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What Scientology’s ‘social betterment’ front groups are really all about

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A lot of our coverage this year was about Scientology’s numerous front groups. From Legoland giving the Scientology front Youth for Human Rights $10,000 to play with, to the various disasters of Narconon drug rehabs, Scientology’s sneaky “social betterment” groups seemed to make a bigger push than ever to get L. Ron Hubbard’s name out to the public in ways that weren’t obviously connected to Scientology.

But even with its increased efforts, Scientology can’t really hope to become a force in the nation’s schools with Applied Scholastics, or really make a dent in addiction treatment with Narconon, or crush the psychiatry industry with the Citizens Commission for Human Rights (CCHR). So what’s really going on?

At the Scientology website, the “social betterment” groups are said to be “supported by” the Church of Scientology…

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But that’s a dodge. We know that the fronts only exist because they’re licensed by the Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE), a Scientology subsidiary staffed with Sea Org members. The front groups aren’t supported by Scientology, they are Scientology.

And what “support” they do get comes from Scientologists. And that’s what really matters.

While Narconon has been a moneymaker for the church for decades, the others are not. They have to be supported by donations from Scientologists themselves. And at what cost?

Jeffrey Augustine showed us just how expensive it can be to lend “support” to the church’s front groups. He found that each of them has donation pages that are aimed at wealthy Scientologists.

“Let’s assume a hypothetical Youth for Human Rights International (YHRI) event where 2,000 booklets and 200 DVDs are distributed. What would that cost a Scientologist to sponsor? YHRI’s shopping cart informs us of the prices,” Jeff says.

 
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That’s a cool $6,000 to help YHRI to put on an event. And we’re just getting warmed up. Scientologists are always hit up to support the efforts of The Way to Happiness Foundation, which prints and distributes L. Ron Hubbard’s bland 1981 guide to moral precepts.

“The booklets likely cost less than fifteen cents each to produce, but they sell bundles of twelve for $18.00. Let us suppose you were an OT in a lower ethics condition. The Office of Special Affairs might suggest that you donate for 1,000 bundles, for a total of 12,000 booklets plus 200 DVDs. In this scenario, you would be looking at a wallet-destroying bill for $15,700,” Jeffrey points out.

 
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But you’re a big thetan, and you want to leave your mark, perhaps on the nation’s schools, where you’d like to see Hubbard’s “study technology” have an impact. For that, you can donate to Applied Scholastics, which tries to worm its way into school districts without mentioning its connection to Scientology.

“Let’s suppose you were a Scientology-friendly movie star who wanted to supply an ‘academy’ with 100 copies of eight books offered by Applied Scholastics,” Jeff says. “This would be a $42,285 bite.”

 
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But the craziest of the front groups is CCHR, which is so unhinged, few people take it seriously (except for the governor of Texas).

“Let’s say I’m a high-minded Scientology whale who wants my staff to send out a CCHR mailer to 1,200 opinion leaders in Congress, the arts, education, and private industry,” Jeff says. “I order 1,200 copies of my three favorite CCHR DVDs and write a check for $113,940.”

 
CCHRshop

 
“The actual ‘End Phenomenon’ of Scientology’s social betterment programs is simply a series of online shopping carts where one purchases incredibly overpriced products that have little or no efficacy,” Jeffrey tells us.

And that’s why they really exist. Not because of what effect they might have on the world at large, but because of what they can get out of the wallets of Scientologists.

Remember, with Scientology, it’s always and only about the money.

Thank you, Jeff, for helping us figure this out!

 
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Scientology’s 2015 in review: Another big October

 
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We’re continuing our year-end look back at the most significant stories we covered this year. In this post we’re looking at the stories of October.

As October began, we were madly scrambling to keep in front of the world’s press after breaking the news that Cathriona White, Jim Carrey’s on-again-off-again Irish girlfriend who had killed herself a few days before, had been a Scientologist, a fact that even some of her close friends professed not to know. On October 1, with the help of Pete Griffiths we identified Cat’s Scientology “twin,” a small-time actor named Travis Case. A few days later we wrote about the young Hollywood types who had guided Cat into the Celebrity Centre as they chased the fame of church members like Erika Christensen and Beck. On October 6, we published two big pieces: Claire Headley revealed that Scientology had made a major effort to get Jim Carrey into the fold in the early 2000s, and we were the first to correctly identify Mark Burton, the Scientologist cameraman Cat had secretly married in 2013. We also revealed where Cat’s friends held their invitation-only wake, and we identified who it was that actually had found Cat’s body on September 28. And finally, on October 9, we wrote about the Austrian family in Tipperary, the Helnweins, who had been Cathriona’s connection between Ireland, Scientology, and Hollywood.

