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Academic forum caves to scary Scientology attorneys, spikes our presentation

Your proprietor was intrigued when an academic emissary reached out to us in January and invited us to take part in a forum that is regularly held at Emory University.

Canopy Forum bills itself as a digital publication aiming to address “the growing concern for an understanding of law and religion,” and it’s run out of Emory’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion.

An upcoming webinar hosted by the forum would focus on the issue of “religious arbitration,” and we were asked if we’d participate because of our coverage of the controversy surrounding Scientology litigation and its fights over arbitration.

Although the other participants would be academics, we were told that a journalist would be more than welcome to take part in the event, which would also look at religious arbitration issues in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. We were asked to submit a brief essay, and then to speak for about four minutes during the webinar, which would take place on March 3.


Well, what the heck, we thought. It wasn’t every day that the academic types want to hear from an ink-stained wretch like the Bunker’s editor. We wouldn’t try to compete with the others and write or speak in highfalutin’ prose, we’d just make a few observations in plain language about what we’ve seen with our front-row seat for the court fights over Scientology’s legal ploys.

In three recent lawsuits, former Scientologists have been denied their right to trial when Scientology convinced judges that service contracts signed by the former members when they were in the church obliged them to take any grievance, even some years after they left the organization, to Scientology’s own brand of internal arbitration. Readers of this website know that we’ve been covering these cases step by step, and while we’re not a legal expert, we do have some experience describing the action.

So we submitted a short essay, and then cut it down even further so we could read it, rapid-fire style, for the webinar. Also, as the event neared, the forum folks asked us if we’d put the word out about it. We were happy to oblige, and mentioned it a couple of times here at the Bunker. As a result, quite a few Bunker readers signed up to stream the webinar live, and we reckon we helped increase the viewership significantly.

A dozen or so learned academics gave their addresses before us, and we enjoyed hearing their thoughts about this changing issue of religion and law. Then it was our turn. Here’s what we said, and kept well within our time limit…

I’m just a news reporter and I thank the organizers of this panel for allowing me to sully these proceedings.

For more than 25 years I’ve been writing about the controversies of the Church of Scientology, and for the last several years that includes reporting on “religious arbitration” in litigation involving the church. To help understand how this looks from the outside, I’d like you to imagine a scenario.

Imagine that you visit an amusement park.

The park features a roller coaster that you are anxious to ride. But before you can experience it, the park asks you to sign a waiver.

In the fine print of that waiver, it says that if some dispute arises between you and the amusement park company — a dispute of any kind — you’ll forego civil court and instead take your grievance to arbitration.

You sign the waiver, enjoy the ride, and then go home.

Now, assume that some ten years goes by. And then, for whatever reason, you decide to express some unrelated criticism of the amusement park on a web forum somewhere.

Soon after that, private investigators hired by the amusement park company show up at your house, set up cameras to record you, hack your phones, strangle your cat, and smear your entire family on websites designed to cost your loved ones their jobs.

To your amazement, when you go to court to sue the amusement park for terrorizing you, a judge informs you that you have no right to sue the company because you signed that waiver when you rode the rollercoaster a decade before, and you’ll have to take your dispute to arbitration instead.

And not just any arbitration, but a “court” set up inside the amusement park with a panel of “arbitrators” made up of the employees who work the rides, and you’ll be denied representation by an attorney. You’ll even be denied a transcript of the proceeding.


Ridiculous? Well, that’s actually a pretty good approximation of the situation that several ex-Scientologists have found themselves in because of rulings by three American judges. The case before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Steven Kleifield has been the most interesting, with former members suing the Church of Scientology and one of its celebrities, Danny Masterson, and alleging that after they left Scientology they were stalked, harassed, and even that their pets were poisoned.

In December 2020, Judge Kleifield found that these former church members were still obliged by contracts they had signed years earlier to take their grievances to religious arbitration and he denied them right to trial.

I’ll never forget the plaintiff who had left Scientology more than a decade ago who asked me whether this meant that Scientology could continue to disrupt their lives forever, and they would never have an opportunity to get justice in a court of law. The sound of desperation in their voice was very real, and I didn’t know what to say to them.

