21 Mar 2011

Former Scientology leaders in Ireland describe psychological manipulation, spiritual abuse and exploitation

The Irish Times - March 19, 2011

Scientology: inside and out

A recent campaign in Dublin advertised courses run by the Scientology movement. Members past and present tell CIAN TRAYNOR about their experiences of the organisation. Does it bring the promised prosperity, intelligence and freedom, or simply exploit the vulnerable?

‘WHEN JOB SECURITY turns into insecurity,” ran a recent ad on the Dart, in Dublin, “attend a course in Scientology.” The accompanying photographs feature men and women looking stressed or dejected. The course advertised was in “personal efficiency”, cost €45 and promised to “increase ability, competence and lasting security at work”.

When the posters appeared, complaints and defamatory graffiti materialised swiftly. The back-and-forth arguments about Scientology are constant: one side claims they are exposing the truth; the other dismisses the detractors as liars engaging in discriminatory behaviour.

Since forming, in 1953, Scientology has presented itself as an applied religious philosophy that can bring prosperity, enhanced intelligence and spiritual freedom. The church’s founder, the late science-fiction writer L Ron Hubbard, taught that people are immortal beings who have forgotten their true nature.

Through a method of regressive therapy known as auditing, practitioners aim to “clear” themselves of traumatic memories known as “engrams”, which are carried over from past lives and cause insecurities, irrational fears and psychosomatic illnesses.

Scientology’s critics, however, see it as a money-making enterprise that exploits the vulnerable with cult-like practices.

This weekend Scientology’s UK headquarters celebrates the centenary of Hubbard’s birth with a gala event where celebrity members such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta are expected – a measure of the religion’s progress as the world’s fastest-growing religion. Its opponents, meanwhile, will gather at Scientology missions around the world, buoyed by their belief the religion is struggling to survive in the face of mounting criticism from former members.

Yet despite the fissure between celebrity endorsements and controversial allegations, Scientology still holds an appeal for people. We spoke to past and present practitioners to discover why they joined and why, in most cases, they left.

John Duignan

Commanding officer, Scientology Missions International UK

John Duignan’s 22 years as a Scientologist were bookended by mental breakdown. After emigrating from Cork he was stopped in Stuttgart one day in 1985 and persuaded to take a free personality test. The results indicated he desperately needed help, which he says was true. He had felt vulnerable since his parents killed themselves, when he was 10. Scientology seemed to offer a solution.

“I’ve realised I had quite a messed-up childhood, which set me up for needing something like that,” Duignan says. “They were promising me fantastic things: to make you permanently happy and healthy. For a depressed person that can be quite appealing.”

Duignan says he was encouraged to take out bank loans to pay for Scientology courses and disconnect from anyone critical of the religion. Then something in him snapped.

“I was suicidal. I haven’t been able to document this, but I feel it was induced in some way. I came out of this breakdown as a fanatical Scientologist, and that’s a fact. A mental filter had been broken. My ethos and culture was based around my Irish Catholic upbringing, but that was completely undermined. I now believed Scientology was the only way to save the world.”

He began working at the Stuttgart mission in exchange for course work and was later recruited to the Sea Organisation, Scientology’s fraternal religious order. Its 6,000 members, some of whom are children, sign billion-year commitment forms.

“It’s a difficult organisation to leave,” says Duignan. “Everybody watches everybody. All the bases have a perimeter of some form, and they are locked, wired and under surveillance. If you wake up one night and think, My God, what am I doing? you cannot walk out of the building.”

Working 16-hour days, 365 days a year, on Scientology operations in the US, the UK, Africa, Canada and Australia, Duignan ascended the ranks. “I had become a real honorary bastard.” The greater Duignan’s responsibilities, the more trust he earned in his free time. He’d sneak away whenever possible, doing independent voluntary work in deprived areas to see how Scientology translated to the outside world. It didn’t stand up, he believed.

Duignan began to develop doubts, believing the Scientology community was insular and rife with double standards.

The church discourages independent inquiry on the grounds that it hampers progress along the Bridge to Total Freedom, the religion’s ladder to enlightenment. Revelations are made progressively through courses, the cost of which can add up to more than €300,000.

Many former Scientologists cite their first delinquent internet search as a jarring experience. Duignan began reading “earth-shattering” accounts of former members who had reached the top only to grow disillusioned, finding troubling discrepancies between Hubbard’s church biography and his medical and military records.

At 42, Duignan felt he should have been married with children and a career. Instead he was “a ghost” with no money, no qualifications or transferrable skills, no state entitlements and no way of relating to “wogs” – non-Scientologists. He says he couldn’t simply walk away, or “blow”, in Scientology terminology. He had been on security operations to forcibly bring back defectors and knew what to expect. “I was on the run,” he says gently. “I realised that psychologically I was not going to be able to keep this up.”

Although Scientologists were staked outside his family home, in Cork, Duignan managed to trick them into thinking he was in Birmingham and made it clear that any attempts to bring him back would be futile. Four years on he says intensive counselling and the ability to attend college as a mature student have helped him rebuild his life.

“That was so crucial,” he says. “I was quite ignorant after 22 years; the whole world outside of Scientology was scary. Even if I don’t get a job after this I’ve still got a good education and a sense of hope.”

Mike Rinder

Former chief spokesman for Scientology and head of its office of special affairs

Not long ago, when former members of Scientology spoke out it was Mike Rinder’s job to deny, discredit and neutralise their claims, a process known as “dead agenting”.

In 2007 that role involved following the BBC reporter John Sweeney, who was then filming an edition of Panorama about the religion. Sweeney had been inquiring about allegations that Scientology’s ecclesiastical leader, David Miscavige, had physically assaulted people within the church. Although Rinder ensured the allegations were omitted from the programme, Miscavige believed he should have stopped the edition from airing. As punishment Rinder was told to report for ditch- digging duty at Scientology’s UK base, in Sussex.

Instead he disappeared. “I literally walked out the door with my briefcase, which was all I had,” he says. “I got a deluge of messages on my BlackBerry. ‘Where are you? We need to talk. We need to talk.’ I just ignored them all. They didn’t know where to find me.”

Rinder believed Scientology had strayed from the church he had known since the age of six, that it was being abused to make money and further the power of Miscavige, who succeeded Hubbard after the writer’s death, in 1986. Though Rinder still had faith in Scientology, he knew leaving would mean excommunication from his family, who remain in the church, and being automatically declared a “suppressive person”, an arcane Scientology term indicating an enemy of Scientology or someone who “opposes betterment activity”.

Asked how he would compare his life before and after Scientology, Rinder goes silent. There’s a forced hiccup-like sound that slowly, unnervingly breaks into laughter. “That’s a leading question,” he says firmly.

Rinder has spoken out only a handful of times since defecting from Scientology, where he specialised in handling journalists (who are not only “suppressive persons” but also “merchants of chaos”). After another pause he answers. “Night and day,” he says. “I went from incredible restrictions on what I could do, say and think to no outside restrictions.”

