Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Scientology: life on the inside

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Towards the end of last year, I interviewed Marc Headley, a former Scientology employee who has recently told his story in his book Blown for Good: Behind the Iron Curtain of Scientology. Headley worked at Scientology's International Base in California and he reveals that, behind the razor wire protected perimeter, the Base is home to a world of violence, intimidation and low-wage labour. It's a grimly fascinating story, and one in tune with other testimonies that have emerged from the heart of Scientology, including the devastating exposé that appeared in the fearless Florida newspaper the St Petersburg Times last year.

In my conversation with Headley, I was able to talk in detail about his story, and the interview appears in the new issue of New Humanist, which has just come out this week. I've just put the article online – have a read and let me know what you make of it by commenting on this post.


Anonymous said...

Scientology's big defense against critics is to call them "religious bigots." This stance is supported by America's current approach to the concept of freedom of religion. It would be unwise for Headley, in this country, to actively criticize the beliefs of Scientology. It is a shame that Headley needs to be so gentle in his criticism of Scientology. However, he has been able to heal from his brainwashing in a healthy way, unlike Mark Rathbun. Rathbun is welcoming former members into his group that continues to worship LRH.

LeeAnne said...

This is an extremely well-written article, concisely detailing the human-rights crimes perpetrated by the cult of Scientology.

What the public needs to understand about Scientology is that, in spite of it's pseudo-spiritual trappings and jargon, it does not meet any of the definitions of a real religion...whereas it meets almost all of the definitions of a cult.

What it REALLY is, is a for-profit company that exploits everyone involved. If you are a Scientologist, you are either an underpaid employee ("Sea Org"), or an exploited customer (a "public" Scientologist) paying thousands of dollars for the absurd rantings of a madman con artist (L. Ron Hubbard, who evidently came up with the whole Xenu concept while stoned on illegal drugs).

Mark Headley has done an amazing service by exposing the con...and this article brings to light the most important of his outlandish, but fully verified, claims.

Eiskrystal said...

-in spite of it's pseudo-spiritual trappings and jargon, it does not meet any of the definitions of a real religion-

Like mormonism you mean?


barb said...

Anyone who has read Marc Headley's book, 'Blown For Good,' will probably share a sense of outrage at the treatment of the people held at Gold Base, the security spike ringed compound in Riverside County.

They should feel outrage for the inattentive, dismissive "ignore the elephant in the room" attitude of Riverside County's local government. Indeed, in order to try and curtail our right to protest Scientology abuses, the cult schmoozed up to local County Board of Supervisors and wound up with the Board's chairman, Jeff Stone, in their pocket.

Mr. Stone introduced Ordinance 884, which would curtail protesting outside of residences, waving about a scurrilous piece of libellous garbage about Anonymous given him by the Scientologists. Despite the fact that our numbers include all races and sexual orientations, Mr. Stone persists in adhering to the fiction given him by Scientologists; in which Anonymous is a racist, homophobic group of religious bigots.

So far, Ordinance 884 has not been wielded. It limits protests to a 50 foot distance from any targeted residence. However, the area targeted at Gold Base includes a film studio and a security shack. We have been sprayed with water, subjected to police visits, and deafened by a strange tri-tone note blared at us from large speakers.

Now, Scientology is seeking closure of the road that enabled Marc Headley and others to make their escapes. Gilman Springs Road is a public road that bisects Gold Base. Closing that road would endanger the inmates of Gold Base even further. There would be no public scrutiny of their activities, and no way to leave the base.

Closure of the road would be the last step in establishing a slave labor camp, right here in the United States!

It's hard to believe the county would even entertain this notion, but Scientology money and influence have become deeply rooted in Riverside County government offices.

Anonymous said...

I have been out of this business cult for almost ten years and still can not risk talking freely about my experiences for fear of their reprisals. Once you are "in" they come to know your most inner secrets, and should use your First Amendmend rights to speak out against them, they will go all the way to, as their founder Hubbard said, "ruin you utterly".

I do not understand what it takes in a government, to understand, that many people who have left this organisation and who speak out are not some unhappy or disappointed lunatics, but people who have gone through hell. They deserve protection and the organisation a serious examination, with the religious cover removed.

Formerly Fooled said...

This is a terrific review of an important book.

J.R. (or Ernst Wolfgang) said...

I grew up in Clearwater, Fla. and need to disabuse you of the notion that a city of 150,000 is a "town." Also, we were personal friends of the mayor of Clearwater, Gabe Cazares, when the city challenged the tax-free status of a "church" that was busy purchasing large, downtown properties for cash. Obviously, the city missed the revenue lost when the new owner didn't have to pay any property taxes on it. (If you want to check the veracity of my story, my mom and step-father, DeeDee and George W. "Duke" Schultz, were active in the Pinellas County Democratic Party. Duke ran unsuccessfully for City Commissioner on at least two occasions. He has since passed on from GI cancer but I'm sure he'll show up in the archives.)

Most residents didn't know what to think of "them" as a group, but there was never trouble or people disappearing off the streets, etc. One time, my brother were caught downtown after dark by a violent thunderstorm and the Scientologist's HQs was the closest haven. My brother and I nervously approached the desk for a telephone and the people in the lobby were gracious and helpful and even brought us dry towels.

However, Scientology as a vicious, paranoid organization immediately showed their true colors in reaction to Mayor Cazares' pushing back by targeting the mayor's wife, Maggie, for daily harassment as she went about her errands and such. They never "touched" her, but two dark-suited men in dark sunglasses tailed her every move, even to the point of following her into Publix and writing down what she put into the shopping basket. She eventually had a "nervous breakdown" and was hospitalized briefly. The harassment stopped only when an angry Gabe went to the press with the charges, but the point was made. In order to protect themselves, they would target the family members of local political officials who "got in the way" of their ambitions.

Based on my own experiences, first- and second-hand knowledge, and study of the Scientology cult, I doubt none of what the author writes about the conditions and treatment meted out by the leaders of the "church." And exactly what laws allow churches, even questionable ones, to abuse their workers and sign legally binding contracts that span a "billion years?" I realize our country has become unhinged with the shift to fundamentalism; however, what civil court would recognize such nonsense?

Finally, let's end on a very funny anecdote. A very good friend of mine since middle school related to me a few months back that she had met someone on a blind date to find out that he was, in his words, "very high up" in the hierarchy of the church. On their second date, they met at her house for a cup of coffee before they went out for dinner. He confided to her that the powers he possessed included the ability to change his physical form at will into any shape he wanted.

My friend, being no dummy and a bit of a skeptic, replied, "Okay, then change into that lizard sitting on the porch." Unamused at being called out, he stormed out in human form and never called back.
One of the only funny stories relating to Scientology I can recall. Sad, but true.


J.R. Bauer
Prospect, KY, USA

Joshua R Whittle said...

Just a correction:

The independent Senator Nick Xenophon (Senator for South Australia) would not have made his statements about Scientology to the Australian Parliament in Sydney - this would have happened in Canberra, where the Federal parliament is actually situated.