22 Nov 2010

Ex-Scientologists speak about abuse and lawsuits on anniversary of global protests against sci-fi cult

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.

This article was found at:


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:



Depositions in federal lawsuit against Scientology reveal coercive tactics used to pressure women to have abortions

Australian TV airs new evidence of coerced abortions and child exploitation in Scientology cult

Australian Scientology leader arrested for coercing 11 year old girl to lie to police about sex assault, told it was her fault

Ex-Scientology lawsuits target Sea Org, a cult within a cult

Tom Cruise practiced Scientology indoctrination techniques on isolated, vulnerable teenager

The abuse behind Scientology's facade

New lawsuit alleges child labor and exploitation in totalitarian Scientology compound


  1. Scientology Forced Labor Claims Hit the 9th Circuit

    By MATT REYNOLDS, Courthouse News Service February 13, 2012

    PASADENA, Calif. (CN) - Two former Scientology ministers want the 9th Circuit to let them sue the church for forced labor, rejecting application of the First Amendment's ministerial exception.

    Husband and wife Claire and Marc Headley each filed complaints against the Church of Scientology under the Trafficking Victims Act after leaving the Sea Organization, an order of Scientology in which members work long hours and perform hard labor without pay.

    The Headleys worked at the church from the early 1990s until 2005. Claire Headley claimed that the church prohibited her from having children and was coerced into having two abortions. She also alleged that members who tried to leave the church were followed, brought back, and deprived of food and sleep, among other punishments.

    In his complaint, Marc Headley said ministers at the church physically abused him. He also claimed that he was told that he would be excommunicated from his family if he left the church without first going through a "routing out" process that requires members to continue their duties for free and perform hard labor.
    Marc Headley has published a book about his experiences at the church, "Blown for Good: Behind the Iron Curtain of Scientology."

    In 2010, U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer threw out the Headleys' complaints because he found their claims failed under the First Amendment's ministerial exception. On Thursday, a three-judge appeals panel heard arguments to revive the case

    "The simple fact is that where a religious organization does not have a religious justification for the conduct at issue it cannot avail itself of the protection of the First Amendment," the Headleys' counsel, Kathryn Saldana of Kendall Brill Klieger, told the panel.

    Asked whether the court could consider the claims without first reading the doctrine of the church to determine psychological compulsion, Saldana said the Scientology church had been "subversive of good order" and had violated fundamental constitutional rights.

    The church's attorney, Eric Lieberman, countered that the Headleys' claims related only to their "participation in the religion."

    A forced labor claim is barred, "based upon psychological factors which relate to the beliefs: the religious upbringing, the religious training, the religious practices, the religious lifestyle restraints, religious order, and the rules and customs and discipline of a church," Lieberman said.

    In her five-minute rebuttal Saldana continued tying the case to constitutional rights, rather than religious doctrine. "This country was created on the basis of freedom," Saldana said. "The 13th Amendment was enacted to ban involuntary servitude and slavery, and Congress in enacting the forced labor statute recognized that the definition they've given for forced labor is a crime of involuntary servitude," she added.

    Judges Dorothy Nelson, Diarmuid O'Scannlain and Norman Smith presided over the hearing.


  2. Scientology cult ordered me to have an abortion

    By DAVID LOWE, Deputy Features Editor The Sun May 20, 2012

    A BRITISH mum who escaped Scientology after 20 years has revealed her hell in the clutches of the weird secretive cult that targets Hollywood celebs.

    In a startling expose of the sci-fi inspired church — which boasts Tom Cruise and John Travolta as leading members — brave Sam Domingo, 45, from Kent, says they:

    FORCED her to have an abortion when her husband got her pregnant because cult leaders didn’t approve

    PUNISHED her for disobedience by making her dig a huge hole in frozen earth with a pickaxe for two weeks

    SENT her to indoctrinate rich stars at the Scientology Celebrity Centre in Hollywood

    TOOK her passport away so she couldn't flee and fly home

    MADE her scrub a tunnel full of rats and cockroaches for being “disloyal”.

    Mum-of-three Sam, who was once married to opera legend Placido Domingo’s son, said last night: “Some of the things I went through really pushed me to the edge of insanity.

    “Now I just want to see the Church of Scientology crumble. It is a cancer, rotten to the core. It was all a big con.”

    Sam was 21 and looking for the meaning of life when she first became a member.

    She said: “I fell in love with it because it had all the answers I was looking for. The goal was to make the world a better place.

    “I thought at last I’d found a higher purpose for my life.”

