Last week, we caused a bit of an uproar in the Scientology Watching community when we reported evidence that Mark “Marty” Rathbun gave a Church of Scientology attorney in Israel a copy of an email that independent Scientologist Dani Lemberger sent to Rathbun in 2013, and which contained private information about Lemberger’s Scientology auditing.
The church used the contents of that email during a cross-examination of Lemberger in a court hearing last month, including the detail that Lemberger had said during auditing he thought about putting a bullet in the head of Scientology leader David Miscavige. Lemberger tells us the email’s use had little effect on the trial, which ended with a settlement last week. But he wrote to Rathbun that it was upsetting to him that Rathbun would turn over an email to the church, and he received no reply. When we asked Rathbun about it, he denigrated us without answering our question or denying that he, in fact, gave Lemberger’s private email to the church for its use in court. While some readers are still arguing whether the email proves that Rathbun is actually cooperating with Scientology under some kind of agreement with church leader David Miscavige, and whether or not that agreement involves some kind of secret financial settlement, there’s one thing that seems pretty certain: Marty Rathbun’s career as one of Miscavige’s most effective critics is over.
At one time, “Moving On Up a Little Higher,” the blog that Rathbun started in 2009 to criticize his former boss, was, with no exaggeration, a serious threat to Miscavige’s very control of the church itself.
So we thought, given how much Rathbun’s work has been a part of our reporting the last several years, we should take a long look at his contributions, regardless of where he ended up. And also to understand what we can about his personal rise and fall — were there clues early on that Rathbun was on a crash course? Take a look at our summary, and let us know.
July-August 2009: A Texas truth rundown begins
Marty Rathbun was a member of the Church of Scientology for some 27 years, and left in 2004. He then vanished so completely, there were rumors online that he was dead. But in 2008, some of his old friends in Scientology figured out that he was living in south Texas.
Former Sea Org veterans Mat Pesch and Amy Scobee were the first to visit Rathbun that year, followed by the actor Jason Beghe, who had just left Scientology himself. Rathbun has said it was a conversation he had with Scobee about the church trying to separate her from her mother Bonny Elliott that made him realize that he had to try and do something about the abuses going on in Scientology.
He put up a static website, but then, with the secret help of activist Mark Bunker, he started his blog after the 2009 St. Petersburg Times series “The Truth Rundown” had come out and interest in him was high (the first installment of the series by Tom Tobin and Joe Childs had appeared June 21). The first entry of Rathbun’s blog was dated July 1 and its first comment was left by Beghe.
In the first two months of the blog’s existence, Rathbun revealed that Tom Cruise had actually been away from Scientology for about a decade, from 1992 to 2001. Pesch and Scobee were being stalked by private investigators in the Pacific Northwest. Back in Texas, Rathbun was dealing with letters from attorneys — Scientology lawyer Wally Pope told him not to talk publicly about the Lisa McPherson lawsuit that was settled in 2004, and Tom Cruise attorney Bert Fields told him not to talk about being Cruise’s auditor. Rathbun defied both. And Rathbun made it known that he was auditing visitors to his home in Ingleside by the Bay near Corpus Christi, and that although he was practicing Scientology, he was not plotting to return to or take over the church itself: “I have no intention of ever going back to the Church of Scientology — in any capacity whatsoever. I believe it has been so thoroughly rotted to the core that it is a lost cause.”
September-December 2009: We are independents
By now the early pattern is well set. Rathbun is delivering independent Scientology and discussing ways to rescue L. Ron Hubbard’s “tech” from the corruption of David Miscavige. Other posts reveal ways that Miscavige and the church are retaliating against Rathbun and the other defectors. And longtime church members are beginning to use the blog to announce their status as outcasts.
Rathbun reveals that he is working on an alternative “ethics paradigm” for people doing Scientology outside the church (Sep 10). And already by Sep 15, there have been four waves of private investigator activity trying to disrupt the lives of the Rathbuns. Marty makes it clear that he considers Mike Rinder “a very close friend” (Sep 18). On Sep 26, Rathbun again feels compelled to explain that he has no plans to create a rival Church of Scientology or to try to usurp David Miscavige’s position. On Sep 30, Rathbun announces that the new community will refer to itself as “independents,” and beginning on Oct 2, a parade of former church members begins to announce their defections from the church, including Christie Collbran, Dan Koon and Mariette Lindstein, Steve Hall, Jim Logan, Martin Padfield, Ken Urquhart, and Haydn James.
Beginning on Oct 14, Rathbun begins to print in installments a lengthy defection letter by an unnamed writer. After the fourth portion, on Oct 24, Rathbun reveals that the letter writer is actually director Paul Haggis. Traffic to the blog explodes.
On Nov 7, Marc Headley’s book Blown for Good is published, and Rathbun pens a foreword for it, even though “Marc Headley and I don’t see eye to eye much on LRH and Scientology.”
Early in December, Rathbun and Rinder make a trip to London to be filmed for a John Sweeney documentary.
January-September 2010: Strength in unity
More longtime Scientologists come out as independents, including Silvia Kusada, Sam Domingo, Shane Weightman and Chrissie Pearlman, Tiziano Lugli, and Steve Pfauth, who was with Hubbard during his last years.
