[Published n response to an English blog about Scientology.]
First. let me introduce myself. I’m Karin Spaink, a Dutch author and columnist, and I‘ve been sued by Scientology for no less than ten years on charges of copyright infringement, after I published excerpts of the OT-levels on my website. The courts kept ruling that I had legal grounds to quote; Scientology kept appealing each verdict. When the Dutch Supreme Court was about to rule in my favour, Scientology suddenly dropped the case. Ever since, it’s legal in the Netherlands to quote from Scientology’s purported ‘unpublished’ higher-level material, as long as the public interest is at stake.
My ten years of legal battles with Scientology have turned me into a bit of an expert of the cult. I’ve read a lot, studying both Scientology’s ‘official’ history, and stories from defectors and escapees. I’ve spoken with high-ranking church officials – such as Warren McShane, who at the time was heading RTC, one of the highest bodies within the organisation, and who is sometimes referred to as “David Miscavige’s top enforcer and crime boss” and with high-ranking church exits, from Jon Atack and Otto Roos (who used to be LRH’s private auditor), to Jenna Miscavige Hill.
In July 2007, a friend mailed me that an investigate news magazine article about a particularly violent group within the Dutch criminal scene, mentioned that murder-for-hire suspects Jesse Remmers and Peter la Serpe – both apparently involved in a number of highly publicized murders – were Scientology members. I made a blog post about it, quoting the article. Neither the Scientology reference in the original article, nor my blog post (a summary of which I also posted on the newsgroup alt.religion.scientology] received any attention from the press or from cult critics. I was OK with that – after all, there was only the *suggestion* that Jesse Remmers and/or Peter la Serpe possibly were, or had been, members of the cult.
The trial against the criminal group in question started in 2010. The court case – which dealt with at least seven murders, and was known by the moniker ‘De Passage moorden’ – took place in a highly secured bunker. There were unprecedented judicial efforts involved to bring the case to trial: the DoJ had invested a huge amount of time, and had accepted – a novelty, under Dutch law – a main suspect, Peter la Serpe, to act as its crown witness. La Serpe was going to testify against his former buddies; amongst them, Jesse Remmers. No mention was made of either Remmers or La Serpe’s possible ties with Scientology.
In October 2010, I was contacted by Remmers’ lawyer. She was eager to figure out whether Remmers had indeed been a member of the cult, and likewise, whether La Serpe had been. At her request, I witnessed the trial for three days, sitting in while Remmers and La Serpe were being interrogated, and even, at times, vehemently argued with one another.
Afterwards, I wrote a twelve-page report – extensive footnotes and all – for Remmers’ lawyer. I concluded that it was obvious that Remmers was a long-time member of Scientology, and that La Serpe had been a member for at least a good few years (but had meanwhile probably dropped out).
My arguments were threefold.
One: public sources. Records of the Dutch Chamber of Commerce, who also lists the membership of foundations, undisputedly state that Jesse Remmers had been on the board of the Dutch branch of Criminon, a Scientology front group. Also, in published interviews that Remmers and La Serpe have conducted with Dutch newspapers and magazines, both refer regularly to Scientology – something that non-members don’t tend to do.
Two: my own intimate knowledge of Scientology. An outsider might believe that a non-Scientology member could head one of the cult’s front groups, or that a front group might have rather ‘loose’ ties to the cult. Critics know that all Scientology front groups are strictly governed by the church, and that one needs to be a member in good standing within the church to become a board member of any of those. Together with Narconon and the CCRH (Citizens Commission on Human Rights), Criminon is one of Scientology’s best-known front groups. From August 2004 till December 2005, Jesse Remmers was the official “presiding director” of Criminon NL.
Three: language. Scientology uses an inordinate amount of highly specific jargon, and excels in phrases that are devoid of any meaning to non-members. When La Serpe talks about “clearing of overts” in an interview with Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf (September 23, 2007), it definitely rats him out as a Scientologist. In his interrogations during the trial, Remmers kept talking about ‘the tech’ and his ‘code of ethics’; he insisted that he had studied ‘the science’ and often spoke about ‘auditing’; all of which is Scientology shorthand. He even refers to Rule 22 of the Auditors Code, which prohibited from publicly acknowledging that La Serpe had confessed to him, in a private auditing session, that La Serpe had killed a prostitute.