While we were in Seattle in September, we finally had a chance to meet Gary “Jackson” Morehead, who had been the chief of security at Scientology’s Int Base back in the day. On October 12, we related a very curious and wonderful story Gary told us (backed up by others) about Scientology’s excursion to Steve Wozniak’s 1982 music experiment, the US Festival. Gary was one of the Sea Orgers who promoted L. Ron Hubbard’s new book, Battlefield Earth at the concert. But when they returned to the base and learned that photos hadn’t been taken, they had to recreate the festival at the base using Sea Org workers dressed as concertgoers to fake photos for the benefit of Hubbard (who was in hiding). It was Scientology absurdity at its best.

In mid-October, we went over to London to be in the audience for the premiere of Louis Theroux’s My Scientology Movie. We found it to be hilarious. After the movie, we were fortunate enough to spend about an hour talking with Louis about his movie and about what it’s like to research Scientology. We hope his movie finds wide distribution in 2016.

On October 24, we got a detailed report from our man in Europe, Jonny Jacobsen, who helped us understand the news coming out of the Netherlands — the Dutch had denied Scientology tax exemption based, in part, on the high prices Scientology charges.

By then, we’d winged over to Australia for the final leg of our book tour. TV journalists Steve Cannane and Bryan Seymour really went all out for us, setting up great venues in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth. Our trip was so successful it was almost surreal. Our first trip Down Under, we went directly from the Sydney airport to Seymour’s Channel 7 studios and were on a national morning show just hours after touching down. On our second day in the country, we met Mel Gibson on the set of his new movie, “Hacksaw Ridge.” In Melbourne, our talk at the Wheeler Centre was in front of a packed room of 250 people. In Adelaide, we had a weird and wonderful dinner with Senator Nick Xenophon, who is every much the character we hoped he would be. And we loved Perth, the city at the end of the world, where, even there, we have great and loyal readers.

And still, hopping around from hotel room to hotel room in Oz, we managed to uncork one of the most surprising scoops of the year. On Tuesday, October 27, three days before Leah Remini’s big interview on 20/20 and a week before the publication of her memoir, Troublemaker, we posted explosive material that her book was actually based on — the “Knowledge Reports” that spying church members had submitted about her. Some of our best, most longtime sources were astonished that we had that material and admitted they had no idea how we’d come upon it. We’d had the reports for some time, and then we learned, after obtaining a pre-publication copy of Troublemaker despite all the efforts of her publisher, that Leah only refers to the “KRs” briefly in the book and doesn’t excerpt from them. So we thought we’d take care of that. Obviously, revealing some of the secrets of Leah’s book a week early didn’t hurt her book sales in the least, as Troublemaker shot to #1 on the bestseller list.

We finished up October with another sighting of Tom Cruise doing his duty as Scientology’s poster boy, and yet more proof that he’s not leaving the organization, despite what some of the tabloids ardently seem to wish. And on October 30, the live-blogging was a blast to watch from the other end of the planet as our readers frenetically described Leah Remini’s night on ABC.

What. A. Month. But as you’ll see from the links of 2014 and 2013, October tends to be a monster. We can’t wait to see what happens next year.

 
A LOOK BACK AT OCTOBER 2014: Scientology’s private threat letter to the S.F. Chronicle. A perplexing tale about Bob Duggan, the richest Scientologist in the world. Tom Cruise and his medal in London. Marty Rathbun ambushed at LAX by raving Jenny Linson. L. Ron Hubbard’s amazing 1949 letter to Forrest Ackerman. Mark Ebner finds Gay Ribisi’s plaques.

A LOOK BACK AT OCTOBER 2013: Live-blogging the Garcia mini-trial in Tampa, Scientology denied by the US Supreme Court, interpreting Leah Remini’s epic dance, and live-blogging a dramatic hearing in Laura DeCrescenzo’s lawsuit in Los Angeles.

 
BEST OF 2015: Our personal picks for stories we’re most glad we got to write this year:

January: Being on the scene to write about the Going Clear Sundance premiere
February: A shocking tale of Scientology mistreatment of the mentally ill in Tennessee and Arkansas
March: Sylvia DeWall is declared and faces the loss of her family, and we get to hear it on audio
April: We dig up the true story of Tom Cruise and Mimi Rogers
May: Paulette Cooper appears in Hollywood two blocks from Big Blue
June: Scientology illegally hacks Mike Rinder and your proprietor with a PI who takes the fall
July: Scientology’s little day care of horrors
August: Why Steve Fishman — of the notorious Fishman papers — is today serving 21 years in prison
September: Jim Carrey’s girlfriend, Cathriona White, was a Scientologist on the SRD when she killed herself
October: The Leah Remini files: An exclusive look at the KRs that inform her memoir

 
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BOOK NOTES
3D-Unbreakable

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.

Our book tour is concluded for now. (But you can re-experience it through this nifty interactive map!) We’ll let you know about future appearances. Previous events: 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), Boston (8/24), Phoenix (9/15), Cleveland (9/23), Minneapolis (9/24), Portland (9/27), Seattle (9/28), Vancouver BC (9/29), Sydney (10/23), Melbourne (10/25), Adelaide (10/28), Perth (10/30)

 
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Posted by Tony Ortega on December 30, 2015 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT 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 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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