Tuesday 30 December 2008

2 Accusing Miscavige

Former Scientology executive are speaking out against the movement’s leader, David Miscavige, accusing him of ruling through violence and intimidation.

For at least two years, it was one of the main topics of conversation on the Internet news groups and message groups devoted to exposing Scientology. But nobody was ready to go on the record.

Then in 2008, a handful of senior former members of the movement began speaking out in public to whoever would listen. Their stories were shocking but consistent.

They alleged that David Miscavige, the leader of Scientology, had for years been subjecting senior executives at one of the movement’s California bases to an abusive regime that ranged from expletive-filled tirades to physical assaults.

One of the new wave of whistleblowers is Jeff Hawkins, 62. Once a senior marketing executive with Scientology, he quit the movement in 2005 at the age of 59 after more than three decades.

Hawkins said Miscavige harangued his staff, often singling out individuals for a humiliating dressing down and sometimes physically attacking them. He saw a number of fellow executives assaulted and was the victim of several such attacks himself.

Two former Scientologists who worked alongside Hawkins have publicly confirmed his account, and other witnesses are waiting in the wings.

Much of the reported abuse took place during late-night meetings at the International Base, Scientology’s 500-acre, high-security compound at the north end of California’s San Jacinto Valley, about 90 miles east of Los Angeles.

Celebrity member Tom Cruise used to visit there regularly in the 1990s with his then wife Nicole Kidman.

Miscavige is a close friend of Cruise and served as best man at his November 2006 wedding to actress Katie Holmes. He is revered by many inside the movement.

But Hawkins said: "The International Base in Hemet, California, is run by fear, threats, and physical and emotional abuse.” Hawkins only left after experiencing what he calls "the dark side" of organised Scientology.

Hawkins described being assaulted on five separate occasions by Miscavige himself. "I was slapped repeatedly, punched, and knocked to the ground by him. That was in addition to his constant stream of profanity, threats and verbal abuse."

Other senior executives got the same treatment, he said. "He likes to keep those around him in fear and terror. It is ironic that while Scientology publicly preaches communication and tolerance, its leader, Miscavige, practises just the opposite."

John Peeler, who used to work as a security officer at the base, has confirmed Smith’s account. Peeler, 36, described two of the assaults on Hawkins by Miscavige, or DM as he called him.

“DM was grabbing and shoving him against a wall over and over and screaming in his face about how he was an SP [suppressive person] and deliberately not following his orders. He also punched him in the chest. DM was so mad he was red.”

A suppressive person or SP is what Scientologists call an enemy of the movement.

Marc Headley, another former member, has also confirmed Miscavige’s assaults on Hawkins in Internet postings and media interviews. In a speech in Hamburg on September 4, 2008, he said he had seen Miscavige assault several other executives.

And he has repeated the allegation in his lawsuit, filed in California on January 5, 2009.

Hawkins, Peeler and Headley are among a new wave of defectors speaking out about the abuses they witnessed and experienced at the California base.

Scientology’s representatives have dismissed them as embittered drop-outs from the movement and vehemently denied reports of Miscavige’s violence.

But their accounts echo previous allegations contained in court testimony and affidavits from former members stretching back over the past 20 years.

For years now, defectors have described how executives get training in how to scream abuse at subordinates; and how security officers routinely open members’ mail and monitor outgoing calls.

Former members have also testified to the bizarre punishments practised at the base. Staff members can be thrown, fully clothed, into the lake there. They can be forced to run for hours in the hot California sun in full dress uniform and city shoes.

They also say that those considered the worst offenders in the movement are held in a work camp known as the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF) for years at a time.

Miscavige, 48, rose to power in the early 1980s when Scientology’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, appointed a group of young executives to reorganise the movement.

When Hubbard died in 1986, Miscavige was one of the most powerful figures in the movement. Ex-members say he is now Scientology’s undisputed leader.

The former members' campaign against Scientology was boosted by the appearance in January 2008 of a group of young Net-based activists known as “Anonymous”.

This group, which has also declared war on what it says is Scientology’s abusive behaviour, has developed new websites critical of the movement and organises regular pickets of the movement’s offices worldwide.

Next: The Case against Miscavige

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