But since then, the tide appears to be turning. The California State Supreme Court took the unusual step of intervening in the lawsuit brought by the Masterson accusers, and an appeals court overturned Kleifield’s ruling in January, specifically because the harm that was alleged happened years after these former members had left Scientology.

Since then, experts in the field — academics who know far more about religious arbitration than I do — have decried this ruling, saying the appeals court overstepped its bounds. People who sign such contracts with a church should not be able to ignore them simply because they claim to have left the church, these academics say.

But that’s a misreading of what the appeals court ruled. The court is not saying that the Masterson accusers should avoid arbitration because they left Scientology, but because Scientology allegedly harmed them after they left the church.

I suspect that some religious arbitration scholars are concerned that other religions will be affected by the ruling in ways they feel is unfair. But I have to wonder, how many other organizations that call themselves churches insist on stalking, harassing, and smearing former members years after they have walked away?

The academic scholar who followed us disagreed with our characterization, and he followed that up with some friendly email observations. All in all, we were happy to have taken part, and to have engaged in a civil exchange of ideas.

In the meantime, we had heard from the Canopy Forum folks that Scientology’s attorneys were hopping mad that they were allowing us to take part. The forum told us at the outset that as long as they were inviting us to take part, they would also invite Scientology to send a representative, which was only fair. Instead, Scientology sicced its attorneys on Emory, and after the webinar occurred, they cranked up the vitriol.

We had been told that the video recording of the event and the essays would be published a few weeks after the event. But then, this week, we learned that Canopy Forum had caved to the pressure from the church.

“On the advice of university counsel, the Canopy Forum has decided not to publish your essay or the video of your presentation,” we were told.

Well, so much for the brave academic fortitude of Emory University.

We decided we would post our presentation here, so you all can see what it was that the university was too afraid to publish. And we’d like to show you some actual language from the stunning January appellate decision that we referenced at the end of our presentation, to show you that, in fact, we had actually toned down some of its language…


While the Fair Game campaigns against each plaintiff differed, collectively plaintiffs allege Scientology’s agents committed the following acts against them: surveilled them, hacked their security systems, filmed them, chased them, hacked their email, killed (and attempted to kill) their pets, tapped their phones, incited others to harass them, threatened to kill them, broke their locks, broke into their cars, ran them off the road, posted fake ads purporting to be from them soliciting anal sex from strangers, broke their windows, set the outside of their home on fire, went through their trash, and poisoned trees in their yards. This conduct was alleged to be pursuant to Scientology’s policies and procedures. According to plaintiffs’ complaint, Scientology’s directives are that Suppressive Persons are to be silenced by whatever means necessary. Scientology instructs members “to damage the person’s professional reputation, file frivolous lawsuits, and harass and surveil ‘the enemy.’ ” Scientology’s “policies and procedures encourage and/or instruct followers to ‘ruin [the individual] utterly.’ ”

We can’t help wondering if, with our thousands of unique daily visitors, more people will end up seeing this presentation posted here at the Underground Bunker than would have seen it at the Canopy Forum.

We don’t regret taking part on March 3, even if the forum will now apparently pretend we were never a part of it. (See if you can figure out where they cut us from the video here. Hint: It’s at the 58:06 mark.)

It was fun, at least for a little while, to hang with the intellectuals.


Jon Atack at Eton

Speaking of academic freedom, at least they have some over the pond…



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Source Code

“Now, if you were to duplicate teeth on a preclear, you just say, ‘All right. Now, let’s duplicate teeth.’ And he starts duplicating teeth, teeth, teeth, teeth, teeth, till he gets lots of teeth, lots of teeth, lots of teeth. First thing you know out of this big pile of teeth which he’s gotten out there, he’ll start to get the emotion ‘Whee! Let’s all be teeth. Let’s fill the whole universe up full of teeth. Everything’s got to be teeth.’ Well, of course this is the central motive as far as teeth are concerned. Everything must duplicate teeth. Any object has this as an obsession. It must be duplicated. If it goes downhill it gets down to a point, finally, where, of course, it must not be duplicated, which is it must hide, withdraw, get very small, be hard, compact.” — L. Ron Hubbard, April 2, 1954


