Tony Ortega is executive editor of The Raw Story and is formerly the editor of The Village Voice. He's written about Scientology since 1995, and has a forthcoming book about the subject. He continues to monitor breaking developments in the Scientology world from an undisclosed location in an underground bunker he shares with four cats and one of them wrinkly Shar Pei dogs. Despite his super-secret security protections, you can still reach him pretty easily by sending him a message at tonyo94 AT gmail.com (Drop him a line if you'd like to get an e-mail whenever a new story is posted.) [Header image courtesy John Rickard]
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Monique Rathbun in court as appeals panel considers proposed David Miscavige deposition

Monique_Rathbun2Monique Rathbun’s harassment lawsuit against the Church of Scientology and its leader, David Miscavige, moves to a new venue today as oral arguments are heard at the Texas Third Court of Appeals in Austin.

We’ll have several observers on hand as the proceedings begin at 1:30 pm, local time. At issue today is Comal County Judge Dib Waldrip’s decision that Monique Rathbun should get to depose Miscavige for jurisdictional reasons (Miscavige is arguing that he shouldn’t be a party to the lawsuit because, he claims, he does no business in Texas and had nothing to do with Scientology’s surveillance of Monique and her husband Marty Rathbun over the last several years).

Continue reading Monique Rathbun in court as appeals panel considers proposed David Miscavige deposition

Mike Bennitt shares with us a creepy e-mail he received after filming Scientology events

Mike Bennitt

Mike Bennitt

Last night, we showed you surprising tax documents in which the Church of Scientology was forced to estimate the “book value” of some of its many entities. Three of those entities alone (CSI, CST, and FSO) came to nearly $1.5 billion.

Why does Scientology, a tiny organization with maybe 30,000 worldwide members at this point, have so much money? As we told you yesterday, having tax exempt status for more than 20 years, combined with paying workers pennies an hour, allows Scientology to amass stunning wealth.

Which is why it has the ability to run so many retaliation campaigns against its perceived enemies with the use of private investigators and attorneys — a practice it has now fully admitted to in court records submitted in a Texas lawsuit.

We have another example of that kind of operation today.

Continue reading Mike Bennitt shares with us a creepy e-mail he received after filming Scientology events

SHOCK DOX: Scientology’s 2011 book value for just two of its entities is $1.2 billion

CSI990TThe Underground Bunker has copies of some stunning documents that were just released by our old friend, Jeff “OTVIIIisgrrr8!” Augustine. They are 990-T returns for the 2011 tax year submitted by the Church of Scientology International and the Church of Spiritual Technology, and they show that CSI and CST — which are just two of Scientology’s many entities — have a combined book value of $1.2 billion.

Since 1993, Scientology has had tax-exempt status, and your tax dollars — your IRS — has helped the church amass huge wealth. Scientology puts constant pressure on its members to donate huge amounts, it pays its workers pennies an hour because it is exempt from labor laws, and the result are these incredible amounts.

SEE UPDATES below for explanations of the revenue figures in these documents and for a statement by Mike Rinder, Scientology’s former spokesman.

First, here’s the Church of Scientology International’s 2011 tax form, which shows in the upper left of the first page that its book value was $790,758,896.

Continue reading SHOCK DOX: Scientology’s 2011 book value for just two of its entities is $1.2 billion

Hideouts for Scientologists on the lam: Another book from Ron Miscavige

HideoutsLast May, we told you about a slim volume of home-spun tales by a retired musician remembering his 1940s childhood in rural Pennsylvania.

What made that book, True Confessions of a Kid, remarkable, however, was that it was written by Ron Miscavige, father to Scientology leader David Miscavige, and a man who literally had to escape from Scientology’s secretive International Base in California in 2012. We broke the news of Ron’s escape from Scientology, and we’re still waiting to hear the man tell his story of souring on his son’s organization.

Instead, Ron put out a book of childhood yarns. And now, he’s done it again. In Hideouts for Midgets on the Lam and other totally disrelated stories, we are told again about what it was like to grow up in Mt. Carmel, Pennsylvania, where coal was king, and where young Ron began playing trumpet professionally in bars at only 13.

Continue reading Hideouts for Scientologists on the lam: Another book from Ron Miscavige

Scientology Sunday Funnies: Sydney nears its big day, and Silicon Valley is in high gear!

DemosthenesIt’s time for Sunday Funnies, when we take a look at the Scientology mailers and fliers that our tipsters send us from around the world.

As Scientology withers (see yesterday’s dire news about that if you haven’t already), we can’t help being very curious about which poor souls are still taking part and putting on a good face about all of the pressure to donate money.

As always, we’d love to hear more about the people you see in these fliers. If you recognize someone, let us know.

Continue reading Scientology Sunday Funnies: Sydney nears its big day, and Silicon Valley is in high gear!

Jon Atack’s final weekly column for us on Scientology, and it’s a doozy

ScientologyMythbustingJon Atack is the author of A Piece of Blue Sky, one of the very best books on L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. He has a new edition of the book for sale, and he’s helping us sift through the legends, myths, and contested facts about Scientology that tend to get hashed and rehashed in books, articles, and especially on the Internet.

Once again, Jon is taking on Scientology’s most basic beliefs and putting them under a microscope. This week, he has some thoughts for us about how Scientologists internalize L. Ron Hubbard’s toxic policies of Disconnection and Fair Game.

Continue reading Jon Atack’s final weekly column for us on Scientology, and it’s a doozy

Video Vault: Hear L. Ron Hubbard unite Dianetics and Scientology in connubial bliss!

UnificationCongressOur video source came through with another gem this week. It’s the “quote video” that Scientology created to help sell the Unification Congress, that fateful Phoenix event in December 1954 when L. Ron Hubbard explained how he was going to unify Dianetics (which he had invented in 1950) with Scientology, which he had developed in 1952.

Here’s how Bridge Publications describes this set of lectures, which it sells for $225.00…

Continue reading Video Vault: Hear L. Ron Hubbard unite Dianetics and Scientology in connubial bliss!

We asked David Miscavige’s tailor for his exact height — and here’s what he told us!

Claudio and Renata Lugli

Claudio and Renata Lugli

Last year, we were fortunate enough to find ourselves in northern Italy at a lovely time of year. We made a jaunt to Venice. We strolled through Milan. We even happened to catch the final day of professional cycling’s Tour of Italy — Giro d’Italia — in the city of Brescia.

And while we were in that town, we made a pilgrimage.

We stopped by to meet Claudio and Renata Lugli, parents to Tiziano Lugli, the well-known Los Angeles ex-Scientologist who tends to get mistaken for Tom Cruise by tabloid media.

Continue reading We asked David Miscavige’s tailor for his exact height — and here’s what he told us!

Florida attorney Ken Dandar hit with $1 million penalty for taking on Scientology

Ken Dandar

Ken Dandar

On March 17, retired Pinellas County, Florida circuit judge Crockett Farnell ordered attorney Ken Dandar to pay $1,068,156.50 to the Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization, Inc.

FSO runs Scientology’s “spiritual mecca,” the Flag Land Base or “Flag” in Clearwater, Florida where, in 1995, a Scientologist from Dallas named Lisa McPherson died after spending 17 days in the Fort Harrison Hotel, Flag’s centerpiece.

Dandar represented McPherson’s family in a wrongful death lawsuit against Scientology that was settled with the church in 2004. How he then ended up, a decade later, personally owing Scientology $1 million is a bizarre story of unprecedented legal conflict between state and federal courts in Florida, and it may be years more before the final chapter of that conflict is written.

Continue reading Florida attorney Ken Dandar hit with $1 million penalty for taking on Scientology

Hey, you guys, the new Scientology E-meter is a hit!

UltraVIIIaOh, you naysayers. Sure, you made fun of Scientology’s new E-meters, the ones that were made years ago and then gathered dust in a warehouse. The gleaming machines that David Miscavige expected every Scientologist to buy at $5,000 each (and a second one as a backup). The machines that still, 60 years after Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard first introduced them to the organization, remain extremely simplistic contraptions that measure fluctuations in skin galvanism. Or, if you’re a Scientologist, they read your mind! You cannot defeat them! They can see into your soul!

Ahem.

Continue reading Hey, you guys, the new Scientology E-meter is a hit!