These are not just people who are leaving the church because of their dissatisfaction with David Miscavige, but also because they generally want to get back to a purer form of Scientology, with a focus on auditing and not on the snitching and interrogation culture in the church, with its “security checks” and extortion methods. In his home in Ingleside on the Bay, Rathbun is trying to create an environment where ex-church members can get back to the things that brought them into Scientology in the first place. “I make it no secret that I audit, or help through other means, anybody who reaches. Anyone. I don’t sec check them to find out whether they are worthy of help, or may one day become a liability to me. I’ve audited at least four extensive previous psycho-therapy/psychologist cases, at least one suicidal individual, and even some walking in with fears in their minds whether it was safe to pick up the cans in any circumstances so deep was their anguish about their previous extensive intensives with the C of M. I never had anyone sign a waiver, disclaimer, nor pay a single red cent for the privilege of going in session,” Rathbun explains on January 25.
Mike Rinder and Haydn James contribute pieces about the corruption in David Miscavige’s church.
On Feb 17, Rathbun mentions that he’s reading Will Durant, the historian who Hubbard dedicated Dianetics to. Other posts include lengthy passages from Hubbard’s own work, but as we’ll see, Rathbun is beginning to read more widely, and will begin recommending other authors on a regular basis.
Milestones: Shane Weightman and Chrissie Pearlman marry in February. Christie Collbran is profiled by the New York Times (Mar 6). Amy Scobee’s book Abuse at the Top comes out (Mar 10). Anderson Cooper turns the St. Petersburg Times “Truth Rundown” series into his own four-part series about Scientology in March.
Rathbun visits Arizona in April, and then he and Rinder go to the Flag Land Base in Clearwater to attempt to see Rinder’s son, Benjamin, who Rinder has learned is dealing with a cancer diagnosis. Rinder also reveals that while he had taken Collbran to a doctor appointment, he was ambushed by his ex-wife and by church official Jenny Linson and others in a crazy encounter.
On April 29, Rathbun reveals that John Brousseau had escaped from Int Base and then had made his way to Rathbun’s house in Texas, where they were swarmed by church operatives. Rathbun, meanwhile, talks about auditing people on the “OT levels” at his home (May 5).
More independents come out on the blog, including hardcore Hubbardite Tom Martiniano (May 10).
For the first time, we learn from Rathbun on June 8 that David Miscavige has ordered church members, even high-level OTs, to focus on lower level steps on the “Bridge,” including Objectives, the Purif, the Cause Resurgence Rundown (running around a pole), and the Grades.
More milestones: The St. Petersburg Times reveals that women in the Sea Org are forced to have abortions as a matter of policy (Jun 13). John Brousseau tells his story of escape from Int Base (Jun 18). Valeska Paris tells of being a prisoner on the Freewinds cruise ship (June 20). Karen de la Carriere reveals that she’s left the church (Jun 30).
On July 5, Rathbun writes about the “first Independent Scientologist wedding,” as he marries Monique Carle, and about 65 independent Scientologists show up for a weekend gathering. Then, in New Orleans for their honeymoon, Rathbun is arrested for being drunk and disorderly. Knowing that Scientology will use this to smear him, Rathbun writes about it on the blog on July 16.
Rathbun visits with Steve Pfauth and Jesse Prince on a trip to Michigan in July. In August, the lawsuits filed against the church by the Headleys are dismissed. Jefferson Hawkins publishes his book Counterfeit Dreams on Sep 5. Photos taken by John Brousseau show the lavish work done by Sea Org workers on Tom Cruise’s Burbank hangar (Sep 14). The BBC airs John Sweeney’s follow-up documentary, “Secrets of Scientology,” which features Rathbun and Rinder (Sep 15). Says Rathbun about the show: “L. Ron Hubbard was truly ahead of his time in many respects. Unfortunately, for whatever reasons that could be debated for many lifetimes, his ideas were monopolized in a zealotous religious context that has resulted in Scientology being left in the dust by great minds.” (In other words, while the independents rebelling against the church tend to be treated sympathetically by the press, the indies are generally disappointed that reporters insist on referring to L. Ron Hubbard and his ideas as a complete joke.)
Rathbun says there are “dozens, if not hundreds” of independent Scientologists who understand where he’s coming from.
Also in 2010: Monique Rathbun goes Clear under her husband’s guidance.
October 2010-April 17, 2011: A first hint of division
On Oct 4, Rathbun for the first time reveals that he’s getting pushback from some “independents” about the direction of the blog: “These come from people that seem offended by my allowance of comments that question aspects of Scientology and my posts suggesting reading outside of Scientology.”
More milestones: Daniel Montalvo makes his escape from Scientology, taking with him hard drives with terabytes of insider information about the church (Oct 8). Mike Rinder is under heavy harassment from church dirty tricks private investigator Dave Lubow, as videos reveal (Oct 10). On Nov 18, Rathbun suggests that Miscavige could go the way of Jim Jones at some point.
Beginning in October, Rathbun begins to use the blog as a way to make public formerly secret internal documents about operations run by Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs and other Sea Org departments. On Oct 19, he publishes a document showing the extremes that the Sea Org went to in order to cater to Tom Cruise. On Nov 29, he reveals the OSA harassment program designed for former church member Tory Christman. On Jan 6, Chuck Beatty’s OSA program is published. On Feb 15, Rathbun reveals that Vanity Fair reporter John Connolly has been working as a paid Scientology spy for years.
