Scientology's Antagonists

An ex-Scientologist and an army of online pranksters attempt to bring down the controversial religion.

Others were Gorman apologists: "Tommy has been heavily fucked by the cult, and I think he has a lot of justifiable anger," one wrote. In other forums, others profess respect: Tommy "would eat two handfuls of glass shards if he thought it made some kind of point about how much scilons [Scientologists] suck."

There's no denying Gorman and Anonymous use very different means for a common end. The "raids," as Anons refer to their picketing, are much like parties laced with the idiosyncratic humor of an Internet culture fueled by "lulz" (a take-off of "lol," Internet shorthand for "laugh out loud"). While dance music blares from speakers, protesters decked out in everything from a Pac-Man head to a furry panda sweatsuit dance with signs, eat cake, and call each other some variation of "faggot." With lines like "You're too cool to be in a cult!" the Anons' goal is to get Scientologists to question their own beliefs, or at least to research their church and learn about its grinding down of critics in the legal system or scandals such as Operation Snow White, in which church agents infiltrated and stole documents from U.S. government agencies that were investigating it.

In contrast, Gorman thinks some upfront and personal confrontation is necessary to get through to Scientologists. "To wake them up, you can't be all kind and sweet, 'cause they'll just think you're an SP," he says. "They'll block it out. I get under their skin so well, they'll have to think about what I'm saying."

A man in the basement of the church prepares to enter a sauna to rid the body of toxins Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard said made the mind “duller.”
Jared Gruenwald
A man in the basement of the church prepares to enter a sauna to rid the body of toxins Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard said made the mind “duller.”
In July, masked Anonymous protesters in San Francisco joined a worldwide protest against what they say are the human rights abuses of Scientology.
Jared Gruenwald
In July, masked Anonymous protesters in San Francisco joined a worldwide protest against what they say are the human rights abuses of Scientology.

Gorman has had plenty of practice. Families have hired him to persuade a Scientologist loved one to leave the organization; he once hunkered down for a three-day intervention in an Ohio hotel. He'll debate for hours with doubting Scientologists who call him, some of whom he knew personally on the inside.

"He knows the mindset, the policies, how a Scientologist is conditioned to think and act, and he knows what helped to disillusion him," says Steven Hassan, a Massachusetts-based cult "exit counselor" who has recruited Gorman to help him with Scientology cases.

Despite their internal squabbles, Gorman and Anonymous appear to be a united front to Quiros when he looks onto the street. He doesn't appreciate that the couple the church paid "to minimize the effects of this unfortunate incident" have returned with buddies who back their version of events.

"This Jennifer [Gorman] case was behind us," Quiros says. "This makes [Tommy] feel important, and if you tell a huge lie, it's human nature to try to convince everyone it was true. The more people he can convince, it becomes more true for him."


To the protesters, the San Francisco Scientology church sits like an impenetrable fort with first-floor curtains drawn down during protests like drawbridges, leaving the Anonymous outside to yell "Get out while you still can!" to those going in or out.

But on most days, the church's front door is wide open. Just inside, copies of Hubbard's classic text Dianetics are lined up like a bookstore display. A walk-through museum includes exhibits with titles like "L. Ron Hubbard — The Legacy." At desks lining the room's sides, women wearing navy jackets with anchors on the breast talk to newcomers: "The class I'm gonna recommend you start with — it's not a lot of money. The class allows you to take a bite out of Scientology," says one, who then draws a metaphor: "You gotta experience what the sunset is like."

Called by the receptionist, Jeff Quiros pads across the carpet in a gray pin-striped suit and freshly combed hair to lead a tour, making clear his intent is to demystify the church: "I'm sorry there's no flying saucers or baby eating or things like that." Still, there are interesting touches. As in all orgs, as Scientologists refer to the churches, there is a working office for the late Hubbard, filled weekly with fresh flowers. Behind a door in the basement that reads "Silence! Auditing in Process," a ring of tiny rooms sits ready for a staff member to question parishioners with an E-meter, a type of lie detector Scientologists believe can identify issues that trouble your unconscious. Quiros descends a ramp to a still lower part of the basement, where a man jogs on one of six treadmills facing a wall depicting a nature landscape. Like all Scientologists at a certain level in their coursework, the man will soon sit in a sauna to rid the body of toxins Hubbard believed made the mind "duller," Quiros explains. "Just like anything else in Scientology, you do that until you're done. [The process] could take two weeks; it could take a month."

Raised Catholic in San Francisco, Quiros first read Dianetics when he attended UC Davis, and says Hubbard's teachings explained some of his childhood ESP experiences. After a few years as an elementary school teacher, Quiros joined the staff at the Davis mission before eventually becoming the head of the San Francisco org a quarter-century ago.

That's where Quiros first impressed Gorman. "If I had to choose an uncle or even a father, I would choose him," Gorman says. "I was like, 'I wish I could be like him.'"

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
 
©2014 SF Weekly, LP, All rights reserved.
Loading...