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35-Year Scientologist Steve Poore Says Church Leader David Miscavige is “Scared to His Core”

We talked this week with yet another longtime Scientologist who is quitting the church, 35-year member Steve Poore.

On September 30, Poore became the latest veteran church member to declare his defection at the website of former high-ranking Scientology executive Marty Rathbun. Since 2009, Rathbun’s blog has become the place where more and more Scientologists are publicly declaring that they’re fed up with church leader David Miscavige and are going “independent” — still adhering to the philosophies of L. Ron Hubbard, but ditching the official, corporate church.

One of the first to use Rathbun’s site for that purpose was a British man named Martin Padfield, who in 2009 declared, “I recognise that there is every likelihood contents of my ethics or PC folders will be used to nullify and denigrate me now, and I will take that risk.”

Three years later, Padfield was profiled by the London Evening Standard yesterday as ex-Scientologists in England were preparing to protest the church’s big annual International Association of Scientologists (IAS) gala in that country.

Like many other Scientologists who have defected in recent years, Padfield’s experiences are shocking: he was a member of the Sea Org (Scientology’s hardcore elite who sign billion-year contracts) and was punished in the Rehabilitation Project Force, the Sea Org’s prison detail.

But in some ways, the more recent exit of Steve Poore should have Scientology leader David Miscavige even more worried.

Unlike Padfield, or Rathbun, or other former Sea Org members and executives who were either imprisoned or punished in degrading ways, Poore reflects a very different kind of Scientology experience. And for someone like him to give up on Miscavige in what he calls a “tidal wave” of dissent seems especially ominous.

Originally from Iowa, Poore ran away from home at 16 to live in California. In 1973, he says, he picked up a copy of L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics and thought parts of it seemed particularly useful. But it wasn’t until 1977, after he’d moved back to Iowa, that he started taking a Scientology communication course in Omaha, Nebraska.

He then jumped in with enthusiasm, and by 1981 had rocketed up “the Bridge” to Operating Thetan Level Five. In 1982 and 1983, Poore had only a short experience — just three months — in the Sea Org, working for the church. And although he never went above OT VI, for years he was an “OT Ambassador” for the church. (According to a leaked 2009 description of OT Ambassador duties, these highly visible members “help others up to the level of OT.” The highest state that a Scientologist can achieve is OT VIII.) Poore was a particularly valuable OT Ambassador because he was out in the business community, promoting Hubbard’s ideas even to companies that had nothing to do with Scientology.

A business consultant in Burbank, Poore operated under the WISE umbrella (World Institute of Scientology Enterprises) and paid a percentage of his income to the church front group.

Between his courses, donations to the IAS, and WISE royalties, Poore estimates that over his 35-year career he paid the church more than half a million dollars.

Loyal. Productive. An OT Ambassador. A “public” Scientologist in every sense of the word. But today, this is how Steve Poore talks when we asked him if church members are aware of the media firestorm consuming Scientology this year…

“I’m used to the media criticism of Scientology. That’s fine. But when you have corruption at the top of the organization, spearheaded by David Miscavige, who is psychotic and has hijacked the management of the church and assigned himself sole dictator — with Hubbard sidelined — then this stuff is becoming more and more obvious,” he says.

The current crisis of faith has led other very visible members to leave — people like Debbie Cook, Karen de la Carriere, and Mark Shreffler who, like Poore, put out long, scathing messages for their fellow church members to read.

“When you see people like me, a staunch supporter for 35 years, suddenly announce that they no longer support the church — you just didn’t see that even five years ago,” he says.

The exodus has been startling. But it’s been happening for several years, and we had to ask: why doesn’t Miscavige do something about it? Why does he seem to keep pushing his pet projects — the IAS, “Ideal Orgs,” and fundraising for the Super Power Building — which are pushing so many loyal church members away?

“Miscavige, being a suppressive psychotic, cannot afford the luxury of self-inspection,” Poore says.

The Scientology leader instead continues to tell his flock that church expansion is growing faster than ever.

But Poore, like others who have left recently, says he doesn’t believe Miscavige’s pronouncements about church growth.

“The only thing that’s straight up and vertical is the number of enemies he creates every single day,” he says. “Then the enemy eventually becomes everybody.”

But Poore adds that Miscavige is quite aware of the direction things are going in.

“Miscavige is living a nightmare. He is scared to his core. He’s really someone to be pitied,” he says.

An observation from here in the bunker: Poore’s strong words make us realize that not only are more people leaving Scientology, but they’re coming out ready to talk publicly almost right away. In the past, it could take years of “decompression” before a former church member was ready to take the risk to speak with the media or make themselves a target for Scientology’s legendary retaliation machine.

We asked Poore if he was vulnerable to “fair game” attacks.

“I don’t have problems with the disconnection stuff. But I certainly have empathy for my friends that do,” he says, explaining that he has no family members still in the church, so Scientology’s policy of forcing members to “disconnect” from defectors won’t really have much effect on him. Also, he points out, his clients are not Scientology businesses. (When Debbie Cook announced her problems with Miscavige’s leadership on New Year’s Eve, she suddenly lost about half of her business as her Scientologist clients quickly disconnected from her.)

Not only is Poore not fearing reprisals, he’s already thinking ahead to making legal moves of his own to get back some of the money he put on account for services and now can’t use (about $15,000 of the half million he gave the church).

“I feel betrayed,” he says, complaining that money he had donated over the years went to Miscavige’s pet projects rather than to the good of the church.

He also had this to say about government inaction over the many controversies surrounding the church:

“The government doesn’t need to stop the Church of Scientology. Miscavige is doing that.”

We sent a request for a statement about Steve Poore’s defection to Karin Pouw, Scientology’s spokeswoman. As usual, she didn’t respond. So we’ve put together her statement for her, since it’s always the same anyway…

“Mr. [Poore] is a member of a small group of bitter apostates who are anti-Scientologists that seek to spread false information.”

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