NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas — All Monique and Marty Rathbun had to do was show themselves, and trouble would follow.
Walk down the front steps of their home. Take out the trash. Sit on their back deck. Climb into their pickup. A group of Scientologists called the “Squirrel Busters” were always there, taunting, pointing cameras at them, telling Marty Rathbun to stop what he was doing. They often rolled up in a golf cart, coming from a rented house down the street.
And they kept it up for 199 days, until September 2011, Monique Rathbun told a Texas courtroom Thursday as testimony opened in her lawsuit alleging that Scientology leader David Miscavige directed a three-year intimidation campaign against her husband that ricocheted and harmed her as well.
Rathbun, 41, is claiming she suffered emotional distress resulting from the church’s actions against her husband, a former Scientology executive who since 2009 has been a whistle-blower against Miscavige and church management.
Marty Rathbun also has advised people who have left the church, and in many cases given them the same type of counseling offered in Scientology facilities. It is assumed in Scientology that anyone who practices outside the church’s official orbit is altering “the technology,” and followers have a nickname for such people — squirrels. That’s why the visitors to the Rathbuns’ home called themselves the “Squirrel Busters,” showing up in caps and T-shirts emblazoned with an image of Rathbun’s head on a squirrel’s body.
“Every time we left our house, any time we went out the door, here they came in golf carts,” Monique Rathbun said during testimony before Comal County judge Dib Waldrip.
She also said she believes the church tried to drive a wedge between her and husband using other tactics — private investigators calling on friends and family, a sex toy anonymously sent to her workplace and surveillance cameras installed recently in an undeveloped lot next to their new home, a remote house outside San Antonio. The Rathbuns say they moved there to get away from church operatives.