Does La Serpe’s and Remmers’ established membership of Scientology have any bearings on their case? Would that knowledge have influenced the trial, and possibly have changed it, or would it have mitigated their sentences? Or, perhaps, could the membership of two self-proclaimed killers-for-rent, shed new light on the inner workings of the church, and prove that its inner teachings are inherently evil?
Some people have suggested that Scientology’s lesser-known ‘R2-45 policy’ refers to the option to “eliminate church enemies with the use of a Colt semi-automatic pistol (with .45 calibre ammunition”, and cite Remmers and La Serpe as possible adherents to this rather extreme policy.
Sorry – that won’t wash. La Serpe and Remmers admittedly killed quite a number of people, but not because they were Scientology critics. They killed them because they were hired to do so, or when they felt personally threatened, or when they panicked and didn’t know what else to do.
I dislike Scientology with a vengeance, but please don’t wash away these murders by pointing at your favourite target of criticism and shifting the blame on the cult. Scientology didn’t hire these guys to kill, Scientology didn’t order these murders, and nothing in Scientology’s (admittedly often villainous) policies would ever accommodate for the acceptance of, far less for the motivation for, such killings.
But their membership of the cult does indeed matter – in another way. It explains why Remmers, who had audited La Serpe a number of times, and thus got to hear about one of his earlier kills (the prostitute), never said a word about that to the authorities, not even while that same story – according to Remmers – showed that, years later, it wasn’t him who started shooting in a hangar, but La Serpe.
The judges wondered why Remmers brought up that story only now, while they were in court. Remmers’ answer was accurate, but unintelligible to anybody who is not versed in Scientology-speak. To summarize: “I had audited him. We had cleared his overt [which, earlier, had ‘caused’ La Serpe to kill the prostitute]. Years later, we were in a hangar, in a threatening situation. Suddenly, La Serpe reverted – he acted on his old overt, and started shooting. I couldn’t tell you [the court] about that shooting, because as his auditor, I understood why he did it, but I couldn’t talk about it with outsiders without breaking my ethics code as an auditor. Anything I would have said about La Serpe’s erratic behaviour in the hangar, would have brought up the prostitute, and what I learned by auditing La Serpe. So I kept mum.”
The court discarded Jesse Remmers’ explanation. I truly believe that, if they had known more about Scientology and its rules and methods, they would have taken Remmers’ testimony in a different vein. Which might have resulted in a lesser sentence for Remmers: on January 29, 2013, Remmers got convicted to life, mostly for the shoot-out in the hangar, which Remmers claims that not he, but La Serpe initiated.
Mostly, it’s rather interesting – hey, how’s that for an understatement? – to see how a cult that says that it is bent on eradicating crime and other ‘unsocial’ behaviour, has had its we-oppose-crime-so-aren’t-we-wonderful front group spearheaded by somebody who was by then already a known suspect for multiple murders.
You can’t blame Scientology for what Jesse Remmers and Peter la Serpe did, nor can their membership of the cult ‘explain away’ the murderous behaviour of these two. But you can wonder why a self-proclaimed, purportedly world-sanitizing religion would think that it’s OK to have convicted felons and known murder suspects act as its semi-public face.
Basically, that might go to prove that Scientology is currently so low on personnel, that they will accept anybody who shows up on their premises as an exemplary member who can tout their ideology. They are even happy with suspected killers.
[My report for Jesse Remmers’ lawyer is available on request. Send a mail to Karin Spaink, and I’ll send you a copy. Mind you, it’s in Dutch, and I have no intention to translate it…]
18 thoughts on “Scientology & huurmoordenaars”
Thank you Karin for your reasoned and thoughtful analysis of the relationship between Scientology and Remmers and la Serpe.
