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


2017: In June, Rathbun became Scientology’s attack dog, but we got mile high in Denver

[Claire and Marc Headley at HowdyCon 2017]

To our readers from the north, Happy Boxing Day! We’re continuing to look back at 2017’s most significant stories here at the Underground Bunker and today it’s a flashback to June in our annual Scientology year-in-review.

We started off the month with an assist from Mark Bunker, who helped us remember one of Scientology’s goons, a man named Dennis Clarke, who had passed away in May. At one time, Clarke was used by the church to intimidate protesters, but when Clarke’s own health declined, he got no support at all from the church he had bullied for.

The next day, we noted that the lawsuit filed by the Scientologist “husband” of Cat White against Jim Carrey had survived a court challenge. We’d normally be skeptical that such a lawsuit ever gets to trial, but so far Carrey has fought it like he has no plans of settling. We think the fact that the plaintiff, Mark Burton, is a Scientologist (and stepson of notorious convicted Snow White spy Duke Snider) is an important aspect of the case, even though the mainstream media never mentions it.

On June 5, Leah Remini’s former stepmother, Donna Fiore, told us she was being hounded for information by Scientology. Instead, she wrote a statement for us to make public. “When I explained to them that Leah was a victim of an abusive and neglectful father (as were his four other daughters) they wanted nothing to do with that information, but continued to try and press me for ‘dirt.’ Clearly, they have an agenda and it is not an agenda to get the truth,” she said.

A day later, we noted that while Leah Remini’s series had brought a much greater awareness than ever about Scientology and its controversies, Rebecca Minkoff had the perfectly bad timing to step up her public involvement in a Scientology front group, appearing at an awards ceremony in New York. Every time we point out Minkoff’s connection to Scientology (as well as to her father David Minkoff, a Scientology doctor who was disciplined for his part in the awful story of Lisa McPherson) inevitably we hear from terribly disappointed readers who are heartbroken that the maker of their favorite handbags is a Scientologist.


In June, Marty Rathbun began posting professional-looking videos of himself trashing Leah Remini, Mike Rinder, Lawrence Wright, and this website. We answered with a not-professional video of our own, asking Rathbun when he was going to talk about giving Dani Lemberger’s email to the church.

We’re often asked about Scientology and politics, but the truth is it’s very difficult to find an elected Scientologist anywhere. We had to dig deep to find a district clerk in Texas who may be the highest elected Scientologist in the country — and he’s not talking about it.

Former Sea Org member Neil Sarfati shared with us some great photos from 1975 which featured him and which were taken by L. Ron Hubbard. They showed us how Hubbard wanted Scientology marketed, and they’re pretty eye-opening.

Marty Rathbun continued his series of short videos attacking Lawrence Wright and his book Going Clear, and specifically went after quotes in the book ascribed to Gary “Jackson” Morehead about how Scientology would use scanners to listen in on phone conversations. We checked with Gary, who had the goods — he still possessed the scanner he used for those operations, and he explained that in the late 1980s and early 1990s, scanner technology was ahead of the security on early cell phones. We also looked at documents that backed up what Larry Wright had written and that Rathbun was questioning — documents that referred to Rathbun’s own involvement. In other words, Marty’s new tune was undermined most often by a record Marty had laid down himself. For example, we related an excellent point made by Victoria Britton, who asked how Rathbun could claim that he hadn’t tried to influence judges, when just five years earlier he’d testified to it, and under oath. We also pointed out how much Rathbun’s videos seemed to be a defense of Scientology’s tax exempt status, and were completely undermined by what he had said on the record earlier. And we weren’t the only ones reacting to Rathbun’s change of tune. Oscar-winning director Paul Haggis sent us a statement as he tried to set the record straight which Rathbun was trying to mangle out of of all recognition. And John Brousseau told us that Rathbun was putting words in his mouth. Soon enough, Rathbun’s bizarre attacks on his former friends started showing up in Church of Scientology propaganda, eliminating any doubt about what was going on. When we sent emails asking Rathbun if he had given the church permission to use his video statements and whether he was being paid for it, he didn’t respond.

Meanwhile, Scientology was up to its old tricks as Clearwater bar owner Clay Irwin discovered (with help from his dog, Bruno) that a spy camera had been taking images of his house. And yes, we later did confirm the connection between the camera and the church, but we are not at liberty to explain that link.

The summer solstice found us in Denver for our second HowdyCon party, our little convention that allows the loyal commenters at this website to meet up for a few days. And what a great time we had as we prepared for the big festivities on Saturday night, when we heard from Claire Headley on growing up in Scientology, from Steve Cannane and his response to Marty Rathbun, and we even had a performance by Cathy Schenkelberg from her “Squeeze My Cans” one-woman show. We hope to see you in Chicago in 2018.

And on June 27, we brought a surprising piece of news that had come after some new defections: David Miscavige hasn’t been to Int Base in four years, a place where he had the church spend many millions to create a living and working environment to his exact standards.

