The St. Petersburg Times recently finished a 3-part series on the Church of Scientology in Florida. In their investigation of the death of a Scientologist, Lisa McPherson, the paper reports allegations of cover-ups and abuse concerning that death.
In its special report the Times the newspaper writes of an accounting given by executives once part of Scientology’s inner circle. These executives relate how David Miscavage, the top leader of Scientology, played a game of musical chairs, then forced those who lost the game to go to outposts for proselytizing the faith. During an executive meeting a former executive reported to the Times how Miscavage physically beat and demoralized a Scientology executive, Tom De Vocht, in front of others. Former executives maintained control by violence was a pattern set by Miscavage, who is reported to live lavishly and govern by intimidation and brutality. These issues became apparent, according to the accounts related in the Times, following the death of Lisa McPherson.
Lisa McPherson was a Scientologist who went through “auditing,” a series of encounters that Scientology maintains replaces psychological counseling in 1995, as part of her membership in the religious organization. In Part 2 of the Times series, the story of her death is entitled, “Death in Slow Motion.” The following, in brief, is the newspaper summary of the events.
After the “auditing,” McPherson, a 36-year-old woman who was said to be “in apparent good health,” spent 17 days in a guarded room at Scientology’s Fort Harrison Hotel, as nurses tried to help her following the young woman’s mental breakdown. She was reported to have died in the back of a van driven from the hospital into the next county. This occurrence in December 1995 brought nine years of investigations into the details of her death.
McPherson had been a member of Scientology since the age of 18 and had a breakdown following an automobile accident in November before she died. She was treated, as the newspaper relates witness accounts, using orange juice, Benadryl, aspirin, choral hydrate, a mild sedative, and Valerian for more than two weeks. Former Scientology members maintain individuals who are “clear” after “auditing don’t usually have a breakdown and cast aspersions on the manner in which McPherson was treated during her session. Miscavage was said to have been involved throughout, including during her “auditing.”
The Times writes that the autopsy report from Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner Joan Wood established that McPherson died of a blood clot in her left lung caused by “bed rest and severe dehydration.”
One of the former executives named Rathbun who was involved in the cover-up activities of the time said he tossed out evidence that said McPherson needed a doctor while she was at Fort Harrison, sexual references, and other details.
The Scientology Church spent millions of dollars in defending itself in the McPherson case. In 2004 it settled with the McPherson case, and the terms of settlement remain undisclosed. But these details, according to the Times, were found during the investigation: “In McPherson’s last five years, she had spent at least $176,700 on Scientology services and had $5,773 in the account she kept at the church. She died with $11 in her savings account.
Rathbun left Scientology in 2004, moved to Texas, and after being contacted by the St. Petersburg Times, went to Florida to relate the details of what happened during his tenure with the religious organization. The reporter on the story is Thomas Tobin, who has been writing about Scientology since 1996.
Scientology doesn’t believe in using psychiatrists or psychologists, as Tom Cruise pronounced on the Today Show when interviewed by Matt Lauer. There are accounts of practicing Scientologists where serious problems have occurred where individuals have had psychotic episodes and been treated with natural vitamins and other remedies, with serious negative consequences. A young man named Jeremy Perkins stabbed his mother Elli to death in 2003. He and his parents were all Scientologists. He was said to have had an acute psychotic episode as he has been diagnosed schizophrenic. His family has distanced themselves from him and Scientology is reported to have covered up its involvement in this case.
The maker of ShamWow and a food chopper business, Vince Shlomi, became a Scientologist in 1982. In a lawsuit in 2004 he accused Scientology of infiltrating his business. Shlomi was arrested not long ago for allegedly beating up a hooker who bit him on the hand.
Scientology scandals and accusations against the cult are rampant on the Internet. Members say disgruntled former members of its religious organization are simply lying. It is interesting to note, however, that these stories continue to come up in different parts of the world, including France where the church has been on trial, all involving what has been said have been unusual recruitment techniques and religious practices. One author writes how France prosecutors are asking for the dissolution of Scientology in France. It seems scandal follows the religious organization everywhere.