In November, Rathbun begins posting a series of videos made of him fishing with Mike Rinder and discussing things like David Miscavige’s involvement in John Travolta’s movie Battlefield Earth, and Miscavige’s abusive relationship with the media.
More independents tell their stories: Luis Garcia, Claudio and Renata Lugli, Lori Hodgson, Hy Levy, Michael Fairman, Lynne Hoverson and Bert Schippers, and Rachel Denk.
Lawrence Wright’s New Yorker article about Paul Haggis, “The Apostate,” hits on Feb 7, 2011.
Rathbun continues to talk about defending Hubbard’s “tech” from Miscavige, saying that he finds the “ser facs” processes by Hubbard particularly powerful and that Miscavige has mistakenly reduced their use. He also “deconstructs” the “Mayo myth” that it was David Mayo, not L. Ron Hubbard, who was responsible for much of the upper-level technology in Scientology. Rathbun then admits that he’s surprised how much heat he gets from commenters: “I didn’t anticipate as much worship for David Mayo.”
On April 16, he mentions that he has a visitor arriving for auditing, and he needs to prepare for it. He doesn’t say that it is Lori Hodgson, whose visit will change everything.
April 18-December 2011: The Squirrel Busters
“Miscavige Shock Squad Hits Casablanca,” Rathbun announces on April 18. In an encounter that will soon become famous, a delegation of Scientologists with GoPro cameras strapped to their heads shows up on the Rathbun front porch demanding to talk to Marty. “This morning I had just completed Lori Hodgson’s first two STANDARD sessions, which incidentally included cleaning up the trauma of having been stalked, assaulted and threatened by ‘OT VIII’, ‘OT Ambassador’ John Allender. That assault occurred the day after she returned from her first trip to Casablanca in December…While on a lunch break, our quiet theta environment was interrupted by loud pounding at my front door.”
The Village Voice begins daily coverage of the visits by the intimidation squad, soon to be joined by other local and national media.
As the Squirrel Busters are continuing their demonstrations outside the Rathbun house for the next 199 days, we read about other milestones: Actor Michael Fairman posts his declare order (Apr 23). Anon Sparrow, Brian Mandigo, is acquitted on criminal charges for his demonstrations outside the Washington DC org (May 5). Tiziano Lugli posts video of intense private investigator activity outside his Hollywood Hills home (June 5).
When Rathbun goes to Los Angeles in June, the Squirrel Busters go too, and they recruit OT 8 Scientologist and art dealer Izzy Chait to confront him at the LA airport.
On June 26, after putting up with the Squirrel Busters for more than two months, Rathbun pens a long open letter to the residents of his town, to make them aware of the siege he’s experiencing. Rathbun is defiant, and says he will never back down to Miscavige, nor can he ever be bought off…
The cult has two weapons and two weapons only: a) harassment to a degree unprecedented in a civilized society, and b) money to buy the victim of “a” when he is put into an amenable frame of mind. Just so everybody knows, as Miscavige just won’t seem to get it through his head, I will never fold to any pressure no matter how intense, and I am not for sale – at any price.
Rathbun continues to use his blog to expose Scientology black-bag operations: The OSA scheme against Washington Post reporter Richard Leiby (May 11), Freedom magazine “reporter” Jim Lynch’s harassment of Mike Rinder (Jun 9), a list of OSA volunteers in the Western US (Jun 14), Grant Cardone’s operation to smear and destroy legendary acting coach Milton Katselas (Jun 20), and the program to investigate South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone (Oct 23).
On July 27, Mark Bunker reveals that he had secretly helped Rathbun to help him get his blog going, and announces that he supports what Rathbun is doing, despite complaints from some critics about Rathbun promoting “independent Scientology.”
Squirrel Buster activity continues into the summer, but on August 7, Rathbun reveals that a videographer briefly hired by the operation named Bert Leahy has reached out to him. The Squirrel Busters are actually being run by Scientology private investigator Dave Lubow, Leahy reveals, who told them the real goal of the group is to “make Marty’s life a living hell.”
In September, Scientology finally gets around to attacking the New Yorker for its February Lawrence Wright story, to great unintended hilarity. Meanwhile, Rathbun makes a trip to Germany to meet with Ursula Caberta.
Janet Reitman’s book Inside Scientology comes out in June, and in September, Ohio State University professor Hugh Urban releases an academic study of Scientology’s history.
On Sep 17, the Squirrel Busters manage to get Marty Rathbun arrested, but a local prosecutor refuses to charge Rathbun, who had scraped one of the protestors while removing his sunglasses.
Rathbun announces his interest in Martha Stout’s book The Sociopath Next Door, which he will continue to cite repeatedly.
In November, the St. Petersburg Times, under its new name, the Tampa Bay Times, publishes another blockbuster series, “The Money Machine.”
And the indies are still making waves: Rinder visits Ireland in October, Lana Mitchell reveals secrets about Tom Cruise for Australian television in November, Luis Garcia writes a devastating takedown of the “Ideal Org” scam as it unfolded in Orange County (Nov 22), Michael Fairman files suit against a Scientologist chiropractor who had dumped his wife as a client because of her independent status, and Rathbun is still savaging David Miscavige over his fundraising activities while quoting L. Ron Hubbard to counter his critics as the year closes out.
