Cindy Plahuta, of Colorado, has a sadly typical story of how she learned about disconnection. After more than 20 years in the church, she became concerned about things she couldn’t ignore — that the president of the Church of Scientology International, Heber Jentzsch, has reportedly been a prisoner of “The Hole” since about 2004, for example.
When Cindy asked her daughter, Kara Landry, what she thought about Heber’s plight, Landry reacted by turning in her own mother to church ethics officers. (Previously, they had been very close — that’s them in a photo taken on Kara’s wedding day.) Landry subsequently disconnected from her, and since then Cindy has heard nothing from her daughter, who works at Scientology’s South Coast Mission in Orange County, California.
Cindy’s doubts were only magnified by her daughter’s reaction. She subsequently sent an e-mail to former church executive Marty Rathbun asking for his advice. She attended an “independent Scientology” gathering (but wore a hat and sunglasses — she wasn’t ready to be publicly outed as a church doubter). And then, she and her husband Matt took a big step. They invited over Marc and Claire Headley and their children.
The Headleys had sued Scientology unsuccessfully, and were considered two of Scientology’s biggest enemies. They were under surveillance, and the church got photos of Cindy with the Headleys and their kids.
In Scientology, you can almost do nothing worse than schedule a play date with the Headleys and their demon spawn.
About a month after seeing the Headleys, Cindy and Matt received the following disconnection letter from an old friend…
After our conversation today I went to the MAA to get ethics handling because I had some attention on what we had discussed concerning the people that have left the Church.
The MAA informed me that you have a connection to a known SP in Denver, that you are no longer in good standing with the Church, and you are pending a justice action. I found this out after I left a message on your phone that I had good news.
You and I have been close friends for so long Cindy that this is very difficult for me. However, I don’t want to jeopardize my standing with the Church and eligibility for Solo NOTS, or my relationship with my children and friends, and definitely don’t agree with the people that have left our Church. Therefore, I have no choice but to follow LRH Policy, which is very specific concerning this, and can no longer communicate with you until you get this situation handled.
I hope you will please contact OSA or the MAA here at Flag to get this resolved as soon as possible.
[MAA = Master at Arms; SP = Suppressive Person; Solo NOTs = New Era Dianetics for Operating Thetans, high-level church processing that is done alone on the e-meter; LRH = L. Ron Hubbard; OSA = Office of Special Affairs, Scientology’s intelligence wing.]
About a month later, Cindy and Matt got this letter from a friend who was so close, he had lived with them for several months when he needed a place to stay, and then had asked Matt to be the best man at his wedding…
I think I have enough data to understand why you feel the way you do and why you have decided what you have decided. I am not of any mind to argue or discuss this or convince you otherwise. Persuasion has never been a strong point with me.
You will not hear from me again after this email, so don’t feel concerned that I will be bugging you as time goes on.
It truly breaks my heart that this has happened. I have really enjoyed your friendships, all of you, and I have felt stronger knowing you were part of my team. You have decided not to be part of that team any longer, based on what you have heard and read. So I have lost some teammates. It happens. I can only continue to carry on, with the confidence that LRH did not choose the wrong man to be at the helm. I will continue to audit and contribute and sacrifice for what I feel is right for all, including you. The future will unfold inexorably and we will all be in it, as LRH says, “in a good state or bad”. I wish for you all the happiness you can find in this world.
I guess I would only ask you not to burn this tentative comm line by joining a group that is not RTC authorized; I am sure you know that a group such as this exists…You may also consider getting with OSA or writing all of this up in detail and sending it to RTC, Flag & FOLO data files and IGC. That’s really what you should have done in the first place.
Remember, when two facts conflict, either one or both of are false.
And…some final lyrics:
The tough got going and the going got tough
But you went ahead and ran away
Things got rough, you said you’d had enough
You told me that you couldn’t stay
I never thought
That you would get caught
In the web the spiders spun for you
Any further comm you may want with me will have to be done through a chaplain’s cycle at the org. I won’t open your emails or take your calls. I’m not disconnecting, because you’re not declared as far as I know. But I am disassociating until and if you handle this situation…
[RTC = Religious Technology Center, the controlling entity of Scientology; Flag = Flag Land Base, Scientology’s spiritual headquarters in Clearwater, Florida; FOLO = Flag Operations Liaison Office]
Cindy tells us she’s still stunned, two years later, that these two close friends turned on them so suddenly.
“I never had a phone call from the church. I never was asked about my views. These letters came out of the blue,” she says. “The church says there is no disconnection, but here I have these two letters. They were very good friends who turned their backs on us in an instant.”
There’s so much in Scientology that is weird, wacky, disturbing, and alarming, we just don’t understand it when a rag like the National Enquirer feels the need to hype, embellish, and just get so much wrong when it writes about the church.
But this week, it really flubbed. We hear that it got its hands on some nifty new aerial photos of the Trementina Base in New Mexico, a property of the Church of Spiritual Technology, the weird entity we’ve told you about that has dug underground vaults in various places so the words of L. Ron Hubbard can be stored and survive a nuclear holocaust.
We figured CST is pretty weird on its own — especially since Trementina Base, in a remote part of the New Mexico desert, features a giant CST logo (it looks like interlocking rings) which can be seen from the sky. Dylan Gill — the only former CST employee ever to give a press interview — tells us the logo is there to help guide L. Ron Hubbard’s “thetan” back to earth once he’s ready to return after his death in 1986.
