Scientology has again got what it hates, negative publicity about its abusive practices. The Village Voice has published a two-part series (part 1 and part 2) largely based on information provided by John Brousseau, a a member of the cult since 1977 until he left in 2010, and at one time brother-in-law of its current leader David Miscavige, the two of them having married two sisters.
[Brousseau and Miscavige] were both young cameramen working for Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard during his movie-making phase. Brousseau was Hubbard’s personal chauffeur and helped maintain the cloak of secrecy when Hubbard vanished for good. He watched Miscavige transform Scientology and turn its base into a prison camp. He worked for Tom Cruise, which included serving in the household with Cruise and Katie Holmes. And having worked closely with both Cruise and Miscavige, he has choice things to say about the nature of their relationship.
There are few people, in other words, more qualified to provide a front-row seat to what the Church of Scientology has been through since 1977.
The author of the series, editor in chief Tony Ortega, gives the background, especially how Scientology paid extremely low wages to its workers while Miscavige lived luxuriously and paid lavish attention to the church’s star member Tom Cruise. In return, Brousseau says that “Tom Cruise worships David Miscavige like a God.”
What particularly struck me were the abusive practices. In a follow-up blog post Ortega says that the church has what amounts to a concentration camp called ‘The Hole’ where errant senior Scientologists are sent for rehabilitation.
Debbie Cook was in for only 7 weeks in 2007, but her experience was brutal. She testified that Miscavige had two hulking guards climb into her office through a window as she was talking to him on the phone. “Goodbye” he told her as she was hauled off to the gulag. Like Rinder, she described a place where dozens of men and women were confined to what had been a set of offices. Cook testified that the place was ant-infested, and during one two-week stretch in the summer with temperatures over 100 degrees, Miscavige had the air conditioning turned off as punishment. Food was brought up in a vat riding on a golf cart. Cook described it as a barely edible “slop” that was fed to them morning, noon, and night. Longtime residents of the Hole began to look gaunt.
They had to find places on the floor or on desks to sleep at night. Rinder said there were so many of them they slept only inches from each other, and having to get up in the middle of the night was a nightmare of stepping over sleeping figures in the dark.
In the morning, they were marched out of the offices and through a tunnel under Gilman Springs Road to a large building with communal showers. They were then marched back to the Hole, and during the day would be compelled to take part in mass confessions.
During these, Rinder says people he had considered friends would put on a show for the officials overseeing them, trying to outdo each other with vile accusations against each other. Cook testified that Miscavige wanted Marc Yager and Guillaume Lesevre, two of his longest-serving and highest-ranking officials, to confess to having a homosexual affair. The men were beaten until they made some forced admissions. When Cook objected to what was happening, she herself was made to stand in a trash can for twelve hours while insults were hurled at her, she was called a lesbian, and water was dumped on her head.
As part of their training, Scientologists are subjected to constant abuse so that they learn to accept it as part of their job. In another post, Ortega reports on Lana Mitchell, an Australian and a long-time Scientology member, whose job it was to serve gourmet meals to Miscavige every few hours, especially when Cruise showed up. But one day, Cruise got food poisoning, apparently from eating a bad shrimp, and Mitchell was summarily punished for it. Mitchell describes what happened to her on Australian TV.
The transcript of the full interview has more details.
“[Miscavige] has his own personal hair dresser that gets flown around with him where ever he may go, a chiropractor who gets flown around the world whenever he goes off, whether it be to Clearwater or to the UK or where ever it might be. There‟s a whole entourage and then his living quarters, I mean, there‟s no expense barred to make sure that he has the best of the best. And that‟s not just at that location; it‟s also at any location he‟s going to go to.”
“We‟re talking Audio Visual equipment, lavish furnishings, essentially anything that he wishes or wants; he has a six car garage filled with many luxury cars.”
“This is the point that has really rubbed me and this is I guess what has brought me to speak out now is the fact that… people don‟t actually know, particularly parishioners within Scientology, they don‟t know the way this individual is operating the lifestyle he runs and what he‟s doing behind the scenes.”
“Is he a psychopath? In my view, absolutely. Because he is, in a cold and calculating way, working to destroy my religion; he is using the position that he has within the Church of Scientology for personal benefit, for personal control, to be able to manipulate others, to be able to live a lifestyle that is simply not worthy of what he does or even legal frankly in my view with parishioners funds.”
Interestingly, she still believes in Scientology, which tells you something about the power of religions to obtain allegiance.
It is quite amazing that such an organization can have tax-exempt status as a religious institution. As Ortega writes, “Your tax dollars at work.”