Monday, 30 November 2009

Paul Schofield´s Letter

Paul David Schofield described how Scientology was complicit in the cover-up of child sexual abuse – and how he helped them hide the truth about the deaths of his own daughters.

The emotional heart of Paul Schofield’s letter is his account of the deaths of his two daughters – one of them while she was in Scientology’s care – and his own complicity in covering up the truth about had happened.

Scientology has denied his account, referring to witness statements that put Schofield himself on the spot and caring for his daughter at the time of the accident.

But his story, as told in Senator Xenophon’s brief but explosive adjournment speech on November 17, has already made the tour of the world's media.

Schofield, who posts as Scooter on the Ex-Scientologist Message Board (ESMB), has told his story in more detail there. But the relatively brief account he gives in his letter is itself devastating.

“My first daughter Lauren Elizabeth Schofield was being babysat in the Sydney Church when she was allowed to wander the stairs by herself and fell…” he wrote.

Lauren died in hospital hospital two days later. She was just 14 months old.[1]

Scientology officials discouraged him and his wife from seeking compensation from the movement, he wrote: if they did, they would be refused all further services.

The movement’s executives also encouraged him not to seek a coroner’s inquiry, “…something I stupidly agreed with at that time.

“I have since heard from several people that they were told that I was responsible for my daughter as she was supposedly in my care,” he added. (That is certainly the gist of the Scientology press statement, released a few days after Senator Xenophon's speech.)

What in fact had happened was that his daughter and another toddler had been left in the care of a 14-year-old boy with a broken arm, he wrote.

“…[T]he door was next to the stairwell and the door wouldn’t close properly – my daughter pushed the door open and [she] and the other toddler ran to the stairs, pursued by this poor 14 year old.”

From this brief account, it is clear he does not hold the teenager responsible.

Scientology also put pressure on him over the death of his two-year-old daughter Kirsty, because the poison that killed her was used in one of the movement’s main programmes, he wrote.

“My second daughter Kirsty Ann Schofield died after ingesting potassium chloride at our house,” said Schofield’s letter. Her heart stopped and all efforts to revive her failed.

At the time, the movement in Sydney was using this substance in Scientology’s Purification Rundown, wrote Schofield.

This programme, devised by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, involves aerobic exercise such as running, long spells in a sauna and large doses of minerals and vitamins. A number of experts have criticised the programme as potentially dangerous – but to the best of my knowledge Hubbard never prescribed potassium chloride as part of the programme.

Schofield also knew that potassium chloride had been used at a Narconon Centre in New South Wales where he once worked. Narconon is a drug rehabilitation project linked to Scientology that uses Hubbard’s Rundown.

Schofield actually phoned a Scientology official from the hospital where his daughter had died to warn her about the substance’s lethal properties – and the fact that it was being used in Sydney’s Purification Programme.

“She told me in a subsequent phone call the very next night that she had found a bottle of the substance there and had removed it herself and forbidden its further use, and that she had sent messages to all Churches in Australia, New Zealand and Asia to make sure they too weren’t using it.”

But he did not let the news go any further, he wrote.

“I did not tell the whole truth... to the police or to the court (to my shame) but omitted details which would have ‘embarrassed’ the Church,” wrote Schofield.

He and his wife perjured themselves by concealing the link between the substance that killed their baby daughter and Scientology’s Purification Rundown as it was then being practised in Australia.

“I knew if I didn’t do this I would be heavily penalized by the Church for getting it into trouble,” he wrote.

Throughout the police investigation and the coroner’s inquiry, he added, he was in constant contact with the then head of Scientology in Australia.[2]

That same person even dictated to him the statement he read to the press before the end of the coroner’s inquiry on the steps of the court, he wrote.

Covering up child abuse

Schofield’s letter also outlined what he said was Scientology’s role in covering up – or at the very least failing to report – several cases of alleged child abuse of which he and other Scientologists were aware.

In the late 1990s, the daughter of a Scientologist parishioner – a public member paying for services – told Schofield that she and her two of her sisters had been sexually abused by their father.

This had happened to the sisters, “under the guise of ‘sex education’ from roughly the time they were twelve until they left home in their late teens/early twenties.

