Leah Remini continues to tear it up doing press after the stunning success of her A&E series, Scientology and the Aftermath, with media paying close attention to what she says. Nearly every time she makes an appearance, whether it’s on Conan O’Brien’s late-night show, or on Joe Rogan’s podcast, news organizations find something to jump on and call “shocking” or a “bombshell.”
This week, press outlets went a little nuts with something Leah told Joe Rogan about John Travolta and the ethics policy known as Kha-Khan.
Here’s video of the moment, and a transcript of the key passage…
I think John was given a designation Kha-Khan… there’s a policy that basically says you can kill another human being if you are Kha-Khaned, you’re going to look the other way. And he was given that by L. Ron Hubbard.
As you can imagine, this led to several breathless news stories about how actor John Travolta could, like, shoot a guy on the set of his next movie and he would be given a get-out-of-jail-free card or something.
We completely understand Leah’s point, that celebrities like Tom Cruise and John Travolta are not staying in Scientology because they’re being blackmailed, but because they enjoy such bountiful perks, like having all their needs met by Scientology staffers. We’ve heard the same thing as well, and we also think that the blackmail angle is exaggerated.
However, having said that, we think the press went a little overboard with the Kha-Khan notion this week and we wanted to bring it back down to earth.
In 1965, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, in one of his innumerable policy letters about everything under the sun, put out a letter titled “Ethics Protection.” It contained this paragraph:
In an ancient army a particularly brave deed was recognized by an award of the title of Kha-Khan. It was not a rank. The person remained what he was, BUT he was entitled to be forgiven the death penalty ten times in case in the future he did anything wrong. That was a Kha-Khan. That’s what producing, high-statistic staff members are – Kha-Khans. They can get away with murder without a blink from Ethics… And Ethics must recognize a Kha-Khan when it sees one – and tear up the bad report chits on the person with a yawn.
It’s important to put that passage in some context. Scientology is an organization that has a fetish not so much for spirituality as for administration. If it is a religion, Scientology worships bureaucracy.
Imagine your friend with an obsession with rules and regulations at work, and crank that up about ten times. Scientologists, particularly those in the “Sea Organization,” must live not only by a vast galaxy of rules, but also must focus their entire existence on producing “statistics” that must improve every single week, and by 2 pm on Thursday, when “stats” are reckoned.
What Hubbard was getting at was that any Scientologist who was consistently producing admirable stats should not be messed with. Leave them alone to keep producing, and if they violate some rules and regulations along the way, it’s better to turn a blind eye than to turn them in.
And the reason that point needed to be made was that Scientologists were constantly turning each other in for “ethics” violations. Scientology is a snitching culture, and it’s an interrogation culture. If your stats were down, or if you looked at someone the wrong way, you might find yourself being interrogated, busted down to a lower post, or even given the death penalty — which was a way of saying that you could be subjected to Scientology’s version of a court martial called a “committee of evidence” or “comm ev,” resulting in being tossed out of the Sea Org or even being declared a “suppressive person” and being kicked out of Scientology altogether.
Supposedly, if Hubbard had designated you Kha-Khan, you could shrug off that kind of situation ten times without penalty.
That was the theory, anyway.
In practice, it didn’t seem to work that way.
“None of this shit really mattered,” Tom DeVocht told us when we asked him about how Kha-Khan worked when he was serving in the Sea Org and close to its leader, David Miscavige. He says that Hubbard, who died in 1986, might have meant for the designation to produce some kind of protection for high-producing employees, but under Miscavige, there was no way to be untouchable.
“It’s all about Miscavige. You might be Kha-Khan, but you couldn’t do anything against him, so what’s the point? That kind of thing only actually worked if there was some benefit to Miscavige directly. Other than that, it was just theoretical.”
Former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder tells us that being named Kha-Khan didn’t really mean much if Miscavige could just toss you into prison.
“I think they were getting handed out a lot, but then some people who were Kha-Khan ended up on the RPF, so it kind of went out of fashion,” he says, referring to the Rehabilitation Project Force, the Sea Org’s prison detail that members can spend years on in degrading conditions.
“I don’t think Kha-Khan ever saved anybody, frankly. It was just a theoretical thing,” he adds. “Ray Mithoff, Norman Starkey — it did them no good avoiding The Hole,” he says in reference to the special prison that Miscavige created in 2004 for his top lieutenants. Rinder himself spent much of 2006 and 2007 in The Hole, before he managed to leave Scientology entirely.
We asked him about Travolta being named Kha-Khan, and he said he wasn’t even aware of it. “It could have been from Hubbard for Travolta speaking at the Portland crusade or in LA in the mid-1980s. John was the only real celebrity then who stood up and said I’m here to support Scientology.” (In 1985, Scientology was facing two lawsuits, in Portland and Los Angeles, that each resulted in huge judgments against the church. Scientology held major demonstrations outside the courthouses of them both.)
“But Travolta was never the same after Battlefield Earth,” Rinder says. The 2000 movie based on L. Ron Hubbard’s 1982 science fiction novel was highly anticipated by Miscavige, who believed it could turn into a major recruitment tool for the church. But when it turned into one of the worst flops in cinema history, Miscavige blamed Travolta.
“Kha-Khan never held any water with Miscavige,” Rinder says, and tells us that Travolta really doesn’t have any special dispensation to commit murder or any other crime.
“Miscavige probably thinks Travolta is a useful idiot. He doesn’t have any great respect for him.”
UPDATE: Seeing some comments, we wanted to append a coda to the story to make something more clear. While we think Kha-Khan in particular is something of an outdated concept in Scientology and probably never delivered the immunity it seemed to promise, that isn’t to say that Scientology doesn’t offer enormous benefits to its celebrities, including protecting them after they commit misdeeds. Travolta may be only a useful idiot to Miscavige, but we heartily believe that Miscavige would use the full force of his Office of Special Affairs and other resources to protect any Scientology celebrity from investigation or prosecution by law enforcement whenever it might be possible.
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Scientology disconnection, a reminder
Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,659 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,256 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,296 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy in 1,008 days.
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Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,593 days
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Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,083 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,058 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 414 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin in 4,716 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 823 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis for 1,225 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,098 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 679 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike in 1,184 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,428 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,537 days.
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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.
The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)
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