January-June 2012: The Debbie Cook earthquake
As 2012 begins, a message written by former Sea Org official Debbie Cook strikes like a nuclear bomb, and is quickly disseminated to thousands of current and former Scientologists. In the message, she methodically catalogs David Miscavige’s corruption with the use of L. Ron Hubbard’s own quotes. It’s a devastating takedown that will motivate hundreds, if not thousands of Scientologists to leave the church in the coming years.
It becomes pretty clear that Rathbun and Rinder at least had knowledge of Cook’s plan, if not involvement in it directly. On Jan 23, Rathbun announces that he’s started a defense fund to support Cook more than a week before the church actually files a lawsuit against her. (He also, on Jan 19, criticizes her for how poorly she was handling things, saying she was still too trusting of people who had connections to Miscavige.)
On Feb 1, we’re in San Antonio and for the first time meet Rathbun and Rinder at what becomes an epic courtroom showdown between Cook’s attorney, Ray Jeffrey, and George Spencer, the local attorney hired by Scientology.
On Feb 12, Rathbun reviews the events of the “Battle of San Antonio,” saying that it was the Independent Scientology community that had really saved the day, as well as an assist from the attorney Cook had hired. “Probably the most crucial clutch play of the game also came from a Texas Independent. His many years of ethical business practice and consequent connections lead us to the biggest star of the entire battle, Sugar Ray Jeffrey. Mike and I have worked with some of the most expensive and accomplished lawyers in countries across the world for several decades; and both of us recognized the day we met him that Ray was the only horse that could run the course before us in the time allotted to prepare.”
Beginning in March, inspired by Cook’s example, we get a parade of independents who ask Rathbun to post their own “Debbie Cook letters” denouncing Miscavige. (Most of them are interminably long and nearly impossible to get through, to be honest.)
On May 17, Rathbun reveals that he had turned down an offer of $20,000 from the National Enquirer to reveal what Tom Cruise had told him in auditing sessions.
On April 24, Scientology pays Debbie Cook to settle the lawsuit that it had filed against her, a stunning turnaround that shows how effective her day of testimony had been. (Critics to this day suggest that Cook should have “kept going” and refused the settlement, and they seem to forget that she was the defendant in a lawsuit that potentially carried millions in liability for her, and it was being heard before a judge who might have found against her claim of signing agreements with the church under duress. As Mike Rinder has pointed out, she had no real choice but to accept the deal, which carried with it a confidentiality agreement that prevents her from speaking publicly about Scientology today.)
Another wave of independents announce their status on the blog: Andy Porter, Marilyn Brewer, Brad Halsey, and Dave Fagen.
On June 23, Rathbun publishes his first book, What is Wrong With Scientology?, a dense read that is intended for his independent Scientology followers, not the general public. Five days later, he mentions that he’s helped two people finish OT 7, and he’s case supervised three others to finish OT 5.
Then, all hell breaks loose.
July-December 2012: The TomKat split, and the last days of unity
In only a single week at the end of June and early July 2012, Scientology is rocked by several revelations: Katie Holmes ditches Tom Cruise in a surgical operation that she must have been planning secretly for months. News emerges that David Miscavige’s own father, Ron Miscavige Sr., had escaped some months earlier from the Int Base, and so had L. Ron Hubbard’s granddaughter, Roanne Horwich, around the same time. Karen de la Carriere learned that her son Alexander Jentzsch was found dead at only 27 — his father was Heber Jentzsch, still the nominal president of the Church of Scientology and a prisoner in “The Hole” at Int Base. And meanwhile, in Israel, an entire Scientology mission had broken away to become independent.
At the blog, Rathbun deals with those upheavals. He also continues to post proclamations of independence (Mark Shreffler, the Waterkamps), praises Mike Rinder for his Rock Center appearance, and gripes about the lukewarm reception for his book at the Village Voice.
On Jul 30, Rathbun encourages independent OT’s to come for auditing at his home: “We are prepared to deliver the entire Scientology grade chart. We are particularly ready to assist those who are interested in moving on up from their corporate Scientology experiences.” A few days later, on August 13, he points out that anyone who comes to his south Texas home will get a quick and painless suppressive person declare, saving perhaps months of agony over whether or not to cut ties with the official church.
More milestones: Luke Catton dishes on his days as president of Narconon Arrowhead (Sep 1), Maureen Orth’s Vanity Fair story on Tom Cruise and Nazanin Boniadi is published (Sep 5), the Headleys are asked to spy for the church and refuse (Sep 6), the Luglis travel from Italy to the new independent center in Haifa, Israel (Sep 15), and Rathbun likes what he considers a positive portrayal of Hubbard in Paul Thomas Anderson’s movie The Master (Sep 23).
On Sep 21, there’s a fascinating new lawsuit filed against the Church of Scientology by two men who had worked for 24 years as private investigators for David Miscavige to keep tabs on just one man: Pat Broeker. With Ray Jeffrey as their attorney (who had also handled the Debbie Cook matter), they will walk away with what we believe was a huge settlement from the church. A week after filing the lawsuit, the two former PIs, Paul Marrick and Greg Arnold, visit Rathbun in Texas, and bring a reporter along for the ride. Also at the house at that time are Jeffrey Augustine and a UK Channel 4 film crew.