    After training at their UK headquarters — Saint Hill Manor in East Grinstead, West Sussex — she was shocked when she was told she was being sent to Hollywood to work at the cult’s top-secret celebrity centre.

    Located on Franklin Avenue, Hollywood, it was like stepping into a five-star hotel, complete with fine paintings, crystal chandeliers, a top-class restaurant and plush carpets.

    And she found herself rubbing shoulders with some of the hottest names in showbiz.

    Sam recalled: “I was a supervisor in the course room for the newest celebrity recruits.

    “Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kirstie Alley were already members, so I looked after people like the actress Juliette Lewis and the musician Isaac Hayes.

    “Juliette was utterly charming and Isaac was adorable.”

    Lewis starred in Cape Fear and Natural Born Killers. Hayes was the voice of the chef in South Park and had a No1 with the song Chocolate Salty Balls.

    After gruelling ten-hour days Sam would be bussed back to the squalor of the cult’s dormitories in an old dilapidated hotel.

    She said: “The heating didn’t work, the food was awful and we were kept in dire conditions.”

    Lonely and far from her family, Sam found herself falling for a colleague called Michael and they married. Despite being on the pill, she got pregnant. The church’s response chills her to this day.

    She said: “I was told in no uncertain terms this was not to be — and to have an abortion as it was for the greater good.

    “It felt like I had just committed a criminal act, the way they reacted. I was full of shock and horror. As I believed in this organisation at the time, the only option was utter compliance. My passport had been taken from me, so I couldn’t just pack up and fly home.

    “An ‘ethics officer’ helped arrange an abortion at a free clinic and I was given a week off to recover and then I was back on post as if nothing had happened.

    “Michael and I divorced a short time later.”

    Recalling how she originally fell under the church’s spell, she said: “When I first became a Scientologist my mother said it was a cult. I told her not to worry, I wouldn’t shave my head and start wearing orange robes. But looking back it led me to do even stranger things.”

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    Sam worked for the church full-time in England. She joined its elite Sea Org division and even signed a ludicrous “billion-year contract” which is standard for all members of the unit.

    She was subjected to “auditing” sessions, in which she was grilled in detail about every part of her life. And there were strange punishments for anyone who broke any of the rules. She said: “In Sea Org you start off as a ‘swamper’ and wear a naval-style uniforms.

    “The ranks include petty officer, captain and lieutenant. I earned around £10 a week and the conditions were terrible.

    “At one point we were surviving on nothing but dried oats, powdered milk and water.

    “I took an unsanctioned visit to see my mother in Derby one Christmas and she gasped when she saw how pale I was.

    “She thought I looked like a plucked chicken. When I got back I was told to dig a hole with a pickaxe as a punishment. It was January and the ground was frozen solid, I spent two miserable weeks outside battling to dig through the hard soil. It was a useless exercise that left me exhausted.”

    It was soon after that when Sam’s superiors informed her she was being sent to Los Angeles — and then began the period of her life that led to the abortion.

    Back at Celebrity Centre after her baby heartbreak and marriage break-up, Sam met a recent Sea Org recruit, Placido Domingo Jnr, son of the star tenor.

    The pair clicked immediately — but church officials tried to ban them from seeing each other. Placi, as Sam calls him, was outraged and they escaped for two days. After their sheepish return to the church, Sam soon learned of the consequences of their disloyalty. She said: “I was placed on the Rehabilitation Project Force, which is for Sea Org members who are in trouble.

    “Someone was assigned to watch me 24 hours a day — they even stood outside the bathroom door.

    “You wear a black boiler suit and have to run everywhere.

    “But the worst part of my punishment was being made to clean a small tunnel under the kitchens in the Sea Org headquarters known as Rats’ Alley. You are given a board with wheels and have to slide in on your back with a bucket and disinfectant.

    “It’s full of cockroaches, silverfish and hardened grease. I spent two weeks down there. It’s not an experience I’d ever care to repeat.”


    But Sam went on to marry Placido in 1996. Although they are now divorced, they are on friendly terms and have three beautiful daughters — Paloma, 16, Victoria, 14, and Daniela, ten.

    It was when Sam and Placido’s marriage ran into difficulty that irreparable cracks also began to appear in her relationship with the church.

    She explained: “I had become aware of several high-level Scientologists having affairs. The high moral fibre and ethical standards that attracted me to the church were lacking.

    “I realised deep down many Scientologists aren’t happy.

