Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Russia bans texts by Scientology founder

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on April 22, 2010

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT GOOGLE NEWS

MOSCOW — Russian prosecutors said Wednesday that dozens of texts and recordings by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard had been ruled “extremist” and would be banned in Russia.

“Materials on Scientology by Ron Hubbard have been found extremist and will be banned from distribution in Russia,” the Russian prosecutor general’s office said in a statement.

The ban relates to 28 books and audio-video discs containing lectures by Hubbard, a US science fiction author who founded Scientology in 1954, the statement said.

The ruling was the latest blow to the Church of Scientology, an organisation that some countries treat as a legitimate faith but that others consider a cult designed to trick members out of large sums of money.

The ban on the Scientology materials was imposed by a court in the city of Surgut in eastern Siberia, which decided they should be added to a list of literature banned in Russia for extremist content, the statement said.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT GOOGLE NEWS

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Strength in their numbers: More Church of Scientology defectors come forward with accounts of abuse

Posted in News by Skepdude on August 3, 2009

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT TAMPABAY.COM

They are stepping forward — from Dallas and Denver, Portland, Las Vegas, Montana — talking about what happened, to them and their friends, during their years in the Church of Scientology.

Jackie Wolff wept as she recalled the chaotic night she was ordered to stand at a microphone in the mess hall and confess her “crimes” in front of 300 fellow workers, many jeering and heckling her.

Gary Morehead dredged up his recollection of Scientology leader David Miscavige punishing venerable church leaders by forcing them to live out of tents for days, wash with a garden hose and use an open latrine.

Steve Hall replayed his memory of a meeting when Miscavige grabbed the heads of two church executives and knocked them together. One came away with a bloody ear.

Mark Fisher remembered precisely what he told Miscavige after the punches stopped and Fisher touched his head, looked at his palm and saw blood.

These and other former Scientology staffers are talking now, inspired and emboldened by the raw revelations of four defectors from the church’s executive ranks who broke years of silence in stories published recently by the St. Petersburg Times.

Those behind-the-scenes accounts from Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder, the highest officials ever to leave Scientology, were buttressed by detailed revelations of highly placed former managers Amy Scobee and Tom De Vocht.

Now their stories have prompted other former Scientology veterans to go public about physical and mental abuses they say they witnessed and endured.

Some want to support and defend the initial four, whom church representatives labeled as liars attempting a coup. Others say they feel more secure now that Rathbun, Rinder and the others are on the record with their unprecedented accounts of life on the inside.

But fear still prevents many defectors from talking. For every former church staffer willing to speak out, one or two more refused.

Those who talked confirm the earlier defectors’ stories of erratic, dehumanizing treatment and provide a deeper view into the controlling environment in which members of the religious order known as the Sea Org live and work.

Four men joined Rinder, De Vocht and Rathbun in saying: David Miscavige assaulted me.

Church spokesman Tommy Davis said the new defectors’ accounts of physical abuse by Miscavige are “false and categorically denied.”

“It is clear that these new ‘accounts’ were stirred up by your recent articles,” Davis said in a written statement, “and are nothing more than the ranting of anti-Scientologists on the grassy knoll of the Internet corroborating each other.”

The church provided the Times two dozen written declarations from current and former church executives and staffers. Referring to those statements, Davis said: “You have been provided with volumes of evidence to show that your original sources are delusionary, bitter and dishonest; your new sources are more of the same.”

Those new sources are men and women who joined Scientology as children, teenagers or young adults and spent decades laboring to advance the mission envisioned by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

Morehead, who drives a tow truck in Portland and spent almost a decade as security chief at the church’s sprawling base outside Los Angeles, described how Miscavige struck a church executive in the chest so hard, “I could hear the hollow thump and see (him) lose his breath from the impacts.”

How does Morehead manage such recall after 15 years?

“It’s just like you remember when you touch a hot stove,” he said. “You’re never going to do it again, right? It hurts, there’s pain …

“Well, it’s as clear and conceptual as that is. I have a hard time remembering my address, but I can certainly remember this. You hold on to this because what the hell could you have done then, and what the hell can you do now?”

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT TAMPABAY.COM

Scientology: Ecclesiastical justice, Part 3 of 3 in a special report on the Church of Scientology

Posted in News by Skepdude on June 24, 2009

Skepdude says – Part 3 of the St. Petersburgh’s Times expose of the Church of Scientology – just keep in mind that as much as this agrees with what we skeptics think of the cult of Scientology, at this point we’re witnessing a he-said-she-said battle and it is hard to pick out the truth from simply anectodal evidence, so let us be good skeptics and not crucify them for this unless real hard evidence is presented.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT “ST PETERSBURGH TIMES”

The four high-ranking executives who left Scientology say that church leader David Miscavige not only physically attacked members of his executive staff, he messed with their minds.

