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Mark Bunker, now as city councilman, confronts issues with Scientology on day one

Mark Bunker was relieved yesterday to finally get the results back on his COVID-19 test — it was negative — because he had a big day of “orientation” as a new city councilman in Clearwater, Florida. He tells that he was pretty excited to be let into his new office, and to receive a city laptop and city iPhone.

And already, on his first day, he was dealing with a question about the Church of Scientology, the issue that had defined his historic campaign.

For several days, many observers had been pointing out that although the people of Clearwater had finally left the beaches and were generally observing a stay-at-home order during the coronavirus pandemic, it appeared to be business as usual at the Flag Land Base, Scientology’s “spiritual mecca,” where Sea Org workers were still being transported in crowded buses from facility to facility, and without any personal protection such as masks or gloves.

We had asked Bunker Friday if he knew which agency would be in charge of making sure Scientology was in compliance with the emergency health order.


Bunker tells us that yesterday he did bring up the issue. He tells us that he got an encouraging response, but that city officials were unsure about how the rules apply to a religion. “I am trying to find a way to make sure the health of the Scientologists and other citizens of Clearwater take top priority,” he said.

“I’m finding there’s a lot of support in the city for my position, but there’s going to be a process of educating them about Scientology as well as a process of them educating me about how the city runs,” he added.

At about the same time Bunker was bringing up this issue yesterday, over in neighboring Tampa the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office arrested Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne of The River at Tampa Bay Church for holding two services on Sunday in defiance of the public health order.

Bunker tells us that when he heard that news, he sent over an official email with that information to Clearwater city officials. He tells us he’ll get back to us as soon as he has more information about the city’s response.

The Daily Beast, in its story about Howard-Browne, noted the odd detail that the pastor claimed that he had “machines” that could stop the virus…

Howard-Browne — an ally of President Donald Trump — has been an outspoken opponent of social distancing requirements, claiming his church has machines that can stop the coronavirus and vowing to personally cure the state of Florida himself.

That seems like an odd echo to what Scientology has been putting out, that it has machines for spreading disinfectants that can destroy any bacteria or virus, which it has been using to sanitize its facilities. Yesterday, the Tampa Bay Times managed to get a defiant statement out of church spokesman Ben Shaw…

All food consumed at the downtown headquarters, known as the Flag Land Base, is sanitized with a newly installed ozone water system, which Shaw said “kills any pathogen including viruses.”

As many as 350 staff members have been reassigned to full-time cleaning, a routine that includes wiping doorknobs, handles, staircase handrails “continuously throughout the day, nonstop.” Staff living quarters are thoroughly wiped and decontaminated daily, as are air conditioning ducts, restrooms and other spaces, Shaw said.

But reporter Tracey McManus pointed out that she had seen Scientologists sitting side by side in church buses on Monday. And for days we’ve been showing you examples of Scientology “sanitation” teams in various parts of the world going door to door and approaching people very closely, sometimes with, and sometimes without, protective gear. The church doesn’t seem to understand (or chooses to ignore) that the pandemic is spreading more through human-to-human contact than through contaminated surfaces.

Because it was the county sheriff’s department that had acted in Tampa and arrested Pastor Howard-Browne, we sent an email to Captain Brian Browne, who leads the Communications Division at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, asking him about Scientology’s defiance of the new rules. We sent him a video shot by Deb Maxwell showing a Clearwater police officer acknowledging (“I know”) that Scientology is still busing its workers in crammed-full vehicles.

We’ll let you know if he gets back to us.



Bonus items from our tipsters

“This planet is ours!”


Instead of closing down, a Scientology school practices social distancing, sort of…


More follies from the South Africa “Decon Seven Sanitation Team”…



From San Francisco, how to “acheive” greatness…



Source Code

“We pick up somebody. Let’s say he’s a Marine captain or something, and we’re auditing him. He’s been a Marine years ago. Obviously, this person is no mystic. This person is no spiritualist. He knows nothing about these things. Let’s audit him, and get through, and so forth. And we audit him for about five hours, and he’s making very slow progress. And he’s liable to ask you at the end of the five hours if you really think his guardian angel approves of the techniques you’re using. Don’t be too alarmed if you hear such a reaction, because there’s practically 100 percent of the populace, one time or another, have been mixed up with spirits, spiritualism, mysticism or any one of the allied lines by which man has sought truth and has gotten booby-trapped. This Marine, you find out, served a long hitch in Santo Domingo. And all the time he was in Santo Domingo he was talked to continually by a mamaloi. Otherwise, this boy’s been sane ever since. He receives all of his directions from a witch doctor, or a witch. Yeah, he’s been ordering troops around on the advice of a witch doctor for years. This is not uncommon. Because a thing is not spoken about is no reason it doesn’t exist or isn’t known. And that’s a good rule for you to go on.” — L. Ron Hubbard, March 31, 1954


Overheard in the FreeZone

“There is a lot of work ahead. I don’t believe specialist auditors can do the job (they can help a lot of individuals, but there are too many for one or even ten thousand auditors). What is needed is that EVERY person in the world know how to deliver a session, and do so whenever someone near them needs one. Twill eventually get the job done.”


Random Howdy


“Hubbard thought ‘1984’ was a How-To manual.”


Full Court Press: What we’re watching at the Underground Bunker

Criminal prosecutions:
Jay Spina: Sentencing set for April 3 in White Plains
Hanan and Rizza Islam and other family members: Trial set for April 14 in Los Angeles

Civil litigation:
Luis and Rocio Garcia v. Scientology: Waiting for an appellate decision from the Eleventh Circuit
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’ Hearing on motion for reconsideration set for June 17
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology: April 22 (plaintiff attorneys pro hac vice), June (demurrers by Masterson and Scientology), June (motions to compel arbitration)
Jane Doe v. Scientology (in Miami): Jane Doe’s attorneys have asked for discovery, depositions (Warren McShane, Lynn Farny), April 20 hearing set (motion to compel arbitration)
Matt and Kathy Feschbach bankruptcy appeal: Oral arguments were heard on March 11 in Jacksonville
Brian Statler Sr v. City of Inglewood: Amended complaint filed.


Start making your plans…

Head over to the convention website and meet us in St. Louis!


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 is putting Ideal Orgs in every country where it operates — except one
[TWO years ago] A Scientologist is running for lieutenant governor in Nevada — and it’s who you probably suspect
[THREE years ago] Jonny Jacobsen: The tweets about Scientology that got a comedian in hot water
[FOUR years ago] Reason Rally 2016 in Washington DC: The Underground Bunker wants to see you there!
[FIVE years ago] Can you help French prosecutors find these witnesses to the death of a Scientologist?
[SIX years ago] Paris elects its first female mayor — and you have to see her record on Scientology!
[SEVEN years ago] Easter Sunday Funnies — Also: Our SMERSH Madness Championship!


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley (1952-2019) did not see his daughter Stephanie in his final 5,667 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,893 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,397 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,917 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 937 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 828 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,135 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 2,003 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,777 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,551 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,897 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,463 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,382 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,550 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,131 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,392 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,430 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,143 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,668 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,198 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,758 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,898 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,218 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 8,073 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,193 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,548 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,851 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,957 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,359 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,231 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,814 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,309 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,563 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,672 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on March 31, 2020 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, 1995-2019 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2019), 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


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