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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John Atack: Are cult members — like those in Scientology — unduly influenced?

Jon_AtackJon Atack is the author of A Piece of Blue Sky, one of the very best books on L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. He has a new edition of the book for sale, and for more than a year on Saturdays he helped us sift through the legends, myths, and contested facts about Scientology that tend to get hashed and rehashed in books, articles, and especially on the Internet. He was kind enough to send us a new post.

We really have a treat for our readers today. It’s a major new piece by Jon Atack that discusses undue influence in Scientology, a controversial topic in social science that, as Jon says, some scholars resist. With extremism on the rise around the planet, we think it’s time for this idea to get more currency. And we’re thrilled that Jon chose the Underground Bunker to reveal his hard work in this new article. Take it away, Jon…

Continue reading John Atack: Are cult members — like those in Scientology — unduly influenced?

A reminder, this Halloween, that Scientology’s tricks tear families apart

KateCoverWe hope you enjoy this momentous date on the calendar with lots of parties and costumes and treats.

We wanted to take this time to remind you about a person we admire greatly. Her name is Kate Bornstein, and we wrote a cover story at the Village Voice about her in 2012 when she published her masterful memoir, A Queer and Pleasant Danger.

If you aren’t familiar with Kate, you owe it to yourself to read her book, and to see the new movie about her by filmmaker Sam Feder. It’s playing the festival circuit right now, and we found it to be a compelling and accurate portrait.

Continue reading A reminder, this Halloween, that Scientology’s tricks tear families apart

Scientology outside the official church: ‘I’m quite happy with the world the way it is’

Rey_RoblesMark Bunker has sent us another interesting clip from the many interviews he’s conducted for his upcoming documentary, “Knowledge Report.”

One of the things Bunker is documenting is the exodus of people who have left the Church of Scientology in recent years, many of whom grew disillusioned with church leader David Miscavige, but not with the ideas of Scientology itself and its founder, L. Ron Hubbard.

Continue reading Scientology outside the official church: ‘I’m quite happy with the world the way it is’

Scientology’s ‘Mecca’ awaits: More tantalizing glimpses of Hubbardian Heaven on Earth

AlbertoPlazaWe have some fun odds and ends for you today while we nail down more big stories for you from the world of Scientology.

We’re chasing down all sorts of things — follow-ups to our previous stories, as well as big legal happenings on the horizon. But we can’t say too much just yet. We don’t want to spoil things.

In the meantime, we’ve been meaning to share with you the latest newsletter from the Fort Harrison Hotel, Scientology’s ‘Mecca’ in Clearwater, Florida. We always love to read the things our sharp-eyed readers pull out of these slick publications put out by Scientology.

Continue reading Scientology’s ‘Mecca’ awaits: More tantalizing glimpses of Hubbardian Heaven on Earth

Finally, Scientology has an answer for last year’s Super Bowl power outage

AdvanceDianaSEE UPDATE, BELOW

If you’ve been with us a long while, you may look back fondly, as we do, on our series about “OT Phenomena” from old issues of Advance! magazine.

Once a week on Fridays, as part of our regular feature “This Week Aboard the Apollo,” we’d pull out the most fun tall tales that Scientologists told each other as they tried to convince the newbies that if they could only get up into the expensive “Operating Thetan” levels, they would experience superhuman and otherwordly powers they called “OT Phenomena.”

Jeff Hawkins, who at one time edited Advance!, tells us these were always the most popular feature in the publication. Scientologists just couldn’t get enough of these eerie tales of metaphysical derring-do.

Continue reading Finally, Scientology has an answer for last year’s Super Bowl power outage

Gay Ribisi, our friend Mark Ebner has your Scientology plaques — want ‘em back?

Gay_RibisiOur old friend and fellow Scientology aficionado Mark Ebner tells us that on Saturday he and his lovely wife, Michelle Scott, enjoyed a brief repast at HMS Bounty, an old-timey bar and restaurant on Wilshire Boulevard in LA’s Koreatown section.

Afterward, they walked west on Wilshire, when Ebner spotted something unusual. It was a collection of what appeared to be discarded items, like someone had hastily cleaned out an office and had piled a few things — including a drawer from a desk, and some other items — in a pile on the ground. But what caught his eye, Mark says, was the glint of metal on a couple of wall plaques.

Continue reading Gay Ribisi, our friend Mark Ebner has your Scientology plaques — want ‘em back?

Sunday Funnies: Scientology needs your money more than ever!

PeterSheadIt’s time for another installment of Sunday Funnies, as we turn over to our readers the Scientology fundraising fliers that we’ve been forwarded by our great tipsters during the week.

We’re always amazed to see how many interesting things our sharp readers are able to pull out of these church mailers. They’ve provided us a pretty detailed record of Scientology’s fortunes over the past few years.

Continue reading Sunday Funnies: Scientology needs your money more than ever!

Jon Atack: Scientology and hypnotism — even some ex-members can’t admit its central role

Jon_AtackJon Atack is the author of A Piece of Blue Sky, one of the very best books on L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. He has a new edition of the book for sale, and for more than a year on Saturdays he helped us sift through the legends, myths, and contested facts about Scientology that tend to get hashed and rehashed in books, articles, and especially on the Internet. He was kind enough to send us a new post.

Thanks again for another guest post, Jon. What are you looking into this time?

Continue reading Jon Atack: Scientology and hypnotism — even some ex-members can’t admit its central role

Scientology got another legal spanking in France months ago and we’re just now finding out

Jonny Jacobsen

Jonny Jacobsen

Remember when Scientology’s fraud conviction in France was upheld by that country’s highest court just over a year ago? Our man in Paris, Jonny Jacobsen, worked feverishly that day to bring us several dispatches about it.

Jonny had been covering the fraud prosecution for years, and he helped us understand just how important it was that the Cour de Cassation upheld the 2009 convictions. As one French legislator explained to him, another conviction could result in Scientology getting kicked out of the country.

Continue reading Scientology got another legal spanking in France months ago and we’re just now finding out

Ryan Hamilton hit with setback as Narconon motion to dismiss prevails on some issues

Ryan Hamilton

Ryan Hamilton

Since January, we’ve been reporting on the 24 lawsuits filed by Las Vegas attorney Ryan Hamilton against Scientology’s drug rehab network, Narconon. And in that time, Hamilton’s batting average has been remarkably high — in some cases, defendants Narconon International and the Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE) have thrown in the towel, settling to get out of the lawsuits as Hamilton has fended off the usual tactics by Scientology’s attorneys.

Continue reading Ryan Hamilton hit with setback as Narconon motion to dismiss prevails on some issues