He acknowledges that not everyone finds the adjustment easy. “I think probably the biggest difficulty people have is getting out of their minds the ingrained pattern of thinking about how to look at things,” he says. “They become infiltrated with this idea that you can’t criticise or do anything about what’s happening internally.”

Now an independent Scientologist, Rinder says he was required to issue categorical denials in order to protect the name of Scientology. “The problem is that there is no other way you can seek to disprove something that’s true.” As a result, he says, deception and violence became the accepted ways of doing things within the church. “There are things I look back on that I am not proud of, and those sorts of things are some of them.”

He does not regret being a Scientologist, however, and still swears by its teachings. But there is something he wouldn’t hesitate to say to other Scientologists, including his own family, given the opportunity: “Wake up and smell the coffee.”

Gabrielle Wynne

Former staff member at the Scientology mission in Dublin

It started with a social-studies assignment for college. Gabrielle Wynne visited the Dublin Scientology mission, asked some questions and was intrigued enough to do some introductory courses at home. “I got a lot from them. I thought, It can only get better from here.”

Within months Wynne was asked to join the staff. But there was a problem: her habit of contracting colds and flu was interpreted by her colleagues as a symptom of being “suppressed”. When asked if she was close to anyone who might disagree with Scientology, she admitted her mother had misgivings. Wynne was urged to disconnect from her mother, but she refused. Instead she was told to write her mother a letter, which was edited by the ethics officer, committing herself to the religion. “She just thought it was weird,” says Wynne. “Me and my mam can talk about anything. She knew that wouldn’t be me.”

Learning and making friends at the mission were enough to make Wynne overlook what she now believes were warning signs, such as the day a colleague suggested she exploit a friend’s insecurities to bring her in for auditing. When she asked why they weren’t reaching out to homeless people, she says, the reply was, “Because they can’t afford it.”

Sitting in a cafe, the bubbly 22-year-old says that she was promised a salary but that, in all her time of cleaning, cold-calling, auditing others and pushing flyers through letter boxes, there wasn’t one. “I was handed a little envelope with a €2 coin in it. I got my bus home that night and never got paid anything else.”

Having already spent €3,000 on Scientology, Wynne needed to work full time elsewhere, but leaving the staff meant being billed for €1,000 in “freeloader debt”.

After mounting pressure to join Sea Organisation, take out bank loans and disconnect from her mother, Wynne left last summer.

She felt lied to. Initially they had assured her that people were never urged to disconnect from friends or family, that it was “black PR”. They had also repeatedly denied the existence of what Wynne refers to as “the Xenu thing”, part of a confidential scripture revealed at Operating Thetan III level that Hubbard described as a space opera. (Scientology postulates that it can be fatal if discovered prematurely.) Yet she had seen a YouTube video of the church’s current spokesperson confirming it.

“There were so many witnesses and ex-members sharing things. I thought, They can’t all be lying. I was told they were all just suppressive people . . . It was never Scientology. It was always everyone else’s problem.”

Pete Griffiths

Anti-Scientology protestor

Before she began to have doubts Wynne would engage protestors in “friendly arguments”, trying to convince them they had it wrong. One of them was Pete Griffiths, a burly 57-year-old who offers support to former Scientologists. Sitting by Wynne’s side, he recalls his journey through Scientology with self-deprecating panache.

Griffiths ran a mission in Cumbria, in northern England, until his weekly figures petered out. By the time he moved to Westport, in 1998, he planned to return to Scientology once his children were grown and he could better afford it. It wasn’t until he heard of a protest in 2008 that he looked into Scientology online and had a “penny-dropping moment”.

“From 1987 to 2008 the thought control was all in place,” he says. “Then a lengthy unravelling process began. I got so angry that I burned any Scientology stuff I had lying around in a bonfire. I couldn’t look at it any more. The sense of betrayal is just incredible. The clues are all there, but you don’t see them.”

Griffiths maintains, like everyone interviewed for this article, that Scientologists are generally good, well-intentioned people who can’t detect flaws with how Scientology is run. People can believe whatever they want, he says, but they should also feel free to criticise, research or articulate doubt. But nobody can be talked out of Scientology, he adds. “It has to come from them.”

And so it was with Wynne, who now joins Griffiths and other former Scientologists on the other side of Abbey Street during monthly protests organised by the online activist group Anonymous, whose members the church regards as cyberterrorists.

“The point of me protesting is to say, ‘Remember me?’ ” she says. “I’m not a bad person. I’m just asking, Why would you have to remortgage your house for a religion? Religion should be free.”

John McGhee

Three years in Scientology

John McGhee says the stigma surrounding Scientology piqued his interest. If it delivered the self-betterment it promised, he reasoned, it seemed like a sound investment. “I walked in off the street and said, ‘Give me all you have.’ ”

Hunched over a table in a quiet pub, his eyebrows framing an intense gaze, the 33-year-old embalmer spends 90 minutes detailing every course, price and promise of his time in Scientology. He barely contains his frustration at what he sees as pay-as-you-go revelations that lead nowhere. “They say if it’s not working it’s something you’re doing, and they put you in auditing for that at your expense.”

McGhee admits there was an addictive quality to working up the “Bridge to Total Freedom”, the movement’s series of steps to enlightenment (see panel), so much so that he was prepared to ignore things he didn’t agree with. “At events or course completions they’d stand up and applaud Hubbard’s picture. I could never do it. Even as I went deeper into Scientology I never thought that was okay.”

Part of the processing, McGhee says, included confessing “overts and withholds” – sins and secrets – which are kept on file, while using an electropsychometer. “The e-meter works like a crude lie detector. They can tell if you’re holding anything in, and they can get it out of you.”

He recalls TRs, or training regimes, where he had to stare into someone’s eyes for four hours. “I went out of my head,” he says.

Then there was an auditing session at which, he claims, a supervisor chastised McGhee’s friend for analysing traumatic childhood events in the presence of children. “Firstly, there shouldn’t have been kids there. But the disruption drove him into catatonia. From that night on he changed. We went into a session the next day and the next day, but he wasn’t coming out of it. They predicted he’d need four or five grand’s worth [of life repair]. That was an eye-opener. They wouldn’t fix that man. They left him in such a state because they wanted money first. He couldn’t afford it. He’s still in that state to this day.”

McGhee lost interest at that point. By mid 2009 he had spent €10,500 and was researching Scientology every night in dismay. Recently he visited a friend who allegedly paid €50,000 for his bridge after just a day as a Scientologist, but there was nobody home. The neighbour said he’d packed up. McGhee looked up to the box room and saw the same Hubbard lectures that he had bought for €1,800 sitting on the shelf, and drew his own conclusion.

