A leader of the local Church of Scientology (CoS) on Saratoga Ave., John Allender, has drawn national attention for his role in disputes related to a Scientology schism.
On more than one occasion, Allender has reportedly tangled with local members of Anonymous, a group that regularly conducts street theater-style demonstrations at Scientology locations and events. Allender holds Scientology’s highest level of spiritual mastery (Operating Thetan Level VIII).
In an April 20, 2011 story, “When Scientologists Attack!” New York’s Village Voice (blogs.villagevoice.com) details a visit to Scientology apostate Marty Rathbun by the CoS’s inquisitorial “Squirrel Busters Squad,” led by Allender. (“Squirrel” is Scientology’s equivalent of “heretic”). Rathbun filmed the lengthy exchange, which is posted on YouTube.
Rathbun leads a prominent schism within Scientology. In a rich irony, he formerly headed Scientology’s office for defense of the faith, the Office of Special Affairs. Rathbun broke with the CoS in 2005 and has been, Church officials say, performing unauthorized Scientology “auditing.”
At the time of Allender’s visit, Rathbun says he was counseling Lori Hodgson, a San Jose woman who left the CoS last August, and whom Allender allegedly followed to Rathbun’s Texas home.
Hodgson – a member of the CoS for 35 years – left the Church over what she describes as coerced recruitment of her teenage child into Scientolology’s controversial military-style service organization, the Sea Org. Hodgson claims that since her defection Allender has stalked and threatened her.
Founded in 1952 by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology teaches that people are immortal souls (thetans) who have been alienated from their true selves.
Its central practice is one-on-one auditing – freeing oneself from the past by confessing and re-experiencing traumatic events (engrams) – using a device (e-meter) that measures changes in the skin’s ability to conduct electricity. The Church charges for its services, and advanced practitioners spend tens of thousands on classes, auditing, books and other study materials.
While most religions aim to control the exercise of their sacramental rites, Scientology seeks to suppress unorthodox believers with an intensity rarely seen in modern religion. It would be hard to imagine a similar episode, say, among Episcopalians, who have been in schism for 40 years over the ordination of women.
Carolyn Schuk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.