Sympathy for the Devil- part 3
September 9, 2001
When Bezazian stuck to a drug regimen recommended by doctors, she suffered few effects of the disease. But Scientologists viewed resorting to medication as a sign of weakness, an indication that an adherent didn't trust Hubbard's "tech" to drive away the body thetan causing her malady.
Several times, she tried to adhere to her faith by going off her medication. She suffered greatly each time. Although she was warned she would never "go clear" until she "handled" her epilepsy through the tech, Bezazian eventually went back on medication permanently.
Others chose to battle severe medical problems without help from doctors. A good friend, she says, died painfully after relying on auditing to cope with breast cancer.
Stuck at OT VII and increasingly unhappy with how her auditing was going, Bezazian became even more disillusioned with changes made under new church leader David Miscavige, who had taken over after Hubbard's 1986 death. At a mass gathering in 1997, Miscavige announced the "discovery" that higher-level Scientologists had been trained incorrectly and would need to redo some levels. Bezazian says she was told her retraining would cost $25,000.
Already $60,000 in debt and in no mood to undergo still more auditing to reach a level where she'd been stalled for years, Bezazian complained to Miscavige. She wrote him letters asking why she should have to pay so much when it was the church's product that had proved to be defective. She got no response. And that's when she decided to get off the Bridge.
"It's a big decision for a Scientologist," she says. "But I didn't care if they came up with OT fucking billion, I was done." Feeling cheated and abandoned, she found little support from other members. "It's not like I didn't give it my best shot. But they always tell you it's your fault if the tech doesn't work. No one has ever apologized to me for anything."
Bezazian gave up trying to rid herself of body thetans. But her faith in Hubbard and Scientology was unshaken. She didn't like some of the changes occurring in her church, but it was still her church, after all. After so many years in the religion and after paying more than $100,000, Bezazian says, Scientology was nearly her entire world. The thought of leaving it never entered her mind.
And that's why she didn't give it a second thought when, in late 1999, her church asked her to come to its rescue.
Bezazian says she was asked by Janet Weiland to join the Scientology Parishioners League, which had just been founded. It was modeled after the Anti-Defamation League, which combats anti-Semitism, and would claim to battle all forms of religious bigotry. But really it was the latest attempt to handle all of the negative press that has rained down on Scientology in recent years, Bezazian says. She agreed to Weiland's request without hesitation.
There was plenty of work to do. While some news organizations shy away from stories about Scientology as a result of its reputation for litigiousness, others have reported on the church's troubles around the globe. Several European countries consider the organization more a money-making scam than a religion and have taken official steps to curb it. The church's worldwide president, Heber Jentzsch, is currently on trial in Spain on charges of fraud. Raids on the church have occurred in Belgium and France. And in the United States, the church continues to be embarrassed by revelations in the 1995 death of Lisa McPherson, a believer who died while in church care at a Clearwater hotel.
Protesters regularly picket key church sites in Florida and Los Angeles. Bezazian had often been asked to "handle" picketers who demonstrated at L.A. Scientology facilities by conversing with and distracting them.
She had helped out the OSA as a volunteer for many years. In 1979 she aided an effort to unseat a Clearwater politician who wanted to keep Scientology from establishing its headquarters there. She and other Scientologists were instructed to attend public meetings where they were to divert attention from Scientology's imminent invasion of the town by questioning the candidate's performance in other areas. After he was defeated at the polls, the church moved in.
Bezazian also aided OSA agents at a 1985 trial in which a former church member was suing Scientology for allegedly harming him. Bezazian says she took notes on how jurors seemed to react to testimony, trying to build up profiles of them for the church's attorneys.
As a fervent member of the church, Bezazian never questioned OSA actions. She says in hindsight it's easier for her to see that the OSA was operating in questionable ways, such as when it surveilled detractors or spammed Websites critical of the church.
The Office of Special Affairs was formed to replace an earlier organization cloaked in secrecy, known as the Guardian's Office. In 1977, FBI agents raided the Church of Scientology in both Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., and discovered damning evidence that, for several years, Guardian's Office operatives had been breaking into the IRS and other federal offices in Washington and stealing government documents. Eleven Scientologists, including Guardian's Office director Mary Sue Hubbard, wife of the church founder, were sentenced to prison. After the debacle, church officials insisted that the Guardian's Office had contained "rogue elements" who broke into government offices without the knowledge or permission of the rest of the organization. The G.O. was disbanded. Today, former Scientologists say, the OSA has taken its place as the church's internal security force and intelligence unit.
Bezazian says she and others had always been told that Mary Sue Hubbard and the other Guardian's Office defendants had done nothing more serious than steal photocopier paper from government offices. It was a story she accepted without question
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