Sunday, 29 March 2009

13 The Story So Far...

Increasing numbers of once highly placed Scientologists are speaking publicly against the movement: and their accounts corroborate the claims of previous defectors.

By his own admission, Andre Tabayoyon was well versed in the more abusive aspects of Scientology management. In a detailed 1994 affidavit, Tabayoyon listed the techniques he had learned to apply to his fellow Scientologists. One in particular stands out.

“TOO GRUESOME TRAINING,” wrote Tabayoyon. “This training teaches a supervisor how to instil complete terror and abject fear in subordinates so that the subordinates will comply with the supervisor’s orders without question.”

Tabayoyon is a former U.S. marine who served in Vietnam. He became devoted to L. Ron Hubbard, the movement’s founder, in the early 1970s, even serving as his personal butler.

When David Miscavige took over, Tabayoyon became a senior figure at the Hemet Base, before the leader turned on him.

From having supervised the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF), which he describes as “the Scientology gulag or concentration camp,” Tabayoyon became one of its inmates, before finally fleeing the movement.

Tabayoyon says he also witnessed Miscavige beat up another Scientologist. “Mark Fisher, who was severely beaten by Miscavige, repeatedly told Miscavige and others that he did not want to be at the Hemet base,” he wrote in his affidavit.

“As Miscavige and others beat Mark in my presence, Mark kept saying that his attackers could beat him all they wanted but he still wanted to leave. Finally, Miscavige expressed his contempt and disgust at Mark and left the guard house where Mark was being held.”

Fisher was once one of Miscavige’s most senior aides at the International Base at Hemet, California. The attack to which Tabayoyon refers happened in July 1990 and Fisher has since left the movement.

But more than a decade since Tabayoyon made his original allegation, other defectors have stepped forward to confirm his account.

“You should know that Mark is much bigger than DM [Miscavige], at least six feet tall – and maybe a good 60 pounds heavier,” says one source. “But he did not resist at all. He just went to the ground and covered up. And his head was bleeding at the end of it.”

Marc Headley, a more recent defector, has also confirmed the assault. Miscavige – or DM as he calls him – took care to hand his Ray-Bans to a colleague before starting his attack, he said.

“After DM was done he went back to ____ got his glasses back and told ____ to make sure the MO [medical officer] took a look at him [Fisher]. DM then left. That is what I remember.”

Critics of Scientology are delighted that a new wave of defectors is speaking out about abuses in the movement and confirming the accounts of those who left years earlier.

But Scientology’s spokesmen continue to dismiss their allegations. They portray the disillusioned members who speak out against them as weak characters who failed to measure up to the movement’s high ethical standards.

It is certainly true that some people who quit Scientology never accept responsibility for any abuses they might have committed during their time inside. But some former members who have gone public have also come clean on what they did while in positions of authority.

Andre Tabayoyon, for example, is quite explicit in his affidavit about the abuse he inflicted on his fellow Scientologists when he still enjoyed power. Some former members have still not forgiven him.

John Peeler, in going public about his experiences inside Scientology, owned up to – and apologised for – his actions during his time as an ethics officer at the International Base. This mea culpa appears to have been well received by the online ex-member community.

It is difficult to square this kind of behaviour with Scientology’s characterisation of former members as weak, “self-seeking” apostates acting entirely out of selfish motives.

Even before speaking out, many of these former members had paid a high price simply for quitting the movement.

Marc Headley has lost contact with his sister and mother, both still Scientologists. Andre Tabayoyon and his wife no longer have any contact with their son, who is still inside the movement.

Maureen Bolstad, although she writes to her twin sister regularly, has not heard from her since she found herself declared an enemy of Scientology – a “suppressive person” – for having criticised the movement.

Scientology’s policy of disconnection, forcing members to cut off all contact with anyone designated “suppressive” is one of the movement’s most controversial practices.

Scientology officials continue to deny that anyone is forced to break off from loved ones in this way. But there is no shortage of former members who will tell you that their friends and family cannot speak to them any more for fear of being cast out of the movement themselves.

Some former members who have managed to maintain contact with relatives inside the movement say the threat of disconnection is what keeps them from speaking out publicly.

And quite apart from the issue of disconnection, Scientology has a reputation for aggressively pursuing its critics: its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, issued detailed instructions on the “noisy investigation” of the movement’s enemies.

Today however, increasing numbers of once high-level Scientologists have had enough and walked away from the movement. They include senior executives who some observers are convinced hold highly compromising information on the movement.

Whether or not these key individuals will ever be willing to speak out is another question. Some of them may have to come to terms with what they did during their time at the top.

Peeler, Hawkins and Headley only went public in 2008. John Peeler is quite clear that he would never have had the nerve to do so on his own.

And Hawkins, in his blog Counterfeit Dreams, writes that he only made the jump after three women who had grown up in the movement launched the Ex Scientology Kids website for young people who had shared their experience.

“You could say they shamed me into it,” he wrote. “If they were willing to put their names on the line and face whatever Scientology dished out, then what was I afraid of?”

Increasing numbers of former members are swapping experiences on the Internet: and to judge from the news groups and message boards, they are becoming increasingly angry.

Peeler has talked about a “dream team” of defectors from Scientology’s International Base at Hemet, California: people who worked alongside David Miscavige and can testify to abuses that they witnessed and in some cases experienced.

Hawkins, Peeler and Bolstad have all declared in Internet postings that they are ready to back Headley in his legal action.

Supporting these public critics are friends and colleagues who for the moment have decided to remain silent. But one gets the distinct impression that, far from running scared, some of them are only keeping their powder dry.

There can be little doubt that more revelations are on the way.

Next: Laura DeCrecenzo's Lawsuit

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

9 Abuse in the Sea Org

To be in Scientology’s Sea Organization is to be part of the movement’s self-styled elite: but some former insiders have bitter memories of the harsh conditions and abusive treatment.

Workers at International Base are all members of the Sea Organization, which L. Ron Hubbard, the movement’s founder, once described as Scientology’s aristocracy.

Aristocrats or not, some former staffers at Scientology’s base near Hemet, California, say they suffered abuse from the movement’s leader David Miscavige and his lieutenants.

The original Sea Org served as crew members on a small fleet of ships that Hubbard sailed around the Mediterranean after quitting England in 1967.

Today, Sea Org members still wear naval-style uniforms, practise parade ground drilling and observe a strict disciplinary code. Recruits sign a billion-year contract in which they swear to work for Scientology in this life and millions of future lives.

The Sea Org’s motto is “revenimus”: we come back. There is even provision for a 21-year break at the start of each lifetime to allow time for loyal officers to grow up.

Sea Org members give up everything to devote their lives to Scientology. But life inside this supposedly elite cadre has little of the aristocratic about it.

Many former members have recalled working 14 hours a day or more, six or seven days a week for 50 dollars a week. Scientology provides meals and living quarters, which sometimes amount to little more than cramped dormitories.

But according to some former members, the military-style discipline is often gratuitously abusive.

Jeff Hawkins described something called Severe Reality Adjustments, or SRAs. “It means to forcibly get someone ‘with the programme’ by screaming at them, threatening them.”

Chuck Beatty, another former Base staffer, recalled overhearing someone being trained to deliver an SRA. “He was screaming and also slamming his hand on a table during the drilling I overheard,” he recalled. For a good 20 minutes the trainee bawled out his training partner.

And by the 1990s, former members recall, Scientologists were talking about delivering “face-ripping” SRAs.

Former Sea Org member Martin Ottmann was recruited into Scientology in his native Germany. But between August 1990 and July 1992, he served at Flag Base, in Clearwater, Florida, one of the movement’s biggest centres.

“We, the staff at the FSO [Flag Service Organization], worked the whole day and the whole week for $30 or less, and we got treated for that like we were criminals,” he wrote in an affidavit sworn out in April 19, 1996.

He recalled one incident in which an executive bawled out his junior in quite spectacular terms. “One day I saw her sitting at her desk and B___ standing directly in front of her.

“He was screaming at the top of his lungs directly in her face. I had never heard anyone scream like that. It sounded as if he wanted to blast her against the wall behind her.”

Just as Ottmann’s superiors screamed at him, so he screamed at his subordinates, he wrote. And he also described incidents in which Sea Org members physically attacked the people working under them – something he had done himself, he admitted.

In February 2002, Ottmann submitted a detailed citizen’s complaint about Scientology’s activities to the U.S. Attorneys Office. A letter acknowledging receipt was all the official response he got, he said.

More than 10 years on, the regime at Clearwater had not changed, according to two other former members. In 2005, Donna Shannon and her husband served briefly in the Sea Org there.

Shannon saw colleagues delivering SRAs on a regular basis. Four of five senior officers would gang up on one person, she recalled. “They’d get right in his face. This would last anywhere from five to ten minutes to half an hour.”

This kind of behaviour was the norm in the Sea Org, she said: “You get bullied, you bully the guy under you, who is supposed to bully the next guy down.”

Some people folded under the pressure, she said: but others thrived. “Some people take to it like a duck to water.” After a few months of that, she and her husband left the Sea Org – and Scientology – for good.

Bruce Hines, a former Sea Org member at the Hemet Base, recalled an incident involving David Miscavige. One summer in the early 1990s a storm caused a flash flood through the base. “Some of the buildings sustained some minor damage from water and mud,” he said.

Miscavige summoned all the personnel to a meeting and bawled out the staff responsible for maintaining the grounds.

“He said that they had not responded fast enough or well enough or something like that. He berated them for many, many minutes, his voice booming over the PA system in the meeting room. At one point he yelled at the top of his voice, "F___ you! F___ you!”

“Ranting and raving,” was how another witness described Miscavige’s behaviour. “That’s when I went – ‘No, this has gone too far,’” he added. He left soon afterwards.

Other punishments meted out at the Hemet base included being thrown, fully clothed, into the lake. This is a throwback to one of the punishments handed out by the movement’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard in the late 1960s and early 70s. Back then, it was known as “over-boarding”.

In those days, Hubbard and the original members of the Sea Org were sailing around the Mediterranean. When a ship was docked in harbour, crew members deemed to have failed in their duties would be thrown overboard as punishment.

The only ship out at the land-locked Base is a folly built in Hubbard’s honour: a full-scale replica of a clipper – complete with a sauna, jacuzzi and swimming pool. So for years people were over-boarded at the lake.

As Master at Arms, John Peeler used to supervise such over-boardings. Whoever was to be punished would be pushed into the lake from a bridge that went from the shore over to a small island in the lake, he explained.

“The crew member is allowed to take off his shoes, jewellery or watch and that's it,” he said. “You get pushed in by the MAA [Master at Arms] with the Chaplain reading something about leaving your sins to be washed away by the sea.”

Whole divisions working at the base – up to 30 people – could be over-boarded in a single ceremony if their results were not considered satisfactory, he recalled.

One occasion he recalled vividly. “An elderly lady froze up in the water and couldn't swim herself to the side.” He had to jump in himself and help her to the shore. The last he had heard, they had switched the punishment to the swimming pool.

Another punishment involved being made to run around buildings for hours in the summer heat, which in California can exceed 100 degrees.

Hawkins remembers that after one such punishment his feet were so badly blistered they got infected and he was laid up for a week with blood poisoning.

Another Hemet veteran remembers seeing people out running in the summer heat in full uniform wearing hard leather shoes. “One person was even being pushed around the pole in a wheelchair. They were all in uniform and that was in the middle of July, in the middle of the afternoon when it was the hottest.”

Both over-boarding and the running program were introduced by Scientology’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard when he ran the movement. In his day, the crew of Scientology’s ships got thrown into the harbour in their clothes. Sometimes they were loosely tied up and even blindfolded.

But the most severe punishment inside Scientology’s Sea Org is known as the Rehabilitation Project Force: the RPF.

Monday, 16 March 2009


With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds

Scientology is today paying the price for its aggressive campaign launched in the mid-1990s to shut down its earliest online critics.

Its use of law suits and court-authorised raids on critics’ homes only succeeded in creating fresh waves of opposition.

These new activists pooled the existing information on Scientology and generated new material through original research, all the while subjecting the movement to a barrage of derision.

It is this rolling campaign that has, in part, encouraged defectors from the movement to come forward and relate their experiences.

When in January 2008 Andrew Morton published his unauthorized biography of Tom Cruise, more former members stepped forward to denounce Scientology.

The same month, the niece of the Scientology’s leader David Miscavige, Jenna Miscavige Hill, went public on how the leadership tried to cut her off from her parents when they quit the movement: a practice known as disconnection.

Hill helped set up Ex-Scientology Kids, a website for people who grew up in Scientology, which has proved to be a fresh source of damaging stories about the movement.

Other former members also started to speak out, alleging that they had been victims of Miscavige’s violence.

Also in January 2008, “Anonymous” -- a new wave of critics whose numbers included a group of young hackers -- emerged.

They attacked Scientology’s websites, organised worldwide protests against the movement and leaked embarrassing material: from a promotional video featuring Tom Cruise to compromising internal documents.

Scientology denounced Anonymous as a "cyber-terrorist group" perpetrating "religious hate crimes" (in its response to a March 2008 article in Radar Magazine).

It regularly dismisses statements made by former members turned critics as self-seeking claims from people who were unable to live up to the movement's high ethical standards.

But the deluge of information from former members broadcast across the Internet shows no sign of weakening.

Now a former Scientologist Marc Headley has filed suit against the Church of Scientology International, a case that could have implications not just for the movement as a whole but for its leader, David Miscavige.

Next: 1 Marc Headley's lawsuit.

11 Claire Headley's lawsuit

A former Scientologist has filed a lawsuit alleging that members of the movement’s Sea Org were put under unreasonable pressure to have abortions.

Claire Headley is suing Scientology alleging that she and others were pressured into having abortions they did not want while members of the movement’s Sea Org.

In most respects, her lawsuit echoes the allegations made by her husband Marc in the lawsuit he filed on January 5 against the Church of Scientology International (CSI) – the entity at the top of the movement’s corporate structure.

She alleges that Sea Org members regularly worked seven days a week (more than 100 hours) for far less than the minimum wage; and that employees were subject to “intimidation, threat and menace.”

But she also alleges: “In addition to suffering illegal working conditions and wages, Plaintiff was ordered and coerced to have abortions by Defendants’ management.”

Claire Headley worked for the Sea Org between 1991 and 2005, work that the lawsuit describes as “clerical, commercial or secular” in nature.

Like her husband, she was based at the International Base, in Hemet, also known as Gold Base, where Scientology’s leader David Miscavige works.

“During this time, Plaintiff became pregnant on two occasions. Plaintiff was ordered to terminate these pregnancies by forced abortions,” the complaint continues.

“Plaintiff is aware that this was a relatively common practice at Gold Base. Plaintiff has knowledge of approximately 20 other female employees ordered to have abortions.”

As with the allegations of physical abuse and intimidation in Marc Headley’s case, Claire Headley’s allegations find an echo in the claims made by past defectors from the movement.

Mary Tabayoyon served in Scientology’s Sea Org between 1971 and 1992 – and she spent the last eight years at the International Base.

Her 1994 affidavit refers to a special order that was issued on the subject of children in the Sea Org in 1986.

