Sawyer: How do you get to call them members?
Jentzsch: Because they joined and they came in and they studied Scientology.
Sawyer: They took one course, maybe.
Jentzsch: Well, that’s how valuable the course is. Eight million people, yes, over a period of the last – since 1954.
In 1997, Mike Rinder, then the organization’s spokesman, invoked the same number. Criticizing what defectors from the church were saying, he told a press conference, “If any of the things these people say are true, there would not be eight million Scientologists in the world today.”
And as recently as 2004, the church told the Deseret News that it had eight million members.
In more recent years, as Tony has pointed out, Scientology is a lot less specific about its size. Scientology spokespeople are careful only to refer to “millions.” And here’s what the church’s website today says about Scientology’s growth:
With Scientology, millions know life can be a worthwhile proposition, that Man can live a fulfilled life in harmony with others and that the world can be a happier place. Scientologists work to create such a world every day, joined by others who share this dream. The undeniable relevance of Scientology to the lives of these millions assures its permanence in our society. Millions upon millions more will follow in this quest to create a better world.
Pretty vague, right?
In fact, in 1999 Jentzsch gave a deposition, and under oath he admitted that the “eight million” figure was arrived at not by estimating current active membership, but by adding up all of the people who had ever, in the church’s entire history, ever so much as bought a single book or took a single course.
But even if we take Jentzsch at his word, that eight million people had interacted in some way with Scientology since things began with the publication of ‘Dianetics’ in 1950, it would mean that over the period 1950 to 1999, when Jentzsch made that claim, it would represent about 163,000 new people joining every year. And if you know something about the size and number of Scientology’s “orgs” over the years, you know that number is pure fantasy. (For a more realistic assessment of Scientology’s current size, see the Bunker’s report from recent defector Paul Burkhart.)
But, for the sake of argument, let’s say that there are millions of Scientologists, and it’s just some kind of miracle that you never actually bump into any in your daily life. What does Scientology itself say about what defines a Scientologist?
The membership organization for Scientology, known as the International Association of Scientologists (IAS), has a very loose definition of a Scientologist on its website:
A Scientologist is defined as “essentially one who betters the conditions of himself and the conditions of others by using Scientology technology.”
Hey, that sounds easy. As long as we’re using Scientology tech, and we’re bettering ourselves, we’re Scientologists in good standing!
Well, not quite. The IAS isn’t going to make it that easy. In order to be considered in good standing by the IAS, you actually need to be a member of it. Lifetime IAS memberships cost $5,000 and Scientologists are constantly under a lot of pressure to donate even bigger amounts.
It seems pretty clear that to be considered “in good standing” by Scientology’s leaders, you’ll need to be an active donor and participant in the IAS.
But hang on. How big is the IAS?
Not anything close to millions. Former church executives will tell you that IAS numbers are in the tens of thousands, not millions. (And here’s the latest solid estimate for overall membership in this rapidly shrinking movement.)
But OK, let’s say you cut the check and join the IAS. Then that means you’re officially a part of the Church of Scientology, right?
In fact, according to what Scientology told the IRS in its 1992 application for 501(c)3 tax exemption, there’s actually no single thing known as the “Church of Scientology”….
And to add to the confusion, also according to the IRS application you don’t have to belong to the IAS to be in good standing with “a church of Scientology.”
But see, that’s the beauty of Scientology’s rules for “in good standing.” They can say it’s whatever they want it to be!
Despite L. Ron Hubbard’s millions of words about everything from Scientology baptisms to Scientology funerals and how to clean windows and how to use a vibrator (we’re not kidding), and despite all the books and checksheets and pamphlets and fliers that current leader David Miscavige has killed whole forests to put out, the Church of Scientology really has no definitive policy stating what constitutes a Scientologist in good standing.
Who or what is a Scientologist? The answer is that it all depends on the circumstances, which Scientology uses to its best advantage in court. For decades Scientologists have smugly said to each other, “Everyone is a Scientologist; they just don’t know it yet.”
