Although the St. Petersburg Times' three-part series
on L.A.-based Scientology and its enigmatic leader, David Miscavige,
mostly focuses on the church's Clearwater, Florida operations, there's a deep Los
Angeles background to some of the stories involving beatings that have allegedly become an
institutional practice among senior staffers. Part One begins with a violent game of music chairs
played out in a small office building outside L.A., where Miscavige had
been holding church executives as virtual prisoners for weeks:
"To the music of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody they played through the
night, parading around a conference room in their Navy-style uniforms,
grown men and women wrestling over chairs.
The next evening, early in 2004, Miscavige gathered the group and out
of nowhere slapped a manager named Tom De Vocht, threw him to the
ground and delivered more blows. De Vocht took the beating and the
humiliation in silence -- the way other executives always took the
Another moment comes when Marty Rathbun, a former Scientology executive who is a key insider source for the S.P. Times series, written by Joe Childs and Thomas C. Tobin, "threw another staffer against the hood of a cab at Los Angeles
International Airport. As a crowd gathered to watch, he cocked his fist
and told him to improve his attitude."
While press reports over the years have documented Scientology's control mechanisms, the S.P. Times
series is the first to speak of hundreds of beatings allegedly delivered by
Miscavige and, in turn, by his abused lieutenants -- so many that this
violence appears to have occurred as much as calculated discipline as it was the result of spontaneous rage.
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"Physical violence permeated Scientology's international management
team," says the S.P. Times. "Miscavige set the tone, routinely attacking his lieutenants."
The series is based on interviews with
several high-level defectors -- all of whom Scientology, in response to the stories, has denounced as liars.