Castaway, Episode 1 — Scientology Exclusive

by Mark Oppenheimer | July 11, 2007 5:46 PM | | Comments (42)

markopp.jpgWelcome to Castaway, the New Haven Independent’s new podcast series, hosted by me, Mark Oppenheimer, and engineered by fellow New Havener Lee Faulkner. Our first podcast will be somewhat unusual for the series. It’s an exclusive interview with John Carmichael, the president of the Church of Scientology of New York. In the past, Scientologists have been shy with the media, so an interview of this length and depth is rare.

This podcast is posted in conjunction with my article “The Actualizer,” which will appear this Sunday in the July 15 issue of The New York Times Magazine.

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The article is about Milton Katselas, an acting coach in Los Angeles who is also a devoted Scientologist. Listen to the podcast now—read the article this weekend.

Scientology has been called a cult, a sect, a destroyer of families. It has been parodied on South Park, and it had to fight a lengthy legal battle with the IRS to gain tax-exempt status. It has also been hailed by celebrities like Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Kirstie Alley as the religion that changed their lives.

I sat down with John Carmichael, a thoughtful, middle-aged Cornell alumnus who heads the Church of Scientology’s branch in Times Square, and he did his best — what Scientology’s opponents would call his biased, self-serving best — to help me separate fact from fiction. I found the discussion illuminating, a focused look at a Scientologist who is not a celebrity and clearly not a cultist either.

And you can subscribe to the podcast so that you never miss an episode!

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Posted by: Terryeo | July 11, 2007 11:03 PM

Well hey, good. That's just the kind of report that might answer many questions.

Posted by: Tom Norton | July 12, 2007 1:01 AM

Very interesting interview. I'm really curious about Scientology. I feel like I've heard so many different things about it over the years and its clear now that there is definitely more to it. I'd really like to read some books on Scientology. Any recommendations?

Posted by: Dan O'Connor | July 12, 2007 1:12 AM

Thanks, this was good.

Posted by: Mary McConnell | July 12, 2007 3:29 AM

YThis is really an infomercial.ou are a two-bit wanna-be entertainer & butt kisser and John Carmichael knows one when he sees one. What a pair. You can take your cult propaganda and do what you want but don't expect the public to believe you are not selling scientology, because you are. All for Milton Katselas - a man very few people know of or care to know about outside of the entertainment industry. In some corners, this is called a variant form of prostitution.

Posted by: Patty Pienadz | July 12, 2007 3:52 AM

I was in Scn for almost 30 years and worked for their invest and intel branch (OSA.

I currently live in New London, CT and publicly speak out about the abuses in Scn.

John Carmichael is a trained Scn PR guy and avoided many of your questions by overloading you with pre established PR lines. I know because I trained on the same PR courses as John. He talks of freedom but that's all a facade. Scn is a totalitarian cult. What it preaches to the public and what actually goes on inside the church are very different things. It's a cult stuck in 1950's thinking and has a history of destroying people and families that speak out against them.

I think it's great that you chose Scn as your subject, but I think you threw too many soft balls at him.

Patty Pieniadz
New London, CT

Posted by: Chuck Beatty | July 12, 2007 4:53 AM

Scientology started as a man on the street do it yourself low budget therapy co-counseling activity. People read the books, did some training, and then counseled one another. The centers where the training and counseling were practiced were set up like businesses at the start. These centers then Hubbard changed their labels to "churches." Hubbard just shifted labels, but didn't change the administrative setup to be more like a traditional religion.

This is probably Scientology's most significant downside, Hubbard didn't revise the business setup. He has now left official Scientology no option to change into a more traditional church financial setup, and the prices ("donations") are staggering and shockingly exclude the vast majority of the world's population due to high cost!

Probably next most well known are Hubbard's controversial opinions about psychiatry and psychology. These Hubbard opinions are church doctrines, so per the Code of a Scientologist today, faithful followers must carry out their attacks on those two professions.

Third most controversial and harm causing and unchanging about Scientology are Hubbard's church doctrines for employing the anachronistic excommunication and shunning activities. The excommunication/shunning practice earns Scientology a steady flow of animosity from pissed off family members who want their kids or family members OUT of Scientology, so in response Scientology cuts all communication with the family members, only increasing the hatred for official Scientology.

