Dear HBOFalse Allegations from Mike Rinder
On March 3, 2015, the Church wrote to Sheila Nevins to further illuminate the deceitfulness of Alex Gibney’s HBO film on the Church of Scientology. Predictably, one of the linchpins of the movie is Mike Rinder, a rabid anti-Scientologist removed from his Church position in disgrace more than a decade earlier for criminal acts, malfeasance and, most importantly, for repeatedly lying to the leader of the religion. However with this letter the Church was armed with further evidence from a legal deposition Rinder had recently been subject to. He had testified under oath to lying—which is exactly what the Church had said all along.
March 3, 2015
President, HBO Documentary Films
Re: HBO film on Scientology
Mike Rinder: Anti-Scientologist, Unreliable Source
Dear Ms. Nevins:
The deceitfulness of Alex Gibney’s HBO film on the Church of Scientology knows no end.
Predictably, one of the linchpins of the movie is Mike Rinder, a rabid anti-Scientologist who was removed in disgrace from his position in external affairs in the Church more than a decade ago for criminal acts, malfeasance and, most importantly, for repeatedly lying to the leader of the religion. This is the very same individual we advised HBO and Mr. Gibney nearly two months ago had been deposed and questioned under penalty of perjury on matters directly related to many of the claims he had made to Lawrence Wright, the primary source for Gibney’s film. We assumed, correctly, that Rinder would make the same false claims to Gibney and for that reason, a review of Rinder’s deposition testimony in which, under oath, he was repeatedly shown to be a liar, was integral to any due diligence for the film. Because Mr. Gibney had no interest in the truth which could only serve to thwart the story “he wanted” to tell, he ignored our advice.
We now know with certainty that Rinder’s sworn testimony does indeed contradict his statements in Mr. Gibney’s film. Gibney’s failure to make appropriate edits to reflect the facts as contained in the Rinder deposition can only be attributed to a complete and utter lack of anything resembling journalistic ethics. In Gibney’s “documentary” world, the facts be damned if they do not fit the preconceived story. Gibney likewise refused to meet with 25 individuals—many of them with firsthand knowledge about Rinder and his tall tales—including Rinder’s own daughter, former wife, former assistant and numerous former colleagues and superiors who came to speak with Gibney in New York and present him with the facts.
In his 6 January deposition, under oath, Rinder admits to lying over and over to the leader of the religion, a transgression that would get one disciplined in any church. (One might think that even HBO employees could be disciplined or even fired if they were to lie repeatedly to Richard Plepler or to Jeff Bewkes.) In that same deposition, Rinder also, under oath, flatly contradicts statements he makes in Gibney’s film: In the film Rinder claims that he lied to the media and to the courts at the behest of the Church. In the deposition he admits that in declarations and testimony he provided while with the Church, he was in fact telling the truth.
If that was not enough to establish that Rinder has no credibility and is an unreliable source, he further admits under oath that he is being paid $175-an-hour by plaintiffs’ attorneys suing the Church. Rinder confirmed that in just one case, attorneys adverse to the Church had paid Rinder more than $22,000. It is notable that in the many years since he has been out of the Church, other than briefly working at a car dealership, he has not been employed other than in his capacity as an anti-Scientologist. Journalistic ethics require HBO to inform viewers that Rinder has an admitted financial interest in disparaging the Church. Mr. Gibney’s arrogant disregard for testimony under oath is proof that Gibney was willing to ignore anything, even sworn testimony, that might undermine and contradict the predetermined themes in his film.
We advised you and Mr. Gibney of the Rinder deposition the day after it was concluded and how it had confirmed Rinder’s lack of credibility. (See January 7, 2015, letter to Gibney, which was copied to you. It is also available at http://freedommag.org/hbo/letters/to-alex-gibney/january-07-hbo-documentary-on-scientology.html.) We believed the deposition would be a valuable tool if HBO truly wanted to vet Rinder’s allegations. Both Gibney and HBO refused to follow even the most rudimentary journalistic standards employed by tabloid journalists, providing an opportunity to respond to allegations. Instead, they label a proven, paid liar as a “hero.”
Mike Rinder’s Record of Lying
When Rinder’s repeated lying to Church leadership was discovered, it led to his removal from any position of authority 12 years ago. Rinder’s was anything but a sudden departure; it was a very long fall from grace arising out of Rinder’s chronic dishonesty and malfeasance. Rinder’s malfeasance as a former external affairs staffer caused the Church numerous problems that took years to correct. Ultimately, the Church’s leader was forced to clean up Rinder’s final mess, which resulted in his removal in 2002. If that were not enough, since Rinder’s expulsion another of Gibney’s sources, Marty Rathbun, admitted to a Florida newspaper that he, Rinder and another source for Gibney’s film, Tom DeVocht, conspired to suborn perjury behind the backs of Church leaders. Rathbun could not have been clearer that this was unauthorized conduct when he stated to the press: “Nobody told me to do it.”
Irrefutable proof of Rinder’s lies in Gibney’s film about the Church were exposéd in his January 6, 2015, deposition when Rinder confirmed under oath the truthfulness of his handwritten apology titled “My Honesty,” dated August 21, 2003, in which he stated he was sorry for having repeatedly lied to the leader of the Church:
It is a reflection on my cowardice and lack of integrity that I would do this [lie] and it’s just black and white wrong and a low-tone suppressive trait. I’ve done it many times with you and have always had some justification for it that I then didn’t really confront it for what it is. I finally confronted this for real.
In acknowledging the truth of this apology in his deposition, Rinder further stated he “only” lied to the leader of the Church:
Q. You believed you were a liar?
Q. You believed you had lied about many things, correct?
A. To him, yes.
Q. Ok. And had you lied to other people besides him?
Q. So, the only persons you told lies to during the time you were at the Church of Scientology was Mr. Miscavige, correct?
A. Yeah, that’s correct.
Q. And you’ve told him lies on dozens of occasions?
A. Oh, I have no idea.
Q. Hundreds of occasions?
A. I have—I just said I have no idea.
Q. You can’t—you can’t quantify in any way by estimate the number of lies you told to Mr. Miscavige?
A. No, I can’t.
Rinder lied to the leader of the religion so often he could not even estimate whether it had been dozens or hundreds of times. It was countless times “even down to ‘lying about lying’ and doing illegal things” as Rinder himself states. Rinder was removed for being dishonest and a blatant liar, as he acknowledges under oath. Despite this well-known fact, Gibney does not bother to include in the film any reference to Rinder’s own admissions concerning his lies, lying about lying and the fact that he was removed from post in 2002. Had he, that would have allowed audiences themselves to judge Rinder’s credibility, something Gibney is clearly not willing to risk.
Gibney’s attempts to use Rinder to make it appear as if Scientologists and the Church routinely lie in contravention of Church tenants, is provably false as made clear in this excerpt from the January 6 deposition:
Q. It wasn’t always your practice to present the truth to courts in affidavits and declarations, was it, sir?
A. Of course it was.
Q. Was it the case that you lied under oath in declarations submitted to the court during the time that you were at the Church of Scientology?
A. No. I think that I—everything that I wrote or said or, you know, all the stuff that you’re going to pull out, at the time I firmly believed that it was the truth…
The statements Rinder acknowledged under oath on January 6 were truthful, when Mr. Gibney’s cameras were not around, were made in court filings under penalty of perjury two dozen times over two decades beginning in April 1982 and continuing for twenty years. The statements cover a variety of subjects that directly contradict numerous allegations in Gibney’s film:
The Scientology Scripture includes a comprehensive system of ethics that includes moral and ethical codes. The sole purpose of the Scientology system of ethics is to make it possible for auditing and training to occur and to enable Scientologists to apply Scientology technology and doctrine in their daily lives in order to achieve a Clear civilization. The system includes ethical guidelines for both the individual and group. Violation of ethical guidelines may result in loss of church membership and ineligibility to participate in religious services at a Church.
On January 6, 2015, Rinder confirmed under oath that this was a truthful statement. He also acknowledged newly the following statements to be correct:
While they now rail against Mr. Miscavige and unleash the foulest lies about him their imaginations can concoct, any Scientologist would have thought it totally proper under the circumstances for those people to have been expelled from the Church without a chance for mercy. However, he gave them another chance…
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.
Yes, on January 6, 2015, Rinder confirmed—under oath—that these were truthful statements.
Rinder also described as “not true,” “terrible,” “spiteful” and “misleading” the allegation that the Church’s leader, Mr. Miscavige, was involved in the death of his mother-in-law. While Rinder once again confirmed that statements he made while in the Church were true, it must be noted that the author of this allegation, a California lawyer named Graham Berry who was declared a vexatious litigant by a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge for bringing unsupportable claims to harass the Church, is now a “friend” of Rinder. Rinder’s scruples only go so far when he is given the opportunity to cavort with other anti-Scientologists! It is even more noteworthy that Berry, who Rinder now acknowledges is a liar who concocted outlandish allegations, was a source for Lawrence Wright’s book: the attorney supposedly bankrupted by the Church even Wright was embarrassed to name because of his history as a vexatious litigant for which he was repeatedly sanctioned. Here’s what Rinder said, under oath, earlier this year:
Q. Okay. You think he’s not being criticized?
A. I think that he is being—okay. If you really want me to answer this question, I will. This primarily, and you will see in here, the subject of these spiteful allegations and falsehoods was that David Miscavige had been somehow involved in the death—the death of his mother-in-law, Shelly’s mother, and to this day I do not believe that that is true and I think that that’s a terrible allegation to make about someone that is not only not true, is spiteful and misleading, and I would say that today. I do not believe that David Miscavige had any involvement with the death of his mother-in-law. I will—no one will ever convince me otherwise and I would never say otherwise. These people were saying that and I disagreed with that.
Thus, we have a source for the Wright book and the Gibney film attacking the credibility of another source. The lies go on and on and on.
Mike Rinder & Marty Rathbun
Another glaring omission in the film is the connection between Rinder and Marty Rathbun. Mr. Gibney fails to disclose that Rathbun was the guru for a small Texas hate group of which Rinder was a member. These two are renowned to act as one, with Rinder even stating he “emulates” Rathbun. For the last six years they have conspired to attack their former Church and the character of the Church’s leader, denigrate the religion and harass parishioners.
Gibney also neglects to mention that Rathbun once beat Rinder within an inch of his life, an incident both have acknowledged. What makes their relationship all the more bizarre is that Rathbun anointed Rinder as a “minister” of Rathbun’s group for the sole purpose of presiding at Rathbun’s wedding, claiming himself to be the first, last and only “Independent Scientology Minister.” No sooner had Rinder toasted Rathbun as “perhaps the finest example I have ever met of someone who maintains the Code of Honor, personal integrity and care for other people” than Rathbun demonstrated that integrity by spending his honeymoon night in jail in New Orleans for, among other things, “harassing a tourist.”
In his January 6, 2015, deposition, Rinder stated that he no longer holds his ministerial “position” and that he does not subscribe to those “views” any longer. Rathbun’s self-styled group collapsed as a “failed experiment.” Rinder’s beliefs have changed yet again only this time he cannot attribute his about face to the Church and its leader.
Rinder’s claim to have been the Church’s “spokesperson” during his tenure with the Church is yet another lie put forward for Rinder’s self-aggrandizement. The Reverend Heber Jentzsch was the Church’s spokesperson throughout the entire time Rinder held a position in external affairs. While Rinder did at times speak to the press on matters of external affairs for which he was responsible (and repeatedly botched), the title he appoints for himself is yet another example of his lies and a feeble attempt to make himself seem much more important than he ever was to the Church.
Gibney’s “Hero’s” History of Domestic Abuse
Gibney’s so-called “hero” has a history of domestic violence. Gibney has not only chosen to ignore this history in the face of the facts long-since presented by the Church and more recently provided by the attorney for Rinder’s former wife, he also again fails to inform his audiences so that they can judge Rinder for themselves. It is a matter of public record that Rinder violently attacked his former wife, who is less than half his size, screamed at her and called her a “bitch.” Rinder grabbed her arms while holding his car keys, twisting her arms so forcefully she thought they would break. Photographic evidence and the report of the paramedics called to the scene show the initial injury. In the ensuing years, her shoulder did not heal and required surgery. Physical therapy for the injury continues today. According to her attending physician, she will be in pain for the rest of her life. To compound the trauma, their daughter witnessed her father attacking her mother, as did Rinder’s brother. It is nothing short of shameful that HBO provides a platform for a wife abuser and refers to that abuser as “heroic.”
Counsel for Rinder’s former wife also advised HBO that Rinder’s outrageous allegation in Gibney’s film that his former wife was held against her will, then released to provide a “scripted” interview to CNN in which she revealed that he is a pathological liar is provably false. Gibney never contacted Rinder’s former wife to find out if there was any truth to this despicable allegation he intended to include in his film. Does it not give HBO pause to know that this outrageous accusation of Rinder’s was never put to the Church or to his former wife for a response? The fact that this accusation was contrived five years after the fact should have raised the warning flag that Rinder is not credible. You personally should be ashamed of this sexist treatment towards women and the acceptance of the view of an admitted liar without so much as contacting the woman for a response. Given your public stance on domestic violence and HBO’s airing last year of a documentary on the subject, it is more than hypocritical that you are now glorifying a sleaze, who after he abandoned and abused his former wife, married a girl younger than his daughter. All this to support an anti-Scientology agenda? Where are your journalistic ethics?
Far from a “hero” it would be more accurate to describe Mike Rinder as an inveterate liar and a perpetrator of domestic abuse. Traitor also comes to mind, as he is the one who betrayed the values of honesty and integrity he once held dear as do all Scientologists; he has now extended his habit of “lying about lying” to a fantasy of lying when he did not lie, all for financial gain. This raises the question, of course, whether Gibney and/or HBO paid Rinder to appear in the film, beyond his all-expenses-paid junket to Sundance. And yes, I do demand an answer to that question.
Enclosed is the evidence regarding the lying by Mr. Rinder that I brought to New York and which the Church has posted online. All of it was available to Mr. Gibney; all of it was ignored. It is impossible for HBO and Alex Gibney to claim they did not know that this source has no credibility. Mr. Gibney’s film must be corrected.
cc: Alex Gibney, Jigsaw Productions