For several years and for reasons I can no longer remember, I have been a bit obsessed with Scientology. No, I have not taken their infamous Personality Test, nor do I plan to.
I am simply fascinated at how a cult formed by a hack science fiction writer became a worldwide, billion-dollar phenomena in about 50 years. It took Christianity well over 1,500 years to amass a significant fortune and that was through sheer brute force as well as brilliant political maneuvering. Mormonism and Scientology are the new “American” religions, one born and bred in the fields of upstate New York and the other born from the mind of a madman.
I have read books by ex-Scientologists and visited sites like Tony Ortega’s The Underground Bunker. I read Lawrence Wright’s book Going Clear last summer and was astounded at the tales told by former Scientologists of physical abuse, brainwashing, extortion of church members, harassment, and the insidious practice of “disconnection.” The book detailed shocking allegations of human rights violations that would be criminal if not for the brainwashing that keeps members silent about their treatment. I could not wait for the HBO documentary Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief.
I have determined there are three types of Scientologists. The first group are the general members of the church. They are regular men and women who go to their local Mission Org and get audited in order to go up “The Bridge” to spiritual enlightenment The second group are the celebrities such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta who were highlighted in the documentary. They are not allowed near anything that might seem disturbing. These are the special ones, wrapped in bubble wrap with handlers who take care of their every need. They are the chosen ones who get five-star treatment at the Celebrity Center.
The last group are the saddest because they are the staff of the church. These are the members of the Sea Organization (Sea Org) who sign a billion-year contract to dedicate their lives on Earth and in the hereafter to do the work of “clearing” the planet by removing the alien life forms attached to humanity. They are the ones who get the honor of working for $50 a week.
Going Clear, brilliantly shines a light on the lives and brutality of these people. To be in the Sea Org, one must dedicate himself to Scientology, have no children, and preferably never marry. They live and breathe Scientology, giving their lives to the church. By living in Scientology housing and working only with other Scientologists, they have no control over their lives. They are kept far from any outside influences and are subject to the whims of superiors who may have no experience in supervisory positions and have absolute power. That is a dangerous combination. In the Sea Org, their lives are now completely scripted and they simply follow orders with no questions asked.
The Sea Org also work as auditors. One of the more crass Scientology practices in the book and mentioned briefly in the documentary, it is the practice of extorting money from general Scientologists through auditing. In Scientology, nothing is free. This is high stakes sales. Auditors have to make certain goals each week, just like salespeople. But unlike salespeople, there are severe punishments for not meeting these goals. To do this, they are relentless in their sales techniques. One of the ingenious ways is to repackage existing books and require all church members to buy multiple sets. You also have to pay for every single auditing session as you progress, which is supposed to be the way to go clear. It can take years and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. In fact, it has driven many to bankruptcy. In fact, unlike any other religion or church, you must pay for your own salvation!
In the book and the movie, the ex-Scientologists describe a hellish location within International Gold Base in Hemet, California called The Hole. This, by far, was the most disturbing part of the story. Ortega calls it a “Concentration Camp for Church Executives.” According to the Tampa Bay Times, the Hole, which is actually two structures on the Hemet Base is “…a place of confinement and humiliation where Scientology’s management culture — always demanding — grew extreme. Inside, a who’s who of Scientology leadership went at each other with brutal tongue lashings, and even hands and fists. They intimidated each other into crawling on their knees and standing in trash cans and confessing to things they hadn’t done. They lived in degrading conditions, eating and sleeping in cramped spaces designed for office use….”
The publicity surrounding this article drove hundreds of thousands to the Wiki page “the Hole,” which the church desperately tried to alter.
Why are there not investigations into these illegal abuses of church staff? Where is the FBI? Why can nobody stop this church and its leader, charmingly called COB, Chairman of the Board, David Miscavige from the continuing abuse and extortion of its staff and members?
As the movie documents, if they can file thousands of lawsuits against the IRS and target agents personally, if they have the resources to harass, intimidate and destroy the lives of those who dare to speak out, if they have a workforce that will follow any orders no matter how nefarious or criminal, then who would have the courage to go on record criticizing Scientology? Paulette Cooper is one of those courageous few standing up to the church with her new book detailing her 15-year ordeal.
The Internet is the ultimate equalizer. Now there are countless sites where ex-Scientologists can come together for healing and to share their personal stories of harassment upon leaving the church. Former members, including Jenna Miscavige, David’s own niece, former church executives, regular members devastated by being forced to “disconnect” from everyone they know, all have the ability to open the doors and shine a light on the dark secrets of the Church of Scientology.
This is a church in name only run by and for a petty dictator, David Miscavige. He benefits personally from the money coming in. He grew up in this church and knows of nothing else. He uses the church funds as his bank account. He spends church money to trick out Cruise’s vehicles and homes. He is physically abusive, mentally abusive and demands absolute acquiescence from everyone. He is Scientology’s god. He rules by fear and violence. I understand why. He has no experience outside Scientology. When one has had absolute power more than half their life with no accountability, of course they believe they run the world.
I take issue with these cowardly celebrities who have a responsibility to question the abuses and disconnection policies of the Church. Cruise, Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Beck, Giovani Ribisi, and Jenna Elfman are cowards. When confronted with mountains of evidence, dozens of independent sources all claiming the exact same thing, they blithely turn their backs, and claim these are apostates and disgruntled criminals the church threw out. The church even has a delightfully juvenile online magazine, Freedom, that purports to inform you of these deviants.
Because to the church, anyone who speak out against it, criticizes or even just questions policy is Fair Game. This is not a religion. Scientology is a cult, a dangerous cult run by a mentally disturbed dictator. The IRS must review its tax exempt status. The FBI must investigate missing church members such as Miscavage’s wife Shelly Miscavage and Heber Jentzch who has not been seen for seven years. The Department of Justice must investigate accusations of human rights abuses. Celebrity members must stand up for rank-and-file members and demand the extortion stop.
Until that happens, I invite you to visit these sites and enlighten yourselves.
Listen to a woman being declared a Suppressive Person and told to disconnect from her family.