The Clearwater Hearings
In 1979, attorney Michael Flynn (right) was approached by a former Scientologist who wanted her money back. She told him that if he took the case, he would receive a letter giving unsavory details of her past. He did not believe her, but sure enough the letter arrived. Flynn became interested in the Church of Scientology, and his interest increased markedly when someone put water in the gas tank of his plane. He and his son had a fortunate escape. Flynn suspected Scientology, and took on more and more clients with litigation against Scientology. 1
The town of Clearwater, Florida was increasingly worried by the Scientology presence. The St. Petersburg Times had won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of Guardian's Office dirty tricks. The courts had made the documentation used in the GO case available; the St. Petersburg Times, and Clearwater's own Sun newspaper, had publicized several Guardian's Office operations. The Clearwater City Commissioners, headed by a new mayor, approached Michael Flynn, by now an expert on Scientology, to help them in their investigation of Scientology.
Public Hearings were held in Clearwater in May 1982. Flynn was to present witnesses and evidence regarding Scientology for a week, and then the Church would be given the same time for its reply. Religious issues were not in question. The City Commissioner James Berfield opened the Hearings with a statement of intent:
The purpose of these public hearings is to investigate alleged violation of criminal and civil laws, and the alleged violation of fundamental rights by the Church of Scientology, an organization which now conducts extensive activities within our city. The purpose of the investigation is to determine whether there is a need for legislation to correct the alleged violations. It is not our purpose to interfere with any of the beliefs, doctrines, tenets, or activities of Scientology which arguably fall within the ambit of religious belief or activity in the broadest legal interpretation. It is not our purpose to conduct a witch hunt and receive testimony, documents, or any other type of evidence which is not reasonably related to significant, vital areas of municipal concern.
The Clearwater Hearings were locally televised. Scientologists were warned not to watch them. Eddie Waiters, who had been a Class VIII Auditor and Case Supervisor, and a member of the Las Vegas GO, set the stage with a broad account of Scientology and its underhanded dealings. Then Hubbard's estranged son, Nibs, took the stand. He painted his father as a complete con-man, a sinister black magician whose philosophy resulted from horrendous drug abuse.
Lori Taverna spoke of some of her experiences. She had joined Scientology in 1965, completed all of the available OT levels, and become a Class VIII Auditor. She abandoned her business and her family when "NOTs" was released in 1978, to become a Sea Org NOTs Auditor. A year at Flag, in Clearwater, slowly disabused her of the world-saving mission of Scientology. She returned to Los Angeles ill and confused, and after sixteen years of involvement, gradually drifted out of the Scientology fold. She described the last scene of her withdrawal:
A particular friend came over to the house - she had just received her NOTs auditing - and she came in and she said how wonderful she was feeling, that she went to a restaurant, she was eating a hamburger, and all of a sudden the hamburger started screaming at her, and then the walls started screaming. And then she said tears came out of her eyes because she felt so sorry for the other people in the restaurant because they didn't know what she knew.
Casey Kelly had been Director of Income at the Flag Land Base. He testified that income there had averaged $400-500,000 per week. In a good week they could take $1 million. The highest income Kelly remembered was $2.3 million.
Kelly spoke of a time when Church staff were forbidden to have children because there was insufficient room in the Flag Land Base nursery. Former Messengers have said that children were completely prohibited at Gilman Hot Springs as well. Abortions were common. 2
Kelly complained about the CMO unit at Flag, the youngest of whom were ten-year-olds. He described them as a "small army": "most of the younger ones don't have positions of vast authority, but if one of them had told me what to do, I would have said, 'Yes, sir.'" When asked what happened if someone annoyed one of these child Messengers, Kelly said: "You'll find yourself in a blue tee shirt scrubbing a garage usually." In other words on the Rehabilitation Project Force, living in the garage at Flag.
Rose Pace was introduced to Scientology by her sister, Lori Taverna, when she was thirteen. She joined the Church, and her formal education ended. The Board of Education accepted representations made by the Scientologists that Pace needed counselling. At fourteen, Pace became an Auditor, and began a career which culminated in her working at the Flag Land Base, in Clearwater, as a NOTs Auditor. After sixteen years in Scientology she said of its curative claims: "I have never seen someone be cured of an illness."
David Ray was at the Flag Land Base cleaning the rooms of paying public: "Well, if your statistics are up, every two weeks you're supposed to have twenty-four hours off, called liberty .... I would keep asking them for time off because I was working, oh, anywhere from eighteen to twenty hours a day .... And they wouldn't give it to me."
Ray went on to express his profound resentment at the treatment he had received: "The thing that really kills me about this whole . . . operation is... by the questions they ask and the things they do, they open you up to your innermost personal self . . . you're extremely vulnerable .... They pick you up and they'll raise you so high you feel like you're on top of the world and, then, they'll drop you and they'll let you feel like a bottomless pit .... And those are the kinds of terror and searing emotions that go through a person's mind when they're there .... They want to leave; they want to help themselves. You get physically tired. Sometimes you don't even have time to take a shower. Ninety percent of the people that walk around there just - they stink."
