Catholic Online - February 15, 2010
Ex-Scientologists Speak Out at LA Press Conference
By Randy Sly
On Friday, six ex-scientologists spoke out about their experiences inside the Church of Scientology at a Press Conference in Hollywood.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) – The airwaves of Los Angeles were buzzing with accounts of Scientology abuses last Friday after ex-staffers held a news conference in Hollywood. This event and a weekend filled with activities called a Megaraid marked the second anniversary of Project Chanology, a global protest against Scientology by an internet-based group called Anonymous.
The press conference, which was also presented as a live video stream on the internet, was moderated by Mark Bunker an Emmy-winning journalist who has been covering Scientology since 1997. He is the webmaster for XENU TV (www.xenutv.com), which features video and audio interviews from former members, along documentaries, speeches, panels, protest videos, courtroom footage and a vast archive of broadcast media from around the world covering the controversial Scientology organization.
Each of the presenters was able to tell his or her personal story of life inside the organization. A prepared summary given to journalists at the event offered a brief biography of the speakers and a bit about their story. Additionally, the press was also given background information and samples of Scientology documents.
Marc Headley, the author of "Blown for Good," grew up in Hollywood, and joined Scientology´s Sea Org when he was just 16 years old. For 15 years he lived at Scientology´s International Base, where he worked 100-hour work weeks, for less than 50 cents an hour, and experienced mental and physical abuse. Headley told the conference of the dramatic escape he made, at age 32, from the heavily guarded Scientology compound in Hemet, California. He has since started a new life with his wife, who also escaped.
Jefferson Hawkins spent 35 years working for the Church of Scientology, all over the world, and at all echelons, including the top level at the Scientology International Base in Hemet, California. For much of his time in Scientology, Hawkins was a key executive in Scientology´s marketing department. He conceived and ran the well-known Dianetics campaign in the 1980s that resulted in Dianetics appearing on all major bestseller lists.
Hawkins talked about leaving Scientology in 2005 after experiencing firsthand the abuses and human rights violations at Scientology´s International Headquarters, including being allegedly beaten physically by Scientology´s leader, David Miscavige. Since 2006, he has been active in sharing his story concerning the Church of Scientology´s lies and abuses, and in providing help to individuals and families who have been harmed by Scientology.
Laura DeCrescenzo was recruited into the Sea Org at the age of 12. Married at 16, she told of her story of becoming pregnant and subsequently forced to have an abortion, because children aren´t allowed in the Sea Org. She eventually became so desperate to escape she swallowed bleach to get herself thrown out. DeCrescenzo is now suing the church, alleging restricted freedom, forced abortions, severe punishment, and human trafficking.
Maureen Bolstad has stated that at age 15 she "got tricked into making a dumb mistake" and signed a contract to join Scientology staff. She was promised an education and regular pay. Instead, Bolstad worked 18 hours a day, seven days a week, and developed health and emotional problems. In 17 years, she only got to see her mother twice, for less than a week each time. She was allowed to leave after three years of being made to "confess her sins and evil intentions." Bolstad was divorced by her husband and still hasn´t heard from her sister, who stayed on staff, since 2006.
Will Fry was raised by scientologists, and attended Scientology boarding school while his parents worked for the church. As a teenager, he joined the Sea Org, but immediately realized he wanted out; it took him almost three years. Afterwards the church billed him $12,000 for a so-called "freeloader debt."
Nancy Many, author of "My Billion Year Contract," was a college student in Boston when she first joined Scientology. She signed the infamous "Billion Year" contract when she joined the Sea Org, and was sent to Clearwater, Fl, to work under L. Ron Hubbard.
When she was five months pregnant, Many was sent to the RPF (Rehabilitation Project Force--Scientology´s re-indoctrination and labor camp) where she was locked in the garage of the Fort Harrison Hotel until she was deemed "rehabilitated." After being subjected to relentless interrogations and confessions, Nancy suffered a mental breakdown that led to her leaving the church.
During her presentation, Many also talked about Greg Bashaw, who was a devotee to Scientology, and later took his life in 2002. "I hope you people today," she told the reporters present, "can relay the fact that people are dieing... people are dieing... people are ...
KABC, KTLA, KCAL/KCBS, KNBC and KTTV (Fox) all carried stories about the over two-hour press conference during their Friday evening news cycle, which also included a rebuttal by Scientology spokesman, Tommy Davis. Davis dismissed the statements as coming from angry former members who fabricated these stories.
Catholic Online contacted Davis´ office for a comment and is still awaiting a response.
One observer at the event stated, "The media was at the press conference in force and showed a high level of interest. Mark Bunker did an absolutely superb job as the moderator. The event was emotional at times. One can read the internet, but when you see the people who actually lived the stories talk about it, it is almost overwhelming."
"It is hard to hear a woman fighting back tears as she speaks about being pressured to abort her first child for the ´greatest good´ by Scientology. Laura Decrescenzo was only seventeen years old when this happened. She was powerless and was told by Scientology that her baby was only tissue. She was broke, young, lacked a formal education, and was a stat in some production graph."
