The St. Petersburg Times - who we last heard from when publishing a report on scary Scientology leader David Miscavige - are at it again. They're moving forward with more reporting on accounts from Scientology defectors, basically waging war.
The Church of Scientology has had a string of particularly bad press lately: there was that entire report on one of their most public members, John Travolta, wanting to maybe leave it behind, and the scary, staunch out-and-out denial put out by his flack.
Now, there're a bunch of defectors coming out of the woodwork to talk to one of Scientology's most mainstream critics, the St. Petersburg Times. Much of the criticism from defectors is still being lobbed squarely at Miscavige. Many of them are being reported by the SPT as feeling more secure in coming out now that high ranking defectors - the ones previously interviewed by the paper - are telling their story. One of the more frightening parts:
(Steve) Hall joined the church marketing unit in 1987, which brought him into more frequent contact with Miscavige, who holds the title Chairman of the Board, or COB. Hall said it was a shock the first time he saw Miscavige attack an executive, Ray Mithoff. The second time was like something out of a cartoon. Hall says Miscavige came up behind two seated executives - Marc Yager and Guillaume Lesevre - grabbed their heads and banged them together. Then he ground them against each other. Lesevre had blood coming out of his ear.
This story corroborates earlier reports, though surely, you can look at any of this stuff with a healthy amount of skepticism: a newspaper has a great scoop on a story, because they're located within immediate proximity of it. The SPT has a long history with Scientology, and has always been coming up with this stuff. But Scientology seems to take the SPT's claims very, very seriously, and each time, their denials of their articles get more vehement, which, of course, the paper runs in full.
The Church of Scientology provided 25 affidavits and declarations from current and former church executives and staffers who uniformly describe David Miscavige as a kind, compassionate, inspiring leader who never has been violent or abusive, physically or mentally. Yael Lustgarten's statement was typical. "In all the times I have worked with Mr. Miscavige or seen him working with others, I have never known him to be furious, mad, pissed off, much less hit, punch, kick, slap, choke, push, or inflict any form of abuse," wrote Lustgarten, who left the church staff in 2004 after 18 years. "I never witnessed that, ever."
So, essentially, the conflict with reporting on Scientology boils down to: ex-members talking, and the Church of Scientology trotting out denials and members who talk about what a gem Miscavige is.
Maybe if there was video or audio of this kind of thing, somewhere - a definitive audio/visual presentation of Miscavage's insanity - like so many of the other internal videos Scientology's tried to keep under wraps, stories like this one:
Miscavige punished top staffers Norman Starkey and Greg Wilhere, ordering them to camp out in tents for days in a high, open area of the mountainside base, near the Bonnie View mansion built for Hubbard. They were assigned hard labor and forced to shower with a garden hose.
As many as 400 staffers were summoned to the mess hall, where a small group of staffers were given special seats of dishonor. Church executives would introduce them with scorching assessments of their recent performance. "They had to get up one at a time into a microphone and confess their crimes," said Jeff Hawkins, who left the Sea Org in 2005. The crowd screamed and jeered.
And this one:
Miscavige drew close. "We're standing there sort of at attention. He looks at me, he looks at Rinder. He looks at me, he looks back at Rinder. And then suddenly, with violence, he flashed his arms up and grabbed Mike Rinder's head and body-slammed his head into the cherry wood cabinets. "He lifted Mike Rinder nearly off of his feet and smashed his head into the wall, and he banged his head into the wall three times, just BANG, BANG, BANG!"
would be viewed with significantly less skepticism. And if it's any incentive, I'm sure my boss is willing to pony up for one. It's the one piece of the puzzle that's missing, and I don't doubt we're the only ones who want to see it.
Strength in their numbers: More Church of Scientology defectors come forward with accounts of abuse [St. Petersburg Times]
Church of Scientology's response: 'Character assassination' by liars [St. Petersburg Times]