There are quite a few curious things about the Church of Scientology. Maybe it's because the Church gets a lot of bad press, maybe it's because many people believe that the Church is a cult, or, maybe it's because the Church is clouded in mystery.
For example, the Church is run by David Miscavige, who, in 2006, left the Church's international base, where his wife Shelly remained. While he was absent, Shelly decided that she could try to change the management operations of the Church, as well as end a relationship between David Miscavige and actor Tom Cruise. However, when her husband returned and learned of her changes, people close to her revealed that Shelly seemed to have visibly changed her mood. Shortly after, Shelly stopped making public appearances with her husband. She hasn't been seen in the public eye since 2006.
While it would be ridiculous to say that David Miscavige had his wife taken care of, with the number of suspicious activities performed by the Church, you have to wonder...is it possible that David Miscavige harmed his wife?
10 The South Park Dilemma
In what was one of their most controversial episodes ever, South Park aired an episode titled “Trapped In The Closet” in 2005. The episode revolved around one of the characters on the show becoming a Scientologist. While that was happening, Tom Cruise, who South Park creators would joke is secretly a homosexual, refused to come out of a literal closet. The whole episode was a giant jab at Scientology, and celebrity scientologists Tom Cruise, and John Travolta.
As you can imagine, the Church of Scientology wasn't too happy with the episode. As a result, the church launched an investigation into the private lives of the show’s creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker. According to Marty Rathbun, a former Church of Scientology executive, the church desperately searched for “vulnerabilities” in Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s personal lives. Investigators were checking phone records, bank records and personal letters that might expose a major flaw in the writers.
Unfortunately for the Church of Scientology, the writers from South Park are just two, very normal human beings. The church was unable to find any juicy information, and quickly gave up their quest to find dirt on the writers. Bummer. In addition to the outrage from the Church of Scientology, Tom Cruise was equally as outraged. Allegedly, he threatened to not participate in any promotion for Mission: Impossible III, if a re-run of the episode was aired. The company, Viacom, owns both Comedy Central and Paramount, the film studio that released the Mission Impossible films. Cruise’s representatives denied this claim, although the episode was eventually pulled.
9 Operation Freakout/Dynamite
Operation Freakout was a plan launched by the Church of Scientology to have the author, Paulette Cooper, imprisoned or committed to a mental institution. Why? Paulette Cooper frequently spoke out against the Church of Scientology, and even went as far as to publish a book denouncing Scientology.
Paulette Cooper was originally facing a lawsuit from the Church of Scientology, until it was revealed that the church had been harassing her, so she decided to counter sue for $15.4 million in damages. However, this didn't stop the harassment. In fact, it made it worse. A Federal Bureau of Investigation discovered evidence of Operation Freakout while investigating the Church of Scientology. Some of this evidence lead to the conclusion that, while being sued for harassment by Paulette Cooper, the Church of Scientology was painting her name and phone number on street walls, subscribing her to p**nographic mailing lists, sending her anonymous death threats, and sending her neighbors letters claiming that she had a venereal disease.
In December 1972, a second plan was launched called Operation Dynamite. The plan was sent into motion when a woman stole some stationery from Cooper’s apartment. A few days later, the New York Church of Scientology claimed they received two anonymous bomb threats. In may, 1973, Paulette Cooper was indicted for making bomb threats and was put in front of a federal grand jury. The bomb threats had been written on her stationery, which was marked with her fingerprints. Paulette Cooper was not found guilty. Luckily.
8 The Hole
The Hole is the unofficial nickname for a facility located on the Church of Scientology compound, near the town of Hemet, California. The Hole has been described by countless defectors of the church, people who have actually spent time there, as somewhat of a holding area. Allegedly, senior executives of the church have been kept there for months, sometimes years. The conditions inside The Hole are so bad, that many ex-members have compared it to a North Korean death camp.
Although the church denies the existence of The Hole, and says that nobody is held against their will, the church acknowledges that many members are subjected to “religious discipline.” According to defectors of the church, the leader Davis Miscavige, created The Hole after he became increasingly frustrated by the performance of many of the church’s leaders. These underperforming leaders were then sent to The Hole, where many people say they live in degrading conditions, and eat in sleep in cramped spaces designed for general office use.
Many people believe that the purpose of the hole is designed to elicit confessions out of the people staying here. In theory, these confessions could be used to blackmail those staying at The Hole into doing things that the church wants them to do. The conditions of The Hole are so concerning that the FBI has launched an investigation into the stories coming from former scientologists.
7 Lisa McPherson
Lisa McPherson became a follower of Scientology when she was 18 years old, while working at AMC Publishing which, at the time, was owned by Bennetta Slaughter and primarily had Scientologist employees. In 1994, Lisa moved from Dallas, Texas, to Clearwater, Florida, in order to stay with her employer. On November 18, 1995, Lisa was involved in a very minor car accident. Paramedics didn't tend to her because she seemed fine, but when she began to remove her clothes at the scene, paramedics decided that it was best for them to take her to the hospital. While at the hospital, staff acknowledged that Lisa wasn't suffering from any injuries, but they thought it would be best to keep her overnight for observation. After an intervention by Scientologists, Lisa refused psychiatric observation or admission at the hospital and checked herself out.
Scientologists then took Lisa to the Flag Land Base to rest, and this is where things become a little sketchy. Sworn statements revealed that Lisa wasn't there to relax, but was being put under examination. The church kept Lisa under watch 24 hours a day, and kept detailed logs as to what was happening for the last 17 days of Lisa’s life. Most of the logs were kept, but the ones three days before her death were just summarized, and the originals had been shredded. During Lisa’s stay, she became incoherent and sometimes violent. Her nails were cut short so that she wouldn't hurt herself or the staff, and she bruised her own fists and feet hitting the walls. Lisa was also noted to have trouble sleeping, and was prescribed many drugs. The staff attempted to force feed her, to which she responded by spitting it out.
Eventually, she was transported to a hospital. However, on the way to the hospital, her caretakers and transporters passed four different hospitals before they finally arrived at their destination. Lisa was showing no vital signs when she arrived, and she was declared dead 20 minutes later. Initially, the report of the state of Florida’s medical examiner noted that the cause of death was negligent homicide, and the Church of Scientology was indicted on two felony charges. Eventually, the charges were dropped. In the last five years that she was alive, she donated close to $175,000 to Scientology counseling. She was only 36 years old when she passed away.
6 The Cult Awareness Network
The Cult Awareness Network was created by Ted Patrick, and was formed after the horrible Jonestown massacre. The network answered around 16,000 phone calls a year, and would give people counselling, advice and try to actively remove people from religions that were considered unconventional. One of these religions was Scientology. And, after filing around 50 different lawsuits since 1991, a Church of Scientology member was awarded nearly $2,000,000, which caused the network to go bankrupt in 1996.
In a sad twist of fate, the company, and its assets, were purchased by the Church of Scientology. In other words, the Church now had access to all of the files, and names of everyone who reported feeling uncomfortable or trapped in a cult that reported to the Cult Awareness Network. Cynthia Kisser, former director of the Cult Awareness Network said that she thought that this was a devastating change of ownership. “People are going to believe they’re going to talk to an organization that’s going to help and understand them in their time of crisis, and in fact, it could be a pipeline of information directly to the group they’re most afraid of.” Many people living on the compound are reported to have not left in over a decade.
5 Operation Snow White
Operation Snow White was the Church of Scientology’s code-name for an operation in the 1970’s where they were sending informants to purge unfavorable records about Scientology and the founder L. Ron Hubbard. This operation seized documents, illegally, from 136 different government agencies, foreign embassies, consulates and private organizations. The operation was carried out by over 5,000 Church members in around 30 different countries around the world.
During this operation, Scientologists committed infiltration, wiretapping and theft of documents in government offices, most notably the IRS. One of the people involved was Mary Sue Hubbard, wife of the founder L. Ron Hubbard. The people involved in this operation were found guilty and convicted in a federal court.