    “They were deluding themselves wearing silly fixed grins. Underneath the surface I saw insanity.”

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    Sam, who donated £250,000 to the cult in her 20 years, walked away from the church in 2009.

    Her husband left soon afterwards after they tried to ban him from seeing his ex-wife and children.

    During her time as a Scientologist, Sam progressed to the extremely high spiritual grade of Operating Thetan Five — or OT5 — on the sect’s unique faith scale. She believes Tom Cruise is currently at OT7, meaning he only has one more level to go to reach the highest state, OT8. She is now back in England with her three daughters.

    They want nothing to do with Scientology — and Sam is praying for the collapse of the cult that ruled her life.

    She said: “When I think back to all the celebrities I helped bring into Scientology, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time until they leave.

    “Lisa Marie Presley is rumoured to have quit recently. She appears to have woken up and removed all mention of Scientology from her website.

    “So Lisa Marie Presley has left the building — and more will follow.”

    Sci-Fi writer dreamed it up

    SCIENTOLOGY was founded in 1952 by the late L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer from the US.

    His best-selling book, Dianetics, is a key text for those who follow the faith.

    He claimed humans are really spiritual beings called Thetans, which have lived for trillions of years and are constantly reincarnating.

    As well as attempting to explain the power of the mind, it promotes a unique counselling technique Scientologists call “auditing” to enable individuals to deal with their past.

    The controversial cult has several high-profile converts who are thought to hand over large sums of money to it.

    Hubbard bought Saint Hill Manor as Scientology’s British headquarters at East Grinstead, West Sussex, in 1959.

    In October 2006, a multi-million pound Scientology centre was opened in London, with Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Juliette Lewis in attendance.

    The church claims to have 123,000 followers in the UK.


  5. Some Christians Are Siding With Scientologists in a Key Abuse Case

    One issue: Does California law hurt non-Catholic churches? Another issue: The allegations are horrific.

    by Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Christianity Today September 27, 2013

    The Church of Scientology is asking the Supreme Court to let it use clergy-penitent privilege to keep secret more than 18,000 pages of documents on former member and employee Laura DeCrescenzo. It has picked up some unusual allies—the National Council of Churches of Christ (NCC) and the Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties organization.

    DeCrescenzo is suing Scientology and alleging a number of abuses, including a forced abortion when she was 17. The California courts have ordered Scientology to turn over the records. Scientology has complied, but asked the Supreme Court to overturn the order, arguing that the conversations were protected by the state's clergy-penitent privilege.

    In California, clergy may invoke the privilege even if the parishioner waives it. However, the privilege only stands if the conversation took place between one clergyperson and one parishioner. The courts ruled that since 259 Scientologists reviewed DeCrescenzo's documents, they're no longer confidential. And even though Scientology leaders have argued that all of the reviewers were clergy sworn to secrecy, that's still 258 too many, according to the California courts. If the case is allowed to stand, clergy in California will not be able to rely on the privilege if they share penitent conversations with other church leaders.

    That makes the California rule a violation of the First Amendment, the National Council of Churches argued in a brief asking the Supreme Court to hear the case. Limiting the scope to a one-on-one conversation favors some religions over others.

    Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore agrees that the rule favors Roman Catholic confessions, where a priest and penitent meet privately. In many evangelical denominations, several clergy may hear an admission, or pastors may consult with one another on a congregant's confession.

    "Often the law presumes a Roman Catholic understanding of confession in a way that I don't think adequately addresses the spiritual realities in American religious life," Moore said.

    Though standing with Scientology if they are attempting to hide abuse is repugnant, standing up for the clergy-penitent privilege is crucial, said University of Pennsylvania Law School professor David Skeel.

    "It strikes me as potentially really important, because it's a privilege that has a deep historical precedent and it's coming under enormous pressure, in part because of unfortunately deeply disturbing behavior within a religious context, at a time when there is general anxiety about the status of religious freedom," he said.

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  6. Hard cases make bad law, Skeel says, and this one is particularly hard.

    "It would be unfortunate if a hard case like this one made a law that seemed fair in this particular case, but undermined privilege and injected courts into conversations within churches," he said.
    If the Supreme Court does decide California's one-on-one designation favors one religion, the next hurdle is defining who constitutes clergy. The Court has already said it won't tell churches how to designate its leaders.

