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Scientology’s 2012 in Review: Eight Days that Shook the World

USKatieTomMerry Christmas! We’re still looking back at this amazing year for Scientology watchers, refreshing your memory about what got our attention in 2012.

We hope you have plenty to say as we look back at the stories that mattered in the past twelve months…

June 29, 2012 will be remembered as the day the news broke that Katie Holmes had filed for divorce from her husband Tom Cruise.

But that morning, we were still drowsy after breaking a very different story in the wee hours.

At 2:30 in the morning we posted what we figured was a story that would shake up the Scientology world. Instead, it got swallowed up by the tabloid tsunami which rolled out later that day and quickly would become the biggest disaster for the church this year — and perhaps for any year — when the Katie Holmes divorce filing suddenly had everyone from TMZ to the Business Insider scrambling for stories about Cruise and his odd allegiance to L. Ron Hubbard.

Six months later, we’re at enough distance that we can now look back at what actually happened during that week in late June and early July, when Scientology’s numerous crises all seemed to erupt at the same time.

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JUNE 29, 2:30 AM We broke the news that Scientology experienced two of the biggest defections since several high-level executives left from 2004 to 2007. This time, however, it wasn’t a case of unhappy employees who had decided to ditch the church. Roanne Horwich, daughter of Diana Hubbard and granddaughter of L. Ron Hubbard, had spent most of her life living at the International Base east of Los Angeles. Her escape is stunning, not only because of her own connection to the founder, but also because it now leaves only her mother Diana as the last Hubbard family member still inside. Horwich brought out word that her own defection had been preceded by one just as shocking: David Miscavige’s own father, Ron Miscavige Sr., had left with his wife after plotting their escape from the base for several months. The church has been noticeably silent about these two embarrassing departures, but more than six months on, both Horwich and Ron Sr. are still very much out.

LATER ON JUNE 29 News breaks that Katie Holmes has filed for divorce from Tom Cruise while he’s in Iceland filming a movie. The surgical precision of her move leaves little doubt that Katie has Scientology’s retaliation machine in mind. Reporters scramble to learn about Scientology and what children of Suri’s age might face growing up in the church. On June 30, we point out that L. Ron Hubbard had written a “sec check” list — interrogation procedure — for children as young as six years old. We also had fun pointing out what Scientology marriage counseling is all about, and why Katie Holmes was smart not to get involved in it. (Part two was even wackier.) Cruise and Holmes managed to work out a divorce settlement in 11 days, but the stories go on for months.

JULY 5, 7 AM With the media in a feeding frenzy over any scrap of Scientology news, some of the stories coming out are filled with misinformation. None alarmed us more than a sloppy mess put out by the Daily Mail (the world’s most-read news website) about the strange disappearance of church leader David Miscavige’s wife Shelly, who hasn’t been seen by church members or in public in five years. With so many errors, we worried that the Daily Mail’s piece could prove a disastrous influence. So we quickly put together a primer about what we do know — and don’t know — about what happened to Shelly. It proved to be one of the most popular stories we wrote during this period, and we hope it helps keep misinformation about Shelly to a minimum. (Also, the church put out a clever story, saying that Shelly is not “missing.” We never said that Miscavige doesn’t know where his wife is, since he’s the one who is likely keeping her out of view.)

JULY 5, 6:48 PM It’s hard to believe this is happening during the same week, but with all that’s going on, we freeze when we get an e-mail from Karen de la Carriere. “My son is DEAD. My 27 year old son is dead. Mike Rinder confirmed it and the Los Angeles Coroner’s Office just confirmed it,” she wrote us. De la Carriere is a Class XII auditor who trained with L. Ron Hubbard on the yacht Apollo, and she had a son, Alexander, with Heber Jentzsch, who is still the president of the Church of Scientology. But since about 2004, Heber has been one of the executives kept in “the Hole,” the church’s bizarre office-prison for top executives. He and de la Carriere had split in 1989, but when she complained about Heber’s imprisonment and her son’s alienation from her father in 2010, she was excommunicated from the church. Her son Alex, she says, was forced to “disconnect” from her. And so Alex had no real guidance from either parent when he lost his job, came down with pneumonia, and then treated himself with the worst possible thing — the painkiller methadone — a combination which killed him. Because she was considered a “suppressive person,” de la Carriere was not allowed to view her son’s body, and she was also not invited to his memorial. So she held her own.