Although he spent four nights and a day at the mission every week, he couldn’t relate to the dedication required to spend money he didn’t have. McGhee claims he regularly lent cash to senior members for food and was once accompanied to an ATM to prove he didn’t have more. He says the people around him were running up debts, losing their temper and falling ill – the opposite of what he was promised. But he couldn’t get anyone to see it that way, he says, and eventually stopped questioning it.

“They honestly believe they’re on to a good thing and it’s more important than their children or mothers and fathers. They think they can clear the planet of ‘reactive minds’, but they can’t even do it in the mission. There are lads there 20 years without a penny to their name who glorify Scientology. And I think, What did it actually do for you?”

The Irish Scientology movement

Gerard Ryan, spokesman for the Church of Scientology in Dublin, says the only way to measure Scientology’s effectiveness is through a fundamental tenet of L Ron Hubbard, its founder: what’s true for you is what you observe to be true.

If you’re not seeing a return on something you’re putting time and effort into, he says, of course you’re not going to continue with it. His wife, for example, tried a few courses and decided it wasn’t for her.

“The vast majority of people who would leave the church never really joined the church in the first place, ie they come in, try it, it’s not for them and they go. That would be, overwhelmingly, most people.”

Scientology was introduced to Ireland when Hubbard established a Dublin mission, at 69 Merrion Square, in 1958. It was there that Hubbard, who would have turned 100 last weekend, first delivered the personal-efficiency course that Scientology recently began advertising on the Dart line.

The school closed in the early 1960s, but Scientology continued to be practised in Ireland.

In 1986 a Limerick man named John Keane began a mission from his home, and by the early 1990s Scientology had established itself at a base on Middle Abbey Street in Dublin. Since then the faith has seen modest growth in Ireland, says Ryan, with “only a few hundred Scientologists of varying degrees of commitment”.

Ryan, who is now 52, found a second-hand copy of Dianetics in London in the late 1980s. Its lessons aided his architecture studies, he says, and later in his career helped him maintain his integrity when unethical opportunities arose in the construction industry.

But he has never attained “clear” status – the fundamental goal in Scientology. “I’ve been a bit of a laggard in that respect,” he says with a laugh. “I spend most of my time studying it. I’m more of a philosophical bent.”

Scientology’s utopian aim is to “clear the planet”, a point at which everyone has cleared themselves of “engrams”, the scars of painful events normally inaccessible to the conscious mind.

The complexity and duration of the training involved mean Irish Scientologists aiming to reach clear status or above are required to travel to the UK or the US. Twenty or 30 members have done this, Ryan says, though it would cost “many thousands of euro” to reach the top level, Operating Thetan VIII, which must be studied at sea.

One member to have achieved this status is 90-year-old Bernard Duffy, who was an original pupil of Hubbard in Dublin.

Although Ryan says he understands “the broad thrust” of what the higher levels involve, he can neither attest to the heightened abilities they are said to induce, such as telepathy and out-of-body experiences, nor dispel people’s misgivings with those teachings.

“What can I say? I don’t know,” he says. “I’ve personally never witnessed any of these alleged abilities. I can only go on my personal experience, and my personal experience of Scientology is pretty good.”

He says Scientologists who have reached the higher levels but struggle with health, finances and temperament are not indictments of the religion’s tangible benefits.

“If I see some OT” – that is, Operating Thetan, indicating a Scientologist who has gone beyond the clear level – “some guy who’s gone up high on the levels and they’re not doing well in life, from my experience that tells me something is wrong. Something has gone awry there. I would actually seek to help the guy.

“I don’t make decisions about my life based on another person’s experience, because that’s a second-hand decision. If I try something in Scientology and it doesn’t work, if it’s bad or crap and everything else, I will make my decision based upon that experience.”

The Dublin mission participates in a yearly competition to increase square footage, called the birthday game, which it won last year after moving to a bigger premises on Middle Abbey Street.

The mission is also effectively in competition with missions in the UK, India and Pakistan to submit “up stats” – rising figures – every week, though Ryan admits they struggle to reach their targets. About 10 per cent of the Dublin mission’s income goes to the Church of Scientology, which has been unsuccessful in its attempts to obtain tax-free, charitable status in Ireland.

Ryan gives little credence to criticism of Scientology, explaining that it tends to be either “unbelievable garbage” or personnel issues. “If every single thing they say about us is true, which is a laugh, that would not be one fraction of the things that, say, China is doing to human rights or the Catholic Church did in Ireland.”

For Ryan the fact that Scientology has grown “from zero to millions” in the face of opposition over the past 60 years shows that it clearly holds value in some people’s lives.

“There’s no doubt about it,” he says. “Some people have tried it and it doesn’t work for them. That’s a fact. It’s quite clearly worked for an awful lot more.”

In numbers

More than 50,000 people have taken Scientology's personality test in Dublin.

Scientology has more than 9,000 churches, missions and affiliated groups in 165 countries.

92 million books by L Ron Hubbard and lectures on Dianetics and Scientology have been distributed in the past decade. Three million of those have been placed in more than 150,000 libraries in 192 countries since July 2007.

Scientology's properties increased from about 520,000 sq m in 2004 to more than 1.1 million sq m in 2010.

The Scientology Volunteer Ministers programme has aided more than than 175 disaster-relief efforts worldwide.

Scientology supports drug-rehabilitation programmes in more than 45 countries.

Hubbard's works have been translated into 71 languages, a Guinness World Record.

This article was found at:


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  1. Quote: "Ryan gives little credence to criticism of Scientology, explaining that it tends to be either “unbelievable garbage” or personnel issues. “If every single thing they say about us is true, which is a laugh, that would not be one fraction of the things that, say, China is doing to human rights or the Catholic Church did in Ireland.”

    That is a disingenuous argument which is common among apologists who make excuses for religious abusers. For example, Catholic apologists are constantly citing child abuse in other organizations and in society in general, to downplay Catholic abuse, as if that excuses them from doing the right thing to compensate their victims and better protect children.

    Here we have a Scientology apologist discounting all abuse allegations against it as untrue, but then claiming even if they were all true it would still be far less than all the abuse committed in China or the Catholic church. But if all the allegations of abuse and crimes by Scientologists are true, then that is an awful lot of horrific abuse [see the Related Articles links above].

    Does Ryan really believe that just because there are greater numbers of crimes and abuse in other groups or countries, that somehow reduces Scientology's culpability or lessens in anyway the suffering and harms it caused to both children and adults? More likely, his Scientology indoctrination caused him to lose the ability to think critically and so he spouts nonsense like that.

  2. Scientologys fraud conviction upheld in France

    France's top appeals court has upheld a fraud conviction and fines totalling hundreds of thousands of euros against the Church of Scientology, for taking advantage of vulnerable followers.

    By AFP October 17, 2013

    The Cour de Cassation rejected the organisation's request that a 2009 conviction for "organised fraud" be overturned on the grounds it violated religious freedoms.

    From their Los Angeles headquarters, the group slammed the court ruling as "an affront to justice and religious liberty," in a statement that accused the French government of "anti-religious extremism".

