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Scientology’s building projects & front groups under the microscope in 2018

[David Miscavige opens a new Ideal Org in Orlando in May]

On this final Sunday in 2018, we asked Rod Keller to give us his own year in review. We’re so fortunate that Rod gives us a report every week while he keeps such a close eye on Scientology’s “expansion” projects and front-group operations around the globe.

January brought news that Scientology plans to open a new Narconon facility in the small town of Ballivor, Ireland. Residents there protested the construction site, and in November An Bord Pleanála, a national planning board, ruled that Scientology’s drug rehab facility was a change of use, as the site was previously a nursing home. Given local opposition it now seems unlikely that planning permission will be given, adding Narconon Ireland to a long list of failed facilities. Scientology expressed shock that they were not welcomed with open arms as they plan their next move. They don’t think this battle is over yet.

 

 

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In February we reported on the efforts of public Scientologists in Manchester to start renovations of the new Ideal Org building on their own, without professional help. That project has withered as the easy projects are now complete. Manchester set a goal to start professional renovations “by Christmas” but that date seems to have slipped. Hopes for a new Ideal Org in the UK by the end of 2019 are slim.

 

 
In March we reported the results of the Birthday Game, in which Scientology celebrates the birth of L. Ron Hubbard by compiling thousands of statistics such as revenue, auditing hours and books sold for the previous year. Orgs and missions that beat their competitors receive horse jockey statues. Our money is still on Dublin to win in March, 2019.

 

[Parliament of the World’s Religions, Toronto, November 2018]

By April the media buzz over the launch of the Scientology Network on DirecTV was fading. Scientology’s response was to hype real or invented success stories of how the channel will bring thousands of recruits to Ideal Orgs all over the world. In the months since, a “Season 2” was released in an attempt to re-start public interest. It hasn’t worked. New Scientologists are overwhelmingly second generation members and not recruits from TV.

 

 
In May we reported that despite police raids on the orgs, Scientology operates freely in Russia. Russia in turn uses the accusation of membership in Scientology against foreign leaders.

 

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In June Scientologists spoke at a meeting of ACRE, the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe held in Brussels. In response to the article Scientologists were removed from the online program, but not from the conference.

 

[Rod Keller and Eileen Barker OBE]

In July we reported from the International Cultic Studies Association meeting in Philadelphia. Former Scientologists Hana and Jerry Whitfield, Chris Shelton, Aaron Smith-Levin and Christi Gordon all spoke in fascinating sessions and panels.

 

[VMs in Paradise, CA, December 2018]

August brought the fire season to northern California, and with it the teams of Scientology Volunteer Ministers. We reported on how they want to be known as a leader in disaster response, despite small numbers and lack of training and supplies. To their credit a small number of VMs are still working in the area after the media attention is over.

 

[Narconon Navajoa facility for women]

In September we reported on attempts to recruit staff members at several Narconon facilities. In the months since Scientology has opened two new Narconons in Mexico — Narconon Navajoa Mujeres and Narconon Puebla.

 

 

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The Foundation for a Drug-Free World is a Scientology front group that attempts to spread the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard under the guise of drug education. In October we saw how the group is making inroads with law enforcement.

 

 
In November we saw how Scientology is ramping up the fundraising for the planned LRH Hall in Clearwater. We expect that to tie into the 2019 Birthday Game as Scientologists are urged to make a donation as a personal gift to Ron.

 

 
And finally in December we broke the news that the Advanced Org Africa at Kyalami Castle will open on New Year’s Day. As we predicted, the AO is now being promoted as a place to go OT for less money. Scientology is taking no chances by bringing in the top staff members from Clearwater instead of using native South Africans.

Scientology in 2019 starts off with a bang by opening the first new Advanced Org in decades. We think the AO in Sydney, Australia will feel the impact most as South Africans go local rather than travel to do their OT levels. All other AOs will take a hit as some cost conscious Scientologists make the journey to Johannesburg.

After that they have four US orgs poised to go Ideal in 2019, but they really like to have six or seven per year. There are none that we know of in Canada, Central or South America, the UK, Africa or Australia. We can only think they have a couple in Europe that are being kept quiet similar to the surprise opening of the Stuttgart Ideal Org this year. Will it be Barcelona or will Scientology finally open an Ideal Org in France? It’s a glaring omission in the quest for global expansion.

 

 

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Social reform groups Narconon, The Way to Happiness, Criminon, Scientology Volunteer Ministers, Foundation for a Drug-Free World, Youth for Human Rights and CCHR are all working to prepare society for Scientology expansion under the Hubbard policy “The Safe Point.” Narconon has many stalled facilities, but they will probably open one or two new ones in 2019. Expect the VMs to flock to disaster areas in Florida and California, but they will remain a small force with delusions of grandeur. Youth for Human Rights is launching a campaign to require human rights education in schools, and that sounds like it might work in some countries.

We predict Scientology membership will continue to fall. The Scientology Network isn’t reversing that trend, there are no lines of new recruits at Ideal Orgs. The number of square feet per Scientologist will continue to rise as new churches open. The smaller they get, the louder they will proclaim they are expanding.

 
— Rod Keller

 
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Continuing our year in review: The stories of October 2018

October began with a moving new account from a former Sea Org member who had, like so many others, been forced to have an abortion to keep up with her work schedule. Heather Ruggeri’s narrative was another heartbreaking reminder of how young women are used by Scientology.

For years we’ve watched David Miscavige reward his whales with big shiny trophies and fancy “status” upgrades. Why shouldn’t we have the same fun in the Bunker? In October we revealed our status levels for our loyal commenters. Who will be the first Blue Whale Kha-Khan?

R.M. Seibert continues to make amazing finds for us, and in October she located a real gem. It was a series of documents spelling out an argument over whether the government should settle a lawsuit with Scientology on favorable terms to the church. Writing in 1983, DC District Attorney (and later DC federal judge) Stanley Harris spelled out why, following the Snow White debacle, the government shouldn’t grant Scientology the benefit of doubt about anything. “The history of Scientology has been that truth is its enemy, and that it is opposed to the accuracy of information where correct information may hurt Scientology,” he wrote. What a memo.

Scientology rolled out a new “season” of propaganda at its DirecTV channel Scientology TV in October, and we managed to get an eyewitness into the watch party held on L. Ron Hubbard Way in Los Angeles.

After this year’s IAS gala in England, Scientology put out some hi-res photos of the affair that made it pretty obvious that attendance is down from previous years. We asked our readers to judge for themselves, helping us to count heads.

On October 14, Detroit got its “Ideal Org,” and we were ready to help explain to Michiganders what was going on, and we even had a short video explainer, too.

Sunny Pereira made a heartfelt appeal to ex-Scientologists to have understanding for people coming out of the Sea Org, particularly those who grew up in the church.

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The next day, Sylvia DeWall made a bold statement to the friends and family who had turned their backs on her when she was kicked out of Scientology for daring to watch Leah Remini on television and other “crimes.” We also shared the heartless “disconnection” letter she received from her brother.

With the midterms election coming up, a vile racist radio ad suddenly showed up in Arkansas and other places. And it turned out that one of the people who funded the ad was Trish Duggan, the richest Scientologist in the world.

To mark the publication of his book, Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction, author Alec Nevala-Lee shared with us a remarkable document he found in the course of his research. In 1949, when no psychologist would touch ‘Dianetics’ as he was preparing it for publication, L. Ron Hubbard simply invented one and wrote a skeptical “rebuttal” to his own book! Oh, L. Ron.

Speaking of recovering great documents from the past, Phil Jones tracked down a parody of Scientology published by National Lampoon way back in 1970.

And finally, on the last day of the month, our new book, a collaboration with Paulette Cooper we titled Battlefield Scientology, went on sale. Grab a copy and review it on Amazon just as soon as you can!

 
MOST-READ STORIES OF OCTOBER 2018:
1. Richest Scientologist in the world is one of the donors behind offensive Arkansas radio ad
2. Ahoy, matey: We have Scientology’s new Sea Org application!
3. Scientology tried to ruin her. Now, Sylvia DeWall has a message for her former friends and family.
4. With Scientology TV premiering a new ‘season’ tonight, David Miscavige is having a moment
5. What the Australian press can’t say about James Packer and his Scientology adventure

 
A LOOK BACK AT OCTOBER 2017: We received reports that the RPF was a thing of the past. We marveled at the 1989 OT 8 graduation of Margie Zacks. David Miscavige’s new portrait in the belly of the Freewinds wowed us. Aftermath looked at Mace-Kingsley Ranch and talked to Mimi Faust. The vile secret in Dianetics got dissected.

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A LOOK BACK AT OCTOBER 2016: Karla Taylor’s lawsuit reminded us of the chances people take when the sue Scientology. We broke the news that Tom Cruise was building a double penthouse in Clearwater. And we ID’d one of the private eyes stalking Leah Remini in Denver.

A LOOK BACK AT OCTOBER 2015: The month began with a lot of Cat White and Jim Carrey and Mark Burton coverage, including the young Hollywood Scientologists she hung out with, and the family in Ireland that had first pointed her toward the church. We went to the London premiere of Louis Theroux’s My Scientology Movie. And thanks to Bryan Seymour and Steve Cannane, our trip to Australia’s cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth was a great success. And our big bombshell: The “Knowledge Reports” about Leah Remini that informed her book.

A LOOK BACK AT OCTOBER 2014: Scientology’s private threat letter to the S.F. Chronicle. A perplexing tale about Bob Duggan, the richest Scientologist in the world. Tom Cruise and his medal in London. Marty Rathbun ambushed at LAX by raving Jenny Linson. L. Ron Hubbard’s amazing 1949 letter to Forrest Ackerman. Mark Ebner finds Gay Ribisi’s plaques.

