The Village Voice Scientology video of the year has been selected:
Over the top, don’t you think?
BTW, Cooper explains:
For the record, I just want to point out that this series is not about the beliefs or activities of the Church of Scientology. It is not about the religion or the vast majority of Scientologists. This series simply has to do with what some former high ranking church officials say went on within the upper management of the church, and what happened to them when they left the church.
More not-quite-secrets anymore unmasked? We’ll be watching.
Hiring veteran journalists to counter-investigate the St. Petersburg Times was a strategy with something of a reverse twist. Scientology is under scrutiny in Australia [1,2,3], headed for the silver screen in Germany and still on the pages of U.S. news publications [1,2,3].
Just for example, you understand.
All of the well-known Scientology strategies keep applying, as makers of the film “Bis Nichts Mehr Bleibt” (Until Nothing Remains) illustrated when they reported via the Guardian:
The film team said it had been “bombarded” with phone calls and emails from the organisation during production. The head of the Southwest German broadcasting organisation, Carl Bergengruen who was involved in the project, said Scientology had “tried via various means to discover details about the film” and that the film crew was even tailed by a Scientology representative.
“We are fearful that the organisation will try to use all legal means to try to stop the film being shown,” he said.
The film itself sounds like a classical Scientology exit story with an especially tragic conclusion:
According to the makers of Until Nothing Remains, the €2.5m (£2.3 m) drama, which is due to air in a prime-time slot at the end of March, is based on the true story of Heiner von Rönns, who left Scientology and suffered the subsequent break-up of his family.
Scientology calls the film false and intolerant, and distributed flyers at a Hamburg preview, accusing the filmmakers of aiming to “create a mood of intolerance and discrimination against a religious community.”
All of that effort to defeat critics while building attractive homes for the church. Yet as PZ Meyers pointed out from his reading of the NY Times investigation, they’re apparently shrinking:
The church is vague about its membership numbers. In 11 hours with a reporter over two days, Mr. Davis, the church’s spokesman, gave the numbers of Sea Org members (8,000), of Scientologists in the Tampa-Clearwater area (12,000) and of L. Ron Hubbard’s books printed in the last two and a half years (67 million). But asked about the church’s membership, Mr. Davis said, “I couldn’t tell you an exact figure, but it’s certainly, it’s most definitely in the millions in the U.S. and millions abroad.”
He said he did not know how to account for the findings in the American Religious Identification Survey that the number of Scientologists in the United States fell from 55,000 in 2001 to 25,000 in 2008.
Sandy Springs, Ga., slowed the Church of Scientology’s dramatic 2009 growth by denying a rezoning required to expand a former office building into their Georgia headquarters.
Ever aggressive, Scientology filed two lawsuits on Wednesday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported:
The church filed religious discrimination complaints in U.S. District Court on Wednesday and Fulton County Superior Court on Thursday.
Both suits contend that the city infringed on the church’s religious rights in the City Council’s vote Dec. 15 that approved the rezoning of the building at Roswell Road and Glenridge Drive but denied the church’s request to add a fourth floor by enclosing a basement parking garage, saying there wasn’t enough parking.
Ed Brayton at ScienceBlogs writes about another Scientology lawsuit.
In this one, a politically active New Jersey a businessman is being sued for allegedly attempting to force Scientology upon his employees.
Michael Deak of My CentralJersey.com writes:
Calling a lawsuit brought against his business as “replete with misrepresentations and outright lies,” a new member of the Borough Council is denying the charges, including one that an employee was fired for not becoming a member of the Church of Scientology.
John Buckley, who on New Year’s Day was sworn into a three-year term as a councilman after winning a seat in the November election, said he and his company, Open House Direct “will vigorously defend against these unfounded claims and to also demonstrate that this is nothing but an attempt to harass us and to hurt our ability to do business.”
Three former employees — Maurice Grays, John Knapp and Larry Kolakowski — last month filed suit in Superior Court seeking legal relief, claiming they were victims of a hostile work environment and retaliation at the company on Hamilton Street.
Add to these the threatened Scientology suit in France against the Daughters of Saint Paul [which we blogged about earlier this month] and you have the makings of another fascinating year of watching Scientology-in-action.
Whereas the SBC is apparently doomed by demographics to be the slowly shrinking denomination, declining a fraction of a percent in 2006-2007 after a long run of declining growth rates, American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) data suggests that Scientology is imploding. If you agree that 45% shrinkage over less than a decade is implosion.
ARIS reported that in 2001 there were 55,000 adults in the United States who consider themselves Scientologists. In 2008, ARIS found there were 25,000 Americans identifying themselves as Scientologists.
Tommy Davis, the church’s top spokesman, told the New York Times that the number was “impossibly low.”
Or impossible to survive for long?
The Church of Scientology in Italy has announced it is initiating legal proceedings for libel against the Daughters of St. Paul and Gardini, a Catholic author who returned to the Catholic Church after years with Scientology as a member of its Sea Org elite.
Regarding the two books, Catholic Online says:
In 2007 the Daughters of St. Paul’s publishing house, Edizioni Paoline (Paoline Publications), published Gardini’s first book, ” I miei anni in Scientology” (“My years in Scientology”). The first week of December, 2009 they released her second book, “Il coraggio di parlare – storie di fuoriusciti da Scientology” (“The Courage To Speak Out – Stories of Ex-Scientologists”).
