“I am aware of the history of disasters I have been involved in and they weigh on me greatly,” wrote Mike Rinder in his final years in the Church of Scientology, looking over his staff record in legal and media affairs. “I know I also have to handle it as I know it’s what makes me totally untrustworthy.”
Rinder never did handle it. He was subsequently removed for malfeasance and dishonesty and stripped of all authority, after which he left the Church in 2007 and ultimately resurfaced as a vengeful apostate.
Since then, Rinder has billed gullible lawyers by billing himself as a savvy legal consultant and providing paid-for testimony against the Church. Such testimony, as one superior court judge found in December 2020, “is filled with unsupported assumptions, foundational deficiencies, irrelevant matters, improper opinions, and arguments.”
The finding was not surprising. Undoubtedly missing from Rinder’s resumé for his attorney employers was even a short list of disasters caused by his unsupported assumptions, foundational deficiencies and improper opinions while involved in Church legal affairs. Among them:
- In 1994, Rinder had the opportunity to meet with two apostates who were providing tailored-to-demand “testimony” for anti-Church lawyers willing to meet their price. Though the couple was open to coming to terms with their former church and moving on, Rinder swaggered in and verbally roughed them up and did it so thoroughly they refused any further discussion. As Rinder later admitted, “I wanted to be a ‘tough guy,’” and “blew it” on the meeting. “This then resulted in them carrying on for seven more years, testifying and writing false affidavits.”
It was one example in a notable record of antagonizing people and situations.
- In 1996, Rinder went to meet with a man who had a lengthy history of spreading falsehoods about the Church and the Scientology Founder. As Rinder would soon learn upon meeting, the man believed he was receiving direction from God. Rather than grant the man his belief and come to appropriate terms, Rinder later admitted he torpedoed the meeting by ridiculing him: “I laughed at him and told him my messages came through air-conditioning vents from God. This was a stupid thing to say.” Rinder convinced the man he was out to “get him” and ended a chance for peace.
Rinder not only exacerbated and antagonized existing situations with his arrogant mindset, but demonstrated his ability to create disasters from scratch.
- In 1997, Rinder was instrumental in starting cases against a few individuals who had infringed on the Church’s intellectual property rights. Rinder falsely and gleefully promised slam-dunk results; he was going to be hands-on. In violation of Church policy, taking action he later admitted was “ill-advised,” Rinder planned and orchestrated law enforcement raids on three defendants. As he later wrote about one of his forays: “[I] even participated in the raid itself, sitting in a car outside [defendant’s] house while the raid was done, pretending to be a tough guy and big shot.”
Rinder’s unauthorized and admittedly “ill-advised” and “tough guy” antics set off a virulent backlash that included vulgar smears, death threats and false accusations against the religion’s ecclesiastical leader, who had no role in the matter. Rinder did, however, succeed in one respect: He forced the leader to have to get involved—one of multiple such times—to turn around and resolve a Mike Rinder disaster. Rinder admitted his negligence, stating the Church leader “had to personally deal with the intellectual property litigation that was ill-advised and not handled properly from the outset.”
But again, Rinder’s words came on the heels of damage already done. As he would later write in one of multiple self-evaluations of his record, his “failure to know and apply [Church] policy resulted in many disasters, including things that had direct impact on” the leader.
Rinder also proved his prowess for turning matters of indisputable right into disastrous wrong.
- In 2001, in one of the last legal matters he would ever be entrusted with, Rinder set out to deal with a company that had been paid a considerable sum for worldwide translations of Church materials, but had delivered only a third of the product. The cheat was uncontestable. But Rinder would later explain how his inflated self-estimation caused him to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory: “When I met with the owner I didn’t do my homework,” he wrote. “I re-negotiated the contract based on my ‘personal ability’ and that I could talk ‘legal terms’ better than the owner of the company.”
Instead of obtaining restitution for what the company had not delivered, the legal-talking Rinder agreed to pay the money-talking company even more on top of what they had already squandered. The company soon went defunct and the owners, being foreign nationals, departed the country; the foreign court refused to recognize an ensuing U.S. court judgment against them.
- In 2006, Mike Rinder wrote a stunning list entitled, “Damage I Have Caused.” But even while offering up seemingly frank self-assessments of many of his disasters, Rinder was hiding the worst from the Church: felonies earlier committed in a legal case in Florida that would fully come to light when one of his co-conspirators revealed the facts to a reporter in 2009—two years after Rinder left the Church and by which time the statute of limitations had expired.
Rinder once explained in 2004 how he “avoided responsibility” and managed to skate through consequences for many of his disasters over the years—both legal and media relations—by putting the onus on junior staff. “This was motivated by a cowardly desire to have ‘someone other than me to blame’ if the situation blows up.”
Rinder’s public face, however, was another matter. As he summed it up in a statement of July 2004: “I was an arrogant ‘big shot.’” Moreover, everyone who crossed his path knew it, particularly inquiring reporters whom he treated with a slick insincerity that all but the dumbest immediately recognized. It was also a particular Rinder hallmark to antagonize reporters and worsen relations.
Consequently, Rinder’s track record in press relations included these very few examples of relations gone wrong:
- A German ZDF TV crew landed in Los Angeles to film Church activities for a broadcast segment. At that time, in 1996, various German reporters tended to toe a party line as drawn by antireligionists in general and anti-Scientologists in particular. But Rinder treated it like the Battle of the Bulge, replete with hostile confrontations, a car chase and even a fender bender. Later admitting his abusive “media relations,” Rinder said: “I was antagonistic with them from the moment they arrived” and the resulting segment—not what one might call balanced—was just as if he had “not paid them any attention at all.”
- Rinder spent four days needling a magazine reporter—challenging the man, goading him, providing only perfunctory answers to questions. The resultant article did both the Church and the magazine a disfavor. (A reporter from another publication described the piece as: “written in classic conspiracy-theory fashion, full of vague, threat-filled innuendo.”)
- Rinder received queries from an Eastern European edition of a magazine. But inasmuch as he regarded everything east of the Danube as beneath him, he did not give them the time of day. Reporters sensed it and responded accordingly, with an unpleasant cover story.
- A major metropolitan newspaper telephoned relevant to a major story on the Church of Scientology. Rinder, however, took three months to return the call.
In the end, however, Rinder did come to recognize the error of his ways, and proceeded to majorly suck up to reporters. In fact, so conscientiously did he suck up, he missed a call from a national magazine—and that one he did not return for five months.
After yet another self-evaluation of his record in Church external affairs, in August 2003 Rinder felt compelled to send a handwritten apology to the Church’s ecclesiastical leader for repeatedly forcing the leader into having to set Rinder’s disasters right. He reiterated his disastrous track record: “I can see the history and it’s very gross.”
One year later, Rinder again wrote of how, “Over the years…[I] created bigger and bigger disasters in my wake.”
These “admissions,” however, by then were not a surprise. Rinder’s disasters were known to everyone who had worked with him and knew his work ethic and temperament.
The only surprise was how, after being given chances over and over, and professing reform again and again, Mike Rinder never changed.