Blown for Good author discusses life inside international headquarters of Scientology

Friday, November 13, 2009

Wikinews interviewed author Marc Headley about his new book Blown for Good, and asked him about life inside the international headquarters of Scientology known as "Gold Base", located in Gilman Hot Springs near Hemet, California. Headley joined the organization at age seven when his mother became a member, and worked at Scientology's international management headquarters for several years before leaving in 2005.


Blown for Good by Marc Headley

Blown for Good was released November 5, and is available at Headley worked as an employee of Scientology for 15 years. While an employee of the Scientology headquarters located in Riverside County, California, Headley had the experience of practicing Scientology counseling services called "auditing" with Scientologist Tom Cruise, shortly after the actor had completed work on the film Days of Thunder. In 1990, Cruise was training to become proficient in the Scientology auditing techniques, and Headley was selected to become the actor's auditing partner. Cruise and Headley worked together for three weeks, while the actor was practicing his Scientology techniques known as the "Upper Indoctrination Training Routines". Headley says he was chosen to work with Cruise because he was a young staff member who was less likely to leave and discuss the actor's Scientology experiences with the media.

The book provides details of what life was like for the author inside the organization's headquarters. The inner flap of the book includes a map of the "International Headquarters of Scientology; Gilman Hot Springs, California". Headley writes that under the direction of Scientology leader David Miscavige, employees who signed billion-year contracts routinely put in 100-hour weeks of work for minimal pay. According to Headley, possible discipline faced by the Scientology employees for perceived mistakes included being separated from family as part of the Scientology policy of "disconnection", being declared a "suppressive person", or being sent to the "Rehabilitation Project Force", a program where Scientologists were assigned harsh labor.

Headley's tasks while working at the Scientology compound Gold Base included dealing with audiovisual equipment used for organization presentations and speeches by Miscavige, and supervising production of thousands of audiotapes of lectures given by Scientology's founder L. Ron Hubbard. From 1989 to 2005 Headley worked at the Scientology film production studio on scripts for movies which would be used to instruct new members of the organization on its practices. He faced repercussions from Miscavige if he could not meet production quotas. Headley asserts that he was physically abused by Miscavige, a claim made previously by other former Scientology officials in a series of investigative articles published in the St. Petersburg Times.

The book gives background on a 9-minute long video of Tom Cruise, leaked to the Internet in January 2008, that featured the actor discussing his views on Scientology. The Church of Scientology's attempts to remove the leaked video from the Internet motivated the group Anonymous to focus its efforts against the organization. Headley writes that initially the promotional video about Cruise was supposed to feature celebrities including Will Smith speaking about the actor, but Miscavige instead insisted Cruise should simply talk about himself. According to Headley, Scientology employees were made to watch videos of Cruise which had been spliced together from the actor's appearances in the media.

Headley describes a form of Miscavige's management previously related in the St. Petersburg Times, where the Scientology leader made his staff play musical chairs to the Queen song "Bohemian Rhapsody". Miscavige told 70 Scientology executives that they were to compete for chairs, and that only the last individual left after several rounds would remain at the compound, while the other executives would be assigned to remote locations. After a dramatic competition with multiple staffers in tears that they would be separated from their families, Miscavige stated no one would be removed from the compound.

In 2005, Headley left the Scientology compound in Hemet on a motorcycle, and fell off his vehicle after being chased by Scientology security guards. Riverside County police helped Headley escape from the Scientology security. Headley traveled to Kansas City to meet his father. He was later joined by his wife Claire who had also worked at the Gold Base compound.

Headley filed suit against Scientology in January 2009. In the legal case, he asserts that Scientology violated United States labor law with regard to his treatment while an employee of the organization. Headley and his lawyer Barry Van Sickle succeeded against attempts by the organization to get the suit dismissed. Headley's lawsuit is set to begin in U.S. federal court in November 2010.

