Ruh-roh. The St. Petersburg Times—Scientology HQ's hometown paper and perpetual investigative thorn in their side—has unleashed another scathing report on the religion. This time, it's on the lengths they'll go bringing deserters back, including Tom Cruise's wedding chef.
When you leave the Church of Scientology, in Church lingo, you "blew." Easy cracks on Scientology's stances against homosexuality (and high-profile, supposedly-closeted celebrity members) aside, it's already been made very clear that leaving Scientology is no easy task. Stalking, harassment, and physical intimidation have all been reported. In their latest report, the St. Petersburg Times reports several instances of this kind of thing happening. They look to quote hotheaded, scary Scientology spokescreature Tommy Davis, and ended up with this:
[Scientology leader David] Miscavige "redefines the term 'religious leader,' " Davis said, while some of the Times sources are on the "lunatic fringe'' of anti-Scientology. He said they are the real villains, who Miscavige dismissed for "suborning perjury, obstruction of justice and wasting millions of dollars of parishioner funds.'' He accused the Times of "naked bias" and engaging in tabloid journalism. "You have a few petty allegations,'' Davis said. "In fact, all you have is a few people who left a religion after committing destructive acts and are now complaining about what they did while in the church.''
Among those people the Times has previously spoken to include Mike Rinder who was the Scientology's official spokesman for 20 years before defecting. Oscar-winning director Paul Haggis recently cited Davis denouncing Rinder as one of the things that caused him to defect. So how do they pull them back once they've left?
Besides the aforementioned intimidation tactics? They had operatives "infiltrate" Scientology-defection groups to spy on them. They use the waivers Scientology members sign when they join the Church to open mail, including credit card statements, to locate the missing members. And they take members who turn themselves in after running away, and lock them in a cabin of the Church's cruise ship against their will. But then the Times turns to a special story about the chef who cooked at the wedding of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. It's a particularly chilling tale, but the short version is: the cook invested a lot of time and money into joining Scientology and being able to cook at the wedding of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. His expenses weren't being reimbursed and the honeymoon with Scientology quickly ended for him and his wife. They wanted to get out. There are "blow drills" (which is essentially a simulation of Scientology sounding a "prison break" alarm), high-speed car chases that the Church refuses to comment on, and the "ethics files" that they used to intimidate former members into coming back for fear of exposure. But the most insane are the private investigators they sent after the former Scientology cook. Observe:
"We looked at each other and we just went, 'Oh my God! Oh my God! What do we do now?' " Wolff said. "I was shaking. I was nervous. I was like … 'What do we say?' "There was no thought to refusing to open the door or telling the group to go away. Parman and Wolff were so unnerved that they reacted with compliance. They invited the group into the family room. The Scientology entourage included Morehead, two other base security officers and two private investigators.
They were searched for anything on Cruise, and then went through a "Sec" process, where they're rehabbed back into Scientology. They went through this once more before finally leaving for good, and the extent Scientology worked to get them back is absurd.
You would think, though, that they would learn something about the laws of resistance. The more Scientology pulls, the more tension will be stretched out, and the more these members are going to have to say. Even more so: the more attention they draw to Cruise, their most prized possession, the more scrutiny he'll be under. Not so much. Whether it's ego, hubris, megalomaniac impulses, or just plain-old religious fervor, Scientology's going to keep pulling, and keep denying. The question then remains: when are they going to start to be prosecuted?
Their intimidation tactics certainly—on some levels—sound illegal. Maybe they're not. But there's little doubt that the line's been crossed in Scientology at some point, with somebody. With their loose-cannon spokesman Davis, their high-profile defections, and more to inevitably come, someone saying something (or better yet, providing proof) can't really be that far off. In the mean time, all we can do is wait. And place a few decent bets.