    "The Court failed to address the fundamental violations of the human rights of each of the defendants that infected every level of this case," said the Scientology church, vowing to pursue the matter "at the international level".

    The group has previously indicated it will appeal the conviction to the European Court of Human Rights.

    The conviction saw Scientology's Celebrity Centre and its bookshop in Paris, the two branches of its French operations, ordered to pay 600,000 euros ($812,000) in fines for preying financially on followers in the 1990s

    The original ruling, while stopping short of banning the group from operating in France, dealt a blow to the secretive movement best known for its Hollywood followers, such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

    France regards Scientology as a cult, not a religion, and had prosecuted individual Scientologists before, but the 2009 trial marked the first time the organisation as a whole had been convicted.

    The head of a parliamentary group on religious cults in France, lawmaker Georges Fenech, hailed the ruling.

    "Far from being a violation of freedom of religion, as this American organisation contends, this decision lifts the veil on the illegal and highly detrimental practices" of the group, said Fenech.

    The court case followed a complaint by two women, one of whom said she was manipulated into handing over 20,000 euros in 1998 for Scientology products including an "electrometer" to measure mental energy.

    A second woman claimed she was forced by her Scientologist employer to undergo testing and enrol in courses, also in 1998. When she refused she was fired.

    The Church of Scientology said in its statement that the involvement in the trial of UNADFI, a French anti-cult association, "polluted the proceedings, transforming it into a heresy trial."

    Founded in 1954 by US science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, the Church of Scientology is recognised as a religion in the United States. It claims a worldwide membership of 12 million, including 45,000 followers in France.


  3. Is Scientology’s ad campaign aimed at sprucing up its image?

    By Mark Sommer | Buffalo News Staff Reporter November 18, 2013

    A young girl’s face looks out from billboards, asking, “What is Scientology? Find out for yourself.”

    Ads on the sides of Metro buses beckon viewers to tour the church in downtown Buffalo. Radio ads on sports talk shows urge listeners to give the religion a try.

    Buffalo is one of three cities, along with Denver and Las Vegas, where the Church of Scientology – which spent $8 million for a 60-second advertisement during this year’s Super Bowl – is mounting a major ad campaign.

    But the church is controversial. It has been accused of forcing members to separate from family and friends who become critical of Scientology. Eleven former church executives have accused leader David Miscavige of hitting them. And growing numbers of defectors – including actress Leah Remini and director-screenwriter Paul Haggis – are speaking out.

    That’s why some people think the recent ad campaign may be intended to spruce up the church’s damaged image.

    “There are a large number of students coming into Buffalo from out of town who may see the buses with these advertisements, or the billboards, and think they should go check Scientology out, that maybe they had the wrong impression,” said Kim Brillon, a former member who is now critical of the church.

    She said the four-story terra-cotta building – referred to internally as an “org,” for organization – at Main and Virginia streets is often empty, which has left officials desperate for new members.

    Scientologists claim that the religion – which counts actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta among its ranks – helps people find spiritual growth and happiness, and is unfairly accused of being both wacky and authoritarian.

    J. Gordon Melton, a professor at Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion who has written favorably about Scientology, nonetheless said it has a public relations problem.

    “If I were running things, I would feel a tremendous need to rehabilitate my image,” said Melton, who has been paid by the church to prepare court dispositions on its behalf. “I know that, internally, many high-level Scientologists are upset about the image that gets projected. It’s right up there among the most hated religions in America right now.”

    Lamar Advertising of Baton Rouge, La., said the church’s ad buy in Buffalo includes 11 billboards and 14 “Superking” ads covering the side of buses, as well as bus stop signs. The company declined to reveal the cost, but advertising rate cards indicate it’s in the tens of thousands of dollars.

    Local and national Scientology officials ignored requests to talk to The Buffalo News.

    continued below

  4. Scientologists have often claimed to be unfairly portrayed. The church operates numerous groups and programs that it says promote the public good, although some downplay their church affiliation. Each uses methods or teachings that Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard applied to social problems.

    Among the issues are drug education and rehabilitation, psychiatry and prisoner reform.

    The church also has a volunteer minister program, which has sent Scientologists to disaster areas, including Manhattan following 9/11 and Haiti after a devastating earthquake in 2010.

    Scientology’s belief system held special appeal for Michel Brillon, who worked for the church for more than 20 years, including four in Buffalo, and Kim Brillon, who was a Scientologist when they met.

    Now, a year after leaving the church, they say Scientology is a “cult” that preys on an unsuspecting public.

    “The main thing is, ‘They don’t give a ... who you are. They want your money,” Michel Brillon said.

    “I’ve lost my family. I’ve lost my home. I’ve lost a lot because of this church, because of this cult,” Kim Brillon said.

    Michel Brillon said he used his sales skills to help the church sell courses and other products. But over time, he said, intense pressure to boost weekly sales overrode consideration about whether individuals could afford the costly courses, counseling-like sessions and books and videos.

    Brillon said that although he wouldn’t push people too hard to buy things, others did – and he was in a position to know.

    “I was the person who sold courses when someone got in, so I know exactly how it’s done,” Brillon said, noting most people who come through Scientology’s doors at 836 Main St. are first administered stress or personality tests.

    “What I want people to know is that when you are going to go in, you will meet someone who is nice. You will feel understood, finally. And this is where you are going to get trapped.”

    It was Brillon’s job to persuade Scientologists to tune out detractors. Members are forbidden to read anything negative about Scientology, and if they do, church officials interrogate them to make sure the information is rejected, Brillon and other ex-members say.

    Brillon says that when he looks back at his years in Scientology, he always knew something wasn’t right.

    “I always knew. Everybody does. You don’t want to see, because if you have the courage of really facing it, you’re denying your entire life,” he said.

    But Brillon said it’s hard to break free.

    “It’s like you become your own prisoner,” he said.


  5. Scientologys Chilling Effect

    by Joe Nocera, The Opinion Pages | OP-ED COLUMNIST New York Times February 24, 2015

    When I was at Fortune magazine in the 1990s, one of my colleagues was a reporter named Richard Behar. He had a special lock on his door, and he wouldn’t even let the janitor in to empty his wastebasket. He used a secret phone, which he kept hidden in a desk drawer, so that calls made to sources couldn’t be traced back to him.

    At first, I just thought he was paranoid. But I soon learned that he had come by his paranoia honestly. In May 1991, as a correspondent for Time magazine, Behar had written an exposé of Scientology, calling it a “hugely profitable global racket that survives by intimidating members and critics in a Mafia-like manner.”

    Before the article was published, Behar says, he was followed by private detectives, who also contacted acquaintances, asking whether he had financial problems. After its publication, that sort of harassment continued, he says — along with a major libel suit. Although the suit was eventually dismissed, it took years, and cost millions of dollars to defend. Behar’s deposition alone lasted 28 days.

