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Opportunity missed: What Erika Christensen should have been asked about Scientology

[Dax Shepard and Erika Christensen]

Your proprietor was on a family vacation a couple of weeks ago when a splash of Scientology celebrity news lit up the intertubes. Erika Christensen, second-generation Scientologist and accomplished actress, had uttered some interesting things about the church in a podcast with her actor friend, Dax Shepard.

Except for a few utterances we made on Twitter, we weren’t really in a good position to react to what was going on, but now we’ve had a little time to review what was said in that podcast and, more importantly, how it was presented to the world by the media.

It’s always interesting when one of the celebs in David Miscavige’s stable is allowed to speak publicly about Scientology. They run the risk, of course, that they might actually be asked a penetrating question about the organization they’re a part of, or about L. Ron Hubbard, or about what’s in Hubbard’s books. Usually, however, we’re very disappointed by what reporters or show hosts ask, and especially by how they react to the dodgy answers they get.

In this case, there was a pretty good chance that Erika wasn’t going to face very tough questions, coming into an interview with an admiring friend. But Dax Shepard is no dope or doormat. He’s a thoughtful, smart actor who has had some great roles — we were crazy about him in Idiocracy — and for several years he co-starred with Christensen on the NBC series Parenthood. We’ll give him credit for raising the issue of Scientology several times over their hour-long talk, which was part of a two-hour podcast.

Referring to a background in sociology, Shepard said, “My goal in this podcast is…to understand why something is the way it is and from that person’s point of view.” And he tried to anticipate criticism by suggesting that it wasn’t his job to try and interrogate his friend: “We’re gonna talk a lot about Scientology in this episode and I applaud Erika for being so honest about it and you might be at home saying you should be trying to prove to her why that’s wrong and I just want to say to you that that’s just not my interest.”


OK, fair enough. At least he raised the question with her. And her first response was actually pretty revealing — more revealing than most Scientology celebs usually are: “As a Scientologist — and I definitely cannot speak for every Scientologist about anything because everybody has their own beliefs and comes at it from even other religions and all kinds of stuff — however, I don’t believe this is the first time I have lived on this planet and I basically think I’ve probably done absolutely everything before.”

Finally, a celebrity admitting that central to Scientology is the concept of remembering past lives. See, was that so hard? And as we explained in a story not too long ago, in L. Ron Hubbard’s universe, we’ve all lived so many trillions of years not only have we “done absolutely everything before,” as Erika says, but what that specifically means is that we’ve all done truly horrible, horrendous stuff like sex-killings of children. And that’s precisely why none of us are in any position to judge a current Scientologist who does such a nasty thing. This idea is central to how Scientologists are convinced not to go to the police and report things that fellow church members do. “He’s saying that anyone who reacts negatively to people molesting children today is going to have all of this stuff in their track [their long distant past lives] that you can find. That’s what makes them feel that way,” Sunny Pereira told us about what Hubbard was talking about in a 1952 lecture.

We would love to have asked Erika about that lecture after she herself brought up the idea that a Scientologist has lived so many lives, they’ve already experienced everything. It’s a shame Dax didn’t know about that Hubbard lecture.

Anyway, Erika then mentioned something about having grown up in Scientology and whether she would do the same for her children. “It’s hard to raise someone as a Scientologist because it’s something that you do, it’s not something that you believe. And so my parents definitely are Scientologists, approached parenting from a Scientology viewpoint.”

Sure, when her kid turns 15 or something she’ll hand them a copy of Dianetics and let nature take its course. We’d like to hear from our readers who are former church members. How did you introduce the idea of being a Scientologist to your kids? How much pressure is there on kids born in Scientology today to grow up as members? This is an interesting question, actually.

Dax then brings up his toughest question, and we’ll give him credit again for keeping at it. He asks Erika if she’s been keeping up with all of the critiques of Scientology that have surfaced in recent years.

“No, because I don’t think that it…comes from critical thinking. I think it comes more from maybe that phenomena we’re talking about of being threatened. Something goes against what somebody believes and really identifies with and so they feel very threatened and go on the attack about something. And so I just think it doesn’t really have anything to do with me and my relationship with these books,” Erika answers.

