Front Sight, Ignatius Piazza, and Scientology?

This web site documents my attempt to determine Dr. Ignatius Piazza's connection to Scientology in the October 2002. At the time, I had an expensive membership with his business, Front Sight Firearms Training Institute. As a result of my inquiry, I was sued by Ignatius Piazza and Front Sight in late October 2002. The case was eventually settled in April 2005, just before it was scheduled to go to trial. The details of the settlement are confidential, but I was reasonably happy with it.

The Lawsuit

As the District Court web site of Clark County, Nevada indicated (case number 02-A-458392), I was sued by Front Sight Management (doing business as Front Sight Firearms Training Institute) and Ignatius Piazza. On November 14th, 2002, I was served with the complaint filed on October 29th, 2002. (This is the only communication I have ever received from any of the plaintiffs regarding this web site.) As the complaint is a public court document, I have made it available in its entirety as jpgs. I presently have no information about the "Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and for Preliminary Injunction" listed on the court web site.

And for those who may be wondering... As my third e-mail to Piazza indicated, Paul and I were slated to attend the Four Day Defensive Handgun course at Front Sight the long weekend of November 1-4. We found out about the lawsuit the night before, so we did not attend the course.

The lawsuit was settled just before the case was scheduled to go to trial in April 2005. Although the details of the settlement are confidential, I can say that I'm reasonably happy with it. This web site will remain where it is for the foreseeable future.

The Investigation

In April of 2002, my husband Paul and I attended our first course (Four Day Defensive Handgun) at Front Sight a top-notch firearms training school outside of Las Vegas. The quality of the instruction was mind-boggling good, so much so that Paul and I decided to purchase First Family memberships, as they allow us to attend a certain set of courses for free as often as we wish. (He has a "copper" membership; I have a "bronze.") I also attended the "Ambassador Program" launch in Las Vegas in late August.

At least until recently, my support for Front Sight has not been limited to their superb firearms training, but also included their remarkable plans to change hearts and minds about guns and gun rights. I had nothing but confidence in Ignatius Piazza, the founder, director, and super-majority owner of Front Sight. I was on board 100 percent.

Then on October 9, 2002, I received this Front Sight Legal Bulletin from Piazza saying that a former Front Sight Range Master and Instructor "suddenly began to circulate hate-group propaganda to some of our staff and students on the Internet and by rumor, attacking both Front Sight and me personally." The e-mail also said that an investigation has revealed that this instructor has "hooked up with a hate group and is associating with people of known criminal background and questionable ethics."

Although the e-mail didn't offer any specifics, my husband and I quickly found the relevant information. The former RangeMaster and Instructor was Dean Gamburd who posted an article entitled The Fourth Secret on Arnie Lerma's anti-Scientology web site LermaNet. The article consisted mostly of wild accusations that Front Sight was deeply involved with Scientology. (Scientology is cult-religion commonly accused of immoral and illegal activities in its quest for power and money.) Gamburd claimed that Ignatius Piazza "is a hard core Scientologist using the Front Sight Firearms Training Institute as his personal Scientology recruiting ground, cash generator, and to further the ultimate goals and presence of Scientology." His evidence in support of this claim, however, was weak, to say the least.

In addition to Gamburd's article, I perused some of the ongoing debate about this issue on various gun message boards like Glock Talk and Front Sight Alumni. I also found a number of vague and unsupported references to Piazza's involvement with Scientology through Google searches.

On October 10th, I responded to these comments in my blog NoodleFood with the post Front Sight and Scientology?!?. Given the lack of evidence, I was justifiably skeptical of all of Gamburd's claims, including even the most basic claim that Piazza was involved with Scientology. However, not being an agnostic about Scientology like so many others, I wrote that "I would abhor being unknowingly associated with the Church of Scientology or any Scientologist" based upon my knowledge of Scientology, particularly that gleaned from Monica Pignotti's amazing essay My Nine Lives in Scientology.

At the same time, I also wrote Ignatius Piazza a note of support. I said that I was "pleased to ignore [Gamburd's accusations]" as they had "no evidence whatsoever to back them up." I also commented on Piazza's characterization of Gamburd as involved with a "hate group" and criminals, pointing out that such language is similar to the propaganda used by the Church of Scientology to silence its critics. I then said, "In case you are unfamiliar with the tactics of Scientology, I wanted to alert you to the extreme unreliability of any information they might provide about their critics." Earlier in that letter, I also characterized the Church of Scientology as a "dangerous and criminal organization." Piazza wrote me back shortly, saying only "Thanks Diana."

That same evening, I also posted a quick message to the Front Sight Alumni thread pointing people to my blog entry. The next day, I received some pointers to information that radically changed the picture for me.

First, I was pointed to thread accessible only to First Family members on Front Sight Alumni. In this thread, "Johnylompoc" posted mail from Piazza on August 17th in which Piazza said (1) that he is Catholic, (2) that "Front Sight is in no way, shape, or form connected to or affiliated with ANY religion" (3) that he has "attended Scientology services," and (4) that he uses "some of the business technology developed by L. Ron Hubbard" at Front Sight.