American talk radio hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou discussed the book on the November 4 edition of their program The John and Ken Show on KFI. "This is, the Scientology cult, is I guarantee you, a thousand times more bizarre than you could have ever imagined. And what these celebrities do, like Tom Cruise, is a thousand times more strange than you could ever imagine. I have never read about behavior like this in my life, I can't imagine it. It's really weird," commented one of the hosts about material revealed by Headley in the book. Headley writes in the book that he started to question his involvement in Scientology when secretly listening to The John and Ken Show and watching Conan O'Brien make fun of Scientology celebrities. The National Enquirer reported on the release of Blown for Good, calling it an "explosive new book".

The Editor in chief of The Village Voice, Tony Ortega, reviewed the book, and characterized it as a "remarkable account". "Headley's book also provides stunning material that has rarely been collected in one place, even with the Internet's deep resources on L. Ron Hubbard's strange creation. Headley's story provides a damning account of life working for Scientology leader David Miscavige at the secretive desert base", wrote Ortega in the review. He commented, "Perhaps the best service that Headley provides with Blown for Good is giving non-Scientologists the sense of what it's really like to work, day in and day out, in such a strange organization, from the lowliest laborer mucking out excrement in a Gold Base pond (Headley says shit was coming out of his ears and pores for days) to what kind of luxuries the celebrities and high-ranking members enjoy."


 ((Wikinews )) The foreword to Blown for Good is by Mark Rathbun, a former high-ranking Scientology official and recent critic who has gone public with statements that Scientology's leader David Miscavige has been physically abusive towards organization staff members. Rathbun notes that he almost emailed you to suggest someone else write the foreword, commenting, "his views of some of Scientology founder Hubbard's writings and my views differed greatly." (L. Ron Hubbard was the founder of Scientology.) How do your views differ from Rathbun's? Why did you select Mark Rathbun to write the foreword to your book?

Marc Headley: While I respect the right for people to believe whatever they want, I myself do not believe that L. Ron Hubbard did anything besides take what other people had already written and revised or repacked it for his own use.

In terms of the space aliens and earth people being inhabited by alien souls held captive in volcanoes from 75 million years ago – 75 million years is a long time to go without visiting, calling or just generally staying in touch. If they had the technology to travel from their own galaxy in spaceships that resembled DC-10’s and drop off millions of beings here, you think they would have come back a few times to check in on these guys. What’s up with that?

While I can respect other people’s beliefs and I mean no disrespect to any other faiths, I am more likely to subscribe to the 72 virgins philosophy than the idea that I or anyone should drop a huge amount of cash to rid myself of rogue space aliens squatting within my soul.

I asked Mark Rathbun to do the foreword for a few different reasons. The first being that he was one of the few people that was there for pretty much the entire time period I worked at the international headquarters. He witnessed and was privy to many of the things that I write about in the book. While we do not subscribe to the same ideas on what is wrong or right about Scientology, we both agree on the truth of what happened where we worked. He also has the respect of many current and former employees/members of organized Scientology who knew him as a high ranking official within the organization, and his endorsement of the book will do a lot to expose the abuse and false information within their ranks internationally.

 ((WN )) You write in the "Author's note" preface to the book that it took you over a year after leaving to be able to begin to speak publicly about your experiences in Scientology. What was that year-long process like? What experiences did you have that helped you come to the decision that you wanted to speak publicly about Scientology?

  As an employee of Scientology for 15 years, we were indoctrinated with the concept that people outside of Scientology were criminals, drug addicts and sexual deviants in need of salvation and rescue by Scientology.  

—Marc Headley

MH: I think that living in the real world, with absolutely no ties or communication with the Scientology world I lived in from the age of 7, was the best thing I could do to decompress and brought me to realize what was actually occurring in the world around me. As an employee of Scientology for 15 years, we were indoctrinated with the concept that people outside of Scientology were criminals, drug addicts and sexual deviants in need of salvation and rescue by Scientology. The overriding goal of ALL Scientologists is to “Clear the planet and make everyone in the entire world into a Scientologist”. After I left and was interacting with everyday people, I realized that not one single person in the real world treated me as bad as the “nicest” person in Scientology! People in the real world were nice, helpful and supportive of me and were very happy to be my friends and fellow associates.