    What brings this to mind is Alex Gibney’s fine new HBO documentary about Scientology, “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief,” which is based on the book “Going Clear” by Lawrence Wright. (Disclosure: I played a small role in Gibney’s 2005 documentary on Enron.) “Going Clear,” which was shown at Sundance in late January, is scheduled to air on HBO on March 29.

    It is virtually impossible to tell the story of Scientology without getting into the issue of intimidation. As the film notes, going on the offensive against its critics is part of Scientology’s doctrine, handed down by its founder, L. Ron Hubbard. “It is the antithesis of turn the other cheek,” says Marty Rathbun, a former high-ranking official who left the church in 2004 and has since been subjected to Scientology harassment, as the film documents. It also retells the story, first reported in The New York Times, of how, in 1993, Scientology won a 25-year fight against the Internal Revenue Service, which had refused to grant it nonprofit status. Scientologists filed several thousand lawsuits, against not just the I.R.S. but individual I.R.S. officials, and hired private detectives to look for dirt and conduct surveillance operations.

    But the film doesn’t really tackle the intimidation of journalists. One of the first journalists to take on Scientology, in the early 1970s, was a young freelance writer named Paulette Cooper. Scientology’s retaliation was astounding. It framed her for supposedly sending bomb threats to the church. The documents it forged were so convincing that she was indicted in 1973 and was fully exonerated only when the F.B.I., acting on a tip, raided Scientology offices and discovered the plot against her in 1977.

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  6. Over the course of the next three decades-plus, there were a handful — though only a handful — of tough-minded articles like Behar’s. “Everybody who wrote about Scientology knew they were taking a risk,” Wright told me. You’ve heard of the “chilling effect?” Scientology offered a prime example of how it works.

    Then, in 2009, The Tampa Bay Times (then The St. Petersburg Times) published an important series about Scientology, based on interviews with high-ranking defectors, including Rathbun and Mike Rinder, who had been Scientology’s top spokesman. The series was the first to suggest that Scientology had a longstanding culture of abuse. Amazingly, the church did not sue.

    Vanity Fair published a big piece about Scientology. (This was after the breakup of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes; Cruise, of course, is the most famous Scientologist of them all.) No lawsuit. Anderson Cooper did a series on CNN. The BBC weighed in. Ditto and ditto.

    Sure enough, when I spoke to Wright and Gibney, they said that the pushback they had gotten was nothing they couldn’t handle. A Scientology website has posted a video attacking the two men, and the church has also taken out full-page newspaper ads denouncing “Going Clear.” “I didn’t expect quite this much venom,” Gibney told me, but, he added, “I regard it as good publicity.”

    (In a lengthy statement, a Scientology spokesperson said that Gibney had “lied to us repeatedly,” that Marty Rathbun had “destroyed evidence and lied under oath,” that a judge had described Behar as “biased,” and that in defending itself against Gibney’s “propaganda and bigotry,” it was speaking “for those who are subjected to religious persecution and hatred.”)

    Gibney also noted that the people who are really harassed these days aren’t journalists but those who have left the church, like Rathbun, who told me that, with more people leaving and talking about the church, it no longer has the resources to sic private eyes on all its critics. He also thinks the Internet has hurt the church, because it is far easier to find out information about it — and many of its supposed secrets are posted online for all to see.

    “Part of the message here is that you don’t need to fear Scientology anymore,” says Wright. It’s long overdue.


  7. Why I Left Scientology

    By Carmen Llywelyn, Gawker - June 23, 2015

    I was a Scientologist for eight years. Although I identified as one I didn’t really understand what actually being a Scientologist fully entailed until after a couple of years of being heavily indoctrinated. The reality of Scientology is deceptively hidden and cleverly disguised. When I look at Scientology today, I have to forgive myself for not seeing through the manipulation sooner. I’ve spent the last 13 years keeping Scientology out of my life. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve realized that the religion is built on a foundation of violence. I’m proud to add my voice to the many who, despite fear of retribution and humiliation, have come forward to tell of our experiences. This is my story.

    The day I was taken to The Celebrity Centre in Los Angeles for the first time, I had no idea how much the visit would change and shape me into the person I am today. Or what I’d be like if the fates had something different in mind for me.

    I bought a one-way ticket from Georgia to California when I was 19. My dream was to be an actor. Four months after arriving, I met the person who would introduce me to the organization around which my life would soon begin to revolve. Jason Lee, the actor best known for My Name is Earl, and I were introduced at an action sports trade show in San Diego where I was working as a model for an indie clothing label. Jason was at the height of his pro-skateboard success. We got married in 1995 after being together for one year.

    Jason had been a Scientologist for about five years when we met. He was introduced through his ex-girlfriend, Marissa Ribisi, and her family. When I think back, I believe a part of me knew if I didn’t accept Scientology the marriage would be over before it even started. That may sound somewhat superficial and at that age, maybe it was. But in truth, regardless of how different I feel about Jason and Scientology today, I was very much in love with the guy and wanted our marriage to work. I did what I thought was right. But I made the mistake of immersing myself completely in his world. I did what so many other people who join Scientology do: I lost all sense of individual identity in the name of the cult.

    What made becoming a Scientologist all too easy, especially in the beginning, were the famous and successful faces that surrounded and influenced me. It made it seem like maybe Scientology was the real cause behind all this success these young people were having. Jason’s friends became my friends. I was impressed with how educated in art they all were. I learned a lot through them, but at 20 years old, there was no one in my life who wasn’t a Scientologist.

    I got a horrible feeling in my stomach that first day at the Celebrity Centre. Jason and I had spoken about Scientology many times. Our relationship was serious; we had just moved in together. Eventually, I started to feel like he was forcing Scientology on me, past the point where I didn’t want to go any further. He would never stop talking about it. It became a source of contention and I realized that unless I accepted Scientology the way he did and the way he wanted me to, we would most likely cease to know each another.

    I didn’t want to go inside the Centre, but Jason was so excited for me. He had set up a tour of everything. A very nice Sea Org staff member showed us around, taking us to the different levels and departments and explaining how Scientology worked. Of course, Jason had been there before and it wasn’t lost on me that the tour was all for my benefit. It was unnerving to know that my reaction to what was happening could be a dealbreaker in our relationship. I think I was too young to even understand the impact this had on my decision making.

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  8. We walked over to a room where a couple of people were reading and waiting to be taken into “session,” as it was described to me. As we kept going, it occurred to me how unreal and expensive Scientology was to going to be. (I’m not exactly sure, but I know with all the auditing, books and courses I took, the cost of Scientology added up to more than $50,000. This includes the cost of my lifetime membership to the International Association Of Scientologists, which is thousands of dollars and a requirement that must be paid before any services can be started. This amount does not include the donations the church asked us for over the years.)