As reported on the Clerical Whispers Blog (clericalwhispers.blogspot.com), the books, co-authored by Italian Catholic journalist Alberto Laggia and Italian Catholic Maria Pia Gardini, have been widely reviewed in Italy.
Scientology sent Edizioni Paoline a formal notice in September, effectively demanding that they not publish. In an interview with Mondo Raro, a Pauline spokesman rejected the demand as a violation of their constitutionally protected “right to freely express their thoughts in speech, writing, and all other means of dissemination.”
The order specializes in spreading the gospel through advanced communication and publication. As they explain in their statement of purpose:
The Daughter of St. Paul lives in the world of communication. She allows herself to be surrounded by it, that she might better understand how to serve and evangelize within it. She deeply reflects on Pope John Paul II’s invitation to participate in the “new evangelization.” And she leaps at his challenge: “Involvement in the mass media is not meant merely to strengthen the preaching of the Gospel. There is a deeper reality involved here. Since the very evangelization of modern culture depends to a great extent on the influence of the media, it is not enough to use the media simply to spread the Christian message and the Church’s authentic teaching. It is also necessary to integrate that message into the ‘new culture’ created by modern communications.”
Like Catholic Online, they clearly understand that as giving no ground to Scientology intimidation.
Joe Childs and Thomas C. Tobin of the St. Petersburg Times wrote that “Geir Isene of Norway and Americans Mary Jo Leavitt and Sherry Katz” announced their split with Scientology:
Isene left first, a decision that emboldened Leavitt, who inspired Katz. Such departures are rare among the church’s elite group of OT VIIIs, who are held up as role models in Scientology. The three each told the St. Petersburg Times that they had spent decades and hundreds of thousands of dollars to reach the church’s spiritual pinnacle.
All three stressed their ongoing belief in Scientology and say they remain grateful for how it helped them. Yet they took to the Internet — an act strongly discouraged by church leaders, who decry public airing of problems — to share their reasons for leaving. They said they hoped it would resonate within the Scientology community.
Your biased approach to stories regarding my religion is by now well documented. You, Joe Childs in particular, actively seek out only those individuals who have something negative to say about the Church; if they do not fit your agenda then you attempt to coach them and coax them into doing so by “educating” them about Scientology until you have “adjusted” their viewpoint accordingly and when that does not work you simply put words in their mouth. This is your pattern, which was unknown to the Church until recently, and has been your modus operandi for the better part of two decades.
All this habitually fists-up rhetoric from an organization whose evangelism is so slickly finished it puts most of the competition to shame. Consider this leaked, internal push for their Ideal Org program. Maybe it is a little too long. And doesn’t mention the V-like Ideal Org uniforms. But consider pitch:
Okey-dokey. You too can help convert your friends to a money-sucking program that promises mastery of immortality. A program where outcomes can be a lot worse than denial of communion.
A tipster in Texas flirted briefly with Scientology when college-age. Then, sensibly, she ran the hell away. Now people she’s never met are sending her creepy hand-written notes trying to get her back into the cult.
Read the entire saga of a cult in hor pursuit, complete with images of hand-written notes and the like, here.
Via PR Newswire it proclaims:
The Church of Scientology completed a $40 million restoration of one of its oldest landmark buildings in 2009 and inaugurated five major new Scientology buildings in Malmo, Dallas, Nashville, Rome and Washington, DC. Today, the Church of Scientology has expanded to more than 8,000 Churches, Missions and affiliated groups in 165 nations, doubling the number in the last five years. Current demand for L. Ron Hubbard’s books and lectures on Dianetics and Scientology has outstripped the last five decades combined, approaching 70 million distributed in the last two years. All the while, the Church’s ever growing humanitarian programs in the fields of anti-drug, human rights, morals education and disaster relief have positively impacted hundreds of millions of lives.
“PR” = “Public Relations.” As in “self-promotion/Not news.”
Still in trouble in Germany, Scientology was the target of an official warning via a public kiosk early this year that “the district of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf ‘expresses its opposition to the activities of the Scientology sect in this district and in Berlin, and hopes that responsible parties in Berlin will watch the Scientology sect with a critical eye in the near future, and that any new information will be made public.'”
In 2007 a German court ruled that ongoing surveillance by the government there was merited.
Neither a religion nor an ideology under a German Federal Labor Court ruling, the six-story, 43,000 square foot center “in the upscale western Berlin district of Charlottenburg” was found in 2007 to be subject to Sunday closing laws.
Ursula Caberta, who heads a working group that studies Scientology in the Hamburg senate, told Der Tagesspiegel that it was one of several new centers [London, Madrid, Brussels] which are part of a campaign to “‘scientologize’ Europe once and for all. They want to influence politics. We have to take that very seriously.”
According to Speigel.Online:
The Church of Scientology is a controversial organization in Germany, and is regarded as dangerous by the federal government. It is one of the organizations currently being monitored by Germany’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the country’s domestic intelligence agency, which also keeps an eye on neo-Nazis, left-wing extremists and Islamist terrorists.
“There is substantial evidence that the Scientology Organization is involved in activities directed against the free democratic order,” the Office for the Protection of the Constitution warns in its most recent annual report.