He frequently had groups of managers jump into a pool or a lake. He mustered them into group confessions that sometimes spun into free-for-alls, with people hitting one another.

Mike Rinder, who defended the church to the media for two decades, couldn’t stomach what was happening on the inside.

The tactics to keep executives in line “are wrong from a Scientology viewpoint,” said Rinder, who walked away two years ago. “They are not standard practice of Scientology. They are just not humanitarian. And they are just outright evil.”

Church spokesmen confirm that managers are ordered into pools and assembled for group confessions. It’s part of the “ecclesiastical justice” system the church imposes on poor performers.

Rinder and the other defectors couldn’t cut it in the tough world of Scientology’s Sea Org, a group whose members dedicate their lives to service of the church, the church says. Rather than accept their own failings, the defectors are putting a sinister twist on something that is normal.

The Sea Org is a “crew of tough sons of bitches,” said church spokesman Tommy Davis, an 18-year veteran of the group.

“The Sea Org is not a democracy. The members of it agree with a man named L. Ron Hubbard. They abide by his policies . . . and we follow it to the T, to the letter, to the punctuation marks. And if you disagree with that and you don’t like it, you don’t belong. Then you leave.”

A better thetan

The order came about 10 p.m. on a winter’s night: Report to the swimming pool.

From around the church’s postcard-pretty base in the mountains east of Los Angeles, some 70 staff members turned out in their Navy-style uniforms. David Miscavige was unhappy with the troops, again.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT “ST PETERSBURGH TIMES”

Death in slow motion: Part 2 of 3 in a special report on the Church of Scientology

Posted in News by Skepdude on June 22, 2009

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT THE “ST PETERSBURGH TIMES”

The night after Lisa McPherson died, the leader of the Church of Scientology sent word for one of his top lieutenants to wait by a pay phone at the Holiday Inn Surfside on Clearwater Beach.

When Marty Rathbun answered the ringing phone in the lobby, David Miscavige let him have it:

Why aren’t you all over this mess? The police are poking around. Do something.

“Yes sir,” Rathbun said.

McPherson, a 36-year-old parishioner in apparent good health, had spent 17 days in a guarded room at the church’s Fort Harrison Hotel. Scientology staffers tried to nurse her out of a mental breakdown, but she became ill. She drew her last breaths in the back seat of a van as they drove her to a hospital in the next county.

Her death on Dec. 5, 1995, triggered nine years of investigations, lawsuits and worldwide press coverage. Alive on the Internet, it stains Scientology’s reputation still.

Now, for the first time, comes an inside account from the upper ranks of Scientology — from the man who directed the church’s handling of the case.

Rathbun, who defected from Scientology’s staff in late 2004, admits that as prosecutors and attorneys for McPherson’s family prepared subpoenas, he ordered the destruction of incriminating evidence about her care at the Fort Harrison.

He and others who have left the church disclose for the first time that Miscavige was involved in McPherson’s Scientology counseling. Just weeks before her mental breakdown, they say, it was the leader himself who determined that she had reached an enhanced mental state that Scientologists call “clear.’’

For years Rathbun was adamant that the church did nothing wrong. Now he says that McPherson’s care was a debacle from the start. It was a “perfect storm of incompetence and irresponsibility” within the church, he said. “You couldn’t justify it.’’

He disclosed that the church was prepared to pay almost any price to make the case go away. He said he sent an emissary to McPherson’s funeral in Dallas with authority to give her mother, Fannie, whatever she wanted. The approach was rebuffed because the family didn’t trust the church.

“Whether it was financially or any other thing, we’re taking care of that woman because it was on our watch. If she needed $5 million, we would have come up with $5 million.”

Church officials say Rathbun is a bitter ex-member who inflated his importance in Scientology and whose motives are suspect. They say Miscavige demoted Rathbun in 2003 in part for missteps he made in the McPherson case.

A settlement agreement with the woman’s family forbids them from providing specifics, said Monique Yingling, a long-time Scientology attorney and friend of Miscavige. Still, she said that Rathbun botched the case from the start, and “possibly caused the whole thing.”

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT THE “ST PETERSBURGH TIMES”

Scientology: The Truth Rundown, Part 1 of 3 in a special report on the Church of Scientology

Posted in News by Skepdude on June 22, 2009

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT “ST PETERSBURGH TIMES”

Part ONE of THREE

The leader of the Church of Scientology strode into the room with a boom box and an announcement: Time for a game of musical chairs.

David Miscavige had kept more than 30 members of his church’s executive staff cooped up for weeks in a small office building outside Los Angeles, not letting them leave except to grab a shower. They slept on the floor, their food carted in.

Their assignment was to develop strategic plans for the church. But the leader trashed their every idea and berated them as incompetents and enemies, of him and the church.

Prove your devotion, Miscavige told them, by winning at musical chairs. Everyone else — losers, all of you — will be banished to Scientology outposts around the world. If families are split up, too bad.

To the music of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody they played through the night, parading around a conference room in their Navy-style uniforms, grown men and women wrestling over chairs.

The next evening, early in 2004, Miscavige gathered the group and out of nowhere slapped a manager named Tom De Vocht, threw him to the ground and delivered more blows. De Vocht took the beating and the humiliation in silence — the way other executives always took the leader’s attacks.

This account comes from executives who for decades were key figures in Scientology’s powerful inner circle. Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder, the highest-ranking executives to leave the church, are speaking out for the first time.

Two other former executives who defected also agreed to interviews with the St. Petersburg Times: De Vocht, who for years oversaw the church’s spiritual headquarters in Clearwater, and Amy Scobee, who helped create Scientology’s celebrity network, which caters to the likes of John Travolta and Tom Cruise.

One by one, the four defectors walked away from the only life they knew. That Rathbun and Rinder are speaking out is a stunning reversal because they were among Miscavige’s closest associates, Haldeman and Ehrlichman to his Nixon.

Now they provide an unprecedented look inside the upper reaches of the tightly controlled organization. They reveal:

• Physical violence permeated Scientology’s international management team. Miscavige set the tone, routinely attacking his lieutenants. Rinder says the leader attacked him some 50 times.

Rathbun, Rinder and De Vocht admit that they, too, attacked their colleagues, to demonstrate loyalty to Miscavige and prove their mettle.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT “ST PETERSBURGH TIMES”

You can also access the paper’s Special Report page for more info.

Tip of the Skepticap to PZ Meyers.

French prosecutor seeks dissolution of Scientology

Posted in News by Skepdude on June 16, 2009

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT “REUTERS”

PARIS (Reuters) – A French prosecutor on Monday recommended a Paris court should dissolve the Church of Scientology’s French branch when it rules on charges of fraud against the organization.

Registered as a religion in the United States, with celebrity members such as actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta, Scientology enjoys no such legal protection in France, where it has faced repeated accusations of being a money-making cult.

The Church’s Paris headquarters and bookshop are defendants in a fraud trial that began on May 25. Summing up her views on the case, state prosecutor Maud Coujard urged the court to return a guilty verdict and dissolve the organization in France.

The Church of Scientology denies the fraud charges and says the case against it violates freedom of religion.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT “REUTERS”

Wikipedia bans Church of Scientology

Posted in News by Skepdude on May 29, 2009

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT “THE REGISTER”

Exclusive In an unprecedented effort to crack down on self-serving edits, the Wikipedia supreme court has banned contributions from all IP addresses owned or operated by the Church of Scientology and its associates.

Closing out the longest-running court case in Wikiland history, the site’s Arbitration Committee voted 10 to 0 (with one abstention) in favor of the move, which takes effect immediately.

The eighth most popular site on the web, Wikipedia bills itself as “the free encyclopedia anyone can edit.” Administrators frequently ban individual Wikifiddlers for their individual Wikisins. And the site’s UK press officer/resident goth once silenced an entire Utah mountain in a bizarre attempt to protect a sockpuppeting ex-BusinessWeek reporter. But according to multiple administrators speaking with The Reg, the muzzling of Scientology IPs marks the first time Wikipedia has officially barred edits from such a high-profile organization for allegedly pushing its own agenda on the site.

The Church of Scientology has not responded to our request for comment.

Officially, Wikipedia frowns on those who edit “in order to promote their own interests.” The site sees itself as an encyclopedia with a “neutral point of view” – whatever that is. “Use of the encyclopedia to advance personal agendas – such as advocacy or propaganda and philosophical, ideological or religious dispute – or to publish or promote original research is prohibited,” say the Wikipowersthatbe.

