The Mission Holders' Conference

From the early 1950s, Hubbard had been trying out various franchise schemes. In return for a substantial licensing fee, the purchase of a large quantity of books, E-meters and Hubbard tapes, and the payment of ten percent of their gross income, new Scientology Centers would be franchised. From 1953, when the Philadelphia Center was taken over, successful Centers were periodically absorbed as assets by Hubbard.

In the 1960s, Hubbard created a new scheme. The same rules applied, including the tithe, and in return the Franchises (also called Centers or Missions) had the right to give introductory courses and auditing, eventually constituting about the first third of Hubbard's "Bridge." They would have to send their graduates on to the Orgs for higher level services. They were to adhere to the Policies and the Technology of Scientology, but were not as tightly controlled as the Orgs. Having paid their dues, the Mission Holders could keep the remaining profits. Some of them created very lucrative businesses.

During 1982, Scientology Missions International, which oversaw the activities of Missions, issued new contracts to Mission Holders. In the words of Mission Holder Bent Corydon, "we were quickly confronted with new articles to sign, which would essentially take away all our legal autonomy as a separate corporation. All our corporate books were removed .... About a month after most of us had signed these articles we were called to the Mission Holders' Conference." 1

The CMO, using their new corporate guises, were going to put the mutineers in their place. The Guardian's Office had quietly intimidated individuals in private, but the CMO were going to confront a whole group of Scientologists in a noisy showdown. Putting aside the mask of friendliness, they would show their true faces. The iron fist was on public display with no pretense at a kid glove. The Mission Holders were summoned to the San Francisco Hilton on October 17, 1982.

Before the meeting began, Mission Holder Gary Smith, who was sitting at the back with his wife and four-year-old daughter, was ordered to move to the unoccupied front row. He refused and was declared Suppressive on the spot.

During 1981, Kingsley Wimbush and his Missions had become the talk of the Scientology world. The major Mission, Steven's Creek Boulevard, in San Jose, was making so much money Wimbush did not know what to do with it. It could take in over $100,000 in a week, outperforming the combined incomes of most of the other eighty or so Missions. Before the 1982 Conference, Wimbush had been declared Suppressive, allegedly for being the author of a "squirrel" counselling procedure, "de-dinging." This "squirrel" procedure had in fact been enthusiastically distributed around the world by the Church itself. Wimbush had been doing everything within his power to appease the new rulers and regain his former status. So, on the morning of October 17, when a Sea Org member rolled up on his doorstep and told him he had a few minutes to ready himself for the journey to San Francisco, he had jumped at the chance. He thought he would be exonerated at last. He had no idea that he was being taken to San Francisco just to be part of a degrading spectacle. 2

The aisles were lined with unsmiling Sea Org Ethics Officers watching the audience closely, and carrying clipboards to take note of the least sign of dissent. The Master of Ceremonies was twenty-two-year-old David Miscavige, a Sea Org "Commander," and, unbeknownst to the attendees, Chairman of the Board of Author Services Incorporated. At the beginning of the harangue, the Mission Holders were told that the trademarks were now in the hands of the Religious Technology Center (RTC). Larry Heller, who was introduced as the Church's Attorney, had this to say:

RTC has a right to send a mission directly to the individual Mission Holders to determine whether the trademarks are being properly used by you. This mission may review your books, your records, and interview your personnel ....

RTC... has the right to immediately suspend any utilization by the individual Missions of those trademarks. The word "immediate" is the key word here. There need not be a hearing in order for there to be a suspension. RTC will order that you no longer use the trademarks and you must stop or be subject to civil penalties and ultimately criminal prosecution.

Attorney Heller was the only speaker not dripping with braid and campaign ribbons. The new leaders had strutted onto the podium, puffed up with the self-importance of their paramilitary titles, and looking like the new rulers of a tin-pot dictatorship. But the comic elements were lost in all the shouting. Of the new Mission articles "Warrant Officer" Lyman Spurlock, the Corporate Affairs Director of the Church of Scientology, said the following:

From now on all Missions will be corporations. There's [sic] very good reasons for this. A lot of you may know that you just recently received new corporate papers, let's see some nods, okay. These new corporate papers are designed to make the whole structure impregnable, especially as regards to the IRS [Internal Revenue Service] .... RTC is a very formidable group of Sea Org members who have the toughness to see that the Tech is standardly applied.