JULY 6 Even more bad news for Scientology, and perhaps more ominous than a celebrity divorce. We report that an entire Scientology mission — in Haifa, Israel — has defected en masse. About 50 church members all walk away in a group as the Dror Mission, led by Dani and Tami Lemberger, announce their independence from David Miscavige’s leadership and get declared “suppressive” immediately. The Lembergers and their Dror associates are strong believers in the ideas of L. Ron Hubbard, and Dani made it clear to us that he was accustomed to spending huge sums in the church. And still, they are walking away.

After that 8-day period, we were exhausted. And looking back, it strikes us how so many of Scientology’s biggest issues — the way it splits families apart, is driving away longtime members, and lives and dies with celebrities — all blew up at the same time. And still, July had more surprises in store…

— When it is revealed that Tom Cruise will get visitation rights with his daughter Suri, it produces a howl from the many ex-church members who have been cut off from their family members by the church. When do we get visitation rights with our loved ones still inside, they ask.

— A tabloid pretends that Laura DeCrescenzo has just filed a lawsuit against the church (it’s actually been several years). But that gives us an excuse to check in with her and see how her fight is going as she seeks justice for being forced to have an abortion while in the Sea Org.

On July 19, Stacy Dawn Murphy becomes the third patient to die in nine months at Scientology’s flagship drug rehab program, Narconon Arrowhead, in eastern Oklahoma. After a tepid response following the previous two deaths, Murphy’s overdose seems to wake up local and state officials, who launch investigations into the facility. Four lawsuits have also been filed, and Narconon Arrowhead has remained under intense media scrutiny ever since.

We talked to David Jentzsch, the 80-year-old brother to Heber, who tells us his younger brother admitted to him that he doesn’t expect to get out of Scientology’s office-prison, “the Hole,” alive. David then hears from Heber, who tells him to stop talking to pesky reporters.

— Our comments really heat up when we take a new approach to Scientology’s infamous “Xenu” story. We’ve wondered why church members buy this malarkey about a 75-million-year-old genocidal warlord. But as several ex-Scientologists now reveal to us, by the time a church member learns about Xenu, he or she has been “remembering” their own wild space opera billion-year-old past lives in auditing sessions for years.

— Thanks to Paulette Cooper and Patty Moher, we unearthed a 1968 BBC interview of a model child Scientologist — 7-year-old Neil Gaiman, who will go on to become a famous science fiction and fantasy author.

— We get a sneak peek of Paul Thomas Anderson’s script for The Master, and we’re able to show how closely its main plot lines and themes reflect the early history of Scientology, with the movie itself still nearly two months from opening.

— And finally, July ends with one of our favorite pieces all year. A two-part feature about the life of John Brousseau, one of the most interesting people to leave Scientology in recent times. Having watched both men up close, Brousseau tells us, “Tom Cruise worships David Miscavige like a god.”

Whew. What a month. Just looking back at it leaves us winded.

 
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Links of Note

We must add a link to an interesting interview of Beck that showed up in New York magazine this week. Beck Hansen, of course, is a second-generation Scientologist who not only grew up in the church but also married into one of Hollywood’s most famous (and most rabid) Scientology families, the Ribisis. And yet, when he’s asked about the church, the musician gives less than a glowing endorsement.

“Yeah,” he says, “people in my family do it. I’ve read books, and I’ve learned about it. I mean, what I’m doing — I have a job, raising kids, I have friends, I have my interests, so I think my life is pretty full. I’m not off doing some weirdo stuff.”

Now, before everyone freaks out and starts thinking Beck is holding the church at arm’s length here, it’s important to remember what former celebrity members of Scientology have told us in the past. Jason Beghe, for example, has explained to us that celebrities are trained to be vague about the church in interviews. He says that they’re told at most to say unspecific but positive testimonials, which Beck does (his father “has had lots of benefits from it”).

On the other hand, it really isn’t the ringing endorsement that the church could use from a celebrity right now, so maybe it is another sign of the Scientology Armageddon. Interesting times.

 

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