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Florida rejects complaint over Scientology ‘disconnection,’ but Brian Sheen unbowed

Brian_Sheen_SingsongLast month, we scrambled to bring you the story of Brian Sheen. A local television story in Florida had done a story on a man who had made a “civil rights complaint” to the state of Florida about the Church of Scientology denying him access to his daughter, but the story was short on details and somewhat confusing.

We interviewed Brian at length to learn his interesting story about having been very involved in Scientology in the early 1970s — he’d even been trained as an auditor on the yacht Apollo while L. Ron Hubbard was running Scientology from it. But then, in the late 1970s, Brian had broken away from Scientology after a bad experience being hit up for money by the organization.

Fast forward a few decades, and Brian had found himself suddenly “declared” a “suppressive person” by Scientology after 36 years of having no relationship with the organization. That caused his daughter Springsong, who is still a member, to cut off all ties from him, just months after she had married into one of the most prominent current families in the church. Stunned that he suddenly had no access to his 38-year-old daughter, Brian began trying to find out why Scientology suddenly, after so long, had declared him an enemy.

Meanwhile, he fired off his civil rights complaint to a Florida commission that seemed, to us, a poor fit for his concerns. And Brian has now informed us that, indeed, the commission rejected his petition.

He tells us that the commission told him he has two problems. First, his complaint doesn’t really fit any of the areas covered by the Florida Commission on Human Relations, a body that considers discrimination claims in the areas of employment, housing, whistleblowing, and public accommodations. And second, they told him he runs into the issue of Scientology’s own First Amendment rights as a religion to practice as they see fit. (Where have we heard that one before?)

Brian tells us that he’s amended his complaint to deal with those issues, and he’s resubmitted it. We don’t really see much of a change, however. He’s running into the same problem — his daughter is a grown woman living in California, and she’s following a policy (“disconnection”) set up by a group she voluntarily belongs to, as toxic as that policy is. We feel for Brian, but we don’t see grounds for a lawsuit, and we don’t see how a state commission can step in.


But Brian told us he’s taking another approach as well, and this one seems more interesting, at least to us. He fired off a letter to the parents of his daughter’s new husband, Ryan Atkinson-Baker.

When we interviewed him last month, Brian told us that during his daughter’s wedding last fall in San Francisco, he was struck by what a couple of tightwads the parents of his daughter’s new husband were. Ryan’s dad, Alan Atkinson-Baker, wore a T-shirt to the rehearsal dinner, which, like the reception itself, was a restaurant meal where the check was split by everyone who took part.

Brian had no idea, until we informed him, that Alan and Sheila Atkinson-Baker are actually well known “whales” in Scientology. The couple not only owns a court-reporting firm named Atkinson-Baker, but Alan and Sheila are on record for personally donating $13 million to Scientology’s IAS slush fund. Brian said he got along well with the Atkinson-Bakers at his daughter’s wedding, and he never expressed any concern about her remaining in the church or marrying into a Scientologist family.

While Brian doesn’t believe that the Atkinson-Bakers had anything to do with his “declare” (he actually blames a situation with his own brother), Brian does wonder if the wealthy couple might not have some influence and could pressure the church to revisit its decision to split up Brian and his daughter.

He shared with us the letter he wrote to the Atkinson-Bakers, but he doesn’t want it made public yet, not with the chance that he might get a favorable reply. So we’ll keep it to ourselves for now. But we think he may be on to something, at least in a more fruitful direction than with the Florida state commission. We wish Brian the best of luck.


Duggan and Cardone really laying it on thick

We told you recently that it strikes us as odd the way the bromance between Scientology’s wealthiest donor, Bob Duggan, and its most obnoxious ham hock, Grant Cardone, is becoming a roadshow like Crosby and Hope. The two richies were convinced, on only a few weeks’ notice, to take part in a Scientology seminar aboard the church’s private cruise ship, the Freewinds. And now, that seminar has a hastily-assembled website that we think you might find slightly amusing.


Bonus photos from our tipsters

Hey, look at this great crowd at our Conway Hall appearance with John Sweeney and Humfrey Hunter in London on August 4, part of an album of photos the Hall just put up


The bromance continues…




We didn’t get a chance to include photos in our book, so we’ve posted them at a dedicated page. Reader Sookie put together a complete index and we’re hosting it here on the website. Copies of the paperback version of ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely’ are on sale at Amazon. The Kindle edition is also available, and shipping instantly.

Tony Ortega’s upcoming appearances (and check out the interactive map to our ongoing tour)…

August 24: Boston, Boston Skeptics in the Pub, Hong Kong restaurant (1238 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge) 7 pm (with Gregg Housh)

Sept 15: Barrett the Honors College, Arizona State University, ASU in Downtown Phoenix campus, Walter Cronkite Theater, 5:30 pm

Sept 23: Cleveland, Parma Heights Library, 7pm sponsored by Center for Inquiry – Northeast Ohio

Sept 24: Minneapolis

Sept 27: Portland

Sept 28: Seattle, Razzi’s Pizzeria, 7 pm, with Seattle Skeptics and Seattle Atheists

Sept 29: Vancouver, BC, Seven Dining Lounge, 7 pm

Oct 23: Sydney, Giant Dwarf Theatre (with Sen. Nick Xenophon)

Oct 25: Melbourne

Oct 28: Adelaide (with Sen. Nick Xenophon)

Oct 30: Perth

Past dates: Santa Barbara (5/16), Hollywood (5/17), Orange County (5/17), San Diego (5/20), San Francisco (5/22), New York (6/11), Chicago (6/20), Toronto (6/22), Clearwater (6/28), Washington DC (7/12), Hartford (7/14), Denver (7/17), Dallas (7/20), Houston (7/22), San Antonio (7/24), Austin (7/25), Paris (7/29), London (8/4)


Posted by Tony Ortega on August 14, 2015 at 07:00

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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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