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Scientology: Making fools of your local elected lunkheads since 1952

KCIdealIn 2003, your proprietor moved to Kansas City. It was something of a leap of faith. We’re from Los Angeles, and we’d lived in New York, and we didn’t have a lot of familiarity with the middle of the country. But it turned out to be one of the best moves we ever made.

We’re still best friends with some of the people we met during the two years we lived there, and we have fond memories of our time as managing editor of The Pitch, a weekly newspaper.

We were pleasantly surprised to receive a call recently from a writer currently working for The Pitch who wanted to get some help with a really interesting story he was putting together.

He had noticed that Scientology, like in many cities in the US, had purchased a large, historic building in the downtown area (pictured), but then had let it rot for several years.

We gave him the background on Scientology leader David Miscavige’s “Ideal Org” program. For more than a decade now, Miscavige has tried to give the illusion of Scientology expanding by replacing existing “orgs” (short for organizations) with fancier, more upscale facilities, often housed in historic buildings in downtown locations.

Replacing a utilitarian facility with a grander one really isn’t expansion, not when the resulting “Ideal Org” sits virtually empty. But whenever a reporter asks Scientology anything, spokeswoman Karin Pouw responds with the same pitch about how the “real” story about Scientology is all of the new “churches” it’s opened around the world.


It’s a public relations sham, of course, and former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder, at his excellent blog, has documented how much of a shell game the Ideal Org program really is.

That’s especially true in recent years and in the eastern half of the United States. In Kansas City and Chicago and Detroit and Philadelphia and Boston and other places, local Scientologists were pressured to raise millions in local money to purchase historic buildings, but they’ve struggled for years to raise additional cash to make renovations. So in the meantime, the buildings Scientology owns have sat, rotting, and have become eyesores that local leaders are beginning to squawk about.

And now, Steve Vockrodt at the Pitch has asked a question that we had not seen asked before. Since the Kansas City building was purchased in 2007 and has been waiting for local Scientologists to somehow come up with the millions necessary for renovation, is the Church of Scientology paying any property taxes in the meantime?

Vockrodt found that the answer was no. Except for some token fees for downtown initiatives, Scientology is paying bupkis in property tax on a prime piece of downtown real estate, simply because of the owner’s status as a tax exempt religious organization.

But hang on. The building hasn’t been renovated. It’s not being used. It’s rotting in place. Why in tarnation would Scientology not be required to pay property taxes while it sits on a building that was providing no public benefit of any kind? Here’s what Vockrodt found when he asked that question:

Missouri law states that a property must be “actually and regularly used exclusively for religious worship” in order for a religious organization to retain tax-exempt status on it.

Edwin Stoll, deputy chief administrator for Jackson County, tells The Pitch that the church has provided documentation that it holds events at 1801 Grand during downtown parades and such.

Oh, well, Scientology has participated in parades. That changes everything. So while the daily newspaper the Kansas City Star, in a somewhat similar building across the street, pays $98,000 a year in property taxes, Scientology pays not a damn thing because it participates in parades.

You can just never overestimate the ability of Scientology to make complete fools of government and law enforcement officials in this country. It’s truly stunning, and it’s one of the things that keeps us interested in covering this story, year after year. We’re endlessly entertained by what Scientologists get away with.

A similar farce is taking place in Maryland. You’ve probably been paying attention to it as closely as we have.

Scientology purchased a rotting old fishing camp called Trout Run that once served as a stand-in for Camp David in scenes shot for The West Wing. Scientology’s drug rehab network, Narconon, wants to turn the place into a small rehab facility, but in order for that to happen, it needs the zoning on the place changed.

Narconon’s well-compensated consultants figured out that if the place were designated a historic site by local officials, it could then open its drug rehab.

We know that makes absolutely no sense, but Scientology doesn’t care if something makes sense. They just want a place where they can open another clinic. They don’t really care if the place is really historic or not.

So in a meeting yesterday held by the Frederick County Council, it was infuriating to see that some of the council members kept insisting that the decision before them had nothing to do with whether Scientology was going to move in with another drug rehab, but simply whether Trout Run — where President Herbert Hoover once cast a line in a manner that was no doubt one for the ages — should be designated a historic site.