    To me, Scientology seemed more of a surreal lifestyle for the privileged than a kind of belief system. Our tour guide showed us the auditing part of the grade chart, then the training part. She asked us, wouldn’t we like to become clear one day and was that something we could imagine ourselves doing? I remember saying I did, but that I would most likely only do the auditing side since it seemed impossible for me to finish both sides. I joked that I had no idea how I’d ever have time to do anything else.

    She surprised me when she abruptly cut me off me mid-sentence in order to say that I would finish both sides, like every other Scientologist is required do. Her quick personality shift from accommodating to controlling shocked me. I didn’t expect to be belittled by our tour guide, given that it was my choice to do anything concerning Scientology—if I was going to do it at all. I wondered how she could see it any other way. But she didn’t back down from what she said. It made me feel stupid. And then she just moved on with the tour as if nothing had happened. I didn’t like it and I didn’t understand it. Worse, Jason seemed to not notice.

    After I left Scientology I came to know this type of communication very well, if you can call it that—it’s too one-sided for it to be called an actual communication cycle because it’s more like being talked at. Hubbard created a complicated emotional tone scale and used it to teach Scientologists how to “deal with people.” This specific way of talking was called “speaking with tone 40 intent.” This was all learned in a very low-level course, all under the guise of having better communication skills. We practiced speaking this way with each other. Two of the training routines taught us how to deal with a person who was doing something wrong by basically ordering them around. In this routine you spoke to the person in a commanding way and you didn’t offer them a chance to reply. This was how people in the church talked to me after I left. I regrettably admit to speaking to people that way myself when I believed it was called for. It was also how Jenna Elfman and Gay Ribisi treated me when I became known as a “Suppressive Person.” More on that later.

    Our tour of the Centre continued on. I’d run out of adjectives to describe how beautiful the building was. I hated sensing the need to over-emphasize exactly how much I liked everything, like I had to prove it. (This is something else I got used to doing while being a Scientologist.) I listened to the history of how the Centre used to be a hotel and all the renovations done to it, but I couldn’t help thinking that nothing seemed religious about Scientology. Most of what was presented to me was focused on the material side of life.

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  9. I was shown L Ron Hubbards office set up perfectly for when he comes back in another lifetime. The famous members of the religion were mentioned over and over again. In the Rose Garden, cans of Coke were on sale for $2 each alongside overpriced snacks. It was all very ostentatious. Most of the focus was on ways things appeared. It confusing to me that a church was called the Celebrity Centre. I didn’t like having class systems mixed into my religion. It just didn’t seem right.

    A year or so later, at a party at the Centre, I discovered just how difficult it was for me to hide my critical feelings. Most people in the church will say it’s a person’s critical thoughts that get them in trouble with it. But when you leave, it’s those same critical judgments that end up freeing you. For me, being the emotional creature I was and still am, it was those thoughts I couldn’t let go of, even in the most intense days in my time as a Scientologist.

    This was a Hollywood premier-type party, with red velvet ropes and a guard who’d lift them if you were a recognizable Scientology celebrity, worthy of the status of being separated from the crowd. It got under my skin that this was being done in the name of religion, but I wasn’t strong enough yet to voice my opinion about it. When my own friend’s mother couldn’t get in and I had to pull the guard aside as to not embarrass her, I asked myself what the hell was I doing there.

    It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that I never related any of this to anyone around me, at least not until I left Scientology and it felt safe to do so. You’d never think that speaking your mind could get you in that much trouble, but if you knew what the average Scientologist’s perspective was on friendships you’d understand. It becomes a lonely world. It wasn’t hard to see how my story would end if and when I went that route. No one is really friends with each other in Scientology. I began to call my Scientologist friends “faux friends,” because who could be close to somebody when you know for a fact that they would betray your confidence in a heartbeat? In Scientology, your friend can become your worst enemy overnight.

    The backstabbing and creative deceitfulness I experienced in Scientology were what wounded me the most. Faux friends have no problems betraying you. A few years ago I looked up my former best friend on Facebook. I had been gone from Scientology for almost a decade and hadn’t spoken to anyone from the group, so I was very surprised to see pictures of me on her page, and even more surprised to see that she and her friends were gleefully making fun of me in the photos. They wrote captions comparing me to Anna Nicole Smith, saying I was going to end up dead just like her. They said I was “a missing person” and asked if “anyone [had] seen me” (but not in the helpful sense).

    It made me sick to see them making nothing out of another human being’s life. They took pride in knowing about my private struggles with addiction, which at that time in my life I’d never spoken about publicly and certainly never shared with them (I’d also successfully gone through rehab and had been in recovery for several years). When I discovered these Facebook postings, I had two small children at home who needed me very much and who I lived for. Seeing people that consider themselves the most ethical immortal beings on the planet take bets in public on how long I had to live was an ugly sight, to say the least. But to Scientologists, I am not human. I am a Suppressive Person, a one-dimensional, unthinking humanoid who has no rights. And in Scientology, the way they were treating me was the only way a Suppressive Person is to be treated.

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  10. A Suppressive Person is the worst thing you can be in Scientology. This label is reserved for anyone who is opposed to, speaks out about, or leaves the religion. Scientologists believe that such a person, like an ex-Scientologist who speaks out about their former beliefs and/or who doesn’t disconnect from one who has, will make everyone around them sick. They’ll ruin everyone’s lives with whom they come into contact and must never be socialized with again. According to the written doctrine of Scientology, Suppressive Persons must be destroyed if the religion is to continue saving the world. This is why it’s difficult to look at these nice and sweet celebrities and ever imagine they could be full of such rage and hate. But they’ve actually been hardwired, slowly and over a long period of time, to fanatically believe in this.

    I remember when I tried telling one faux friend how the writings of L. Ron Hubbard felt too convoluted for me to absorb. About a sentence into my opinion, she cut me off. Before I knew it, she had totally whitewashed what I’d said. But it was like she thought she was doing me a favor by not letting me express myself. I found myself agreeing with her in the hope that I wouldn’t cause any more problems. Anything I said or even thought that was considered a deviation from the general Scientological (an actual word we used) teachings was seen by others as an error on my part—something that needed correction. Or it meant something was horribly wrong with me.

    Shortly after I left Scientology, I ran into one of my former faux-friends, Jenna Elfman, at Fred Segal in L.A. She walked up to me and said “Hi” and stared in my face for a second in a semi-confrontational way. I was shocked for a second but said hello, how are you, thinking it was going to be a normal conversation. But rather than telling me how she was, she went on a rant about all the courses she was working on and finishing in Scientology to let me know that nothing other than religion mattered. She didn’t ask me how I was. She didn’t wish me well or ask me about my life. She wasn’t interested. I was just supposed to listen to her while she lectured me in that tone-40 type of voice and told me I needed to get back on “the bridge.” Then she walked off without saying goodbye. It was a very cold encounter. (Honestly, even when I was a Scientologist, I thought the Elfmans—Jenna and her husband, Bodhi, who married me and Jason—were cheesy people. They sent out a monthly newsletter in the mail to everyone they knew called “The Elfman Empire” listing all their Hollywood projects and Scientology work they were doing. It was funny.) Anyway, Jenna thought she was being a good Scientologist by talking to me that way. Of course, they’re trained to act like that.

    When I first started Scientology, I figured I’d likely have to do something pretty bad in the religion’s eyes to earn the Suppressive Person label. Something horrible like killing someone or printing fake money, I don’t know, something truly criminal. I wouldn’t have ever dreamed that I would one day earn this distinction because I read a book (A Piece of Blue Sky, by former Scientologist Jon Atack, which forever changed my life) that opposed the church’s beliefs. Most people know the only view you’ll see of any Scientologist once they disconnect from you will be their backs. Before I was disconnected with him, I still got along with Jason as long as I agreed with his and the church’s demands. But when I revealed over the telephone to my talent manager, Gay Ribisi, that I’d read an anti-Scientology book, it started the chain of events that led to me being disconnected with everyone I had known.

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  11. Suddenly my entire life got stolen out from under me. My entire support structure shattered. Nothing that I knew was ever the same. I lost Gay, Jason, and every friend and source of love I knew besides my family in Georgia, 3,000 miles away. I was completely on my own and not one of them cared. What I didn’t expect to happen was that Gay would get my agent at United Talent Agency to drop me. Or at least that’s what she told me in her disconnection letter I received two days after our phone call. So I had no way of even getting work. I was supposed to start over.

    Gay’s disconnection letter consisted of one paragraph and ended with “Love always comma Gay.” But what it meant was: “Never speak to me again. You are now a big bad Suppressive Person.” I was being punished. I wish I would’ve kept the letter. I’d written many myself while I was Scientologist and was trained on how to compose one. They’re to be kept short and you’re to remain detached and emotionless. But the most important part is to be final, so the person on the other end knows they’ll never see you again. I burned it.

    Jason’s disconnection letter was delivered to my mailbox the same day as Gay’s. It was also a paragraph, and it also ended in the same meaningless way and insinuated the same serious things. I actually questioned who wrote his letter because it mimicked Gay’s in every way. It practically said the same thing. It was silly that he had to write me a polite letter to tell me never to speak to him again. In my mind a more honest dialogue would have gone like this: “Yeah, Carmen, I know I knew you better than anyone else, especially Gay. And I guess I loved you for almost ten years but you’ve done the unforgivable deed of reading a book that my ass-backwards religion doesn’t like so I’m going to have to turn you into a more demonic version of yourself where you can never be redeemed or believed. Your pain is a lie. Just suffer in silence.” This would have at least been a more open conversation to have had with Jason. I might have respected him for at least telling the truth.

    Anything Jason did after our marriage ended is truly none of my business. But his participation in what happened to me and my family after our divorce is unforgivable. I always joke that for people to understand what ex-Scientologists go through, they’d have to take a class on it. One thing they would learn about is something called “Fair Game”—a practice Scientology uses to target its enemies. This is what happened to me after I divorced Jason and was disconnected from Scientology.

    Scientology has a sophisticated intelligence agency known as the Office of Special Affairs, which is essentially a complex system dedicated to ruining the lives of those it sees as enemies in any way possible. Those who work for the OSA do not follow the law. I didn’t believe any of this was real until I left and started to research it in the attempt to figure out the strange things that were happening to me and my family—like how and why my former best friend suddenly knew about everything about my personal life, and why she felt compelled to involve herself in it.

    There was more. Vicious rumors were being spread about things I had said only while in session, which I was made to believe were private. Some rumors I knew could only come from certain people, like Jason. I got followed all the time. People in public would loudly discuss a conversation I had just had in private, word for word. Similar things occurred on social media.

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  12. Scientologists have no boundaries and their cruelties exclude no one. From my experience, Fair Game’s main tool is mind games. They’re very good at it and they play with your emotions. I’ve found they skirt the law and use methods like electronic surveillance and cell phones to monitor a person’s every word and every move.

    You’d think I’d get a divorce from a Scientologist and realize that Scientology was bunk. But brainwashing doesn’t go away like that, and especially that fast. I wish it did. I was interested in knowing the truth about Scientology but couldn’t get past the idea that in doing so, I would be reading something so horribly wrong that I’d explode or something. So I decided to read A Piece Of Blue Sky. As I began it, I had a gut reaction: This, finally, was the truth.

    This set off a process that I like to call “The Unraveling.” My Unraveling still isn’t over. I don’t know if it ever will be and I love the fact that I’ve finally gotten to the point of accepting this. I write poetry, and a major theme I love is the sky. This is taken from two things. In Scientology they called praying “just talking to the sky.” I also got it from the book. In a sense, reading this book was my first layer of freedom, the time where I fought for my sky with my sun again, to belong to myself again. I’ll never forget the effect this book had on me, and continues to have on me. I will be forever thankful to Jon Atack.

    No one imagines themselves as so fragile to ever let something as sinister as a cult take control of their minds. I didn’t think anyone would ever tell me how to think and when to think it. We all believe we’re above such things and only stupid people could fall for that.

    But there are no choices in Scientology. There never were. It is all a ruse. In truth, after I left Scientology, I had to learn how to think for myself again, to speak for myself again. It’s very different from the language Scientology promotes in its advertisements: “think for yourself.”

    But in the end, for me, irony does bring justice. I now live and work in Atlanta with my family. I’ve been in a long-term relationship since 2003 and we’re blessed with twins who are about to turn 11 years old. It’s a whole other subject with what my children have gone through at the hands of Scientology and how they understand it to be. We all watched Going Clear together and they’ve told me how glad they are to not be Scientologists. And that makes me happy.

    I’m still acting. I’ve been surrounded by religion my entire life and I’ve recently thought about going back to school to learn more. It’s facinating for me to explore relationships people have with religion and the choices they make because of it, good and bad. It’s always been a dream of mine to travel and film a documentary on all different ways people incorporate their beliefs into their lives all over the world. And I one day hope to help and be of service to other survivors who have suffered through the experiences of predatory cults.


  13. 10 People Who Turned Against Scientology and Revealed Its Bizarre Secrets

    Revelations about the actual doings of Scientologists are truly shocking.

    By Alex Henderson / AlterNet July 1, 2015

    The Church of Scientology, which the late science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard founded in 1952, has experienced more than its share of criticism along the way. But criticism has escalated in recent years, from Alex Gibney’s documentary Going Clear (aired on HBO earlier this year) to books by ex-members such as Jenna Miscavige Hill’s Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape in 2013 and Blown for Good: Behind the Iron Curtain of Scientology in 2009.All of these works paint a disturbing picture of the organization, which has been accused of everything from forced child labor to coercive mind control to breaking up families.

