For the past 56 years the Church of Scientology has blazed a path of headlines and mystery across the globe. Once existing only as the idea held by a single man, the Church has grown into a multinational, highly organized institution in record time. There is little doubt that trends in the 60’s and 70’s of both counter-culture and new-age thought contributed to the break-neck speed of the Church’s growth, allowing its numbers to swell worldwide to figures that cannot be accurately counted, but are said to number in the millions.
Despite the great successes the CoS has enjoyed over the last half-century, the ubiquitous Church has been embroiled in scandal since its inception. At the heart of every matter of contention lies the bottom dollar. Though self-described as a religious ministry, the CoS tries to operate more like a not-for-profit international charity, and has repeatedly been accused of actually being a for-profit business. Criminal activities, both proven and alleged, span the entire length of the Church’s short lifespan. Here we take a look at 16 victims of the most egregious offenses allegedly committed by the Church of Scientology to date.
Patrice Vic was a 31 year old Parisian family man with a wife and two children. He was relatively happy, until he took a Scientologist’s questionnaire, and was subsequently convinced that with the Church’s help, he could be even happier. That step only cost him 3,000 francs. He became obsessed, and distant. His wife even tried to save their marriage by going with him, and subjecting herself to an “audit,” which made her so uncomfortable that she halted the process and left. On the advice of the Church supervisor present, Mr. Vic stopped speaking to his wife altogether, and became more detached than ever. He started taking vitamins, supplied by the church, and underwent regular counseling at the local Church center, spending more and more of his dwindling funds as he went. Finally, late one evening while in bed next to his silent wife, Patrice Vic got up and said quite simply “this is the only solution.” He took a running dive over their 12th story balcony to the street below. As it turns out, Mr. Vic was unable to either find the money, or secure the loans necessary to pay for the 30,000 franc “inner purification” procedure he was assured would fix his broken life.
Susan Meister was an impressionable young woman who found Scientology in 1970’s San Francisco. She was incredibly devoted to her new purpose in life, very motivated, and overzealous. She repeatedly tried to pressure her parents into joining the then-fledgling Church of Scientology. She wanted so badly to be a part of the inner workings of the Church, that after a year in the city, in 1971 she joined the now infamous “Sea Org.” Within a month she made her way all the way to the flagship of Scientology’s miniature naval fleet, the Apollo. This was a great honor, as it was the seaborne home of L. Ron Hubbard himself. Just a few short months later, Susan’s father would be making his way to Morocco, to identify the corpse of his daughter. When asked about the strange circumstances of Susan’s death, he replied that she was “lying on a bunk, wearing the new dress her mother had made for her, her arms crossed with a long-barreled revolver on her breast. A bullet-hole was in the center of her forehead and blood was running out of the corners of her mouth. I began to wonder how Susan could possibly shoot herself in the center of her forehead with the long-barreled revolver.” There were no powder burns on Susan’s forehead, either, her father noted.
When Raul Lopez was critically injured in a head-on collision in 1985, doctors told him he was lucky to even be alive. The irreparable brain-trauma that was slowly killing Mr. Lopez was also impairing and degrading his mental faculties over time, but he still had most of the multi-million dollar settlement resulting from the wreck that nearly killed him. Then he found the Church of Scientology. The CoS told him that they could succeed where modern medicine had failed, and heal Mr. Lopez. By the time Mr. Lopez realized he had been duped, and fired his Scientologist lawyer/conservator, he had given the Church 1.3 million. The CoS maintains that there was never any wrongdoing, since the mentally-impaired Lopez had willfully participated.
Mary Florence Barnett
Flo, as she liked to be called, was the Mother-in-law to David Miscavige, who after Hubbard’s untimely demise took power within the Church. In Hubbard’s absence, Miscavige took on the roles and responsibilities that could be equated to those of the CEO of a corporation. At the time of her death, Flo had become entangled in some of the Church’s worst sequences of in-fighting. She had been following a splinter-sect within the Church that had been declared apostate, and the fact that she was directly linked to Miscavige was a constant source of embarrassment to both him and his wife. At the height of the scandal, Flo was found dead in her bedroom, a victim of suicide, as it was initially called. She had been shot three times in the chest, and once in the head with a .22 caliber Ruger semi-automatic rifle, which was found near the body.
Roxanne Friend, a former Scientologist, described her experience at the Church’s “Flag” facility in depositions for a law suit she filed against the Church in 1999. Ms. Friend had been “forced” to participate in practices of which she did not want to be a part. When she attempted to leave the facility she was stopped and not allowed to leave. She was held there for several months, and denied proper treatment for both Mono and Pneumonia. She was not allowed to see her father when he travelled to see her, nor was she allowed to attend a wedding, at which she was slated to be Maid of Honor. A year later, she tried to re-enter the Church in Florida, and was forced back into the initial procedure she refused in California. When she tried to leave at that point, she was taken, placed under guard, monitored, cut off from communication outside, and finally drugged only to be transported to another location where she was held for over a month.