 ((WN )) You also write in the preface that your intention of publishing your experiences was to help readers, "avoid falling prey to any organization that might attempt to perpetrate similar abuses against them or someone they love in the future." What specific types of abuses are you referring to? Do you see commonalities between Scientology and other organizations? If so, which organizations, and what common characteristics do they share?

MH: From what I have read and studied, Scientology is not the only group that uses coercion or heavy handed tactics to convince their members or staff to do things against their will. If people are aware of their rights and that they cannot sign them away, groups or cults that practice this will have less of a chance at succeeding.

When asked to compare what I experienced at the headquarters of Scientology, the only thing that I could liken it to would be what I would imagine that people living behind the Iron Curtain felt. No disrespect to anyone who had to go through that experience, but those people had little choice in the matter and escape could be not only dangerous but fatal. That wall was torn down 20 years ago. I can only hope that it does not take 20 years to tear down the iron curtain that exists in Gilman Hot Springs, California.

 ((WN )) The book begins with an account of your experience leaving Scientology's Gold Base facility on January 5, 2005. Did you suffer any injuries as a result of this ordeal? Have you had any further communications with the police that assisted you that day?

MH: Well, I think that when I was run off the road by the Scientology Security personnel, I had so much adrenaline pumping that even if I had sustained any minor injuries, I was willing to just do whatever I had to in order to successfully escape their control.

 ((WN )) Upon your arrival at the international headquarters of Scientology, you recount how you were given a course where you were instructed that no one was allowed to tell family, friends, or other Scientology staff members that Scientology's "Int Base" was located in Hemet, California (p. 91). Further, you write that no one outside the facility was to know that Scientology international management was located there. Do you know if this is still the case, or has current practice changed with regard to what outsiders are allowed to know about Gold Base?

MH: As far as I know, no internal policies have changed since I have left.

 ((WN )) Another one of the instructions you write that you received upon arrival at Gold Base was that all outgoing mail would be read by Scientology security staff. Did this apply to incoming mail as well?

MH: Yes, ALL OUTGOING and INCOMING mail is not only logged, but also opened, checked and read by security personnel. Additionally, bank records or credit card information is culled for account numbers, and personal data or information that would be useful to track the person should they decide to leave the compound is kept on file and regularly updated.

 ((WN )) Do you know whether or not this practice is in compliance with United States federal law regarding delivery of mail to its intended recipient?

MH: As far as I know, it is a federal offense to tamper with a person’s mail. The only place I know that mail can be checked like that is State or Federal prisons.

 ((WN )) According to your account of those that live on Gold Base itself (p. 138), the facility's residents included David Miscavige, three other high-ranking officials in the organization, security guards, and other residents, totaling 14 people excluding the security guards. Are you aware that Scientology requested the since-passed Ordinance 884 in Riverside County, California, specifically to restrict protesters away from residential property - and claimed that Golden Era Productions is such a property? You write in the book that the majority of Gold Base employees actually live offsite in apartments. Do you know how many individuals currently reside on Gold Base itself?

MH: During the entire 15 years that I was there it was always the plan of Scientology officials to have ALL Int Base staff live on the property in communal housing. As far I know, these buildings have now been built and all employees that work at the Int Base also now live there, limiting not only their contact with the outside world but chances of ever escaping the facility. In fact, one of the reasons construction of these buildings was considered a priority while I was there was just that – keeping the staff housed on the property makes it that much harder for them to escape.

 ((WN )) Is Scientology's characterization from the Ordinance 884 proceedings, describing Gold Base as residential and containing private homes, appropriate in nature? Ordinance 884 is intended to keep protesters more than 50 feet away from property lines of residences. Are there residential housing buildings within 50 feet inside the property lines of Gold Base?

MH: I have never measured it out, but most of the housing that exists on the property is located in the “berthing buildings” section of the property. From what I remember these buildings are at least 100 feet or more from the highway. There [are] main production buildings located directly next to the highway all along the property lines. During my 15 years working there I spent many a night sleeping on the floor in my office and witnessed many others doing the same or sleeping under their desks for a few hours each night. Maybe that qualifies those buildings as “housing” based on that.

