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Shekter: The proposition that threatened to upend my Scientology billion-year commitment

[Agadir in the 1970s]

Agadir, February 1970. I’m proud of myself and having a good time. After a stint on L. Ron Hubbard’s flagship the Apollo as steward in the Officers’ dining room, I’ve been promoted to Ship’s Purchaser, which I secretly consider to be the best job on board. While everyone else is pretty much restricted to the ship except for occasional liberties, I get to run around town most days, acquiring the various items for the crew that have been approved by Financial Planning – everything except for food, fuel and water and LRH personal supplies.

I figure it was my native French that got me the job, since our current cruising area is Morocco. This hasn’t escaped the notice of the Port Captain’s staff, who are responsible for shore PR relations. My first foray into PR is modest but to me, memorable. I am invited, along with perhaps three other French speaking crew members, to attend a dinner ashore with dignitaries whom the PR people wish to befriend. We are to be the poster children for the Apollo and her supposedly American business training enterprise, our personal “normalcy” and charm hopefully serving as Exhibit A of the ship’s legitimacy. We have been briefed and coached on what to say and especially on what NOT to say. Scientology must never be mentioned, let alone LRH. I have no idea who our Moroccan hosts are, but clearly they are considered important VIPs. I do recall the meal itself, a huge mechui platter loaded with grilled mutton so pungent that I will swear off all lamb meat for the rest of my life.

How quickly I am learning that it is forbidden to have any kind of friendship or relationship with any local person in the ports we visit, unless the Port Captain deems this person to be a VIP whose goodwill we require, or a supplier whose goods we depend upon, in which case we lay on the charm offensive under strictly controlled conditions.

Lying and covering up doesn’t come naturally to me, but good breeding and coached restraint come to my rescue and the uncomfortable event goes off smoothly, so much so that the next invitation soon comes along. This one is in Agadir, an exquisite modern city in southern Morocco, with whitewashed houses clustered like stacked cubes atop a hill above an endless, empty sandy beach. Agadir is for me love at first sight, and visiting such places is one of the key attractions of my lifestyle on the ship. Coming from chilly Montreal a thousand miles from the sea, this tropical ocean paradise is a died-and-gone-to-heaven experience.

It is strange what we remember and what we don’t, but I have this vivid picture of sitting in the passenger seat next to a Moroccan young man in his car, on the dock in front of the Apollo. Ahmed is a good looking, European educated, well off man of perhaps thirty, and he’s a dignitary of some sort in the Agadir government, which is why I have been introduced to him at a gathering arranged by the Apollo PR crew, as a VIP being courted by the ship. I’ve only met him maybe two or three times. How I ended up alone with him in his car on this occasion I do not recall, but I did not seek it, so he must have engineered it. He is probably dropping me off from somewhere in town, where I was out purchasing.

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Now the conversation turns personal. Incredibly, he is asking me to leave the ship and stay with him in Agadir, in a word to become his live-in girlfriend. I am stunned, but I do not reject him out of hand. I have to make a quick decision, for this opportunity will not present itself again. My mind clicks through a quick triage of the pros and cons.

On the plus side, it’s clear we are both attracted to each other, and I feel no shame about that. After all, I am a child of the sixties, and free love is how we roll. At twenty, I am free to make my own choices. I’m also an adventurer, and a personal relationship is a tried and true way to discover a new country. As a brand new Scientologist and Sea Org member, I’m more interested in living aboard a ship on the high seas and discovering new countries than in helping others or saving the planet. So to be honest loyalty to LRH and the Sea Org does not factor into it much. How to quit the ship in a foreign country with no prospects and no money would be tricky at best, so this is an excellent opportunity to move off with a place to stay, and there will not be many.

On the minus side, how exactly would I jump ship? Do I just walk down the gangway, suitcase in hand? I have not seen anyone else do it, and it does not seem possible, since there is a quartermaster posted there 24 hours a day. It seems I would have to declare my intentions, and there would be people to stop me, and there would be recoil such as the dreaded ethics lower conditions I’ve witnessed on others. There’s also the fact that I relinquished my passport when I arrived on board, ostensibly because crew passports need to be stamped by authorities upon arrival in every new country. And perversely, perhaps I’m already constrained in my mind by my security indoctrination: walking into an embassy and blowing the ship’s cover would be viewed as high treason.

