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


Watching Scientology lie to foreigners about ‘religious’ visas: A very personal account

[The Hollywood Celebrity Centre]

A thorough new piece in New York magazine about Scientology’s abuse of R-1 visas not only reminded us of research by RM Seibert for the Bunker that we published in 2016. It also inspired Sunny Pereira to send us this memory of what the R-1 visa abuse actually looked like at the Hollywood Celebrity Centre in the 1990s. We think you’ll find it very illuminating.

My soon-to-be husband ran into my office, a panicked look on his face. “My visa is expired!”

This was a huge no-no in the Sea Org. You cannot let your visa expire under any circumstances, because after that it becomes very difficult, even impossible, to get it fixed.

“Let me see it,” I said. I was on the Hollywood Celebrity Centre’s Perimeter Council, which, as one of its duties, kept track of employee visas, including which ones were coming close to expiring. His was not on the list. He was French/Portuguese, and he had come in on an “R-1” visa to the United States.

I had learned within the first few weeks of my post (which was in charge of staff training, among other things), that a large number of staff had come into the country on R-1 visas. They are visas that are reserved for “religious workers,” and so these people had come to this country with the promise that they would go into training to become Scientology auditors and other ministerial positions.


Many of them, including my soon-to-be husband, were asking me when that would begin (it was not my job to get them replaced on their assigned posts, which is why they were not in training). Over time, all of these staff gave up and realized it was a false promise. They had been recruited for the Sea Org and sent to the United States to put them to work as housekeepers, groundskeepers, laundry workers and other jobs that were unrelated to “religious” work.

I looked at his paperwork, and saw that it expired on 8/4. It was only late April, so we had time. I explained to him that it expired on 4 August.

“No!” He said. “It expired on 8 April!”

I explained to him that in the US, we abbreviated the date so that the month came before the day, unlike the rest of the civilized world.

“No!” He repeated. “My birthday is on the 9th of December which is 9/12, see it shows right here!”

Honey, your birthday is on the 12th of September.


We had already filed an extension for him so he was in the system.

We met weekly for Perimeter Council. The members were myself, the ethics officer, security, the DSA (the local representative of OSA, the Office of Special Affairs, Scientology’s secret police and public relations wing) and any other executive that felt compelled to join for one reason or another. One small, but very important part of the meeting was going over the visa status of each staff member. We all knew the easiest out for any of them was to get married and go the green card route. Any staff member who had any chance of marrying an American was pushed to do so in order to get them legal. It made them no longer a problem to be discussed at our meeting.

But some were not getting married and had visas expiring. So other steps were taken to get them status as religious workers. In many of the cases, they needed to do something called “The Minister’s Course” to extend. This was where I came in, because it was my job to get them through courses.

The Minister’s Course was difficult, even for a native English speaker. It required reading the Bible and several other religious texts, as well as learning Scientology basics. It required practical steps such as running a Sunday Service, and performing a funeral, a wedding, and a baby-naming ceremony. There weren’t enough Sundays (or births or deaths, for that matter) to get all of them through the list of requirements to be “religious workers” in the eyes of the US Government. Especially with how last-minute we all were in the Sea Org. Everything was like that.

The workers with R-1 visas were, for the most part, upset about being misled when they were recruited. They understood that they would be learning Scientology and possibly even bringing it back to their country (especially in the cases of new areas where Scientology was just forming.) This was never under the jurisdiction or decision-making process of a recruiter at all. The recruiters said what they had to, and promised what they had to, in order to get people signed up. Once they were signed up, they were in on the billion-year commitment, just like the rest of us.

Some were able to use letting their visa expire to get out and go home, but then they were in bad standing with Scientology. Some didn’t care because they were honestly never Scientologists to begin with.

— Sunny Pereira



Technology Cocktail

“‘Flow’ is an electronic flow in a direction. In Phoenix, Arizona, in 1952 an ‘Oscilloscope’ (has a face like a radar, shows wave patterns and directions) was once hooked up to an E-Meter movement and showed that a mental flow will flow just so long in one direction. By reversing the repetitive commands when the left-right directional flow slowed, the flow turned around and flowed right-left then slowed, etc. So actual electrical flow occurs in response to the directional command (like ‘self to another’). Also it jams up when run too long on an average human because his mind has ‘overruns’ in it already.” — L. Ron Hubbard, 1971


Now available: Bonus for our supporters

Episode 14 of the Underground Bunker podcast has been sent out to paid subscribers: We check in with Clearwater city councilman Mark Bunker about Scientology’s latest attempts to sabotage progress there. Meanwhile, we’ve made episodes 1 through 13 available to everyone, with such guests as Jesse Prince, Paulette Cooper, Michelle ‘Emma’ Ryan, Jefferson Hawkins, Patty Moher, Geoff Levin, Pete Griffiths, Sunny Pereira, Bruce Hines, Jeffrey Augustine, and Claire Headley. Go here to get the episodes!


