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Tonight, Leah Remini takes us into the incredible story of Scientology’s Clearwater takeover

[Tonight, ‘Aftermath’ gives Gabe his due.]

Scientology’s very sketchy history in the Florida city of Clearwater gets a nice going over in tonight’s episode of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.

As Mike Rinder points out early in the episode, some of us may take for granted Scientology’s incredible history in the Gulf Coast town, but many viewers today may be completely unfamiliar with it.

For Leah, it’s an emotional return to a city where she was a child Sea Org member, something she wrote about in her book, Troublemaker. She talks about living in a rat-infested hotel dorm room with eight other girls in the year 1984.

Mike, who lives not far away, has his own emotional connection to Clearwater’s creepy downtown. In 2010, he learned from Tampa Bay Times reporter Joe Childs that his son had cancer. The next day Rinder and his (then) good friend Marty Rathbun went to the Fort Harrison Hotel, Scientology’s ground zero in town, but were not allowed inside to see Mike’s son Benjamin.

And today, Scientology owns more property than ever in the creepy, lifeless downtown where you can catch glimpses of young Sea Org workers scurrying from one building to another.


“I feel like I’m in this movie where the villain is winning forever,” Leah laments.

Mike goes over the fascinating history of Scientology’s decision in 1975 to take over the city after L. Ron Hubbard and his “Sea Org” had spent eight years running Scientology from a ship in the Mediterranean, Atlantic, and Caribbean.

Once Clearwater was selected as its target, Hubbard had his operatives come in to the city and start buying up property under the fake name “United Churches of Florida.”

One of the brave people who helped uncover that subterfuge and tried for years to fight the invasion was its then mayor, Gabe Cazares. (In 2017 we obtained the FBI file on Cazares, and it is an excellent supplement to tonight’s episode.)

Helping Mike and Leah go over that history are three local residents: Filmmaker Mark Bunker, defense attorney Denis Devlaming, and attorney and magistrate Betsy Steg.


The group tries to express just how insane it was for a “church” to use subterfuge to take over a town, and then the years of subsequent horrifying behavior it engaged in against people like Cazares. (There’s a great undercurrent to this episode. If you thought Scientology was bad now, it’s mind boggling to think about how much it’s been getting away with for so long.)

The Aftermath team has come up with some great archival footage for this episode. From the 1982 Clearwater Hearings, for example, and a key moment from Ray Emmons explaining what we tell people all the time: Scientology goes unpunished because prosecutors are literally afraid to bring charges against it.

Betsy gets some time to explain how much she has paid for one simple act of kindness, lending her rental home on the intracoastal for Mike Rinder and Christie Collbran to have their wedding in 2013.

And after all that, we learn that next week, there’s even more on Clearwater coming, and two stories that define just about everything wrong with the Church of Scientology. We have a feeling it’s going to be epic.


Start making your plans!


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

[The Big Three: Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Kirstie Alley]

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!

Scientology Lit: Books reviewed or excerpted in our weekly series. How many have you read?



[ONE year ago] Scientology relies heavily on Russian immigrants — and ‘disconnection’ doesn’t spare them
[TWO years ago] National civil rights museum knows it’s harboring Scientology front group, shrugs it off
[THREE years ago] Here’s your chance to meet the Sea Org at Scientology’s open house next week
[FOUR years ago] Las Vegas attorney files 27th suit against Scientology rehab, Michigan attorney files 2nd
[FIVE years ago] Monique Rathbun seeks sanctions, Scientology tries to kill Miscavige deposition in court today
[SIX years ago] Scientology Scrambling to Deal with Bad Publicity
[SEVEN years ago] Scientology Sunday Funnies: The “Thrill” of Fundraising!


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,337 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,468 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,970 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,450 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 513 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 401 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 3,708 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,576 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,350 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,124 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,470 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,036 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 6,956 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,123 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,704 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,964 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,004 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,716 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,242 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,331 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,471 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,791 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,647 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,766 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,122 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,424 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,530 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,933 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,804 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,387 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,882 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,136 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,245 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on January 22, 2019 at 07:00

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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. Our book about Paulette, 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, 1995-2018 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2018), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Other links: BLOGGING DIANETICS: Reading Scientology’s founding text cover to cover | 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 | 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, or 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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