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Church of Scientology investigation gets worldwide response

Times Staff Writer

The Church of Scientology is a hot topic any day on the Internet. But now the blogosphere has lit up with comments about the St. Petersburg Times' special report on Scientology leader David Miscavige and the details revealed by two key figures in Scientology's powerful inner circle, Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder, the highest-ranking executives to leave the church. Here are some of the latest comments and posts from other media sources.

In a post headlined Scientology exposed as newspaper, former members defy church intimidation, Charles McAlpin writes at Examiner.com about the three-day series:

What makes these revelations so ground-breaking is that just ten years ago, such articles might not have been possible. Since the 1970's, the Church of Scientology has been known to be ruthless in its attacks on critics and reporters. In 1991, Time magazine published an article entitle "Scientology: Cult of Greed." For the next ten years, the church sued the reporter, the magazine, and the parent company (Time Warner). Not until 2001 was the final lawsuit thrown out by the court. News organizations like the St. Petersburg Times, however, lack the wealth and resources of Time Warner. Furthermore, there have been repeated allegations that Scientology used personal attacks, rumor-mongering, harassment, and other tactics to break the will of critical reporters. Only Scientology knows how many have been intimidated into silence. ( http://tiny.cc/hHwHV )

The Knight Center for Journalism ( http://tiny.cc/m0G6e ) has blogged about the series.

David Berke has posted Scientology Smack Talk ( http://tiny.cc/u8bq0 ) on New York Press: "In a new investigative report on Scientology in the St. Petersburg Times, former Scientology staffers allege that the organization's chief David Miscavige, who has more than a passing resemblance to Good Morning America weatherman Sam Champion, smacked and beat up his staff and also made them play a sadistic nightlong game of musical chairs while Bohemian Rhapspody played. Remember he is the head of a religion.''

The Times of India posted a report ( http://tiny.cc/6feqc ) that says, "Church of Scientology, the religion of many celebrities including Tom Cruise and John Travolta, has been defended against reports claiming one of its leading figures beat subordinates and promoted violence among senior officials.''

StarPulse.com posted a blog ( http://tiny.cc/Ap9F8 ): "Church of Scientology elders are defending the celebrity religion against reports one of the faith's leading figures beat subordinates and promoted violence among senior officials. A group of former executives of the church, which counts Tom Cruise and John Travolta among its high-profile members, has claimed chairman David Miscavige repeatedly struck staff members. But church leaders are strongly denying the claims, which made up an article in the St. Petersburg Times in Florida over the weekend.''

The Associated Press has moved the story on its wire service, from where it has been picked up more than 177 times by newspaper and television Web sites across the country. Among them the Huffington Post ( http://tiny.cc/pmKg9 ), the Chicago Sun-Times ( http://tiny.cc/hbjf9 ) and the Los Angeles Times ( http://tiny.cc/63mHs ) and MSNBC ( http://tiny.cc/RlcD2 ).

The media Web site Gawker has a report ( http://tiny.cc/4rwgB ) headlined Tampa Bay Paper Throws Down Hard-Hitting Scientology Report. "The St. Petersburg Times is running a massive report on Scientology, focusing on leader David Miscavige and high-ranking defectors spilling on him. Revealed: Miscavige's sadistic temper. Like when he made staffers play "violent'' musical chairs, scored to Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.''

The L.A. Weekly blog has a piece headlined Newspaper describes Scientology beatings.

It reads ( http://tiny.cc/w6VLr ) in part, "Although the St. Petersburg Times' three-part series on L.A.-based Scientology and its enigmatic leader, David Miscavige, mostly focuses on the church's Clearwater, Florida operations, there's a deep Los Angeles background to some of the stories involving beatings that have allegedly become an institutional practice among senior staffers. Part One begins with a violent game of music chairs played out in a small office building outside L.A., where Miscavige had been holding church executives as virtual prisoners for weeks.''

On Andrew Breitbart presents Big Hollywood, Skip Press has written an article headlined Scientology Exposed: Tom Cruise's Strange Pal.

In it ( http://tiny.cc/Ki4pA ) he writes: "Now the St. Petersburg Times has done a massive expose on David Miscavige, who took over from Hubbard in running the so-called religion. Before heading up Scientology, Miscavige was (among other things) a financial messenger for Hubbard, depositing monies in European banks and thus knowing where it all could be found when the science-fiction writer turned guru died at his ranch in central California screaming about "body thetans" he thought were haunting and bedeviling him. Miscavige, who like Cruise and Travolta apparently never finished high school, was recruited for Scientology's "Sea Organization" by a well-known Hollywood producer who has since left; at the time she was a member of Hubbard's "Commodore's Messenger Organization."

USA Today's "On Deadline'' blog ( http://tiny.cc/B2yBC ) says this: The St. Petersburg Times is running a fascinating three-part series on the Church of Scientology based largely on interviews with four top church executives who have defected.

The Religion New Blog ( http://www.religionnewsblog.com/23505 ) had this to say:

"Note these names: Joe Childs and Thomas C. Tobin. They are reporters for the St. Petersburg Times, and if you see any mud thrown at them, it is likely because these brave folks have written an article - the first in a three-part series - on Scientology.''

P.Z. Myers, a biologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris, posts in his blog Pharyngula ( http://tiny.cc/WEUeD )

"Juicy stuff from a mainstream newspaper coming out and hitting Scientology hard: this week and over the next few days, they're publishing a special report on Scientology. If you've followed the cult at all, there's nothing too surprising - it's a scam run by abusive psychotics - but it does have some personal accounts by high-ranking defectors." "I'm sure there are meetings going on in Clearwater right now where they're plotting revenge.''