A LOOK BACK AT OCTOBER 2013: Live-blogging the Garcia mini-trial in Tampa, Scientology denied by the US Supreme Court, interpreting Leah Remini’s epic dance, and live-blogging a dramatic hearing in Laura DeCrescenzo’s lawsuit in Los Angeles.

 
Five of our favorites from the most-upvoted comments of October 2018

October 2: Mark Foster
Everything in scientology is a lie. It was created and designed to enrich one flacid,evil,malignant narcissist at the expense of the sanity,health, and well-being of ALL of its adherents. The Affirmations reveal the foundation for the sordid, destructive system of slavery and abuse that is scientology. It’s nothing less than that and no amount of sugar coating can cover the smell, color, and texture of the shit that it is. And, yet, Heather Ruggeri didn’t allow them to crush her. Telling her story and living well is her revenge. I wish her and her family happiness and health.

October 5: Jesse Prince
This story of judge Stanley S Harris is stunning for me. I lived on the Scientology side of street in those days and everyday we’ed find new ways to obstruct justice or effectively use the law to wear down the enemy. The people who were actually managing Scientology would meet in the board room of Author Services with the best criminal defense lawyers, constitution lawyers and whatever else was needed. You can see from these documents Scientology was an actual threat to national security and had US government agencies in retreat. How are they able to obstruct and commit criminal acts without consequence? It’s the lawyers that Scientology hires that are able to undermine these government agencies.

October 6: flyonthewall
Just once I’d like to read a story about an ex- Sci who after being told they’re going to be locked up and interrogated and put on heavy manual labor for months, the ex laughs in their faces, tells them to fuck off and then walks out the door laughing their ass off at those fools. I don’t think that’s too much to ask

October 11: Robert Almblad
I want to say Dave Richards was my best friend. He was, but he was a best friend to many people, a trusted friend to many people. This was because he defined what a true friend is….. compassionate, concerned and above all he loved the people around him. His greatest joy in life was helping others. Whether it was as mundane as loaning money to save a friend’s house from foreclosure or encouraging a friend after some failure in life. For, me there will never be a better friend. I feel as though my deep sadness will never go away, that my tears will never stop…. he was a great mind to the rest of the world but a life long friend of mine that I will never replace… fare-thee-well my friend. You were one of a kind, my friend. Fare-thee-well.

October 14: Mat Pesch
Detroit org has been a tiny, struggling, nothing of a forgotten mess forever. Just further proof dumping money into real estate is all for show and a way to move some cash in a way that helps justify tax exemption. Flying Miscavige to Detroit in his personal jet and doing the grand opening event will probably cost more money than Detroit will make in the next year.

 
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Scientology’s celebrities, ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and more!

[Catherine Bell, Chick Corea, and Nancy Cartwright]

We’ve been building landing pages about David Miscavige’s favorite playthings, including celebrities and ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and we’re hoping you’ll join in and help us gather as much information as we can about them. Head on over and help us with links and photos and comments.

Scientology’s celebrities, from A to Z! Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Scientology’s ‘Ideal Orgs,’ from one end of the planet to the other! Help us build up pages about each these worldwide locations!

Scientology’s sneaky front groups, spreading the good news about L. Ron Hubbard while pretending to benefit society!

 
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Now on sale: Twice the Miss Lovely!

 
Our new book with Paulette Cooper, Battlefield Scientology: Exposing L. Ron Hubbard’s dangerous ‘religion’ is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. What a pleasure it is for us to work with her on this after we wrote about her ordeal as a victim of Scientology’s “Fair Game” campaigns in our 2015 book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, which is also on sale in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions.

 
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THE WHOLE TRACK

[ONE year ago] While Scientology struggled, David Miscavige upped his game in 2017
[TWO years ago] Garcias file new motion asking judge to reject Scientology’s sham arbitration
[THREE years ago] What Scientology’s ‘social betterment’ front groups are really all about
[FOUR years ago] Scientology’s 2014 in review: Our October surprise was all about the Duggans
[FIVE years ago] Scientology’s 2013 in review: Courtroom antics reported live and on the spot!
[SIX years ago] Final Sunday Funnies of 2012: Scientology Targets the Rose Parade!

 
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Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,314 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,445 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,947 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,427 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 490 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 378 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 3,685 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,553 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,327 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,101 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,447 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,013 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 6,933 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,100 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,681 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,941 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,981 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,693 days.
Ginger Sugerman has not seen her three children in 1,466 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,219 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,308 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,448 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,768 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,624 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,743 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,099 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,401 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,507 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,910 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,781 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,364 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,859 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,113 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,222 days.

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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on December 30, 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 Underground 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

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates

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

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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