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A Christmas Eve treat: Our man Down Under on Scientology’s antipodean troubles in 2016

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How’s this for a Christmas Eve miracle? We asked Bryan Seymour to give us a look back at 2016 for Scientology in Australia, and he was good enough to send us this dispatch.

In what has been one of Scientology’s worst years since LRH dropped his body to continue his research on another planet somewhere, the church has fared poorly in Australia in 2016.

This is despite rushing the September opening of its new Australasian Advanced Ideal Org in Chatswood, just north of Sydney. Horrified neighbors report buses coming and going at all hours as “staff,” mostly flown in from Taiwan, are put through the Scientology indoctrination process so they can give up everything they own. (See my report on the opening here.)

Earlier in the year, I flew to New York in May to interview Ron Miscavige, father of Scientology leader David Miscavige, which resulted in numerous reports across Australia about how David began life as a happy little boy before evolving, thanks to Scientology, into a physically violent brute. While I was in New York, I also interviewed a certain journalist who runs a certain website…

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That story also featured Perth grandparents Noel and Marion Barton who lived next to the Miscaviges at Saint Hill Manor in England in the early a 1970s. The Barton’s haven’t seen their son Andrew for 37 years and my global search to find him continues…

Also this year came the launch of Steve Cannane’s book Fair Game – an account of the cult’s history in Australia by a journalist who has done some fine work exposing abuses inside Scientology.

 
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I also had the honour of speaking recently with Leah Remini, who was very kind in her praise of the many reports I’ve filed on Scientology over the last decade. It really does feel that Leah’s commitment to the truth and concern for the victims of the cult is forcing a major shift in how this group is perceived. The quality of the work done by Leah, Mike Rinder, Amy Scobee, Karen de la Carriere and countless others continues to inspire me to report on this group.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Louis Theroux when he was in Australia on a speaking tour. Prior to that I reported on his funny and confronting documentary on Scientology.

One issue coming up… Scientology’s plans to open a Narconon facility in semi-rural New South Wales are back despite being scuppered late last year.

It now seems Scientology is going to have another crack at opening one its profit-making, unscientific and potentially dangerous centres… we’ll let you know what happens.

I never expected to play such a role in exposing this greedy, vicious group. The reason I have? Because they are still using people and destroying families. I’m determined to keep going until they stop hurting people.

— Bryan Seymour

 
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Our Scientology year-in-review: April

We’re continuing our look back at the year of 2016 here in the Underground Bunker, and today we’re looking at the stories we published in April.

Early in the month, we really scored. These days, the only time Scientology leader David Miscavige comes out of his lair, it’s to preside over the grand opening of a new “Ideal Org” somewhere, and those events are closed to the public. Our correspondents and other journalists have done their best to get close enough for the odd photo or two, but what we’ve always wanted is a full video of Miscavige giving his spiel as he opens some fancy new building. Well, thanks to the perseverance of a couple of Bunker readers, we finally got our wish. Knowing that Miscavige was coming to Atlanta to open up the Ideal Org there, our heroes managed to get a perch from across the street to film the entire thing, and despite the best efforts of Scientology’s goons, there was nothing they could do. The only drawback was that shooting from across a busy thoroughfare meant that there was traffic noise, but we managed to transcribe what is being said. What a coup! And Miscavige said some things we didn’t expect — he admitted that the Ideal Org had been paid for by a few wealthy locals, even though Scientology is nearly nonexistent in the area. That just bolsters our theory about the Ideal Org program, that it’s really just a public relations exercise.

April 4 was one of the most exciting days in the Bunker all year as a billboard was put up in Los Angeles that day. We had been eagerly awaiting the billboard, the brainchild of Phil and Willie Jones, who want to bring more awareness about Scientology’s toxic policy of “disconnection,” which prevents them from seeing their own two grown children. And after two other billboard companies were bullied out of taking Phil’s money (which he had raised with help from this website), the third try was the charm.

 
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Just a couple of days later, we had quite a sizzling celebrity story — and one that none of the other media has touched. We learned that the previous year, in May 2015, Lucia Ribisi, daughter of famous actor Giovanni Ribisi and only 17 at the time, had gone on the radio station KCRW in Los Angeles to reveal that she had grown up in a famous Scientology family but after a personal crisis she had decided to leave the church. She said her father had questioned his own place in it. The radio station gave Lucia the name “Carole” to keep her identity secret, but a reader tipped us to who she really was. We then spent several months confirming that fact, even getting sources in the Ribisi clan itself who told us that it was Lucia on the radio show and that she has left Scientology. Her defection puts Giovanni in a very tricky situation — his parents are among the most hardcore, oldtime Scientologists still in the shrinking organization.

