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Scientology in Europe: ‘A scapegoat always had to be found when something went wrong’

We have a real treat this week in our ongoing ‘Scientology Lit’ series. It’s a full chapter from Robert Dam’s book The Defector: After 20 years in Scientology. Robert gives us a look inside Scientology’s operation in Copenhagen, its headquarters in Europe, where he spent some of his 20 years in Scientology before leaving the organization in 2004. Published in Denmark in 2011, the book was a bestseller there, but is less well known here in the U.S. We hope this intriguing chapter gives you some idea of how much the authoritarian nature of Scientology is consistent around the world…

There was a knock on the door. It was a late afternoon in the beginning of December 1996. Winter was about to set in and it was dark and cold outside. We had moved to a yellow-brick town house in the suburb of Valby. In the summer of 1994 we’d had a daughter and our old flat had become too cramped. Our new home was very roomy and we settled in nicely. There were only a few moving boxes in the cellar that had yet to be unpacked. One of them was not a real moving box, but a large, square box containing 50 Dianetics paperbacks. Some years before New Era Publications – the international Scientology publisher in Copenhagen – had run a campaign to get Dianetics back on the bestseller lists. A persistent Sea Org member had contacted me and said I needed to help support the project by buying a box of 50 copies. He said that if just a certain number of Scientologists did so, the book would once again be a bestseller. Simple math. Then it was up to me to sell the books further to friends and acquaintances I wanted to get interested in Dianetics and Scientology. As it turned out I never got around to selling the books, but New Era succeeded in reinstating Dianetics back on the bestseller lists. Not because the book had had a renaissance as the world was led to believe, but because we – myself and thousands of other loyal Scientologists around the world – had done our duty and bought a whole box each.

We liked our large, three-level townhouse and had used a lot of money and energy to make it livable. I had risen to OT V, the highest level one could attain in Europe, and thus was just as far up The Bridge as VIP Scientologists like John Travolta and Tom Cruise at the time. My auditor was the Dutchman, Caspar de Rijk. Occasionally there were fantastic sessions where I felt I got a real power boost or a sense of great relief, as if a heavy stone had been removed from my mental backpack. But for the most part the sessions were more routine, with no major accomplishments. In the Scientology community I was a walking success story, an OT, a superhuman, and I kept up the facade and played my role. I did my duty, all the time hoping and believing I’d become a proper OT when I advanced to the next level. But as my auditing progressed I was having nightmares more and more often.


Tina had used her maternity leave to study and audit between changing diapers and nursing, and had become an OT IV. We had accumulated debts totaling many tens of thousands of dollars in order to pay for our OT levels, but this was not unusual. As a Scientologist one was used to being under constant economic pressure from the organization, but we made it through this period and were able to meet our commitments.

Before I reached the door, there was another knock. Outside stood two female Security Force officers in full uniform.


I was surprised by their unannounced visit, but immediately knew the occasion. I had come under suspicion in connection with the printing of the AOSH’s members’ newsletter. Since it was the principal organization in Europe, the list of members was quite extensive. There were around 74,000 names of current and former course participants and about 170,000 names of all book buyers. The high number was primarily due to the fact that all the regional organizations in Europe were required to hand in all their lists so the AOSH could send out newsletters, not only to all the currently active members, but also to ex-members and book purchasers from the whole of Europe. It was practically impossible to be taken off the lists, and it only happened if one really protested or threatened a lawsuit. In this way an individual who had bought a Scientology book twenty years ago was still on the list, even though the person had had nothing to do with Scientology since. Therefore the lists were in no way accurate if one wanted to know the actual number of Scientologists in Europe, but this wasn’t what interested me. For me it was a decent business, printing and disseminating the AOSH newsletters, and I had attained high esteem with the local management. I’d discovered I could produce and distribute even more cheaply from Africa than from the Far East, and this saved the organization hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