Mr. Carmichael's nice person charm and intelligence is being used by Scientology.

I invite your listener/readers to look up on the internet an "earlier-similar" famous Scientology church PR spokesperson turned defector against Scientology, named Robert Vaughn Young.

I predict Mr. Carmichael (who is Scientology's top church spokesperson in your region) will evolve mentally similar to the way Mr. Young did.

(Mr. Young spoke extensively publicly to media when he made the transition back out of the Scientology movement, and he exposed his tradecraft as a Scientology spokesperson.)

Remember to invite Mr. Carmichael back in a few years when he's finally made his way back out of Scientology.

- Chuck Beatty, ex Scientology movement staff, 1975-2003, Pittsburgh, USA

Posted by: Eldon Braun | July 12, 2007 6:44 AM

Mr. Carmichael is mostly spinning and, in some cases, lying through his teeth. As just one salient example, Hubbard's sci-fi tales are presented as literal fact and used as the basis for a prescribed, rote hypnotic exorcism procedure. There is no choice about believing it.

I am far from the only former member who thinks Scientology is a ruthless brainwashing cult and extortion racket. Fortunately, the Internet has now made that impossible to hide.

Posted by: Steve Tilford | July 12, 2007 7:37 AM

An interesting interview. But ultimately unsatisfying in one key area.

Why didn't you press him on the Xenu story? For scientology to deny this story is to lie to the public. I feel you should have taken him to task on this.

When people are accosted in the street to take 'Stress Tests' they have a right to know what they're buying into. And this is essentially what it is: a 'religion' that believes that the only way to rid yourself of mental and physical disorders is to exorcise dead alien spirits from your soul.

I believe people can believe what they like. They can pray for to the Jolly Green Giant for all I care. But before signing up to a religion, people deserve to know what it's really about.

Posted by: Cheeby | July 12, 2007 8:48 AM

Would the CoS send someone that would appear to be cultist. The organization has billions of dollars. Money buys anything, including charisma and PR. Its a business that knows how to sell itself. Think about it Oppenheimer and do more research. Websites like exist for a reason.

Posted by: Lantana | July 12, 2007 11:34 AM

Finally, an objective journalist who asks persistent and smart questions, and isn't intent on relaying hate-speech from the Internet.

When the public reads Internet hate-speech, the thing to remember is that you can take any of several introductory courses.

If you're willing to L-E-A-R-N concepts you haven't heard of before, U-S-E those concepts in life, you'll see the value. Because Life and working with people goes better when you know and use Life's basic tools.

The yappers who say "I spent years in Scientology and blah-blah-blah..." obviously had years of wins and joy and benefits from Scientology. Or else, they wouldn't have stayed in Scientology all those years!

They only left when they (1) hit a rough spot in their studies that they couldn't grasp so became confused and wandered off, or (2) stopped getting the wins and victories and became bitter. Or (3) found that they were going against church Policies by committing little (sometimes big) crimes, WHICH they WERE NOT WILLING to quit and areform themselves.

The church won't put up with criminals. They're tossed out, or they leave before that occurs.

I know many people who took courses for a few years, got what they wanted, and went off to handle their lives better equipped than they previously were!

But only a few odd personalities have become hate-filled and angry that their wins ended, and now spend hours and hours on the Internet complaining and spreading fear.

Personally, I don't like such personalities. Who needs toxic friends?

Posted by: Dion Berlowitz | July 12, 2007 2:44 PM

Hey, this was a great interview. Very balanced and informative. Thanks!

Posted by: Paul Arteaux | July 12, 2007 2:52 PM

Thanks for your totally neutral approach to the interview. This allows the Scientologists to let their guard down enough to start spouting the really stupid, unscientific crap that they are so well known for. I love the stats he quoted for Narconon. If any recovery program had a 75% success rate you'd know it. By the way, there are no "government studies", you should have asked to see them. Hubbard's hatred of Psychiatry stems from it's sound rejection of Dianetics in the 50s. Plus, Hubbard claimed in print to be the Buddha reincarnated . . . more like a prophet with a profit.

