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Sympathy for the Devil- part 7

September 9, 2001

"I'm humble that you choose to tell me all this...I can hardly start grasping what you are going through," he wrote back on July 18. "I find it difficult to express my immediate emotions and I don't want to make a lot of silly advice or say something meaningless." He continued to counsel her to be cautious and take things slowly.

But on July 20, Magoo made her public announcement on a.r.s: She was Tory Bezazian, a 30-year member, and she was no longer a Scientologist.
photo of Bob Minton
Robert Minton helped Bezazian after she broke with the church.

Some a.r.s. participants smelled a rat. Magoo's defection was so sudden and dramatic, some critics suspected that her announcement was some sort of OSA operation. A new debate suddenly raged on the newsgroup: Was Magoo's transformation legitimate?

Meanwhile, in private, Bezazian gave Heldal-Lund her thanks. "I honestly thought you were the devil," she e-mailed him. "I was amazed at how kind you were. I thought for sure you would be the meanest and worst of all the critics. So when you were you, it really cracked the shell."

But Heldal-Lund couldn't give her what she says she needed most desperately: company. As she began telling Scientologist friends privately about her decision and they disconnected from her, Bezazian found herself terribly alone. She asked Heldal-Lund for help: Who could she turn to who understood her situation?

He suggested a group in Clearwater whose members work full time to protest Scientology. Some are former parishioners, and realized they had known Bezazian in the church. When Bezazian told them about her predicament, they encouraged her to come to Clearwater.

So on July 21, with a.r.s. still buzzing over her turnabout, Bezazian went to Burbank Airport to begin a cross-country trip to what just days earlier she had considered the enemy camp.

And waiting for her at the Burbank terminal was the Church of Scientology.

Bezazian arrived at the airport to find that her flight had been cancelled and Janet Weiland was waiting near the counter. Weiland began trying to talk her out of going to Florida, Bezazian says.

Bezazian doesn't know how Weiland knew she would be at the airport to catch her flight. Bezazian says she can only assume the OSA vice president had tapped her phone.

When New Times requested an interview with Weiland, she responded with a letter saying that Bezazian had become an "apostate," and that such persons "have to justify having left their church and do this by lying and making up bizarre renditions about their experiences."

Weiland wrote that it was a coincidence that she was at the airport that day, that she had received a phone call from a friend of Bezazian's saying she might be at the terminal to take a flight. "I didn't know what flight she was going on, but [I] looked around the airport and saw her in line at the ticket counter," wrote Weiland.

At the airport, Bezazian says, Weiland cited their long friendship and tried to persuade her to cancel her travel plans. But Bezazian used her cell phone to call the people at the Lisa McPherson Trust in Clearwater whom she had planned to visit. The LMT was founded last year by several former Scientologists to publicize the McPherson case and otherwise agitate against the church. It is largely funded by Robert Minton, a wealthy businessman.

Minton answered Bezazian's call, and she rapidly told him the situation. She had tried to get another flight, she told him, but Weiland had stuck by her like glue, and was even holding her luggage. Bezazian says she felt trapped.

Minton said he'd pay for a first-class ticket to Clearwater. He told Bezazian to book a seat, which would allow her to enter a special lounge that would be off-limits to Weiland. Bezazian followed his advice and rid herself of the OSA official.

But Bezazian had made the new flight arrangements in front of Weiland, so Scientologists were waiting for her both in Chicago, where she changed planes, and at the gate in Tampa, where Bezazian arrived at 1:15 a.m.


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