 ((WN )) The book's title is a reference to the Scientology term to "blow", defined in the glossary of the book as "any unauthorized departure from any Scientology organization." What steps are taken once the individual who had decided to leave is located? Has physical force been used in the past to bring individuals back? What other means have been used to attempt to bring people back to the organization?

MH: I would say that a very large percentage of staff that blow are recovered or at least a recovery is attempted. I know of many other staff that were restrained from leaving, or assaulted when being recovered or thrown into vehicles and brought back to the compound against their will. Stories that corroborate this are all over the internet and many people have spoken out against this abuse. Unfortunately, for most people the fear that they have of the Scientology organization takes years to wear off and by the time people come forward, it is too late, legally, for anything to be done about it by law enforcement.

 ((WN )) You describe an elaborate scheme to get your wife Claire to join you, after she informed you that she wished to leave Gold Base (p. 322-25). This plan included avoiding use of phones known to Scientology, calling for a taxi under a different name, and calling friends from pay phones. Would it not have simply been easier for her to have contacted the local police for assistance, as they had done previously with you? To put it more simply - why the need for individuals who wish to leave Gold Base to orchestrate an escape to plan how they will "blow"? Could they not simply call the police using a phone, either from the facility itself or elsewhere, and request assistance to leave the organization?

  ...they would restrict you to the property with a personal security guard assigned, put you on heavy manual labor, subject you to months or years of interrogation and ultimately declare you a suppressive person anyway...  

—Marc Headley

MH: When you are in that world, you are indoctrinated into believing that the worst thing you could do would be to get law enforcement involved. The Scientology organization has been doing this for years. Any stories about abuse, being held against one’s will or anything else that goes on there would be met with declarations and affidavits from a hundred people that nothing ever happened. And then after that, they would restrict you to the property with a personal security guard assigned, put you on heavy manual labor, subject you to months or years of interrogation and ultimately declare you a suppressive person anyway and throw you out on your ass. Think WestWorld meets 1984 meets The Truman Show.

More practically, it is well known to staff on the property that Security has a police scanner in the main security booth. So they would be alerted to the situation before the police even showed up, and would rapidly concoct a diversion to ensure the staff member did not escape.

In the 15 years I was there, I knew and heard of hundreds of different ways staff attempted to escape. Not once did I hear of someone calling 911 and escaping. Most staff did not have open access to a phone. All base phones were for internal use only, and to call an external number you had to be patched through by the Receptionist, who would only do so if you had authorization.

 ((WN )) Do you know if individuals are being held at Gold Base against their will? What do you think would happen if individuals at Gold Base who wanted to leave - simply asked to be allowed to do so?

MH: At one point in the book, this happened. People were asked if they wanted to leave, several people decided to take the offer. After lengthy interrogations and with lengthy legal documents signed with promises never to expose what occurred at the compound, they were allowed to leave with restrictions.

 ((WN )) You describe your experience in the book of receiving Scientology auditing from Tom Cruise (p. 111-15). You note that after your auditing with Cruise had completed a few months later, you were "watched over" to make sure "out-tech" had not occurred that your auditor could have been responsible for. What is "out-tech", and what would have happened if this was recognized to have occurred?

If I were to get into an accident of any kind, this would be investigated and all counseling records would be reviewed to determine if any processes or procedures were done incorrectly. This commonly occurs when scientologists become ill, get in a car accident or in the worst cases, die. “Out tech” is their reference to some considered violation of procedure, resulting in the person doing worse after counseling.

  I am sure that it is becoming harder and harder to field and answer questions regarding the criminal activities occurring within the Scientology world.  

—Marc Headley

 ((WN )) Scientology has received quite a bit of attention in the media recently, from allegations of violence levied against David Miscavige by high-ranking former officials, to spokesman Tommy Davis abruptly leaving an interview with Martin Bashir on ABC News when the Xenu story was mentioned, to Scientology's conviction of fraud in France, and the defection of Academy Award-winning film director Paul Haggis.

Do you think Tom Cruise is aware of these developments? What about other celebrity Scientologists, for example John Travolta or Kirstie Alley? Do you think these issues will affect the perceptions of celebrity Scientologists towards the organization? Why or why not?

