Update 5:00 p.m. This story has been updated to include comments from Church of Scientology.
A former Scientologist published a series of YouTube videos on Tuesday showing a confrontation with current members outside the church’s International Base in Gilman Springs, California. The compound is believed to house members of the church’s Sea Organization -- a religious order within the organization where members work under rigid conditions with restricted social time.
On Monday, former Scientology “Sea Org” worker Marc Headley brought a Danish documentary crew to Gilman Springs Road -- a road that runs through the compound. The Danish film crew included Robert Dam, an ex-Scientologist who left the church 20 years ago. According to Headley, the plan was to show the compound to the film crew from the highway that intersects the property. Their mission was aided by the fact that part of the fence that runs along the perimeter of the property was destroyed in a recent mudslide.
“The idea was that I would give them a tour of the base from the highway and if anybody came out to talk, Robert was going to ask them some questions,” Headley told International Business Times in an email. Instead, the visit turned into an ambush where Scientologists confronted Headley and the camera crew on the side of the road.
Headley said the confrontation did not happen right away. He arrived with the Danish film crew Monday afternoon. He showed them the Old Gilman House -- a building he describes as a detention facility. To Headley’s surprise, the building was no longer there.
“It is gone. Bulldozed. It is an empty dirt field with zero buildings anywhere near it. Everything in that area is GONE,” Headley wrote.
Up until that point, no one from inside the compound made contact with Headley and the film crew. However, after the group passed the main guard booth, Headley said he spotted Kevin McEnery -- “an old buddy” of his from when he belonged to the church. Headley said “hello” and waved at him. McEnery did not respond.
Later, when Headley was showing the crew the “G Units” also known as guest cottages -- luxury bungalows known to accommodate VIP members including actor Tom Cruise -- he heard a voice over a speakerbox installed at the gate.
“He said, ‘Hey Marc, Did you tell them about all the money you took from the church?”’” Headley said. He said the voice belonged to a member named Kevin Cataeno who seemed to be commenting on a 2010 lawsuit Headley filed and later lost.
Once Headley and the group made it way back to the middle of the property on Gilman Springs Road, a group of Scientologists approached them. Two were holding handheld cameras. This was not the encounter that Headley filmed. During this run-in Headley says a woman he identified as Catherine Fraser told that him that he “was not welcome,” he “never held any high positions in Scientology” and he “owed them money.” Fraser is the ex-wife of Jeff Hawkins, a former Scientologist who left the church after 35 years in 2005. At the time, he was the church’s marketing manager.
Fraser and the other members then retreated back inside the property. Headley and the film crew were packing up their equipment when “several vehicles started pulling up behind us.” At this point, Headley took out his iPhone and filmed three videos roughly two-minutes in length each. The clips show Headley arguing with Fraser who refutes Headley’s claims that members are imprisoned on the compound.
“Marc stop lying. You give a deluded false picture and it’s a total lie and you know it,” Fraser said in one of the videos.
Fraser along with another unidentified man argue with Headley about allegations he made about the organization -- mainly that he was followed by Scientologist security guards on motorcycles after he tried to escape the compound in 2005. Headley, who was also on a motorcycle, reportedly fell of his bike during this getaway and was helped by Riverside County sheriffs to escape.
“Marc lived in another place, not even on the property, another place altogether,” Fraser said in one of the clips. “And that day when I explained that to the sheriff -- the sheriff looked at me and said, 'Oh, you mean he could have left at any time?' I said, ‘Yes, he could have left at any time and he did.’”
Headley and his wife, Claire escaped the facility in two separate attempts in 2005. Their experiences were recounted in a 2009 book Headley wrote entitled “Blown for Good.” A year after the book’s publication, the couple sued the Church of Scientology for $1 million each. According to their attorney Barry Van Sickle, they were seeking back pay and overtime for the 100-hour work weeks without compensation. Claire reportedly had multiple abortions because women were prohibited from having children, their mail was censored and Internet access was limited. In 2012, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the Headleys saying the couple voluntarily committed to the rules put forth by the Sea Organization.
According to the church, Headley did not voluntarily leave the church but was expelled “following the discovery of his involvement in theft of Church equipment and selling it on eBay,” Church of Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw told IBTimes in an email.
“He and his wife lost a frivolous lawsuit against the Church and were ordered to pay $42,000 in legal costs. He then came to our property several times taunting the staff with his lies about his former faith,” Pouw said. “These Church members [in the recent video] had had enough of Marc Headley’s taunts and his spreading lies about his former religion to tabloids and when he came around again, they told him so.”
Headley has a different take.
“If the message was that they still have a large stock of Kool-Aid on hand and are drinking their prescribed doses, I got the message loud and clear,” Headley said about the encounter. “I can only hope that I may have planted a few seeds of doubt in regards to any of them making a break to the outside world.”
The latest “ambush” videos are the second ones to emerge in less than two months. In October, ex-Scientologist Mark Rathbun was confronted at Los Angeles International Airport by three of the church’s top executives who report to church president David Miscavige.
Rathbun left the church in 2004 after working in church leadership for 27 years. He has criticized the church in several media interviews but believes a lawsuit his wife filed in January triggered the verbal assault.
“I believe they were attempting to incite me to assault one of them so that they could arrange an arrest to discredit me,” Rathbun told International Business Times in October about the video where church executives were filmed yelling at Rathbun, telling him to “get a life,” that his criticism of the church has had “no effect,” and “nobody gives a f*** about you.”
The encounter was the second time Rathburn was confronted by Scientology members since his departure. In 2011, church members came to his house in Corpus Christi, Texas, holding video cameras. During that encounter, Rathbun lost his temper and grabbed one of the microphones. He says church members continue to track his movements.
“They know how to discern our travel plans in advance as we have been confronted by, or been overtly tailed by private investigators, nearly every time we arrive in another city at the airport,” Rathbun said.