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Scientology’s 2014 in review: May your days be merry and bright!

XmasPresentsMerry Christmas! We hope you’re having a lovely Saturnalia as we continue to look back at the most significant stories we covered here in the Underground Bunker in 2014. In this installment we’re looking at the stories we covered in May.

One of the things that characterized 2014 was the rising number of Scientology defectors prepared to tell their stories right after leaving. It can take a former member years to decide to speak publicly, and many or most never do. But this year, we were stunned repeatedly by people talking about their Scientology experience only weeks after walking away.

In March, it had been Jillian Schlesinger who spoke of her escape from the Sea Org, and now, to start the month of May, we talked to Florida horse doctor Lee Shewmaker, who was tired of being an easy mark for the church’s fundraising efforts.

The next day, we reported that Luis and Rocio Garcia got over a huge hurdle in their 2013 federal fraud lawsuit against the Church of Scientology. In a case that’s being closely watched by many former Scientologists who believe the church owes them money, the Garcias managed to convince federal Judge James D. Whittemore that they had successfully dealt with a jurisdictional challenge by Scientology’s legal team that had derailed the lawsuit for several months.

On May 8, a bit of a bombshell: One of our readers wrote to Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, complaining about Scientology’s special treatment by the IRS. Wyden wrote her back, indicating that he had asked for a formal review of the reasons why the IRS had granted Scientology tax exempt status. Meanwhile, we revealed that another of our readers had met personally with IRS criminal investigation detectives who eagerly requested hundreds of documents about Scientology’s financial history. It was our first hint in 20 years that the IRS might be interested in revisiting its decisions regarding the church.

On May 10, the Flag Down conference in Clearwater, Florida concluded with a stunning performance by Jamie DeWolf, great-grandson to Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. The professional storyteller revealed that he’d located the full text of an unpublished memoir by his grandfather, Ron DeWolf — a/k/a L. Ron Hubbard Jr. — and made a spellbinding reading from portions of it. Sadly, Ron DeWolf apparently gave over copyright of the work to Scientology before he died in 1991, so the full work may never be published.

On May 14, we published the police investigation into the death of Scientologist Evgeny Zharkin, who had fallen from a window in a Clearwater condo building soon after flying from Russia. Police didn’t suspect foul play, and we had to agree that not only was there a lack of any evidence that Zharkin had been pushed, but it looks likely that his fall was an accident.

The next day, we got a look at a new film by former Scientologist Tiziano Lugli that parodied one of Scientology’s propaganda videos about “human rights.”

On May 19, we looked at the major new lawsuit filed against Scientology by the National Association of Forensic Counselors. With 82 defendants, the lawsuit accuses Scientology of a conspiracy to misuse the NAFC’s trademarks and logos in order to make Scientology’s drug rehab network, Narconon, appear more legitimate than it is. Scientology leader David Miscavige himself is one of the many defendants in this case, and that has amped up the volume all the more on this fascinating legal tussle. We’ve been especially entertained by Miscavige’s use of attorney Jeffrey K. Riffer, whose filings are always so bombastic and over the top, while the NAFC’s attorney, David Keesling, has seemed more than up to the task.

On May 21 we pushed back on Amy Nicholson’s attempt, at LA Weekly, to rehabilitate Tom Cruise in advance of a book she had written about him. Nicholson got a lot of mileage out of this story as she wowed the credulous at NPR and other outlets with her “discovery” that Cruise had not, in fact, jumped on Oprah’s couch in 2005, and that he was a victim of a massive Internet smear. Not only was this simply untrue — Cruise jumped on the couch twice, as video proves — but Nicholson was doing her best to play down the real reason Tom’s reputation is so damaged — his association with Scientology, especially after a disastrous 2008 leak of a 9-minute interview of Cruise taped in 2004. Nicholson’s piece didn’t even mention that video, which sparked the Anonymous movement against Scientology and has become the emblem of Cruise’s nuttiness. We’re still surprised at how much Nicholson’s naked attempt to create a market for her book snowed so many in the media.

The month also featured the first interview with rehab victim Richard Teague, one of the best Scientology ‘testimonial’ videos we’ve seen in a while, stunning photos of David Miscavige’s personal offices, a mysterious suicide of a witness to a Narconon death, and a story that really seemed to resonate with our readers — a look at the success post-Sea Org members are having starting families after they leave Scientology.

A LOOK BACK AT MAY 2013: Lori Hodgson makes a surprise visit to see her son in Austin, Ron Miscavige Sr. resurfaces by selling gym equipment, Wise Beard Man reports from Portland, and we review Marty Rathbun’s book Memoirs of a Scientology Warrior.

 
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Posted by Tony Ortega on December 25, 2014 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to tonyo94@gmail.com 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.

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

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

 

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