Ray inevitably ended up on the Rehabilitation Project Force. His account of it is horrifying. The RPF lived on a diet of Leftovers including wilted lettuce which was beginning to rot, and cheese with mold all over it. One day, they were given french fries, and while eating them Ray discovered that one of the potatoes was in fact a fried palmetto bug. From that point on, he used his weekly pay of $9.60 to buy cookies from a health food store. It was all he could afford.
The Hartwells talked about their bizarre experiences making movies with Hubbard in the California desert. George Meister told of the tragic death of his daughter aboard the Apollo in 1971, and the disgraceful treatment he received thereafter.
Lavenda van Schaik, Flynn's first Scientology litigant, claimed that her Confessional folders had been "culled," and a list of her deepest secrets sent to the press. She was persistently harassed by the Guardian's Office, whose Op against her was codenamed "Shake and Bake." Before leaving Scientology, she had been to the Flag Land Base, and found a serious outbreak of hepatitis there, which was not reported to the authorities. An affidavit by one of the victims of this outbreak was read into the record.
Janie Peterson, who had belonged to the Guardian's Office, testified about her departure from Scientology: "I was terrified to even discuss the possibility of leaving Scientology with my own husband. I was afraid that he would stay in Scientology. I was afraid that he would write me up to the Guardian's Office and that they would then come and take me away somewhere because I had so much information."
Scientology had driven such a wedge between Peterson and her husband that she did not realize that he was also contemplating leaving. Neither dared tell the other. After leaving, she received a series of phone calls in which the caller would hang up when the phone was answered. Then she found a note in her car saying simply, "Watch it." Then a note in her mailbox saying, "Die." In the middle of the night, she would hear a knock on her door, and open it to find no one there.
Scott Mayer was on Scientology staff for twelve years. He had held many posts in that time, from Quentin Hubbard's bodyguard, when Quentin was trying to escape or to kill himself, to being manager of the Apollo just prior to its abandonment. In his time Mayer had seen Orgs throughout the world.
Mayer left Scientology in 1976. Two years later, he was still a GO target, staying more or less in hiding. He eventually decided to find out just how serious the GO was. Mayer let it be known that he was staying at a certain address, and left his car parked outside. It was Christmas Eve, 1978. The car was blown up. Although he could not substantiate anything about the attack, he decided the Guardian's Office meant business, and stayed in hiding. Mayer's resolve to act was strengthened, and he became a consultant to the IRS in their ongoing litigation against Scientology.
Mayer had worked on confidential operations for Scientology, among them an elaborate smuggling system which used a series of five fictitious companies to courier money out of America. Couriers were carefully trained, told exactly what to say if apprehended, and sent out with double-wrapped packages. The inner wrapper was labelled with the true destination. He also talked about blackmailing a potential defector into silence, using information from the person's Scientology Confessional auditing. He put a photocopy of an order to "cull" auditing folders into evidence.
Probably Mayer's most heartbreaking assignment was the maintenance of a ranch for Sea Org children in Mexico. They were called the "Cadet Org": "Children were routinely transported from Los Angeles to the Mexican base and berthed and housed there . . . so that their mothers and fathers could get on with their business within the Church."
It was cheaper to ship the kids to Mexico than to provide acceptable housing in L.A. The ranch was not a safe environment for children: "Bandits were coming in at night and they were stealing grain and they were stealing saddles and whatever wasn't tied down." Mayer was ordered to set up a rifle with an infrared sniper scope to deal with the marauding bandits. As it turned out the project was never fulfilled, because the woman running the ranch shot one of the bandits before Mayer arrived, and they did not return.
Bandits were not the only problem the children faced in Mexico. There were scorpions, snakes and poisonous spiders. The brush grew right up to the house, and neither money nor personnel were available to clear it away. Because the Sea Org is run on a shoestring budget, it took Mayer some time to resolve this intolerable situation. He did so not by appealing to his superior's compassion, but by pointing out what bad public relations a death would cause. He took a jar of scorpions with him to emphasize his point.
Scientologists believe that "Considerations" govern "Matter, Energy, Space and Time." Which is to say, they believe in mind over matter. "Clearing the Planet" is far more important than any individual's physical well-being. Self-sacrifice is a common trait of the True Believer. Life in the Sea Org is a peculiar mixture of "making it go right" (to use Hubbard's phrase), and an often child-like belief in the miraculous power of Scientology. According to Mayer: "Staff members were always ill-fed, ill-clothed .... I had an abscess in my tooth and I was being audited for it. I'm ready to go to the dentist, and I was being audited for it. I spent about a week, week-and-a-half, doing... what they call touch assists to get rid of the pain .... And, finally ... I was just delirious and - well, there wasn't any money for medical is what it boiled down to .... I went to the dentist... he told me I'd just made it... if it had been another day or so, I wouldn't be here to talk to you."