OK, that’s a total dodge. And Dax knows it. So he keeps after her — why not watch Going Clear, Alex Gibney and Lawrence Wright’s Emmy-winning 2015 HBO documentary?

“Because it honestly it doesn’t have anything to do … with anything that I’ve ever learned about the group or organization as a group or organization,” Erika answers. “Like if somebody has read a book, read Dianetics or some Scientology book, and wants to philosophically tell me what they disagree with cool, like that is a totally different thing.”

Whoa. Hang on there a minute. She won’t watch Going Clear, but she would take a question about Dianetics? Really?

Oh, if only Dax knew at that moment the perfect quote from Dianetics to ask Erika about. It’s deep into the book, and it’s in all editions, even the copies being sold today, and we’ve written about how shocking it is that this line hasn’t gotten more attention: “The seven-year-old girl who shudders because a man kisses her is not computing; she is reacting to an engram since at seven she should see nothing wrong in a kiss, not even a passionate one. There must have been an earlier experience, possibly prenatal, which made men or kissing very bad.”

Erika will take a question about Dianetics? How about asking her why the book suggests that there’s something wrong with a seven-year-old girl who rejects a man’s passionate kiss. If only we’d been there, we certainly would have asked her that one.

But she goes on: “Specifically with that documentary — the documentary was based on a book. The book was not even published in certain English speaking countries because the libel laws are stricter than they are here.”

What irked us was not only that Dax let this go, but later in the program his fact-checker came on to say that Erika was correct about this. But Erika is wrong. As any reader of the Underground Bunker knows, Lawrence Wright’s book Going Clear has been printed in the United Kingdom and other countries by Silvertail Books (disclaimer: also our publisher) after it was initially only published in the U.S.

Erika is simply parroting Church of Scientology talking points here. And she’s wrong.

She goes on: “It’s so, there’s so much that is actually talking about sources since I don’t actually — since I can’t refer to specific data — talking about sources they have proved themselves to be irrelevant and so it’s like, it’s like with certain political figures when there came a point where you just reached like, oh it doesn’t matter what he says, like where you realize that, like, oh it literally doesn’t matter what he says he’s lying right. There are people like that like that’s what I look at is the source and I get to evaluate the source and go, oh, OK that person has been convicted of perjury previously right, so no there’s nothing like there’s no relevance to what they’re saying.”

Did you catch the Scientology moment there? Erika admits that she can’t “refer to specific data.” This is her way of referring to the well-known Scientology prohibition against “verbal data.” In other words, Scientologists are trained that they can never talk about specific Scientology processes with outsiders. Erika is admitting here that she can’t discuss the issues raised in Going Clear anyway, but she goes on to trash its sources. None of the people featured in the film were convicted of perjury, so we don’t know what she’s referring to there. But again, it’s all a big dodge.

Unfortunately, none of the media that reported on this podcast bothered to bring up any of these points, or bothered to consult someone who might have done so. Erika — or rather Miscavige — got exactly what she wanted, to look like a defender of the faith without having to answer any difficult questions.

What a shame.

If we’d been there, we might have prompted Dax to ask about a recent Scientology publication which showed that Erika was given a trophy for her family reaching $500,000 in donations to the church. Surely, this was worth a question, right?


Or how about asking her about this 2006 Scientology video Erika appears in. Why couldn’t someone like Dax Shepard ask a basic question like, what is a Scientology “congress,” and why did she say they were “straight out of this universe”?


Ah, what a missed opportunity.



Attendees: Please meet us at the hotel at 6 pm this evening. Chee Chalker, our coordinator, will be handing out packets of information about the location of HowdyCon events and other things to do in town. And we’ll be joining author Alec Nevala-Lee for a casual round of discussion. We’ve read his forthcoming book, Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction, and it has some wonderful insights about how Hubbard moved from the pulps to Dianetics. Take this opportunity to get to know him and hear about his book before it makes waves in October!

Look who’s there already…



Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,152 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,755 days
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 298 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 186 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,361 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,135 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,909 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,255 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 10,821 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,489 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,749 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,789 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,501 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,027 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,116 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,256 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,576 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,551 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 907 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,209 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,315 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,718 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,590 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,172 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,677 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,921 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,030 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on June 21, 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

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news


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