The following is part one of our mini-series on Scientology's long-time stance against homosexuality, its discriminatory practices against gays within its ranks, and how founder L. Ron Hubbard's own early sexual "experiences" may have unduly affected his view on homosexuality.
Objection and Defection
Paul Haggis' (two-time Oscar-winning writer/director) now well-publicized defection from the Church of Scientology came about for numerous reasons.
As he outlined in his letter of departure: a) Haggis has two lesbian daughters and supports gay and lesbian rights, b) an employee of the San Diego church signed Scientology's name to a petition supporting California’s Proposition 8, which denied gay and lesbian couples the right to legally wed, c) he had expressed his displeasure to church spokesman Tommy Davis and been told something would be done but Haggis felt it had not, and d) Haggis claimed that his daughter Katy was ostracized by Scientologists after she revealed she was a lesbian.
Although Tommy Davis claimed there was no such prejudice in the church, Lawrence Wright pointed out in his February 2011 New Yorker article about Haggis and Scientology that when he examined recent copies of L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics, the definition of "sexual pervert" included homosexuals and lesbians.
Haggis had other major problems with Scientology despite his 35-year membership, not the least of which was that his wife, actress Debbie Rennard, was ordered to “disconnect” (completely shun) her parents when they left Scientology.
Rennard’s own membership rivaled Haggis in time spent; prior to marrying the moviemaker, she had a long relationship with the late film director and acting coach Milton Katselas, whose acting classes at his Beverly Hills Playhouse formed a literal feeder unit for the Scientology Celebrity Centre for decades. Many well-known stars like Anne Archer, Catherine Bell, Jenna Elfman, Priscilla Presley, and Giovanni Ribisi studied there (although Ribisi was born into a Scientology family).
What most people reading Wright’s article did not know is: Dianetics and Scientology, and the gay and lesbian lifestyle have been at odds since the beginning, because of none other than Lafayette Ronald Hubbard.
Whenever the subject of gays and Scientology comes up in conversation, it is inevitable that someone in the know will point out that Scientology celebrities rumored to be gay cannot leave Scientology because their “pre-clear folders” (the notated record of counseling session, recorded by hand as it progresses) would be exposed to the public at large, thereby ruining a gay or bisexual actors’ chances of getting straight leading roles.
Would that happen? It was certainly true in years past, but who knows in this day and age.
In December 2010, openly gay actor Rupert Everett (My Best Friend’s Wedding) told the BBC he barely worked for almost a decade, only to finally move back to England. He depicted Hollywood as “an extremely conservative world” that only appeared to be liberal. Still, sexual orientation hasn’t exactly slowed down Neil Patrick Harris (whose Smurfs movie hit #1 this year) or Sir Ian McKellen. It also hasn’t prevented Gus Van Sant from making movies, kept Ellen DeGeneres from having a hit TV show, or stopped Jane Lynch from hosting the 2011 Emmy Awards.
Would Scientology try to use confidential “priest-penitent” information against a defector? Maybe.
Is there a general prejudice against gays and lesbians within the Scientology community? Yes and no. If you’re a celebrity, generally there is not, because celebrities give a lot of money to Scientology and are used in promoting the church established by L. Ron Hubbard in 1953. If a celebrity leaves Scientology, though, or even if they stray, it can be quite different.
Confessions Revealed, Loose Lips
Full disclosure - I’m completely heterosexual, and single. I’m also a former Scientologist, with a long association at the Celebrity Centre, both as a staff member who worked closely with the Centre’s founder, Yvonne Jentzsch, and as a “public person” afterward. On the other hand, I did not spend the kind of money poured into Scientology’s coffers by people like Tom Cruise or John Travolta, so even though I fit the Celebrity Centre definition of a celebrity, I was never treated like one.
The first time I encountered the breaking of confidentiality of Scientology auditing information was when Don Baaska, a jazz musician who was at the time Celebrity Centre’s Senior Case Supervisor, stunned me with a comment.
The Senior C/S in any Scientology facility is the person in charge of the application of “standard technology” (Scientology done exactly as Hubbard outlined) to every person receiving Scientology “auditing” (counseling). That includes complete confidentiality of what transpires in any “session” and all Scientologists are admonished not to discuss their own “case” (mental problems they’re using Dianetics and Scientology to conquer) outside of session. Naturally, the stipulation is even more rigorously applied to “auditors” (counselors), and C/Ses should never discuss what transpires.
Nevertheless Baaska, after I mentioned Scientology celebrity musician Jimmie Spheeris (brother of movie director Penelope Spheeris) getting a new recording contract, groused to me that Spheeris would probably blow the money on partying that included homosexual exploits. Baaska said it had been on ongoing problem. I knew Jimmie a little, knew members of his band better (they included some Celebrity Centre staff members), but I had no idea he was gay or (more likely as I learned over the years, bisexual).
It was only the beginning; in the years that followed in my Scientology adventure, I learned that confidentiality of information within counseling sessions was largely a myth.
In those days, the mid-1970s, the Celebrity Centre located on Eighth Street between downtown Los Angeles and MacArthur Park was a bohemian enclave of many out of the mainstream ideas. When I arrived, there were three people who claimed to have been Mark Twain in a previous life.
The brother of actor Stephen Boyd confided to me that Yvonne Jentzsch has been Bodhidharma in a past incarnation, and before the Centre moved to a new home at 1551 N. La Brea in Hollywood, artist and calligrapher Bruce Bishop got hold of “Hymn of Asia” - a piece Hubbard had written to try to impress a Buddhist convention - and turned it into an impressively illustrated book. (Hubbard hadn’t impressed the Buddhists, maybe because in the book he alluded to being the reincarnated Buddha.)
I’d grown up in small Texas towns where homosexuals were almost non-existent, but I was open to examining any idea. I was also naïve; when a film editor taking a class at the Centre asked me to hang out on a Saturday night, I had no idea he was gay until I got in the car with him and he propositioned me, and then I got out.
"The sexual pervert (and by this term Dianetics, to be brief, includes any and all forms of deviation in dynamic two such as homosexuality, lesbianism, sexual sadism, etc., and all down the catalog of Ellis and Krafft-Ebing) is actually quite ill physically he is very far from culpable for his condition, but he is also far from normal and extremely dangerous to society ”
(Dianetics, The Modern Science of Mental Health, Book Two, Chapter 5, p. 120 - “dynamic two” being the sex and family part of the eight “dynamics” or means of survival in life that Hubbard devised, reminiscent of Buddha’s “Eightfold Path.”)
Even worse, in Science of Survival, the follow-up to Dianetics, Hubbard outlined a numerical range of emotions that he dubbed “the tone scale” that ranged from -3 at the bottom (death), to +4 at the top (enthusiasm). According to that chart, "perverts" such as homosexuals, were at the level of “covert hostility” or 1.1:
“At 1.1 on the tone scale we enter the area of the most vicious reversal of the second dynamic. Here we have promiscuity, perversion, sadism, and irregular practices."
(Science of Survival, Book One, Chapter 18, page 116.)
Rock Hudson Narrowly Escapes
It was odd, because I didn’t see any examples of such perversions or irregular practices (whatever those were) in Jimmie Spheeris or other people who were openly gay around Celebrity Centre, such as classical pianist Mario Feninger and his boyfriend Ian Brooks, or Scientology auditor and “ethics counselor” Margaret George, a very butch older woman who drove a Corvette, smoked continuously, and seemed to have a penchant for young blonde lady Scientologists. I also never heard any complaints about gays and lesbians.
One day, however, the Centre was abuzz because Scientologist Flo Allen, a talent agent whose best friend was Scientologist Marion Wagner (divorced from actor Robert Wagner), had brought in her famous client Rock Hudson for an introductory auditing session. Hudson didn’t last long - I saw him leaving in a hurry and asked why he was upset. No one would tell me but later, his auditor Carmine Terra explained that Hudson had hit upon a homosexual “withhold” (undisclosed transgression against a moral code) and wouldn’t reveal it, so he bolted. This was many years before Hudson contracted AIDS and created worldwide headlines by “coming out.”
It was quite a surprise to me to learn that the man who had starred in so many movies opposite Doris Day actually liked guys, but the longer I was around Celebrity Centre, the odder life in Hollywood seemed to be. And when the organization moved its headquarters to Hollywood, there would be many more revelations to amaze.
Coming tomorrow: Part 2 of TMR's exclusive report: "Scientology's Big Gay Problem: LRH's Lies and Secrets Unravel"