But for the purposes of arbitration? Scientologists “in good standing” are only whatever handful of people the church can count on to rule precisely the way church wants them to.
My comments over at the Bunker to expand on this article:
As the funnel of “millions of Scientologists” dramatically narrows down to a tiny handful of Scientologists in good standing, here’s how, according to court documents, it works: Mike Ellis, the 315 pound Scientology International Justice Chief with health problems is supposedly the only guy in the world who can decide who is in good standing or not. Here is what Scientology told the court about Scientology IJC Mike Ellis:
February 2017: Here are some notes and observations on how I watch and look at Scientology:
1. So many things constellate around The Underground Bunker that this place is mandatory daily reading. Tony Ortega understands context, story, and significance in a way that utterly eludes Scientology, David Miscavige, Freedom Rag, and the no-show-no-stats SMP.
2. Mike Rinder’s blog is the Tiffany’s of documenting Scientology’s ongoing failures, deceits, and decline. Mike provides an outstanding daily journal of real-time Scientology decline. Mike’s valuable insights into Scientology as an organization are possible due to his decades of managing the Office of Special Affairs on a daily basis. Mike understands Scientology and David Miscavige at a profound level. That Mike’s jovial and robust sense of humor is mated to his ferocious intellect makes reading his analysis of the situation that much more enjoyable.
3. Disconnection and Fair Game are non-negotiable and must go. To the degree that Scientology practices and enforces Disconnection and Fair Game, Scientology’s self-destruction will persist. No one out here in the real world will stand for Scientology’s breaking up of families and its programs of character assassination.
4. Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath was a devastating expose of the Church of Scientology and its brutality. If it is not already in the works, season two will spontaneously appear as an act of Creation Ex Nihilo; the metaphysics of television dictate that this must happen.
4. Twitter and Facebook are extremely important to watch. The sum of message traffic on these platforms provides invaluable existential information about Scientology and Culture. Social media shows Scientology’s inherent inability to interact with Culture. This ineptitude is traceable to L. Ron Hubbard who called for Scientology to use blatantly phony and dishonest PR in the place of apologetics or other forms of meaningful interaction with Culture.
5. Scientology’s hate websites are very important to watch. These incriminating sites constitute damning and irrefutable forensic evidence which shows that Scientology’s programs of Fair Game have an unlimited budget of tax-free dollars. These websites also offer a penetrating insight into the psyche of Miscavige and OSA in a way that betrays both of them. Like a Cold War era Sovietologist would note, a good analyst must study the propaganda operations and party line rhetoric of the other side. IMO, our side needs more analysts who are willing to monitor, document, analyze, and write about Scientology’s websites.
6. Scientology’s cash position, cash surplus, and real estate acquisitions are almost completely meaningless as significant metrics. Any organization with a cash surplus can buy and amass a real estate portfolio. In most cases, Scientology’s real estate acquisitions of decrepit old buildings in need of millions of dollars in renovations are designed to stall and buy time for David Miscavige. From my perspective, Miscavige is obviously using these empty buildings to buy time and create some semblance of hope for the future of Scientology. However, no one is fooled. Example: The San Fernando Valley Ideal Org is a complete waste of time and money. There is no excuse for Miscavige to leave that eyesore unfinished given the IAS cash pile. The PR damage done to Scientology by leaving buildings empty for years or decades, particularly when there is plenty of money available to open these buildings within 12-18 months, is inexcusable. Conversely, Scientology will cherry pick top properties. This was the case with SMP here in Hollywood or Larry Hagman’s place in Ojai. But then the Cult will not actually do anything with these premier properties except use them for PR.
7. David Miscavige needs to reverse the massive and long-term statcrash in Scientology and does not know how to do it because he refuses to understand the nature and essence of the problems facing Scientology. Understanding the real problems would require critical self-reflection on his part wherein he would conclude that he must resign and step aside. He has zero capabilities in this regard and believes himself to be indispensable to Scientology. Compounding this is the long term structural damage to Scientology wrought by Miscavige’s execution of Hubbard’s bad policies and Miscavige’s own failed programs in the period 2001 to the present day is irreversible. Miscavige massively overreached with his frenzied money grab in the Basics, selling IAS statuses, and the failed Ideal Org strategy. GAT I and GAT II were, and are, failures in ways Miscavige does not understand.
