After the week we’ve had — with the heart-wrenching scenes with Bonny Elliott and Amy Scobee in Leah Remini’s A&E series, for example — we thought it would be good to start things off today with a little levity.
It’s been a while since we got a look at Scientology’s fundraising foibles, which used to be more of a staple around here. But even though it’s been some time, we think you’ll see that things haven’t changed a bit.
Local Scientologists are still under enormous pressure from the international landlord office to raise huge sums of money for “Ideal Orgs,” expensive new facilities that replace older churches around the world. Scientology leader David Miscavige calls this “expansion,” but these new orgs aren’t appearing in previously unplowed territory. They merely replace existing orgs, and there’s no evidence that they boost local membership. To the contrary, plenty of evidence suggests that they tend to be lifeless, empty places after the crowds of a grand opening slip away.
So how do you get Scientologists, who are already hounded regularly for huge payments for expensive courses and other frequent donations, motivated to spend even more money on buildings that they don’t need? Scientology’s solution is to try and make the monthly fleecings seem fun by turning them into costume parties, with plenty of fake enthusiasm. How many times have we seen Scientologists dressing up as Star Wars characters or pirates or 30s gangsters so they can pretend they’re having fun being pressured to write large checks?
One place where this is going on is New Zealand, where fundraising for an Ideal Org has been going on for a couple of years. There are only a tiny number of Scientologists in New Zealand — even the church’s international office had to admit that the locals couldn’t raise enough money to cover the millions of dollars an Ideal Org typically costs, and announced that a “grant” from the International Association of Scientologists would bear much of the cost. But the locals are being pushed to donate, and one of our tipsters found some precious videos the Kiwi Scientologists have put together for recent fundraising events.
We hope you enjoy these as much as we did.
Tampa attorney Ken Dandar has been through one of the most complex and crazy legal fights in Scientology litigation history, and we don’t want to attempt to summarize it for this update. (Here’s a recent explainer if you want more background.) The upshot is that at one point, Dandar had been saddled by a Florida state court with a ruinous $1 million judgment payable to the Church of Scientology, and the church was starting to take actions to collect that money as harshly as possible.
But then an appellate decision overturned the judgment, and Dandar could breathe a sigh of relief. But even then, we said that things were still a bit up in the air. Dandar had filed a federal lawsuit to try and quash what the state court was doing to him. And although Scientology’s judgment over Dandar had been reversed, it was really only on a technicality, and the appeals court told Scientology that if it wanted to pursue the matter, it could file a new lawsuit against Dandar in state court.
So we waited to see what would happen, and now it turns out that all of the litigation between Dandar and the church has been ended. Scientology did file a new state action, but it has now been dismissed — as well as Dandar’s federal lawsuit — as the two sides have dropped the litigation and agreed to pay their own costs.
Dandar is no longer suing or being sued by the Church of Scientology, which comes to some relief to him, he told us this week.
Here comes the registrar!
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We thought it would be a good time to remind readers about our policy on donations and our editorial independence, which we announced in 2013. Here’s the relevant part, from our attorney, Scott Pilutik:
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Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.
Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. 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
Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | 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 | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | 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