Before journalist Paulette Cooper took the stand, a former Scientology agent who had stolen Cooper's medical records testified. He also talked about another agent placed in a cleaning company so he could steal files from a Boston attorney's office. He gave this picture of the B-1 cell he worked in:
We used code names and our reports were written in code names. . . . The letters that were written in the smear campaigns - the typewriters were stolen and usually used just for a short time .... Everything was done with plastic gloves so that there wouldn't be any fingerprints.
He was a case officer for Scientology agents who had infiltrated the Attorney General's Office, the Department of Consumer Affairs and the Better Business Bureau. "Each week these people would file reports... it was very difficult for a public person in Boston to make a complaint about the Church and have it go anywhere. We had all the bases covered."
Paulette Cooper then testified about the effects of being on the receiving end of the Church's harrassive tactics. The Scientologists had just filed their eighteenth law suit against her:
I am being sued now repeatedly by individual Scientologists, who, in some cases, I don't even know, suits for distributing literature at functions I didn't even attend. Part of the purpose in harassing people with law suits is to keep deposing them and preventing you from writing or making a living and making you show up at legal depositions. I've been deposed for nineteen days total since this started, with four more coming up in a couple of weeks.
There has also been some other harassment in the past six months or so: continued calls to me, calls to my family. The Scientologists find out what the person's "buttons" [sensitive spots] are, as they put it, and the way to get to them. And they know that a way to get to me is to harass my parents . . .
They've put out libelous publications about me; they've sent letters saying that I was soon to be imprisoned... attempts have been made to put me in prison. They've sent false reports about me to the Justice Department, the District Attorney's Office, the IRS. As you know, government agencies have to investigate any complaints that they get. So, then, Scientology sends out press releases that I am under investigation by the Attorney General's Office, I am under investigation by the DA, and so on.
They have put detectives on me; they have put spies on me. A few months ago, they put an attempted spy on my mother to try to get information about me from her and to fix me up with the woman's son. . . . Somebody cancelled my plane to Florida about a month ago, and that is the third time that happened to me this year... I'd like to say that this was a very good year compared to the previous years.
Cooper went on to describe her one-woman battle against Scientology, which began in 1968. She commented wryly that she had been alone in this battle for five years, and that she was glad that more people were finally speaking out.
After her first article on Scientology, in 1968, Cooper received a flood of death threats and smear letters; her phone was bugged; lawsuits were filed against her; attempts were made to break into her apartment; and she was framed for a bomb threat.
At one point Cooper moved, and her cousin Joy, of rather similar appearance, took over her old apartment. Soon afterwards, before the cousin had even changed the name plate on the door, someone called with flowers:
When Joy opened the door to get these flowers, he unwrapped the gun... he took the gun and he put it at Joy's temple and he cocked the gun, and we don't know whether it misfired, whether it was a scare technique... somehow the gun did not go off... he started choking her, and she was able to break away and she started to scream. And the person ran away.
Many of the 300 tenants in the new apartment building were sent copies of a smear letter, saying that Paulette Cooper had venereal disease and sexually molested children.
To answer the bomb threat charges brought falsely by Scientology, Cooper had to find a $5,000 advance to retain an attorney. She appeared before the grand jury, and truthfully denied the allegations throughout. She was indicted not only for making the threats, but also for perjury! She faced the possibility of a fifteen-year jail sentence.
Her career as a free-lance journalist was in jeopardy: "What editor is ever going to give an assignment to someone who's been indicted or convicted for sending bomb threats to someone they've opposed? I was very concerned about the indictment and the trial coming out in the newspapers. The public does not know the difference between indict and convict . . . where there's smoke there's fire."
Cooper developed insomnia, sleeping for only two to four hours a night, and wandered around in a daze of exhaustion. The lawyers' bills for the preparation of her case came to $19,000. She could not write. She lost her appetite and stopped eating properly. The Scientologists were merciless; having stolen her medical records, they knew very well that she was recovering from surgery when they began their attack. Her boyfriend of five years left her. The Scientologists had pressed her to the edge of extinction.
At this point, she met Jerry Levin, who took pity on her terrible situation. She helped Levin to find an apartment in her building. He did everything he could to help, even doing some of her shopping. At last she had a friend and confidant who would listen to everything. And having listened, she later discovered, Levin would file his report with the Guardian's Office. After the GO trial in 1979, Levin's reports were made public. Jerry Levin was also known as Don Alverzo, one of the Washington burglars. Paulette Cooper was Fair Game; in Hubbard's words she could be "tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed." 3
It took over two years for the bomb threat charges against Cooper to be dropped. She was completely exonerated after the FBI found the GO Orders for the Ops against her. By that time her book, The Scandal of Scientology, had long been out of print. The Guardian's Office had even imported small quantities into foreign countries, so they could obtain injunctions against its distribution. Copies were stolen from libraries and bought up from used book shops, then destroyed.
Cooper's final point to the Clearwater Commission was the insistence that Scientology incessantly claims to have reformed itself, to have expelled the bad elements. She had heard such claims in 1968. We are still hearing them now. They have never been true. The Scientologists expel another scapegoat ("put a head on a pike" in Hubbard's terms), make a great show that the culprit has been removed, and then replace him with someone who will repeat the offending behavior.
Dr. John Clark, a noted psychiatrist who has been a persistent observer and critic of cults, also took the stand and gave his opinion of the intrusive nature of Scientology techniques. He explained the incredible pressure brought to bear upon him by the Scientologists in their attempt to discredit him. He spoke at some length about the conversion experience: the sudden change of personality which members of Cults often undergo.
Flynn's last witness was former Mission Holder Brown McKee, who a few months earlier had been a major voice at the Flag Mission Holders' conference. After twenty-four years of membership, having trained to a high level as an Auditor, and having done the vaunted OT levels, Brown McKee took a surprisingly short time to put Scientology in perspective:
After this meeting in December , we went back to Connecticut with the firm conviction that there was no interest within this Church for reform. The dirty tricks, the Guardian's Office operations, and that type of thing, which they had told us were all a matter of the past, we found out were not a matter of the past .... I've been a minister of the Church for some sixteen years, and I really took it seriously. I've married people, I've buried them, and to me it was a duty and an honor. And to find out what my Church had been doing - it's a little hard on me.
McKee described his most traumatic experience while in Scientology. His wife, Julie, who was a highly trained Auditor, had started to feel tired:
You must realize both of us were totally persuaded that the source of all illness was mental, except for, say, a broken leg, and the way of curing it is with auditing . . .
So, during the summer, Julie lost more and more of her energy and had some swelling and some small chest pains . . . and began to lose her voice. So, I thought, "Well, Flag has the best Auditors in the world and should be able to help her out." So, I sent her down here to Clearwater in, I guess it was, October of 1978. We never even really thought about going to see a doctor... the Scientologist doesn't think about that.
Well, they sent her back a week later sicker and . . . she couldn't even whisper any more. She'd write notes. So, I tapped her on the back, because she was complaining about her chest, and on one side I could hear... the hollow sound that you hear when you tap, and the other side, it wasn't hollow. And so, I knew that there wasn't any air on that side.
So, we went to see a doctor, and he had her in the hospital very quickly. She was there two days when we were given the report. And what it was was adenocarcinoma, which was a cancer of the lymph glands of the lungs, and her right lung had totally collapsed . . . this cancer had totally infiltrated her throat and paralyzed her vocal cords. And it had progressed to the point where it was totally hopeless. I mean, they didn't even suggest chemotherapy. And they sent her home, and I cared for her for ten days. And she died in my arms.
Hubbard mocks medical doctors, and most Scientologists believe that all physical maladies have a mental or spiritual cause, and can be relieved through auditing. OTs believe that by ridding themselves of Body Thetans they will also rid themselves of disease. They avoid seeking proper medical advice, which means they are often too late. Hubbard made specific claims that his techniques had cured both cancer and leukemia. 4
On May 10, 1982, the Scientologists were scheduled to start presenting witnesses to rebut the earlier testimony to the Clearwater City Commission. Instead their lawyer questioned the legality of the proceedings, and, quite typically, tried to impugn Flynn's character. He criticized the dramatic way in which witnesses had given evidence, as if people whose lives had been ruined should retain their composure at all costs. He complained that he had not been allowed to cross-examine witnesses, though he failed to note that the questions had been asked by the Commission itself, and not by Michael Flynn.
It was an empty show. The Scientologists were too late. The evidence of their appalling past had been broadcast on local TV. No argument regarding legal technicalities would erase from the viewers' minds the heartrending accounts given by the witnesses.
Even so, the Commission was not established to pronounce judgment, simply to investigate and make recommendations for possible future action. Despite the blaze of publicity in Florida, Scientology's young rulers were faced with other, more urgent problems.
Principal source: Transcript of the City of Clearwater Hearings re: The Church of Scientology, May 1982
1. Complaint in M.J. Flynn vs. Hubbard, U.S. Court for the District of Massachusetts, no. 83-2642-C.
2. Interviews with two former CMO executives
3. HCOPL, "Penalties for Lower Conditions," 18 October 1967 (not in Organization Executive Course)
4. Hubbard, A History of Man, p.20; Technical Bulletins of Dianetics & Scientology vol. 1, p. 337