Infinite Complancy, a blog by author and journalist Jonny Jacobson, ( http://infinitecomplacency.blogspot.com/ )says:

"Hats off to the St Petersburg Times: by getting two of David Miscavige's key former lieutenants to go public on the violence and abuse at the top of Scientology, they have taken the story mainstream.''

The media aggregator the Daily Beast headlines its post ( http://tiny.cc/wFtYs ): Scientology's Secrets Revealed.

Among the comments is this from Centrist: "Scientology may have nothing to do with Christianity but it most definitely is a church under the law, which is the only definition that matters. Any statement to the contrary is just wrong and a matter of opinion, soft of like anti-abortion extremists calling Dr. George Tiller a murderer even though he committed no crime. This trend in America where any Tom, Dick, Harry or pencarolina thinks that their personal opinions constitute a legal definition needs to stop. I read the full article on the St. Pete. Times and didn't find it particularly substantive.''

More than 3,600 people have voted for the story on the social networking site, Digg.com. ( http://tiny.cc/JrNT4)

Among the more 428 comments is this from blownforgood (blown is a term for someone who has left the church):

"I have been posting about this stuff for years. I am glad that more people are coming out and verifying what I have been saying. Dave Miscavige beating staff, Lisa McPherson's death, Musical Chairs, you name it. Dave Miscavige will be revealed as the tyrant he is.''

Edited to add - blownforgood is Marc Headley, a former Scientlogist who is currently suing the Scientology organisation for labour violations.

From Jsawyer1: "This is Awesome. Just be prepared for the attacks to come Joe and Thomas. They will try and smear you like the did when the Time artical came out. I hope that people relise that the leaders of the 'church' are corrupt weasles that only care about the members $$$ If the 'church' did care about clearing the planet why arnt they in the poor and third world countrys doing this stuff for free. Hell why arn't the doing it for free period!''

Wyodiver said: "All religions are a bit wacky. But come on, Scientology was thought up by a science fiction writer. It's almost like he made it as strange as possible, kind of like daring people to believe in it. "

Promotiv8 responded: "When I moved to Florida about 10 months ago, I moved to St. Pete. A couple weeks later I responded to a job post and got the job. It was working on a web business as a designer and video editor for a health product company. BTW, it was run out of a large beautiful home in Clearwater. My first day there, I noticed that someone had 'conveniently' placed four books on my desk, before my arrival, all concerning Scientology and I was not happy. About an hour into the day, the owners, a husband and wife came into my office and immediately started asking me questions (rather personal) and if I would please take the time to read the material they had so nicely left for me. Every hour after that during the day, they showed back up in my office and asked me if I had considered at least going to one of the centers to have an initial audit. Even though I hated giving up the job and the money, I quit at the end of the day (probably should have done it earlier). I am proud I made that decision. They are most certainly a cult.''

A Twitter account ( http://twitter.com/truthrundown ) began posting links to pro-Scientology material on Sunday.

The web site for The Guardian, a prominent newspaper in England, picked up the report. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jun/22/scientology-leader-attacked-staff-allegation

"The leader of the controversial Church of Scientology routinely physically attacked members of his management team, according to former executives, a Florida newspaper has reported. Defectors from the controversial organisation who spoke to the St Petersburg Times told the paper that David Miscavige was 'constantly denigrating and beating on people''. Mike Rinder, the church's spokesman for decades, said he was attacked by Miscavige some 50 times.''

Livenews.com.au picked up on the story ( http://livenews.com.au/entertainment/scientology-leader-violent-former-officials/2009/6/22/210725 ):

"Several former high ranking officials for the controversial Church Of Scientology have come forward to attack its leader, David Miscavige, alleging he is prone to physically violent outbursts and engages in a range of bizarre intimidation practices.''

One of their readers, Tom, commented:

"You are just bigots who do not understand religious practices carried out by enlightened people who understand the way to happiness and Human Rights.''

A Village Voice blog has the headline Scientology's Leader a Sadistic Slapper, Say Top-Level Defectors: St. Pete Times.

"Over the past few months, actor and Scientology-defector Jason Beghe has been hinting to us that two absolutely top-level officials who had recently escaped the church's clutches were about to unload on their former supreme leader, David Miscavige. This morning, the first installment on that project was unveiled, and it is stunning.'' ( http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/archives/2009/06/scientologys_le.php )

One of their readers Jim K posted this comment: "Putting an end to the tax exempt status of this organization is long overdue. Poor, Tommy Davis he has had alot of explaining to do in these last few months.''

Their reader Lacie says: "For some time now I've been curious about whether Tommy Davis is a lunatic true believer or a sleazy snake oil salesman thieving thug..extensive evidence appears to indicate he's one or the other imo. Listening to this latest fiasco of his I think its tipping in the direction of lunatic true believer. High five to Rathbun, Rinder, Scobee and De Vocht for coming forward..I hope it encourages similar initiative in other recovering scientologists. I also would like to acknowledge that cult-recovery can be a very long and difficult process for many people and I wish all the very best. The most important person you will forgive is yourself. Kudos also to VV for the continued professional reporting on the issue of scientology..thanks''

The celebrity gossip blog GlossLip.com ( http://tiny.cc/nqPuj ) says Scientology Finally Getting The Negative Exposure It So Rightly Deserves: "This is just a brief update to let readers know THEY MUST GO READ this riveting expose on the Church of Scientology and church leader David Miscavige's violent reign of terror. The St. Petersburg Times did an in depth, scathing and forensic investigation into the cult of the stars.''