8. Scientology’s contradictory policies of greed-driven inhumanity place it at war with itself and all the parts of its own existence. To use an analogy, Scientology is like a raging alcoholic with serious self-created problems who denies they are an alcoholic and blames others for their problems. Everyone else can see the problems except Scientology. The Church of Scientology is an embarrassment to itself and does not see it.
9. The real numbers a good leaker could give are these:
A. Attendance at events: publics and SO.
B. The number of SO members over the past ten years.
C. The total number of IAS members in good standing with the Church.
D. Total membership losses of publics and SO over the past ten years.
E. Number of SO senior execs paid off to sign nondisclosure agreements in the past ten years.
10. One of the real things to watch is the covert consolidation of Scientology Orgs. Miscavige can call it whatever he wants, but consolidation is contraction and Scientology is contracting inwards upon itself with great force. The acquisition of real estate is a red herring. Purchasing buildings is meaningless in the face of Scientology’s uncontrollable and accelerating membership losses. The way out is through the nearest door.
11. The petard upon which Scientology is hanging itself is Disconnection and Fair Game.
(Note: Mike Rinder’s column of 12/17/2016 is so important that I am reposting here in its entirety.) Mike Rinder:
THIS IS IMPORTANT
Leah Remini: Scientology and The Aftermath is reaching far and wide. As a result, there are a lot of people coming forward with their own stories of abuse in the church. We set up an email for people to report things (email@example.com) and soon hope to have a website (if I can find the time to put it together).
But there is one thing that has come up repeatedly that I wanted to comment on publicly. The supposed “confidentiality agreements” many have signed. Though this mostly applies to those signed by Sea Org members, most staff and many public have also signed such agreements.
I now come to find that Scientology Ethics Officers have apparently made a habit of lying to people that such agreements (laden with draconian financial penalties for “breaching” the agreement) prevent them from even reporting crimes. This is simply NOT true. NO agreement or contract may prevent you or anyone from reporting a crime to law enforcement or testifying truthfully about it. No matter what some MAA may have said to you, you are not only free to report any crime you witnessed, you have an obligation to testify truthfully about it if you are asked to do so by law enforcement.
But alarmingly, even this lie is apparently embellished even further.
Some people have been convinced by unscrupulous (or woefully ignorant) MAA’s that they must not even MENTION that they signed such an agreement because to do so would be a violation of the agreement. And thus they must not only NOT say anything about crimes they may have witnessed, and if asked, they must NOT say it is because they “signed an agreement.” They must act dumb. Literally. This is a terrible, false and probably illegal LIE designed to suppress evidence of wrongdoing and pervert the course of justice.
Generally, these “confidentiality” agreements that so many people have signed are not legally enforceable. But you might wonder: “So why does the church use them? They have expensive lawyers and surely if they are not valid the lawyers have told them so?” Well, the lawyers HAVE told them so. But they are counting on the fact that people BELIEVE they have validity and because they have been led to believe scientology will come after them for millions of dollars in “damages” if they “violate the agreement” even though they are useless in a legal sense. The misinformation about these agreements keeps a lot of people quiet. So, from scientology’s perspective, for the cost of a few sheets of paper, they have convinced 98% of the people who have signed them that they may never disclose anything they saw or experienced in scientology. That’s a pretty good cost/benefit ratio.
If you have been the victim of a crime or a witness to it, and you believed you could not report it because you were told you had signed a legal document that prevented you from doing so, it is another scientology LIE.
REPORT WHAT YOU KNOW TO THE APPROPRIATE LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY.
In addition to the fact that no contract can prevent anyone from reporting a crime, there are other reasons that make such agreements unenforceable. What if you are not sure that what you witnessed or experienced is actually illegal, but you know it is wrong, and want to talk about it with someone? Can you?
