Commodore's Messenger Organization

The Commodore's Messenger Organization (CMO) is a sub-unit of the Sea Org, a paramilitary[1] wing of the Church of Scientology, comprising the church's most dedicated members.[2] Its members communicate and enforce policies of the Religious Technology Center.[3][4]

TypeUnit in the Sea Org, the paramilitary wing of the Church of Scientology
PurposeEnforcement of the Religious Technology Center
HeadquartersHemet, California, United States
David Miscavige


The first Commodore's Messengers were appointed by L. Ron Hubbard in 1968 while he was living aboard the Sea Organization ship called the Apollo. These messengers were his personal administrative assistants and operated solely under his direction, ensuring that Scientology management was following Hubbard’s policies.[5]

The original four messengers were Janis Gillham (aged 11), Terri Gillham (12), Annie Tidman (12) and Suzette Hubbard (13), who was later replaced by Claire Popham (13).[6][7] In 1975 while sailing in the Caribbean, due to the heat and humidity, the Messengers devised their uniforms themselves: white shorts, tie tops and platform shoes with knee high socks.[7] Messengers conveyed messages from Hubbard and they were trained to mimic Hubbard's exact tone and mannerisms.

One Sea Org member recalled inquiring why Hubbard chose young girls for the role of messenger. Hubbard reported that "Hitler was a madman, but nevertheless a genius in his own right and the Nazi Youth was one of the smartest ideas he ever had. With young people you had a blank slate." [8] Hubbard further argued that he picked girls because women were more loyal than men.'[8]

Watchdog Committee and All Clear Unit

In April 1979, Hubbard created the Watchdog Committee (WDC). In 1981, the All Clear Unit of the CMO was set up with the purpose of ensuring an "All Clear" for Hubbard to emerge from hiding.[9] As head of the unit, David Miscavige took orders only from Pat Broeker, who was accountable only to Hubbard.[9]


Janis Gillham, age 11, joined the Sea Organization in January 1968.[10] She regularly attended to Hubbard for the next 11 years, until he went into hiding in 1979. In 2017, she authored Commodore’s Messenger: A Child Adrift in the Scientology Sea Organization.[11]

Annie Tidman became a Messenger at age 12.[12] She married fellow messenger Pat Broeker and they were among the few people in direct contact with L. Ron Hubbard during his final years.[13] In November 1992, Tidman made an unannounced departure from the group, but returned after church members intercepted her at the Boston airport.[12] She died in 2011.[12]

In 1967, Sharone Stainforth, age 10, joined the Sea Org and became one of Hubbard's original Messengers on the Apollo. After leaving Scientology, she became a critic of the organization.[14][15][16]

Michelle "Shelly" Barnett became a Messenger at age 12. She later married fellow Messenger and future Scientology leader David Miscavige.[17] She has made no public appearances since August 2007.[18] The Church of Scientology denies that she is missing.

Mike Rinder joined the Sea Org and worked under Hubbard on his ship the Apollo in 1973.[19] He joined the CMO in 1978, later becoming the church's international spokesperson. Rinder left the church in 2007 and has since spoken out against it.

Pat Broeker was aboard the Apollo and, along with his wife Anne, were taking care of Hubbard at the time of his death. An order was issued promoting Broeker and his wife to the rank of "Loyal Officer", but that order was later cancelled.

Marc Yager joined the Sea Org in 1974 and sailed with Hubbard on Apollo. Yager became a messenger and assisted Hubbard in video production. Yager was appointed Commanding Officer of the Commodore's Messenger Organization, Chairman of the Watchdog Committee, and later, Inspector General for Administration in the Religious Technology Center (RTC).[20][21] Ex-members of the Church have alleged that Yager was sent to "The Hole", a Rehabilitation Project Force facility.[22][23]

In 1977, David Miscavige, then aged 16, joined the Messengers. After Hubbard's death, Miscavige emerged as the leader of the Church of Scientology.


  1. ^ Stark and Bainbridge 1996, p. 213.
    • Dawson 2006, p. 38: "Members of the paramilitary Sea Org sign billion-year contracts of absolute loyalty and service to the highest leadership of the Church of Scientology."
    • Former member Aaron Judge in Squires, 29 November 2009: "The Sea Org is like a military organization. You live in cramped quarters, are served food in the cafeteria area and you basically work from 8:30 in the morning through to 11:15 at night."
    • Former Scientology auditor Bruce Hines in Cooper, 2 December 2005: "It's very much a military organization. You wear a uniform, there's saluting, marching, standing at attention."
  2. ^ "WHAT IS THE SEA ORGANIZATION?". Church of Scientology International. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
  3. ^ accessed 2006-10-21
  4. ^ accessed 2006-10-21
  5. ^ Miller, Russell (1987). "18. Messengers of God". Bare-faced Messiah, The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard (First American ed.). New York: Henry Holt & Co. pp. 301–304. ISBN 0-8050-0654-0.
  6. ^ "Scientology: What happened in Vegas, Part 2 of 3 in a special report on the Church of Scientology". Tampa Bay Times.
  7. ^ a b Lawrence Wright [2013] Im Gefängnis des Glaubens, S. 164, Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, ISBN 978-3-421-04535-5
  8. ^ a b "Bare-Faced Messiah: Chapter 19".
  9. ^ a b "A Piece Of Blue Sky - Part 6, Chapter 3: The Young Rulers".
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b c Tony Ortega (30 January 2012). "Death of a Scientologist: Why Annie Broeker, Famous in the Church, Had to Die in Secret". Village Voice.
  13. ^ "Mystery of the Vanished Ruler". TIME. 1983-01-31. Retrieved 2007-08-10.
  14. ^ "Going Clear (Enhanced Edition)".
  15. ^ Sharone Stainforth (LRH Commodores Messenger at age 10) at the Dublin Offlines Event. 12 July 2012 – via YouTube.
  16. ^ Tessa Whittington. "We're the Brits who escaped Scientology".
  17. ^ Ned Zeman. "Read Why Shelly Miscavige, Once Scientology's Queen, Was Dethroned by Her Husband David - Vanity Fair". Vanity Fair.
  18. ^ Edwards, Jim (13 July 2012). "Tour The Compound Where The Missing Wife of Scientology's Leader Might Be Living". Business Insider. Retrieved 24 March 2013.
  19. ^ "About Me". Mike Rinder's Blog.
  20. ^ "Blown for Good".
  21. ^
  22. ^ Ortega, Tony (August 2, 2012). "Scientology's Concentration Camp for Its Executives: The Prisoners, Past and Present". The Village Voice.
  23. ^ "Marc Yager and the IAS". Moving On Up a Little Higher.
Aaron Saxton

Aaron Saxton (born 1974) is a former Scientologist and member of the organisation's elite group called the Sea Org. He contacted Senator Nick Xenophon of Australia, who quoted statements by Saxton about Scientology into the parliamentary record of the Australian Senate in November 2009. That speech caused a furor according to The Courier-Mail, The New Zealand Herald and other media.

Cadet Org

The Cadet Org was a former subdivision of the Church of Scientology for the children of members of the Sea Org (SO), an internal Scientology grouping of the organization's most dedicated members. It operated for about thirty years between the early 1970s and the early 2000s in a number of locations in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. Some of its facilities reportedly housed as many as 400 children who were aged between a few months and sixteen years old.

Children in the Cadet Org were divided into two or three different categories reflecting their age and level of proficiency in Scientology. They were typically housed in dorms under the supervision of a small number of adults. Conditions at Cadet Org facilities were reportedly often dirty and unsafe, which resulted in at least two prosecutions by public authorities. The children were granted only infrequent contact with their parents and reportedly had very little time off or playtime.

The Cadet Org was said to have been severely under-resourced, leading to a lack of basic provisions such as toilet paper, food and clothing at various times and places. The Church of Scientology itself reported that the Cadet Org was often treated as a dumping ground for adult staff who had failed elsewhere in the Sea Org, leading to unsuitable people, including pedophiles, working in Cadet Org facilities. Internal church documents and the accounts of ex-members have highlighted recurrent problems with physical and sexual abuse of children in the Cadet Org.

Like the adult Sea Org, the Cadet Org was run on quasi-military lines with a strict daily routine, timed to the minute, that ran from at least 6.30 am to 9.30 pm. Children were given posts and were assigned responsibility for managing various aspects of their facilities, including discipline. They were required to do hard physical labor, sometimes without protective equipment and at very young ages.

The Cadet Org was eventually dissolved around the start of the 21st century after Sea Org members were forbidden to have children, as they were regarded as too great a burden. This reportedly resulted in many female Sea Org members having abortions to avoid being punished by the Church for contravening the ban.

Church of Scientology International

The Church of Scientology International, Inc. (CSI) is a California 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. Within the worldwide network of Scientology corporations and entities, CSI is officially referred to as the "mother church" of the Church of Scientology.The Church of Scientology International coordinates church growth, and attempts to preserve the uniformity of the teachings of Scientology's founder, L. Ron Hubbard. Golden Era Productions, a division of CSI, prints Scientology material, such as books, audio recordings of Hubbard's lectures, training films, and similar. Golden Era Productions also oversees the manufacture of E-meters.In a 1993 memorandum by CSI, the following information was provided to the Internal Revenue Service with regards to CSI's role and functions, its personnel and its income:

[...] CSI [...] is the Mother Church of the Scientology religion, with ecclesiastical authority over the ministry of religious services to parishioners by all subordinate churches within the ecclesiastical hierarchy. This church has a staff of approximately 990 individuals and an annual budget of approximately $ 46.8 million, based on its annual disbursements for the most recent year for which financial statements are available. [...]"

Church of Scientology Western United States

The Church of Scientology Western United States (CoSWUS) is a Californian 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, located in Los Angeles. CoSWUS is integrated within the ecclesiastical hierarchy of the Church of Scientology. The corporation is composed of several individual Scientology organizations and entities, among them churches, such as the "Church of Scientology of Los Angeles", which delivers services to public members of Scientology.In its application for tax exemption, CoSWUS described the structure of the corporation as follows:

"The CSWUS corporation houses six distinct ecclesiastical organizations that includes three churches, each of which

ministers religious services at a different level of the religious hierarchy described above; two supervisory organizations and an ecclesiastical support organization. [...] Except for the Church of Scientology of San Diego, all of these church organizations are located in Los Angeles where they share a large complex of buildings and facilities. [...]"

The core of CoSWUS' organizations are located around L. Ron Hubbard Way in Hollywood, where three so-called "service organizations" are located: the already mentioned "Church of Scientology of Los Angeles", the "American Saint Hill Organization" (ASHO) and the "Advanced Organization Los Angeles" (AOLA). In this area is also the former "Cedars of Lebanon" Hospital located, which was purchased by the Church of Scientology during the 1970s and which serves today as a dormitory for the Scientology staff members, who work in the adjacent buildings or elsewhere in Los Angeles.

David Miscavige

David Miscavige (; born April 30, 1960) is the leader of the Church of Scientology. His official title is Chairman of the Board of the Religious Technology Center (RTC), a corporation that controls the trademarks and copyrights of Dianetics and Scientology.

Miscavige was a deputy to church founder L. Ron Hubbard (a "Commodore's messenger") while he was a teenager. He rose to a leadership position by the early 1980s and was named Chairman of the Board of RTC in 1987. Official church biographies describe Miscavige as "the ecclesiastical leader of the Scientology religion".Since he assumed his leadership position, there have been a number of allegations made against Miscavige. These include claims of forced separation of family members, coercive fundraising practices, harassment of journalists and church critics, and humiliation of church staff members, including physical assaults upon them by Miscavige. Miscavige and church spokespersons deny the majority of these claims, often criticizing the credibility of those who bring them.

Gold Base

Gold Base (also variously known as Gold, Golden Era Productions, Int Base, or Int) is the confidential de facto international headquarters of the Church of Scientology. It is located at 19712 Gilman Springs Rd,

San Jacinto in Riverside County, California (though technically it lies within the unincorporated county area of Gilman Hot Springs and not within the city limits of San Jacinto) and about 100 miles (160 km) from Los Angeles. The heavily guarded compound comprises about 50 buildings surrounded by high fences topped with blades and watched around the clock by patrols, cameras and motion detectors. The property is bisected by a public road, which is closely monitored by the Church with cameras recording passing traffic.

The Church of Scientology acquired the property, which had formerly been a resort called Gilman Hot Springs, in 1978. It had previously been a popular Inland Empire vacation spot and spa established in the 1890s but went bankrupt in the late 1970s due to changes in American vacation habits. Bought for cash in great secrecy by the Church, using the alias of the "Scottish Highland Quietude Club," it has since been developed and expanded considerably.

The base now houses numerous Church organizations and subsidiaries, including its in-house media production division, Golden Era Productions, which has its own movie studio on the site. The Church's leader David Miscavige and other senior church officials live and work on the base. It is also the location of a $10 million mansion built for Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. Although he never lived there before his death in 1986, the mansion and his living quarters are still maintained in anticipation of his predicted reincarnation. A number of prominent Scientologists have studied Scientology at Gold Base, notably Tom Cruise.

Up to 1,000 members of the Sea Org, the elite "inner core" of the Church of Scientology, live and work on the base. According to some former members of the Church, conditions are harsh, with staff members paid only $50 for a 100-hour week and subjected to punishments for failing to meet work quotas. Media reports have stated that around 100 people a year try to escape from the base but most are soon caught and returned by "pursuit teams". Despite many accounts of mistreatment from ex-members, law enforcement investigations and lawsuits against the Church have been thwarted by the First Amendment's guarantees of religious freedom and the Church's ability to rely on "ministerial exemptions" in employment law. The Church denies any mistreatment and calls the base "the ideal setting for professional and spiritual growth".

L. Ron Hubbard

Lafayette Ronald Hubbard ( HUB-ərd; March 13, 1911 – January 24, 1986) was an American author of science fiction and fantasy stories, and the founder of the Church of Scientology. In 1950, Hubbard authored Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health and established a series of organizations to promote Dianetics. In 1952, Hubbard lost the rights to Dianetics in bankruptcy proceedings, and he subsequently founded Scientology. Thereafter Hubbard oversaw the growth of the Church of Scientology into a worldwide organization. Hubbard was cited by Smithsonian magazine as one of the 100 most significant Americans of all time.Born in Tilden, Nebraska in 1911, Hubbard spent much of his childhood in Helena, Montana. After his father was posted to the U.S. naval base on Guam, Hubbard traveled to Asia and the South Pacific in the late 1920s. In 1930, Hubbard enrolled at George Washington University to study civil engineering, but dropped out in his second year. He began his career as a prolific writer of pulp fiction stories and married Margaret "Polly" Grubb, who shared his interest in aviation.

Hubbard served briefly in the Marine Corps Reserve and was an officer in the Navy during World War II. He briefly commanded two ships, but was removed from command both times. The last few months of his active service were spent in a hospital, being treated for a duodenal ulcer.During the late 1960s and early 1970s, he spent much of his time at sea on his personal fleet of ships as "Commodore" of the Sea Organization, an elite, paramilitary group of Scientologists. Some ex-members and scholars have described the Sea Org as a totalitarian organization marked by intensive surveillance and a lack of freedom. His expedition came to an end when Britain, Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Venezuela all closed their ports to his fleet.

Hubbard returned to the United States in 1975 and went into seclusion in the California desert. In 1978, a trial court in France convicted Hubbard of fraud in absentia. In 1983 Hubbard was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in an international information infiltration and theft project called "Operation Snow White". He spent the remaining years of his life in a luxury motor home on his California property, attended to by a small group of Scientology officials including his physician. In 1986, L. Ron Hubbard died at age 74.The Church of Scientology describes Hubbard in hagiographic terms, and he portrayed himself as a pioneering explorer, world traveler, and nuclear physicist with expertise in a wide range of disciplines, including photography, art, poetry, and philosophy. Though many of Hubbard's autobiographical statements have been found to be fictitious, the Church rejects any suggestion that its account of Hubbard's life is not historical fact. In Scientology publications, he is referred to as "Founder" and "Source" of Scientology and Dianetics.

His critics have characterized Hubbard as a mentally-unstable chronic liar.

List of Scientology officials

This is a list of Scientology officials and former officials who have served prominent roles in the Church of Scientology and its leadership.

Mary Sue Hubbard

Mary Sue Hubbard (née Whipp; June 17, 1931 – November 25, 2002) was the third wife of L. Ron Hubbard, from 1952 until his death in 1986. She was a leading figure in Scientology for much of her life. The Hubbards had four children; Diana (born 1952), Quentin (born 1954), Suzette (born 1955), and Arthur (born 1958).

She became involved in Hubbard's Dianetics in 1952, while still a student at the University of Texas at Austin, becoming a Dianetics auditor. She soon became involved in a relationship with Hubbard and married him in March 1952. She accompanied her husband to Phoenix, Arizona, where they established the Hubbard Association of Scientologists – the forerunner of the Church of Scientology, which was itself founded in 1953. She was credited with helping to coin the word "Scientology". She played a leading role in the management of the Church of Scientology, rising to become the head of the Church's Guardian's Office (GO). In August 1978, she was indicted by the United States government on charges of conspiracy relating to illegal covert operations mounted by the Guardian's Office against government agencies. She was convicted in December 1979 and was sentenced to five years' imprisonment and the payment of a $10,000 fine. She was forced to resign her post in July 1981 and served a year in prison from January 1983, after exhausting her appeals against her conviction. In the late 1990s, she fell ill with breast cancer and died in 2002.

Religious Technology Center

The Religious Technology Center (RTC) is an American non-profit corporation that was founded in 1982 by the Church of Scientology to control and oversee the use of all of the trademarks, symbols and texts of Scientology and Dianetics. Although RTC controls their use, those works are owned by another corporation, the Church of Spiritual Technology which is doing business as L. Ron Hubbard Library, registered in Los Angeles County, California.While exercising authority over the use of all Dianetics and Scientology materials, RTC claims that it is not involved in the day-to-day management of the Church of Scientology; that role is assigned to a separate corporation, the Church of Scientology International (CSI).

According to the RTC website, "RTC stands apart as an external body which protects the Scientology religion and acts as the final arbiter of orthodoxy" and its stated purpose is "to protect the public from misapplication of the technology and to see that the religious technologies of Dianetics and Scientology remain in proper hands and are properly ministered."Since 1986, David Miscavige has served as the organization's Chairman of the Board.In a 1993 memorandum by the Church of Scientology International, the following information was provided to the Internal Revenue Service with regards to RTC's role and functions, its personnel and its income:

"[...] RTC [...] owns the Scientology religious marks and advanced technology. It licenses the marks to CSI for sublicense to subordinate churches and directly licenses the advanced technology to appropriate churches. Through this structure RTC assures that practice of the Scientology religion within the ecclesiastical hierarchy under CSI's authority as Mother Church remains strictly orthodox, in accordance with the Scientology Scriptures. This church has a staff of approximately 50 individuals and an annual budget of approximately $ 6.6 million, based on its annual disbursements for the most recent year for which financial statements are available. [...]"

The RTC guarantees the “purity and workability of Scientology so far into the future,” thus engaging in programs to “restore, preserve, maintain and keep uncorrupted” the church’s "religious technology," according to Scientology spokesman Eric Roux.

Revolt in the Stars

Revolt in the Stars is a science fiction film screenplay written by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard in 1977. It tells the space opera story of how an evil galactic dictator, named Xenu, massacres many of his subjects by transporting them to Earth and killing them with atomic bombs. L. Ron Hubbard had already presented this story to his followers, as a true account of events that happened 75 million years ago, in a secret level of Scientology scripture called Operating Thetan, Level III. The screenplay was promoted around Hollywood circles in 1979, but attempts at fundraising and obtaining financing fell through, and the film was never made. Unofficial copies circulate on the Internet.

Sea Org

The Sea Organization (Sea Org) is a Scientology organization, which the Church of Scientology describes as a "fraternal religious order, comprising the church's most dedicated members". All Scientology management organizations are controlled exclusively by members of the Sea Org. David Miscavige, the de facto leader of Scientology, is the highest-ranking Sea Org officer, holding the rank of captain.

The Sea Org has been described as a paramilitary organization and as a private naval force, having operated several vessels in its past and displaying a maritime tradition. Some ex-members and scholars have described the Sea Org as a totalitarian organization marked by intensive surveillance and a lack of freedom. The Sea Org has also been compared to a monastic organization.In a 1992 memorandum by the Church of Scientology International, the following information was provided to the Internal Revenue Service with regards to nature of the Sea Org:

[the Sea Org] does not have an ecclesiastical organizing board or command channels chart or secular existence such as an incorporated or unincorporated association. ... Although there is no such "organization" as the Sea Organization, the term Sea Org has a colloquial usage which implies that there is. There are general recruitment posters and literature for "The Sea Org" which implies that people will be employed by the Sea Org when in reality they will join, making the billion year commitment, at some church that is staffed by Sea Org members and become employees of that church corporation. ... The Sea Org exists as a spiritual commitment that is factually beyond the full understanding of the Service or any other but a trained and audited Scientologist.

The Sea Org was established on August 12, 1967 by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Dianetics and Scientology, initially on board four ships, the Diana, the Athena, the Apollo, and the Excalibur. The Apollo served as the flag ship of the Sea Org.In 1971, the Sea Org assumed responsibility for the ecclesiastical development of the church, and in particular the delivery of the upper levels of its auditing and training, known as the Operating Thetan or "OT" levels. In 1981, under the aegis of the Commodore's Messenger Organization led by David Miscavige, the Sea Org dissolved the Guardian's Office (GO) and assumed full responsibility for the international management of the Church, later reassigning the duties of the GO to the Office of Special Affairs in 1983 during the corporate restructuring of the Church.It moved to land-based organizations in 1975, though maritime customs persist, with many members wearing naval-style uniforms and addressing both male and female officers as "sir." In 1985, the church purchased a 440-foot (130 m) motor vessel, the Freewinds, which docks in Curaçao in the southern Caribbean and is used as a religious retreat and training center, staffed entirely by Sea Org members. Sea Org members make a lifetime commitment to Scientology by signing a billion-year contract that is officially described as a symbolic pledge. In exchange, members are given free room and board, and a small weekly allowance. Sea Org members agree to strict codes of discipline, such as disavowing premarital sex, working long hours (on average at least 100 hours per week) and living in communal housing, referred to as "berthings". They are allowed to marry, but must relinquish their membership if they have or want to raise children.

Shelly Miscavige

Michele Diane Miscavige (born January 18, 1961), better known as Shelly, is the wife of Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige. She was last seen in public in August of 2007.Actress Leah Remini, a former Scientologist and vocal critic of the organization, filed a missing person report regarding Mrs. Miscavige with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in 2013. According to a story in the Los Angeles Times based on information from an anonymous LAPD source, the LAPD contacted Mrs. Miscavige and subsequently closed the case. The same article reports that Mrs. Miscavige's attorneys have disputed that she is missing, and characterize Remini's allegations as harassment or publicity-seeking.

Tax status of Scientology in the United States

The tax status of the Church of Scientology in the United States has been the subject of decades of controversy and litigation. Although the Church was initially partially exempted by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from paying federal income tax, its two principal entities in the US lost this exemption in 1957 and 1968. This was due to concerns that church funds were being used for the private gain of its founder L. Ron Hubbard (according to the IRS) or due to an international psychiatric conspiracy against Scientology (according to Scientology).

In the course of a 37-year dispute with the IRS, the church was reported to have used or planned to employ blackmail, burglary, criminal conspiracy, eavesdropping, espionage, falsification of records, fraud, front groups, harassment, money smuggling, obstruction of audits, political and media campaigns, tax evasion, theft, investigations of individual IRS officials and the instigation of more than 2,500 lawsuits in its efforts to get its tax exemption reinstated. A number of the church's most senior officials, including Hubbard's wife, were eventually jailed for crimes against the United States government related to the anti-IRS campaign. The IRS, for its part, carried out criminal investigations of the church and its leaders for suspected tax fraud and targeted the church as a "dissident group" during the Nixon administration.

Although the church repeatedly lost in legal cases which were heard up to the level of the Supreme Court, it undertook negotiations with the IRS from 1991 to find a settlement. In October 1993, the church and the IRS reached an agreement under which the church discontinued all of its litigation against the IRS and paid $12.5 million to settle a tax debt said to be around a billion dollars, and the IRS granted 153 Scientology-related corporate entities tax exemption and the right to declare their own subordinate organizations tax-exempt in future.

The terms and circumstances of the agreement remained secret until details emerged through leaks and litigation from 1997 onwards. They have attracted controversy for their perceived favorability towards the church and have been described as unconstitutional by federal courts for their bestowal of privileges on Scientologists that are shared by no other religious group. Questions have also been raised about whether the IRS exceeded its authority by effectively overruling the Supreme Court in setting the terms of the agreement and permitting tax deductions not authorized in law. However, legal commentators have concluded that the agreement can effectively no longer be challenged in court.

The Hole (Scientology)

The Hole is the unofficial nickname of a facility operated by the Church of Scientology on Gold Base, its compound near the town of Hemet in Riverside County, California. Dozens of its senior executives have reportedly been confined within the building for months or years. It consists of a set of double-wide trailers within a Scientology compound, joined together to form a suite of offices which were formerly used by the Church's international management team. According to former members of the Church of Scientology and media reports, from 2004 the Church's leader David Miscavige sent dozens of senior Scientology executives to the Hole. The Tampa Bay Times described it in a January 2013 article as:

a place of confinement and humiliation where Scientology's management culture — always demanding — grew extreme. Inside, a who's who of Scientology leadership went at each other with brutal tongue lashings, and even hands and fists. They intimidated each other into crawling on their knees and standing in trash cans and confessing to things they hadn't done. They lived in degrading conditions, eating and sleeping in cramped spaces designed for office use.

The executives confined at the Hole are reported to have numbered up to 100 of the most senior figures in Scientology's management, including the Church of Scientology International's President, Heber Jentzsch. Individuals are said to have spent months or even years there. After a few managed to escape the Hole and Scientology, they gave accounts of their experiences to the media, the courts and the FBI, leading to widespread publicity about the harsh conditions that they had allegedly endured. The Church of Scientology has denied those accounts. It says that "the Hole does not exist and never has" and states that nobody had been held against their will. However, it acknowledges that its members are subjected to "religious discipline, a program of ethics and correction entered into voluntarily as part of their religious observances." It has been described by ex-members comparable to that of a North Korean death camp.

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