"Commander" David Miscavige, the Master of Ceremonies, gave a fervent, if bizarre, guarantee: "The [new] corporate structure assures Scientology being around for eternity."

"Commander" Steve Marlowe, the Inspector General of the Religious Technology Center, was next in line to browbeat the Mission Holders: "We are a religion and this religion is what is going to save mankind. Get the idea? Thirty years from now, someone squirrels Scientology and starts calling it Scientology because there's a lot of money to be made .... Suddenly you have factions, schisms, all kinds of very horrible things - they will never occur to this Church, never . . . you have a new breed of management in the Church. They're tough, they're ruthless .... They don't get muscled around by the IRS or by crazy loonies . . . you're playing with the winning team." ("The IRS" was edited from the CMO's published transcript of the meeting.)

Ironically, the Conference itself precipitated a schism. The Inspector General next accused the Mission Holders of "ripping-off" public from the Orgs, the major theme of the meeting:

This management means business. There are ecclesiastical concerns, there are secular concerns. Violations will be prosecuted without a doubt [emphasis in transcript]. And we're just not here to threaten you or whatever. This is your salvation too. You just take a look at the viewpoint that someone would have behind bars looking out at the rest of Scientology. Not too sweet. We're not going to get stepped on ....

The Inspector General Network exists within RTC. They have tremendous information lines. They have resources that enable them to get down to the very lowest echelon of the field. And quite frankly, things will get found out about.

"Commander" Norman Starkey, one of only two veteran Sea Org members to be accepted into the CMO, then took his place at the rostrum and announced that the legal battles of both the Commodore and the Church were almost over. This was far from the truth. Starkey went on to berate the Scientology Church's most effective critic, attorney Michael Flynn, at great length. Starkey asserted that former Mission Holder Brown McKee, who had spoken at the Clearwater Hearings, was in Flynn's hire. Of McKee, he said:

He will never, ever, ever and I promise you, for any life time, ever again get on any E-meter [changed to "auditing" in transcript] or ever have a chance to get out of his trap. And those who are on OT3 knows [sic] what that means! That means dying and dying and dying and dying again. Forever, for eternity.

If he had bothered to check, Starkey would have found that McKee had completed his OT3 years before. However, it gives a glimpse of the weight Scientologists attach to their saviour Hubbard's "Tech."

"Captain" Guillaume Lesevre had flown over from Europe to become the new Executive Director International only days before the Conference. He complained that although Missions were sending their public to the relatively plush Flag Land Base, in Clearwater, they were not sending them into their local Orgs. He found the practice unreasonable. Simply because an Org was "dirty" was not reason enough not to send well-heeled new public to it. Lesevre accused those who had written books about Scientology, on sale throughout the Church, of "trying to make money out of the [sic] L. Ron Hubbard's technology,' although most of these books were copyrighted in Hubbard's name, and published by his own Scientology Publications Organizations.

Then Lesevre issued a quota to each Mission. The U.S. Missions were to send a total of 348 people to Orgs during the following week. There was a real threat that if they failed to meet these quotas, which were very high, something unpleasant would happen to them. Furthermore, the quotas would be increased each week. But all of this was just a warm up. The International Finance Dictator took the stage, and came right to the heart of the matter. He did not mince words:

All right now, collectively you guys are in some weird lower [Ethics] condition. By association, if no other reason, you have allowed the Missions to go squirrel and I mean squirrel... right now you guys are CI [Counter Intention] on my lines, maybe one exception in this room, but I doubt it, because you guys are sitting on public, you're ripping off the Orgs, you're doing all manner of crazy things ....

Now some of the guys you see standing around here are International Finance Police and their job is to go out and find this stuff [crimes against the Church] and if you guys are guilty of it, you've just had it ....

The old routine here was you got Scientology justice procedures applied to you when you did something wrong. Well you guys are a separate corporation from the Church and when you rip-off or steal from the Org, or bribe people it's a corporate crime and you can be real sure that you're going to all end up in the slammer.