Because of the Church of Scientology’s noxious history it is easy to jump to the conclusion that its members crimes must have been sanctioned by senior officials in the Church. This is not necessarily true, as in this instance.
Of course Hubbard’s redefinition of the word ‘ethics’ means that ‘Keeping Scientology Working’ allows actions that are illegal and would not be internally sanctioned provided the miscreant was not caught by law enforcement.
Wellington, New Zealand
Thank you Karin.
Misschien weet je dat: het valt me op de laatste vijf jaar dat er toenemende kritiek is op Scientology. Meer en meer mensen lijken eruit te stappen en de media op te zoeken. Nu vind ik dat helemaal niet erg, maar opvallend is dit wel. Het zou tien-vijftien jaar geleden ondenkbaar zijn dat Jenna Miscavige-Hill, Tory Christman of een van die vele anderen hun mond zouden open doen. Belangrijker nog: de angst of schaamte die men heeft bij het verlaten van sektes, lijkt bij meer en meer van die ex-Scientology leden weg te zijn. Ik vraag me af of jij een oorzaak ziet voor deze trend?
Petje af, Karin, voor dat twaalf pagina’s grote rapport en voor de tijd en inzet die je geleverd hebt. J.
Benach @ 3: Er is al jarenlang kritiek op Scientology, dat is niet veranderd. Wat wél is veranderd: die kritiek dringt nu eindelijk meer door tot de media, en een belangrijke factor daarin is dat de media hun angst zijn verloren dat negatieve artikelen over Scientology willen leiden tot eindeloze (kostbare) rechtszaken.
Om het anders te zeggen: veel rechtszaken zijn door internetters uitgevochten, en toen zij die eenmaal wonnen, durfden de ‘traditionele’ media navenant meer. En toen raakte de beer los. Inmiddels is er zoveel kritiek op de sekte – en hebben ze zoveel contraproductieve gerechterlijke uitspraken – dat ze maar afzien van rechtszaken.
Wat nieuw is, is dat ook ex-leden tegenwoordig een boekje open durven te doen. En in de laatste vijftien jaar zijn er nogal wat prominente leden vertrokken. Dat maakt dat er nu ineens een hele serie verhalen over het interne reilen & zeilen van de sekte loskomt, en *dat* is nieuw!
I am the critic who has made the comments on the English language blog that was the catalyst to Karin’s post here.
I haven’t gotten around to post a reply before, but I did want to add a few additional remarks. In particular I wanted to respond to Karin’s statement:
“Scientology didn’t order these murders, and nothing in Scientology’s (admittedly often villainous) policies would ever accommodate for the acceptance of, far less for the motivation for, such killings.”
The first statement is absolutely true and I never meant to state otherwise. Unfortunately my posts may not have been as clear on this aspect as they should have been.
The second statement, however, is highly debatable. In fact, this was exactly the question that was being discussed in the blog post that Karin is responding to. Scientology’s writings are occasionally very hyperbolic (R2-45 is one of example, but there are others as well) and these writings can be construed as a kind of fatwa that provides a licence to kill.
The question posed in the blog post was: have such fatwa’s ever been issued? The blog post provided an overview of statements by former members alleging that this indeed occasionally happened.
The point I was making in my comments was that one relevant case was missing from the blog post. This concerned a Dutch Scientologist named Jesse Remmers, who (by virtue of being a religiously inspired nutcase) concluded that Scientology writings condone murders. Please note that the Dutch Scientology church itself admitted to exactly this in one of the newspaper articles on this matter (Google for ‘Jesse moordt voor wereldvrede’ for the Volkskrant article in question).
So I don’t think the idea is as much ‘out there’ as Karin’s take on the matter.
I also wanted to add a further note on the relevance of the Scientology angle in this case. Although Scientology and Peter la Serpa deny this, it is rather likely that both Jesse and Peter have at some point were formal members of the Dutch Scientology church, also taking courses there.
That would also means that (at least at some point in time) files were being kept on them in the Scientology building. If those files included either auditing or security checking reports (two forms of a confession ‘Scientology-style’), those files could contain incriminating evidence on either or both of them. Whether this is the case, I honestly don’t know. But it is very likely that, again if, the Scientology church possessed incriminating evidence they would (likely) never tell this to the police, firstly because of a legitimite fear for Jesse and Peter, but also because Scientology doctrine forbids to do so if this creates PR issues.
And yes, I realise I am just forwarding a lot of armchair internet speculation here. But still. Given the fact that this was the largest trial our country has ever seen, I don’t quite understand why the Dutch police never raided the Scientology church to obtain the files on Jesse and Peter. ‘Baat het niet, dan schaadt het niet’. And they weren’t lacking an excure as there have been questions in parliament in 2009 requesting a raid in relation to the privacy issues surrounding the files that Scientology keeps.
As a final note, I like to confirm that Karin is a heroin for her efforts in the ’90s when critisizing Scientology was still a dangerous effort.
I was a member of Scientology Amsterdam from 1993 till 2010. It is a relatively small and close group and if Peter la Serpe and Jesse Remmers had been members of Scientoloy, I would have known it. I have never heard their names.
Further, I know criminon of course, but I’ve never heard that there was an active criminon in Holland.
Most likely they have once read a book, received some auditing or did a basic course and then left.
Despite the great amount of wild rumours that circulate on the internet I have to say that it is policy in an Org like Amsterdam that people can receive auditing only if they “behave ethically” in life.
The theory is that a person can not make spiritual progress, unless he confesses his wrongdoings and crimes (called “overts”).
An example of this is the story of Paul Rood, a well known Scientologist in Amsterdam, you probably know him. He was a drug smuggler, got caught, was imprisoned in Sweden, escaped from prison and then came across Scientology. He was told that he could not progress in Scientology unless he went back to prison, which he did.
I vaguely remember a story of someone who came in Scientology, but could receive no further auditing because he had a criminal record and was not willing to confess his crimes to the police. But I don’t know any names or details about it.
I’m not saying this to defend Scientology. It’s just that there is a lot of speculation in existence about Scientology which is simply not true.
Thanks for your message. I agree it’s important to dispell of any unfound rumors.
From your message it seems that the involvement of Jesse and Peter in the Amsterdam Org was limited at most. I believe it’s still possible they took a few administrative courses (Jesse claimed so during his trial, which was then denied by Peter) but it seems unlikely that they did any courses or auditing as part of Bridge progress. That would mean it is unlikely that the Org ever had any incriminating evidence.
It’d still be interested to hear the actual story though, and I’m sure at some a staff member will emerge to tell it.
In het Telegraaf verhaal van 23 sept 2007 stond over kroongetuige La Serpe:
“Aldus de kroongetuige van justitie, die zelf ook zijn heil in de
leer vond. Hij werd daarom zelfs spijtoptant. “Dat had te maken
dat ik me meer verdiepte in de Scientology.”
Met andere woorden: La Serpe WAS een crimineel, en DOORDAT hij
Scientology bestudeerd had, is hij met zijn criminele carriere
gestopt. Dat is overigens niet onverwacht, een van culturele doelen
van Scientology voor de samenleving is het uitbannen van criminaliteit
door middel van rehabilitatie van criminelen.
Blijkbaar heeft Scientology in het geval van La Serpe succes gehad, en
de Church of Scientology Amsterdam, met al zijn fouten, verdient dus een pluim
omdat het een steentje heeft bijgedragen aan het oplossen van het
criminaliteitsprobleem in deze samenleving.
(sorry forgot it was an English-language blog)
In the Telegraaf Newspaper of sep 23 2007 it was written about key witness La Serpe:
“thus said the key witness, who himself also found salvation in the subject. Because of that he even became repentant and ceased. “That was because I studied Scientology more deeply”.