Posted by: Ned | July 12, 2007 3:02 PM

So I still don't see what makes scientology any less stupid than all of the other religions?

Posted by: Greg | July 12, 2007 3:03 PM

I've been a Scientologist for over 22 years. It's been helpful to me, my family and it's helping me raise happy children.

Every new movement stirs controversy and has its critics. Scientology is no exception. But Scientology is a positive force in society and that is indesputable.

In terms of the interview, I felt that you handled it with grace, pulled no punches, while allowing Rev. Charmicael the opportunity to answer. A well done piece.

Scientologist and proud of it

Posted by: Justice | July 12, 2007 3:54 PM

Greg the $cientologist sez:
"Scientology is a positive force in society and that is indisputable."
Hmm, is that so? Is that why there are so many websites and so many individuals are disputing the very thing you have just said? Do you have evidence to back this claim up? Does this evidence cite actual research?
Science has proven that nothing is indisputable, especially imaginary ideas with no basis in our physical world. What gives Scientology freedom from scrutiny in your eyes? Is it simply because YOU believe it? What are your qualifications? Have you done research on L. Ron Hubbard's research? Are you aware that he just sat down and wrote whatever came into his head while he was high on drugs? Would you deny the holocaust because someone said it did not happen? Obviously, one would like proof of the validity of the prior statement.
The fact that this cult's belief system is true for you IS an indisputable truth, but that is only part of the story. In what case is a human born knowing everything? We must learn from others to understand our own personal world, then take responsibility for getting closer to the truth. The very fact that everyone has their own "truth" shows me that someone who claims they have the indisputable truth as it applies to the world has not done enough research.
Science has proven time and time again the nuttiness of the notion that a human could possibly know the whole "truth" of anything. Greg's "truth" appears to be akin to an animal that has been kept in a corral all of its life and assumes that the corral is extent of the whole world. Scientologists are cattle herded into a corral of ideas designed to trap them in one style of thinking about their religion. The only opinion these people have is that they are right and whatever you say to the contrary is wrong. L. Ron has trapped you like sheep in a corral.

Posted by: Martin | July 12, 2007 4:23 PM

Well done Mark. You are a journalistic force.
I can't wait to hear the next edition.

One question though: What's happening with that abandoned furniture store on Whalley Ave. that the Church of Scientology was going to take over?

Posted by: cedarhillresident [TypeKey Profile Page] | July 12, 2007 8:07 PM

Chuck Beatty
thank you for your insite
My out look on any "religion" is that it is all basically a support system that society has set in place since the beginning of time to help us cope with the unexplained and or lives hardships. If Scientology does that for some then it has it's purpose. But I do agree with the fact that is a institution that targets the more privileged of our society. And I am a beliver that is more of a cult than anything else.

But with that said great interview and I love the whole podcast thing!!

Posted by: J | July 13, 2007 11:30 AM

I thought it was an interesting interview. My only problem is that it gives validity to a cult. The lies and completely unethical practices of scientology are well documented.

Posted by: HeavyD | July 13, 2007 1:14 PM

Crazy, crazy people.
Anyone who handles their critics like that has much to hide.

Posted by: PTS | July 13, 2007 9:23 PM

I had a friend Katie DeCosin who developed breast cancer.
She was a scientologist.
Katie was told by scientology to walk on the beach and think about what she did to "pull in " her cancer.... scientology was trying to make it her fault.

Katie was told that the "Purification Rundown" and "Auditing" would cure her cancer.
This is the same procedure that Tom Cruise prescribed to the "Firemen and Rescue Workers" who responded after 9/11. Tom Cruise is not a
When Katie became too ill, she was "Off Loaded". That is a scientology practice that rids the "CULT" of people who can no longer produce money for them.
Katie's family and friends (non scientologists) came to Clearwater Florida to take her home.

Katie died a painful and unnecessary death.

Had Katie been treated conventionally, she would still be alive today.

She was 48 years old.

Posted by: John W. Lowe | July 14, 2007 10:21 AM

My experience in Scientology, 1969-70, was that the true believers tended to be egomaniacal, arrogant and condescending. The "tech" and the so-called esoteric teachings are, from any sensible viewpoint, absolutely bizarre. I look back on my participation, my gullibility, with embarrassment.

Posted by: Christopher | July 15, 2007 2:36 PM

If the New Haven Independent is supposed to be "journalism", with real "journalists" creating stories, interviews, etc.; you failed. This interview was a complete abomination. Like most of the 'New Amerika', you are a gullible and naive. And as with this New World, the rest of us will pay for these weaknesses.

L. Ron Hubbard cobbled together an amalgam of self-help, yogic, Rosicrucian, Masonic, AND psychotherapy techniques and methods; then he renamed everthing, added a hierarchy based on Naval and military, and proceeded to make money. There are even documents showing that his intent was purely financial interest, nothing more... But of course, a real journalist would do the research to find such things out. Not so here.

Scientology has been mired in lawsuits and sleazy scandals all through its tawdry history. Your "interview" was an advertisement, stealthy put forth as psuedo-journalism. You ask nothing relevant about the history of this cult. Such topics are not even mentioned.

Even when the word "survival" keeps coming up, you don't ask the simple question: What does 'survival' terminology have to do with "religion" or assistance? In the New World Order, such key words give away the real intent behind the facade; first, population control - then second, depopulation. Congrats on being their tool.

Posted by: Streever | July 15, 2007 3:22 PM


Posted by: G. Streeter | July 15, 2007 3:35 PM

A very interesting interview. However, if a leader of the "Church" is uncomfortable answering questions about its beliefs - (note: there have to be beliefs to even have a organization to which people belong), than it is saying its beliefs can not stand up to the 'disinterested questions' and hence lacks credibility.

In addition, it is clear that while much of CoS says it dislikes psychology, that is exactly what it prescribes - a way to change one's mindset to live a better life. Nothing wrong with that, but that's the same as any other self-help/realization book or concept.

The fact though that there one must either put in so much money or indentured labor (watch all the uniformed Scientologists providing maintenance services at the Church headquarters on Sunset in Hollywood) to achieve this 'freedom' begs the question, if it is a matter of knowledge the CoS conveys, why is it secretive and expensive? Fundamental to any cult is the notion of self-persuasion and self-preservation that kicks in once the realization of how irrational a belief or movement is. If the CoS were simply to keep to the self-help work, it would be one thing. The fact that it engages in other secretive nefarious behavior, which also is where they make their money, is what makes it suspect.

Posted by: andy b | July 16, 2007 4:21 AM

Never believe anything you are told by a Scientologist about their religion!For one thing,they are forbidden to talk about their own teachings even with each other.They are trained to lie and to 'handle' critics because they are indoctrinated into a twisted world view.They even call non-scientologists 'wogs',a derogatory term.Scientology is a trap dressed up as spiritiual freedom.If you really want to understand Scientology,the only way is to look thoroughly at both sides.many of the ex-scientologist have heartbreaking stories about how this cult destroyed their lives.They do not deserve this publicity,they should not be tax exempt,and this organisation should be shut down.It is a mafia-like 'religion'.

Posted by: Michael | July 16, 2007 10:38 AM

Great interview. It was refreshing to hear an open interview that was not designed to sway or preach either way.

As a Scientologist I understand how difficult it is to ask the right questions and give the right answers.

I am more able and more in control. When something goes wrong I can usually see the source, I am more able to help others and see what I have done wrong. Am I perfect? no definitely not. Although I am a damn site better off than I was before Scientology.

My view of Ron Hubbard is a man who wanted to know the answers and kept looking until he found them. He then put all these answers down on paper and tape for others to find the truth for themselves.

I have never heard a journalist allow someone to really answer questions.

Posted by: AJ | July 16, 2007 11:34 AM


Excellent interview. I'm very happy that an actual Scientologist was able to explain in his own words what it is and not some so-called expert.

Posted by: Ned | July 16, 2007 2:40 PM

How are any of the beliefs of scientologists any more or less ridiculous than the beliefs of any other religion - please explain?

Posted by: Steve | July 16, 2007 11:04 PM

Very good article. You observed for yourself what the Playhouse has done for aspiring and current actors and wrote what you saw. Your article wasn't about Scientology but about a man who has had a great deal of success in teaching a craft. That he uses at times some of the principles of Scientology to help others succeed is not something you made up, nor was the comment by the other teacher who said that Katsalas taught well. A very well researched story.

Posted by: Gina | July 17, 2007 3:09 AM

I love Dianetics/Scientology. I am also a Scientologist and proud of it. I'd rather think for myself than to listen to what other people's opinions are to decide for myself what works and HAS worked for me. It's incredible and I highly recommend getting books or taking courses! All I can say is WOW and what Carmichael says sounds pretty straight forward. There's no hiding there! The study technology is awesome! Check it out people! My recent wins in auditing were also incredible! By the way, nobody is forced into Dianetics or Scientology. Anybody is welcome to find out for themselves, but it's ethically-driven, responsible and very positive!

Posted by: jordon | July 17, 2007 11:15 AM

I agree with Ned. There's nothing about the inherent philosophical underpinnings of Scientology that is incompatible with other belief systems, whether or not they call themselves religions. It would appear that the controversy lies in Scientology's application. Its hierarchy mirrors that of other more established religions, like Catholicism, Episcopalianism, amd Mormonism. Like Mormonism, it requires that you tithe a percentage of your income to the church. (It's worth mentioning that traditionally this was a requirement of other Christian denominations, but has more recently become a suggestion.) According to some of the comments, it is sometimes difficult to extricate yourself from the church if you wish to leave. It is critical of overreliance on medical technology.

I really don't see what the big deal is. Its precepts are akin to anything you would find in the self-help section of your local Barnes and Noble.

I think the hostility towards Scientology comes from two places. First, there is the legitimate concern that individual scientologists can exploit for financial gain an individual's honest search for happiness. Second, there is the religious bigotry that stems from other religions perceiving Scientology as a threat to their ecumenical dominance.

It appears that one can derive great pleasure from following the path of Scientology, just as one can be exploited by Scientologists. Sounds exactly like all religions.

I learned absolutely nothing from Oppenheimer's interview regarding how Scientology fundamentally differs in theory (not in practice) from other religions. That, I think, is the most significant point to take away from the interview.

Posted by: Lili | August 1, 2007 1:19 PM

Don't you think religion is all about finding the TRUE religion?
It's not about "All religions are good". Anything that have people believe wierd stuff is not a religion. It's a joke.

Posted by: Doris Allen | August 1, 2007 4:02 PM

Mr. Oppenheimer: Have you ever heard the words "tax break"?

Posted by: C. Peters | August 1, 2007 5:20 PM

I've read a lot about Scientology: books by Hubbard and also A Piece of Blue Sky, which exposes in great detail past abuses of Scientology, and which Scientologists are forbidden from reading, so they don't really know of the dangers and abuses. They say they welcome all-comers - that's not true, I hear. They're desperately homophobic, as was Hubbard; journalists aren't allowed in either, because nobody can ask uncomfortable questions about Scientology. It's the same with the Mormons.

Most troubling is the way Hubbard died. Having spent his life condemning drugs and psychiatrists, his autopsy revealed psychiatric drugs in his system, according to A Piece of Blue Sky, and spent a lifetime being ill and swallowing pills because he was a paranoid schizophrenic. Something that was hidden from his followers.

So even though I wanted to explore the religion further, I came away from my research with a decidedly negative view of it, convinced it's run by crooks and that it is very much a totalitarian cult that destroys lives. I was very disappointed.

Posted by: John Smith | August 2, 2007 11:56 AM

Not sure how much real research you did. Maybe you would like some light reading about Mr. Hubbard.

Posted by: j | August 2, 2007 3:02 PM

I wonder if these two minsters know each other....

Posted by: z | August 3, 2007 10:37 AM

After a good ten seconds of thought, I have come to the conclusion that the problem with Scientology is that, as a minority religion, people who take the trouble to call themselves Scientologists must by definition take their religion seriously, unlike so many Christians/Jews/Moslems. People who take their religion seriously can often be a great force for good in the world, but as we see over and over again in our daily lives and throughout history, more often they fall in the continuum between minor annoyance and mass murderer; whatever their particular religion may be is secondary.

I guess it's yet another application of the 80/20 rule; 20% of human beings keep the world runnning, the other 80% are just part of the food chain. That applies to most subgroups, whether it's corporations, or religions.

Posted by: Xemu X. Xenu Jr. | August 4, 2007 9:29 PM

From 20 years involvment in Scientology I find it hard to believe that you missed the whole point about 'Paid Commissions' to get 'RAW Meat into the Shop' - these commissions that are paid to Freelance Recruiters continue as a percentage of all of the courses and services the RAW Meat takes after getting ensnared.
Scientology is indeed a dangerous CULT for all the definitions of a CULT - they enforce isolation from any and all Friends and Family that voice serious concerns about their family member's newfound obsessions in the Cult of Scientology. The followers of cult are forbidden to do their own investigations into the materials of the Cult - enforced narrow linear learning style a key indicator of a Cult.

A Dangerous Cult because they enforce the 'No Discussion Rule' where those inside the Cult are NEVER permitted to 'discuss their case' nor have a dialog with others either inside or outside the Cult that would amount to doing a critical analysis of the materials contained in services / courses / books - It is forbidden to discuss the content of any courses in any detail above the mere introductory or promotional materials. Period. Therefore a Cult because of the enforced culture of silence for ALL not just priests.

A Dangerous Cult because they enforce an entirely new vocabulary to 'redefine common words' so that when someone inside the Cult tries to break the silence rule they are seen as obscure by all outside the Cult and their stories are dismissed as too strange to believe.

A Dangerous Cult because they enforce an 'Us vs THEM' against the entire Non-Scientology World whereby the RAW MEAT are forced to take sides.

The quite common Propaganda Techniques (used in the 30s through the 50s) of Polarization, Band-Wagon, Fear, Failure, Greed, Perverting Lust into Control, Meglomania of Me First-More-Money, Ambition over Others, etc - these issues as above would have been good for you to expose - but when you act as an Apologist for their Cult you are easily revealed as perhaps just another collaborator trying to appease the Cult so as to not to have your 'secrets exposed by the Cult' - Black-Mail a common technique that they use against any and all that have disagreed. A Dangerously Jealous Cult by any measure as seen in the Policy of FAIR GAME or Disconnection.

A Dangerous Cult because of the ongoing Lies and deceptions - Over 8 Million Members and the Fastest Growing Cult on Planet Earth. (hint: that is a lie) The Lies about the OverLord Xenu / Xemu and the entire upper level content that causes instant death if viewed by anyone not properly prepared. The secret levels of the Cult of Scientolgy are easily found to be true materials since the Cult of visiously defends the exposure by attacking the person that exposed the materials for discussion and critical analysis in open and shared situations - The stories of Xenu and then the use of Telepathy with Dead Space Aliens by ALL Cult Members above OT2. So a cult that keeps the secret of Telepathy with Dead Space Aliens also constitutes the definition of Dangerous Cult since the member can never discuss these newfound Telepathic Abilities with ANYONE inside or outside the CULT. So a Cult member because of this Enforced Telepathy with Dead Space Aliens will never reveal to others that they are above OT2 - Just ask them or check their credentials - if they admit being say OT3 then they will ALWAYS LIE about enforced Telepathic Communion / Sessions with Dead Space Aliens. A true indication of a CULT they always LIE over and over about the most usual things inside their Cult.

So yes Scientology is easily seen to be a DANGEROUS Cult.

./Xemu X. Xenu Jr.

Posted by: massimiliano | August 7, 2007 7:40 AM

this is from someone who's been in scientology for a while (as a sea org member working for OSA INT.): scientology is THE MOST DANGEROUS SECT ON THE PLANET!!!! the top members of the CULT are criminals...... their only purpose is mind control of the people.... IT'S A VERY SINISTER ORGANIZZATION.......fortunatelly me and many other people(especially ex-members) are working hard to stop this SECT and we will eventually destroy the cult..for the sake of all!!!!!!!

Posted by: Colleen Van Tassell | August 7, 2007 10:54 AM

Not sure what this has to do with hyperlocal news. I like the compost heap reporting better.

Posted by: John Smith | August 8, 2007 12:56 PM


Here's a little story about your non-cult buddies.

Posted by: John Smith | August 8, 2007 6:02 PM

Nope not a cult at all....

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