Rod Keller is back, keeping an eye on Scientology’s social media effort and front groups. This week, he’s got another hot one…
In September, Scientology launched a new website, ScientologyReligion.org, “A Comprehensive Overview of the Background, Theology and Religious Practice of The Scientology Religion.” Its purpose is to “safepoint” Scientology, a policy created by founder L. Ron Hubbard to garner allies that would create a safe space for expansion, to protect the organization against prosecution or government restrictions.
The new website features numerous documents arguing that Scientology is a legitimate religion, and that its “religious freedom” is threatened. The site also has a blog. One of the recent entries celebrates President Obama signing the International Religious Freedom Act into law, as predicted in last Sunday’s article.
One of the videos on the site is an interview with Rabbi Michael Shevack, an author, university professor, interfaith organizer and founder of the Association for Universal Judaism. “This church has spread, in centers and churches, in fifty something years, faster than Christendom,” he says in the video. “It’s an amazing phenomenon that could never have taken place without the technologies that we have. It’s just a phenomenon. I think honestly all good social movements need to learn from the Church of Scientology and how they communicate.”
I spoke with Rabbi Shevack this week to ask him about the video. He first came into contact with Scientology through his interfaith activities in New York. “I really only have experience with the New York church, I don’t know anything about the other locations. I began working with them about 12 years ago because I was working with a Muslim community that is connected with the Focolare movement of the Catholic Church.” Focolare, also known as “Opera di Maria” is a group that promotes universal brotherhood among followers of all religions. “Through them I began working with Rev. Carmichael. He was very involved in inter-religious work, and he was very helpful during the 9/11 crisis and with problems in Haiti. Many religious leaders began looking at them differently at that time, because they were so involved in issues that were important to them.”
John Carmichael was a member of Scientology’s secret police, the Office of Special Affairs, or OSA. In addition to public relations they are responsible for investigating and neutralizing critics of Scientology. He’s also known for reacting to the 2008 Anonymous protests outside the NY org in an unconventional way.
A 2010 article by Gawker described Scientology’s relief efforts in Haiti as inept and irresponsible. The Guardian reported “The group, which critics say is a cult peddling quack treatments, has received a mixed reaction to the light ‘touching,’ through clothing and bandages, of fractures and infection. One US doctor, who declined to be named, said ‘I didn’t know touching could heal gangrene’.”
It was through Carmichael that Rabbi Shevack met Dr. Mary Shuttleworth, the Executive Director of Youth for Human Rights, and has attended the summit held annually at the United Nations building. “She’s lovely. They asked me to speak at the United Nations event. The kids that participate are not all Scientologists, they are marvelous. I wish it were expanded and I think its great. I haven’t dealt with the other churches, but at least the New York church is a bona-fide church. The black Muslim community that I work with is in Harlem, and so they invited me to the opening of the new church there, and that’s where the interview took place. My experience has not been with other churches, just the one in New York.”
He says he’s heard of allegations of human rights abuses by Scientology, but he does not take them seriously. “If it’s true, it disturbs me, but I have no personal experience with that. The church in New York is filled with some extraordinary people. I did see the movie Going Clear. I thought it was very well done. If it’s true, I have room for plenty of concern. If it’s not true, then they minimally have a terrible PR problem. If I were to take the rumors and gossip of all these churches seriously, whether it’s Scientology, Muslim groups, Jewish groups, I would not accomplish my goal. My approach is to deal with the good in all these groups. All of them have difficulties because there is no such thing as a religion that isn’t human. There is good that is done, the human rights work is good, the interreligious work is good.”
The Scientology Religion site has just been been named one of the top 50 religious blogs by Feedspot.com, coming in at #29.
— Rod Keller
Page Six goes long on Tom’s move to Clearwater
We broke the news recently that Tom Cruise is the buyer of a wildly luxurious double-level penthouse being built right smack in the middle of Scientology’s spiritual mecca, the “Flag Land Base” in Clearwater, Florida, by a millionaire Mexican Scientologist developer, Moises Agami, whose family has donated at least $10 million in recent years to the church. We’ve floated the theory that with PAC Base in Los Angeles struggling, as documented by Mike Rinder, Scientology leader David Miscavige seems to be making something of a consolidation in Clearwater, perhaps to reflect that Scientology is nearing its endgame.
Today, Page Six goes big with that notion in a well done and lengthy story by Michael Kaplan. The New York Post piece not only goes over Tom’s plans, but Kaplan gets input from Rinder, Tom DeVocht, and Jenna Miscavige Hill.
We’re really glad to see one of our pieces turn into something larger. Now, if some big media companies would do the same for our Shelly Miscavige sighting!
Go here to start making your plans.
E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.
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