On Oct 11, Rathbun releases his second book, The Scientology Reformation: What Every Scientologist Should Know. Less of a tract for Independent Scientology than his previous book, this one reveals more of the corruption of David Miscavige and makes for some fun reading in parts.
On Oct 25, Rathbun records a video message for OSA operatives: “Get the reports. Get the evidence. Get them to me. And I will guarantee you this. I will guarantee you this. You will absolutely have complete immunity and complete protection of any type of liability. I am telling you right now I am guaranteeing you that protection and I am guaranteeing you that ability, which will be an incredibly important thing for you because it will help you to make good on what you’ve been doing to stop Scientology by forwarding Miscavige’s plans.”
Rathbun is still posting indie coming-out stories (Steve Poore, the Krohns, Don Shaul, and a final one — Ronn Stacy — on January 2, 2013), and the blog reviews the work of indefatigable independent Steve Hall (Nov 9).
On Nov 16, Rathbun gives a deposition to attorney Ken Dandar for his complex litigation against the Church of Scientology and reveals that the church had spent some $30 million trying to influence judges and state officials to fend off the legal assault surrounding the 1995 death of Lisa McPherson.
Rathbun knows that in the new year, Lawrence Wright will be coming out with the book, Going Clear, that had grown out of his 2011 New Yorker article on Paul Haggis. Rathbun warns his independent Scientology readers to prepare themselves that Wright’s book will probably treat L. Ron Hubbard roughly.
Tired of the harassment and surveillance in Ingleside, at the beginning of December the Rathbuns move to a more secluded and secure rental home outside San Antonio and closer to attorney Ray Jeffrey.
Over at the Underground Bunker, we reveal that Rathbun and Rinder have recorded rap lyrics for Tiziano Lugli’s biting satire of Scientology life under David Miscavige which also features Nazanin Boniadi.
Also in December, Rathbun posts a couple of interesting surveys, asking his readers about some of L. Ron Hubbard’s more outré ideas about past lives, and about between-life implants.
In other words, after nearly three years of blogging, and a thriving readership, Rathbun seems to be wondering, how many people actually believe this space opera stuff?
In hindsight, it appears to be a hint that things are suddenly going to change in a big way.
January-August 2013: Marty gets weird
On January 4, 2013, Rathbun posts an image from a painting of a worn couple of shoes. He asks readers to tell him what it evokes for them.
It’s a “say what?” moment that seems to mark a sudden shift at the blog.
A few days later he posts another odd survey, asking readers to discuss what they had experienced in the last 75 million years.
And on January 10, there’s a pretty telling admission from Rathbun that he’s hit some kind of barrier. “What More Can I Say?” he titles it, and acknowledges that readers are asking what’s happened. He reminds them that he had published two books which say most of what he wants to about Scientology. He also hints that he’s losing patience with the “independent” community that he’s been so instrumental in putting together.
On Jan 20, Lawrence Wright’s book has come out, and as he predicted Rathbun isn’t very happy with it for all the shots it takes at L. Ron Hubbard.
Two days later, Rathbun gives space to doctrinaire Hubbardite Tom Martiniano to argue that it’s important for the independent movement to rely on Hubbard for guidance, and to keep things on track.
Rathbun then responds, criticizing indies about having a “Keeping Scientology Working” (KSW) mindset, and urges them to take a more heterodox approach to Scientology by considering the ideas of other writers who had come before and after Hubbard. Hardcore Hubbardites howl, and on Jan 20, Rathbun pens a world-weary post sounding like his ideas are underappreciated.
Getting more heat from the KSW indies, Rathbun on March 1 recommends that his followers read the Tao Te Ching.
Mike Rinder, meanwhile, contributes another piece that avoids the philosophical arguments going on and takes a hard look at Miscavige’s “Ideal Org” program.
Rathbun now announces that he’s interested in “integral theory” and continues to move away from a KSW view of Scientology. On Mar 13, he releases a video he titles “The Tao of Scientology” as he continues to slip into guru mode. On March 18, he says that the message of his books has been that the only way Scientology can remain relevant is to “integrate, evolve, and transcend.”
Two days later, Mike Rinder announces that he’s starting his own blog, “Something Can Be Done About It,” where he will stay focused on Miscavige’s failures and evidence of the Church of Scientology’s crumbling.
Rathbun, meanwhile, continues to turn his blog into a mashup of quasi-Scientology ideas immersed in Eastern Philosophy as he extols the nature of the pseudoscience book The Tao of Physics. On April 6, he acknowledges the “noise” over his “heretical views,” but he insists that it was all in his books if you just looked carefully enough. On April 19, he even uses quotes from L. Ron Hubbard to refute his critics, saying that Hubbard himself had predicted that Scientology would stagnate if it didn’t evolve.
On May 23, Rathbun publishes his third book, Memoirs of a Scientology Warrior, and he then reacts angrily to our review, which is only partly negative. We considered the book a lost opportunity as Rathbun looked back on his years as a Scientology enforcer running retaliation campaigns, but instead of using that as a confessional, he still saw himself as the hero of his tale, and he still saw the project of attacking church critics as a righteous one. Referring to himself as a “warrior” was actually how he saw himself.