In other words, La Serpe WAS a criminal, and BECAUSE he studied Scientology, he ended his criminal career. Incidentally, that is not unexpected, one of the cultural goals of Scientology for society is eradicating criminality by rehabilitation of criminals.
Apparently, in the case of La Serpe, Scientology was successful, and the Church of Scientology Amsterdam, with all its flaws, deserves some praise because it contributed to solving the societal problem of criminality.
www.ngfc.nl (independent Scientology in the Dutch freezone).
Peter – Dat is zeker een mogelijk scenario.
Toen ik mijn posts schreef, heb ik doorgenomen wat er op het internet te vinden was over de Scientology link in dezes – wat bijzonder weinig is overigens.
Het beeld wat ik toen kreeg was dat de kerk tijdens het proces door Peter in bescherming werd genomen. Dat zou erop kunnen duiden dat hij hen verteld heeft over zijn verleden, door hen is aangespoord naar de politie te gaan en dat Peter dit verzwegen heeft om de kerk niet te beschadigen en/of individuen tegen Jesse te beschermen. Het Telegraaf artikel hint ook die kant op. Dat zou overigens nog steeds (of wellicht juist) de vraag opwerpen waarom het OM blijkbaar nooit geprobeerd heeft de folders van Jesse of Peter in handen te krijgen.
Maar goed, ik heb voor alle duidelijkheid geen idee en ga inmiddels ruimschoots over mijn speculatie-budget heen. Wellicht dat nog een keer komt bovendrijven wat er zich werkelijk heeft afgespeeld.
Peter @ 9: Je notie dat La Serpa ná – of wellicht zelfs: door – Scientology tot inkeer kwam, klopt niet. La Serpe en Remmens hebben beiden ook nadien nogal wat misdaden gepleegd, waaronder naar verluidt een aantal moorden.
Dit moet jou toch deugd doen, Karin:
En Rusland verbiedt de teksten en filmpjes van Hubbard. (Of dat iets zegt, weet ik niet, want Rusland verbiedt zoveel.)
En dit is de moeite van het volgen waard, denk ik:
En onder dat artikel staan nog wat leuke links naar weer andere artikelen.
Janus @ 13: dat is oud nieuws, kijk maar naar de datum van dat artikel op Nu.nl: mei 2009. En nee, het doet me geen deugd. Liever had ik dat Scientology zich *gedroeg*.
Het eerste is oud – zag ik nu ook, maar ik wist het nog niet van die Wikipedia-ban – maar het stond onder het tweede, vandaar dat ik het zag. En dat tweede is nieuw en daar kunnen interessante ontwikkelingen uit voortvloeien.
En ja, natuurlijk heb je liever dat de Sc-kerk zich *gedraagt*, maar zolang dat niet zo is, is elk winstpunt tegen die lieden er eentje.
En denk maar niet dat de stijd tegen dit soort clubjes ooit eindigt. Zolang er mensen zijn die zich om watvoor reden dan ook afhankelijk of ondergeschikt voelen, onmachtig om hun eigen leven te leiden, zullen ze in handen vallen van dit soort ‘leiders’ oftewel dictatortjes.
Thank you very much Karin, for putting this story into English, and for your work in assisting Remmers’ lawyer.
This case is intriguing, and without a doubt there is more. It is regrettable that the police did not raid the CoS immediately and obtain not only the pc folders but also the OSA files, as these will now have been removed. However, the CoS will retain a fully detailed record, probably in coded electronic form, held in one of the underground vaults the CST operates in the USA.
For the CoS, this case will have been a local PR flap of potentially catastrophic consequences. For the outside world, it is a tantalising glimpse into the racketeering world of probably the world’s most vile cult.
All I know of this story is from your account, and I am thankful that you have provided many details and facts. My own feeling is that Remmers’ conscience got the better of him during the trial and induced a partial confession, he was after all, an auditor. While he sits in jail, he will be agonising over whether to come clean and make a full confession, or whether to protect his religion and stay silent.
That is the rock upon which the CoS public and staff are marooned, friendless on both sides, for the CoS is merciless in defence of its image.