The International Finance Dictator then told the Mission Holders they were going to pay $75 a head for the privilege of having been shouted at, and ordered them to donate five percent of their net income to a campaign to promote Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. He added: "If I hear one person in this room who is not coughing up five percent minimum you've got an investigation coming your way because you've got other crimes."

The Dictator then explained how his International Finance Police were going to raise money. He did not tell the Mission Holders why vast sums were needed, and perhaps he did not know.

Do you have any idea about the penalties for taking public off the Orgs' lines--it's $10,000 a head per policy. If you rip-off a staff member or have a staff member working in your Mission at the same time he's employed by an Org you pay for the entirety of his training/ processing [counselling] plus a $2,000 fine . . .

If we will pull this thing together and get these nuts off the line and actually do Dianetics and Scientology, you can go anyplace you want to go. Right now there is so much criminality floating through this mission network I don't want to hear about it. If you come clean we'll work out some reparations for all the rip-offs that you've done in the past and straighten the record. If you don't want to come clean, forget it. If you've done stuff in the past and you come clean now we'll give you the benefit of the doubt .... You don't come clean tonight and I find out something after this, man, you've had it.

The Mission Holders were ordered to write up their "overts" (transgressions), not an unusual procedure for staff in Scientology Orgs. They were then subjected to the largest multiple Security Check ever witnessed in Scientology. The interrogators sat behind their E-meters at a row of tables, and the Mission Holders sat in rows facing them, confessing their "crimes."

Although the International Finance Dictator gave assurances that if they "came clean" it would be easier for them, it is hard to see how it could have been made more difficult. After the Sec-Check, Dictator Reynolds took the platform again, and gave examples of the "reparations" the Church demanded. The best established Mission chain, the Church of Scientology Mission of Davis, or COSMOD, was to pay "millions of dollars." Wimbush's former Mission had been assessed for a quarter of a million dollars for the last few months alone. The Missions in these two chains were to be visited first, followed by every other Scientology Mission in the world.

Missions were allowed to train people only to a certain level. Beyond that level, trainee Auditors would have to go to a Church Org. It was alleged that Missions had taken to "delivering" some of these prohibited courses, thus invading the exclusive domain of the Orgs.

Missions were only allowed to audit people on the levels below Clear. Then they had to go to an Org, and on to one of the four Advanced Orgs. The Missions were not allowed to audit Clears. It was alleged that they had. And they were to be fined $10,000 for each and every Clear they had audited.

It was a peculiar situation. As Commander Lesevre observed, the Church Orgs were often rather scruffy. Their operating funds were low, and their staff pay very poor, usually well below the poverty level, as members of religious organizations are not protected by minimum wage laws. Of course, the lion's share of the income was going to Hubbard. The Mission Holders were willing to invest profits back into their Missions, and were not subject to a constant round of Sea Org missionaires, so their operation was far more efficient. The Missions were almost invariably more attractive environments, and more of their income went to the staff. Consequently, the Missions attracted the best qualified Scientologists as staff. It was not unusual to find Class 8 Auditors in the Missions. They had received the equivalent of two years' full-time training in Scientology counselling procedures, everything up to and including OT3. Orgs would often struggle along with a single Class 4 Auditor, who had received only a few months' training. The Missions were generally far more financially successful than the Church's Orgs, but they were restricted in the services they could deliver, because the Sea Org controlled the levels beyond Clear.

Finance Dictator Reynolds, having informed the Mission Holders of the fines, told them that the International Finance Police would be sending out "verification missions," at a cost of $15,000 per day, payable by the Mission Holder at the start of each new day.

It is difficult to convey the force with which these tirades were delivered. A tape does exist, and, gloating over their achievement, the young rulers even published a carefully censored and reworded transcript. They wanted Scientologists to make no mistake about how "tough and ruthless," their new masters were. This transcript was crucial in my decision to leave the Church. Further, I used it very successfully to persuade others to leave.


Principal source: Sea Org Executive Directive, "The Flow Up the Bridge - the U.S. Mission Holders Conference - San Francisco 1982," 7 November 1982, and a tape of the proceedings.

1. Bent Corydon interview in Copenhagen Corner, issue II.

2. Kingsley Wirebush, taped talk, 1984.

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