Generally (and this is put in layman’s terms and is not the advice of a lawyer — but it is the opinion of someone VERY experienced in these matters) you cannot be bound by a contract:
- You signed when you were a minor.
- If you did not know what you were signing, did not understand the consequences and had no opportunity to consult with a lawyer
- The contract is one-sided. You give up rights and scientology gives up nothing and doesn’t provide adequate consideration for what you give away
- You felt you were coerced into signing the agreement — you had no choice and the consequences of not signing were so dire that you signed even though you had doubts
There are other reasons that make a contract unenforceable. But commonly, one or more of the above is true for ANY contract you signed when you were in scientology and almost certainly if you were in the Sea Org.
Scientology is not suing anyone for violating these agreements. They never have and they never will. In recent memory, scientology filed ONE lawsuit over breach of an agreement. They sued Debbie Cook. And her agreement had been drafted specifically for her (it was not a generic “confidentiality agreement” that everyone signs), it was signed on video in the presence of a lawyer who asked if she was doing it of her own free will, and she was handed a check for $50,000 in exchange for signing the agreement. But after one day of testimony about the circumstances under which she signed it and why, the church backed out of court like they had been hit between the legs with as stun gun. That attempted suit went nowhere other than into a disastrous tailspin of horrifying negative media for scientology.
Scientology has not sued me, and I signed these agreements too. They have not sued Marty Rathbun. Or Amy Scobee. Or Marc and Claire Headley. Or Jeff Hawkins. Or anyone. And they all signed them too.
I urge you now: If you have witnessed physical assault, sexual assault, child abuse, been brought into the country by the church under false pretenses, or on a church arranged visa and had your passport confiscated, if you were asked to lie to law enforcement on behalf of scientology or asked to cover up or not report a crime, if you were asked to perjure yourself in a legal case or anything else you believe may be a crime, please step forward, speak up and help put this criminality to an end.
If you do not know where to go or who to talk to, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will try to respond as quickly as possible. But please don’t send us anything if you are not willing to come forward, we need to devote our energies to those who are in a position to make statements publicly.
As the curtain is drawn back on the truth about scientology, the insidious layers of deception and control are being revealed. And this has concealed a lot of ugly and even criminal behavior that has been ignored or deliberately hidden.
It is time to draw back the curtains for real.
The second episode of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath aired this evening on A&E. This episode featured Scientology’s former international spokesman Mike Rinder and his wife Christie Collbran.
This episode exposed the sadistic ways in which the Church of Scientology — using tax exempt dollars — stalked, harassed, spied on, and Fair Gamed Mike and Christie. It was shocking to watch. The Church of Scientology is always worse than you think; it really is a malicious organization whose 501(c)3 tax exemption needs to be revoked for cause by the IRS.
To say that tonight’s episode was powerful is an understatement. Leah’s show is tremendous television that reaches deeply and existentially into the Scientology experience and its aftermath.
Mike Rinder has always been very generous in sharing his time and wisdom with the media, critics, and especially those people who have left Scientology. Mike’s blog Something Can Be Done About It is a widely read blog that covers the many things that are going on inside the rapidly collapsing Church of Scientology.
Mike Rinder granted me the first interview I did when I began my Surviving Scientology Radio podcast series. Thanks to Mike Rinder and other former Sea Org members who have so generously, and sometimes so very painfully, shared their experiences of Scientology, my podcast now has more than two million listens across YouTube, iTunes, and my dot.com Surviving Scientology Radio.
Because of the dozens of aggregators who have taken the podcasts that my guests and I have released into the public domain at no cost, I don’t know how many listens the show actually has. What my guests and I care about is that the truth about Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, and David Miscavige is carried far and wide across the planet.
I have interviewed Mike Rinder several times on my podcast as I value his singular insights. One tradition my podcast has is to interview Mike Rinder at the New Year. In these shows, Mike looks back at Scientology the previous year and offers his predictions on what Scientology will face in the New Year. Mike’s predictions have been spot on.
