Ten years ago, in January 2012, a process began that would lead to Dror Center departing the Church of Scientology. On June 28, 2012, Tami and Dani Lemberger were handed a letter notifying them that they had been declared ‘Suppressive Persons.’
In 2012, Dror Center took a courageous decision to leave the Church. This final and irreversible step followed six months of detailed research, soul-searching by each individual involved, heart-wrenching discussions, and a thorough Doubt Formula everyone completed prior to reaching the fateful, yet inevitable conclusion to leave the Church.
Dror’s partners realized this act must be done as the only pro-survival way to proceed, when it became clear that the Church has been taken over by evil usurpers who had subverted Ron Hubbard’s philosophy, had twisted the Tech, have betrayed Ron’s legacy, and have perverted his wish for humankind to benefit from his vast pool of knowledge.
Dror’s partners made numerous attempts to communicate about the gross out-points within the Church. But, to no avail. All communications were met with threats and intimidation. It was apparent that there is no way to reform the Church and the insane tyrant, David Miscavige.
Dror Center departed with determination to continue delivering the entire Bridge to Spiritual Freedom, exactly as Ron Hubbard designed it.
As a final step of research and attempting to understand what had happened to the Church, on June 20, 2012, Tami and Dani Lemberger traveled to Ingleside on the Bay, Texas, to meet with Marty Rathbun, Miscavige’s right-hand-man over many years. While there, on June 23, 2012, a Suppressive Person Declare was issued on Tami and Dani. The declare was issued while they were with Rathbun, since his house was surrounded by Church private investigators who reported to Miscavige that Tami and Dani were with Rathbun. Notice of the declare was handed to Dani and Tami at Tampa Airport on June 28, 2012, but the SP Declare itself was never given them until much later, by order of the Tel Aviv District Court.
In those distant days, Marty Rathbun was a leader of the budding Scientology Indie movement. Several years later, Marty flipped and helped the Church against Dani Lemberger, a freak occurrence he never accounted for.
Dror’s escape was the only time in Scientology history that an entire mission departed intact. All the staff at Dror walked out – Aviv Bershadsky, Dima Dubinin, Moti Weizman, Carmela Weizman, Tami and Dani – and about 40 of 50 public.
The news of Dror’s departure spread like wildfire. Marty told his friends at the time, Mike Rinder and Tony Ortega, of the Lemberger visit at his home and the repercussions. Tony Ortega was quick to contact Dani and ask for an interview. Tami and Dani returned to Israel on July 4, 2012, via Newark Airport, where Tony met Dani to conduct with him a lengthy interview that Tony published in the Village Voice on July 6.
A lot has happened since. Dror is flourishing and steadily expanding. Over the next few weeks, we will publish more articles about those fateful days. Thank you for being with us. Thank you to the many who supported us over the past ten years.
In case you cannot follow the link above, here is Ortega’s interview with Dani in full:
SCIENTOLOGY CRUMBLING: An Entire Church Mission Defects as David Miscavige Faces Leadership Crisis
by TONY ORTEGA
July 6, 2012
For several years, we’ve been reporting about a crisis in Scientology as key members of the church — including some of its highest-ranking former executives — have left the organization and spoken out about its abuses. One by one, longtime, loyal Scientologists have announced that they are fed up and are leaving the church.
But now, for the first time in memory, an entire mission has announced that it is defecting from the church en masse. Israel’s Dror Center, in Haifa, announced in a lengthy statement that it is rejecting the leadership of David Miscavige and the official church. It now plans to become a part of the burgeoning “independent Scientology” movement. (We sent a request for comment to the Church of Scientology’s media office Wednesday evening, but our message has not been answered.)
Dani Lemberger and his wife Tami founded the Dror Center in 1992 — twice, Tami has been recognized by the church as the world’s best auditor, in 2000 and 2002. The Lembergers were in the US this week to meet other members of the independence movement. The church used that opportunity to serve them in Tampa’s airport with notices that they had been “declared suppressive persons” (the church’s jargon for excommunication). On their way home to Israel, we sat down with Dani during a layover at Newark Airport.
“Our mission is one of the few on the planet that’s actually expanding,” he told me. But now, his group has notified Miscavige that it will no longer answer to him. “We have left the church.”
Let Freedom Ring
Scientology makes much of its network of missions and field groups, which are smaller than its “orgs” — short for organizations — but more numerous. In Israel, there is one org in Tel Aviv, the Lemberger’s mission in Haifa, and then two smaller missions and, Lemberger estimates, four or five additional field auditors. The Dror Center, with about 50 people associated with it, is a healthy size for a mission, and it’s a significant part of Scientology’s modest presence in the country.
On January 2, Lemberger received a copy of Debbie Cook’s infamous New Year’s Eve e-mail. Cook, a well-known former executive in the church, stunned her fellow Scientologists by putting out a lengthy message detailing how Miscavige has turned the church over to “extreme fundraising” and is getting away from the precepts of Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard. The church sued Cook for sending the e-mail, then it later reached a settlement with her in return for her promising to say no more publicly about her experiences.
But Cook’s New Year’s Eve message continues to do major damage, as other longtime, loyal Scientologists announce that they are leaving the organization because of the same concerns with David Miscavige’s leadership. Lemberger reacted to Debbie Cook’s e-mail by forwarding it to church officials, asking them to comment on it. Instead, the church’s Office of Special Affairs put him “in ethics” — under a kind of interrogation program — and asked him to read a copy of the church’s propaganda magazine, Freedom, which contained attacks on the credibility of numerous former church officials who spoke up for a 2009 Tampa Bay Times expose, including Marty Rathbun, Amy Scobee, and Tom DeVocht.
“The magazine is disgusting. It’s evil,” Lemberger says. “It has a photo of Tom DeVocht scratching his balls, like every man doesn’t do that. It had a photo of Amy Scobee that made her look bad. And the writing, it’s gross and ugly. So gross, you know they’re lying. It’s just hatred, and a Scientologist never hates.” “The Freedom magazine had referred to Marty Rathbun having a blog. So I went to the Internet, finally,” he says. A loyal (if often complaining) member of Scientology for more than 30 years, Lemberger had never explored the ‘Net to see what people were saying about his church — and he knew nothing about the crisis it was in. But now he absorbed as much he could stand. “I found out that the world has changed,” he says.
Besides the controversies, he also realized that there was a burgeoning independence movement that takes several different forms in Europe and the US. And these groups are using the same materials as the official church, but without the layers of control and constant demands for large donations.
“Everything now is on the Internet. All the Bridge, all the training Bridge, the auditing Bridge. There’s no more monopoly,” Lemberger says. He was stunned to realize that L. Ron Hubbard’s entire “Bridge to Total Freedom” is now available to anyone with a computer and Internet access. Dani said he came to the realization that his entire mission could continue to honor Hubbard’s ideas, but break away from the church itself.
“My people in the mission know Tami, they know me. All of our staff are well paid. All of our customers get great service. I manage it my way,” he says. “I took my staff together and told them about Debbie Cook. I encouraged them all to do their own research.” He even cited a Hubbard policy to justify their research project.
“As the church says, ‘Think for yourself’,” his wife Tami adds. So the people at his mission began reading stories about Scientology on the Internet. “Everyone came to the same conclusion — the church is fucked. The orgs are useless. Miscavige is a lunatic,” Dani says. “We decided we wanted to leave the church.” The Lembergers own the mission, and under a franchise license send ten percent of their income to the church. In a letter, Lemberger notified David Miscavige that they now consider themselves independent from the church and will no longer be sending money.
Last month, the Lembergers flew to south Texas to meet with Marty Rathbun, formerly the second-highest ranking official in the church, who now is the most visible member of the independence movement because of his blog, which is harshly critical of Miscavige.
“It is unprecedented, as far as I can recall… no mission, certainly no group of this size and productivity, has told management to shove off,” Rathbun says. The only thing like it he can remember was some mission holders refusing to sign new charters in the early 1980s. But there’s never been a mission that simply defected because of its problems with how the church itself is being run. Rathbun calls it a tectonic shift in the world of Scientology.
But he also wanted the Lembergers to understand that they shouldn’t go looking for anyone else to be their new leader. “I really tried to emphasize that independents have got to get over the idea that they need a leader or any type of management. They were sort of looking for me to supervise or direct them,” he says.
After a week with Rathbun, they then flew to Tampa to visit other independents in the area. But when they arrived and went to pick up their luggage, a woman approached them. “She asked, ‘Are you Dani Lemberger?’ I said yes, and she handed us two envelopes,” Lemberger says. Inside were letters from the church notifying Dani and Tami that they have been declared suppressive persons. They said they could only come to one conclusion: church operatives had spotted them visiting Rathbun, which today is considered grounds for immediate excommunication.
Dani is still surprised not only that Rathbun’s house was under surveillance, but he wonders how the church was able to get his flight information. “I inform anyone wishing to visit that they must assume their visit is being recorded from a distance,” Rathbun says. “I told Dani and Tami that, but I think they only half believed me until they were served with suppressive person declares at baggage claim,” he says. When they got home, however, the Lembergers found that church letters were the least of their worries.
One Million Years B.C.
Sitting in the food court of Newark Liberty International Airport’s terminal B, Dani Lemberger’s face was flush, the hair on his arms was standing up, his eyes were getting a bit misty. “You’re being a good auditor right now,” he told me.
He had been telling me about his early years in Scientology, when he and his wife Tami, then newlyweds, took up the practice in San Francisco in 1980. As he described his “wins” while auditing, he explained the church’s counseling techniques in vivid detail. I was fascinated, and I just listened and took notes. “Auditing? No one has ever told me that before,” I said. “Well, you’re listening. You’re paying attention. That’s what an auditor does.”
Lemberger was born in Haifa in 1952. He spent some time in London, got a bachelor’s degree in economics and statistics at Haifa University, and an MBA at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, near Paris. After spending some time working as a business executive in Tel Aviv, he met Tami and they were married in 1979. They decided to take a year off and travel before having kids, and that’s how they ended up in San Francisco, trying Scientology.
“I had been into self-improvement, into spiritual, mental stuff for years,” he says. “I did psychoanalysis, yoga, meditation. I read zen, Alan Watts, Carlos Castaneda. Each one, it quickly came to a plateau, and then there was no place to go farther.” He was still looking for something that would hold his interest when he started courses at the SF mission.
But in Scientology, he right away started having “major wins,” and was soon “going exterior” — having out-of-body experiences through Scientology auditing. “You could ask any questions. And there was an answer to any question from the writings of Ron Hubbard,” he says. And he wants to make sure that I don’t think he’s a credulous man: “I was never about to believe anything. Scientology is not a belief. There was never a demand to believe anything — this is key.” “We have no god. We have David Miscavige,” he says, and then grins. “I’m kidding.”
Through his early coursework, he was rapidly discovering his true nature. “You come easily to the awareness of yourself as a spirit, not a body. Nobody before Hubbard made it so simple, so easy to grasp,” he says. “It’s natural law. It’s true.”
For a year and a half, he says, he and Tami trained to be auditors in San Francisco. “That’s when I cognited that this is the way. The answer to mankind’s quest for an understanding of life,” he says. “Tami and I decided to dedicate our lives to clearing the planet.”
The Lembergers were fully on board. But Dani says he couldn’t help being worried about something: “What happens to Scientology when Ron Hubbard dies?” It was 1981, Hubbard had turned 70 years old, and since the 1977 FBI raid on church offices in Los Angeles and DC (which would bring prison sentences for 11 church operatives — including Hubbard’s wife, Mary Sue), Hubbard had made himself scarce.
“I had the audacity to write Hubbard a letter — what happens to Scientology after you die?” Dani says he received a response, but it was a generic-sounding letter, saying that the church had good management in place. It had a stamp of Hubbard’s signature. “I shrugged and put it away,” Dani says.
Meanwhile, his Scientology coursework was going straight up and vertical. While on his second session of New Era Dianetics, he made a huge leap forward. “I went whole track,” he says. And he explains that he wasn’t supposed to do that so early in his career.
He had already accepted the idea that he was an immortal being — called a “thetan” — and that he had lived countless times while inhabiting numerous bodies, lifetime after lifetime. But now, through auditing, he suddenly got a vision of deep time — his existence over his “whole track” of existence. “I was seeing experiences I had undergone millions of years ago,” he says. “I accepted it.”
Scientologists believe that problems in their lives are the result of experiences that might have happened to them eons ago. Only Hubbard’s auditing, they believe, can get them back to those experiences to “handle” them so they no longer produce problems in the present time. “It works with 100 percent true scientific accuracy,” he says. And in the meantime, it was just a hell of a good time at the mission.
“It was a year and a half of great experiences, full of people having fun. Tons of laughs. Fun drills. And you saw yourself by the hour having wins and gains,” he says. “And all along I questioned and argued because I’m a skeptic by nature.”
In 1981, the Lembergers returned to Israel and began doing further Scientology coursework at the org in Tel Aviv.
Five years later, on January 24, 1986, L. Ron Hubbard died. After three days, thousands of Scientologists were called to the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles to receive the word that Hubbard had discarded his body so he could continue his research on another plane of existence. The announcement was videotaped for Scientologists in other parts of the world. “I saw it two or three times. I felt uneasy. I was in shock. Sad. They made too much effort to make it seem a joyful event,” he says.
Six months later, Dani had moved to New Jersey for an executive job, and he traveled to Scientology’s “advanced org” in Los Angeles in 1998 and attested to “clear.” After eight years of coursework and auditing, he had finally cleared away the last of his “reactive mind” — the place where, Hubbard believed, we store up the traumas of our lives (in “engrams”) so that it keeps us from seeing our true nature. Having spent that time clearing away his engrams, he had no more reactive mind of his own, and was ready to proceed to even higher levels as an “operating thetan.”
In 1989, he made his first trip to “Flag,” Scientology’s spiritual mecca in Clearwater, Florida. Over the next couple of years, he saw people like Debbie Cook, who had become “Captain FSO” of Flag, running the huge operation where Operating Thetan levels one to seven are delivered. And that’s when, Dani says, he started noticing the distance between top executives like Cook and ordinary “publics” like himself. There was a gulf between them that he didn’t think was a good reflection on management. But in general, he was thrilled to be doing his OT levels at Flag. In 1991, he reached the most legendary level of all — OT III.
“It’s all on the Internet,” he says, knowing that now much of the public is aware of the bizarre story about Xenu the galactic overlord which Hubbard wrote in 1967 while running Scientology from the yacht Apollo. “OT levels have two parts. First, there’s the course. It consists of whole track stories. I won’t repeat it. But I won’t deny what you already know,” he says. “Some of it is handwritten. It’s science fiction. It’s a tale. You want to believe it, believe it. It’s of no importance. It’s a fable. Legend.” More important than the space opera tale, he says, is the second part of the process — drilling the story through exercises with the e-meter. “The results come from the drill, not from the story,” he explains. (This auditing is done solo, with the subject using an e-meter to quiz himself. In a 2006 price list smuggled to the Internet, OT III on its own carried a price of $8,800, discounted to $7,040 for IAS lifetime members.)
Reminding me that a Clear has no reactive mind of his own, Dani tells me that when you experience “charge” at the OT levels, it comes not from your own reactive mind but from a being nearby. “Some of the charge can be very close, or a distant charged area that’s far away and connected to you invisibly,” he says. “During my second session on OT III, I had an experience of a massive blow of charge that was distant. Maybe 100 yards away. When the charge blew my body started shaking, and I started crying. It’s something that follows you wherever you go. What was it? Where did it come from? The needle on the e-meter was going back and forth, exactly as Hubbard said it would. It was quite mind-blowing.”
On levels OT IV and higher, Scientologists learn that they are infested with thousands of other thetans — known as “body thetans,” each with their own reactive minds and carrying their own charge from experiences millions of years in the past. Over the next several years — while purchasing 12.5-hour “intensives” of auditing for tens of thousands of dollars per level — they work to rid themselves of these “bt’s.” Critics call it a form of science-fiction exorcism, and point out that while Scientologists are paying such huge amounts, there always seem to be more body thetans for them to clear away. By 1991, Dani had finished OT VI and was started on OT VII, the highest level he could complete at Flag. (OT VIII, Scientology’s highest level, is only delivered on the church’s private cruise ship, the Freewinds.)
About that time, he and Tami returned to Israel, and began thinking of opening their own mission in Haifa at the urging of Tami’s father, who had also taken Scientology courses. He owned a nail and wire factory, which had some adjacent property. It was perfect for a center of their own. In 1992, they opened the Dror Center. And then Dani started breaking rules.
Lost in Translation
“There were no Hebrew materials then. So I started translating Hubbard into Hebrew. You weren’t supposed to do it, but I did it anyway,” he says. Dani translated Hubbard’s book, “Learning How to Learn,” and printed 1000 copies of the book, in full color. “The first copy off the press, I put into an envelope and mailed it to COB. ‘Dear Sir, I did this,’ I wrote.” Lemberger mailed it off to David Miscavige, who, as Chairman of the Board of the Religious Technology Center, Scientology’s controlling entity, is known as “COB.” On August 17, 1994, Miscavige mailed Dani a letter, commending him for producing the book.
He was also commended by Scientology’s president, Heber Jentzsch, for the way he helped quash an investigation of the church by Israel’s Knesset. If management was pleased with Lemberger, Lemberger was increasingly becoming frustrated with management.
Each summer, Dani was traveling to Flag to continue work on OT VII, which he had been stuck on for years. But what concerned him more than his own case was the state of the organization. “I could see very clearly that the orgs, the missions, the groups, the field auditors — they were obviously managed incorrectly. They were doing things totally backward,” he says.
He found that in 1965, Hubbard had written a policy explaining that top-heavy, top-down management was what stifled growth. “I was worried that it was what was happening in Scientology. It was too top-heavy, with no middle management. It was destroying the orgs because the executive directors can’t do anything.” In 1993, he started writing letters to Miscavige, explaining his concerns. “The orgs are not doing well,” I told him. And you’re not supposed to say that.
Personally, things were good for Dani. “Life was good. The factory, my wife, our kids. I was having good wins on OT VII. But one thing that was bugging me — my ruin, as we say in Scientology — is that the organization is not doing well. It was shrinking and it was mismanaged. I was remembering how much better it was in San Francisco.”
As the years went by, he complained more and more to auditors and other officials. “My language got worse over the years,” he says. The officials at Flag responded by putting him through intense “sec checking” — interrogations intended to get a subject to admit to transgressions. He went through hundreds of hours of sec checking, he says. It wasn’t fun. But he did enjoy another part of the program they designed to handle his attitude — the False Purpose Rundown.
“It was a tailor-made FPRD program they designed for me. They believed that if I was always complaining about Miscavige’s mistakes, I must have mistakes of my own on my whole track. So we handled it on all my overts and withholds [moral transgressions and lies to cover them up]. We turned up all the goofs, errors, and misdeeds I made as an executive or leader,” he says. “For the past millions of years, I’ve always been a leader or an executive.” And along the way, he’s made mistakes, resulting in the people he led rising up against him. “I was guillotined repeatedly over my whole track. That happened to me many times over the past million years.” Lemberger insists that he found the program useful. “It was terrific. I loved it. That’s why I didn’t mind paying the tens of thousands.” However, after years of the FPRD program and intense sec checking, his original problem remained. “I still thought Miscavige was a lunatic.”
In January 2005, his case supervisors gave up and took him off OT VII. Since then, he’s had very little auditing at all. But he’s not in a rush to get back on the Bridge. “As long as Miscavige is COB, I’m not getting back on the level,” he says.
While his case stalled, his mission thrived. Tami was named best auditor on the planet in 2000 and 2002. Customers and income flowed through the center steadily. They moved “pre-clears” up the Bridge and on to the Tel Aviv org and to Flag. And all along the way, Dani carped and complained about what a lousy job Miscavige was doing.
Then, on January 2 of this year, one of Dror’s auditors, Aviv Bershadsky, brought Dani a copy of Debbie Cook’s e-mail. “Aviv said, ‘I’m sorry. All these years I thought you were a nut. Now Debbie is saying everything you’ve been saying for ten years.’ I wrote Debbie Cook an e-mail. I told her, I agree with most of what you have written. But you’re 15 years too late.”
Drug Dealers and Psychos
After we’d talked for nearly four hours, Dani, now joined by Tami, had to dash to get to their plane to Israel on Tuesday night. When they got home, they learned that they’d been targeted by a classic Scientology smear campaign. “The church is now putting out information that we are drug dealers, that we’ve gone psychotic, that we are controlled by Marty Rathbun,” he says. “They’re showing friends an SP declare with horrendous lies, but they never show it to us, so we can’t defend ourselves.”
The “fair game” campaign has managed to convince about ten members of their mission to abandon them. But the rest — about 40 auditors, staff, and public — are sticking with them, Dani says. “They’ll all get their declares, one by one, we know,” Dani says.
After getting to know Dani Lemberger, the sharp business executive, spiritual seeker, ardent believer in L. Ron Hubbard’s expansive vision of the cosmos, cantankerous but loyal organization man — in other words, just about the Platonic ideal of a deep-rooted Scientologist — it’s shocking to think that he’s taking an entire mission away from Miscavige’s church.