Billed as The Truth Rundown, its series of special reports highlights the alleged abusive behavior of current Scientology leader David Miscavige, as well as other criticism leveled at Scientology by a number of high-level defectors.
The St. Petersburg Times is published in Clearwater, Florida — a town the cult sneaked into under an assumed name to establish its worldwide headquarters.
Since then, Scientologists have greatly expanded their presence in town.
While Scientologists have often presented themselves as the ‘most ethical people on earth,’ the Church of Scientology has an extensive and ongoing track record of unethical behavior — including hate- and harassment activities, destroying relationships, fraud and quackery.
The ‘Church’ (Scientology considers itself to be a religion, whereas critics consider it to be at best a commercial enterprise masquerading under the guise of religion) is also known for its harassment of reporters and its pursuit of critics — behavior described as ‘Dead Agenting‘ and ‘Fair Game.’
How far the cultists will go is made clear in the personal, thoroughly documented story of former Scientologist Paulette Cooper.
Now the St. Petersburg Times sheds some light on these practices:
For years, the Church of Scientology chased down and brought back staff members who tried to leave.
Ex-staffers describe being pursued by their church and detained, cut off from family and friends and subjected to months of interrogation, humiliation and manual labor.
One said he was locked in a room and guarded around the clock.
Some who did leave said the church spied on them for years.
Others said that, as a condition for leaving, the church cowed them into signing embellished affidavits that could be used to discredit them if they ever spoke out.
The St. Petersburg Times has interviewed former high-ranking Scientology officials who coordinated the intelligence gathering and supervised the retrieval of staff who left, or “blew.”
They say the church, led by David Miscavige, wanted to contain the threat that those who left might reveal secrets of life inside Scientology.
Marty Rathbun, a former church official and confidant of Miscavige, said the leader especially targeted those he had edged aside during his rise to the top or anyone he feared might threaten his position or the church if left alone on the outside.
In another story, “What happened in Vegas,” the newspaper describes how some staffers who left the church were spied on, with their group having been infiltrated for years.
Then there is the story of How Scientology got to Scientology critic Bob Minton.
While critics have known and exposed the cult’s behavior for years, these stories further explain why members of Anonymous, for instance, wear masks when picketing the cult’s properties.
For its part the cult fights back the way it has always done — by resorting to smear tactics:
The church said the Times is relying on sources who, before they left Scientology, admitted in sworn declarations, affidavits and confessions that all responsibility was theirs and they held the church blameless. For every person but one (Sinar Parman), Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis provided documents from church files, including confessions, ethics orders and Suppressive Person declarations.
• View the St. Petersburg Times’ special report on Scientology
• Visit Why We Protest to see what you can do to stop yourself and others from falling victim to the cult.