But problems had arisen after I’d begun producing in Zimbabwe in the middle of 1993. A whole lot of mail had been stranded in Frankfurt Airport enroute from Zimbabwe because the German postal service, which Zimbabwe used to distribute mail into Europe, claimed it was a case of illegal re-mailing. They had held back almost a hundred mail sacks, which was approximately the equivalent of 150,000 addressed members’ newsletters. What drew their attention was probably the fact that the sudden increase in the volume of mail from Zimbabwe, was in Scientology’s name. The various countries’ postal services have an internal accounting system that gives better rates to third-world countries like Zimbabwe. Otherwise the postage would be so expensive that no average Zimbabwean could ever afford to send a letter to Europe. In other words, the European postal services were supposed to distribute Scientology’s mail for a fraction of the price they would otherwise be entitled to, and this was probably what the German postal service protested over. But they had no legal case. We were doing nothing illegal, merely taking advantage of a developing country’s privileges. And one could rightly argue that we were good for business in Zimbabwe and that the German postal service was not warranted to ignore its part of the agreement and thereby obstruct a good source of export income for the country. However that may have been, I became aware of the problem and arranged a meeting with one of the highest officials in the Zimbabwean postal service.

It took me less than two hours to convince him to use another route to Europe. He began negotiating with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines about flying all the mail to Schiphol, Amsterdam, instead, from where it would be distributed to the rest of Europe. The Dutch postal service didn’t seem to have a problem with this and I personally took part in the meeting in Amsterdam where the contract was signed. The official from the Zimbabwean postal service had invited me to participate and we spent most of the day being shown around the facilities. I had also managed to get the Zimbabwean mail service to fetch the stranded mail sacks from Frankfurt and redistribute all of them via the new partnership. So the situation had been remedied, but nevertheless I had come under suspicion.

The statistics for income had been down for a number of months. The influx of new members had stagnated for years. The AOSH wasn’t earning any money. This was a serious problem that had proven impossible for the local management to solve and the international management had intervened. Normally income statistics would rise considerably about six weeks after a mailing, but it hadn’t happened the last couple of times I had sent out the members’ newsletter for the AOSH. When the international management learned it wasn’t a Sea Org member who was in charge of the mailings, on top of which the newsletters were being sent from a third-world country, all hell broke loose. They were convinced I had never printed or sent the newsletters, but had merely produced a few copies to show my contacts when I came home and had otherwise stolen the rest of the money. The AOSH management had always placed complete trust in me, but they had been bypassed. Now David Miscavige had taken charge of the case and he used the CLO EU management as his proxy.

I’d been summoned to a meeting at the CLO EU where I had to present my accounting and had also been paid a visit by three officers from the accounts department who wanted to scrutinize my vouchers. At first I had resisted because I didn’t feel a client could demand that a supplier hand over his entire business, but they’d applied so much pressure that I was forced to yield. If I wanted to entertain hopes of continuing as a Scientologist and preserve the possibility of progressing up The Bridge, I had to do as I was told. I had delivered all my bookkeeping and voucher folders and figured everything was okay. From the vouchers they would be able to see I had printed and sent out every, single members’ newsletter I had ever received payment for.

But here they were again, nevertheless. This time in the form of the Security Force.

“What can I do for you?”

The older of the two women said there was someone from the Org who wanted to speak with me and I should follow them to the Org immediately. The woman was in her late thirties. She spoke broken English in a hard, commanding voice. Neither of them was Danish. All in all there were only very few Sea Org members who were. They were from all over Europe, especially Italy, Germany and France, as well as some from Eastern European countries.

An unpleasant sensation coursed through my body. Bringing in my balance sheets had apparently not been enough. I knew from experience that a scapegoat always had to be found when something went wrong. It was simply a necessity. There had to be “a head on a pike,” as Hubbard once wrote in one of his policy letters. But I had been hoping it wouldn’t be mine. My documentation certainly spoke for itself.


