Daily Notifications
Sign up for free emails to receive the feature story every morning in your inbox at


Despite Scientology’s best efforts, a Bunker reader attended Saturday’s grand opening

On Saturday, Scientology leader David Miscavige opened his newest “Ideal Org,” his ongoing and very expensive effort to create a Potemkin Village of new and empty cathedrals to pretend that the rapidly shrinking church is actually undergoing “unprecedented expansion.” If this weren’t just all about fakery and PR, then Scientology wouldn’t expend so much energy keeping out onlookers and the press. But we’re fortunate that one of our regular readers, “Graham,” managed not only to visit the event but get inside. He sent us this account, and we figured you’d enjoy it.

By a peculiar twist of fate, I found myself on Saturday needing to do business with one of the non-Scientologist residents housed adjacent to the new Birmingham Org. Anticipating Scientology barriers at the entrance, I rehearsed all kinds of speeches in order to insist on my right to proceed.

Very surprised on the day to see that the barriers were not merely at the entrance gates but across the whole road, with a surly Scientologist holding things closed. Fortunately I was
approached by a paid professional security guard, obviously trained in correct procedures. I only had to state that I needed to access the on-site apartments for him to turn to the Scientologist with a curt “let him in.”


To be honest, I’d only planned to probe the outer defences and hadn’t expected it to be that easy. Walking back through the residents’ car park immediately adjacent to the seating area I was wondering whether to be cheeky and ask if the ceremony was open to the public, when I was approached by a Scientology greeter. Her welcome was so Tone 40 To The Max (in other words, assertive) that I wondered for a moment if she was actually a former lover I’d lost contact with and sadly failed to recognise. Had I received one of their invitations?

No, I explained that I had just dropped something off at one of the adjacent apartments. This was enough for me to be offered a seat alongside some of the locals to one side of the main seating area.

Chatting with the locals: Apprehensive about having a neighbour with such huge financial resources; “What’s with the Scientology cross?” (I told him!), annoyance at surly staff denying footpath access, “We did debate whether to come but decided to in the end,” “We’ve decided we’re not going to clap.” The locals weren’t clearly distinguishable, but I’m guessing there were about twenty to forty. Most Brummies have better things to do on a Saturday afternoon than attend a church opening.

Looks like no press were invited. Presumably they were supposed to content themselves with Scientology press releases? They need to remember that SPs can also do press releases and uninvited press will turn up anyway and record the protesters. David Miscavige needs to ponder the words he used himself at the opening of the seemingly defunct Scientology Media Productions: “If we don’t write our story somebody else will.”

Oooh look! A guy just walked past with a big gold medal on a ribbon round his neck. And is that Kaye Champagne, famed Scientology fund-raiser?

Storm Brian was making things gusty with little showers. And the Scientologists were very considerately giving out free blue umbrellas. I noticed a couple of people had brought their own and were quietly asked by the filming staff if they’d put them down and use the blue ones instead. So, not so much kindness; just a desire to make the photos look perfect. I saw later from press photos that this uniform sea of identical umbrellas gives the unfortunate, if accurate, impression of a crowd of identical clones.

And then it began. First a vacuous song by what someone of my generation would refer to as a “pop group.” Very high energy, though sadly storm Brian was dampening things down as fast as they were trying to fire things up.

The first speaker was the guy in charge of the “Day” bit of the new org. Believe me when I say: I have never seen a more smug and self satisfied person standing on a stage. He just radiated a self-satisfaction way beyond what any human being could justifiably lay claim to. Smug veering towards creepy. There then followed a succession of speakers with impressive sounding credentials, provided you didn’t listen with anything like a critical ear. Significantly, no local politicians, dignitaries nor representatives of any local Birmingham groups. First the inevitable “interfaith leader.” He apparently had been impressed by the Volunteer Ministers he had met and how they’d been wearing yellow so similar to his Buddhist volunteers it was difficult to tell them apart (cue appreciative laughter). Then someone who’d used Study Tech with young people. Then someone who thought Narconon was the bee’s knees. Apparently Narconon can boast a 50 percent success rate (massively down from any previous claim I’ve ever seen) to set against the feeble 4 percent success rate of every other drugs rehab program. Then someone who’d used Crimanon successfully.

I’d always assumed that such speakers were safe-pointed dupes but here, with the possible exception of the interfaith happy Buddhist, I began to doubt that. Certainly they’d drunk so deeply of the kool-aid as to be seemingly unshakeable in their belief in L Ron Hubbard’s wonderful Tech. And two of them so Tone 40 it’s a wonder they didn’t accidentally bounce off the stage. I highly suspect they were actually Scientologists.

Later, Scientology itself identified them on its website. Here they are, with David Miscavige:


Scientology’s caption: “Ms. Decima Francis MBE, Founder, From Boyhood to Manhood Foundation; Ms. Diana Coad, National Drug Prevention Alliance representative; Dr. Paul Baiden-Adams, Multi-Cultural Support Aid Services, UK; and Mr. Yann Lovelock BEM, Senior Advisor for the Birmingham Council of Faiths.”

