The St. Petersburg Times is running a massive report on Scientology, focusing on leader David Miscavige and high-ranking defectors spilling on him. Revealed: Miscavige's sadistic temper. Like when he made staffers play 'violent' musical chairs, scored to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody."

The three-part expose, which continues tomorrow and on Tuesday, had Times reporters out doing serious nose-to-the-grindstone reporting, gathering history, interviews, and sitting for hours with Scientology flacks and reps. They published plenty of material Scientology gave them, including a letter from Miscavige about him not being interviewed for the article, though the Times asserts that they "first requested an interview with Mr. Miscavige on May 13, and offered to meet with him in person, or interview him by telephone at any time since."

The St. Petersburg Times has a deep history with Scientology. The paper, a neighbor by about thirty minutes to the church's Clearwater headquarters, has had a long history of covering Scientology. Freedom, a magazine working as a mouthpiece for Scientology, once ran a piece on the St. Petersburg Times having a glass ceiling on women and minorities after accusing them of inflammatory coverage.

Notable: Scientology sat down with St. Petersburg Times reporters for 25 hours trying to debunk the defectors' tales of Miscavige. They even went to far to prepare them binders of the private confessions and ethics files - yeah, ethics files - of former members. One commenter writes in on their website: "As a former Scientologist of 20 years, its sad to see that the chruch would stoop to using members confessionals against them. How can anyone trust anything they say if they violate their own teachings."

In the report, Marty Rathbun, a former Scientologist, notes that Miscavige was a "deteriorating spiral" after he was named in an amended complaint against Scientology in the civil suit over the death of Lisa McPherson. According to Rathbun, he became "violent and irrational," going to so far as to assault and punch other Scientology executives from their International Council, including Marc Yager (chairman of Scientology's "Watchman Committee") and Mike Rinder (a former Scientology spokesman). Rinder was supposed to put a BBC story about Miscavige hitting staffers to rest. Two years ago, he flat-out denied it. Now, he confirms. Rinder was also the spokesperson who issued Scientology's denial in the infamous suicide of Scientology member Noah Lottick. Rinder blamed Lottick's Scientology-questioning parents on their son's death. Nothing about Lottick appears in the article, but there're two more days of this thing to get through. Tom De Vocht, who used to oversee the Clearwater headquarters, got slapped around by Miscavige as well. He came forward to speak about it after defecting for the Times, too.

Same with Amy Scobee, a former high-ranking Scientologist who'd been with the church since she was 14. Scobee used to work out of the LA headquarters in a cubical that backed up into a conference room Miscavige used. She told Times reporters about how she saw Miscavige jump on the table and assult members sitting around it. Rathbun was there when Miscavige wanted to get "offloads" done, once: getting rid of and demoting the members Miscavige felt had committed "crimes against humanity." Rathbun watched as Miscavige - scoring the meeting to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" - turned all the chairs against the table, and had members violently tearing at each other to get into them. This prompted Rathbun to make a literal escape from the church.

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Scientology rounded up everyone, it seems, to help pitch in to their defense against the St. Petersburg Times's report. By their effort alone, you can tell how seriously they took whatever the St. Petersburg Times has that they absolutely don't want out there (on first appearance: all of it). For example, they flew in Rathbun, Rinder, and Tom De Vocht's ex-wives to debunk their stories. The wives' retorts are pretty vicious.

Church spokesmen, executives, attorneys and others flew in from around the country to meet with reporters in Clearwater. The parade started with ex-wives of the three male defectors. All three are Scientologists still. Each praised Miscavige's visionary leadership and said their ex-husbands can't be trusted. Jennifer Linson said her ex, Tom De Vocht, had a reckless streak. Anne Joasem said her ex, Marty Rathbun, "lives for war.'' Cathy Rinder said her ex is so out of touch with their children he doesn't know his 24-year-old son has skin cancer.

There's much, much more, but the most startling revelation is the culture of violence that Miscavige has cultivated throughout the church. If a body-blocking, cutthroat game of musical chairs scored to Queen isn't enough to help you form an opinion about the place - if the mere claim of it isn't enough to help you form an opinion about the place - well, there's plenty where that came from.

Scientology: The Truth Rundown [St. Petersburg Times]


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