    But courts do take into account different religious structures when they decide property lawsuits, Moore said. "The court has to determine, on the church's own terms, how the church is governed. I think the same thing comes into play here. The court needs to ask in this particular context, 'If the default picture is a priest with a penitent in a confessional booth, what is the equivalent in this ecclesiastical contest?'"
    Though the Southern Baptists' ethics commission hasn't taken a side on the Scientology case, Moore said he isn't afraid to stand with strange allies against affronts to religious liberty.

    "What's happening now is that with the secularization of American culture and a pluralizing American religious scene, there are so many new incursions upon religious liberty that very diverse coalitions are being formed," he said. "There is definitely going to be more of this. Religious liberty going to be a pressing issue for the foreseeable future, and one thing we have to do as evangelicals is not only to stand for our own religious liberty, but religious liberty for everybody."

    University of Saint Thomas law professor Thomas Berg agrees. "That is a genuine question: Should you weigh in on behalf of a group where you have serious problems with some of the group's actions? You have to be willing to do that in some cases."

    But he thinks churches should also be willing—even eager—to acknowledge the troubling moral issues when siding in a case that involves allegations of abuse, forced abortion, and other heinous behavior.
    "There are more costs to intervening in cases with heinous behavior. They're still only allegations, but yes, you have to acknowledge these things are alleged. It's important for moral and legal reasons, and for the public's perception of what you do, to make proper acknowledgement of what you agree with and what you're defending and not defending."

    The NCC brief, which it filed with two Scientologists and the Queens (N.Y.) Federation of Churches, doesn't make any mention of the abuse allegations. Published reports said officials at The Episcopal Church, a member of the NCC, objected to the brief after learning about it. CT was unable to confirm those reports.

    The Supreme Court, which accepts about 80 cases each year, will announce the list of petitions granted after its September 30 conference.



    By Lisa Bartley, ABC News LOS ANGELES (KABC) April 30, 2016

    Imagine signing a "Billion Year Contract" when you're barely out of elementary school, and pledging your eternal devotion to a religious order - not just for this lifetime, but for all future lifetimes.

    That's what Laura DeCrescenzo did back in 1991. She was twelve years old at the time and that commitment meant she had to move out of her parents' home in New Mexico and into Scientology's "Pac Base" in Hollywood.

    Laura's parents gave their blessing, despite some concerns. They were both committed Scientologists and encouraged their daughter's faith at a young age. By the time Laura was twelve, she had already volunteered at the Church's Orange County "Org," worked on staff at a New Mexico church, and even joined other Scientologists protesting outside a courthouse in Downtown Los Angeles.

    Strangely enough, it's at that very same courthouse that Laura is now waging an epic legal battle against the Church of Scientology. In her lawsuit, Laura claims she was falsely imprisoned, isolated from her family at times, subjected to rigid discipline and forced to have an abortion when she became pregnant at age 17.

    Attorneys for the Church of Scientology and its Religious Technology Center deny each and every allegation and say it was Laura's decision to abort the baby -- a decision that was influenced by her then-husband who was upset she had stopped taking birth control pills without telling him.

    In court documents, Laura says she faced days of intense pressure by her Scientology supervisor to abort the baby. Laura says she was threatened - if she did not have an abortion she would lose her position in the Sea Org, her housing and her husband.

    "I was told by the commanding officer of my organization that, she immediately started telling me that at this point the baby wasn't a baby, it was just tissue," Laura said in 2010.

    Laura and her attorneys declined our requests for an interview, but she spoke out at a news conference in 2010 in Hollywood alongside other former Scientologists.

    Laura says she was "handled" for two days, her supervisor allegedly telling her it was for the "greatest good" to abort the baby. Laura says she eventually gave in, despite her intense longing for a child.

    "I never agreed to have an abortion," Laura says. "Did I concede? Yes, I did. Does it kill me every day? Yes, it does."

    Journalist Tony Ortega of The Underground Bunker has been reporting on Scientology for two decades, and has followed every twist and turn in Laura's case since it was filed back in 2009.

    "Sea Org workers work around the clock," Ortega tells Eyewitness News. "You can't work like that if you have small children to take care of."

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  8. Scientology acknowledges that Church policy prohibits active members of the Sea Org from having young children. But, they insist Laura was a religious volunteer who could have walked away at any time. She stayed, they say, without any force or coercion on the Church's part.

    "To be clear, defendants do not argue that a church may physically force a woman to have an abortion," wrote Bert Deixler, attorney for the Church of Scientology International, in court papers.

    "But that is not the issue here. Under the First Amendment, churches may encourage a minister of a religious order to forego child rearing so she or he may continue a religious life. Courts may not interfere with those efforts," Deixler wrote in court papers.