Flag Order 3905 was issued in September 1986 – just months after the death of Scientology’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard. A 1991 reissue of this document has been leaked on to the Internet.

“The ultimate responsibility to clear [save] this planet lays with the Sea Org,” the two-page document declares.

“This is a huge task and a very large responsibility. It requires complete dedication and determination from its staff. Therefore Sea Org members who have new children will not be allowed to remain on duty in Sea Org units.”

Anyone who disobeyed the order would be transferred out of the Sea Org to a more junior posting until such time as the child had reached the age of six, the document adds.

For a dedicated Scientologist, being cast out of the Sea Org is a devastating fall from grace: Tabayoyon, in her affidavit, described such an expulsion as “a severe punishment.”

According to her account, practical implementation of Flag Order 3905 was not simply to transfer women who fell pregnant out of the Sea Org.

“Some of these women went through extensive pressure methods to convince them to have an abortion … I myself got pregnant in 1993 and gave up my child due to my greatly misguided obligation and dedication to the Sea Org …

“Although I would have dearly loved to have had my child and the idea of abortion is abhorrent to me, I did not dare to say it would be nice to keep my baby.”

Since it was considered “Out-Ethics” – unethical – for her to have got pregnant in the first place, she was expected to pay for the abortion herself.

Her senior also told her that when she went to the clinic she was not to let on that she worked at the International Base “because there were too many going there from the base for abortions” and it was considered bad public relations.

But the story did get out, in a 1997 German WDR television documentary, “The Dark Side of Scientology”. They interviewed Janet Honn-Alex of the Planned Parenthood Center in Riverside California, not far from International Base.

Staff there had been puzzled that so many women, regardless of the individual circumstances, had made the decision to have an abortion, said Honn-Alex. “We found that almost unbelievable. And when we started asking more questions, in order to find out their individual motives, because we were suspicious, they stopped coming to us altogether, for any services.”

Another former Sea Org member, Astra Woodcraft told in a 2001 affidavit how she faced the same pressure at the International Base when she fell pregnant.

Woodcraft says that when she was recruited at the age of 14, in 1992, she was told that she would be allowed to have children if she wanted them when she was older.

When she did fall pregnant, in 1998, she quit the movement rather than come under pressure to have an abortion.

“Approximately 1½ years before I left, a new rule came out stating that if you got pregnant, you had to either get an abortion, which was heavily pushed, or leave,” she wrote.

“The rule had previously been that if you got pregnant, you had to get an abortion or be sent to a small and failing lower organization where you had to fend for yourself and your baby.

“I had to handle any staff that disagreed with this new rule. I myself disagreed with it because I wanted children and was told I would be able to have them when I was first recruited.”

Woodcraft had a baby girl and went on to rebuild her life outside Scientology. In 2008, she was one of the cofounders of Ex Scientology Kids website.

In an early posting to the ESK forum, she clarified her position: “I personally am pro-choice despite what people may assume. I do not think abortion is a good thing, I just believe in a woman's right to choose what to do with her body … Being coerced into having an abortion is neither pro-life, nor pro-choice.”

Other former Sea Org members have also spoken of the pressure they were subjected when they – or their partner – fell pregnant.

Headley’s lawsuit implicitly raises questions about the movement’s description of itself as “non-denominational” – or even “all-denominational” – suggesting that its beliefs are somehow compatible with all other religions.

Leaving aside the question of coercion, for Scientologists to even sanction abortion would appear to undermine this position.

Claire Headley filed suit on January 20, 2009, just over two weeks after her husband Marc filed against the CSI. But her lawsuit also targets the Religious Technology Centre (RTC), which handles the movement’s copyright and trademarks.

Chairman of the Board of the RTC is David Miscavige, acknowledged as the overall leader of the movement.

For a legal analysis of Claire Headley’s lawsuit, see Scott Pilutik’s blog here.

Next: Scientology v the Internet