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Who’s the most powerful elected Scientologist in the land? We have a candidate.

We beg your patience today as we take you on a bit of a meander to the point we want to make in today’s post. Eventually, here’s where we intend to arrive: Recently, and without any fanfare, a baton was passed, and we believe there’s been a change regarding the highest ranking elected official in this country who happens to be a member of the Church of Scientology.

It sneaked up on us, and we only now realized that the previous holder of that distinction — Nevada Assemblyman Brent Jones — lost his re-election bid in November.

So who’s the new title holder?

Patience, dear reader. We’ll get there.


First, we wanted to bring to your attention an intriguing mashup of Scientology harassment and, of all things, L. Ron Hubbard science fiction, that we were only recently made aware of. (The sleuths at were all over it some eight years ago, of course, and we’re indebted to an old thread there for much of today’s material.)

We’ll start our tale way back in 1985. At that time, L. Ron Hubbard was following up the success he’d had with his 1982 return to writing science fiction, the doorstop novel Battlefield Earth, with an even more ambitious forest-clearing publishing event: Ten planned novels in a series called “Mission Earth.” The first of those novels, The Invaders Plan, came out in October 1985, and copies had been sent out to reviewers. (How Hubbard managed to produce a ten-volume novel series while he was in hiding is a great story on its own.)

One of those reviewers was a woman named Janrae Frank. Janrae died in 2014 after a distinguished career of writing science fiction and fantasy, and writing about those subjects as a journalist. She had enjoyed L. Ron Hubbard’s work in the past, and she looked forward to reading The Invaders Plan. But being the thoughtful critic that she was, she also realized that it was difficult to separate Hubbard and his fiction from the thing he had by then become more well known for — Scientology. By the time Frank was done with her review, it was cleverly meta — and it also had praise for the novel. Here’s the entire review, with its postscript, as it appeared in a publication called Thrust: Science Fiction in Review under the title “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Review.”

After the galleys of The Invaders Plan had sat on my shelf for several weeks, insinuating guilt about the edges of my mind as only the work of one of my childhood’s favorite authors is capable of doing, I decided to read and review it. A simple decision, really.

I had been aware for some time that Hubbard was an intermittent source of controversy within the SF community, but had never taken it too seriously. Upon making a decision to review
The Invaders Plan, I went to my mainstream editors to ask if they’d be interested in running such a review. For financial reasons, I do almost nothing on spec these days: four mainstream editors of long acquaintance turned me down after long interrogations of my motives for doing such a review. (“What are you, anyway? A Scientologist or something?”)

My only contact with Scientology came in 1968 when, as an insatiably curious thirteen-year-old, I sent off for a free pamphlet on the subject A year of receiving nagging, hand-written letters followed the arrival of that slender booklet I was finally forced to write them a “leave my child alone” letter, to which I forged my grandmother’s name. But then one should never judge an author by his “fans,” and I doubt that the person writing those letters to me knew that I was a snot-nosed kid, not an adult.

But I’ve always felt that a book, especially a work of fiction, should be judged on its own merits, not by what its author did away from his or her typewriter. As any student of Western literature can tell you, fiction writing has long been the domain of social mavericks, moral degenerates, and dangerous dreamers, not to mention just plain bad dudes. Going back to the very roots of Western literature, we find Chaucer, dear to the hearts of librarians everywhere, was a convicted rapist who escaped the noose by claiming “benefit of clergy” (meaning, in that illiterate age, that he would read and write and was therefore too valuable to waste). Christopher Marlowe, a quasi-contemporary of William Shakespeare (and one who the Bard is said to have plagiarized) may, if the rumormongers of the day are to be believed these four hundred years later, have been a murderer; he certainly seemed to delight in drawn-sword quarrels, and met his death in a dispute over a tavern bill. A great many writers seem to have tried to live up to the reputations of Chaucer and Marlowe, in deeds if not in talent. In much more recent memory in the science fiction field, there was the small matter of wife-stealing that opened a serious breech between one of SF’s most illustrious editors of the 1950s and one of the field’s most seminal writers.

I would have to say that so trifling a matter as founding a religious/philosophical movement (a practice which has become fairly commonplace since the 1960s) just isn’t in the same league as rape, murder and wife-stealing.

