Daily Notifications
Sign up for free emails to receive the feature story every morning in your inbox at


Scientology’s expensive crew of former journalists hasn’t put out a magazine in a year

Remember ‘Freedom’ magazine?

Scientology’s propaganda organ is going through another down time. It has now been a full year since the last issue of the magazine was published in September 2018.

In two weeks, on October 14, it will also be a year since church leader David Miscavige has opened a new Scientology “Ideal Org” somewhere in the world. He did preside over the opening of a new “Advanced Org” in South Africa on January 1, but the grand opening of the Detroit Ideal Org on October 14, 2018 is the last time he cut the ribbon in this country or any other for one of those gleaming new cathedrals.

Dave’s stats are down, and we’re concerned about him.


But we also thought this anniversary was a good excuse to go over Freedom magazine’s recent history, which we love to keep track of.

Ten years ago, Miscavige was using Freedom as an attack dog in the most lurid, and extremely entertaining, ways. Between 2009 and 2011, Freedom was truly unhinged, making barely comprehensible attacks on Joe Childs and Tom Tobin, the Tampa Bay Times reporters behind its brilliant 2009 expose, “The Truth Rundown”; Anderson Cooper and CNN for picking up the Tobin and Childs piece for a four-part television special; the sources of those stories, recent high-level defectors including Mike Rinder, Marty Rathbun, Tom DeVocht, and Amy Scobee, whom Miscavige branded a “Posse of Lunatics;” and Lawrence Wright of the New Yorker, for his 2011 masterpiece about Paul Haggis, “The Apostate.”


Not only were the attacks in these magazines vicious and weird, they backfired spectacularly. For years we ran into longtime Scientologists who dated their disaffection with the church to the publication of those screeching, foaming-at-the-mouth issues, which, even if Miscavige did rely on some uncredited scribes to help him research and write them (Jim Lynch, surely, and others), Miscavige’s own unique diction came shining through. This was David Miscavige unleashed, and it was amazing.

But even Miscavige apparently realized that he was only doing harm to the brand with these over-the-top broadsides. The Lawrence Wright attack was met with howls by the New York media, which absolutely loved seeing the New Yorker — the New Yorker! — attacked like this, and with the special touch of Scientologists actually handing out copies of this thing on Manhattan street corners. Was Miscavige insane? (Don’t answer that.)

Anyway, the string of batshit issues came to an end, and Freedom went dark. Then, two years later, in September 2013, a new creature emerged: Freedom’s “Florida” edition. And on its masthead, it had an editor whose name actually appeared — John Sugg — and a familiar name it was for some readers in the Tampa Bay region.


The attack-dog approach had been dropped for a soporific, current-affairs format focused especially on Scientology pet issues that it pretends to have some authority on: drug abuse and “human rights.” After that initial offering in 2013, the magazine came back in earnest in the summer of 2014 with a staff of writers who were pretending to be legitimate journalists.

A total of seven issues were published in 2014, including one Florida number.



These were extremely dull magazines, pretending to be serious journalism. The only bright spots were when Denver-based former real journalist Dan Luzadder would take a swipe at Vanity Fair or the BBC in some editorials, but even then it was nothing like the old fighting spirit.

Miscavige continued to invest in the new magazine, however, hiring a new top editor, Jennifer Johnson-Lankheim who had worked for Sugg in their previous lives in the Florida alt-weeklies. Miscavige had his new, more fully staffed magazine crew assemble in Los Angeles, where a new media center was being constructed. Lankheim’s first named editorial showed up in the March 2015 issue: “I’m not a Scientologist,” she wrote, “but given my job as the editor of Freedom, which reflects the values of the Church and the ideals it holds dear, I’m doing my best to parse the philosophy of its Founder L. Ron Hubbard.” Isn’t that special. In August 2015, Lankheim announced that Freedom had gone “Ideal.” Under Lankheim and Sugg, Freedom put out nine earnest issues in 2015.


Lankheim’s byline disappeared later in the year, but we don’t know if that means she actually left Freedom’s employ. Scientology pays top dollar, and it’s not so easy to get back into legitimate work after you’ve taken David Miscavige’s blood money, we figure. But anyway, while the magazine gamely continued on in 2016, putting out a few more issues-based editions, as the year ended it started to resemble Scientology’s other rah-rah publications about all of Dave’s “expansion.” In all, five issues emerged in 2016.


Two current affairs issues, a Florida special about Hurricane Irma, and another “epic” year in review escaped the printers in 2017.



And then last year, there was just one issue about the new TV channel, a Florida issue flogging the church’s volunteer work, and then, in September 2018, one last current affairs number. And nothing since then.


What’s up, Dave? Has the STAND League’s amateurish offerings online replaced Freedom magazine’s vaunted legacy as the church’s investigative organ?

And whatever happened to the idea of Freedom magazine TV on the new network? We’re waiting, Dave.


California legislator says Scientology-backed anti-vax group targeting him

Rod Keller has been reporting on a Scientologist-run political group, the “Conscience Coalition,” that has an anti-vaccination focus, particularly in a fight over legislation in California. The author of SB-276, the bill that was targeted, Sacramento State Senator Richard Pan, has put out a new letter about how he’s being attacked: “Scientologists are funding an out-of-state political operative to coordinate misinformation campaigns against me.”


That is a pretty obvious reference to the Conscience Coalition and its non-Scientologist front man, Jonathan Lockwood, the would-be political macher the Denver Post called “flat-out deranged.”

Speaking of Lockwood, Scientologist photographer Tim Sabatino snapped some photos of him this month. “An angel stopped by my studio,” he captioned the image.



Source Code

“There is cyclical illness which is dictated in the various R6 implants. A fellow was forced to get sick at the age of five, followed multiples of five, and he’s supposed to get sick from this and from that, and from the other thing. Measles and, you know he’s supposed to have and that’s certain. They predict his health, in other words. When he’s fifty he’s supposed to something or other. What they’re trying to do is make a body cave in. See?” — L. Ron Hubbard, September 30, 1968


Overheard in the FreeZone

“Freezone is much less expensive. Average Class VIII charges between $100 and $200 an hour for auditing.”


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

[Alanna Masterson, Terry Jastrow, and Marisol Nichols]

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 going ‘Ideal’ with drug rehabs too, and will replace an ailing clinic
[TWO years ago] Never before seen: Video from the first ‘LRH Birthday’ aboard the Scientology ‘Freewinds’
[THREE years ago] When L. Ron Hubbard briefly let down his guard and admitted Scientology was all a con
[FIVE years ago] Does a judge’s order in the Garcia fraud lawsuit suggest trouble for Scientology?
[SIX years ago] Meet the New Editor of Scientology’s Propaganda Magazine, Freedom!
[SEVEN years ago] Scientology Sunday Funnies!
[EIGHT years ago] Scientology’s SF Leaker Talks: We Ask Amy Scobee to Interpret


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,583 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,712 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,216 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,736 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 756 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 647 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 3,954 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,822 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,596 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,370 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,716 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,282 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,201 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,369 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,950 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,211 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,250 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,962 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,488 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,014 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,577 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,717 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,037 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,893 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,012 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,367 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,670 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,776 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,178 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,050 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,633 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,128 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,382 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,491 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on September 30, 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, 14 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


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email