Watching the second episode of A&E’s Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, we were suddenly struck by the advantage of this show having the luxury to explain Scientology concepts over eight episodes.
Truth be told, last week’s great initial episode only bothered us in one respect. Leah does an amazing job explaining the allure of Scientology and why she and so many others felt that they had joined something for all the right reasons, and because they wanted to make the world a better place. She also provides a stirring call to action for her show — that she is on a mission to help the victims of Scientology and bring their problems to light.
But do you see the missing step there? If good people joined Scientology to do good things, why are there “victims” of it at all? In the first episode, there didn’t seem to be much explanation for what it was about Scientology that produced victims. What was it about Scientology that was so bad that it led to people like Amy Scobee and Mat Pesch being held as prisoners?
So when we were watching the second episode, which is largely about former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder and his wife, Christie Collbran, we found ourselves sitting up and taking notice when Leah Remini actually used the words “past lives,” and a fellow named “David Miscavige” was mentioned.
In this episode we start to see that this Scientology thing is a truly demented mindfuck that can’t help but produce demoralized and victimized former members.
And that’s when it dawned on us how great the format of a weekly series really is. Leah Remini is doing a brilliant job not just tapping into the public’s endless fascination for this subject, but she’s putting together a show that, if people stick with it, will truly educate them about Scientology and its controversies.
Mike and Christie are well known to the longtime readers of this website. But for those catching up, we thought we’d put together a collection of resources to help supplement tonight’s episode.
— Christie Collbran was featured in an excellent and lengthy 2010 piece by New York Times religion columnist Laurie Goodstein which described Christie’s ordeal trying to get out of the Sea Org. Goodstein’s piece is also a great snapshot of the state of Scientology in 2010, after the epic Tampa Bay Times series “The Truth Rundown” had come out, and Rinder and Marty Rathbun were leading an independent movement as Scientology was splitting apart. A lot has changed since then; we hope the New York Times gets around to generating some interest in this subject again at some point.
— Mike Rinder’s experiences with Fair Game are myriad. Perhaps no one has been surveilled and harassed by Scientology more consistently over the last eight years than the former international spokesman. The episode tonight goes over some of the things he’s experienced, but the show simply couldn’t begin to describe all of the dirty tricks the church has thrown at him. One of our favorite examples, and one we don’t want to be forgotten, was the major operation Scientology threw at a man named Robert Almblad simply because he committed the crime of giving Mike Rinder a job. Almblad is an inventor who was trying to sell hospitals on his contraption that produced sterile ice chips, something that would reduce infections and potentially save lives. He’d hired Mike, with his public relations experience, to help him market the idea. And so Scientology set out to sabotage Almblad’s business simply because he was providing Rinder a paycheck. At one point, for example, a goon squad that included Freedom magazine reporter Jim Lynch broke into a private meeting between Almblad and Rinder and a potential customer, pretending to be investigative reporters busting up an illicit gathering. There are other extreme examples in our two part series from the Village Voice. [Part one, part two.]
— Mike also didn’t mention that a private investigator recently went to prison after trying to hack him (and your proprietor) on behalf of the Church of Scientology. It was a recent example that proves Scientology is still willing to use illegal means to attack the people it considers enemies. We wrote several pieces about this, and here are the two most important. [Part one, part two.]
— Scientology has targeted one Florida woman for an elaborate harassment campaign simply because she gave Mike and Christie the use of a house for their 2013 wedding. (We know, it’s incredible.)
— The episode spends a little time giving background on Rinder, who grew up in Adelaide. Here’s a bit more, from a profile we did of him back in 2012:
Rinder was born in 1955 to Ian and Barbara Rinder in Adelaide. (He has two younger siblings, Andrew and Judy.) Ian was an entrepreneur and owned a series of businesses, including a wholesale grocery distributor, an aerosol canning company, a travel agency, a restaurant — he even raised goats at one time. Barbara kept the books.
Mike went to private schools growing up. “They were Christian but non-denominational. There were a lot of private schools in Adelaide,” he says, calling it Australia’s version of Omaha or Des Moines.
In 1959 or 1960, Rinder’s parents became interested in Scientology — L. Ron Hubbard had given lectures in Melbourne around that time, and left behind some active groups there and in Adelaide. After moving to Sydney for about a year, the Rinders then made a pilgrimage to Saint Hill Manor in England in 1966 or 1967 that lasted nine months. (Hubbard had just left the manor, which remains to this day Scientology’s UK headquarters.) After a second trip to Saint Hill a few years later, Rinder had twice been around the world by ship by the time he was 15 years old.
It was about then that Rinder remembers being audited for the first time. It wasn’t something the family was public about, that they were Scientologists. The Hubbard books were hidden at home, and his parents weren’t pushy about his involvement.
After finishing high school, Rinder joined the Sea Org at 18, turning down a full scholarship to the University of Adelaide. His first assignment: the “Tours Org,” which traveled the continent, arriving at individual churches to convince parishioners to sign up for more services — called “regging.” After crisscrossing Australia for several months in the Tours Org, Rinder was then sent for executive training at the center of Scientology’s universe — the yacht Apollo, with Hubbard himself.
— Rinder eventually became a top executive in the church, working as its international spokesman until he was put in “The Hole” a couple of different times between 2004 and 2006. He was let out of it to handle the BBC’s John Sweeney as he was working on his 2007 film, “Scientology and Me.” Mike describes in tonight’s episode how he decided to escape then, on March 31, 2007, and in so doing, he was separated from his wife Kathy and their two children, daughter Taryn and son Benjamin. All of them disconnected from him after he left, leading to a bizarre confrontation a few years later when Mike was waiting for Christie while she was at a doctor’s appointment. Mike has written at length about the confrontation, which is a staple of Scientology’s online harassment of him. The church claims that Mike was the aggressor, attacking his former wife and severely injuring her. But as Mike points out, that’s not supported by a police report of the incident, and you can listen yourself to the full recording of the encounter — Rinder happened to be on the phone with Sweeney as the confrontation happened, and Sweeney recorded the phone call. Leah’s show uses some excerpts from the phone call to great effect in tonight’s episode. But if you want to hear the entire thing, we uploaded it a few years ago to YouTube. You can find a transcript of the call at Rinder’s website.
Also at our YouTube channel are eight video segments we put together when we visited Rinder at his house in 2012. They still hold up pretty well, although we do apologize for taking notes on our laptop so close to the camera. We know the sound of us pounding on the keys is kind of annoying.
Leah’s episode airs at 10 pm Eastern, and we’ll be looking forward to your live impressions as it airs!
Bonus items from our tipsters
Erika Christensen relaxes backstage at the Winter Wonderland stage show in Hollywood, preparing to worship rabbits.
Scientology whale Jim Mathers is surrounded by admirers on the Freewinds.
Dive right in, Turkish addicts…
Go here to start making your plans.
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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