A long time ago, when the subtleties of fiction and the nuances of language were more sharply defined, the term satire was limited to work whose humor derived from irony and sarcasm. To be satire, it has to have a bite to it. The shallow slapstick humor of Robert Asprin and L Sprague de Camp isn’t really satire, although some may be quick to apply the title to such light, humorous work.

The Invaders Plan has a delightfully sharp set of teeth which Hubbard sinks into a good number of science fiction literature’s favorite objects of derision: intelligence agencies, bureaucrats, and Dudley Do-Right heroes, as well as one not so favorite current mystique (though it ought to be), feminist machismo.

It seems that Earth has been marked for potential exploitation (“acquisition”) by a ruthless galactic empire. But their advance scout gets a bad case of financial indigestion upon discovering that pollution and the threat of nuclear warfare is jeopardizing the empire’s investment in time and research on what promised to be a very lucrative project. In order to enslave the Earth, they first must rescue it from corporate polluters and trigger-happy politicians.

The Invaders Plan is definitely worth the price of admission. As I begin reading the second book in what is promised to be a ten-book series, Black Genesis, it looks like the writing will hold up through the series.


Shortly after writing this review I learned, along with the rest of the world, that L Ron Hubbard had died. I can only wish that he had come back to science fiction sooner. It is small consolation that the ten volumes of Mission: Earth are reported to have already been completed, and I therefore will not be left dangling in the middle as has happened with other of my favorite authors. As Hank Stine said recently about another deceased author (we’ve lost too many in recent months: Sturgeon, Herbert and Hubbard among them), “If he had written a hundred books, it still wouldn’t have been enough.”

As you can see, Frank mentioned that Hubbard had been a childhood favorite of hers, and her review was a very positive one. But years later, she wrote about how her review of The Invaders Plan resulted in some bizarre blowback from the Church of Scientology.

Here’s what she wrote about it…

In 1986 I sold first North American print rights to an article called “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Review.” It came out in a Hugo Award-winning semi-prozine entitled
Thrust: Science Fiction in Review. The article can speak for itself. What I want to bring to people’s attention is the reaction of the Scientologists to the article.

I had two guest pieces in the Washington Post Bookworld a few months before “Happened” was published. I used a mail drop in Hollywood as my address for doing business. It had kept me safe from irate people connected with some of the articles I wrote for Cinefantastique and other publications on more than one occasion. I have no idea how they found my home address, but find it they did.

A well-dressed blond woman, Simone, and a male whose name I no longer remember knocked on my door one afternoon. They introduced themselves as being PR people for Scientology and they were very concerned about the nature of the article I had in Thrust. They wanted me to take back several statements that I had made in the piece. I received a long lecture and a copy of Dianetics.

Over the next several weeks I received a minimum of one visit a week from Simone. She asked me what I thought of Dianetics and I tactfully sidestepped the fact that I had glanced through it and tossed the book in the fireplace. When it became clear that I was not going to retract certain sections of the article, Simone offered a compromise. She wanted me to make up for my misdeeds by writing another article about Hubbard’s novels, they would then approve it, and place it somewhere. I would receive a very large sum of money for doing it. I refused.

Gradually she shifted from cajoling and offering bribes to threats of ending my career as a journalist. They investigated me and Simone hauled out my dirty laundry. (Which is one of the reasons for my current policy of “I have no skeletons in my closet, they’re all hanging from the yardarm.” You can’t blackmail someone who has no secrets.)

I never budged and a few times I threw her out of my home. I will probably never know if they were behind the markets that suddenly closed their doors to me or not. What I do know is that my ability to sell articles was impaired in some mysterious fashion and I moved from writing to New Age editorial work.

I reinvented myself (to steal a phrase from Warren Ellis’s Transmetropolitan) as an editor. I reinvented myself again when I became an ebook author.

Frank then asked readers to look at her Thrust article itself to see if they could figure out why the church would have been so offended. We certainly can’t.

(One of our oldtimers tells us that Simone from Author Services was likely Simone Welch, who handled PR in those days. Anyone know where she is today?)

Anyway, we skip ahead to the first day of 2009. At her blog, Frank revealed that she had received a fascinating letter about her description of being harassed over her review of Hubbard’s novel.