I answered courteously that unfortunately I was unable to accompany them, since I was at home alone with my daughter and my wife wouldn’t be arriving until later. The two women said in that case they would come inside and wait. I knew if I protested, the consequences would be serious. It had all happened so suddenly. A few weeks ago I had been a highly esteemed Scientologist and contractor; now I was a suspect and being treated as such. I was still a hundred-percent Scientologist by conviction, as was my wife, much of our family and most of our friends. I didn’t want to risk losing my OT levels and our entire future together – everything I had worked for so hard during the past twelve years. Our spiritual freedom, our social network, even my income was dependent on my being in good standing with the organization.

Apparently I just needed to answer a few more questions and then everything would fall in place. I had faith in the management and, for that matter, understanding for the suspicions they harbored against me. Miscavige didn’t know me. He had no idea who I was. The only thing he knew was the statistics had been down for several months in a row. There was no money and new membership had stalled which was a very serious problem. Members’ newsletters had been sent out, but this was not reflected in income as it should have been. He had launched an investigation that was supposed to reveal whether or not members had received their newsletter during recent months. A too-large percentage had answered no, which was probably due to the problems we’d had in Frankfurt, but of course Miscavige knew nothing of this, so it was quite reasonable to believe someone had been tampering with the mailing. I could easily follow the line of reasoning and had no doubt I would succeed in explaining what had actually happened.

The two female Security Force officers had planted themselves in the hallway and were clearly impatient. I showed them into the living room and asked them to take a seat. My two-year-old daughter wanted to say hello, but they showed no interest in talking to her. The atmosphere had become cold and edgy. I tried to stay positive, but couldn’t. An hour and a half passed before Tina got home, and it felt like an eternity. The women were not in the mood to engage in any form of social small talk. They spoke several times with their superiors on their mobile phones and I could hear they were being pressured into bringing me in right away.

Tina was home and I could now go make things right, once and for all. The Security Force officers had not come by car, so I drove us to the Org in mine. As we were walking from the parking lot on H.C. Andersens Blvd. to the building on Jernbanegade, they put in yet another call to their superiors.

“We’re approaching the building with suspect. Arriving in approximately two minutes.”

One walked in front of me, the other behind. If it hadn’t been for the gravity of the situation I would have had to smile about this farcical march maneuver. When we arrived there were more Security Force guards in the lobby. One of them opened the door for us and as I stepped in it dawned on me just how serious the situation was. Besides all the security guards, many of the staff came out to see what was happening. My arrival was apparently quite an attraction. I looked around in surprise and saw several of those I usually worked with on the newsletters. I greeted them with a forced smile, but nobody said a word. Most of them avoided eye contact with me. It was extremely disquieting. Had I already been found guilty? Guilty of a crime I hadn’t committed?

“Hurry up they’re waiting for you up there,” the older woman commanded.

There were guards on each landing of the staircase. It was obvious they feared I could get it into my head to escape. Thoughts began racing through my mind. Who was sitting up there, waiting for me? What might happen that could make me want to flee? The situation was clearly worse than I’d thought. During my twelve years in Scientology I had heard many nasty things about the organization. How people had been taken prisoner, locked into small rooms for weeks, robbed of their night’s sleep and interrogated until they broke down and confessed to anything at all or else signed statements where they waived their right to sue the organization. I had heard plenty of stories about brainwashing and abuse, but had rejected them all as vile attacks by our enemies, attempts to discredit the organization with slanderous lies. Now I was beginning to fear they might not all be tall tales.
We passed the fifth floor, which meant I was probably going to be interrogated in the boardroom on the top floor. I wished I’d had more time to prepare myself. Everything was moving so fast and I couldn’t collect my thoughts. With only twenty or thirty steps to go, my worst fears were getting the upper hand.

— Robert Dam




Please join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,189 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,792 days
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 335 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 223 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,398 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,172 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,946 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,292 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 10,858 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,526 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,786 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,826 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,538 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,064 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,153 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,293 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,613 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,588 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 944 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,246 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,352 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,755 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,627 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,209 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,714 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,958 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,067 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on July 28, 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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