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MeccaRenderings121aCharlie Frago at the Tampa Bay Times has big news this afternoon. With the Church of Scientology facing a 5 pm deadline today to turn over more information about its scheduled October 6 grand opening event for its “Flag Building” (also known as the “Super Power Building”) the church sent word that the event would instead be postponed indefinitely.

“I don’t remember a calamity like this that played out in the public ever before,” former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder told Frago, and we have to agree. This appears to be the most obvious evidence yet that Scientology leader David Miscavige is quickly losing control of an organization gripped in crisis.

We called Rinder, who had been keeping a close watch at his blog on things in Clearwater. We told him that because we’d been reading him, we weren’t entirely surprised that this happened.

“I’m not really surprised either. I’ve been saying for weeks that Miscaviage has been making these statements about how all these guys are going to be trained before the release. And I’ve been thinking, that’s not going to happen,” he says.

“They cancelled Maiden Voyage. Then they said they were going to show a video about the 1993 IAS event and that didn’t happen. Then they were telling people to make their reservations and book up hotel rooms for mid-September, and that turned out to be nonsense. Then they said it was going to be October 6. Now of course they’re not ready or Miscavige isn’t ready. It’s par for the course. These people could fuck up a two-car funeral.

“What’s really unusual is that this is playing out in the public eye. I think I predicted one time, you watch, this is all going to be rolled into a New Year’s event. One big event — Super Power, GAT II, Maiden Voyage, IAS and New Year’s,” he says.


We’ll be looking for more commentary and add to this story as soon as we can.

On Monday, Jefferson Hawkins, a former church member who had once worked closely with Miscavige on Scientology’s marketing campaigns, put this statement into our comments…

For those of us who have worked with Miscavige, the sense of panic is palpable. He is literally throwing everything he has at the situation, playing every card he has left in his hand: open the Superpower Building, release Superpower, release “GAT II,” release the Mark VIII Meter. These are all things that he has delayed and delayed, realizing that once he’s played these cards, he has nothing left. Now he’s playing all of them at once. Like all dictators, he’s surrounded by fawning staff who play to his ego and try to keep the worst news from him. But even so, he must realize by now that Scientology is hemorrhaging people like crazy and Scientology’s PR (and his personal PR) are at an all-time low. His only remaining card is a false one, “OT IX and X.” Those levels don’t exist, which he well knows.

Well, Jefferson, Miscavige appears to have blinked.

As Rinder has pointed out to us before, the Super Power Building project was originally started in a time of desperate public relations for the church. Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard had developed several “rundowns” as a “Super Power” project in the 1970s that he said was designed to help reinvigorate Sea Org members — overworked but super-dedicated church employees who sign billion-year contracts and work 100-hour weeks for pennies an hour.

In the early 1990s, several years after Hubbard’s death, Miscavige directed that the Super Power rundowns be developed for use by wealthy public members, and a few rich members — Matt Feshbach of the Feshbach brothers financial juggernaut, for example — were run through them on a test basis.

Then, in 1998, ground was broken for the Super Power building itself, right across the street from the spiritual home of Scientology, the Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater, Florida. At the time, the church was mired in controversy after the 1995 death of member Lisa McPherson at the hotel. In 1998, a criminal investigation was ongoing, a civil lawsuit had been filed, and Scientology was being hammered in the press. Rinder says the groundbreaking for the Super Power Building was clearly a way to deflect that bad press.

Over the next 15 years, the Super Power Building became something else: a lucrative fundraising tool. As documented in the great November 2011 expose, “The Money Machine,” Tampa Bay Times reporters Joe Childs and Tom Tobin showed how the church had raised far more money than the building was actually costing to construct. Estimates on the cost of the building run from $50 million to $100 million, but the Times estimates that about $145 million has actually been raised from church members for its construction. The implication was clear — as long as the building continued to be “under construction” it was more lucrative to Miscavige than if he ever opened it.

The building was taking so long, the city of Clearwater fined the church more than $300,000 for delays. The church fought it, but clearly, paying that amount was not difficult for the wealthy church.

This January, Luis and Rocio Garcia of Irvine, California, filed a federal lawsuit saying, among other things, that the fundraising for the building was fraudulent. They had been pressured to pay tens of thousands of dollars to pay for the building’s “Scientology cross,” but then later learned that other people were also being hit up to pay for the same thing.

After the Garcia suit was filed, there seemed to be a more visible effort by the church to open the Super Power Building. Many observers wondered if Miscavige would finally open it so he could say in the Garcia suit that he had not delayed it for fundraising reasons.

Then, after fifteen years, efforts to open it suddenly speeded up, becoming almost frenetic. Frago reported that the church had applied for a permit to hold a grand opening ceremony on October 6, and the church said it expected 10,000 people to attend. But the city wanted more detail about it, and put the deadline today for the church to fork over more information. But then, Miscavige caved.

It’s a stunning development, and better evidence than any what disarray the church is in now. With so many major people walking away — not only high-level executives and celebrities, but also many loyal, longtime supporters without big names who have grown disillusioned — Miscavige is scrambling to hold on to his “whales,” the wealthy people he counts on for big donations.

What will he be telling them about this development? We’ll do our best to find out.

This just in: We asked Jenna Miscavige Hill for her thoughts on the news…

I was more surprised the date was set in the first place. I mean we are talking about promises of increased perceptics, things that can be disproven in an instant. Also, I remember hearing when I was still in, something like that the planet would be clear within 5 years of the release of Super Power. That’s a big claim. In 5 years they would be screwed. I didn’t think it would ever come to fruition. So I was more surprised to hear about the opening than I was to hear about the cancellation.


Posted by Tony Ortega on September 18, 2013 at 15:05

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