And the standing ovations! Every few minutes some minor point, if delivered with enthusiasm and referencing the wonderfulness of some aspect of Scientology or Scientologists, would have everyone up on their hind legs, leaving the locals sitting and looking bemused. It was content-free stroking. Let’s give ourselves the ra-ra applause usually reserved for the exceptional. Our standards are so low, and we’ve been so long in the bubble, and so desperate for any clue that the Tech might really be working that we have actually come to see these routine achievements as exceptional. While the speeches were inspiring to those wishing to be inspired, to the more widely informed they were merely a tedious litany of lies and half truths, no matter how enthusiastically delivered.

By now the cold was having its effect on an old man’s bladder, so I quietly left my seat and walked behind the crowd to the portaloo trailers parked at the far side. Thus by the time perfectly groomed multi-millionaire David Miscavige took to the stage I was standing at the back. Unfortunately I have no smartphone. My camera is primarily a video camera and thus rather conspicuous; the same type indeed that Scientology operatives use as tools of intimidation. Not wishing to appear ungracious to my hosts (and not wishing to get chucked out) I decided to quietly take out my camera for just a couple of still pics.

Immediately a young staff member stood in front of me! Oh right; he was just checking a piece of equipment and soon moved off. Wot me, paranoid?


[The view from the loo.]

David Miscavige’s speech. What can I say? His speeches really are impossible to follow; like being assaulted by waves of glutinous treacle. There was an immediate avalanche of clichéd aphorisms, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, piled up, one upon another, so fast they were impossible to absorb. This seemed to be building to a climax which would be resolved by a clever punch line. But none came. Was he actually nervous? Blasé about the whole charade? For whatever reason, a series of wise saws which might have borne contemplation had they been delivered at a measured pace were reduced to a confusing jumble.

Perhaps he needs a speech coach; but who would dare?

There then followed an equally confusing jumble of “clever” references, presumably intended to demonstrate how tuned in he is to local culture and the spirit of the age. Shakespeare blah blah blah, Shakespearian phrase blah blah, fake Shakespearian type phrase somewhat mangled… London in the south and Birming-ham here in the north. OK Dave, so you think Birming-ham is in the north. Not sure what your tiny Sunderland contingent thought of that.

Then the treacly word-cascade rolled on, weaving in references to points made by each of the previous speakers. All done so intricately and smoothly there was no way this was off the cuff. So it looks like his speechwriter had had access to the speeches of all the previous speakers, well in advance of the event.

At some point there were noises off. Some people on the back two rows turned in surprise. Was that the faint sound of “what a load of rubbish” being chanted from the other side of the trees? Was someone having more fun than me, standing on the outside enjoying themselves whilst I stood on the inside, bored, damp and “taking one for the team?”

And then Dave’s speech got very parochial. A long series of thank-yous to key Scientologists accompanied by an in-joke or two while their delighted images appeared on the big screens and perfectly groomed Dave Miscavige gave that cute little salute we all know and love from videos of him. There was a Calcioli somewhere in there, and a blissfully happy Sheila Gaiman received the loudest round of applause. I was sad for her, to see her joy.

Oh. And a brief pic of L. Ron himself up on the screen, to be applauded as is the custom. Then finally the rope-yank, with so many yankers they could hardly fit on the stage, accompanied by the release of rather a meagre number of balloons considering the size of the building.

Then it was all over and people started towards the main entrance, to see inside the building. I’d estimate the crowd to be about eight to nine hundred. All trying to get in through one entrance door. I joined the crowd, which seemed not to be moving. Someone grumbled about the two side doors not being used.

Were they trying to funnel us all in through the same entrance so they could greet people individually? Validate their paperwork? This was going to take forever. If only they’d had some kind of admin tech to help them cope with things like this. I was standing, cold, damp and weary after a long journey down. While on the other side of the fence was a lively bunch of SPs with tales to tell. Time to call it a day, exit and find out who it was who’d been chanting “What a load of rubbish.”

— Graham


Mass media just can’t get it right

Yesterday, we told you we weren’t very impressed with the Daily Mail’s “exclusive” that Priscilla Presley was leaving Scientology — more than a year after we wrote in two separate pieces that she had left the church in 2014 with her daughter Lisa Marie.

But then, numerous outlets countered yesterday with the news that a “rep” for Priscilla was denying the story, and saying she hasn’t left the church. And it was almost as sad to see the majors considering this denial to be the “truth” as it was to see the Daily Mail pretend our stories never existed.

You see, it’s one thing for a celebrity to leave the Church of Scientology. It’s another thing entirely for them to say something about it publicly.

If Priscilla were to say, “yes, I left,” she’d risk losing contact with her granddaughter Riley, and maybe even get into a tug-of-war over Lisa Marie’s young daughters.

She had to have her “rep” say that she hasn’t left Scientology, even though we know she did in 2014.

Celebrities like Lisa Marie and Priscilla know that there is a major line in the sand, and you only cross it if you know you’re going all the way — and hopefully, with your entire family with you. Right now that family is going through very hard times, and they can’t afford to add this kind of publicity nightmare to it.


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,911 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 57 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,120 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 1,894 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,668 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,014 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,508 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,548 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,260 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 786 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,875 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,015 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,335 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,310 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 666 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 4,968 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,074 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis for 1,477 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,350 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 931 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,436 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,680 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,789 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on October 23, 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 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


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email