    As part of her lawsuit, Laura says she fell under the powerful sway of the Church for more than a decade. She alleges that because she was "recruited to join" the Sea Org at such a young age, she was unable to see a way out of the only world she had ever known and "remained under Defendants' influence and control for years."

    Journalist Tony Ortega says he's spoken to hundreds of former Scientologists who tell him that Sea Org workers are conditioned to believe they can not make it on the outside.

    "They're told you'll never get a job, you don't understand how the world works, and they're terrified. They really are terrified about leaving," Ortega tells Eyewitness News.

    Scientology declined a request by Eyewitness News for an interview, stating by email that, "the Church does not comment on pending litigation." In court, attorneys for Scientology have argued that Laura became a "minister" at age twelve and the First Amendment's freedom of religion clause shields the Church and its practices from interference by the courts.

    "Determination of who is a minister is made by the Church, not a jury," attorney Bert Deixler told L.A. Superior Court Judge John Doyle this week at a hearing in which Scientology attorneys were asking for Laura's lawsuit be dismissed.

    Deixler compared the potential trial to a "religious inquisition." Judge Doyle, however, disagreed and denied the Church's motion for summary judgment. Judge Doyle determined there is enough evidence to move forward with a trial and asked both sides to return to court in June to set a trial date. Robert Mangels, attorney for the Church's Religious Technology Center, said he will file papers asking California's Court of Appeal to reverse Doyle's ruling and dismiss the case.


    Laura's lawsuit against Scientology has been making its way through the court system since 2009.

    "They've already been the U.S. Supreme Court in this case because the Church of Scientology did not want to give Laura her own files. They claimed it would be a violation of priest-penitent privacy," Ortega tells Eyewitness News.

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  9. Laura and her attorneys fought for access to what's known as "PC files" - thousands of pages of documents compiled by Scientology during her thirteen years in the Sea Org. Ultimately, the Church turned the files over and many of them were entered into the court record.

    In handwritten notes, Laura writes that she "missed my family" and "gets griefy" when she's not able to see or communicate with her family.

    Another note, written when Laura was twenty years old, states that she hasn't seen her mom in almost two years.

    Scientology also turned over a document written by Laura's supervisor that says Laura is "two months pregnant, upset about it and doesn't want to have an abortion."


    In 2001, Laura was sent to the "Rehabilitation Project Force" or RPF for having "committed purported wrongs." Scientology describes the RPF as a "voluntary program of spiritual rehabilitation" that, among other things, includes physical labor as a means of "penance and amends."

    Laura did agree to go to the RPF, but she says, only after being mentally "beaten down."

    She says her three years in the RPF included punishments like "running around the basement or doing push-ups."

    "I wasn't allowed to speak with my family. You're not allowed to have more than twenty dollars on you at any given time. You're not allowed to go anywhere without another person. You're watched 24/7," says DeCrescenzo.

    "Was she coerced? Was she held against her will? That's the kind of thing that Laura's side wants to get in front of a jury and let the jury decide - is the RPF a reasonable thing," says Ortega.

    Scientology attorneys point out that Laura was an adult when she agreed to go on the RPF as part of their "religious practice," and that she was able to leave, and did leave. They say she returned voluntarily on several occasions.

    Scientology attorney Bert Deixler told Judge Doyle this week that Laura's decision to remain in the Sea Org and the RPF was "a matter of faith, not a matter of force."

    Laura's lawsuit also alleges violations of California's wage and hour laws. Attorney Deixler told the court that state law does not support her allegations.

    "She signed a 'billion-year contract' and she didn't fulfill it," Deixler said. "There's no question about that."


    Three years later, and still on the RPF, Laura says she was "broken and fearful." She "could no longer tolerate" the RPF. Laura says she took drastic measures, faking a suicide attempt, believing it would result in her immediate dismissal from the RPF and the Sea Org.

    "I actually took a gulp of bleach, because I knew that if I was considered a suicide risk, they would get rid of me immediately," DeCrescenzo says.

    "And she couldn't take it anymore," says Ortega. "And that's why she drank bleach to pretend she was suicidal because she knew suicide is one thing they don't want to deal with."

    Within days, Laura was dismissed from the RPF. Eyewitness News obtained the video Scientology recorded of Laura signing an affidavit releasing Scientology of any liability or wrongdoing. It's a document she now challenges.

    Laura says she was "emotional and mentally unstable" at the time, and "would have signed anything in order to be able to leave."

    see related court documents at: