On the 7th of July 2019, contractors moved in to start work on a building which The Church of Scientology had bought in late 2010. Back then they promised that it would soon become an ‘Ideal Org’ (a well-appointed Scientology ‘church’). However, here we are, after almost a decade of raising funds from members, and they have only just started work.
No visible maintenance has taken place in all that time, and the building has visibly degraded. The arrival of contractors might be the prelude to the full restoration of the building – or it might have been decided that the asbestos-containing material inside (which are noted in their planning application) had to be made safe.
Just in case, it seemed to be a good idea to produce a detailed video survey of the building before work begins (assuming it ever does) and fences go up. Here it is.
Click on the ‘cog’ at the bottom right of the YouTube window and select ‘Quality’ to raise the resolution all the way up to 4K. To watch full-screen click the ‘broken square’ icon.
The New Birmingham ‘Church’ of Scientology
Every October, Scientologists come to Saint Hill Manor in England (just outside London) from all over the world to attend a formal event celebrating the International Association of Scientologists (IAS).
This organisation started life as a legal defence fund for Scientologists, and gradually morphed into a general-purpose fund for the leadership to spend at a whim.
David Miscavige, the current leader of the Church of Scientology is always the centre of attention at IAS events, and makes marathon speeches.
IAS funds were likely used to finance an expensive effort to complete new Scientology facilities in Dublin, Ireland and Birmingham, England so that Miscavige could open them while he was relatively nearby.
When I went to Ireland, to observe the opening there, I wondered if the trip would be worthwhile. After all, people like me, and the locals, would be utterly excluded. When I got there, I realised that showing the remarkable ‘security’ operation mounted by Scientology in order to do this was actually and excellent illustration of its paranoid and controlling nature.
An organisation which presents itself as a religion behaved as if their new Church was a military base. Measures taken included closing sidewalks, surrounding it with private security guards and using outward-facing loudspeakers to mask the sound of the speech.
I’ve given an eye-witness report from Dublin in a previous post. This one is from Birmingham, concerning the opening of Pitmaston house as a Church of Scientology on the 22nd of October.
Scientology remained true to form, and repeated the incredible behaviour they had exhibited in Ireland.
If you followed my marathon post yesterday about the opening of a new Scientology facility at Firhouse, in the republic of Ireland, you will have read some acerbic comments from the local press.
One of things they wondered is why Scientology was spending millions of Euros on a huge building in a country which only has 87 Scientologists (according to the 2016 census).
Part of the reason for these low numbers was the tenacity of one Mary Johnston. She was a Scientologist from for about two years (between 1992 and 1994). After leaving, disillusioned, she claimed damages in the Irish courts for conspiracy, misrepresentation, breach of constitutional rights and deliberate infliction of emotional harm.
She won an unspecified (but likely huge) out-of-court settlement, after presenting her case. Scientology had such little confidence in itself that it abandoned the litigation and offered an substantial sum of money just before they were due to present their evidence in rebuttal.
This victory must have had a chilling effect on Scientology’s activities in Ireland and, unable to be as ruthless in Ireland as they are elsewhere, suppressed their ability to recruit and retain members for years.
Now, they are spending millions in the country with the aim of… who knows what?
After the break there is an episode on Ireland’s “Late late show”, hosted by the legendary Gay Byrne. this was about Scientology, and featured Mary Johnston, the Irish woman who pushed back. Continue reading
Plymouth Scientologists used to regularly deploy a handcart, bearing books for sale and an e-meter for the ‘stress test’ in Plymouth City Centre. It has not been seen for two years, after a local critic pointed out to the City Council that Scientology did not have any of the necessary permits for this kind of street trading.
Recently, the handcart reappeared. This video shows it being set up and goes on to illustrate the attitude of local people (who swerve all over the wide pavement to avoid the Scientologists) quite well.
There is a lot more to this story, click the ‘continue reading’ link for details.
1996 | BBC2 Television (UK) | Newsnight
View Online > | Part One | Part Two | Download as mp4 > |Part One | Part Two |
In 1996 the Church of Scientology broadcast its first television advertisements in the UK. The ads themselves were practically content-free and apparently unsuccessful. No more appeared until 2014, and those too, sank without trace.
However, even back in 1996 Scientology’s reputation was poor and there was a lively debate about whether they should be allowed to advertise on television at all. The BBC’s flagship news programme “Newsnight” took an interest.
Their report is presented in two video windows below, in two parts. Part one provides background to the story, part two shows a studio debate which followed. It is of particular interest today because the Scientology representative who appears in both is one Heber Jentzsch.
