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After a landmark court case, Scientology watchers should be celebrating, not sniping

[Pete Griffiths, John McGhee, and John Duignan in happier days]

Jon Atack is the author of A Piece of Blue Sky, one of the very best books on L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. He has a new edition of the book for sale, and for more than four years he’s been helping us sift through the legends, myths, and contested facts about Scientology that tend to get hashed and rehashed in books, articles, and especially on the Internet.

In all the recent sound and fury, little attention has been paid to Pete Griffiths’ landmark achievement against active Scientologists in the Irish courts.

Back in the day, I was consulted in more than 150 legal actions and often tried to bring the 1972 “unclean hands” Hubbard v. Vosper ruling into those cases. I was never once successful, because whichever division of Scientology was represented would distance itself from the hundreds of organizations that are part of the corporate monolith.

But now, because of Pete’s precedent, if any Scientologist or Scientology organization wants to sue in Ireland, it will probably have to show that it does so with “clean hands.” Diligent research of policy shows that, like Lady Macbeth, Scientology’s hands are uncleanable: The “scriptures” order unconscionable behavior at every turn. Hubbard’s Responsibilities of Leaders alone proves that point, but litigants should dig out my General Report on Scientology, which was used successfully in a number of cases, and lists the Scientology publications that should be submitted in any court case.

I’m horrified (though not surprised) by the subsequent assault on Pete, given that he has gone through the trauma of three years of litigation – one of the most insidious uses of torture in our society – and won a significant victory. I was ten years in court, and, eventually, legal costs bankrupted me, although only the first case was ever tried (and we won that one). I cannot begin to explain how stressful litigation is to those who have only seen it on TV. Those who have not suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous litigation should think twice before criticizing him.


On the witness stand, Pete said that he has no issue with Scientology or Scientologists. I agree with his explanation of this statement: “I’m opposed to the Scientology organisation’s fraud and abuses but I see Scientologists as victims deserving of sympathy and understanding.” (And please bear in mind that he was being cross-examined and had to respond immediately with no time to consider his response.)

These views echo my own: I was never opposed to Scientologists, save for the few at the top who are aware of the scam they are perpetrating. If Scientology is indeed the most effective form of behavioral modification ever devised – as both its adherents and its critics assert – then it stands to reason that we were all of us duped and thought-reformed into our compliance, and that allows for mitigation of the offenses committed by Scientologists while under the spell of Scientology.

I’m lucky – I did nothing that I’m ashamed of during my nine-year membership. I’m unusual in this: I’ve met hundreds of people who harmed others while working for the organization. I still believe that they should accept responsibility and apologize for the harm they did to the people they harmed, but my focus has always been on helping Scientologists rather than making their lives even worse, even if they did harass me, as hundreds of them have. I oppose Scientology, but I have tried to persuade people to make their own decisions about the subject, based upon evidence rather than the squawking of Scientology or its deluded supporters.

I started to speak out publicly here at the Underground Bunker after a silence of 17 years, because I was worried about those struggling to overcome the insidious effects of Scientology membership (the worst of which is the delusion that they do not need to reconsider the evidence). I was not unfearful when I came back, because I suffered 16 years of head-on attack after speaking out in 1983 and found myself isolated and alone defending against overwhelming harassment.

It is no joke standing up to a billion-dollar organization that should be in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most litigious group in history. But in 2013, I couldn’t remain silent, because, despite the mass of vocal critics by that time, not enough people cared about the true believers who were still trapped in the mother cult. I spent two years publishing material that I hoped would lead to more autonomous thinking. Most of that material was published – free of charge – at the Bunker.

Of course, it has led to the usual Scientology ad hominem attacks, but that is the price of freedom. Chris Shelton and Tory Christman have recently put up a good video explaining exactly how Scientology operates by infiltrating groups and inciting dupes to work their dark magick for them.

Fortunately for me, by the time I returned in 2013 Scientology had too many critics to have resumed the full-scale, daily harassment I received before that first withdrawal. However, since my second withdrawal from a weekly schedule, in 2015, the Dogs of War have set about vilifying me on the Internet again. But we are told that the Suppressive always picks the wrong target. I work at the Open Minds Foundation these days, far removed from the turbulent world of ex-Scientology, addressing the causes and the prevention of undue influence, rather than trying to resolve its consequences.

When I again retired from full-time Scientology work, in 2015, I’d given another two years of my life without any noticeable financial return, but yet again suffered attack from vitriolic “independent” Scientologists and Office of Special Affairs trolls.

I was surprised to see the assertion that the Toronto Getting Clear conference was a money-making scheme, for example. There was a claim online that the conference was “strictly a business venture and part of his retirement plan,” a statement not simply untrue but risible. Before the conference even began, I’d waived the Can$3,000 fee offered to me by Tyndale University, so it could go toward the expenses of our guests.

Pete was one of the few speakers at the conference who paid his own way, so that Jim Beverley wouldn’t have to. And contrary to rumor, he had no part in arranging the conference, nor had any expectation of payment.

I received no payment for my talks, nor have I received a single cent from the rental of our videos. Jim Beverley and I spent 15 months arranging the conference with 30 presenters from Europe, the US, Canada, and Australia. It remains unique – no other “new religious movement” has been subjected to such close scrutiny, and I do not believe that anyone can watch those talks without losing faith in Hubbard and his grand scam. Several of the talks were posted free of charge on Vimeo at my urging. I’m still trying to find funding to cover Jim Beverley’s losses, so that we can publish the whole series of videos for free.