In 1973, Paulette Cooper, then a journalist in New York, found herself under federal indictment for sending bomb threats to the Church of Scientology. What was happening would come to be known as Operation Freakout. As Ms. Cooper was in the business of publishing books speaking out against the Church of Scientology, she was made a target, with the express goal of “to get P.C. incarcerated in a mental institution or jail, or at least to hit her so hard that she drops her attacks.” The actual internal CoS documents for this officially-named project were acquired during an FBI raid of CoS offices in 1977, which in turn cleared Ms. Cooper of the earlier charges for which she had been indicted. CoS members had stolen stationary from her home, along with the means to recreate her finger prints, and forged the bomb-threats. They also sent letters to her neighbors declaring that she had venereal diseases, and imported her books to countries with libel laws that allowed them to sue her overseas, for what she had written stateside. They even found a women with similar voice characteristics to make threatening phone calls to arab consulates in New York City. The harassment didn’t stop there; graffiti with her phone number was found throughout the city, the IRS was told that she had lied to them on tax returns, men would seek her out and date her, only to be discovered as Scientologist “agents,” and legal documents were stolen from her lawyer’s office in attempts to gain an edge on any of the 14 different law suits filed against her.
L. Ron Hubbard’s son, Quentin, was 22 years old when he died in 1976. Sources who later left the organization have stated that Quentin was “an embarrassment” to Hubbard. In fact, upon hearing of his son’s apparent suicide, Hubbard’s only expressed concern was over the publicity problems the event was sure to cause. Quentin was found on the side of road, in his car, with a hose piping exhaust fumes into the cabin. He was unkempt, unshaven, sitting next to an empty bottle of liquor, missing his wallet, and with needle-tracks in his arms. The license plate was missing from his car. Quentin Hubbard was well-known among his friends for being meticulous about his appearance, and always clean shaven. His friends also noted that he did not drink or use drugs of any kind.
In 1984 the Church of Scientology in Ontario, Canada sparked what would become an expensive battle with Crown Attorney Casey Hill. They inevitably lost the fight, though it tooks several years of litigation, and smear campaigning against not only the government lawyer but also the court and ministry he represented. In an attempt to sabotage the prosecution of a case against them, the local CoS had a practicing barrister of the court stand on the front steps of the courthouse in full garb and proclaim that he was initiating criminal contempt proceedings against Mr. Hill, who was prosecuting the case against them. Hill, in turn, sued for libel. The ensuing court battles that took place would cost Hill tens of thousands of dollars and his name was smeared in every newspaper in the northern hemisphere. Later, court judgements amounting to a 129 page document would reveal findings that the CoS had in fact willfully engaged in a seven-year long campaign to ruin Hill, stating that “Scientology decided Hill was the enemy and it set out to destroy him.” When all was said and done, the Church was ordered to pay the largest ever sum awarded for libel in Canadian history, at 1.6 million dollars.
In 1981, an antique dealer in Clearwater, Florida, was committed to a mental hospital after being declared insane. Francis Diamond, who was 45 at the time, led a happy if somewhat mundane life before the Church of Scientology moved into town. Scientologists frequented his store, and he befriended many of them. It wasn’t long before he began reading the literature they gave him, and he decided to get audited. Not long afterward, the police had placed him in special custody pending the court’s ruling on his sanity. He stood before a judge, and explained that other Scientologists’ “Thetans” had invaded his body. Three of them, in fact, and they wanted him dead. According to Diamond, these Thetans drove him to smoke five packs of cigarettes a day and overeat until he had gained 50 pounds. When asked why he had not done something about what was happening to him, he told the court that he feared not only his reputation, but the Church’s retaliation. Diamond had absolutely no history of mental illness or propensities towards mental illness prior to his “auditing.”
in 2000, a 16-year-old Jennifer Stewart, raised as a Scientologist, became a supervisor, under a man named Gabriel Williams. Williams, then 27, lived with his fiancee at the time. Stewart’s new working hours were to be from nine in the morning to nine at night, so the Church ordered her to move in with Williams at his San Jose residence. The first night she stayed there, she reports, Williams raped her, and continued to do so for months. Stewart believed at the time that if she had gone to the police, that she would have been made to see a psychiatrist, something that is beyond unacceptable in Scientology. A member of the CoS Office of Special Affairs told Stewart’s father that if he were to say anything, she would be taken away by child-services. Williams was arrested in 2002, and Stewart married her boyfriend, Tom Gordon. the couple moved in with Gordon’s family. That’s when the Gordons began receiving death threats and harassment phone-calls on a regular basis. The message delivered was quite clear; “SPs don’t live long. Your son and his wife, Jennifer, will be dead soon.” SP is a Scientology phrase meaning Suppressive Person, or enemy of the Church.
