This story comes to us from Tony Ortega’s “Underground Bunker.” A new defector from Scientology steps forward, a man who was near the top of the cult of the greedy cult. He gives us a rare view into the inner workings of the world’s most secretive and combative fake religion. None of what he has to say is encouraging from the Scientology point of view. Their numbers have shrunk to a level that is below what man veteran Scientology watchers would credit the cult with. Apparently only the hard core a left. There are no masses left to leave! Mention is made of Shelly Miscavige however it only shows just how big a secret her disappearance is within the cult. Here is what Tony Ortega said about Paul Burkhart.
SCIENTOLOGY’S SPACE MAN: As of 2013, active Scientologists fewer than 20,000 worldwide
Yesterday, we began telling you about Paul Burkhart, the newest defector from Scientology’s international management to go public with what he experienced after joining the church in 1980, joining the Sea Org in 1985, and then leaving a little over two years ago, in August 2013.
For ten of those years, from 1999 to 2009, Burkhart worked at Scientology’s secretive International Base near Hemet, California. His job was to make space plans for the renovations that were constantly going on at Scientology facilities around the world. That put him at the center of what Scientology leader David Miscavige was doing, but at the same time gave him a measure of protection from the increasingly contentious atmosphere at Int Base. As former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder put it, Burkhart was both in the “center of the shitstorm” at the same time that he inhabited “his own bubble.”
Burkhart was so insulated, for example, he didn’t really know who Mark “Marty” Rathbun was, even though Rathbun, as Inspector General of Ethics for the Religious Technology Center, was essentially the second-highest ranking member of the church and Miscavige’s right hand man and chief enforcer.
At one point, Burkhart says, Rathbun was sent to his office to look into a problem involving architectural plans for Building 50, the lavish structure at Int Base that Miscavige was having built for the RTC and for his own wing of offices.
“Marty was sent down to investigate. I knew he was a big executive, but I didn’t really know who he was. I didn’t even stand up when he came in and asked me questions at my desk. He seemed a little concerned about that,” Burkhart says with a laugh.
There was another executive at the base whose stature Burkhart had no misunderstanding of. That was Shelly Miscavige, wife to the church leader and, as “COB assistant,” a formidable executive in her own right.
“She had a hard social veneer,” Burkhart says, “but she was immediately very warm to me. She never yelled at me for anything.” And her loyalty to COB — her husband Dave — was unwavering.
At one point, he says, when they were discussing the personal spaces to be designed for the Miscaviges to live in at Int Base, Burkhart remembers her telling him, “I wish I could build a palace for COB.”
He worked closely with her as they planned Building 50 and its sumptuous interiors. But no matter how lavish it was, there was no pleasing Miscavige. Burkhart tells us about an incident that happened after the building had been completed. He and others were called to the building and were told to wait for Miscavige to address them.
“We were called to Building 50, and we were sitting around in desks that had never been used. We waited all afternoon and evening. Finally, around midnight, we were marched out front to the circular drive there. Miscavige was haranguing us for messing up whatever it was. And then he handed a water bottle to a young woman who was an RTC estates worker under John Brousseau, Maggie Truax. Miscavige told her to open it up and throw the water on us. ‘Sir?’ she asked. ‘Wrong answer,’ he yelled at her. ‘OK,’ she said, and then she flung the water back and forth on the guys in the front row. They couldn’t move. They had to stand still and take it,” Burkhart remembers.
“I got the impression that Miscavige just needed something to complain about. He didn’t really want things to get fixed,” Burkhart says.
“So then Shelly had to patch things up afterwards,” he adds, saying that it was her typical role. He remembers her telling them, “Come on, guys, you have to realize, if we can just get behind him, we can accomplish our goals.”
Burkhart tells us that our timeline of what happened between Shelly and David Miscavige, which we reported based on things told to us by Mike Rinder, John Brousseau, and other eyewitnesses at Int Base, was the way he remembers, too. In 2005, Miscavige had gone to Los Angeles to work on a publishing project, “The Basics,” and Shelly had stayed behind at Int Base. While her husband was gone, Shelly took care of some tasks that Miscavige griped were never getting accomplished. She filled out an “org board,” for example, placing people in open job slots. And Miscavige had complained that he needed to have his personal items moved out of a building in “The Villas” so the space could be renovated. Shelly had the Household Unit crate up Miscavige’s things so the renovation could begin.
“They did a beautiful job storing his stuff, and set up temporary berthing for him in another set of buildings called the G’s,” he says — which is exactly what we had been told. When Miscavige returned, he blew a gasket when he saw what his wife had done in his absence. About a week later, around late August or early September in 2005, Shelly vanished. Except for a sighting of her at her father’s funeral in the summer of 2007, Shelly has not been seen in public or at Int Base or at a Scientology event in the decade since. It’s believed that she’s being held at a small, even more secret compound that Scientology maintains in the mountains near Lake Arrowhead, California.
Burkhart didn’t know where she was sent. He didn’t really think about her disappearance until about a year later when his boss Laurence Guenat referred to Shelly missing while speaking in hushed tones.