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February made us shiver, but it was another Astounding month here in the Bunker

astounding

 
We’re continuing to count down the months in our 2016 year-in-review, and today we’re looking back at the stories covered here at the Underground Bunker during February. (But we’re still continuing to cover breaking news, never fear.)

Looking back at February 2016, the month started off with perhaps the year’s biggest shock to the system. We broke the news on February 1 that Monique Rathbun had fired her entire legal team. In August 2013, Monique filed a harassment lawsuit against numerous Scientology entities and officials, including church leader David Miscavige. Scientology responded by throwing more than 20 lawyers at the case, which provided some interesting scenes down at the courthouse in quiet Comal County, Texas. Those lawyers followed Scientology’s usual scorched-earth playbook and threw numerous roadblocks at the suit, including the tactic of trying to get Monique’s attorneys disqualified. But Monique’s team — Ray Jeffrey, Marc Wiegand, Elliott Cappuccio, and, for appeals, Leslie Hyman — knocked back everything Scientology threw at them, and were, by all accounts, winning the case. Scientology knew it, and in order to protect Miscavige, the church fell on its sword and made some amazing stipulations in official court briefs, admitting, for example, that it does surveil and investigate former members as a matter of course. Never, in decades of litigation, had the church made statements so openly admitting to such behavior, an indication of the worry that Miscavige would end up, at some point, under oath in this mess. From May 2014 to November 2015 — a full year and a half — the case was on hold as the Texas Third Court of Appeals considered one of Scientology’s desperate attempts to derail the lawsuit. But when the appeals court finally ruled, it not only cleared away the church’s obstruction but handed Monique one of the most damning rulings against Scientology in many years. After more than two years of preliminary matters, Monique and her husband, former church official Mark “Marty” Rathbun, were in the driver’s seat and were poised to cause some serious pain for Miscavige and his church, our legal experts told us. And then, just two months later, Monique fired all four of her attorneys, and “without cause,” so if some kind of judgment or settlement still happened, the attorneys would be in line to be paid. After then gamely pursuing the case on her own for a few months, Monique then withdrew it altogether while blaming her former attorneys for blatantly mishandling the lawsuit — a charge that was demonstrably untrue. Months later, we’re still completely mystified as to why the Rathbuns badmouthed their attorneys and walked away from a winning case that at least had the potential to yield them a settlement in the millions of dollars. At his blog, Marty Rathbun claimed that there was no settlement at all, and he has left readers guessing as to the reason the lawsuit was dropped.

Thankfully, on February 5 we lightened things up with another of those glorious testimonials videos from Scientology — and this one even featured Leah Remini’s husband, Angelo Pagan, talking about his “releases” and “blowing things out.”

The next day, we mentioned how impressed we were with the undercover investigation of what it’s like to join Scientology by Ross Blocher and Carrie Poppy in their podcast series, “Oh No, Ross and Carrie!” Journalists have been infiltrating Scientology since the 1960s, but few have done it with as much style and humor as these two in what turned out to be a splendid nine-part adventure.

Once again, Scientology aired an ad in some markets during this year’s Super Bowl, and our explanation of what was in it proved to be one of our most-read stories of the year. Assuming there’s an ad in the next Super Bowl, it will be five years in a row. Look for the new ad to show up on Scientology’s YouTube channel right after midnight on New Year’s Eve.

On February 12 and 13, we published our first really big feature stories of the year with our two-part series on Paul Burkhart (Part 1, Part 2). Not only did Paul make for a fascinating profile as the person who planned new building spaces for Scientology, but he was also the last high-ranking Sea Org executive to leave the church, in August 2013. His information was about as fresh as it gets for what’s happening in the upper reaches of David Miscavige’s church. Burkhart, for example, had daily access to reports from Scientology orgs around the world, including reports on new members and enrollment figures. Based on those documents, he told us that Scientology’s worldwide active membership is now fewer than 20,000 people. Yikes.

Mid-month, we published one of our favorite pieces of the year. We finally got around to reading a 1940 L. Ron Hubbard short story, “One Was Stubborn,” that Chuck Beatty had been nagging us about for years. And Chuck was right — the story showed that Hubbard was thinking fairly deeply about how destructive cults worked a decade before he published Dianetics. “It’s almost as if, ten years before anyone else saw it coming, L. Ron Hubbard has a pretty good idea for how to sway a lot of people and get them to drop out of their existences in the physical world — by telling them they’ll be able to regain the power they had trillions of years ago when they were the creators of universes,” we wrote. It’s spooky!

On February 23, we featured a Chris Shelton video with a sobering backstory. Chris had already made the first four parts of an interview he’d done with former Scientologist Shane Weightman public, and it had wreaked havoc on Shane’s family that was still inside the church. Shane’s parents, through intermediaries, told him that the family could talk about reconnecting if he prevented Shelton from showing part five of the series, and take down the others besides. But Shane was through with Scientology’s bullying tactics, and he and Chris decided not only to show the fifth part of the series, but to do it on the Underground Bunker. We were happy to help.

And we finished the month on a really high note. We debuted the first of our Sundays with Rod Keller, who has turned his passion for watching Scientology’s social media feeds into some really dynamite stories. Rod in particular has Scientology’s many front groups on his radar, and he keeps us up on their sneaky attempts at infiltration. Very little gets by Rod’s watchful eye!

A LOOK BACK AT FEBRUARY 2015: The horrifying story of a mentally ill woman held in an Arkansas basement by a Scientologist, Mark Ebner finds that Narconon International ditched its offices and quickly, we fact-checked Danny Masterson, and R.M. Seibert dug up L. Ron Hubbard’s high school record.

A LOOK BACK AT FEBRUARY 2014: The Master actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died in New York, we wrote an essay complaining about the way the media talks about Scientology and celebrities, and we provided some context to the first official Scientology wedding in England.

A LOOK BACK AT FEBRUARY 2013: Jenna Miscavige Hill’s memoir, Beyond Belief, is published. Harlan Ellison helps us document a Hubbard legend. And former Narconon executive Eric Tenorio comes forward.

 
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Scientology, the coolest religion on Earth

Barcelona goes Clear.

 

 
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Chris Shelton on ‘Scientology’

 

 
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Bonus items from our tipsters

It’s a Hubbard College of Administration office party! Let’s see what everyone got for party favors.

 
officeparty1

 
Meanwhile, in Argentina, the wait for Xenu and his eight tiny reindeer thetans continues…

 
officeparty2

 
Erika Christensen explains the proper way to worship rabbits…

 
erika_christensen4

 
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HowdyCon2017

Go here to start making your plans.

 
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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on December 22, 2016 at 07:00

E-mail 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. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated 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 L.A. 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

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | 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 | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | 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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