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Lyman Spurlock, 1945-2014: Imprisoned and abused, a loyal Scientology executive to the end

Lyman_SpurlockWe received confirmation that Lyman Spurlock, a longtime and high-ranking official in the Church of Scientology, died last month after a battle with cancer. He was 69.

Spurlock had worked directly with Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, and was a key figure in Hubbard’s scheme to reorganize Scientology while he was in hiding in the early 1980s. In more recent years, eyewitnesses say Spurlock quietly and without complaint suffered verbal and physical abuse at the hands of current Scientology leader David Miscavige. He spent much of his life at Scientology’s secretive International Base east of Los Angeles, but left it recently for Scientology’s spiritual mecca in Clearwater, Florida, loyal to the organization to the end.

Spurlock was born on February 19, 1945 to a military family that moved regularly during his early years. His father, a Marine, retired in San Diego in 1959.

Spurlock may have first encountered Scientology in Berkeley around 1970. By the early 1980s, he was a high-ranking member of the Sea Organization and was working directly with Hubbard.

Hubbard went into permanent hiding in February of 1980 as eleven of his top officials — including his wife — were facing prison following an FBI raid of the church in 1977. Hubbard was aging, and knew that he might also face prosecution and civil lawsuits, and he asked Spurlock and his attorneys to find a way to prepare for transferring his estate and protecting his assets.

Hubbard had ordered something called “Mission Corporate Category Sort-Out,” but he rejected numerous proposals for how to secure his money. It was Spurlock who came up with a scheme that featured entities he called the “Religious Technology Center” and the “Church of Spiritual Technology.” These corporations replaced the old mother church — the Church of Scientology of California — as the ruling entities of Scientology, and, as Spurlock explained in a 1991 sworn declaration, were intended not only to hold the trademarks and copyrights of Hubbard’s Scientology “technology,” but also to give CST the ultimate ability to gain control of the church in case of an emergency.


Just after Mr. Hubbard approved the proposal I conceived of an additional safeguard to protect the future of the Scientology religion — giving Church of Spiritual Technology an option to acquire the religious marks and Advanced Technology from Religious Technology Center in the extreme circumstance that the survival of the religion were threatened. I proposed this additional safeguard to Mr. Hubbard, which he approved.

Before her recent death, former Sea Org worker Denise Brennan spoke to us about the “Sort-Out,” and described CST in the same way — as the ultimate backstop in case CSI (the Church of Scientology International) and RTC were devastated by legal losses.

“If a local org was sued on a fraud claim, and that lawsuit somehow managed to rope in CSI (the Church of Scientology International), and then even RTC — taking years to get there legally — well guess what, there would be one entity that you could never get to: CST. You could never get to CST because it wasn’t giving any orders,” Denise told us.

It was Spurlock who conceived that complex scheme and came up with the colorful names for the entities. He was also an officer and trustee of the corporations.

But Brennan explained to us that those titles were a sham. David Miscavige was fully in control of Scientology’s alphabet-soup corporate structure through his command of the Sea Organization, which really runs the church.

And Spurlock’s position at CST didn’t protect him as Miscavige decimated the “exec strata” at Int Base in the early 2000s.

Jefferson Hawkins tells us that he saw Spurlock take a lot of abuse from Miscavige because Spurlock didn’t fit the mold of dictatorial Sea Org executives.

“He was definitely a target of Miscavige’s. Miscavige hated ‘nice guys’ who would not be as sadistic and abusive as he was. I personally witnessed Miscavige repeatedly berating Lyman verbally and on one occasion, striking him during a meeting,” Hawkins tells us.

Mike Rinder also characterized Spurlock as an uncharacteristically caring Sea Org official.

He was my auditor for many years, a good friend, golfing partner and voice of reason in the often insane world at the top of the international Scientology hierarchy. Lyman was always concerned about the well-being of others. He fought to get staff paid and well cared for to the point where he was constantly derided for being “worker-oriented.” I wish he had been able to reconnect with his family and had found another means of escaping the trap of the cult. Ultimately, he escaped, but it would have been nice had the route been less drastic. I don’t know anyone who interacted with Lyman who didn’t like him.

At the beginning of 2004, Miscavige began holding dozens of his top executives in a makeshift prison fashioned out of some offices in a double-wide trailer at the Int Base. Called “SP Hall” or “The Hole,” it was a hellish place, with people sleeping on office floors, eating slop from a 5-gallon drum, and getting out only once per day for a shower. Spurlock was one of the executives in the Hole, at least during its early years.

In April of this year Spurlock was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer and knew he didn’t have much time. He claimed to be receiving excellent care, and in May said he was riding in a “luxury RV” to go to Clearwater, where he planned to prepare for leaving his body and picking up a new one, as Scientologists believe.

He died sometime in August, but we don’t yet have details like a specific date or location because Scientology is doing its best to keep that hidden. (And that reminds us of the death of another prominent, loyal church executive whose death was kept a secret for several months.)

When we get those details, we’ll add them to the piece. In the meantime, we’d like to know if you have any memories of Lyman that you could share with us in our comments section.


Posted by Tony Ortega on September 8, 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, 48

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, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49

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