Tony Ortega is executive editor of The Raw Story and is formerly the editor of The Village Voice. He's written about Scientology since 1995, and has a forthcoming book about the subject. He continues to monitor breaking developments in the Scientology world from an undisclosed location in an underground bunker he shares with four cats and one of them wrinkly Shar Pei dogs. Despite his super-secret security protections, you can still reach him pretty easily by sending him a message at tonyo94 AT gmail.com (Drop him a line if you'd like to get an e-mail whenever a new story is posted.) [Header image courtesy John Rickard]
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Scenes from the ‘Going Clear’ publicity caravan in midtown Manhattan

Mike_Rinder_Aaron_Smith-Levin

Yesterday Mike Rinder and your proprietor were being interviewed about Alex Gibney’s film Going Clear for a well known national news organization when the interviewer asked, what is David Miscavige’s biggest skeleton in his closet?

We had already talked about the Scientology leader’s disappeared wife, Shelly Miscavige, and where we think she has been for the last nine years. And that, certainly, is one of the biggest controversies about David Miscavige. But we thought Rinder had a really good answer.

Continue reading Scenes from the ‘Going Clear’ publicity caravan in midtown Manhattan

How’s this for a gift on L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday? ‘Going Clear’ in theaters March 13

TimesTalkOur commenters didn’t miss it yesterday when director Alex Gibney, in a talk at the New York Times building about his new documentary, Going Clear: Scientology & the Prison of Belief, dropped the news that his movie will open in theaters next week.

And what a date — Friday, March 13, on L. Ron Hubbard’s 104th birthday.

Continue reading How’s this for a gift on L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday? ‘Going Clear’ in theaters March 13

NEW TODAY: Memoir with shocking claims by notorious Scientology spy, Merrell Vannier

Merrell_VannierThere was a time when coming out with a book about Scientology meant almost certain litigation and harassment. From 1970 (George Malko, Scientology: The Now Religion) to 1990 (Jon Atack, A Piece of Blue Sky), and those in between — Paulette Cooper (1971), Cyril Vosper (1971), Robert Kaufman (1972), Roy Wallis (1976), Russell Miller (1987), and Bent Corydon (1987) — every author who came out with a book about the secretive and litigious organization saw his or her book sued and ultimately made difficult to find.

But things have changed. A wave of former Scientology members, including former high-ranking executives, came out of the organization in the 2000s and wrote self-published books about their experiences, including Marc Headley, Jefferson Hawkins, Nancy Many, Amy Scobee, and three books by Mark “Marty” Rathbun. None of them were sued.

Continue reading NEW TODAY: Memoir with shocking claims by notorious Scientology spy, Merrell Vannier

Sunday Funnies: Scientology going all-in with fundraising and fire fighters

Dave_WellsHey, it’s nice to get to our weekly feature, Sunday Funnies, when we can sit back and watch our great commenters take apart the latest fundraising fliers put out by Scientology.

Our tipsters have another fun collection for us this week, and as always we’ll be looking for interesting patterns or wacky new theme-party ideas.

Continue reading Sunday Funnies: Scientology going all-in with fundraising and fire fighters

LEAK: Scientology celebrities are stepping up their involvement behind the scenes

Kirstie_Alley_Jenna_ElfmanOur tipsters have sent us several emails and fliers lately that suggest to us that there’s something interesting going on with Scientology’s celebrities.

If you recall, we suggested in recent months that we had noticed a marked increase of activity from some of the most reliable Scientology actor types. Kirstie Alley, Kelly Preston, and Nancy Cartwright all recently completed “Operating Thetan Level 7,” one of the most difficult high-level courses on “The Bridge,” and one that can take years to finish. Also, actress Marisa Nichols finished OT 8, the highest level of all, which is only delivered on board Scientology’s private cruise ship the Freewinds. Cartrwight, Alley, and Michelle Stafford have also recently been spotted on the ship.

Continue reading LEAK: Scientology celebrities are stepping up their involvement behind the scenes

Gerry Armstrong’s full 1997 ‘Secret Lives’ interview about L. Ron Hubbard

Gerry_Armstrong_SLWe have a special treat for you today. It’s another full interview leaked for the first time from Channel 4’s excellent 1997 documentary, Secret Lives — L. Ron Hubbard, and this time with Gerry Armstrong, who is probably very well known to most readers of this website.

The documentary is one of the better ones made about Scientology, and it contains numerous short clips of people who knew Hubbard. A source is releasing to us the uncut segments with these participants for the first time. So far, we’ve seen interviews with Hubbard’s literary agent, Forrest Ackerman, his press assistant and lover, Barbara Klowden, one of Hubbard’s fellow science fiction colleagues, Arthur Jean Cox, the former mayor of Clearwater, Florida, Gabe Cazares, and Hubbard’s former medical officer, Jim Dincalci.

Continue reading Gerry Armstrong’s full 1997 ‘Secret Lives’ interview about L. Ron Hubbard

Can you help solve this odd Scientology financial mystery?

RamsayDetailWe’re calling on the super-sleuths who frequent the Underground Bunker to help us out in an intriguing little mystery.

It involves a large payment to one of Scientology’s key entities, and in a manner that seems to defy explanation.

Here’s the background. About a year and a half ago, a man named Jonathan Ramsay inquired with the Church of Scientology about the accounts left behind by his father, Peter Ramsay, a Toronto Scientologist who died three years ago.

Continue reading Can you help solve this odd Scientology financial mystery?

Now it’s Scientology UK that opens its books, and we have the numbers

BritishPoundsWhat a week of “dox” we have going on this week in the Underground Bunker. Scientology Australia had to open up its books because of changes in the law there, and on Monday we had the latest numbers and a rare peek inside Scientology finances. Yesterday, a release of government documents gave us our first look ever at L. Ron Hubbard’s high school grades. (Random, we know.)

And now, today, another telling disclosure. We have the latest filing for the finances of Scientology’s organizations in the UK which, for bizarre reasons we’ll explain in a minute, are actually registered with Australia’s national charities commission.

Continue reading Now it’s Scientology UK that opens its books, and we have the numbers

New government release contains a surprise: L. Ron Hubbard flunked out of high school, too!

Hubbard in 1928

Hubbard in 1928

We have another surprising set of documents recently unearthed by a researcher who is a friend to the Underground Bunker and has been making use of the Muckrock website for submitting Freedom of Information Act record requests.

For several weeks now, we’ve been plowing through documents released by the Food and Drug Administration, which investigated L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology for a 1963 raid of the Washington DC “Founding Church,” and then continued to gather information during 8 years of intense litigation over health claims made by Scientology for its “E-meter.”

We have found that FDA inspectors looked into every aspect of Hubbard’s life, and in these new documents, we learn that in 1963 they dug up a pretty complete set of Hubbard’s school records. Longtime Scientology watchers know that transcripts of Hubbard’s brief college career have been online for many years. But now, for the first time, we have his high school grades.

Continue reading New government release contains a surprise: L. Ron Hubbard flunked out of high school, too!

Scientology Australia spills its guts, and you can thank Bryan Seymour and Nick Xenophon

Nick_XenophonFor several years, one of Australia’s crusading senators, covered closely by one of the country’s most dogged television reporters, put pressure on the Church of Scientology to face more regulation with the creation of a national charities commission.

That effort paid off yesterday in a big way when Scientology’s internal financial reports were revealed for the first time by the Australian press, providing a rare look at how the organization is faring in that country.

Continue reading Scientology Australia spills its guts, and you can thank Bryan Seymour and Nick Xenophon