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Paul Haggis tells us his favorite Scientology stories of 2014

In New York this week, Tony Ortega asked me what my favorite coverage of Scientology was so far this year. Frankly, it’s all his. Tony is relentless, dogged and brave — all that one could hope for in an investigative reporter. Here are some of my favorite pieces of his so far this year. I tried to cut it down to five and failed.

—Paul Haggis

Jan. 21 — Where is Scientology keeping Barbara Cordova Oliver?

[A woman who had been a fixture at Scientology’s Hollywood Celebrity Centre suddenly vanished after having a mental breakdown. Her mother could get no information out of the church, but various clues suggested the woman was being held at a little-known Scientology facility in Tennessee. — ed.]

Feb. 7 — REPORT: Man was hired to keep Shelly Miscavige from escaping Scientology base near L.A.


[Evidence suggests that Shelly Miscavige, the wife of Scientology’s leader, has been kept out of sight at a secretive Scientology compound in the mountains above Los Angeles since 2005. Now, for the first time, there was an account of private security making sure Shelly doesn’t escape the compound.]

Mar. 17 — Here are the wealthy people keeping Scientology alive

[As Scientology shrinks, leader David Miscavige is relying on a small number of wealthy donors who give to the church in huge amounts. Miscavige celebrated some of them recently in an internal Scientology magazine that the Bunker made public, with the amounts they forked over.]

Mar. 26 — Jillian Schlesinger: How I got into Scientology, and how I got out

[Jillian, 29, knew that when her schedule changed unexpectedly at Scientology’s Los Angeles headquarters earlier this year, she had one good chance to make a run for it, something she’d been planning for weeks. She revealed in March the details of her stunning escape only weeks after she got away.]

Apr. 18 — The rising business star, his mother, and Scientology’s attempt to rip them apart

[Gayle Smith’s family was ripped apart by Scientology’s policy of “disconnection” when one of her twin sons developed doubts about the church. He died before she had a chance to reconcile with him after making her own exit from the organization. But now, her other son is facing the prospect of his family being split up as well, right as he’s becoming a star in the business community and was featured at]

May 19 — Scientology’s drug rehab network sued for conspiring to misuse counseling credentials

[Scientology’s drug rehab network, Narconon, continues to become a major source of trouble for the church. Wrongful death lawsuits, government investigations, and federal fraud lawsuits are piling up, but in May there was a stunning new legal salvo from the National Association of Forensic Counselors. The suit names 82 defendants — including Scientology leader David Miscavige — and accuses Scientology and Narconon of conspiring to misuse the NAFC’s logo and certifications to make Narconon appear more legitimate than it is.]

May 24 — When Scientologists sell each other Scientology: ‘I’m me for the first time in trillions of years!’

[When Scientologists talk to outsiders, they are trained to keep quiet about what Scientology actually is. But to each other, they can sound downright bizarre. This new “success stories” video, not meant for public consumption, captures church members making some of the strangest claims ever.]

Jun. 6 — Where is Scientology keeping Samantha Sterne?

[Mary Jane Sterne is asking for help locating her daughter, Samantha. The 20-year-old had started a promising career at the University of Oregon, and despite growing up around Scientology, she had never shown an interest in it herself. Then, after just an 11-day visit to Scientology’s Florida headquarters, Samantha quit college and signed a billion-year contract to work for Scientology, shocking her mother. Even in the age of the Internet, Scientology still has the power to pull in impressionable young people.]

Tonight, Third Person opens in theaters, the first film by director Paul Haggis since his very public exit from the Church of Scientology. Haggis has been nominated for five Academy Awards, winning twice — as producer and writer of Crash (2004). He was also nominated for his direction on Crash, as well as his writing on Million Dollar Baby (2004), and Letters from Iwo Jima (2006). He also wrote, directed, and produced 2007’s In the Valley of Elah, and wrote and directed 2010’s The Next Three Days, which had a small part for Jason Beghe, an actor who two years earlier had left Scientology in a very public way. Haggis’s own defection was captured brilliantly by Lawrence Wright in a lengthy 2011 feature story for The New Yorker, which grew into Wright’s 2013 book, Going Clear.

We mentioned yesterday that we got to see an early, rough cut of Third Person, which stars Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, James Franco, Mila Kunis, Adrien Brody, Moran Atias, Maria Bello, and Kim Basinger. We recommend Andrew O’Hehir’s excellent meditation on the film at Salon, which most closely describes the movie that we saw.

—Tony O.


Posted by Tony Ortega on June 20, 2014 at 07:00

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Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS (We read Scientology’s founding text) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25

UP THE BRIDGE (Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47

GETTING OUR ETHICS IN (Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING (Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer


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