Mike Rinder’s 2015 New Year’s Eve podcast is a classic and well worth a listen to get a sense of just how incredibly perceptive Mike Rinder is as a strategic thinker and analyst. Thanks for everything you do Mike.
Imagine telling the entire world you are purchasing an ultra-luxury state-of-the-art $100,000,000 private 757 business jet. As the interior of your jet is designed and built with the most opulent of appointments, you boast to the entire world and show off the spacious interior:
The big day arrives as your magnificent $100,000,000 private jet is rolled out of the hangar to great applause and fanfare. However, there is only one problem: You have no money for jet fuel, pilots and crew, ramp fees, landing fees, maintenance, or any other operating costs. In other words, you are so broke that you can’t actually fly your new plane unless people donate money to you for operating expenses. And so your shiny new jet remains parked on the tarmac like a giant useless paperweight.
This, apparently, is exactly what has happened with the recently opened Scientology Media Productions (SMP) facility in Hollywood. As reported by Mike Rinder, the Church of Scientology is now claiming that it needs to raise money in order to fund productions at its $100,000,000 studio. SMP is all set to fly but, alas, has no gas money. Hence, the “Panhandling on the Streets of Hollywood” begging letter from SMP posted by Mike Rinder:
Of course, this is all nonsense and is simply more Scientology greed at work. Scientology has plenty of money to fund SMP operating expenses. The IAS could write a big fat check from its billion dollar plus cash reserves and be done with it. After all, the IAS slush fund exists, it is claimed, to advance the aims and purposes of the Scientology religion, right? Seriously, though, Scientology will never fund anything when it can take in “new money” from credulous status-happy Scientologists and hang onto its “old money.”
As Mike Rinder has pointed out many times, the Church of Scientology already has a giant state of the art television, film, and music production facility at its Gold Base in San Jacinto, California that does not operate at anywhere near capacity. It’s not like Scientology actually needs a second underutilized production facility.
Variation on a Scam: The SMP fundraising scam reminds me of the old Super Power building scam. David Miscavige gave endless excuses for years as to why he couldn’t open the Super Power Building. One of Miscavige’s lamest excuses came in 2010 when he said he needed “1,000 more” Scientologists to join the Sea Org before he could open the Super Power building — and this is really no different than Miscavige saying Scientology Media Productions needs operating funds before it can produce content:
David Miscavige’s next excuse was that he needed the “Final 300” Sea Org members before he could open Super Power:
Having failed to get all of the “Final 300” Sea Org members, David Miscavige was down to needing 110 new Sea Org members:
There are always excuses in Scientology for why the planet cannot cleared, buildings cannot be opened, or content cannot be produced in a new $100,000,000 studio. The usual excuses are that more more money has to be raised; more Sea Org members are needed; there has to 10,000 on Solo NOTs; all Orgs must be St. Hill size; all Orgs must be Ideal, etc. It really doesn’t matter so long as an excuse is provided.
I don’t know if Flag ever recruited the 1,000 Sea Org members. What I do know is that the Super Power building remained the most profitable empty building in the world from 1998 until it opened on November 17, 2013. As Ashley Collman of the Daily Mail wrote at the time:
The group broke ground on the Mediterranean Revival-style building in 1998, but stopped work after finishing the shell.
For three years, the group ceased construction on the project until the city started imposing $250-a-day fines for code violations.
Scientology defectors have explained that the building’s slow construction is due to church leader’s who have allegedly used the project as a fundraising cash cow.
An analysis by the Tampa Bay Times discovered that the church had raised $145million for the building, much higher than the $100million it was estimated to cost.
Who knows? David Miscavige and Scientology may need to postpone production at Scientology Media Productions indefinitely until more money is raised, more Sea Org members are recruited, or until the Commodore returns from Target 2.
To whimsically add to our excursion through one of Scientology’s Scams of the Past, former Sea Org member Aaron Saxton made a very humorous and prescient comment on ESMB during the 2010 “1,000 Sea Org are needed for Super Power!” campaign:
It just occured to me that this statement by DM [that 1,000 Sea Org members are needed for Super Power] will be sending the jitters through the SO, especially within Los Angeles.
