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

leader's attacks.”

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.

“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.

LA Weekly