1. REPORT: David Miscavige has not been to Scientology’s secretive ‘Int Base’ in four years
2. Leah Remini’s ‘Troublemaker’ will become a Lifetime movie: Who plays Tom Cruise?
3. Scientologist’s lawsuit against Jim Carrey over Cat White’s suicide survives dismissal
4. Clearwater bar owner under surveillance has a surprise for Scientology: He’s expanding
5. Designer Rebecca Minkoff’s involvement in a Scientology front is pretty perfectly bad timing

A LOOK BACK AT JUNE 2016: We marked Muhammad Ali’s passing with a look at a Scientology video he was in. We published Dani Lemberger’s “declare.” And we broke the news that Leah Remini was shooting a television series.

A LOOK BACK AT JUNE 2015: We wrote about that time Jim Jones talked about Paulette Cooper from his Guyana compound. We wrote about a person in our book, the inspirational Len Zinberg. We did some live-blogging from the epic Toronto conference organized by Jon Atack. We broke the news that Scientologist Ponzi schemer Reed Slatkin had died. Some poor schlub went to prison after trying to hack Mike Rinder and your proprietor on behalf of Scientology. And we had our biggest audience yet with Paulette Cooper in Clearwater, the belly of the beast.

A LOOK BACK AT JUNE 2014: Another distressing disconnection story: Where is Sami Sterne? A rare audio recording captures L. Ron Hubbard and his wife Mary Sue using an e-meter to come up with the space cooties portion of Scientology. Why we think Original OT 8 is not a hoax — the George White story.

A LOOK BACK AT JUNE 2013: Channel 4’s documentary about Marty Rathbun, Scientologists at War, Neil Gaiman’s Scientology history behind his novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and Joe Childs on Denise Gentile’s blunts.

Five of our favorites from the most-upvoted comments of June 2017

June 1: Doug Parent
Dennis Clarke was disposable like every other Scientologist who was inclined to bully “for LRH”. I worked under him on a brief stint in the 80’s and can say without hesitation that this guy was the type of person that would look for opportunity to mess with you. The cult profited by his willingness to hurt and intimidate people and gave him plenty of chances to do so. If Dennis Clarke really believed the cult had his back then his own error in judgement cost him in the end. Hopefully every Scientologist will look at Dennis Clarke and others for examples of what the critic community has been saying for decades.

June 9: Mat Pesch
After almost three decades in the Sea Org, I didn’t find it easy or comfortable to peel off all the layers of bullshit and false ideas I had picked up. It took about a year before I looked at all. As I looked at actual information I started accepting the truth, most of which had been obvious all along if I had allowed myself to think critically and honestly, which is what the programming in a cult prevents. After I had swallowed tons of crow and been thoroughly humbled I really hesitated to pull the curtain back on Hubbard himself. I knew it was going to be painful but I had to look. I had to eat the biggest crow of all, the truth about Hubbard. No one likes to be wrong. No one likes to admit they have been stupid, been tricked or played the fool. Its a difficult process. If one can’t walk through that process, they will never get free of a cult and its mental programming.

June 15: Observer
I feel bad for anyone who put any trust in Marty.

June 18: Bernie Headley
You can call me a dreamer, but I really hope my daughter, Stephanie, calls me this Father’s Day. I’ll be doing the Sunday BBQ thing at Marc’s, which is definitely good. Just wanting that extra good feeling from my baby.

June 24: Pete Griffiths
It is very humbling to be surrounded by so many genuine, good-hearted warm caring people, with no “secret agenda”, no OSA paranoia, just pure good intentions and a desire to see justice come to the crime syndicate we know and “love” as Scientology. However – keep the bullshit detector switched on, we still have work to do! To all the Never-Ins, the Exes, the Bunkerites, the Anons and whatever other categories there might be, WE WILL WIN THIS THING!


How to get yourself on stage at an Ideal Org event

Over the weekend, David Miscavige opened his last Ideal Org of the year at the “Johannesburg North” location in South Africa. We decided to go looking through the slick official photos of the event at Scientology’s website…


…and noticed something interesting about the obligatory rope-pull, which featured a lot of locals on stage with Miscavige…


…and if you looked carefully, the older couple at the very end of the rope line (next to the young dude in a suit), turned out to be Robin Hogarth and his wife Carol…


…the couple who welcomed a child into their home who was some sort of a refugee after having been adopted by the richest Scientology couple in the world, Bob and Trish Duggan.

In 2014, we told the strange story of how the Duggans, who had adopted six sons, had shipped off two of them to South African families at the same time that they were making huge donations to Scientology building projects there. Our sources there, including Carol’s sister, Shelley Ashurst, told us that it appeared to be a bizarre case of the Duggans saying “here’s enough money to build your new churches, and in return take these two kids off of our hands.”

Complicating that strange deal was that the biological father of the boy being raised by the Hogarths gave us an on-the-record interview, backed up by court testimony, which showed that he had wanted to stay involved in his child’s life, which the Duggans told him would happen, and he had no idea that his son had been shipped off to South Africa. What a strange situation.

But heck, it all appeared to pay off for Carol and Robin, who got to help Miscavige pull the ribbon on Joburg North, but about as far from C.O.B. as was possible on that stage.

How ideal!


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,975 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 121 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,184 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 1,958 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,732 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,078 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,572 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,612 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,324 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 850 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,939 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,079 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,399 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,374 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 730 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,032 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,138 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,541 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,414 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 995 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,500 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,744 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,853 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on December 26, 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