Avast, Ye Mateys

“I hope no desperate casualties resulted from the APRIL FOOL OOD. All Fools Day originated when they changed the Gregorian Calendar in 1564. The first day of the year was April 1st before then. When New Years Day became January 1st, those who persisted in celebrating it as April 1st became targets. It originated in France where they are called APRIL FISH and went to Scotland where they are called APRIL GAWKS. Through the English speaking world it is APRIL FOOLS. All from a PR stunt to teach the new Calendar! So when Al Bornstein, FAO PR wrote up an April Fool OODs with Geoff Barnes and Gorman the Management carried out a reversal even on them. In the Immortal Words of Product Officer FAO Amos Jessup, ‘Anyone who was taken in by that OOD had better review his Data Series!’ So would the FEBCs do a Data Analysis on that April Fools OOD as an exercise. Self preservation demands they be able to recognize real OUT POINTS when they get back to their orgs. People were in stitches over the results of the joke, so I hope no bruised feelings remain.” — The Commodore, April 2, 1971


Overheard in the FreeZone

“PCs don’t return to auditors if the results are poor. So the Freezone is sort of self-qualifying. Auditors that are still in practice have to be good auditors. There are many auditors to choose from who have held their space. It could be compared to a free market, people go out of business when they sell faulty products.”



Past is Prologue

1999: The St. Petersburg Times reported that permits have been issued to begin the above ground portions of Scientology’s new Super Power building in Clearwater, Florida. “The pair of towering white cranes that loom over the project, mostly idle since the fall, will come to life once more. For 16 months, the building has taken shape below ground as workers shaped a foundation and a giant basement that will serve as a dining facility for Scientology’s uniformed staff. The crowning feature of the $45-million building will be a 15-story tower, visible from blocks away, topped by an eight-point Scientology cross made of bronze. At 384,000 square feet, the building will be the largest Scientology has ever constructed. It also will be the largest building in downtown Clearwater and one of the largest in Pinellas County. The church expects the building will lead to a doubling of its 1,000-member Clearwater staff and a sharp increase in the number of Scientologists who visit Clearwater, from the current 2,000 a week to as many as 5,000.”


Random Howdy

“Why would Scientologists feel love for each other? According to Hubbard they are just random thetans occupying random meat bodies. Your children aren’t really ‘your’ children. That’s one of the reasons it seems so easy for some Scientologists to disconnect. Your relatives are merely other pod people.”


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. Additional charges also referred to grand jury after January 5 assault while in jail.
Jay and Jeff Spina, Medicare fraud: Jay sentenced to 9 years in prison. Jeff’s sentencing to be scheduled.
Rizza Islam and other family members, Medi-Cal fraud: Pretrial conference May 20 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.’ Valerie’s motion for reconsideration denied on March 15.
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.



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.


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.


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.


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?


[ONE year ago] SNL produced the best parody of Scientology ever — and then hired a Scientologist
[TWO years ago] Scientology is dying to keep you well from the pandemic it doesn’t believe in
[THREE years ago] Thetans in the Jungle: Scientology in Papua New Guinea’s Highlands
[FOUR years ago] Mike Rinder: Scientology is ‘disappearing at a consistent unchanging unwavering rate’
[FIVE years ago] Scientology for your plants? In the grand tradition of L. Ron Hubbard, yes!
[SIX years ago] Scientology’s demonology: Where L. Ron Hubbard got the idea for your space cooties
[SEVEN years ago] Robert Vaughn Young on L. Ron Hubbard’s final days — another ‘Secret Lives’ video outtake
[EIGHT years ago] Florida attorney Ken Dandar hit with $1 million penalty for taking on Scientology
[NINE years ago] Why Isn’t Scientology More Open About Its Space Opera Beliefs? It’s the Best Part!


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 2,622 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 3,127 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 2,647 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 1,667 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,558 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,865 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 2,733 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 3,507 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 1,838 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,311 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,627 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,193 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 8,112 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,280 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,861 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 4,122 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,158 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,873 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,398 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 753 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,928 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,479 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,628 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,948 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 8,803 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,922 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,278 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,581 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 2,687 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 3,085 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,961 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,544 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 3,039 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,293 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,402 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on April 2, 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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