Now see, isn’t that wacky stuff? But no, the Enquirer had nifty new photos of the base and figured it need a big, showy story to go with it. Only, what it reported is almost certainly total nonsense. Let’s go through the first few paragraphs…
1. Says the Enquirer: “The controversial religion maintains a hidden vault that contains the darkest secrets of its most famous members, including Tom Cruise, John Travolta and defector Leah Remini!”
While confessional files of celebrities and all other Scientologists are maintained — and have allegedly been mined for material to smear former members — they are not kept in a “hidden vault” but in the church’s International Base, a 500-acre compound about 90 miles east of Los Angeles.
The underground vault in New Mexico is one of several that CST maintains for storing the writings of founder L. Ron Hubbard so that they will survive a nuclear holocaust. These are remote locations that are intended to operate with just one or two employees, and are not places where active files are being stored.
2. “The vault was housed in a mountain fortress disguised as a church ‘welcome center’ in a remote area of New Mexico, and The ENQUIRER has obtained ‘spy photos’ of the never-before-seen stronghold.”
Actually, the “vault house” is well known, and has been seen in many aerial photos before. It is neither a “fortress” nor a “welcome center” but merely a prop that is mostly empty and is used to cover up the opening of the underground vault at the Trementina base, says Dylan Gill. “The vault house is just to cover up the vault. It’s just a ventilation house is what it is,” he told us last night by telephone.
3. “Scientology experts say the vault contains audio and video confessions of members’ drug use, gay scandals, divorces, illicit affairs and other explosive secrets that could destroy their careers!”
It’s long been known that Scientology collects embarrassing admissions made by members during auditing, but the Enquirer has just one “expert” — Margery Wakefield — telling them these confessional files are being stored in New Mexico at the Trementina vault.
We telephoned Margery, a former Scientologist who never worked for CST, and asked her why she thought confessional files were being stored in such a remote location, something Gill denies, as well as people who actually worked with celebrity files. Margery said she had been told that by a CST employee she could not name.
While we respect Margery for the work she has done in past years, we think this is a very dubious tip she’s been fed. CST has nothing to do with sec checking or auditing, and its underground vaults make no sense for storing files that are readily available at the Int Base.
4. The Enquirer then quotes Las Vegas, NM police chief Tim Gallegos, who has visited the base and gives a more accurate description of it: “They’re transforming writing, speeches and videos onto paper and etching them onto titanium plates,” he said.
Actually, Scientologists were asked to donate to the project that would etch Hubbard’s words on steel plates to be stored in titanium containers that Gill tells us resemble banker’s boxes.
The visit to the base by Gallegos was not a “raid” (as the cover promised) and no celebrity files were “found inside” as a subhead asserts.
The rest of the story is fairly accurate — Auditing is videotaped, including the counseling sessions that Tom Cruise goes through, but somehow the Enquirer left out the best part. Former church executive Tom DeVocht has said that David Miscavige has played Cruise’s sessions — including his sex confessions — for friends, and has ridiculed Cruise behind his back.
Just to be sure, we asked a couple of other former church officials about the notion of celebrity confessional folders being stored at Trementina Base.
“It’s a complete joke. It’s someone’s wild daydream,” says Mike Rinder, the former top spokesman of the church. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
“Everyone knows that’s not true,” Claire Headley told us about the idea of celeb files being stored in New Mexico. And she should know. She actually handled the confessional files of Lisa Marie Presley, Kirstie Alley, Tom Cruise, and John Travolta.
“They’re not in Trementina,” she tells us. Like others, she says they’re kept at the Int Base in California. When Claire worked there, she regularly handled the folders which, she points out, were disguised with false names.
“Eve Darling,” for example, was the name on Lisa Marie Presley’s files.
She gives us another example: When Marty Rathbun was auditing Tom Cruise at the Hollywood Guaranty Building in the early 2000s, each night Cruise’s folder would go on “the run” — a Scientology van service — from the HGB to the Int Base for supervision. In the morning, the file would go back to Hollywood for Rathbun’s use.
Dylan Gill, who helped build the vault house that the Enquirer is gushing about, tells us that organizationally, it just makes no sense for CST to have, in New Mexico, files that belonged to the Church of Scientology International, a completely different entity. “It would be a conflict of interest,” he says. “There just wouldn’t be that kind of contact between CST and Int Base.”
But hey, those are some pretty nifty new photos of the Trementina Base. Expect to see them in some other places today.
UPDATE: As we predicted, the great new photos have showed up in the Daily Mail, which does a much better job with them than the Enquirer.
The only thing we’d add to the Daily Mail piece is that the structure they are calling a “welcome center” Dylan Gill tells us is the “LRH House.” Each CST location has one, and the idea is to provide a complete, ready-to-use home for Hubbard whenever he decides to return to earth.
The Lori Hodgson Saga, Part Two
Karen de la Carriere, J. Swift, and Angry Gay Pope bring us the second chapter in their series on Lori Hodgson. Go here to see part one.
Posted by Tony Ortega on August 16, 2013 at 07:00
E-mail your tips and story ideas to email@example.com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.