Just a few days later, on April 11, we had another of our biggest feature stories of the year. This one had also taken quite a while put together, after Rob Ramsay approached us with the papers left behind by his deceased brother, Peter, who had spent years as a Scientology spy and enforcer. Those documents spelled out Peter’s obsession with one man in particular, Gregg Hagglund, who, for unusual reasons, had decided to investigate and expose the Church of Scientology in Canada. Using Peter Ramsay’s papers, as well as interviews with his brothers and with Gregg Hagglund and others, we had the rare ability to look at the entire history of a Scientology “Fair Game” operations from both sides. It still gives us goosebumps that we even had that opportunity. We hope you think it came off well.

Also in April, Louis Theroux premiered his My Scientology Movie in the US at the Tribeca Film Festival. We had seen it the October before at the film’s worldwide premiere at the London Film Festival (here’s our reaction to the movie), so we knew what to expect. But it was great to catch up with Louis, and also making the scene was Steven Mango and the man who played David Miscavige in the film, Andrew Perez.

And more fireworks in April. To prepare for the publication of Ron Miscavige’s memoir, we set the scene by uncovering some of the secrets of how the Miscavige family was ripped apart after Ron’s 2012 escape from Scientology’s “Int Base.” And the cliffhanger at the end of that piece led into maybe our biggest bombshell of the year — that it was Lisa Marie Presley who had helped Ron Miscavige make the decision to write his memoir, and that she’d also been involved in getting some of the material from it out early with the press. It turns out that Lisa Marie, who had been moving away from Scientology since 2008, had tried to have a showdown with David Miscavige in October 2014 which turned into a wild scene, with Miscavige’s sisters shouting horrible things at Presley. When she got back to her hotel from that encounter, she told the others with her that she no longer considered herself a Scientologist. Once again, it was a major Underground Bunker Scientology story (involving a celebrity, even!) that the other media hasn’t gone near yet.

 
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And then, with just days to go before Ron’s book was released, we revealed that publisher Humfrey Hunter, whose Silvertail Books was coming out with the UK version of the memoir, received a threat letter from David Miscavige’s attorneys. David Miscavige was threatening to sue his own father over a book that hadn’t even come out yet, and our story got picked up by media all over.

On April 27, we were in the courtroom as Laura DeCrescenzo’s forced-abortion lawsuit survived yet another motion for summary judgment by the Church of Scientology. This was the second time in three years Laura’s team of lawyers had knocked back Scientology’s attempt to have the 2009 lawsuit thrown out of court, and now it’s steadily (but always slowly) working toward a trial, perhaps in 2017.

The next day, we provided more detail in the disturbing story of Tayler Tweed, a young woman who had been brought up in Scientology but then was trying to leave it when she committed suicide. A friend supplied to us Tayler’s Facebook postings, which showed that she had tried to reach out for help in her final months.

And finally, Ron Miscavige finished the month with his ABC 20/20 appearance to launch his new book. But the surprise star of the show turned out to be Scientology attorney Monique Yingling, who brought muffins.

A LOOK BACK AT APRIL 2015: We broke down the elements that made SNL’s parody, ‘Neurotology,’ so great. We brought you full audio tapes of police interviews with the Scientology private eyes who stalked Ron Miscavige. And we dug up the true history of Tom Cruise and Mimi Rogers.

A LOOK BACK AT APRIL 2014: We checked with his tailor to find out David Miscavige’s actual height. Tax documents spelled out Scientology’s amazing cash value. We told the saga of Aaron Smith-Levin and his family. And an insider provided us documents showing that Narconon Arrowhead is running on fumes.

A LOOK BACK AT APRIL 2013: Live-blogging Rock Center‘s Narconon expose, behind the scenes at Int Base with “Love in the Time of Miscavige,” and Narconon in Georgia raided.

 
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Bonus items from our tipsters

Chill EB says Merry Christmas, homie

 
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How much longer will C.O.B. let this couple enjoy the finer things before turning them into non-persons and into the ether they go?

 
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HowdyCon2017

Go here to start making your plans.

 
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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on December 24, 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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