Now with no restrictions: Our podcast series on the Scientology docuseries that never aired

In five episodes, we recently looked at something we’ve been curious about for several years: The potentially explosive television show, produced by Sirens Media, that would have featured L. Ron Hubbard great-grandson Jamie DeWolf as its presenter, and that would have taken an active look at the families ripped apart by Scientology’s “disconnection” policy. Unfortunately, even though the series was ready to air on the A&E network in 2016, it never has. Our podcast series turned out even better than we were hoping, and we’ve made all five episodes available to everyone.



Source Code

“You could teach people quite a bit about just any one of these Security Checks, you see. Like the children’s check. Teaching them how to use a children’s check. That’s quite interesting. You, of course, mustn’t ask a question which the child can’t understand because you will have an immediate ARC break. He thinks he’s being accused of something; he doesn’t know what you’re talking about. So you have to rephrase all of the questions in the child’s Security Check, you see, so as to reach the comprehension level of a child.” — L. Ron Hubbard, September 26, 1961


Avast, Ye Mateys

“PARTY: That was a great party. The actors in the skits were marvelous. Bill’s Apollo Elastic Band was surprisingly competent. Didn’t know we had that many real musicians and Bill has been hiding a very low and dirty clarinet.” — The Commodore, September 26, 1970


Overheard in the FreeZone

“This is my 50th year on the bridge and most sessions are best ever! Up to OTVIII in the Church, Ron’s Org. Grenchen these days. Just translated LRH lecture Beingness (Dec. 1953) into German and highly recommend it. Lot’s of OT data in there!”


Past is Prologue

2001: The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Scientology celebrity Jenna Elfman has worked to open a new mission in San Francisco. “Jenna Elfman was helping an eager crew put finishing touches on the new Scientology mission set to open tomorrow. She told TIC she’s been spending a lot of time in San Francisco helping to build and paint the children’s art center in the basement. Elfman had befriended firefighters who stopped by yesterday morning. She was wearing a red aluminum bracelet sold by L.A. firefighters to raise money for New York disaster relief efforts. When fellow Scientologist Kirstie Alley called, the four firefighters shouted their hello. Elfman described a day of fire training she’d once done for a magazine story and praised her visitors’ courage and superhuman strength, and they joked about coming to the mission for dance lessons.”



Random Howdy

“Vallarrr use to blather on about how if someone had an irrational fear of spiders and they did some auditing and that fear was gone that was proof of auditing working.”


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

Criminal prosecutions:
Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Trial scheduled for October 11.
‘Lafayette Ronald Hubbard’ (a/k/a Justin Craig), aggravated assault, plus drug charges: Grand jury indictments include charges from an assault while in custody. Arraigned on August 29.
Jay and Jeff Spina, Medicare fraud: Jay sentenced to 9 years in prison. Jeff scheduled to be sentenced on Oct 28.
Rizza Islam, Medi-Cal fraud: Trial scheduled for October 24 in Los Angeles
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud: Next pretrial conference set for September 19.
Yanti Mike Greene, Scientology private eye accused of contempt of court: Found guilty of criminal and civil contempt.

Civil litigation:
Baxter, Baxter, and Paris v. Scientology, alleging labor trafficking: Complaint filed April 28 in Tampa federal court, Scientology moving to compel arbitration. Plaintiffs filed amended complaint on August 2.
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’ Selection of arbitrators underway. Next court hearing: February 2, 2023.
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: Appellate court removes requirement of arbitration on January 19, case remanded back to Superior Court. Stay in place, next status hearing October 25. Scientology petitioning US Supreme Court over appellate ruling.
Brian Statler Sr v. City of Inglewood: Third amended complaint filed, trial set for December 6.
Author Steve Cannane defamation trial: New trial ordered after appeals court overturned prior 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] Russia’s latest strategy to curb Scientology: Shut down the money pipeline
[TWO years ago] Scientology ex-Sea Orger with ties to dark secrets running for city council in Oregon
[THREE years ago] City councilman demonstrates why Scientology puts so much effort into its front groups
[FOUR years ago] A conversation with Nathan Rich about the unique Scientology hellscape he survived
[FIVE years ago] To help you through withdrawals tonight, take our poll on Leah Remini’s Season Two so far
[SIX years ago] SCIENTOLOGY’S TOP 20 CELEBRITIES — in order of those most likely to defect
[SEVEN years ago] ‘Darth Xander’ files motion challenging Scientology’s anti-protesting injunction
[EIGHT years ago] Scientology prepares for its big party in England, Maureen Bolstad on the Purification Rundown
[NINE years ago] Did Scientology Pay $3 Million To Foil an “Independent Scientology Org” in Clearwater?
[ELEVEN years ago] The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology, No. 3: Marty Rathbun


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 2,799 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 3,304 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 2,854 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 1,844 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,735 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 5,040 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 2,910 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 2,015 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,488 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,804 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,370 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 8,289 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,457 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 4,037 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 4,299 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,335 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 3,050 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,615 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 930 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 2,105 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,656 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,787 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 4,125 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 8,980 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 4,099 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,455 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,758 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 2,864 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 3,262 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 3,138 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,721 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 3,216 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,470 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,579 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on September 26, 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


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email