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Scientology denied: Eleventh Circuit brushes aside church attempt to stop Garcia appeal

[Luis Garcia, right, and his attorney Ted Babbitt]

What’s this? Some good news in the Luis and Rocio Garcia lawsuit against Scientology? You don’t say.

It might be a relatively small development, but at this point the Garcias will probably take whatever they can get. This week, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta denied Scientology’s attempt to derail the Garcias’ appeal of their disappointing result in a Florida US district court, and their appeal will continue on.

In January 2013, the Garcias initially filed their lawsuit against several Scientology entities, claiming that they had been defrauded by a church that lied to them in order to convince them to make more than a million dollars in donations over their years as members. But Scientology’s attorneys convinced US district court judge James Whittemore that because the Garcias had signed contracts obliging them to take all grievances to Scientology’s internal arbitration, he couldn’t interfere without violating Scientology’s First Amendment religious rights.

Whittemore made that decision even though Scientology admitted it had never, in its 60-year history, ever held an internal arbitration procedure, and its top former executives testified that the contract and the arbitration were shams set up to keep members from getting refunds. Despite that testimony, Whittemore remained firm and the Garcias went through with the arbitration, which they complained was a kangaroo court.

They’re appealing that result now, hoping the Eleventh Circuit will agree that Judge Whittemore erred when he decided the Garcia lawsuit could not proceed. And now, Scientology’s motion to kill that appeal has been denied. It’s one small victory in what has already been a long, long road for a couple who say they were lied to and harassed by the Church of Scientology.



A blast from Snow White’s past

We enjoyed Ian Shapira’s story in the Washington Post this week about how the newspaper was used by a Scientology front group in the 1970s that was trying desperately to counter news about Scientology’s spying in the Snow White Program. Using Freedom of Information document requests, the front group, American Citizens for Honesty in Government, dug up dirt on various government programs which the Washington Post then reported as news.

Scientology had good reason to distract Washington Post readers: In July 1977, the FBI had raided the church after one of its chief spies, Michael Meisner, turned witness and was cooperating with the FBI. The raid netted so much evidence of Scientology’s infiltration and spying on government agencies that it eventually resulted in eleven Scientology operatives being convicted and going to prison, including Mary Sue Hubbard, wife of the founder.

Shapira’s story also included an image of a 1978 Washington Post front page that contained the story you see above, written by Ron Shaffer. We heard from a number of readers who were surprised to see L. Ron Hubbard on the front page of the Post, and asked us about it.

We actually wrote about Shaffer’s big front page scoop in our book about Paulette Cooper, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely. Anyone who studies those years knows just how big those stories were in the history of Scientology reporting.

The raid had happened in July 1977, and Scientology had immediately begun a ferocious campaign of litigation over it while simultaneously starting up a major propaganda effort, trying to convince columnists around the country that the raid was a result of outrageous government overreach and that Scientology was a victim, not a suspect in a potential crime.

For its part, the government was unable to say what was in the files it had taken out of the church while the case was being litigated, and Scientology was doing everything it could to take advantage of that silence.

But then, on April 28, 1978, the bomb went off. It was the first of two stories Ron Shaffer published in the Washington Post, describing some of what the FBI had found in the Scientology files taken in the raid. It was explosive stuff, and it included the targeting of a woman who had written a book about Scientology.

The next day, on April 29, Shaffer named that woman — Paulette Cooper — and wrote the first story about her being indicted for supposedly sending bomb threats to the church, and how it had all been a sophisticated Guardian’s Office frame job.

That was some two days of Scientology reporting. To commemorate it, we thought we’d post that first Ron Shaffer scoop in its entirety….


Effort to Silence Critics Seen in Scientology Data

by Ron Shaffer, Washington Post Staff Writer

Church of Scientology documents seized by the FBI indicate that the church has been waging an extensive, sophisticated campaign to identify, attack and discredit its “enemies,” including Justice Department investigators, other public officials and inquiring journalists.

The “attack and destroy” campaign carried out by the Church of Scientology’s “Guardian’s Office” to silence critics has involved illegal surveillance, burglaries, forgeries and many forms of harassment, according to sources close to an intensive federal investigation of the Scientologists’ activities.

Sources said the “covert operations” documented in the Scientologists’ own internal memoranda and directives, which were seized by the FBI under court subpoena last July, include the following incidents:

— Scientologists obtained the personal stationery of a woman, typed a bomb threat on it, mailed it to a Scientology office and reported the threat to police. The woman, who had written a book critical of Scientology, was arrested, charged with making a bomb threat, and then charged with perjury when she denied doing it. She suffered a nervous breakdown before the case eventually was dismissed.

— Scientology agents staged a false hit-and-run accident designed to compromise a former mayor of Clearwater, Fla., who had criticized the Scientologists’ purchase of a Clearwater hotel. A woman Scientology agent driving a car in which the Clearwater mayor was riding here ran into another Scientology agent posing as a pedestrian in Rock Creek Park, sped away from the scene, and urged the mayor not to report the “accident.” The Scientologists then tried to use the incident against the Clearwater mayor in a political campaign.

— The Scientologists attempted to discredit a Clearwater reporter by forging the rough draft of a newspaper story under his name; purportedly linking Florida politicans to the Mafia. They then passed the fake story to state legislators whom the reporter was covering. Earlier, the reporter had written stories critical of the Scientologists.

— A campaign was mounted to harass prosecutors who have been handling Scientology cases, including calls and background investigations ranging from grades in school to personal habits.

Asked last night about these alleged operations, Gregory Layton, a spokesman for the Church of Scientology, said the government evidence is a compilation of “false reports” put out by the government as part of “20 years of harassment.” Layton said the church has extensive documentation to refute the existence of the incidents described in this story.

Layton accused the key federal prosecutor in the Scientology investigation, Raymond Banoun, of disseminating false information in retaliation for a demonstration yesterday by Scientologists against Banoun that was staged in front of the Justice Department. The demonstration, Layton said, was to protest Banoun’s “blatant misrepresentations in court.” Banoun yesterday declined to comment on details of the investigation.

Layton said the allegation that the Scientologists framed the New York woman with a bomb threat “is typical of outrageous false statements that some people feel they need to pass on regarding the church.” He said the woman had written “many false statements and facts in her book.”

The former mayor of Clearwater, Fla. “has lost some of his marbles,” Layton said, and the allegation that the Scientologists fabricated a news story “is ridiculous.”

The Scientologists have contended in court documents, in press releases and in interviews that they are the victims of extensive harassment by the federal government, which is attempting to suppress their religion.


They have filed complaints against federal investigators working on the case, repeatedly accused the FBI of “Gestapo” tactics in carrying out raids, and sued virtually every federal official they have identified as being involved with the case.

The Scientologists’ broadcast suit pending in federal court here accuses numerous government agencies of conducting a 20-year campaign to infiltrate and harass the religious group in violation of the First Amendment. They say the current federal investigation into alleged illegal break-ins and buggings by the Scientologists is only the latest and most visible act by the government against them.

The Church of Scientology was begun by L. Ron Hubbard, a former science fiction writer whose book “Dianetics, The Modern Science of Mental Health,” has become a best-seller. The church asserts that man is essentially a free spirit, and in order to achieve his true nature, an individual must rid himself of emotional constraints through counseling conducted by members of the church.

The fees for this and other services sustain the church, which is fighting a continuous battle against the federal and local governments to preserve its tax-exempt status. The church’s wealth is such that it paid cash for a $2.3 million headquarters building in Clearwater.

FBI agents seized truckloads of Scientology documents in simultaneous raids on church headquarters here and in Los Angeles last July 8.

The warrant was based on information provided by a former church official who claimed the church had heavily infiltrated the government and that he himself had broken into government offices here and copied documents, and had seen copies of a transcript of an IRS meeting that the Scientologists had bugged.

The church immediately began a legal assault on the warrant’s validity here and in Los Angeles that immediately prevented prosecutors and FBI officials from using the documents in their investigation.

U.S. District Chief Judge William B. Bryant ruled that the warrant was too broad and the search was therefore illegal. He was reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals, and that appellate ruling was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Scientologists then began a new legal assault on the manner in which the searches here and in Los Angeles were executed. A Los Angeles judge ruled about a month ago in favor of the government concerning the Los Angeles raid and investigators began reviewing the California documents in detail.

A similar suit against the manner in which the Scientologist headquarters here near Dupont Circle was raided is being heard by Judge Bryant. The latest hearing in that proceeding is scheduled for today.

The documents in government possession include internal memorandums allegedly taken from IRS, Justice Department and Drug Enforcement Administration files and details of covert actions in Scientology memos and orders, according to informed sources.

In one document, Scientologists had reportedly done their own legal research concerning the definitions of “break-in” and “burglary” under California law and had determined that one was a felony and the other a misdemeanor. The document then concluded that the church’s most successful “actions” had been felonies instead of misdemeanors, one source said.

According to the testimony of a former Scientologist, the church has a “fair game” doctrine that requires the church to attack and destroy its enemies.

The government’s principal informant, who sought to leave the church, believed that he, too, had become fair game, according to government sources.


The Scientologists’ confidential papers, according to sources, are filled with the words “identify,” “attack,” “destroy” and “enemies,” and projects against government agencies were given code names like “Snow White,” “Hunter,” and “Witch.”

Asked whether these words were used in Scientology documents, Layton, the Scientology Church spokesman said, “I haven’t seen them so I can’t say.”

Layton also said the term “fair game,” in the Scientology lexicon, is sometimes misunderstood.

The church has its own judicial system to handle internal matters, he said. When a member leaves the church he no longer has the “protection” of the Scientology judicial system, Layton said. “That’s what ‘fair game’ meant,” he said. “We canceled it (the term) years ago because people were misconstruing it.”

Gabriel Cazares, the former mayor of Clearwater, Fla., said in a telephone interview yesterday that he became involved with the Church of Scientology when he tried to find out the identity of a group that bought a 50-year-old hotel in his town.

When he found out that they were Scientologists, “I let it be known that they had lied to public officials, (and) had deceived our ministers in town,” Cazares said.

“They sued me for a million dollars to start with,” Cazares said. Then he gave more interviews and the Scientologists sued him for another $2 million, he said.

“Instead of running for cover as they expected me to, I sued them for $8 million and my wife sued them for $1 million,” he said. Each side decided to drop its suits, Cazares said, but he is trying recover $25,000 he said he spent defending himself against the Scientologists.

Cazares, who is now a stockbroker in Clearwater, spoke at length and in detail about his involvement with the Scientologists, but he would not comment on the hit-and-run incident in the District of Columbia that was described in the Scientology documents seized by federal agents.

The documents and testimony of the government’s informant, according to informed sources, indicate that church members carefully rehearsed staging a hit and run accident in the District and then executed it in the following manner:

When Cazares was in Washington for a mayor’s conference in May 1978, he was invited to an interview with a Scientology publication at a restaurant off DuPont Circle. Cazares accepted and during the interview caught flirtatious glances from a woman nearby.

Afterward he and the woman began conversing and he left with her in her car, according to the sources.

As they drove through Northwest Washington the woman, who was herself a Scientologist, apparently struck a pedestrian at roadside.

The woman then sped away, explaining she was too scared to stop. In fact the pedestrian was a Scientologist, according to informed sources, and was uninjured.

The mayor, apparently unaware of that the driver was a church member, returned to Florida, and Scientologists then attempted to use against him reports that he had been in a hit and run accident and had not reported it, the sources said.

Cazares, who confirmed that he was in Washington for the mayor’s conference, said that the Scientologists attacks on him caused citizens of Clearwater to rally around him and had nothing to do with the fact he is now out of public life.

Layton, the church spokesman, denied the whole account. “That is pretty wild,” he said. “It sounds like a plot for a movie.”

Mark Sableman, a former reporter for the Clearwater Sun, was identified in the documents as another target of attack, according to sources close to the investigation.

Sableman had written newspaper stories investigating the Scientologists purchase of the old Fort Harrison Hotel, and later contributed to a series of articles scrutinizing the church.

According to documents in government possession, when Sableman later covered the Florida legislature, the Scientologists planted a forged rough draft of a story, purportedly by Sableman linking Florida politicians to the Mafia, illicit sex, and other crimes.

Sableman, contacted yesterday, said his credibility was such that he was hardly damaged by the plant and the effect of the plant “was minimal,” but he said he “could not believe what had been done.”

For more about the Cazares hit-and-run operation, we managed to get our hands on Gabe’s FBI file with a lot more details.


HowdyCon 2019 in Los Angeles

This year’s HowdyCon is in Los Angeles. People tend to come in starting on Thursday, and that evening we will have a casual get-together at a watering hole. We have something in mind, but for now we’re not giving out information about it.

Friday night we will be having an event in a theater (like we did on Saturday night last year in Chicago). There will not be a charge to attend this event, but if you want to attend, you need to RSVP with your proprietor at tonyo94 AT gmail.

On Saturday, we are joining forces with Janis Gillham Grady, who is having a reunion in honor of the late Bill Franks. Originally, we thought this event might take place in Riverside, but instead it’s in the Los Angeles area. If you wish to attend the reunion, you will need to RSVP with Janis (janisgrady AT gmail), and there will be a small contribution she’s asking for in order to help cover her costs.

HOTEL: Janis tells us she’s worked out a deal with Hampton Inn and Suites, at 7501 North Glenoaks Blvd, Burbank, (818) 768-1106. We have a $159 nightly rate for June 19 to 22.



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

[Jenna Elfman, Giovanni Ribisi, and Greta Van Susteren]

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] Is American culture now so hopeless that Scientology’s insanity is no longer notable?
[TWO years ago] Paul Haggis spoils movie night for Scientology, shows what a real humanitarian does
[THREE years ago] There’s a backstory to the recent news of a Scientology TV ad being banned in the UK
[FOUR years ago] Jon Atack visits an org — ALSO: The richest Scientologist gets even richer!
[FIVE years ago] BRAD HALSEY, 1957-2014
[SIX years ago] Blogging Dianetics, Part 10: Killing the Grizzly
[SEVEN years ago] Scientology: Dear Judge, Protect Us from Rathbun and Rinder!


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,381 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,512 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,014 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,494 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 557 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 445 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 3,752 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,620 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,394 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,168 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,514 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,080 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,000 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,167 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,748 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,008 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,048 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,760 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,286 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,375 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,515 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,835 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,691 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,810 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,166 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,468 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,574 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,976 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,848 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,431 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,926 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,180 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,289 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on March 7, 2019 at 07:00

E-mail tips to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We also post 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 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 | Battling Babe-Hounds: Ross Jeffries v. R. Don Steele


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