    The Church of Scientology does not take criticism lightly: Hubbard (who died in 1986 at the age of 74) instituted a policy called “attack the attacker,” which means that those who criticize Scientology are to be defamed, maligned and harassed as vehemently as possible. Journalist Paulette Cooper (who wroteThe Scandal of Scientology back in 1971) has been the target of numerous Scientology lawsuits. The Church of Scientology is so litigious that HBO consulted hundreds of attorneys when it was getting ready to air Going Clear. And before the documentary aired, the Church of Scientology resorted to its attack-the-attacker policy with a series of videos smearing ex-Scientologists interviewed in the film.

    But with so many ex-members coming out against the Church of Scientology, it is becoming harder for the Church to bully opponents into silence. Below are 10 well-known ex-Scientologists who have become blistering critics of the cult since their departures.

    1. Paul Haggis

    Screenwriter/director Paul Haggis, who is known for his work in Million Dollar Baby, Crash and other Hollywood films, spent more than half his life in the Church of Scientology. But in 2009, Haggis (who is now 62), left the cult after 35 years because of its homophobic ways. That year, the cult’s San Diego branch came out in support of Proposition 8, the ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage in California. Haggis, who has two lesbian daughters, refused to keep quiet. In an open letter to Scientologist official Tommy Davis explaining his reasons for leaving, Haggis asserted that he could not be a part of a group that would “support a bill that strips a group of its civil rights.” Haggis was also quite critical of “disconnection,” a practice in which Scientologists are encouraged to discontinue all contact with relatives and friends who are deemed hostile to the cult.

    2. Jenna Miscavige Hill

    Beyond Belief author Jenna Miscavige Hill, who is the niece of Church of Scientology head David Miscavige, was raised a Scientologist and was once a member of Sea Org, considered the most elite group within Scientology. But after leaving the cult at 21, Hill became one of the cult’s most outspoken critics. Hill has described her Scientology upbringing as both abusive and controlling. Scientology children, according to Hill, were required to work 14-hour days seven days a week, and she was discouraged from associating with children who weren’t part of Sea Org. At the age of seven, Hill says, she was forced to sign a pledge that she would serve Sea Org “for the next billion years.” (Scientologists believe that one obtains a new body after death, although they reject the Hindu and Buddhist views of reincarnation.)

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  14. 3. Jason Beghe

    Given how many openly gay people there are in the entertainment industry, it is ironic that the homophobic Church of Scientology goes out of its way to recruit actors and musicians. Actor Jason Beghe, a former Scientologist who is now one of the Church’s most scathing critics, said he began to question Scientology after a member implied that a car accident he suffered was the result of his friendship with a gay man. But that incident was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to Beghe’s criticisms of Scientology. Beghe, who began taking Scientology courses in 1994 and was once described by David Miscavige as “the poster boy for Scientology,” left the cult in 2007, and from 2008 on, he has been asserting that Scientology harms members psychologically by convincing them their lives are meaningless without it. Scientology, Beghe has stressed, is great at breaking up families. He bluntly described how “dirty and underhanded” the Church of Scientology can be when, according to journalist Tony Ortega, he asserted, “They say they’re not a turn-the-other-cheek religion. No, they’re a knock-you-down-and-kick-you-in-the-balls religion."

    4. Leah Remini

    When actress Leah Remini, now 45, publicly announced her departure from the Church of Scientology in July 2013, she had much to say about how controlling the cult could be. Remini, who was a Scientologist for 30 years, stressed that no one was going to tell her who she could and could notassociate with, and she has been critical of the policy of disconnection as well as Scientologists’ practice of labeling critics “suppressive persons” (a term L. Ron Hubbard used to defame anyone he considered hostile to the goals of Scientology).

    5. Spanky Taylor

    When entertainment industry veteran Sylvia “Spanky” Taylor was part of Scientology’s Sea Org, one of her duties was recruiting celebrities. Taylor was a close friend of actor John Travolta, one of Hollywood’s most famous Scientologists, in the 1970s, and she recruited Priscilla Presley. But Taylor saw how nasty the Church could be when she was sent to the Rehabilitation Project Force, a prison-like place where Sea Org members are sent for “rehabilitation.” In Going Clear, Taylor recalls that at the RPF, she was sleep-deprived and was forced to perform “arduous physical labor” while pregnant. After giving birth, Taylor says, she was not allowed to see her baby daughter (at the RPF, children are considered a distraction). Taylor has alleged that when she was suffering the abusive practices of the RPF, Travolta avoided contact with her despite the fact that they had been close friends in the past. Taylor left Scientology in 1987, but continued to work in the entertainment industry.

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  15. 6. Sara Goldberg

    Florida resident Sara Goldberg, one of the ex-Scientologists interviewed in Going Clear, spent 37 years with the Church of Scientology and became a high-ranking member. But her relationship with the organization went sour when she was given an ultimatum: either disown her son, Nick Lister, or risk being labeled a “suppressive person.” Goldberg had raised Lister and her daughter Ashley Lister Epstein as Scientologists, but when Lister associated with Scientology critic Matt Argall, he was deemed a “suppressive person.” Goldberg refused to “disconnect” from Lister, and in 2013, she was declared a suppressive person. Epstein “disconnected" from her own mother rather than go against the Church.

    7. Tom DeVocht

    As a high-ranking Sea Org executive, Tom DeVocht, another interviewee in Going Clear, had close contact with David Miscavige. But since leaving the Church of Scientology in 2005 and being declared a suppressive person, he has been one of the cult’s most vehement critics. DeVocht alleges that his sister Nancy, a Sea Org member, was sent to Rehabilitation Project Force for seeing him after he left the Church. She has since disconnected from him at the Church’s insistence. DeVocht alleges that he has been under constant surveillance by the cult since leaving and has described Miscavige as a tyrant.

    8. Diana Canova

    Actress Diana Canova was once heavily involved in the Church of Scientology, and for years, she was afraid to leave the Church because of her fear of retaliation. Eventually, Canova left because she “was so fed up with being afraid.” Canova felt that she was being financially exploited by their expensive “auditing” sessions. The Church of Scientology, which is staunchly opposed to conventional psychiatry and psychology, has a bogus form of “spiritual counseling” it calls auditing—and it's not cheap.

    9. Larry Anderson

    At one time, actor Larry Anderson was among Hollywood’s most vocal proponents of Scientology. Anderson spent 33 years in the Church of Scientology and was featured in the cult’s promotional film, Orientation, in 1996. But Anderson left the Church of Scientology in 2009 after becoming increasingly critical of the high cost of auditing sessions. Anderson, who has described Scientologists as “sheeple” and auditing as a major rip-off, has asked the organization to return $150,000 of his money.

    10. Marc Headley

    As a prominent member of Sea Org, Marc Headley worked closely with one of Hollywood’s most famous Scientologists, actor Tom Cruise. But in 2005, Headley left because he feared being sent to the Rehabilitation Project Force. In 2009, his book Blown for Good: Behind the Iron Curtain of Scientology was published. Headley was declared a suppressive person and members of his family who were still active in the cult were ordered to disconnect from him.