Today’s story is about a court document. It’s the latest filing from the Church of Scientology which is attempting to keep a stay on the federal fraud lawsuit filed four years ago by a California couple, Luis and Rocio Garcia. We’ve kept you up on all the twists and turns in that case, but that’s not why we thought it was worth showing you what’s in the document.
What the church submitted seemed particularly interesting to us for what it says about how obsessive Scientology is about who is and who isn’t in “good standing” with the church.
You see, Scientology pretends that it’s a giant organization consisting of millions of members in tens of thousands of “groups” and churches around the world. Instead, it’s a tiny movement that, despite its shrinking numbers, is quick to kick people out for the slightest provocation, as you’ll see.
First, let’s quickly review where we are in the Garcia lawsuit. On December 30, we told you that the Garcias had made another attempt to convince Tampa Federal Judge James Whittemore that Scientology is making it impossible for them to resolve their claims under Scientology’s internal arbitration. Whittemore had granted a Scientology motion putting a stay on the lawsuit and forcing the Garcias to submit to Scientology’s brand of arbitration, which included each side choosing an arbitrator, who must be Scientologists in good standing.
The Garcias complained that each time they reached out to a Scientologist trying to recruit them as an arbitrator, Scientology’s “International Justice Chief,” a man named Mike Ellis, would inform them that the person they’d selected was actually not in good standing and couldn’t serve as an arbitrator. Ellis wanted the Garcias to select from a list of Scientologists he had turned over to them. But the Garcias refused, saying they didn’t want someone who was hand-picked by the church and therefore incapable of ruling freely on the matter.
This time, the Garcias said it was getting so bizarre, some of the Scientologists they’d reached out to didn’t even know they weren’t in good standing.
Scientology’s response to that allegation is the document we have for you today. We think it’s pretty educational.
To put it in some context, we wanted to remind you how much disagreement there is between the church and its former executives about just how big the Scientology movement is.
Scientology itself has long claimed to have many millions of members. We found a 1969 New York Times article where the church claimed 15 million worldwide membership. In the 1990s, we remember that church spokespeople routinely cited numbers like 6 or 8 million. But in a late 1990s deposition, church president Heber Jentzsch admitted under oath that such estimates counted every person who had ever bought a book or enrolled in a class since publication of the book Dianetics in 1950 (and even that was an exaggeration, we were assured by former church executives).
We noticed that several years ago Karin Pouw and other church mouthpieces got a lot less specific about the size of Scientology and usually today refer simply to “millions.” However, in 2012, Scientology did make one rather remarkable hard claim about how much Scientology was growing. In an ad that was airing early in 2012, Scientology claimed that it was attracting 4.4 million new people per year…
At that rate of growth, just since 2012 there should be 22 million new members of Scientology. (For comparison, there are about 6.3 million Mormons in the U.S.)
Of course, those numbers are ludicrous.
Our most recent estimate of Scientology’s actual size comes from Paul Burkhart, the last high-level executive to defect from his job, in August 2013. Before he left, Burkhart worked at the Hollywood Guaranty Building (HGB), a nerve center for Scientology’s international management. Burkhart had daily access to enrollment documents coming in from “orgs” around the world. We asked him to estimate, based on those documents, how many active Scientologists are left in the world. He told us that his best estimate was between 10 and 20 thousand. (Other former executives told us that Scientology’s greatest size was about 100,000 active members around the year 1990. Scientology has never had millions of active members.)
And yet, even as Scientology shrinks, church leader David Miscavige isn’t shy about kicking out what remaining members he has for any number of perceived infractions. You’ve seen many examples of this in stories here or recited on Leah Remini’s A&E series or Alex Gibney’s documentary Going Clear. If you aren’t paying large sums of money for courses and for donations, if you aren’t applying the crucial policy “Keeping Scientology Working” to keep the “tech” pure, Scientology is quick to consider you a problem.
And that brings us to today’s document. The Garcias had attempted to reach out to several Scientologists, asking them to consider serving as an arbitrator. But in each case Scientology’s IJC, Mike Ellis, told them the person was not in good standing with the church — sometimes, the Garcias claimed, to the surprise of the person themselves!