When he appeared in this programme Jentzsch was a high-flying ‘executive’ of the Church of Scientology (President of the Church of Scientology International, no less). Nominally, he still is. However, he has not been seen in public since 2004 and hardly ever leaves the Scientology compound where he lives. He is now widely believed to be nothing more than a figurehead for the authority of David Miscavige, Scientology’s present leader. Continue reading
“L Ron Hubbard Breaks Silence: A Reply to William Burroughs”
“Mayfair” Magazine | Vol 5 No 6 | August 1970
View Online | Download as .pdf
This article by L Ron Hubbard was written in response to William Burroughs, who had published an extensive critique of the Church of Scientology entitled, “I, William Burroughs, Challenge you L Ron Hubbard” in the March 1970 issue of “Mayfair”.
Burroughs was convinced of the value of Scientology practice, but criticised Scientology’s repressive ‘discipline’ and the secrecy surrounding Scientology techniques.
He believed that Scientology practices should be freely available for others to develop for the benefit of mankind, not held as trade secrets by the Church of Scientology and L Ron Hubbard. Burroughs was, in fact, one of the first ‘Independent Scientologists’.
Perhaps the prospect of debating with a prominent literary figure in public appealed to Hubbard’s vanity. Whatever the reason, he submitted a reply, which was duly published. You can read it &/or download the full text above and decide for yourself if Hubbard addressed the issues raised by Burroughs or attempted to evade them.
Absolutely Fabulous | Special | November 1996 | The Last Shout |
View Online | Part One| Part Two
Difficult People | Season 01 episode 4 |2015 | The Courage of a Soldier|
In a recent post I suggested that television writers seem to using Scientology as a metaphor of ‘bizarre, abusive cult’. I included two examples – single episodes from the current US drama “Elementary” and the UK comedy “The IT Crowd”. Since things have been a little serious around here lately, here are another two. Continue reading
Inside Scientology and Escaping the Witnesses | August 2015 | Channel 5 Television (UK)
View Online |
This programme is based on interviews which present the stories of three British women’s involvement in two different high-control religious groups – The Church of Scientology, and the Jehovah’s witnesses. There are striking parallels in the oppressive practices of the two groups.
It begins with an account of Sam Domingo’s 20 years in Scientology and moves on the experience of two other women with the Jehohvah’s Witnesses.
The researchers make one significant error (concerning the supposed legal status of Scientology in the UK – it is not recognised as a religion) but this does not detract from the testimony of ex-Scientologist Sam Domingo (who suffered a great injustice) which is engaging and powerful. Continue reading
Television writers are increasingly using thinly disguised versions of Scientology as a kind of shorthand for ‘abusive cult with extremely bizarre beliefs’. It’s significant that this is seen in popular programmes, implying that the general population now understand these references.
The Church of Scientology, which would once have sued and harassed everyone involved in such effrontery, no longer even seem to notice. This is likely because today they are handicapped by increasing public awareness, a significant number of outstanding court cases and declining membership – they no longer have the resources to attack every critic and have to pick their fights more carefully.
As a change of pace, this post links to examples in episodes of two very different television series. The first is an episode of an updated US version of Sherlock Holmes (which works surprisingly well) entitled, “Elementary”. Holmes now lives in New York City, and Watson is a not only a woman but also a formidable detective in her own right. This episode emphasises the ‘abusive cult’ aspect of Scientology.
The second, is an episode of “The IT Crowd” – a broad UK comedy about IT support workers which emphasises Scientology’s bizarre beliefs for comic effect. Continue reading
2015| Discovery ID | Dangerous Persuasions: A Scientologist’s Escape
View Online | Download as .mp4 | View in video window after the break
This programme is the second in the “Dangerous Persuasions” series which deals with Scientology. The first was, “My Eternal Contract“. Broadcast in 2013, this was a dramatisation of Nancy Many’s 2009 memoir “My Billion-Year Contract“, a book in which she describes her 27-year involvement with the Church of Scientology.
This programme treats the experience of Mark “Marty” Rathburn in very much the same style – it begins with his recruitment (which he presents as motivated by a desire to learn how to help his mentally ill brother). It then covers his rise to the position of right-hand man to the present ‘leader’ of the Church, David Miscavige – and his fall from grace (he is attacked by Miscavige, and then effectively imprisoned in a Scientology compound) . Finally it presents his dramatic escape on a motorcycle, by accelerating through a security gate as it is closed after a car.
Subsequently, Rathburn has been the subject of extraordinary persecution by members of the Church of Scientology. One of the more blatant episodes is documented in the programme “Scientologists at War“which was broadcast in 2013. This persecution is presently the subject of a court case, in which Church of Scientology has argued that this behaviour is an expression of religious belief protected by the first amendment to the US constitution.