They know they will not have a hope in hell of getting this many recruits.
So what they will do is start doing “utilization” surveys on SO members around the world. They will give CMO quotas in each continent to find people “under utilized” and send them to Flag.
Following this they will empty out their RPF’s to get crew to the FSO to get the numbers up.
A similar incident happened in 1995 when DM went nutty at the FSO and we ended up sending over 150 missionaires to FLB.
None of them bar a very select few, ever made it back. They all ended up getting posted down there.
I can see DM doing a similar thing.
It is apparent that DM is going to keep command teams in the continental liaison offices to run things directly as I think DM can see the end of IMO/HGB middle management on the horizon.
Why run things on a via when he thinks he is so great at running it directly?
1000 recruits…LOL, I would pay a dollar to see that!
Hey, should I send in my billion year contract? Perhaps they will re-hire me? I soooo want to be part of the biggest failure in Scn history. Please please please!
In related news, Scientology fundraising in now under way for the L. Ron Hubbard Hall and park in Clearwater, Florida. As gushing Scientology coverage of the recent LRH birthday celebration enthused:
There was also the momentous announcement of the future L. Ron Hubbard Hall in Clearwater, a magnificent auditorium designed to seat thousands with convention and banquet conversion capability, complemented by a beautifully-appointed L. Ron Hubbard Park.
Scientology likes to brag about its accomplishments. I have to give Scientology credit for this: It has amassed the world’s largest irrelevant and non-performing real estate portfolio ever and continues to do. We have the IRS to thank for giving this deviant and real-estate-obsessed group its wholly unmerited tax exemption.
—David Miscavige, captain of a legal fiction—
(Note: This article first appeared on Tony Ortega’s Underground Bunker and is republished here for archival reasons.)
Former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder recently reported that church lawyer Gary Soter had sent a threat letter to former Scientology executive Dan Koon.
The church had learned that Koon helped Ron Miscavige Sr., the father of Scientology leader David Miscavige, write his memoir, which is due to come out in 2016. In his letter, Soter informed Koon that by merely helping Ron write his book, he was in violation of nondisclosure agreements and bonds he had signed as a Scientology officer. Those documents Koon had signed carried heavy penalties for violating their terms, Soter claimed.
On March 12, 1980 you agreed to pay $5,000,000 in liquidated damages for “breach of security of the CMO INT or any units working under CMO INT. This would include anything heard with regards to work…”
Sea Org members make about $40 per week — when they’re paid at all — but Scientology expects its indentured servants to pay a $5,000,000 penalty for breaking the Sea Org’s rules. What really stood out, however, was something else Soter included in his letter. Can you spot it?
On May 12, 2000 you signed a “Declaration of Religious Commitment and Membership in the Sea Organization. Paragraph 8 of that Agreement states: “I agree to maintain the confidentiality of all communications…all documents, all files, all mailing lists and all other material not commonly offered to the public for sale or use…which may come into my knowledge or possession in the course of my services as a member of the Sea Organization…”
You might remember that we’ve pointed out before how David Miscavige’s attorney, Lamont Jefferson, has said in official court documents that the Sea Org has no legal standing and has no members. Here’s what Jefferson wrote in a filing in Monique Rathbun’s lawsuit against Miscavige…
Plaintiff asserts that Mr. Miscavige exercised control because he leads the Sea Organization, a religious order within Scientology. But the ‘Sea Org’ is not a corporate entity; it has no physical or legal existence. It is not incorporated or established pursuant to legal formalities. It has no constitution, charter or bylaws, and no formal or informal ecclesiastical, corporate, or other management structure. It has no directors, officers, managing agents, or other executives; no employees, staff members, or volunteers; no income; no disbursements, no bank accounts or other assets; no liabilities; no stationery; no office, home, address, or telephone number. It does not create or maintain any financial, personnel, or other records. It can neither give nor receive orders because it has no one to either give or receive them or to carry them out. It cannot sue or be sued.