With the book out, Rathbun says that he’s free again to take new appointments for counseling, even if what he’s doing now can’t really be called “Scientology” any longer.
On June 17, the UK Channel 4 documentary Scientologists at War airs, documenting Rathbun’s split with the church and his battles with the Squirrel Busters. Already, it feels dated as Rathbun continues to move into his new role in post-Scientology thought.
Rathbun reiterates that he is no longer a Scientologist, independent or otherwise, and he trashes some of his former followers who form a more doctrinaire Hubbardist movement they call “Milestone 2.”
Rathbun is still close enough to Mike Rinder that he gives away the bride as Rinder and Christie Collbran are married in June at a home on the intracoastal in Clearwater.
Another move away from KSW: On July 1, Rathbun says Scientology is doomed not just because of what David Miscavige is doing as head of the church, but because L. Ron Hubbard’s ideas resist being used in an “integral” fashion so that Scientology can evolve. Meanwhile, Rathbun says he’s started work on two more books. “The first book is about moving up from the ultimate trap that is Scientology for those stuck in it to one degree or another. The second book is about applying Hubbard’s workable discoveries in an integrated fashion…”
A week later, news breaks at the Underground Bunker that Leah Remini has defected from Scientology after years of disillusionment.
On July 23, Rathbun says he’s still offering counseling, but it’s his “integral” approach and not Scientology. On August 5, he criticizes Scientologists who are unwilling to consider ideas — even psychiatry — that might be useful to evolving Hubbard’s dogma. And he reveals that he’s working on a new approach to help people “graduate” from Scientology.
Then, a few days later, there’s a bombshell.
August-December 2013: The lawsuit
On August 16, Monique Rathbun files her harassment lawsuit against David Miscavige and the Church of Scientology, with Ray Jeffrey as her attorney. She’s suing over the years of harassment she’s had to go through because the church surveils and tries to sabotage her husband for his views, which also upends her life, even though she never belonged to the church. Also, what we won’t find out until later, the Rathbuns have been planning to adopt an infant, and Monique wants the harassment out of their lives before that happens. What she’s seeking in the lawsuit is a permanent injunction so that she can raise her child in peace. (The adoption happens in November.)
While Rathbun is still using the blog to argue for exploring ideas beyond Hubbard (and enraging indies), he’s also singing the praises of Monique’s legal team of Ray Jeffrey, Marc Wiegand, and Elliott Cappuccio, referring to them as “Hot, Blue, and Righteous” (Sep 13).
His pronouncements about Scientology and eastern thought continue to get more cryptic with a post about Thoreau on Sep 28 and then this bizarre maxim on October 7, when Rathbun proposes to summarize Scientology “in a nutshell.” To wit: “L. Ron Hubbard devised methods using Aristotelian and Newtonian two-value logic constructs that can and do sometimes create peak experiences of a non-dual, infinity-logic consciousness nature.” Three years later, we still have no idea what the hell he’s talking about.
“Scientology begins with the Tao,” he announces a week later and we have to think he’s just messing with the KSW crowd at this point.
References to Miscavige have nearly disappeared — but while his wife’s lawsuit is going on, that may be a smart legal strategy. The blog itself has also slowed, and Rathbun puts up only three entries in November. One of them, however, announces that he’s planning to publish three books in 2014 (none of which have appeared). The first one is “Clear and Beyond: How to Graduate from Scientology.” He says it will in part consist of him saving the OT levels not from Miscavige, but from Hubbard.
On Dec 4, Rathbun writes, “I have been a little consumed of late dealing with a psychopath who insists upon forcing himself upon our lives.” We’re not really sure who he’s referring to. Let us know if you figure it out.
On Dec 9, Rathbun criticizes Miscavige for the first time in quite a while, blasting him for the nature of OSA’s tactics.
Rathbun then describes the other two books he’s planning for 2014. “Deconstructing Scientology: Mental Therapy or Thought Reform?” will look at the origins of Hubbard’s creation, and will debunk some of it. And “Scientology Armageddon: What Led America’s Most Vengeful Cult to its End Times” will describe how David Miscavige ruined everything.
And on December 30, Rathbun announces that he’s now offering a new correspondence course in “Graduating from Scientology.”
January-August 2014: The Great Middle Path
On occasion, in the new year of 2014, there is a reference to Monique’s lawsuit at the blog. On Jan 20, Rathbun announces that he’s looking for certain pieces of evidence that his readers might have. Later in the month he praises news coverage of the suit in the San Antonio Express-News, and he remarks that Miscavige is throwing an army of lawyers at the case.
On Feb 8, he notes that Scientology’s operatives are stalking them when they’re in New Braunfels for court hearings, and a couple of days later he tries to explain why David Miscavige is obsessed with him and Monique.
Through the first half of March, Rathbun publishes a series of L. Ron Hubbard writings he titles the Aims of Scientology, describing how Hubbard wanted Scientology to take over control of the planet. After apologizing to Russell Miller on March 13 for spreading lies about his book Bare-Faced Messiah and abusing the legal process to keep it from achieving publishing success in America, on March 16 Rathbun finishes up his series of Hubbard writings and concludes that Scientology’s rot was set in well before David Miscavige ever showed up.
And then, in May, the lawsuit goes into stasis. The church’s attorneys appeal a decision made by Comal County District Judge Dib Waldrip denying the church’s “anti-SLAPP” motion, and while the Third Court of Appeals considers it, the lawsuit is entirely on hold for more than a year, until November 2015, as the two sides fight over the appeal.
The blog, meanwhile, slows to a trickle, with more references to The Tao of Physics and the Zen of fishing. “Objects arise in consciousness,” Rathbun says on June 18.
A month later, he says that the way to fight cult thinking is to seek the “Great Middle Path,” and avoid either Scientology or anti-Scientology. Pushing even harder against his former indie colleagues, on July 23 Rathbun announces that Scientology is actually a monotheistic religion, and Hubbard is its god — just as Hubbard had intended. A few days later, he calls another indie movement that is popular in Europe, Ron’s Org, a “cult.”
And on August 8, there’s this pretty remarkable broadside: “I would not recommend to anyone that they get involved in Scientology. That is because having thoroughly deconstructed the subject I came to realize that its control and exploitation elements are so thoroughly embedded within the teachings of Hubbard as to make the journey more likely to be on-the-whole negative than positive.” And… “I have devoted the better part of six years to attempting to help the subject survive by elimination of its negative elements. I concede that the experiment was a failure.” He also admits that his idea of a few months ago to help people “graduate” from Scientology entirely has not been working out. He can apparently find few people who are interested in it.
Then, on the last day of August, there’s one of the strangest and we think most portentous entries that Rathbun ever posts. We’ve puzzled over it, and we’re not sure what he’s getting at — has he already decided to cut a deal with Miscavige, and he’s preparing his remaining fans that at some point they’re going to start hearing some strange and troubling things about him? Here’s a key passage from the mystery post, in which he hints that he’s working on some long-term project that’s about “ascendancy of power over force,” and something that he won’t be able to discuss…
It has nothing to do with any current legal proceedings and is unrelated (as am I) to the scientology infotainment lampooning industry (whose main useful purpose is attention distraction). If you hear rumors or ‘inside skinny’ about what this parallel work entails, you are hearing lies or the imagination of someone still caught in the scientology hallucinatory cause syndrome. In the interim, I inform you that nothing about any of this is inconsistent with what I have written over the past two years. Just as certainly, many spectators will be sure that is not the case when they witness that 2015 and 2016 make 2009 and 2010 look like child’s play.
September 2014-January 2015: Filming with Louis Theroux
On Sep 9, Rathbun finds some common ground with David Miscavige, saying he can understand, at least partly, how the church leader might feel compelled to create “the Golden Age of Technology” and the “Golden Age of Technology II” because Hubbard’s brand of Scientology required some evolution.
He then goes on, over the next few weeks, to describe how Hubbard’s Scientology is mind control, using hypnotic techniques, and if David Miscavige and his minions were destructive, it was only proof that Hubbard’s Scientology doesn’t work.
But he also criticizes those who reduce Hubbard solely to a con man, as well as those who consider him infallible and call him “Source.” Again, Rathbun is seeking the “middle path.”
On Oct 19, Rathbun makes public a remarkable video he shot at the Los Angeles Airport. While he was in LA filming scenes for what will eventually become Louis Theroux’s documentary, My Scientology Movie, he is ambushed in the terminal by three Scientology officials, who surround him and tell him he’s pathetic. After no new blog posts in November, on Dec 24 Rathbun posts another stunning video — this one of him being ambushed outside a studio in L.A. where he was filming with Theroux. This time, it’s two older Scientologists who try to intimidate Rathbun about his “foster care” payments, a ham-handed attack on his adoption of a son. Theroux also comes outside the studio to film the encounter with his phone, and the incident will become the climactic scene of his movie.
Meanwhile, the blog again slows to a trickle, and through January there’s almost no indication that Rathbun is a major part of another movie, Alex Gibney’s Going Clear, which is about to have its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah on January 25. Rathbun doesn’t go to the premiere though several of the other participants, including Rinder, Spanky Taylor, and Sara Goldberg, make the trip.
February 2015-January 2016: The beliefs of Scientology
On Feb 3, Rathbun drives a final nail into Scientology’s coffin, announcing that even the introductory courses that so many ex-Scientologists say are beneficial is actually nothing you can’t find elsewhere. “In fact, Scientology never achieved even the scientifically recognized 20 to 30 percent placebo effect in terms of long-term satisfaction,” he writes.
On Mar 11, Rathbun thanks the organizers of an Austin screening of Going Clear where he appears on stage with Lawrence Wright and Alex Gibney for a Q&A. But otherwise, you can hardly tell from his blog that Gibney’s movie that features Rathbun so prominently is going through a period of huge media promotion before its March 29 initial airing on HBO.
On Mar 29, Rathbun says that the hate in Scientology was built-in by L. Ron Hubbard.
In April, Rathbun is profiled in Esquire as Going Clear turns out to be the most-watched HBO documentary in a decade. An ID network episode about his escape from Scientology, filmed months earlier, airs for the first time. And at the Underground Bunker, we publish our last story that will include cooperation from Rathbun, a lengthy piece on Tom Cruise and Mimi Rogers.
Also in April 2015, the Rathbuns quietly move back to south Texas after purchasing a four-bedroom house in Ingleside for $277,000.
Through June, Rathbun is hardly posting, and what he does put up doesn’t even refer to Scientology. On July 21, in his only post that month, this is the entire text: “Purpose of life might be reducible to the following simplicity: We serve that which and those whom we care about in the best manner we see fit. Life becomes most complicated by the arrogant who attempt to dictate to others whom, that which, and how they must serve.”
Many readers puzzle over something Rathbun posts in November, after the horrific terror attacks in Paris that left 130 dead. He says that the German intelligence community was too distracted by its harassment of Scientology in 2001 to see that the 9/11 attacks were being planned from Hamburg. And the 2009-2010 FBI investigation of Scientology was a waste of time that took away from investigating and prosecuting the billionaires who were responsible for the 2008 economic collapse. And now, Belgium was wasting its time prosecuting Scientology. (Eventually, that case was thrown out of court.)
None of the three books Rathbun had planned for 2014 had come out by the end of 2015, but in December he does put out a self-published novel, Texas Tropics.
There’s no indication on the blog that in November, the appeals court had finally come back, after a year and a half, to hand the Rathbuns a huge win in Monique’s lawsuit. As one of our legal experts remarks, the Rathbuns were now, more than two years after filing the suit, in the driver’s seat and within another year could begin inflicting the Church of Scientology with serious pain — and might even get David Miscavige in the witness chair.
February 2016-January 2017: Ruing the day
On the morning of February 1, we break the stunning news at the Bunker that Monique had suddenly, and “without cause,” fired her entire legal team. We quote our legal experts, who are shocked, and call it “bizarre.”
Later that day, Rathbun says at his blog that we will “rue the day” that we criticized his wife and her decision. But he resists questions from commenters asking for some explanation of what was going on.
Over the next several months, Rathbun posts only a few times, complaining that our readers are attacking him and his wife. He begins to talk about an “Anti-Scientology Cult” that is just as bad as the Church of Scientology itself.
Meanwhile, the Rathbuns gamely continue to handle the lawsuit on their own as the church takes its next appeal to the state supreme court. But then, Monique indicates her intention to dismiss the lawsuit entirely, and she ends it formally in May. While doing so, she files a couple of documents that blame her attorneys for mishandling the complaint and for telling her there was no money in the suit — neither of which comported with reality, our legal experts tell us.
On August 31, Rathbun attacks Ron Miscavige Sr.’s memoir, Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige and Me, which had been published in May. (And about which he’d said nothing at the time.) The broadside against the book looks wholly uncharacteristic for the blog. It’s a lengthy piece that has clearly been put together with some forethought, and it drives toward a final point that Rathbun intends to be a death-knell for Ron’s book, that its claims about private investigators speaking directly with David Miscavige about their surveillance of his father wasn’t credible, because Rathbun, in the 24 years he’d worked with Miscavige, had never seen him speak directly with private eyes working for the church.
We pointed out, however, that in one of his own books, Rathbun had described Miscavige speaking directly with a private investigator, Gene Ingram. And the private eyes he hired in 1988, Paul Marrick and Greg Arnold, also said they were in direct contact with Miscavige many times.
Then, on Sep 5, Rathbun is back with another lengthy and polished attack, this time on Louis Theroux’s My Scientology Movie, which is about to open in theaters in Australia. Rathbun calls filmmakers Theroux, Simon Chinn, and John Dower dishonest and deceitful in a way that seems intended to cause them trouble with the BBC, who had developed the project. Specifically, Rathbun claims that a scene recreating David Miscavige’s abusive nature in “The Hole” at Int Base, written in part by Rathbun himself, was, Rathbun now claimed, really a portrayal of Rathbun and was unfair to Miscavige, and that Theroux used almost nothing Rathbun had written.
Again, his claims are refuted, this time by Steven Mango, who was also in the scene and says it was entirely done to Rathbun’s direction, and by Tom DeVocht, who was in The Hole and says the scene does accurately capture Miscavige’s abusive nature.
Rathbun goes after other former Scientologists in the rest of September, including Karen de la Carriere and Jeffrey Augustine, Jefferson Hawkins, and Chris Shelton.
And then the blog, after a few more abortive posts, including a couple on politics, goes dormant after a final post this past January.
For many observers, the attacks on Ron Miscavige, Louis Theroux, and the others was plenty of evidence that Rathbun had entered into some sort of agreement with Miscavige, perhaps related to the dismissal of his wife’s lawsuit. But others defended him, saying that he and Monique, raising a small child, had simply tired of the suit and that it was understandable that they had walked away. (This view didn’t explain why badmouthing the attorneys was necessary, however.) And as for turning on the “anti-Scientology cult,” these supporters saw it as an extension of Rathbun’s announced goal of seeking the “great middle path” and wanting to remove himself from the debate over Scientology altogether.
And that’s where things stood until this past week, when an unexpected bit of news arrived from Israel.
HowdyCon 2017: Denver, June 23-25. Go here to start making your plans.
Scientology disconnection, a reminder
Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,690 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 1,793 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,287 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,327 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy in 1,039 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 506 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,624 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 1,794 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,114 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,089 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 445 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin in 4,747 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 854 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis for 1,256 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,129 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 710 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike in 1,215 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,459 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,568 days.
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.
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