Maria Pia Gardini
Maria Gardini was a Class Nine Auditor for the Church of Scientology. She originally entered the Church through her daughter, who had learned of it through Narconon. Maria was very good at what she did, and made the Church millions of dollars through her work. She was a member of the Sea Org., which by Church rules, means that not only her room and board, but also her own auditing are supposed to be covered by the Organization. Maria was told by her superiors that it would be selfish for her, who had money, to take such charities from the Church, and that she should be donating her money for the betterment of the CoS. When she realized that nobody else paid the amount of money she was being made to pay, she demanded her money back. She was coerced into taking only a portion back, and being content with it, while her own supervisor bought a 40,000 dollar car with the commission she got for Maria’s money. After several more attempts to get her money back, in 2001, Maria contacted the Lisa McPherson Trust to request that they assist her in reclaiming the 1.5 million dollars she lost.
On March 13th, 2003, which also happens to be L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday, Jeremy Perkins stabbed his mother 77 times with a 12 inch kitchen knife. He did not want to take the vitamins that the Church had given him, nor did he want to take a shower, both of which his mother, also a Scientologist, had tried coaxing him into doing. Professionals believed that, had Jeremy been on proper medication, under actual medical care, his mother would still be alive today and he would be functional. Jeremy was fully delusional and believed at the time that his mother was not only trying to make him worse with the vitamins, but that she had an “evil eye.” Jeremy stood alone in court, a murderer.
In 1985 the CoS decided it was going to infiltrate the Ontario Medical Association. They sent Nanna. Nanna was only 17 when she joined the Church, and at the time, a doctor who was also a member of the Church had convinced her that she had cancer. She was asked to get money from her family, in order to pay for treatment, and 10% of that was a commission to the doctor. She had signed a vague loyalties contract that she was told had authority anywhere, so when she left England to move to Ontario, Canada, the Church maintained control over her. She got a job working for the OMA, and began the long process of siphoning information for the Church. She also divorced her husband, because Church heads had told her he was bad for her. She described the loyalty simply, stating that “if they said march, I would march.” After hearing her story the court dismissed charges against her, and she turned State’s Evidence.
Clearwater, Florida has been a nexus of activity for the CoS, to include illegal activities. Cazares spoke out publicly against the Church when they arrived in the town in 1975; the Church immediately fired back with a smear-campaign of the usual sex-allegatons, and also attempted to set him up in a staged hit-and-run car accident. Cazares hadn’t been saying anything that wasn’t clearly visible already to the public; he called out the Church for the quiet way they went about buying any property in town they could get ahold of, and questioned why a church would need a security force to begin with, much less one that carried clubs. Again, internal documents were obtained during a federal raid on CoS offices detailing plans and operations in regard to Clearwater politics, and Cazares in particular. In the criminal investigations that followed, 11 CoS officials were jailed for breaking into federal offices. Cazares later filed suit against the Church for 1.5 million dollars in damages, which was settled out of court in 1986. He filed several more times in the years since.
Mr. Wollersheim reveals that in 1969, when he joined the Church, he signed a “billion-year” loyalty contract. He found himself confined to the hold of a ship, off the coast of California, which he described as a “thought-reform gulag.” His mental state steadily degraded until he came just short of the point of suicide, and it was later discovered that he suffered from bi-polar disorder. As psychiatry is forbidden, he had to choose between leaving the Church or suffering the consequences of his mounting problem. He had already paid the Church 150,000 dollars when he decided to leave. He filed suit in 1980, and won millions of dollars in court awards. The Church had no intention of paying him, however, and an ensuing legal battle raged on for over a decade. Wollersheim created a website, FACTNet.org, to inform the public of the illegal activities carried out by the CoS.
Lisa McPherson joined the Church of Scientology at the age of 18, and in 1994 moved to Clearwater, Florida. The following year, the Church noticed problems with Lisa, and placed her in a status of “Introspective Rundown,” and three months later was declared “clear” again. Two months later, she was involved in a minor car accident that resulted in a suspected head trauma, but she refused further evaluations in lieu of treatment from the Church instead. She was transported to the Flag Land Base and subjected to another “Introspection Rundown,” and placed on an “isolation watch.” In the last 17 days of McPherson’s life, her health quickly deteriorated past the point of emergency. She was kept in isolation and denied proper medical attention. Other Scientologists who inquired about her care were told to “butt-out,” and a Scientologist doctor prescribed her both Valium and antibiotics, without seeing her. When the decision was made to take her to a hospital, the execution was curious. Four hospitals were passed along the way, and upon arrival she had flatlined. The personnel at the emergency room attempted resuscitation for 20 minutes, but Lisa McPherson was already dead. During her autopsy, the corner said she had likely died of a Thrombo-embolism, caused by severe dehydration while lying in bed. The coroner also noted several bruises, and abrasions consistent with animal bites. The Church called her family and told them that she had died from either Meningitis, or a blood-clot, while at Fort Murray for rest and relaxation. In May of 2004, a civil suit filed by her family against the Church was settled.