A question and answer time by the media present followed the presentation. Questions regarding the speaker´s stories were offered but some of the reporters preferred to focus more attention on the two lawsuits and the work of Anonymous.
Randy Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online. He is a former Archbishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Church who laid aside that ministry to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church in 2006. His reporting on the Church of Scientology has received global attention as the group´s activities come under increasing scrutiny.
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Catholic Online - February 17, 2010
Scientology Responds to Catholic Online's Coverage of Press Conference
Catholic Online has received correspondence from Tommy Davis of the Church of Scientology International.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) – Catholic Online has received correspondence from Tommy Davis of the Church of Scientology International dated February 15, 2010. The letter was in response to our request for any comments they wanted to make regarding a press conference held in Los Angeles by ex-Scientologists. The correspondence expressed severe opposition to our report "Ex-Scientologists Speak Out at LA Press Conference," which we published that same date.
The article in question reported on a newsworthy event which occurred in Los Angeles, California and was covered by a number of media outlets. The event was also video streamed over the internet. We felt the event was newsworthy in particular because of the huge interest of our readership in the Church of Scientology. The organization has gained much notoriety in recent months.
Attached to the correspondence from Mr. Davis was material intended to defend the legitimacy of the Church of Scientology as a religion. Additionally, information was provided which sought to compare Scientology´s "Sea Organization" to religious communities within our own Catholic Church.
That material has little bearing on the report to which Mr. Davis objected. As a News Service, we report on events such as this L.A. conference. The report of February 15, 2010 took no position on the veracity of any of the statements made by participants but simply reported brief summaries of their comments within the news story.
Putting aside the unfounded allegations, strongly expressed irritation of the author and incorrect analogies which were intended to cast aspersions on the author of the article to which Mr. Davis objected - and redacting collateral material which addressed people and matters which were not mentioned in the story - we present portions of the letter below. We do so in the interest of continuing to report on the Church of Scientology.
"Your February 15 piece is offensive. Your clear intention is to forward an anti-religious agenda that has nothing to do with conveying the truth. To forward on a Catholic site the vicious and false allegations of disgruntled ex-members of any religion is the epitome of hypocrisy. No constructive purpose is served whatsoever, and you are in fact promoting religious hatred and violence. Your entire article is so un-Christian, it boggles the mind!
"In our last conversation I noted that it is the firm belief of the Church of Scientology that only by all religions working together to assist mankind do we hold any hope for Man´s salvation. Your support of antireligionists and hatemongers evidences that you find some benefit in railing against and defaming a religion you know nothing about. By your own admission, you have never visited one of our churches, despite a longstanding open invitation. This, sir, is most definitely the antithesis of brotherly love. I hope that you may one day find it in yourself to be more tolerant and truthful in your actions, a duty which you are meant to uphold, not only as a Catholic but as a journalist.
"You appear to be acting as the publicist for the hate group Anonymous and the ex-Scientologists you cite. Your benign identification of Anonymous as an "Internet-based group" is tantamount to calling the KKK a "community-based group," without mentioning their history of white sheets, burning crosses, lynchings, violence and hatemongering against blacks, Jews and Catholics. (N.B. The analogy is not only inflammatory but inaccurate. To the writer and editor of the article to which Mr. Davis objects and in their own self description, "Anonymous" IS an "internet-based group.")
"……The "press conference" you report was not a press conference at all, but a shameless and transparent effort by plaintiffs involved in a lawsuit against the Church to flank a frivolous legal action. Your obvious disappointment that, as you state, "reporters preferred to focus more attention on the two lawsuits and the work of Anonymous" than on the speakers´ stories, tells the tale; the performances from the stage were transparently coached and rehearsed to prop up the legal case. One member of the media left irate a few minutes into the show, remarking that "I was tricked—I thought I was coming to a news conference, not a deposition."
The press conference in question was covered by a number of Los Angeles area reporters, including the major TV network affiliates in LA as well as KTLA. Reports and footage of the conference were aired on these stations during their evening news cycle, which also included interviews with Tommy Davis for his response.
Other material in the letter concerned legal matters in which the Church is involved but which were not germane to Mr. Davis´ objections to our article. The letter also contained material in which he refuted certain claims made by some of the speakers from the conference reported on in the article, as well as others who were not mentioned at all in the article. He specifically takes exception to their credibility. It is not our role to provide a forum for the airing of a dispute which is already being aired in another forum, namely the Courts and the Justice system.
Mr. Davis ended the letter with these closing words: "I believe the above should answer any question you may have regarding the reasons these individuals left staff and renounced their former religion. You owe it to your readers to report the truth. Please correct your publication."
We have published the redacted sections of this letter in the interest of the truth. We will also continue to cover news stories regarding the Church of Scientology with the same purpose in mind.
This article was found at:
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