Aside from the logistics, am I ready to end my Apollo adventure, begun barely four months ago and still unfolding? But the kicker is that Ahmed has mentioned along the way that he already has a French Canadian live-in girlfriend. So he will have to turf her out, and how long would it be before he tires of us and does the same to me, I wonder.

All of this flashes through my mind in an instant. That last argument tips the scale for me, so I say my goodbyes and exit Ahmed’s car to climb the gangway. In the end, leaving the ship seems too complicated and risky. Inertia wins the day. Our conversation has lasted at most ten minutes. There were no witnesses on the dock. But was anyone watching?

It doesn’t occur to me to report the incident to the PR people. It should have, because it turns out the story is only just beginning. The very next day, I am approached by Mitch Spence, a bulky six-foot-three Texan who sports an impressive moustache, and who walks around bow legged in his pointy cowboy boots, like he’s just jumped off his horse. Can you say intimidating? Mitch leads me into a room off the B Deck foyer, which must have started life as a closet, barely big enough to squeeze in a folding table on which sits an e-meter, and two folding chairs. Now that in itself is intimidating to me, for I have never been on the cans except for doing E-meter drills on my HSDC on the Athena.

Mitch puts me through my paces. I am quite troubled by the questions but I have nothing to hide, and I am even too green to recognize this as a security check and its implications. It’s clear that I was responding to an advance which I did not seek out. I don’t even mind admitting that I gave the offer some thought. Still I find the questioning highly intrusive, for I am still laboring under the illusion that there is such a thing as privacy, of thought and action, especially when it comes to matters of sex and love, as Mitch probes to find out just how deep I got into this relationship – which turns out to be not at all.

Later the same day, some officer comes around to announce that I will no longer be “on shore lines” as it is called, so there goes my job of Purchaser and I am returned to the stewards’ department. I am crushed and mortified. It really feels like I did something quite reprehensible, although no lower condition is assigned. But did I?

Agadir itself has a unique history which, amazingly, I did not learn at the time, such was our lack of interest in the people and the ports we visited. On 29 February 1960, barely ten years earlier, the town had been destroyed by a massive earthquake with 15,000 lives lost, fully a third of its population. It was rebuilt during the sixties in the French modernist style, hence the cubist houses very untypical of other Moroccan port cities.

Even though I was aboard and lived through it, I did not know just how critical Agadir was to the Apollo at that particular time, not until I left Scientology thirty years later and started reading up on early Sea Org history. It turns out that new orders from the Spanish government had limited the Apollo to only eight days in any Spanish port. Spain had been an important country for the ship, so the plan was now for the Apollo to take a PR cruise to Cadiz on the Atlantic coast, under the cloak of a “business management” entity called AIHED, with the goal of restoring good relations with Spain. I was part of that cruise, which is quite a story in itself. But what I never knew was that LRH had reportedly been banned from entering Spain. Obviously he could not be aboard for this cruise, which is why he and his entourage took up residence in Agadir. They moved ashore in early February and the Apollo returned to pick them up in early March.

It is now clear to me that it was critical to establish good relations with the local authorities in Agadir to secure LRH’s safety. The prospect of one of these local VIPs attempting lure me away from the ship was surely extremely alarming to the Port Captain’s office. Under Scientology basics, poaching a ship crew member would have given the VIP a withhold (an undisclosed bad action against the ship) which would have turned him against the ship and her people. This could not be left to stand, hence my swift sec check and removal from shore lines and demotion from my post.

Looking back at this incident, I have often wondered how my life would have unfolded if I had chosen to take my chances with my suitor in Agadir. Certainly, that would have spelled the end of my involvement with Scientology, for I wasn’t far along in my indoctrination at that point to make it stick, absent the closed incubation milieu of the Apollo. As it was, over the next few months, I almost imperceptibly fell into step with my surroundings and internalized the edicts of Scientology and the ways of the Sea Org. Within a few months, it would be too late for me to extricate myself. The road not taken will forever remain a mystery, and the road I “chose” in that moment, wholly unaware of its pitfalls, will forever remain my burden. For it promised a bridge, but the bridge led nowhere.

— Louise Shekter

 

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Feb 6, 2022: How Scientology intervened in an intimate affair of the heart
Feb 2, 2022: Another crucial Scientology eyewitness coming forward, starting today at the Bunker

 
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Sign up for a daily email when we post a new story on Scientology.

Did you know you can get an email every morning when we post our daily Scientology story? We know some of the folks who come to the Underground Bunker aren’t here to talk about the politics of the day, and that’s why we created a daily politics feature over at our other blog, The Lowdown, and we ask readers to take their political discussions over there. And if you drop us a line at tonyo94 AT gmail, we’ll put you on the list so you get a morning reminder that a new Scientology story has been posted — and only for our Scientology stories.

 
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Source Code

“[The] press and the public are interested in murder, assault, destruction, violence, sex and dishonesty in that order. Investigations which can uncover these factors in the activities of individuals of a group attacking Scientology are valuable in the degree that they contain a number of these factors. The more factors a case contains the more important the case is. The idea is that the press feeds on these factors and we feed them someone else’s. It will be found that our own Scientology groups contain so few of these they have to be invented about us. We need never invent them in the attacking group. They will be found to be there.” — L. Ron Hubbard, February 17, 1966

 
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Avast, Ye Mateys

“The Flag Admin Org has a deficiency in LINE CONSCIOUSNESS. Because a line is invisible, one overlooks their presence. It’s public lines and routing lines are very poor. Lack of signs and advices and flash colors obscure lines. The staff member has to know where to route the particles and bodies and signs and flash marked paths and signs have to exist. An engineer flash marking pipes would understand this. I recommend the whole FAO get genned in by Dave Murphy on pipe flows as a starter. That makes the idea visible.” — The Commodore, February 17, 1971

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Overheard in the FreeZone

“I entered this body when I was 4 and a half years old. This body was dying and the being inside it allowed me to enter it, because the entity wanted to leave. I was unaware of who I was for a long time. Many amazing things happened and I was able to awaken to who I am. I am one of the first new creations of new Orbs that are being created directly out of the static source in the future. I have never been in this universe before. I was sent from the future.”

 
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Past is Prologue

1998: John Travolta’s claim to have influenced U.S. President Clinton’s opinion on Scientnology and Germany was the subject of NBC’s ‘Meet The Press’ televisions show. “RUSSERT: What this says, Mr. Berger, is that John Travolta, was seduced by the president, and has created a movie called ‘Primary Colors’ which in the words of George magazine, is a ‘celluloid valentine’ to the president, because you helped him out on his pet cause of Scientology. BERGER: It sounds to me, Tim, like you’re getting, developing your own conspiracy theories here. The fact is there has been an issue about the treatment of Scientology in a number of countries, Germany in particular. The State Department Human Rights report was critical of the Germans in terms of discrimination against Scientologists. I did meet with a delegation including Mr. Travolta to indicate that we would continue to discuss with the German government our belief that one should not be discriminated against on the basis purely of belief. And that’s the long and the short of it. RUSSERT: Did you or the president hope to influence Mr. Travolta and make ‘Primary Colors’ more favorable to the president? BERGER: The only thing I was trying to get an autograph for my, one of my kids. But other than that I have no ulterior motive. RUSSERT: But isn’t it unusual for the national security advisor to brief an actor from Hollywood? BERGER: This is not just Mr. Travolta. This was a delegation of several people, half a dozen people who came in, and they have been on the Hill, they have been in the State Department, and they wanted to, I didn’t ‘brief’ them, I explained to them, that we would continue to discuss with the German government our general view that human rights should not be violated.”

 
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Random Howdy

“47x Shades of Cray: The Grant Cardone Story”

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

Criminal prosecutions:
Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Next pretrial conference May 31. Trial scheduled for August 29.
‘Lafayette Ronald Hubbard’ (a/k/a Justin Craig), aggravated assault, plus drug charges: Last hearing was on January 18, referred to grand jury.
Jay and Jeff Spina, Medicare fraud: Jay sentenced to 9 years in prison. Jeff’s sentencing to be scheduled.
Hanan and Rizza Islam and other family members, Medi-Cal fraud: Pretrial conference March 25 in Los Angeles
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud: Next pretrial conference set for April 8.
Joseph ‘Ben’ Barton, Medicare fraud: Pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing.
Yanti Mike Greene, Scientology private eye accused of contempt of court: Hearing held on February 15, awaiting ruling.

Civil litigation:
Luis and Rocio Garcia v. Scientology: Eleventh Circuit affirmed ruling granting Scientology’s motion for arbitration. Garcias considering next move.
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’ US Supreme Court denied Valerie’s petition Oct 4.
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: Appellate court removes requirement of arbitration on January 19, case remanded back to Superior Court. Scientology has said it will file an anti-SLAPP motion.
Brian Statler Sr v. City of Inglewood: Third amended complaint filed, trial set for June 28.
Author Steve Cannane defamation trial: Trial concluded, Cannane victorious, awarded court costs. Appeal hearing held Aug 23-27. Awaiting a ruling.
Chiropractors Steve Peyroux and Brent Detelich, stem cell fraud: Lawsuit filed by the FTC and state of Georgia in August, now in discovery phase.

 
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THE PROSECUTION OF DANNY MASTERSON

We first broke the news of the LAPD’s investigation of Scientology celebrity Danny Masterson on rape allegations in 2017, and we’ve been covering the story every step of the way since then. At this page we’ve collected our most important links, including our four days in Los Angeles covering the preliminary hearing and its ruling, which has Danny facing trial and the potential sentence of 45 years to life in prison.

SCIENTOLOGY: FAIR GAME

After the success of their double-Emmy-winning, three-season A&E series ‘Scientology and the Aftermath,’ Leah Remini and Mike Rinder continue the conversation on their podcast, ‘Scientology: Fair Game.’ We’ve created a landing page where you can hear all of the episodes so far.

LEAH REMINI: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE AFTERMATH

An episode-by-episode guide to Leah Remini’s three-season, double-Emmy winning series that changed everything for Scientology watching. Originally aired from 2016 to 2019 on the A&E network, and now on Netflix.

SCIENTOLOGY’S CELEBRITIES, from A to Z

Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

 
Other links: SCIENTOLOGY BLACK OPS: Tom Cruise and dirty tricks. Scientology’s Ideal Orgs, from one end of the planet to the other. 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 a weekly series. How many have you read?

 
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THE WHOLE TRACK

[ONE year ago] The FBI wants a word with Leigh Dundas, Scientologist attorney and Capitol rioter
[TWO years ago] DRONE FLYOVER: Another look at Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s final hiding place
[THREE years ago] Another Scientology monument to L. Ron Hubbard is going up in besieged Clearwater
[FOUR years ago] Scientology set to turn Silicon Valley ‘Ideal!’ Here’s our first look from the grand opening
[FIVE years ago] Scientology’s next move in forced-abortion lawsuit: Deposing defectors
[SIX years ago] When will academics acknowledge that the Scientology ‘apostate’ theory is finished?
[SEVEN years ago] On the eve of the big Tampa hearing, the Garcias fire back at Scientology’s ‘bench memo’
[EIGHT years ago] NEW DATE: Celebration details of Los Angeles Scientology facilities leaked
[NINE years ago] Sunday Funnies: The Grant Cardone Is An Asshat Special Edition!
[TEN years ago] Scientology on the High Seas: LRH on the “Wogworld!”

 
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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 2,578 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 3,083 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 2,603 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 1,623 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,514 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,821 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 2,689 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 3,463 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 1,794 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,267 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,583 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,149 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 8,068 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,236 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,817 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 4,078 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,114 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,829 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,354 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 709 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,884 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,435 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,584 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,904 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 8,759 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,878 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,234 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,537 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 2,643 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 3,041 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,917 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,500 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,995 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,249 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,358 days.

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Posted by Tony Ortega on February 17, 2022 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, 1995-2021 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2021), 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, 15 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

 

Tony Ortega at The Daily Beast

 

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