Several high-level defections from the Church of Scientology have led to new accusations of abuse by the leadership in the controversial organization, as well as allegations that the church is struggling with a loss of membership.
A special 35-page report in the St. Petersburg Times newspaper (June 21–22) is based on the accounts of top executives from the Church of Scientology who left the church in the last few years and are speaking out about alleged abuses involving its long-time leader, David Miscavage. The ex-members, who include former spokesperson Marty Rathburn; the former head of Scientology headquarters, Tom DeVocht; and Amy Scobie, who helped create the church’s celebrity network, allege that physical violence permeates the organization’s management.
Miscavage is said to have beaten many church staffers over minor infractions and for challenging his leadership. Church officials deny these accusations and charge that the defectors are trying to stage a coup and seize control of the church. Another issue that the defectors are bringing up is the case of Lisa McPherson, a member who died while in church custody. While the church was cleared on charges of wrongful death, a defector such as Rathburn, who handled the case for the church, alleges that abuse and neglect surrounded the event.
The defectors also claim that Miscavage’s leadership has stifled church growth. These former leaders claim that they had access to internal data reports that show a gradual decline of key statistics, including the “value of church services delivered” and the number of auditing hours and courses completed. Rathburn said that to pump up revenue, the church has repackaged its old books as new writings to sell back to members at high prices—a charge the church denies.