Take a look at it and we think you’ll see why it’s unusual. It’s written by a person who describes himself as a second-generation church member who had been a Scientologist his “entire life.” But he’s unusually thoughtful, and even apologetic for the very typical bullying tactics of the church. Here, give it a close read…

As you can see, Chris Daniel of Houston’s suggestion is pretty wild — that the Church of Scientology some day apologize to a “merchant of chaos” — a journalist — that it had unnecessarily harassed? Oh wow.

Anyway, who was this Chris Daniel who had such a clear-eyed view of his own church? He had actually left a lot of clues to his identity — a third-year law school student with a mechanical engineering background who lived in the biggest city in Texas. With that much information, it didn’t take the sleuths at WWP long to track down another example of Daniel advocating for the Church of Scientology. In this case, it was an online forum about psychiatry, which Scientology hates with a passion and agitates against through its most unhinged front group, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights. In 2007, Daniel had celebrated CCHR’s activities, and this time he included his photo…


So by the year 2009, Chris Daniel of Houston had endorsed CCHR, and had described himself as a lifelong, second-generation Scientologist.

And that’s interesting, because just a year later, when he ran for Houston’s Harris County District Clerk as a Republican, Daniel was describing himself as an active member of a Baptist church, and he didn’t respond when his Scientology background was mentioned by his primary opponent.

Daniel won that primary, and then the general election in 2010, and he was reelected in 2014. He now runs one of the largest district courts in the country, which involves, for example, keeping track of Harris County citizens in order to call them down for jury duty. By all accounts, he’s done a solid job, and he’s been credited with upgrading online access to the district court system.

Let’s take a look at how Daniel describes his background in his current online bio at Harris County.

He was a high achiever as a youngster even though he was only 12 when his dad was killed in a car crash caused by a drunken driver and all parental duties fell on his mom, a secretary.

What he doesn’t mention is that his father, Hugh T. Daniel, had been a highly trained Scientology auditor before his untimely death. One of our experts looked over Hugh’s completions list and explained to us that he would have been sufficiently trained to have audited Scientologists to Clear.

Fortunately, Chris still could rely on his mom, Jolie Daniel, who is an OT 8 and is listed as a Scientology Patron — someone who has given at least $50,000 in donations to the International Association of Scientologists.

Despite the deep involvement of both of his parents, and that Chris Daniel himself is listed in a Scientology publication as completing a course (“The Route to Infinity”) as recently as 2007, here’s the only thing Daniel mentions about churchgoing on his bio: “They [Daniel and his wife] are active members at Second Baptist Church. Daniel also occasionally attends Bible classes at Champion Forest Baptist Church.”

We wondered if Daniel might be a little more forthcoming about his actual Scientologist background if he knew that, with the defeat of Brent Jones in Nevada, Daniel now appears to be the most powerful elected Scientologist in the country. (If you can think of another, please let us know. We are very open to suggestions.)

We noticed that a Facebook page Daniel runs under his District Clerk title was listed as having a “100 percent response rate,” and that made us hopeful that he might at least acknowledge a detailed message we sent him last week, asking about his new crown. But so far, we’ve heard nothing back.

Where is that thoughtful, intelligent Scientologist who wrote to Janrae Frank in 2009? Wouldn’t someone that self-aware as a Scientologist want to be known as an up and coming Republican star in David Miscavige’s organization? We hope he gets back to us.




Wow, we’re getting close to the start of HowdyCon 2017 in Denver. And we had a slight change in logistics from our caterer for our dinner on Saturday night, June 24. If you plan to go, make sure you have confirmed with Kim O’Brien, our coordinator, and visit our HowdyCon website where she has instructions for how you can pay for the dinner fee that night. You need to do that right away to make sure you’ll be included in the Saturday night festivities, which include:

— London-based Australian journalist Steve Cannane talking about his book Fair Game
— A spoken-word performance from former Sea Org official Claire Headley
— Cathy Schenkelberg performing for us scenes from her one-woman show, “Squeeze My Cans”

You don’t want to miss out, so please visit the convention page and get in contact with Kim.

HowdyCon 2017: Denver, June 23-25 at the Residence Inn Denver City Center. Go here to start making your plans.


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,777 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,534 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 1,880 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,374 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,414 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy in 1,126 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 652 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,741 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 1,881 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,201 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,176 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 532 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin in 4,834 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 941 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis for 1,343 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,216 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 797 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike in 1,302 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,546 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,655 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on June 10, 2017 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.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

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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