So here’s how the church responded to that allegation. We’re less interested in the specific ways this addresses the Garcia lawsuit than the insight it gives us for how Scientology obsesses over each and every one of its few remaining members and whether they’re still doing what they should.
We’re posting the document itself, below, where these Scientologists are named publicly by the church. But we’ll hold back their names in our plain text passages from the document as a courtesy. (You can obviously look up those names on the document.)
Here’s what Scientology says about the first person the Garcias had reached out to, who turned out to be a classic malcontent!
He has not participated in the Scientology religion since 2001. In 2013, he wrote to a Church staff member: “I have absolutely no interest in pursuing future courses or auditing. Please cease all efforts, by you or anyone else, to contact me, as I will not communicate back after this e-mail. I do not want to receive e-mails, letters, phone calls, personal visits…” He further stated, “I will not be continuing with courses or auditing.” This amounts to public disavowal of Scientology. He was dead filed in April, 2015.
Ah yes. The former Scientologist who, 12 years after ending his participation, still cannot get the church to stop sending endless mailings and fliers and letters. You’ve all been there.
The second person had also made their feelings of disaffection known to the church…
[He] last participated in auditing no later than 2007, and has not participated in other Scientology services since 2009. He was dead filed in 2014. In June 2016, he told a Church staff member that he has no interest in attending Church services or advancing his studies of Scientology, thus disavowing the religion. Based on these facts, in August, 2016, the IJC informed plaintiffs that [he] was not in good standing.
In the case of the third person, Scientology actively sought out some answers about why they weren’t coming around. That’s not creepy or anything…
[He] has not participated in the Scientology religion since 2012. In December, 2015, he was interviewed by a Church official to determine why. [He] informed the official that he does not have any hope for spiritual gains within Scientology, and has disagreements with certain Church practices. According to written Scientology policy discussed above (Organization Suppressive Acts), he thus was not in good standing. The IJC therefore properly determined that he is not in good standing, pursuant to Scientology doctrine.
The next one is the best yet. This fellow got a warning that he was on thin ice for expressing dissatisfaction. And then, there’s a nice surprise…
In April 2015, the Ethics Officer at the Church of Scientology of Santa Barbara, where [he] undertook Scientology services, determined that [he] was ineligible to participate in religious services. [He] continued to express dissatisfaction and criticism with Scientology religious services to other parishioners. As a result, in early 2016, a Committee of Evidence determined that [his] activities were interfering with the religious services and spiritual progress of other parishioners, and issued an ethics order cautioning him against further such disruptive activity under penalty of being declared a Suppressive Person. As a result, he was not in good standing. To make matters worse, in May, 2016, [he] began posting, under a transparent pseudonym, a series of highly critical articles about the Scientology religion and ecclesiastical management on the blog of Mike Rinder, who is Garcia’s “legal consultant.”
Did you catch what happened there? Yes, the church, in this court document, just outed “Terra Cognita,” the author of numerous really insightful essays at Mike Rinder’s blog which did, indeed, begin showing up last May.
We reached out to this person and asked him how he felt about being unmasked in a court document.
“I’ve never seen anything in writing from the church, so I’m not sure what they’re suggesting. I would be happy to look at and comment on any evidence they sent to me,” he told us.
And finally, the last person the document describes is in an interesting situation. He works for a Scientologist-owned business, but that’s apparently OK, even though he’s not in good standing.
[He] has not actively participated in the Scientology religion since 2003. In March 2015, [he] was found to be ineligible for services based upon connections with individuals hostile to Scientology and for other reasons, which we must withhold for privacy reasons. He is not in good standing, as the IJC notified plaintiffs…That [he] works at a private company owned by a Scientologist is irrelevant. Church policy does not categorically prohibit private Scientologist businessmen from employing Scientologists not in good standing…
Looking at these descriptions, we can’t help getting the feeling that it really takes a lot of work to remain a Scientologist in good standing. It’s not enough to profess a general affinity for L. Ron Hubbard and his works. You need to be actively involved in getting services (and raise the money to pay for them).
But how can David Miscavige afford to “dead file” people in what seems like such a cavalier way, when Scientology’s size is dwindling?
Something’s gotta give, right?
Here’s the court filing itself…
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Scientology disconnection, a reminder
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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