Church of Scientology International response to ABC on questions pertaining to Mike Rinder Mike Rinder is not a credible source concerning Scientology. He has not stepped inside a Church in nearly a decade. The Church expelled him for malfeasance and has had nothing to do with him since.
October 27, 2015
Mr. John Bentley
ABC News 20/20
47 West 66th Street
New York City, NY 10023
Re: Questions pertaining to Mike Rinder
Dear Mr. Bentley:
This letter concerns the additional questions you sent to us on October 23, 2015, pertaining to Mike Rinder.
Mike Rinder is not a credible source concerning Scientology. He has not stepped inside a Church in nearly a decade. The Church expelled him for malfeasance and has had nothing to do with him since.
Rinder also is a highly tainted source who admitted under oath to being paid by the hour by plaintiffs’ attorneys filing frivolous lawsuits against the Church. In one case, attorneys adverse to the Church paid Rinder more than $22,000. That, in and of itself, should disqualify him as an independent source and give ABC News pause about providing him a platform to tell more lies.
Furthermore, he is a violent, unstable man who abandoned his family without notice, shredding his ex-wife’s arm so severely she will never regain full use of it. The severe malfeasance he committed referred to above involved an important Church legal case. It led to his removal from any position of responsibility and his ultimately being kicked out of the Church.
In addition to the answers to the questions and other information I provide below, I am enclosing two videos. One is footage about Mike Rinder taken from the Freedom Magazine website which supports many of the statements I make below. The other is a video collection of statements by Mike Rinder himself (including statements made to 20/20 in 1998) that you can contrast now with his current claims.
As to the questions themselves, the Church responds as follows:
- Mike Rinder’s speculation about the treatment of celebrities in the Church of Scientology is twisted to support his anti-Scientology propaganda. The Church treats all members with respect, regardless of what they do for a living. Celebrity members receive the same religious services as all members of the Church. Further, no Church members have been asked or compelled to work on properties belonging to celebrity members.
- Mike Rinder’s claims about children being forced to perform menial tasks to the neglect of their education is false. As is set forth later in this letter, Mike Rinder neglected his own children and exhibited a callous and disinterested attitude to their lives, all as documented in statements from his daughter and former wife. Rinder’s own daughter also has noted to you that his statements about education are nonsense. See her letter attached.
- Mike Rinder’s claims that violence was directed to him are absolutely untrue. They are unsupported by any evidence whatsoever and have been contradicted by the sworn statements of dozens of Church officials with personal knowledge as well as by Rinder’s own wife, Catherine Bernardini. In fact, Ms. Bernardini told CNN in 2010 that in the 35 years they were married the only time she saw any sign that her husband had been beaten was when he was attacked “totally out of the blue” by Marty Rathbun, now Rinder’s fellow anti-Scientologist. She said, “I know everything that’s ever happened to him, every accident, every time he broke his wrist. I’ve been with him, we’ve been together all our lives—it’s utterly ridiculous, and it isn’t true.”
- As to Mike Rinder’s claim that Scientologists believe that Scientology is the “only hope for mankind,” what religion doesn’t aspire to achieve good things for mankind? Is ABC contending that no religion should harbor hopes for mankind or seek to spread the word of its message? Or is this bigotry just reserved for Scientologists?
- Mike Rinder’s claims concerning the extent of the Church’s solicitation of donations from members is false. Parishioners donate to the Church to support its charitable and humanitarian activities and do so within their means. Please see our general response on Church donations in our answers to ABC’s first set of questions.
- The Church has already responded to Ms. Remini’s misrepresentations concerning “disconnection.” Those comments apply equally to Mike Rinder’s statements. Mike Rinder “disconnected” from his family when he voluntarily abandoned his wife of 35 years and his two children. He well knows it was his choice to do so, just as it is their choice whether they wished to follow him or to continue their work in the Church. Any other statement is pure bigotry. The Church’s public statement on disconnection is available at www.scientologynews.org/faq/what-is-disconnection.html.
- Any and all statements that the Church has a policy of “fair game” are false; the implication that such a policy endorsed violating the law of the land is also false; the idea that Mike Rinder has some sort of “inside” knowledge is false and any claim broadcast by ABC to imply the Church engages in actions in violation of the law is defamation per se. “Fair game” is a term intentionally misinterpreted by critics to unfairly tarnish the Church. The “fair game” policy was cancelled in 1968 by the Founder, more than four decades ago, expressly because it was susceptible to misinterpretation. The term meant that apostate members could not seek protection or refuge under the Church’s internal justice codes and that those expelled from the Church could no longer take advantage of the internal ecclesiastical support offered by the Church to resolve upsets among parishioners. This concept is as old as religion itself. Many faiths reserve the right to expel members who refuse to abide by the moral and ecclesiastical codes of their religion. The term “fair game” does not appear in our Scripture. In fact, its only use since 1968 is by people like Mike Rinder who use it to generate sensationalistic press to generate anti-Scientology prejudice in the media. Current Church leadership reaffirmed these facts and part of the two-year process for IRS exemption included full recognition that the Church is organized and operated exclusively for charitable and religious purposes, was not engaged in illegal activities or otherwise in violation of any fundamental public policy. Mike Rinder is well aware of these facts and is lying to say otherwise. The truth is that current Church leadership never has and never would tolerate illegal or unethical actions, which is why individuals like Rinder were removed. The Scientology Scripture is replete with admonitions to operate on a foundation of honesty and integrity, which the expelled members you interview were unable to uphold.
- The Church’s use of off-duty police officers to provide security at event venues follows the guidelines established in 2006 by the Los Angeles City Council. The Church also uses professional security firms. The Church is by no means unique in this regard, as off-duty police officers are used by virtually every major event venue and studio in Los Angeles. ABC and its parent, The Walt Disney Company, hire off-duty LAPD officers for location filming, such as for the recent filming in and around Los Angeles for ABC’s new crime drama “Wicked City.” Furthermore, Ms. Remini has worked on productions and shows that use security firms that employ off-duty LAPD officers.
- Further, Churches of Scientology have made no donations to the Los Angeles Police Department itself. Every year, the Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre International hosts a concert at Christmastime to benefit the activities of the Hollywood Police Activities League. ABC’s parent company, The Walt Disney Company, has also participated in charitable activities that have benefited the Hollywood Police Activities League, such as the 2010 L.A. Shares giveaway. The inference that the Church received special favors from the LAPD is ludicrous and is offensive to the Church and to law enforcement. The Church and its leadership were harassed by Ms. Remini’s unfounded report.
- Mike Rinder’s claim that members of the Sea Organization are not permitted access to information outside the Church is completely untrue. See the enclosed letter from his own daughter that debunks this claim entirely.
- Mike Rinder misrepresents Church of Scientology policy and practice when it comes to dealing with external attacks against the faith. It is and always has been firm Church policy to obey the law of the land. Here, he has taken out of context a comment in a magazine article from more than 60 years ago and falsely declares it to be Church policy.
Mike Rinder’s Lack of Credibility
The truth is far different from what is presented by Mike Rinder. The real Mike Rinder is a former external affairs staffer whose malfeasance, as touched upon previously in this letter, caused the Church numerous problems that took years and millions of dollars to correct. Ultimately, the intervention of the ecclesiastical leader was needed to clean up Rinder’s final and greatest mess, resulting in his removal in disgrace. In a moment of candor, after his removal and before his ultimate dismissal from the Church, Rinder wrote about his performance and lack of truthfulness:
Bottom line is that I have had a totally criminal moral code and operated with a totally criminal mind attitude that I have not fully confronted (even down to lying about lying and doing illegal things).
With the justifications I have had in place, telling the truth under certain circumstances was in my universe no different than telling a lie or withholding.
Rinder’s description of “lying… and doing illegal things” barely scratches the surface. Rinder, along with Marty Rathbun and Tom DeVocht, secretly conspired to suborn perjury, which was finally revealed when Rathbun mentioned it to a newspaper in 2009 after the statute of limitations had run. That in turn triggered a criminal investigation and a civil case in which the leader of the Church became the target. The Church was ultimately vindicated and the criminal case dismissed, but the civil case carried on for years thanks to the irresponsible and illegal actions of Mike Rinder and his co-conspirators.
Don’t take our word for these facts. Mike Rinder himself wrote in late 2003 in a report entitled “My Honesty” that it was his dishonesty and misconduct toward the leader of the Church that led to his own downfall:
Many times I’ve looked at the overts [Scientology terminology for transgressions] I’ve committed when I have lied to you, and I’ve always had the idea that it was bad because it had caused upset—but not really confronted it as a basic violation of integrity, and therefore something far more fundamental and degraded—it is a reflection of my cowardice and lack of integrity that I would do this and it’s just black and white wrong … especially under the circumstances of being in the midst of a war, it’s suppressive. I don’t mean it’s OK at any time, it’s not—but the times I have done this with you have been when my ‘neck’ has been so precious to me that I have been willing to put you and the Church in danger because of it. (Mike Rinder 2003 report, “My Honesty”)
Rinder’s claims of leaving the Church over alleged mistreatment are a smokescreen to cover up the real reason he is no longer a Scientologist. His is a concocted story corroborated entirely by a handful of bitter ex-Scientologists with whom he now associates. Rinder claims to have “escaped” from the Church to avoid “abuse” and says he was being held against his will. The clear evidence this is a lie is that Rinder left the Church from London in 2007 where he had been for months working on an assignment, coming and going as he pleased on a daily basis. Rinder left when his request to transfer back to Los Angeles was denied; he knew he would never again rise to the position he once held.
Unable to find meaningful employment, Rinder since 2009 has been joined at the hip with his co-conspirator Marty Rathbun to maniacally attack the Church and its leadership and to exact vengeance by continuing the conduct for which he was removed: flagrant dishonesty and suborning perjury. Rathbun has been the front man for a small group of expelled members devoted to relentless character assassination of the Church’s leader, denigration of the Church and harassment of parishioners. Even more bizarre, according to Rinder’s sworn testimony in January 2015, Rathbun anointed Rinder as a “minister” of Rathbun’s group for the sole purpose of presiding at Rathbun’s wedding. Rinder is the first and only “minister” of Rathbun’s followers and the “wedding” he conducted is the only one they ever held. Rathbun says that his “independent” splinter group was a “failed experiment” and he “moved on.”
Financial motives are the key to understanding why Rinder says what he does, to ABC and others. In addition to being paid thousands of dollars a year by attorneys adverse to the Church, Rinder revealed in recent deposition that he has plotted with Marty Rathbun and others to launch a “class action” lawsuit against the Church.
Rinder knows well the modus operandi of professional anti-Scientologists and seeks to profit from these despicable tactics. It starts with an orchestrated media attack involving the most heinous and outrageous allegations, “corroborated” by others who are part of the same group and willing to lie on command. Back in 1998 while serving as Church spokesman, Rinder correctly summed it up to ABC’s 20/20: “They [anti-Scientologists] sat in a room, they figured out what they were going to say, they wrote their bits, they passed them around, they made sure they were consistent. And yes, they were paid for that.”
Earlier, in 1994, Rinder authored a declaration under penalty of perjury describing the conduct of a group of anti-Scientologists, which describes his current conduct:
These people have gathered around them a few others who are bitter and harbor an unabiding resentment of Scientology and what it stands for and for their own failures in the Church. They view the Church as their ‘lottery ticket’ and pursue their jackpot with lies and threats at the expense of the millions of happy and satisfied members who support the Church with their time and donations… Though they either do not know David Miscavige, or had some remote contact with him many years ago, they are willing to make vindictive allegations, not based on personal knowledge or the truth, and defame him personally and as the leader of the religion. The tactic is as transparent as it is unconscionable—spread venom in the hope that the victims of the hate campaign will eventually be forced to buy their silence so the Church can get on with its real purpose of expanding the Scientology religion and helping more people. (Mike Rinder Declaration of April 11, 1994)
Rinder’s Sworn Testimony, January 2015
In Rinder’s deposition of January 6, 2015, he admitted to the truthfulness of declarations he made supporting the Church and its leader while he was in the Church:
Q. In paragraph 23 you go on to say: “As I work with him often, know many of the people that know him, I’m aware of the high regard in which he,” meaning Mr. Miscavige, “is held by Scientologists and those he comes in contact with. I’ve never heard a negative statement made about him by anyone, other than those who seek to extort money from the Church. It really is simple.” That was a true statement, wasn’t it, sir?
A. Yes, absolutely. …
Q. And so you were testifying truthfully about your feelings for Mr. Miscavige and the admiration which he [enjoyed] among the parishioners of the Church, is that fair?
A. Absolutely. …
Q. “It is because he has demonstrated time and time again his integrity and selfless willingness to serve for the good of others that he enjoys the support of the staff and parishioners of the Scientology religion.” That’s true, isn’t it?
A. Oh, absolutely.
Rinder further testified in this deposition that during his tenure in the Church he was familiar with litigation brought by plaintiffs with meritless causes, and that those individuals were “getting together and making false accusations against the Church and corroborating one another.” In doing so, Rinder perfectly described what he does now.
Here is what Rinder swore to in 1994, which he recently testified under oath remains truthful:
While these so-called experts have no personal knowledge concerning David Miscavige, I do. I have known and worked with him since 1976.
The sheer volume of despicable allegations made about him are intended to create the false impression that where there is smoke there is fire. These ‘witnesses’ know only too well from their experience in the Church that the tactic of telling bigger and bolder lies has been a strategy employed against the Church in litigation for years. Tell enough lies, and make enough allegations, and an impression will be created which accomplishes the end of destroying a reputation no matter how untrue the allegations are. Public figures are especially susceptible to this fraud as any study of history shows. Jesus Christ was crucified based on the false accusations of Judas Iscariot and the prejudice of the Romans.
I know David Miscavige personally. As such I know him to be completely honest, and sincerely dedicated to helping people. For what he has done to expand our religion, he has the respect and admiration of millions of Scientologists. And for this same reason, he has earned the enmity and particular scorn of those with a vendetta against Scientology.
In the last decade, he has personally done more to ensure Scientology is standardly applied and made more widely known and available than any other single individual. After L. Ron Hubbard, the Founder of Scientology, passed away in 1986, the religion entered a new phase. While there will never be another L. Ron Hubbard, his death marked a time of potential disruption and upheaval, and Mr. Miscavige shouldered the responsibility for not only keeping the Scriptures pure, but for guiding our religion into a time of great stability and rapid growth. He never sought personal power or aggrandizement; he was thrust into the position he currently holds precisely because he is so dedicated to helping others through our religion. It is because he has demonstrated time and time again his integrity and selfless willingness to serve for the good of others that he enjoys the support of the staff and parishioners of the Scientology religion. (Mike Rinder Declaration of April 11, 1994)
Rinder’s Abusive Conduct
Tellingly, Rinder (and Rathbun) for decades inside and outside the Church never said one word about their current allegations of so-called “abuse.” Numerous individuals, both current and former members of the Church’s ecclesiastical order, have signed affidavits under penalty of perjury confirming Rinder’s stories are made up. Rinder’s former wife, Ms. Bernardini, declared under penalty of perjury that her ex-husband is a pathological liar.
What Rinder is apparently talking about is his own criminal conduct. Documentary evidence supports how Rinder abused his family, his former wife and even his co-workers—men and women:
- When Rinder’s ex-wife went to see him to inform him that one of their children had been stricken with cancer, he physically attacked her. Ms. Bernardini underwent surgery for nerve damage, and to this day experiences pain and has not regained full use of her arm and shoulder, as reflected in the EMT report and doctor’s reports on Ms. Bernardini’s injuries. Note that Rinder has repeatedly ignored this documentary evidence of wife abuse, causing Ms. Bernardini to obtain current medical records from her attending physician and physical therapist.
- Internal reports support the fact that Rinder has abused several other women, including hitting one with a clipboard and pushing another female he worked with under his desk.
- Rinder has harassed Church parishioners by storming into a Church in London and taking pictures and video footage while Church members were practicing their religion. He has made similar appearances at other Scientology Churches.
- Rinder and several cohorts went to a Church facility in Florida and attempted to storm their way into the lobby, conveniently accompanied by a camera crew. When they ignored requests to leave, police issued a formal trespass citation. Rinder admitted he staged this incident for a UK media organization so the Church “can stop saying I don’t want to see my kid, because now I’ve proven you won’t let me see my kid!” (That is exactly why his son did not want to see him, as this wasn’t the act of a father, but of an opportunist.)
- In July 2010, Rinder tried to gain similar unauthorized entry to a Church in Australia, attempting to force his way inside, with cameras rolling. During this trip, which was paid for by Channel 7 TV Australia, Rinder also trespassed on the assisted-living facility of his own mother, a Founding Scientologist in Australia. His mother was away at the time and extremely upset about her estranged son’s actions. She was equally upset by his attacks on her faith.
Rinder is emulating the very tactics of Church litigants whom he formerly criticized: smearing the Church and its leader in the press, instigating lawsuits, breaching the waivers and covenants that he signed, with the end goal of achieving financial gain. In addition to being a bitter and disaffected former member who spews religious hatred against the Church leader, the Church, and virtually anything Scientologists do, he makes a living as a professional anti-Scientologist.
Together with his bias, bigotry and harassment of Church leaders, Mike Rinder is anything but a perfect ABC source: he is someone unqualified to talk about anything having to do with Scientology today.
We expect ABC to take him out of the program.