The allegation that in his court case Pete threw John McGhee “under the bus” is silly. I did my best to explain to John that his prankster approach could easily lead to a contempt ruling and even imprisonment. He wanted to ignore the injunction, I strenuously advised him not to. Pete followed sound legal advice by distancing himself from John, whose behavior showed contempt not only for Scientology but could have been seen as contempt by the Court. Pete had a perfect right to take a more conventional approach to litigation when he could not influence John’s more confrontational style.

Bear in mind that Pete was forced to pay damages for filming John as he grabbed those leaflets. Pete didn’t plan that action, nor did he participate in it, but he has paid for it. As the judge ruled, “I am satisfied that the conduct of the defendants on this occasion, and in particular the second defendant [John McGhee], was unlawful and constituted intimidation and harassment of the plaintiffs. I am also satisfied that the video demonstrates clearly that Ms. Collins was physically assaulted, albeit in a relatively minor way, by the second defendant, Mr. McGhee. There is nothing from the evidence that indicates that there was any physical contact at any time between Mr. Griffiths and either of the plaintiffs…”

John Duignan is wrong to believe that there was no threat of imprisonment. A contempt order in a civil action can lead to a custodial sentence, so Pete was under significant pressure. John McGhee was lucky that the judge tolerated his eccentric behavior.

I am surprised that John Duignan leapt into the fray to protest Pete’s statement on the witness stand. John made a tremendous contribution with his book, The Complex, an important insider account, and he has been a tireless campaigner against the organization. He is evidently upset by Pete’s extroverted behavior, but to call it “narcissism” is unfair. Pete is not a malignant narcissist, just a friendly show-off.

John Duignan has also complained about Pete’s failure to keep confidences, yet has published a detailed – and I’m told by Pete, erroneous – account of Pete’s personal finances. This is paradoxical. He also suggests that Pete can refuse to pay his lawyers, simply because he can get away with it. The lawyers fought hard and well for Pete. They deserve to be paid for those three years. There is no ethical reason for withholding payment from them (if you have a few bucks to spare, remember that Pete is still out of pocket, because the lawyers cost more than the damages he is yet to receive).

As to John Duignan’s opposition to Scientologists, his own book explains why we should have compassion for them, because of the “soul-destroying tactics” (p.304) that constitute Scientology. As a Sea Org member, “I would be screamed at and have my personal inadequacies rubbed in my face.” (p.197). His attitudes were modified along the way, for instance: “I had never had an opinion on homosexuals before I joined the Church of Scientology but as a Sea Org member I had learned to despise them.” (p.202)

After citing Steve Hassan’s statement that TR-0 is the “most overt form of hypnosis” used by any cult, John says, “By dropping all the psychological defences that you need to take care of yourself, a person is left wide open and mentally exposed to commands. Like stage show volunteers, you end up completely hypnotised and open to anything.” (p.237). This view of Scientologists as obedient zombies goes further than my own, but his free will was overwhelmed, and he became “other-determined” as he admits, “If I was asked to kill them [‘opponents’ of Scientology], I cannot, hand on heart, say I wouldn’t have done that too.” (p.316)

Ultimately, John suggests all Scientologists are victims: “I believe David Miscavige will eventually have to face the truth that he is as much a victim of Hubbard as I am.” (p.311)

It seems to me that John Duignan’s view has hardened in recent years. He now takes an oppositional stance to others who are suffering just as he did. John is a good man who has helped to expose the awful consequences of Hubbard’s system. Pete is also a good man who has done the same. May I recommend a listen to Bill Withers’ advice as voiced by the astonishing Beth Hart (Joe Bonamassa and the band are pretty keen too!). Or you could listen to Scientology’s Can We Ever Be Friends (No! Anything but that!) and remember that we are all the target of a psychopathic organization that revels in our squabbles. Friends settle disagreements in private. There are no benefits to the public pillory.

So, let’s celebrate Pete Griffiths for his unique achievement and his heroism. With this ruling, he has done more to slow Scientology down in Ireland than anyone before him.

— Jon Atack


Even puff pieces are taking the piss out of Scientology

The Liverpool Echo has what appears to be a puff piece today on the leader of the Jive Aces, a swing band made up of Scientologists that the church seems to rely on more and more for what little good press it can get in England.

With a breathless headline — “Scientologist reveals what life is REALLY like inside the secretive religion” — this thing appeared to be the kind of credulous stuff that the church is finding harder and harder to get.

And the piece mostly is just treacle, with bandleader Ian Clarkson, 53, saying that his life had taken a turn for the worse until he took a Scientology personality test and then read L. Ron Hubbard’s 1950 book Dianetics.

But then writer Jacob Furedi throws in this hilarious statement…

“The book refers to Xenu, a genocidal intergalactic overlord who supposedly brought humans to Earth millions of years ago and then killed them with hydrogen bombs.”

Which is completely wrong, of course. There’s nothing in Dianetics about Xenu, which is material a Scientologist encounters several years and several hundred thousand dollars into their Scientology experience on something called OT 3.

And we have a feeling Clarkson is also going to hear it from his Scientology handlers for this quote: “As far as I know there aren’t even that many aliens.”

Aye carumba. Scientology can’t even catch a break from the friendly local press.


Daily Beast on the Danny Masterson investigation

Marlow Stern has a very good overview of the Danny Masterson investigation, with insights from Leah Remini about why she has so much concern about the LAPD’s cozy relationship with Scientology.



Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,944 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 90 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,153 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 1,927 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,701 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,047 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,541 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,581 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,293 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 819 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,908 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,048 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,368 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,343 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 699 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,001 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,107 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,510 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,383 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 964 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,469 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,713 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,822 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on November 25, 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


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