UPDATE: SAG-AFTRA’s publication will no longer sell ads to Scientology. See update below.
Christian Stolte is well known here at the Underground Bunker both for his recurring role in the NBC drama Chicago Fire, but also because he’s a knowledgeable critic of Scientology who has been a regular presence here.
When Kirstie Alley appeared to take potshots at Leah Remini for leaving Scientology in 2013, Stolte went after Alley on Twitter in a very entertaining way. It was then that we learned what an expert he is on Scientology and that he was a regular reader here.
Stolte doesn’t talk about it a lot, but he had his own encounter with Scientology and spent years getting away from it. He’s a harsh detractor who has encouraged other actors leaving the group, including his fellow Chicago Fire cast member, Jason Beghe, who left Scientology in 2008.
So imagine Stolte’s reaction when he opened up the latest edition of the magazine of SAG-AFTRA (the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), the union he’s belonged to for more than twenty years, and saw this…
There on the left, next to the magazine’s masthead, was an advertisement for Scientology: A New Slant on Life, a book that introduces some of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s concepts about the human mind. It’s designed to pique interest and get people into Scientology itself, which is a very involved endeavor that ends up becoming very expensive and requires a heavy indoctrination into Hubbard’s way of thinking.
Stolte is well aware of the many controversies dogging Scientology as it gets more desperate to find new recruits, including allegations of human trafficking, child labor under extreme conditions, two decades of forced abortions, yearslong sentences to the church’s own gulag-like prisons, and other shocking and well-documented abuses told by former members. Stunned that SAG-AFTRA would get involved with Scienotology, Stolte fired off this letter to the editors of the publication and posted a copy of it to his Facebook timeline…
I’m going to try to state this calmly, but make no mistake — it is in no way acceptable that my union is permitting the evil cult of scientology to advertise in the pages of our magazine.
Do you have any idea how much damage these greedy, unethical monsters have done to thousands of well-meaning, gullible people and their families? Are you honestly unaware of the heinous crimes they’ve been guilty of? I urge you to read up on this cult and their crimes, because as a member of this union for twenty-some years, I will not tolerate even one more instance of opening your magazine and seeing an advertisement (and tacit endorsement) of this corrupt, unethical organization. Having endured an 18-year personal battle with various tentacles of Scientology, and knowing more than most about how they operate, and the slimy, criminal practices that constitute their playbook, I am ashamed that my union would have any traffic with them whatsoever. It is appalling to think that even one member of my community would be drawn into the toxic arms of this cult because he trusted something he saw in his union’s glossy-paged magazine.
I urge you to rectify this, and to sever connections immediately. If my union fails to do the right thing here, you will be hearing from me again, and the next time I will be loud, and public.
A day after sending that letter, Stolte told us he still hadn’t received a response. But he has heard from a lot of fellow actors, who told Stolte they would be sending in their own messages.
“It seems quite a few folks are taking up arms over this, which makes me proud of my fellow actors, and generally optimistic that we’ll put a stop to this,” he says. “A couple friends of mine are in elected positions with the union, and they were unaware of this situation. They — along with every other actor I know who has weighed in — are on my side on this, and vehemently so.”
There was a time when you would hear that Scientology was “powerful” in Hollywood. But no more. As we pointed out earlier, the actors who make up Scientology’s most well known “celebrities” are pretty much the same list they’ve had for the past 20 years. And there’s more and more anecdotal evidence that Scientology just isn’t feared in the cinematic arts as it once might have been.
But Scientology definitely still targets actors, particularly struggling ones, for recruitment. Steven Mango made that obvious in his film earlier this year. Although he was only getting low-paying parts as an extra, Mango explained that he was under constant pressure to spend thousands of dollars on Scientology courses he couldn’t afford. At one point, he was surrounded by about ten Scientology staff members who all used their iPads at the same time to apply for new credit cards for Mango so he could spend money he didn’t have.
But the deceptive come-on and the pressure to pay increasing prices are only the beginning of Scientology’s many controversies. Stolte asked us if we had a primer on them, and we wish we did. We’ll just offer a few links for beginners who might be wondering why people who leave Scientology say such damaging things about it.
— Scientology is a deeply homophobic organization that believes its processes are a kind of ‘gay therapy.’
— From approximately the late 1980s until 2010 when the practice was exposed by the St. Petersburg Times, Scientology forced young women in its “Sea Organization” to have abortions if they became pregnant.
— Members who dare to criticize Scientology can be declared “suppressive,” and all other members are ordered to “disconnect” from them, even if it means splitting up families. The church denies that this is mandated by the organization, but stunning examples keep emerging that the practice is used as harshly as ever.
— Scientology operates from a Cold-War playbook that cannot be altered since the death of the founder, L. Ron Hubbard, in 1986. That includes an obsession with spying and retaliating against former members and other critics. Current leader David Miscavige even spent $10 to 12 million to have one man, a former church executive, watched like a hawk for 24 years.
— Scientologists are indoctrinated that Scientology has all of the answers to everything. And so leaving the organization is akin to suicide. When members do make a run for it, they are put under intense pressure to return and “route out properly” — a clever manipulation that actually routes people back in. Sinar Parman, a longtime member of the church, had to escape five separate times before he finally stopped falling for the “routing out” ruse.
— What is the aim of those expensive courses? After years of study, prices can reach up to a thousand dollars an hour for counseling as Scientologists perform exorcisms on themselves in order to remove unseen entities that stick to them like parasites. These “body thetans” are left over from a galactic genocide that Hubbard said happened 75 million years ago. Besides making for great material for a 2005 episode of South Park, Scientologists really do pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to rid themselves completely of these unseen pests.
— And maybe the most objectionable fact about Scientology is that it tries to keep all of this behavior secret. New recruits are never told that eventually they’ll be paying hundreds of dollars an hour to remove invisible space cooties with the help of a crude device called an e-meter. And that’s the answer to the inevitable refrain you hear in online forums that “all religions have crazy beliefs and are all the same.” At least other organizations are up front about what they believe. Scientology won’t even tell its own members what they’re in for — not, at least, until they’ve forked over hundreds of thousands of dollars and isolated themselves from friends or family who might discourage them.
— At least today, with the help of Google, adults should have some idea of what they’re in for before they join Scientology. But increasingly in the last ten years, it’s the children who have grown up in Scientology, without a choice in the matter, who have become the focus of press accounts. For a great rundown of what it’s like to grow up in Scientology, we recommend a terrific article by Derek Bloch.
There are so many important stories that describe Scientology’s manipulation of members, indoctrination of children, intense pressure on members to impoverish themselves in order to donate, and the fear all Scientologists go through as they worry about losing all contact with their own family members in case one of them is declared suppressive. There’s the intellectual bankruptcy of “study tech,” the dead patients at Scientology’s drug rehab centers, the shocking deprivations of the “RPF,” the Orwellian double-think of Scientology’s internal justice, the ingrained snitching culture which encourages family members to turn each other in for daring to question doctrine. The list goes on and on. We’re sure our readers can come up with many more links and suggestions for the new reader who wants to learn what makes this organization a shocking partner for SAG-AFTRA, which is supposed to have the welfare of its members in mind.
UPDATE: THE UNION SIDES WITH STOLTE. Christian just sent us this message…
Hey, Tony. Just sitting on set, reading the lively Bunker commentary, when I got a message from an actor buddy. He shared an email SAG-AFTRA sent in response to his letter, so I checked my inbox, and here you go (same reply as his). That didn’t take long.
And here’s the email from the SAG-AFTRA magazine editor, who says the publication will not be selling ads to Scientology in the future…
Dear Mr. Stolte,
Thank you for your recent communication regarding the magazine ad promoting an L. Ron Hubbard book.
While we included this ad for a book by the founder of Scientology, we have not endorsed and do not endorse Scientology nor any other religious system or philosophy. That’s not the role of your union and we fully recognize that.
We strive to include editorial content and promotional advertising material that speaks to the interests of our large and diverse membership. That is not always easy to do given the size of our membership and their many and varied interests. Sometimes, we may not completely hit the mark and some members may dislike or disagree with a particular ad. That seems to have happened in this case.
We support every individual’s right to free expression as well as our members’ inherent rights to choose their own reading material, but have determined that further advertising of this nature may not be in keeping with our magazine’s mission to serve the interests of all members.
We appreciate your input and will not be including further material from this advertiser or any other religious organization in the future.
Thank you once again for sharing your opinion with us.
All the best,
Editor-In-Chief, SAG-AFTRA Magazine
Posted by Tony Ortega on December 4, 2014 at 07:00
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Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
UP THE BRIDGE (Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING (Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49