Ingleside on the Bay - A former Church of Scientology official living in Ingleside on the Bay says he is being watched again — this time by surveillance cameras aimed through the blinds at a nearby house — and that he has photos to prove it.
Mark "Marty" Rathbun defected from the church in California 2004 and landed here in the bayside community hoping to put his life back together after enduring and participating in what he and other church critics say are abusive practices.
He now counsels other former church members, practices Scientology independently and maintains a website where he continues to criticize the organized church and network with other defectors and church critics.
From April to October 2011, a group of Scientologists and hired, non-Scientologist crew members tracked Rathbun, regularly filming him, his wife and visitors at their home, even tracking his movements when he traveled in and out of Texas. They claimed to be making a documentary but never produced the film. Neighbors, law enforcement and a cameraman who eventually left the group said their activities amounted to little more than a thinly veiled harassment campaign.
Rathbun attributed the unwanted attention to the church and its leader, David Miscavige. Rathbun was a top Miscavige lieutenant before he fled the church. The church has always denied stalking or harassing Rathbun but admits hiring licensed private investigators through attorneys. Church spokeswoman Karin Pouw said in an email that the church is trying to cut ties with anyone associated with Rathbun.
A lawsuit filed Sept. 20 in San Patricio County by two private investigators asserts that they worked directly for the church for decades, receiving lucrative monthly payments to track church defectors and opponents, including a man who claimed he — not Miscavige — was the rightful successor to L. Ron Hubbard, the science fiction writer who founded Scientology and died in 1986. Paul Marrick and Greg Arnold also claimed to surveil Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a former drug company executive, after he made disparaging comments about the church because of its opposition to psychiatric drugs.
The men's attorney, Ray Jeffrey, said his clients, former peace officers, dedicated 25 years to covert investigations for the church, but that recently, the church suddenly cut them off, violating a verbal contract. Their dismissal left them with a 25-year gap in their career history that they had no hope of explaining to any future employer, Jeffrey said.
The church issued a statement saying the lawsuit is a frivolous shakedown attempt for money. Its attorneys have filed motions to dismiss the suit for lack of jurisdiction.
"There is no basis for this frivolous lawsuit, least of all in Texas courts," Pouw said.
One of Marrick and Arnold's most recent jobs for the church, Jeffrey said, was mapping out a way to watch Rathbun in Ingleside on the Bay.
The news came as a shock to Rathbun, who said that two decades earlier, as a top church official, he received regular reports from Marrick and Arnold on every move of Pat Broeker, the Hubbard associate who wanted to succeed the founder.
Now Rathbun was learning how his two prized investigators turned the tables on him.
The pair recently visited Rathbun with their attorney to show him how they operated several years earlier, identifying ways Rathbun could be watched and followed.
"They came down to sort of come up with the road map," Jeffrey said.
Rathbun believes that work paved the way for the Squirrel Busters — the film crews that followed him in 2011. "Squirrel" is a Scientology term for a heretic.
Now he believes he still is being watched, but not by the group that made headlines and drew neighbors' ire by creating a scene in their quiet town.
Since the lawsuit was filed, Rathbun said he noticed a stranger visiting a house down the street, within view of his home. Upon closer inspection, he saw a slit in the blinds.
Starting with property tax records, he was able to track down the renter of the home, Monty Drake, a licensed private investigator from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, who has rented there for about two years.
"There's a house I use for business out there," Drake said in a telephone interview Thursday. "I do security work. I'm not at liberty to talk about that to anybody."
He said he has never heard of Rathbun.
Later, Rathbun provided photos he shot from outside the home's window, showing two video cameras and a still camera just inside, and the viewing angle from that window to his own home, the direction the cameras were pointed.
Drake could not be reached for further comment.
These statements were provided by Karin Pouw, director of public affairs for the Church of Scientology International.
On the Paul Marrick and Greg Arnold lawsuit:
"The lawsuit filed in Texas on behalf of two out-of-state residents is nothing more than a transparent shakedown effort. This frivolous action stems from a decision to suspend a relationship with two independent contractors who provided various services on behalf of church counsel. Their collaborator, Marty Rathbun, a vehement apostate, a self-admitted suborner of perjury and a shameless self-promoter who was removed from his position of authority for malfeasance more than a decade ago, orchestrated their revisionist history. This action — along with the proliferation of Rathbun's fabrications, exaggerations and ever-shifting tales about his former activities with the church — reflect Rathbun's pathological obsession with seeking revenge on those who removed him and who oversaw his ecclesiastical discipline, as well as his inability to move on with his life.
The ecclesiastical leader of the Scientology religion has guided the church to an entirely new level, making available all basic scripture, completing all of Mr. Hubbard's training films, opening more than 30 Ideal Churches of Scientology, now at a rate of more than one a month, establishing state-of-the-art publishing and dissemination facilities with a new television station and our magnificent new Super Power building soon to open in Clearwater (Fla.). This is in addition to guiding the church through its most difficult times to an era of peace and overwhelming public interest in the religion. For accurate information about Scientology, see www.scientology.org."
On the use of private investigators:
"... it is not unusual for companies, as well as large tax-exempt, nonprofit organizations, to use licensed investigative services through an attorney. Such services of licensed investigative services provided to the church were paid for through counsel and are part of attorney/client-privileged information.
"The church has been on an ongoing program to eliminate all relationships with those who worked with or were associated with Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder."