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David Palter, 1952-2018: Remembering a Scientologist who became a steady critic

[Gregg Hagglund, Nan McLean, and David Palter watch Anonymous in 2008]

We’ve written before about Scientology’s battles with its critics in Toronto. We obtained documents that described how one Scientologist did his best to harass Gregg Hagglund, a church critic who may be the main reason Scientology has never attained charitable status in Canada.

When Hagglund was organizing demonstrations at the Toronto Scientology org, another person he could count on to show up was a former church member named David Palter.

Palter left Scientology in 1982, and he became a regular face at pickets in Toronto in the 1990s. More recently, he had become a steady voice about Scientology at Reddit before leaving it in a dispute two years ago. Last year, Palter became ill. He died on Tuesday at the age of 65.

“He was always well-spoken, and had a lot of sympathy for the people still in,” says Ron Sharp, another dedicated Toronto critic who goes by “RMycroft” here at the Bunker. “Once at a picket, he hugged a former friend, saying ‘Can’t you see that it’s a scam?’ He realized that was a mistake right away, and took the warning from the police officer present with some embarrassment. It wasn’t easy for David to face the people he had known, the Scientology that used to be his, but he did it.”

Hagglund tells us that Palter was one person he could always count on to show up for demonstrations at a time when few people were willing to take the risk. “He was very reliable,” Hagglund says. “He was a really decent guy who wanted to do something right – even though he knew we were tilting at windmills.”


“We were on staff together in Toronto in the 1970s,” says Nan McLean. “We hardly knew each other on staff, but we got to know each other better after that picket in 2008. I enjoyed the time we spent together.”

In 1992, Palter wrote a particularly insightful description about the nature of Scientology.

“If Scientology did deliver what it promises, or even a tenth of what it promises, it would be the overwhelmingly dominant power on Earth today,” Palter wrote. “It would replace all government and all other religions. It would run everything. We would all be Scientologists. I would not be writing this essay. The truth of Scientology would be obvious to everybody, and no sane person would question it for a moment. The reality is that Scientology has few members, cannot hold on to its members, and is struggling to survive in the face of a barrage of lawsuits coming from dissatisfied customers, as well as governments that take exception to many of its practices. Given this vast gulf between expectations and reality, I cannot avoid the conclusion that Scientology simply does not deliver.”

We received a lengthy remembrance of Palter from his cousin, a well known figure here in the Bunker who goes by “Mighty Korgo of Teegeeack.” We thought you’d want to see it.

David Palter was my beloved cousin, the smart one, from New York. He was just over a year my senior, very analytic and knowledgeable in a many areas. At age 18 he left university and very soon moved to Toronto. Within a month, he had become a staff member at the Church of Scientology then situated at 124 Avenue Rd. That was 1970.

We had discussed Scientology before that. Both he and I felt that our mutual cousin who had taken the bait a year before had made a huge mistake. But when David moved to Toronto he shared an apartment with that cousin. He said to me, privately, that there was a 20 percent chance of Scientology being true. He even corresponded with Isaac Asimov to ask him for advice on Scientology. Asimov responded on a postcard. Asimov’s answer, by itself, would be impossible to understand without reading the entirety of David’s letter but he told David, “Rely on your intuitions.” It was sarcastic and insufficient. David sent one last missive to his pen pal upholding the virtues of L.Ron and diminishing Dr. Asimov. The next time I saw David, perhaps a week after that, he had joined staff. I remember giving him a lift in our family car and his saying that he was going to trust L.Ron Hubbard to show him the way. I replied with a metaphor, “So Hubbard will be in the driver’s seat.” He repeated the words in agreement. David was given hope when he joined staff and it would take years before the hope was thrown to the ground. Seven of those years were spent on staff. His first job was at the Toronto Org working Day and Foundation which as I recall meant a sixteen hour day six days a week and an eight hour day on Sunday. His job was in the mail room, doing whatever one does in the mail room. He had moved out from the shared accommodations and into his own tiny apartment, just a block or so from the org. It cost him eleven dollars a month, startlingly cheap even in the very early 1970s. His average org pay was eleven dollars a week but sometimes there would be nothing.

David would say that he managed just fine on the money. But, when not around Scientologists he would admit that he was being supported, in part, by his family. He also told me not to join
staff before amassing a bit of a nest egg through traditional employment. He said that money was a constant problem — and even OTs had tried to borrow money from him. David fulfilled his contract with the Toronto Org then moved to Los Angeles which was where our mutual cousin, let me call him our “seed” cousin, was living. David then worked in the L.A. mail room. David eventually said something, a joking comment about L. Ron Hubbard which had no malicious intent and someone did him the biggest favor of his life — they reported him to ethics. Though David was never declared suppressive he was told that his services were no longer needed. This was about 1982.

He moved to Tamarind Avenue in North Hollywood, to a building where many declared or otherwise former Scientologists lived. From David’s description it sounded like a skid row flop house. In a surprisingly short time, his head cleared on the subject of Scientology. He had the “big con” cognition. Another ex-Scientologist lived there who wrote novels for major SF publishers. David became his proofreader and critic. He then got a job doing data entry for an insurance company. David stayed there for a few years, spending little money and amassing enough savings to give him some flexibility in the future. Then on September 28th, 1985, he returned to Toronto, where he got more work in the insurance field. He had had friends at the Toronto Org, and though he was estranged from Scientology he returned, took a tour of the old org and gave his warm regards to former colleagues. They were polite but nothing more. They were busy and it must have been apparent that David wasn’t coming back. He was all but a pariah.

About that time Lawrence Wollersheim was creating waves that threatened to sink Scientology’s armada. Scientologists were protesting not only in Los Angeles but in Toronto and they asked
David to join them. David responded, “You weren’t with me when I needed you. I won’t be helping you now.” He was angry. Soon after he began to work against Scientology. David would write letters to magazines and newspapers that featured articles on Scientology. His letters would usually see publication. Now Magazine, Toronto’s version of the Village Voice, printed over one hundred letters of his on Scientology and many other subjects. When the Toronto protests began in the 1990s David would be there every month with a picket sign. He protested Travolta when he came to Toronto for a book signing. He stood with the Anonymous protestors though he was conspicuous among them by his age.

He stayed aware of Scientology but with the perspective that there were other larger problems in the world. He usually had a good knowledge of the facts on both world and local issues, and
was able to explain their ramifications sensibly. But he was nothing less than an expert on Scientology. He eventually ended up as one of the moderators of the Scientology Forum on Reddit (“excultist”), where he was appreciated for his knowledge and sensibility.

He was healthy as anyone in his sixties until about a year ago when he found out that he had Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. He had one series of chemotherapy which was unsuccessful. A second series proved to be hard on his body and he quit in favor of palliative care.

We rarely spoke of Scientology during that final stage of his life. We had already discussed it from virtually every angle. He was tired of it, saddened by it and wanted to discuss things that he found more up lifting. He passed away on Tuesday.


Chris Shelton on INCOMM

Says Chris: “In this video, I give a brief description of the history, purpose and functions of Scientology’s computer organization, known as INCOMM or the International Network of Computer Organized ManageMent. There have been some damn interesting stories told about this group and some of the shenanigans they’ve been involved in, but here I try to give a bigger picture view of their ridiculousness. Enjoy!”



Make your plans now!

Head over to our HowdyCon 2018 website to start making your travel plans!



Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,019 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,622 days
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 165 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,228 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,002 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,776 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,122 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,616 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,656 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,368 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 894 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,983 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,123 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,443 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,418 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 774 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,076 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,182 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,585 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,457 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,039 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,544 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,788 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,897 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on February 8, 2018 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, 1995-2017 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2017), 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 | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ


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