These council members had been so “safepointed” by Scientology’s consultants, they refused to consider whether it was really a good idea to have the church move its unscientific quack detox program into a remote area, far from any hospitals where inevitably some of its patients would have to be rushed for treatment and, heaven forbid, for autopsies.

After recent patient deaths in Georgia, Michigan, California and Oklahoma, you might think that the good folks of Frederick County would wonder about the deceitful nature of Narconon that’s been exposed by attorneys like Ryan Hamilton, Jeff Ray, and David Miller. When will government officials and the media figure it out: Narconon is Scientology, and it offers patients Scientology training rather than the drug counseling it promises.

But, you know, details. And politicians are busy.

Can local officials really be so completely bamboozled that they actually believe their vote is merely about designating a fish camp a historic place?

It’s another classic example of American officialdom outsmarted and outgunned by Scientology, which has no ethical purpose other than to perpetuate itself.

Is there no one in an official capacity in this country who cannot be subverted by the pretty talk of Scientology’s slick agents?

But we cannot despair. We do have some truth-tellers, some public figures who are unafraid to call bullshit and expose the organization’s obfuscations and canards.

We’re talking about our late-night comedians.

They, at least, are unafraid to speak truth to Scientology’s deceptions.

There’s David Letterman, for example, who has taken some pretty hilarious shots at Scientology since Alex Gibney’s documentary Going Clear first aired on HBO on March 29.

And on Monday night, he had a rare opportunity. Scientology celebrity John Travolta was appearing on Letterman’s show to promote his new movie, The Forger.

After the shots Letterman had taken at Scientology, we were pretty sure he’d at least jokingly refer to Going Clear or in some other way bring up Travolta’s long involvement in the church.

But no such luck. Travolta grabbed hold of the conversation at the beginning with some of the most obsequious ass-kissing we’ve ever seen from a film star. And Letterman returned it with fawning fanboy slathering about Travolta’s fleet of airplanes.

Letterman chickened out. (The always reliable Paul Shaffer at least got in a subtle dig by playing “I can see clearly now” as Travolta walked on stage.)

It was disappointing, if predictable. Another person in a position to do something, didn’t.

So we brush it off and keep on doing what we do. We’ll just keep covering stories while Scientology keeps on snowing our elected officials and law enforcement agencies and even our (presumably) clever late night comedians.

It is, after all, what we’re used to.


Bonus photos from our tipsters

Caption by Sarah Ehrlich, who we earlier revealed had signed over her 16-year-old son for the Sea Org: “This has been my life to the late night hours lately. Well late night for me, 9pm. And as a result I’m feeling super fine!!! A better mama, wife, and overall a much better ME!!!”


Scientology Dallas, actual caption: “Our most recent Auditor back from Training. Certified, Classed and ready to take you in session! Come find out how to get rid of unwanted emotions, reactions to life, depression and how to truly survive prosperously.”


Scientologists are using social media more than ever. Drop us a line if you spot them posting images to Instagram or Facebook!



OK, things are set, and here’s the deal. On May 14, you will be able to purchase ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely’ from Amazon in either electronic or print format, and simultaneously in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.

The book will not be available for pre-order before that date. It is going live for sale on Thursday, May 14, and not a moment earlier. And hey, that’s just a few weeks away, so you won’t have to wait long.

Our appearances…

May 16, Santa Barbara Humanist Society (with Paulette Cooper), 3:00 pm
May 17, Center for Inquiry-West Los Angeles, 4773 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, 11 am; ALSO: CFI Orange County (Costa Mesa), 4:30 pm (with Paulette Cooper)
May 20, San Diego (tentative)
May 22, San Francisco (with Jamie DeWolf and Paulette Cooper)

(Finalizing a New York City event in early June)

July 12, Washington DC, Center for Inquiry


Posted by Tony Ortega on April 22, 2015 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.

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of LA attorney and former church member Vance Woodward

UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists

GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice

SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield


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