One of the many things the Church of Scientology has done as a reaction to Alex Gibney’s documentary, Going Clear, is to post numerous letters it wrote to Gibney and HBO in the lead-up to the film’s release, as well as in its aftermath.
Collected at the website of its propaganda magazine, Freedom, the letters vary in their interest for us. But one of them is really something to behold. It’s a long exegesis by one of Scientology’s longest-serving and most notable attorneys, Eric M. Lieberman (pictured).
Lieberman’s letter is addressed to two of HBO’s attorneys, and was sent on March 19, six days after Going Clear debuted in theaters for its short run in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco to qualify it for Oscar consideration. (A little birdie tells us that the movie is going to get another theater run in the Fall, so Scientology has that to look forward to — and you heard it here first.)
In his letter, Lieberman “strongly urges” HBO to drop its “sponsorship” of the film, and Lieberman points out that he’s successfully represented the church in court disputes over the past 40 years. (As legal threats go, this thing is not really very menacing.) Then, Lieberman says that HBO went wrong by basing its film on Lawrence Wright’s book Going Clear, which starts out on the wrong premise, according to Lieberman.
Mr. Wright’s book proceeds from a fundamentally biased and indefensible premise: that there is a “widespread assumption that Scientology is a cult and a fraud.” (Going Clear, pg. xii.)
What Lieberman leaves out of that quote is the first part of Wright’s actual sentence: “Obviously, there is an enduring appeal that survives the widespread assumption that Scientology is a cult and a fraud.” In other words, Wright was interested in what continues to draw some people into the group, and its bad reputation was in place long before Wright came along to pen his book.
But those niceties didn’t fit Lieberman’s mission, which was to convince HBO that Wright was hopelessly biased against an organization that was, in fact, a “bona fide world religion.”
For several thousand words, Lieberman then reviews the slings and arrows faced by Scientology over its history as it strove to be considered one of the world’s mainstream religions. Along the way, we get some real gems…
— “Scientology and Scientologists have been subject to the modern day equivalent of inquisitions, witch hunts, and heresy trials.”
— “Anti-Scientology efforts have been stirred up by invented charges and accusations from a few disaffected former Scientologists typically wishing to take over the church themselves or to create a counter-Scientology church.”
— “It is indisputable that Scientology is a widely recognized world religion and has been victorious in the face of 20th century persecution.”
Scientology victorious: That’s definitely the impression that church leader David Miscavige likes to give to his followers, and we have little doubt that Lieberman’s lengthy dissertation was written more for Miscavige’s benefit than anyone else’s.
And now, friend to the Underground Bunker and regular contributor Jeffrey Augustine has sent us his response to Lieberman’s letter. Augustine argues that not only is Scientology not a bona fide worldwide religion, but that there’s plenty of real evidence to back up the “assumption” Lieberman denied — that Scientology is in fact a cult and a fraud.
A note for those readers who will be surprised to see the c-word at the Underground Bunker. It’s true that your proprietor avoids the word, as we made very clear in a recent appearance at HuffPost Live. But in this case, it was Lieberman who made an issue of it, and we think Jeffrey gives it back to him very effectively.
So, without further ado, we’re turning over today’s post to Jeff…
By Jeffrey Augustine
1. Cult: The hallmark of a cult is that one person — the cult leader — has all the power and complete control of the money. David Miscavige is a cult leader who has all the power and complete control of the money. This was true of founder L. Ron Hubbard when he was alive.
2. Cult: There are no internal checks and balances on David Miscavige’s power.
3. Fraud: David Miscavige was never elected by Scientologists to lead the Church of Scientology. Rather, Miscavige is a dictator who clawed his way to power in a series of purges.
4. Fraud: The form of Church governance represented to the IRS in Scientology’s 1023 application was a fraud. The Scientology boards and directors represented to the IRS are rubber stamps without any actual power.
5. Cult and Fraud: Scientology is a cult and a fraud because it lies to its own members and to the public about L. Ron Hubbard. See: 25 of the biggest lies told by L. Ron Hubbard and the Church of Scientology.
6. Cult and Fraud: The Church of Scientology runs an intelligence-gathering and Fair Game operation called the Office of Special Affairs (OSA). The purpose of OSA is to attack perceived Church enemies and engage in character assassination, smears, and to get people fired from their jobs. Because OSA is funded with tax exempt dollars it is a fraud upon the governments and taxpayers of all nations where OSA operates.
7. Fraud: The Sea Org is a fraud on its face because it does not actually exist. Per David Miscavige’s attorney Wallace Jefferson in his 2014 Writ of Mandamus, the Sea Org cannot have any members or volunteers and has no physical or legal existence:
“Plaintiff asserts that Mr. Miscavige exercised control because he leads the Sea Organization, a religious order within Scientology. But the ‘Sea Org’ is not a corporate entity; it has no physical or legal existence. It is not incorporated or established pursuant to legal formalities. It has no constitution, charter or bylaws, and no formal or informal ecclesiastical, corporate, or other management structure. It has no directors, officers, managing agents, or other executives; no employees, staff members, or volunteers; no income; no disbursements, no bank accounts or other assets; no liabilities; no stationery; no office, home, address, or telephone number. It does not create or maintain any financial, personnel, or other records. It can neither give nor receive orders because it has no one to either give or receive them or to carry them out. It cannot sue or be sued.”
8. Fraud: While David Miscavige’s attorney Wallace Jefferson states in the quote above that the Sea Org can have no volunteers, , the official Scientology.org website section “What is the Sea Org?” states that Sea Org members are volunteers:
As volunteers and members of a religious order, Sea Organization members work long hours and live communally with housing, meals, uniforms, medical and dental care, transport and all expenses associated with their duties provided by the Church. They also receive an allowance to purchase personal items, as all of their other expenses are fully covered by the Church.
The Sea Org is one of the most heinous frauds in the Church of Scientology, for even Sea Org members are lied to by the Church about the SO’s legal non-existence.
9. Fraud: Given that the Sea Org does not exist in any way whatsoever, the term “Sea Org” is just a phrase used to mislead, deceive, and con people into working for the Church of Scientology without being called employees, thus depriving these people to their rights to minimum wage, overtime, healthcare insurance, the right to sue their employer, or any other worker protections.
10. Fraud: Scientologists and Scientology attorneys lie to the public about Church membership and growth. Scientology does not have millions of members. No independent third party has ever been allowed to audit Scientology membership records. The declining membership is demonstrable in numerous empirical terms: To choose just one, shrinking attendance at Church events, calling for the renting of smaller venues. In Los Angeles, the downgrade from the LA Shrine Auditoroum (capacity 6,300) to the Kodak Center (capacity 3,332) is instructive.
11. Cult and Fraud: The Church of Scientology video records all auditing sessions. This is allegedly done for training purposes. However, the confidential contents of auditing sessions are routinely used by OSA to attack, slander, defame, and embarrass Scientologists who leave the Church and speak out against the abuses of Scientology.
12. Cult: The Church of Scientology teaches its members to lie when needed in order to protect the Church.
13. Cult: The Church of Scientology puts its own members through brutal interrogations called security checks, or “sec checks.”
15. Cult: The Church of Scientology indoctrinates and controls its own members through a program of isolation, thought-stopping, mind control, milieu control, and propaganda.
16. Fraud: In exchange for money, the Church of Scientology has long promised its members miraculous spiritual powers it cannot actually deliver.
17. Cult: The Church of Scientology makes its members sign an unconscionable contract which allows the Church to kidnap them and hold them against their will if they are deemed “Type III” (psychotic) by the Church. This “kidnap contract” was put in place after the negligent death of Scientologist Lisa McPherson.
18. Fraud: The Church of Scientology raises money for a David Miscavige slush fund called the International Association of Scientologists. Under IRS rules, IAS donations are “undesignated” and can be spent for anything Miscavige sees fit. IAS donations can fund Fair Game campaigns, lawyers, and private investigators. The fraud here is that IAS monies are not spent in the public benefit. To cement the IAS fraud, Scientology makes its members sign a contract stating that all donations to the IAS are nonrefundable.
19. Fraud: The Church of Scientology raises money from its members for the purchase of unneeded buildings it calls “Ideal Orgs.” These largely empty buildings are tax free real estate purchases.
20. Fraud: The Church of Scientology offers no financial transparency whatsoever to its members or the public. Indeed, it was the Underground Bunker that broke the story of the IRS records showing a Church book value of $1.5 billion.
Thanks for that list, Jeff. And we’re looking forward to seeing the additional reasons our readers will no doubt hit us with in the comments. — ed
Bonus photos from our tipsters
Elena Cardone, superhero for CCHR!
Sam Joseph and Shane Leadbeater formed the band “Dianetics” recently in Australia. They’ve produced an album, and today posted this photo as they begin mailing out promotional material…
Curious about what they thought they were up to, we sent them this email…
“How long do you guys think you can go with this band name before Scientology’s attorneys start sending cease and desist letters? Just curious.”
And they sent this reply…
“We assume that the name ‘Dianetics’ is not patented, and also who would care enough about some small Australian band using a word that means a connection between the metaphysical relationship between the mind and the body. At the end of the day we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Right now we are just people making music that interests us and for our potential fans. Hopes that answers your query.”
Looks like someone could use an attorney.
From the Nashville Celebrity Centre, actual caption: “Dianetics Y’all”
We started the Purif at Mace-Kingsley!
On May 14, you will be able to purchase ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely’ from Amazon in either electronic or print format, and simultaneously in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.
The Kindle edition is now available for pre-order at Amazon, and will be delivered on May 14. Go order your copy today! (Yes, our publisher changed his mind about that, and you can take advantage of it!)
On May 14, you’ll be able to order either a Kindle version or a physical copy. Pre-orders are being taken only on the Kindle version.
May 16: Santa Barbara Humanist Society (with Paulette Cooper), 3:00 pm
May 17: Center for Inquiry-West, Los Angeles, 4773 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, 11 am (with Paulette Cooper)
May 17: CFI Orange County (Costa Mesa), 4:30 pm (with Paulette Cooper)
May 20, San Diego (with Paulette Cooper)
May 22: San Francisco (with Jamie DeWolf and Paulette Cooper)
June 11: New York City (with Paulette Cooper)
June 22/23: Toronto (with Paulette Cooper)
June 27/28: Florida (with Paulette Cooper)
July 12: Washington DC, Center for Inquiry
Posted by Tony Ortega on May 7, 2015 at 07:00
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Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of LA attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts
PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ
Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield