Former Scientology official in Ingleside on the Bay: We're moving out

Corpus Christi Caller/November 30, 2012

Ingleside - One of the strangest episodes in the relatively short history of this bayside hamlet comes to a close this weekend.

Mark "Marty" Rathbun and his wife, Monique, are moving out.

Following them, presumably, will be a cadre of investigators who have had their cameras, microphones and eyes trained on them since not long after he moved here in 2006, feeding the information they gathered back to Church of Scientology officials in California, according to group members, other former church officials and two hired private investigators.

They will follow the Rathbuns to their new home in an undisclosed location, but Marty Rathbun said the new site is protected against prying eyes.

Rathbun, 55, who has planned the move for some time, announced it publicly and bittersweetly on a blog post Friday.

"I promised the folks of IOB that if the cult insanity escalated to the point where it was a threat to ruining this town, I would up and leave in a heartbeat," he wrote in the post. "Well, the latest from (church leader) David Miscavige's Scientology dirty tricks and propaganda service has crossed that line."

Although acknowledging its use of private investigators and its program to isolate Rathbun, the church has denied sinister acts and instead casts Rathbun as a disgruntled exile bent on revenge.

Rathbun's blog goes on to bemoan his discovery this fall that a house at the end of his cul-de-sac was being rented, under a mult-iyear lease, for the purpose of surveilling him.

This discovery came after a monthslong campaign by the Squirrel Busters, a group of Scientologists and hired hands that thinly veiled itself as a documentary film crew but relentlessly hounded Rathbun, according to law enforcement officials, police reports and one member who bailed out of the group. Squirrel is Scientology speak for a heretic.

The camera crews followed him, pestered him at his doorstep, filmed him and visitors at his home and took up residence in the neighborhood to carry out their activities. They twice tried to press charges against Rathbun for damaging their equipment and pushing them away, but the county attorney rejected them, saying Rathbun had endured too much harassment.

As the drama unfolded, the residents of this town, most of whom moved here for peace, quiet and maybe fishing, got a crash course on Scientology and a singular vantage point on the secretive religion. They learned that Rathbun had become one of Miscavige's top lieutenants before fleeing the church in 2004 and coming to terms with his role in what critics increasingly say is a controlling organization that isolates and bankrupts its members.

He began to speak out against the organized church, counsel other former members, and lead a growing group of "independent" Scientologists who adhere to the philosophy but not the church — activities he plans to continue from his new home.

Stunning to Rathbun was how Ingleside on the Bay rallied around him, decrying the Squirrel Busters and standing up for his right to privacy and freedom of religion, even amid all the weirdness.

In his farewell blog, he called them some of the "finest people we have ever encountered" and lamented leaving his "sleepy, beautiful hometown."

"We are holding to our original promise," he wrote. "The church of Scientology has created a pall over one of the greatest little towns in the U.S. And it is quite apparent there is only one way to remove it."

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