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Scientology’s 2013 in review: A summer of delicious scoops!

PZ_Myers_HOMAs 2014 approaches, we’re continuing our look back at the wild year that was. And now, we dive into the crazy month of August.

The month debuted with one of our most popular stories of the year — while everyone seemed to be asking if actress Leah Remini would suffer retaliation for defecting from Scientology, we reported that instead, other church critics were suddenly experiencing a huge increase in harassment. Claire Headley, while out with her children, was photographed by private eyes. Karen de la Carriere found her neighbors being questioned by PIs. And Mike Rinder was being swarmed by church investigators. Scientology seemed to be taking out its exasperation about Remini with a new round of retaliation on its other perceived enemies.

On August 6, another strange story. We learned that Mary Sue Hubbard’s beloved dog T-Zu had finally died, more than a decade after its owner. Why was that important? Because only now, according to Mary Sue’s will, could her multimillion-dollar home in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles be put up for sale, with remaining Hubbard children benefiting from the sale. Since then, the sale has been put on hold, at least temporarily.

Two days later, another big scoop: We learned that on Monday, August 5, Leah Remini had filed a missing-person report about Shelly Miscavige with the Los Angeles Police Department. Shelly, the wife of Scientology leader David Miscavige, vanished from the church’s International Base late in 2005 and was only seen in public one time since — at the funeral of her father in the summer of 2007. We learned about the missing-person report Wednesday night, broke the story Thursday morning, and by Thursday afternoon the LAPD was telling reporters that they had made contact with Shelly and closed the case. That quick turnaround led other news outlets to report that only 24 hours had transpired between the time Leah made the report and the LAPD closed the investigation, which wasn’t true. The church itself tried to make it look like Remini was wasting everyone’s time. But here it is, months later, and still Shelly hasn’t been seen in public, and there’s been no explanation of why she can’t attend Scientology events or see her own family.

The next day, we posted one of our favorite stories of the year. Famous science blogger and university biology professor PZ Myers helped us read L. Ron Hubbard’s bizarre book of Scientology evolution, A History of Man. We had a helluva time.

On August 10, our series about Scientology history with Jon Atack brought in a special guest — Gerry Armstrong. We really enjoyed plowing into Gerry’s crazy legal saga.


We continued to hear from ex-Scientologists who were steamed that the church once again, in the wake of Leah Remini’s defection, denied that it practices “disconnection” and rips apart families. We provided two striking examples that disconnection is definitely still going on — one was an audio recording from Sindy Fagen, the other were disconnection letters provided by Cindy Plahuta.

And yet another scoop: We broke the news that Monique Rathbun had filed a harassment lawsuit against Scientology, its leader David Miscavige, and other church entities and agents. That lawsuit, playing out in Comal County, Texas, is rapidly becoming Miscavige’s single biggest headache.

What a great summer night in the city — some of our readers joined us to see The TomKat Project at New York’s Fringe Festival, and met with playwright Brandon Ogborn and his cast.

The next day, another crazy story: Las Vegas police had arrested a couple of “sovereign citizens” for plotting to kidnap and kill a police officer in some kind of bizarre political statement. One of the two defendants, a 67-year-old woman named Devon Newman, also happened to have been the PR director at Scientology’s Las Vegas Celebrity Centre! (Eventually, Newman was released after being sentenced to probation when it became clear that her partner, David Brutsche, was the real mastermind behind the crazy plot.)

And still, August had another surprise: on the 26th, we partnered with Woman’s Day magazine to bring the story of Anette Iren Johansen, the first of the women “auditioned” to be wife material for Tom Cruise to speak out publicly. (Homeland actress Nazanin Boniadi actually got to date Cruise for a few months after being auditioned, but she has yet to give an interview about it.)

Finally, on the last day of the month, we published one of our favorite pieces with Jon Atack. This time, Denise Brennan joined us as we learned more about the history of the bizarre vaults built by Scientology’s most secretive entity, the Church of Spiritual Technology (CST). Denise told us something we’d never heard before, which explained where the ideas of the vaults actually came from!

Wow, was this summer sizzling, or what?

Hey, it’s Sunday, so we have a few funnies for you…

Let’s start with an update on the new files project in Sydney. These new folders are going to clear the planet in no time!


It’s great to hear from Houston, where it’s the perfect time to make some postulates!


Note, in this next flier, that the credit for this statement, in quotation marks, is left out. We’re pretty certain it’s David Miscavige laying out his grand vision — that Golden Age of Tech II plus Ideal Orgs means Scientology will soon take over the world! Hey, what could go wrong?


The future has arrived in Brighton…


Guys, your ship has arrived. Jenna’s ready to audit you to clear!


Does this flier have the greatest fine-print disclaimer of all time or what?


Thanks again to our great tipsters. Just a couple more days left in our year in review before 2014 begins!


Posted by Tony Ortega on December 29, 2013 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.


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