Admins may ban a Wikifiddler who betrays an extreme conflict of interest, and since fiddlers often hide their identity behind open proxies, such IPs may be banned as a preventative measure. After today’s ruling from the Arbitration Committee – known in Orwellian fashion as the ArbCom – Scientology IPs are “to be blocked as if they were open proxies” (though individual editors can request an exemption).

According to evidence turned up by admins in this long-running Wikiland court case, multiple editors have been “openly editing [Scientology-related articles] from Church of Scientology equipment and apparently coordinating their activities.” Leaning on the famed WikiScanner, countless news stories have discussed the editing of Scientology articles from Scientology IPs, and some site admins are concerned this is “damaging Wikipedia’s reputation for neutrality.”

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT “THE REGISTER”

Thank Xenu I’m not in the UK

Posted in Evolved and Rational by Skepdude on March 9, 2009

CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE ORIGINAL ENTRY AT “EVOLVED AND RATIONAL”

Scientology is a dangerous cult.

Now, saying this in the UK could result in an IRL V&:

The Crown Prosecution Service has decided that anyone who attacks Scientology can be prosecuted under faith hate laws.The move will for the first time provide the controversial Church of Scientology – described by some as a cult – the same protection as other mainstream religions.

Apparently the sensibilities of a dangerous cult (with the big $$$) is more important than freedom of speech. Big surprise there.

It means that any alleged offenders who ‘abuse’ or ‘threaten’ the Church of Scientology can be charged under the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006.
It is understood the decision was made this month after the Police Diversity Directorate asked the CPS to clarify its position on the organisation.

It follows the arrest last summer of a 15-year-old boy for calling Scientology a ‘dangerous cult’ during a demonstration outside the Church’s £23million headquarters in London.

Just…RRRAAAGGGEEEE!!!

I don’t like protestfags, but I would never want them arrested for protesting against a dangerous cult. Freedom of speech is a fucking human right, and it speaks volumes for the lunacy and misguided political correctness of a society when criticism of a mere belief is made illegal.

What is so different about faith/religion/adacadabra that makes it so different from anything else that is open to criticism? How have people been made to unquestioningly accept that religious faith should be immune to criticism is open to debate, but if this trend is left unchecked, we are headed into dangerous waters.

Ian Harris, founder of the Cult Information Centre, said last night: ‘Scientology has always wanted to be recognised as a religion but it doesn’t even have a God. This decision is news to me and it is frankly quite upsetting and shocking.

No, stupid! The reason the cult of $cientology should not be offered the benefits of religion is not because they don’t have a god (by certain definitions, Xenu could be considered a god, but let’s not get into semantics here). The real reason should be because they are – as over 9000 people have pointed out – a dangerous cult. They actively endanger their own members. They separate families, destroy lives, abandon their sheep when they have sucked every drop of $$$ they can out of them, and the worst thing is that they have been complicit in the deaths of their own followers. They should be classified as a criminal organization, but as in various other cases, the $$$ and blatant corruption makes a huge difference.

Graeme Wilson, public affairs director for The Church of Scientology in the UK, said last night: ‘Scientology is the chosen religion of millions of people around the world, a point which has been recognised by numerous governmental bodies.’

Lying about your numbers again? Awww…just what I expected from a Scilon.

Yes, Scilons have every right to believe in Xenu and thetans as Christards have to believe in their zombie god. However, when a so-called ‘religion’ actively endangers (and kills) its own followers, this does not call for legitimization. It calls for a fucking investigation

CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE ORIGINAL ENTRY AT “EVOLVED AND RATIONAL”

A Christian critique of Scientology

Posted in Edger by Skepdude on August 27, 2008

We’ve all heard about this strange new religion, this almost science fiction-like organization that worships its dead founder, blames all misfortune on some invading ‘force’ that came into our world millennia before any of us were born, demands money from all of its followers, has a long history of harassing and persecuting apostates, and has an obsessive fear of modern medical science, particularly where psychiatry is concerned. Today I sat down with one of these Christians and talked to him about Scientology.

“Scientology isn’t a religion, it’s a business,” he told me. “Look, it has a strictly-regulated hierarchical structure with a small leadership core- a secretive board of directors, an executive director, a bunch of subsidiaries and underlings that have to do everything that the layer of leadership above them tells them to do. I’m just glad that the College of Cardinals had the good sense to elect a Pope with the courage to stand up to all these New Agey, postmodern cults.”

“Off to a good start,” I muttered.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “EDGER”