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Scientology’s 2012 in Review: Springtime for Miscavige

WOTFWe’re looking back at this amazing year for Scientology watchers, and over the next several days we’re going to refresh your memory about what got our attention in 2012.

Of course, one of the things that made this year so memorable was the level of involvement of our commenting community, and we hope you have plenty to say as we look back at the stories that mattered in the past twelve months.

As March began, the Debbie Cook lawsuit in San Antonio was still going gangbusters — that first week, Scientology filed for summary judgment against her, and her attorney, Ray Jeffrey, pushed for discovery.

But that month is also known for the holiest day on the Scientology calendar: L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday on March 13! And this year, as Ron was floating around the galaxy somewhere, his followers celebrated the 101st anniversary of the birth of his meat body with a big party in Clearwater. In April, we were leaked a video of that event, and we had loads of fun with its tall tales about Hubbard and his exploits.

If Hubbard’s biographer, Dan Sherman, deserved some teasing, there was another life story we took much more seriously. On March 5, we revealed what we had learned after looking into the past of Paulette Cooper, who escaped from a Nazi concentration camp at only two years old. She learned for the first time that her father, Chaim Bucholc, was arrested four days before she was born — he never laid eyes on her. He was then sent to Auschwitz to be exterminated. Paulette’s mother followed a few months later. Paulette and her sister were then sent to the same Nazi transit camp and were scheduled for a train to Auschwitz. But friends of her parents pulled off a daring rescue of the two girls, saving them from annihilation. Paulette was adopted by an American couple, grew up in New York and became a magazine writer, and in 1971 published one of the first popular exposes of L. Ron Hubbard’s church, The Scandal of Scientology. She was then the target of one of the most intense terror campaigns in the church’s history.

Early March also saw a great series of articles by Tampa Bay Times writer Drew Harwell, who uncovered the festering sore that was a charter school which had been taken over by a combination of Scientology and Nation of Islam operatives.

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Also in March through early June…

— We examined the direct link between Scientology’s vaunted science fiction contest — The Writers of the Future — and abuse happening in “the Hole” at the International Base. We noticed that some past winners of the contest were beginning to get uncomfortable with the event’s connections to the church. Our reporting should make them even more concerned.

— In February 2011, Lawrence Wright first revealed in the New Yorker that the FBI was investigating Scientology for human trafficking abuses. But in March, we showed that the FBI had already given up on that probe by October 2010, months after it was apparently very serious about raiding the church’s international base.

— After so much publicity about Scientology’s prison for executives, we wondered where else at Int Base church leader David Miscavige could house his fallen employees. New photos of the base from Sinar Parman made this a very popular story.

— In April, we posted a series of video interviews we did with former church official Mike Rinder, talking about his time as a prisoner in “the Hole.” He explained how seemingly rational adults could subject themselves to things like mass confessions, day after day. [Note: We’re having some trouble with the YouTube account on those videos. We’ll try to have it fixed soon.]

— For the first time, we were able to establish a firm link between the Church of Scientology and the anonymous, slimy attack websites that it uses to trash the reputation of former members. Thanks to a blunder by Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw, there was now little question as to who was behind the online smears.

— April saw the closing of Scientology’s drug rehab center in Quebec, and we had to salute the hard work of David Edgar Love, who has spent so much time blowing the whistle on the church’s front group, Narconon.

— On April 24 two bombshells landed: In Australia, charges were dropped against Scientology official Jan Eastgate, who had been accused of trying to subvert justice in the case of a child assaulted by a church member. And the Debbie Cook lawsuit was suddenly settled. Although court documents indicated that no money had changed hands when the case was ended, it soon became clear that Cook had walked away with a large sum after she suddenly showed up living in style in the Caribbean. (She has since moved to Mexico.)

— On May 2, we revealed one of our favorite stories of the year, a lengthy feature on Kate Bornstein to note the publication of her memoir, A Queer and Pleasant Danger. Kate writes about her transformation from Al Bornstein, first mate on the yacht Apollo with L. Ron Hubbard, to the well-known transsexual performance artist she is today.

— It was also in May that we decided Lisa Marie Presley had put out enough blatant clues in her new album to conclude that she is now out of Scientology. Lisa Marie is still dodging questions about it from reporters, but the lyrics to her songs leave little doubt that she’s done with the church.

And finally, it was in May that we got to tell the story of Derek Bloch, a young man who was kicked out of the Sea Org because he turned out to be gay, and then was rejected by his family because he had doubts about staying in Scientology. Derek has turned out to be a great member of our commenting community, which rallied around him to help him celebrate the holidays even without the support of his parents.

Derek was one of the reasons that this year was so important to us. But we had no idea, as the spring came to a close, that all hell was about to break loose for Scientology.

 

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