What Jefferson told a Texas court aligns with what the Church told the IRS to get its tax exempt status in 1993:
Although there is no such “organization” as the Sea Organization, the term Sea Org has a colloquial usage which implies that there is. There are general recruitment posters and literature for “The Sea Org” which implies that people will be employed by the Sea Org when in reality they will join, making the billion year commitment, at some church that is staffed by Sea Org members and become employees of that church corporation.
So, while Scientology tells courts and governments that its Sea Org has no legal reality and no members, it tells Sea Org members like Dan Koon something very different.
But then again, Scientology isn’t even consistent in what it says in the courtroom. Here’s what another Scientology attorney, Bert Deixler, said in a court briefing in Laura DeCrescenzo’s forced-abortion lawsuit against the church…
“It is exclusively from the Sea Org that the senior leadership of Scientology is drawn.”
The Sea Org has no members. But Deixler told a California court that the senior leadership of Scientology is drawn “exclusively” from the Sea Org – a group that Mr. Jefferson told a Texas court can have no directors, officers, managing agents, executives, employees, staff members, or volunteers.
So, let’s review the scorecard…
— In order to keep David Miscavige out of a deposition in a Texas lawsuit, Scientology claims that the Sea Org does not exist and has no members. Sea Org members derive authority only from their posts in the Church of Scientology hierarchy.
— In order to threaten Dan Koon, Gary Soter asserts that the Sea Org and its contracts exist, that they are legally binding; and that they can serve as the basis of a lawsuit to collect $5,000,000 in liquidated damages.
— In order to claim First Amendment protection for its abusive treatment of employees, Bert Deixler said in Laura DeCrescenzo’s lawsuit that all of Scientology’s senior executives are drawn from its monastic order the Sea Org.
Deixler was unsparing on this point in defending the Sea Org’s policies, which include outrageous treatment of children, as Laura DeCrescenzo was. Deixler cited Higgins v. Maher (1989), a case which states that anyone who enters into employment as religious clergy forfeits the protection of the civil authorities:
The courts of this State have recognized that the ministerial exception bars judicial interference with discipline or administration by churches of their clergy…”In our society, jealous as it is of separation of church and state, one who enters the clergy forfeits the protection of the civil authorities in terms of job rights.”
As I wrote in a previous column, this “ministerial exception” is why Sea Org workers do not have to be paid minimum wage or overtime; why they can be locked up and brutalized in the Rehabilitation Project Force; and why they receive no pension after decades of service. Scientology has been able to subject its workforce to endless hours, sleep deprivation, unhealthful food and psychological terrorizing, and American courts have been reluctant to do anything about it.
The Church sees Sea Org members as “coins” that can be traded among Orgs and then kicked to the curb when they weaken from age or infirmity. The Sea Org euphemism for this cruelty is called “Fitness Boarding.” Old and sick Sea Org members are fitness boarded, given $500, and then shown the door.
Is what I am describing inaccurate? Is my language too strong? Not according to the words of Bert Deixler and the Church of Scientology in their filings opposing Laura DeCrescenzo’s lawsuit:
Even if an ecclesiastical decision appears harsh, humiliating, unfair, or irrational from a secular viewpoint, civil courts have no role to play…
The Church of Scientology’s justification for its humiliating and sadistic treatment of Sea Org workers is the First Amendment. However, when Captain David Miscavige of the Sea Org is at risk of being deposed, the Sea Org does not exist.
The Church of Scientology should not be able to have it both ways: A legally nonexistent entity cannot have First Amendment protections.
The late Earle Cooley, an attorney for the Church of Scientology, once caught someone the Church was suing in a contradiction during a deposition. Cooley calmly asked, “So which story are you sticking with?”
Thus, we turn Mr. Cooley’s question to David Miscavige and the Church of Scientology: Does the Sea Org exist or does it not exist?
Which story are you sticking with, Mr. Miscavige?