It was during the FBI’s investigation resulting from Operation Snow White, that they discovered that the Church was harassing Paulette Cooper, whose story you probably remember from earlier on in this article.
4 Child Labor Camps
In 2011, Miscavige Hill, the estranged niece of the church leader David Miscavige, claimed in her book, Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape, that she was forced to spend her childhood working outside in the sun, with other children of important members of the Church. Miscavige Hill said that she would only see her parents once a week, sometimes not at all.
Miscavige claims that when she was 6 years old, she was sent to a place called the Ranch, which is essentially a training academy for Sea Organization, the highest order in the Scientology ranking system. She says that at age 7, she was forced to sign a contract that pledged a billion years service to Sea Org. When asked about the conditions she worked under, Miscavige told NY Daily News “The conditions we worked under would have been tough for a grown man, and yet any complaints, backflashing (Scientology term for talking back), any kind of questioning was instantly met with disciplinary action…” Of course, a church spokeswoman, Karin Pouw, denied the claims and said that the Church does not engage in any activities that mistreat or force children into manual labor.
3 Gold Base
Gold Base is the name of the International headquarters of the Church of Scientology. The compound is located in Riverside County, California, and about 100 miles from Los Angeles. The compound is protected by armed guards, high fences, around the clock patrols, cameras, motion detectors, and a fence that has spikes that point outwards. Oddly enough, the fences have spikes that face outwards to stop intruders and animals, while the spikes face inside the compound as well. When asked why the spikes faced in towards the compound, a Scientologist woman said that that was just the way they were installed. Right.
Around 1,000 members of Scientologist elite live and work on the base. According to rumors, staff members are only paid $50 for a work week that consists of 100 hours. Until the late 1990’s, many people said that if they under-performed, they would have their privileges to a comfortable bed, no pay and sometimes, they were only fed rice and beans. Authorities say that they tried to look into the mistreatment of people inside of the compound, but the Church of Scientology is protected by the First Amendment that allows them to religious freedom, and “ministerial exemptions” in employment law. The Church denies all mistreatment allegations and calls the compound, “the ideal setting for professional and spiritual growth.”
Narconon International is an organization which heavily promotes L. Ron Hubbard’s theories of substance abuse treatment and how to deal with addiction. It was formed in 1966, when Scientologist William Benitez contacted L. Ron Hubbard after reading his book, Scientology: The Fundamentals of Thought. Together, the two men created Narconon in 1970. The rehab center claims to have no affiliation to Scientology, although many experts and patients who have stayed at Narconon claim that the rehab facilities are a front group for Scientology.
When Narconon opened up a facility in Chilocco, in 1991, the Oklahoma Board of Mental Health assessed the rehab center and denied its application for certification. The board stated that “There is no credible evidence establishing the effectiveness of the Narcanon program to its patients,” To make matters worse, there have been many deaths at Narconon facilities. These deaths are often reported as unknown causes of death, and in some cases, end in Narcanon settling a lawsuit out of court after being sued for negligence.
1 Security Checks On Children
While it is known that many people that are part of the Church of Scientology are the victims of rigorous interviews, you might be shocked to know that the Church runs security checks on children. These security checks, often times called “sec checks”, consist of 99 questions, some of which are designed to illicit confessions out of the person being interviewed. Some of these questions include: What has someone told you not to tell? Have you ever decided you didn't like some member of your family? Have you ever taken something belonging to somebody else and never given it back? Have you ever pretended to be sick? Have you ever made yourself sick or hurt yourself to make somebody sorry?” While these questions seem harmless, they are asked to children between the ages of 6-12.
One former member of the Church, recalled that when she was 16, she was interrogated for eight hours a day, for a total of six weeks. She said, “I couldn't talk to my friends. I had to put on a grubby uniform, and when I wasn't being interrogated, I had to clean the bathroom. When I slept, there was always someone guarding the room.” She was never told why someone had to guard her room at all times.