A few days later, "Johnylompoc" posted another letter from Piazza responding to some of Dean Gamburd's accusations in this reply to Piazza. There, Piazza reiterated that both Front Sight and the Ambassador program have "no connection or affiliation with ANY religious organization and never will." But then in a disturbing twist, Piazza admitted to becoming "Clear" in 1998. (He then incoherently said "so I guess that makes me a 'Clear Catholic!'" -- as if Scientology and Catholicism are at all compatible.)

For anyone unfamiliar with Scientology, to be "Clear" is the alleged state of "total erasure of the reactive mind." According to reports, it usually costs over $100,000 to achieve. Thus to achieve "Clear" indicates a deep involvement with Scientology, not just a passing fancy.

Second, I was pointed to the ongoing debate on the API mailing list (the Gunsite alumni list). (Whoops! After announcing this mini web site, several API list members wrote to tell me that the API list is private. The archives were accidentally made public on the web site. Thus the API links and names have been removed. I have retained this general summary though, as it bears upon my e-mail to Piazza.) On that list, Piazza was repeatedly questioned about his personal involvement with Scientology. His only reply was to reiterate his Catholicism and then say "I have attended business management courses using the business management tools of L. Ron Hubbard. So do Fortune 500 companies. I have had some Scientology services. So have some of the most successful people in the world. That's were it ends." Many people then questioned the evasiveness of this reply. One poster even sided with Dean Gamburd in a gesture against Piazza, who promptly threatened to sue. That was disturbing to me, to say the least.

As a result of this new information, I posted a second blog entry entitled New Information about Front Sight and Scientology. There I said that "there is no reason to doubt" Piazza's repeated and clear statements regarding Front Sight's lack of involvement with Scientology based on my own and others' experience. But I expressed concern over Piazza's own personal involvement with Scientology, particularly the absurd contradiction of being a "Clear Catholic." I also noted that Piazza downplayed this involvement in Scientology by claiming to have received "some Scientology services," although obtaining Clear is a huge investment in Scientology. I also suggested that perhaps Piazza doesn't fully understand the ideological commitments involved.

The next day, I sent Piazza a second e-mail detailing my concerns about his personal involvement with Scientology and asking for "clear and direct answers" to some basic questions about his present relationship to Scientology. Those questions were: Are you or were you ever a Scientologist? Do you agree with all or most or some or none of the basic tenets of Scientology? Do you regard the Church of Scientology as a legitimate, law-abiding organization? Do you regard strong criticism of the Church of Scientology 'hate speech'? Do you directly or indirectly financially support the Church of Scientology? I then explained my reasons for my interest in his personal involvement with Scientology. I also expressed my concerns over his threats of lawsuits on the API list.

Piazza's prompt and polite reply did not answer my questions directly, but did provide new information. He stated "I ... will most likely continue [to have Scientology services] as I feel appropriate." He said that he had never experienced any immoral or criminal behavior within the Church of Scientology. He then seemed to argue that if such behavior did occur, it would not taint him or be "his issue."

On October 23rd, Dean Gamburd posted a total retraction to settle the lawsuit with Front Sight to various message boards. (Strangely though, all those threads seem to be locked and inaccessible now. Anyone know why?) The next day, in an e-mail about the 2003 course schedule, Piazza claimed an "immediate and total victory in the lawsuit ... we filed against a former instructor that slandered Front Sight." While I do feel sorry for Dean, his original article and later comments on message boards were libelous in their wild speculations and claims.

A few days later, I finally wrote Piazza a third e-mail in which I provided links to reliable information about the misdeeds of the Church of Scientology. I also argued that Piazza's personal involvement the Scientology would likely seriously damage Front Sight as well as the gun rights movement. And finally, I let Naish know where my line in the sand is on this issue. I would urge anyone who thinks Piazza's personal involvement with the Church of Scientology isn't all that important to read that e-mail.

As a final note, let me make clear that I do not believe that Front Sight itself is involved with Scientology. Piazza has been very clear on that point throughout this brouhaha. The testimony of multiple Range Masters, Instructors, and students belies any such association. My own personal experience at Front Sight and in the Ambassador Program also supports this conclusion.

I did, by the way, write Piazza a note about this site before the URL was made public. I wanted to be completely up-front with him, as well as give him a chance to offer any comments or suggested corrections. He did not write back.

Information on Scientology

Personal Stories of Ex-Scientologists

My Nine Lives in Scientology by Monica Pignotti

Testimony: The Autobiography of Margery Wakefield by Margery Wakefield

Declaration of Roxanne Friend by Roxanne Friend

Links to Reports Alleging Criminal Behavior by Scientology

Scientology and the Media

The Church of Scientology doesn't take kindly to negative coverage by Robert W. Welkos. The Quill. Novemeber-December 1991.

The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power. Time. 6 May 1991.

The Strange Beliefs of Scientology

The Total Freedom Trap: Scientology, Dianetics and L. Ron Hubbard by Jon Atack

Understanding Scientology by Margery Wakefield

Scientology Doctrine from the The Scientology Comparative Theology Page

Is Scientology Compatible With Christianity? by John Weldon

General Anti-Scientology Sites

Operation Clambake

General Pro-Scientology Sites

The Church of Scientology

About Me

At the time of this lawsuit, I was a graduate student in philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder working on my coursework. I received my Ph.D in 2009. More recent information about me can be found at DianaHsieh.com. I can be reached via e-mail to diana@dianahsieh.com.