MH: While it is hard to say what these people do or do not know, I am sure that it is becoming harder and harder to field and answer questions regarding the criminal activities occurring within the Scientology world.

 ((WN )) In a postcript, "More books by Marc Morgan Headley", you write "Since escaping in 2005, both Marc and his wife Claire have been heavily "fair gamed" by Scientology and many attempts have been made to keep them from speaking out in regards to their experiences at the Int Base." "Fair Game" is a Scientology policy written by founder L.Ron Hubbard that states individuals declared "Suppressive Person" by the organization, "May be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed." A Piece of Blue Sky author Jon Atack noted that in its appeal of the case Wollersheim v. Church of Scientology of California, "Scientology asserted that 'fair game' was a 'core practice of Scientology', and therefore protected as 'religious expression'." What do you mean when you write in the book that you and your wife have been "fair gamed" by Scientology"? What actions has the organization taken to attempt to prevent you from speaking about your experiences at Gold Base? How have you and your wife dealt with this?

Marc Headley at conference on Scientology in Germany (September 4, 2008)

MH: I have had private investigators camped outside my place of residence, follow me to the grocery store, follow me when I’m dropping off my kids at school.

  I have had private investigators camped outside my place of residence, follow me to the grocery store, follow me when I’m dropping off my kids at school.  

—Marc Headley

Scientology officials have held meetings with my friends, family and employees and spread lies about me, my wife and our activities. Ex-members have been threatened with disconnection from their immediate family if they had any contact with me.

People that I knew that were already declared suppressive were offered to have their declares canceled if they turned over any information that would be helpful with blacklisting me or ruining my credibility or ability to work or make money.

One of my oldest friends (who is also a declared Suppressive Person by Scientology) was offered a “deal” by Tommy Davis to be allowed to speak with his family again if he were to provide any information or details about my current life that could be used against me in my current legal case against Scientology. When they doctored a declaration from him and he refused to sign it, they canceled the deal with him, but still attempted to use the bogus declaration in legal proceedings with me.

Child Protective Services were given a random phone call “tip” that my two children were being endangered and had to do a mandatory inspection at our house. The agent told us they had investigated the “tip”, that it was clearly false and advised us to be very careful as someone was obviously trying to create trouble for us.

Scientology management has even gone so far as to inform Scientology members that use FaceBook or MySpace social networking sites to spread false information to anyone listed as my friends and instruct them that they should “disconnect” from me.

Private Investigators tracked down and contacted persons that my wife had talked to and the broker she worked under in Real Estate and accused my wife of falsifying loan documents on someone she never did a loan for.

When I traveled to Germany to speak to government officials regarding Scientology’s abuses in the United State and abroad, Private Investigators banged on the door of my house early in the morning when my wife was alone with our children and harassed her, saying they’d [been] sent by Scientology.

During that same trip, private investigators showed up at my company warehouse and gave my employees false propaganda printed up by Scientology regarding me being an “anti-religious extremist”.

If I were to list everything else that I have experienced with Scientology in regards to Fair Game, this site would possibly need to upgrade their storage capacity!

 ((WN )) Are there any other points regarding Blown for Good or your experiences that you would like to elaborate or explain?

  I want to make sure that people know that the more people that speak out, the more that these things will be dealt with.  

—Marc Headley

I want to make sure that people know that the more people that speak out, the more that these things will be dealt with. The Scientology organization compares itself to other religions all the time. They state that they expect to be treated like other religions. Most mainstream religions in all countries of the world support the living wage or minimum wage for their employees and workers and publicly state this. If organized Scientology wants to be treated like other religions, they should cease the human rights abuses and take a hint from other groups and pay their employees for the work they perform. Maybe then, people would be able to LEAVE if they wanted to and not have the burden of being without family members, resources or the ability to buy a meal should they decide to terminate their employment with Scientology.

 ((WN )) Mr. Headley, thank you for taking the time to participate in this interview with Wikinews.


This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.
  Learn more about Gold Base and Sea Org on Wikipedia.
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