“The daughters had come forward to the Church about this because they were worried about their two little sisters (now fast approaching puberty) would be subjected to the same abuse they had been,” wrote Schofield.

“One of the daughters had married and left Sydney and refused to have anything to do with Scientology because of this abuse; the other two had remained with the Church.”

Scientology’s Sydney operation was informed of the situation, wrote Schofield, “but did not inform any law-enforcement to the best of my knowledge.”

Another parishioner however was turned over to the authorities for the child abuse he was committing – but only after he had fallen from grace with the movement, Schofield added.

This man had been systematically abusing his daughter, wrote Schofield: it was so well known that he had learned of it by hearing two executives in the Sydney operation “discussing it in a rather off-hand manner in a public place while I had to wait for them to finish so that I could ask one of them a question.”

This man was eventually jailed, wrote Schofield, “[b]ut the Church had sat on this information for a number of years while this man remained in ‘good standing’ with Scientology and ‘contributed’ a lot of money for services.

Schofield also wrote of two cases in which Scientologists caring for children were dismissed from their jobs after having allegedly abused the children in their care – but the incidents were never reported to the authorities.[3]

Why they stayed silent

“The rationale that I was given for the non-reporting of these offences (and one I sadly believed at the time) was that to report them would only mean they would go to jail and be made worse by psychiatric handling,” wrote Schofield.

Mainstream psychiatry is one of the principal targets of Scientology’s campaigning: they associate it with most of society’s problems and trace major atrocities such as the Holocaust and the Bosnian Civil War back to the influence of psychiatrists.

“As Scientology had all the answers to non-optimum human behaviour, it was therefore better that these matters be ‘handled’ internally,” he continued.

“I firmly believed at the time that Church justice and counselling techniques would fix all those concerned.

Schofield also summed up the fear and contempt he said many Scientologists’ had for the outside world that led him and others to remain silent on the abuse.

“There was also firm belief by most if not all Scientologists that non-Scientologists (referred to as ‘wogs’) couldn’t be trusted and ‘wog’ justice just made people worse.”

He and other Scientologists believed that governments had been corrupted by “vested interest groups (in particular the psychiatric/pharmaceutical ‘cartel’) and that nobody should trust any of these groups.

“In particular, psychiatrists would just make the offenders worse and then let them loose on… society again.

“The founder, Hubbard, said as much many times. Stupidly, I believed this.”

But Schofield also admitted that at the time he was scared of the consequences of breaking ranks and speaking out.

He spoke of the “horror stories” he had heard of what happened to former members who had turned against Scientology; the “merciless” way the movement dealt with them.

“To leave the Church not only meant that I as a Scientologist was doomed to eternal pain and suffering but I would also be chased relentlessly by the Church… my slightest misdeeds found and exposed,” he wrote.[4]

Scientology’s response

Scientology issued a statement a few days after Senator Xenophon’s speech, rejecting Schofield’s account of the death of his daughter Lauren.

Scientology spokeswoman Virginia Stewart denied Schofield’s claim that a Scientologist was babysitting his daughter when she died.

“Two witness statements attest that Lauren was in the care of her father, Paul Schofield and three teenagers, at the time of the accident.

“She was not wandering the stairs by herself but rather walked to the top of the stairs while she and a group of small children were being moved from one room to another, under close supervision,” wrote Stewart in the statement.

“Both witness statements clearly attest that Paul Schofield was a matter of a few metres from his daughter when she fell down a flight of stairs.”

In the statement, Stewart also says: “There was no attempt by Church executives to interfere in either the thorough police investigation into Lauren’s death or the full investigation by the Coroner.

“Based on detailed evidence, Deputy State Coroner Jacqueline Milledge ruled an inquest into Lauren’s death was unnecessary.”

According to Schofield of course, one reason there was no full inquest was because of the lies he told investigators at the instigation of Scientology: so Scientology’s defence rather begs the question.

It appears then, to come down to a question of who you believe.[5]

The November 23 statement does say it will be responding to other allegations in the senator’s speech, “in coming days.”

So far however, there has been no response to Schofield’s claims that Scientologists in Australia have on more than one occasion failed to report child abusers to the authorities.

Scientology failed to respond to a request for more information on this point. [6]

[1] So far as I can see, Schofield does not specify her age in his letter, but Senator Xenophon took care to include the information in his November 17 adjournment debate speech to Senate.

[2] The name of the individual concerned is deleted in the copy of the letter submitted to Senate.

[3] It is not clear how much first-hand information Schofield had on these last two cases. Given Scientology’s reputation for turning against people who leave the movement, it is always possible that these people were having their reputations trashed for having quit, rather than having been fired: see the “Dirty tricks” section of The Detheridge letters, or the “More Dirty Tricks” section of Saxton’s Letter II: the USA.

[4] For more on these tactics, see the two sections on Aaron Saxton’s letter.

[5] The Scientology statement makes no attempt to explain why, in his attack on Scientology, Schofield would be willing to incriminate himself in the cover up over the deaths of his own daughters.

[6] I contacted Scientology spokeswoman Virginia Stewart to ask about this point: as with previous attempts to get a response from the movement, I received no reply.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

16 John Lindstein's Lawsuit


Scientology leader David Miscavige has been targeted in a lawsuit by a former member who says he worked for the movement as a "virtual slave" from the age of eight.

A former Scientologist who says he worked for the movement from the age of just eight and was “a virtual slave” is suing Scientology and its leader, David Miscavige.

“Mr. Miscavige has apparently not taken a vow of poverty,” says the lawsuit.

“He runs the Scientology enterprise with an iron fist, according to his own rules, and enjoys the life style and job benefits of royalty while those at the bottom of the food chain live like slaves and inmates.”

The lawsuit cites the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude.

John Lindstein says he was doing manual labour for the movement between the ages of eight and 12; by the age of 10 he was working 15-hour days; and from the age of 12 was considered to have finished his formal education.

For several years Lindstein worked “as a virtual slave working 16-24 hour days with little or no sleep, no time off and no personal freedom,” says the lawsuit.

On average during his time working for Scientology he says he was paid less than a dollar an hour.

Lindstein “was coerced, deceived and manipulated into providing forced labor for the benefit of all Defendants…” says the complaint.

Lindstein, whose time in Scientology included a period at the International Base at Hemet, California, is suing the movement through the courts there.

He is represented by Barry van Sickle, who already this year has filed lawsuits on behalf of several other former Scientologists.

In this case, Sickle has filed alleging human trafficking, violations of the state’s employment laws and unfair business practices.

He uses the same no-nonsense language employed for the previous lawsuits.

The International Base is described as a prison camp and the workers there as inmates.

The lawsuit also speaks of a “captive” workforce and “forced labor”, arguing Scientology was violating the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution – which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude.[1]

The lawsuit targets Miscavige himself and the Religious Technology Center, the Scientology organisation of which he is chairman. It wants the case heard before a jury and is seeking payment of unpaid wages and damages.

And although Barry van Sickle signs off on the document, Graham E. Berry, another lawyer who has a long history of campaigning against the movement, is also named as an attorney in the lawsuit.

Recruited aged eight

From the ages of eight to 12, Lindstein did manual labour for Scientology at the “International Ranch” near Hemet, California. By the age of 10 he was working 15-hour days.

At 12, he was “deemed finished with schooling” and Golden Era Productions, an unincorporated division of Church of Scientology International (CSI) hired him as a messenger and errand boy.

But in 1997, at the age of 15, he was demoted to the post of dishwasher. “He worked 16-hour days cleaning pots, pans and the dining facilities,” says the lawsuit.

And soon afterwards, he was assigned to do construction at the base near Hemet, California.

“Plaintiff was a minor; however he was required to work long hard, hours for far less than minimum wage.”

Between the ages of 16 and 18, Lindstein worked at Golden Era Productions, one of the units at International Base, where the movement’s top executives including Miscavige work.

Part of that work involved digitally restoring films produced by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard in the 1970s.

“This was tedious, frame-by-frame work that would normally cost more than $400,000 per movie to accomplish at industry rates,” notes the lawsuit.

Lindstein and the team of five that worked with him did it for only 50 dollars a week.
He – and presumably his team – worked 16-hour days, and sometimes around the clock to get the job done.

From 2002 and 2006, Lindstein worked on visual effects for various Scientology films, TV shows and advertisements.

At industry rates, this kind of work would have cost 80 dollars an hour or more; Lindstein got room, board and 50 dollars a week.

During this time, Lindstein “was working extremely long hours, frequently for days in a row with no sleep, and doing work that could have been contracted out to competing businesses and other vendors,” the lawsuit noted.

“By using ‘captive’ in-house labor,” it added, Scientology avoided paying legitimate companies for the work at market rates, saving huge sums of money and enriching themselves at the expense of Lindstein and his co-workers.

“The person in control of this incredible abuse of hard workers who deserve much better, and such flagrant abuse of basic human rights, is the ultimate boss of the Scientology enterprise, Defendant Miscavige,” says the lawsuit.

“Mr. Miscavige derives substantial benefit from the money making activities of the Scientology enterprise.”

Scientology’s corporate structure was “essentially a sham” designed to conceal “the absolute and unchecked control” of Miscavige and make litigation more difficult.

Scientology not only failed to post notices informing their staff of their employments, but actively misled them on this matter, the lawsuit added.

Lindstein also says he had to sign documents clearing Scientology of any responsibility or liability for wrongful conduct – which in itself is illegal under California law, according to the lawsuit.

Human trafficking, RPF

Addressing the issue of human trafficking, the lawsuit set out the various indicators, as listed in the California penal code:
  • Signs of trauma, fatigue, injury, or other evidence of poor care.
  • The person is withdrawn, afraid to talk, or his or her communication is censored by another person.
  • The person does not have freedom of movement.
  • The person lives and works in one place.
  • The person owes a debt to his or her employer.
  • Security measures are used to control who has contact with the person.
  • The person does not have control over his or her own government-issued identification or over his or her worker immigration documents.
All these elements were present to some extent or another among the Int Base workforce, says the lawsuit.[2]

To reinforce its argument concerning the coercive and oppressive nature of the work regime at the Scientology bases, the lawsuit described conditions at the International Base (also known as Gold Base).

“Gold Base resembles a prison camp, the workers inmates. A razor-wire topped fence encircles Gold Base with sharp inward pointing spikes to prevent escape.

“The gates are guarded. Inmates cannot come and go as the please. Security guards patrol the grounds, motion sensors are place throughout, and surveillance posts are placed around the perimeter, all of which are intended to keep workers within the facility.

“One cannot leave without permission. There are usually three roll calls each day. One must be present or accounted for at each roll call, or a drill is put in place to find and retrieve the departed or missing worker…

“Floodlights are turned on if one is determined to be missing at night,” the lawsuit adds.

“A comparison to a minor security prison would not be an exaggeration.”

Lindstein was “deprived or normal liberties as a matter of course,” says the lawsuit.

There were tight restrictions on freedom of movement; there was no free or uncensored access to email, the Internet or television; and security officers opened residents mail opened, read and censored.[3]

Lindstein was subjected to this kind of control from the age of eight, says the lawsuit.

He “frequently worked all night and typically suffered from sleep deprivation” and “was kept busy, poor, tired, uninformed and in fear that things would get even worse if he did not work as ordered…”

Employees were also threatened with and sometimes subjected to punishment, it added.

“Workers who have been apprehended trying to escape have been physically assaulted and restrained,” says the lawsuit.

They could be sent to a punishment programme know as the Rehabilitation Project Force, or RPF, it added.

“Workers assigned to the RPF are subjected to a brutal regimen of manual labor, have no freedom of movement and are subjected to almost total deprivations of personal personal liberties.

 “Working conditions on the RPF are incredibly harsh.

“The RPF serves as a deterrent and intimidates workers… into a state of compliance and fear…”

The fear of being consigned to the RPF, helped coerced Lindstein and other employees into providing “slave-like labor,” the lawsuit added.

For much of the time, Lindstein worked for Scientology because he was ignorant of his rights and intimidated by his employers, says the lawsuit. He was also exhausted a lot of the time and resigned to his plight.

When he eventually found a way out after being “pushed to breaking point” Scientology declared him an enemy of the movement.

He was presented with “a large illegal bill for his purported Scientology training, and cut off from friends and family who are still under the control of the Scientology enterprise.”[4]
The US Constitution’s First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of religious belief does not exempt “purported religious organizations” such as Scientology from the laws regarding minimum wage and child labour laws, Van Sickle argues.

He has already argued in an ongoing lawsuit that Scientology’s religious status “is subject to serious dispute.

Scientology “intentionally, consciously and wrongfully made a tactical decision to ignore the labor laws, take its chances with a compliant and intimidated workforce,” the lawsuit continues.

The organisation and its leadership hoped that statutes of limitations “would in the long run save them millions of dollars.”[5]

But this case, the lawsuit, had been brought within all the relevant statues of limitations for the offences listed.

You can find a copy of the full complaint here.
[1] The 13th Amendment reads:  1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
[2] You can compare the above list with my previous posting on Life at the Base. In addition, a number of former members have said that foreign workers had their passports confiscated when they arrived in the U.S. to work for Scientology.
[3] All these restrictions have been alleged by former residents including Jeff Hawkins, John Peeler – and Marc Headley, who Van Sickle is representing in another lawsuit.
[4] This presumably refers first to Scientology’s Freeloaders’ Bill and its policy of disconnection.
[5] The statue of limitation on a crime is the time after which it can no longer be prosecuted.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

4 The Detheridge letters

Dean and Ana Detheridge provided further evidence of the hard sell tactics used inside Scientology in their letter to Senator Xenophon, corroborating the allegations made by Aaron Saxton.

Husband and wife Dean and Ana Detheridge wrote separate letters to the senator, both of which were admitted into the parliament’s archives.

In his letter to the senator, Dean Detheridge explained he had spent 17 years working in Canberra, Sydney and in Los Angeles as a staff member – 10 of them full-time – though he did not serve in the elite Sea Organization itself.

He described the current culture inside Scientology as inhuman, cold-hearted and money-fixated – and so far as he was concerned, that had come from the top down.

Abuse of auditing files

Just as Aaron Saxton had alleged in his letter, Detheridge wrote that he had seen personal information contained in Scientologists’ counselling folders “bandied about in a reckless manner – despite the Church’s advertised respect for confidentiality.”

More seriously, former members turned critics would have their files “culled for embarrassing revelations and confessions.” The material thus obtained would sometimes be used to discredit the person concerned.

Scientology officials have persistently denied that it engages in this practice.

But Detheridge wrote that this material would be produced to explain why the person had quit the movement.[1]

On other occasions, the defector would be confronted with the material in a bid to intimidate them into staying silent about whatever they might have experienced inside Scientology.

“This happened to me within a few months of my departure from the Church,” wrote Detheridge.

Scientology officials also sometimes leaked compromising material to friends, family or employers, causing Scientologists in good standing to disconnect – cut off contact with the person concerned.

Detheridge wrote that he himself had been involved in such tactics, under the orders of Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs (OSA), when former members began protesting outside the Canberra office.

“First, we approached and said things around the key protestor that could only remind him of his sexual misadventures," he wrote. "We also handed out brochures in his vicinity on the subject of child abuse and incest.”

The brochures had been produced for the sole purpose of intimidating the protestor into silence, using information culled from his supposedly confidential auditing files, wrote Detheridge.

Hard sell, fraud

Just as Saxton had, Detheridge wrote that he had first-hand knowledge of the lengths to which Scientology sales staff would go to land their sales.

“I have witnessed, and participated in, concerted efforts to extract as much money as possible from parishioners with absolutely no regard for the financial security of the individual or his or her family…” wrote Detheridge.

“Anything is acceptable: using all available equity in one’s house or even selling the house; obtaining extra credit cards; submitting loan applications that are rife with falsehoods; cashing in one’s superannuation; concocting a case for obtaining inheritance well ahead of its fruition… etc.”

In her letter, his wife Ana made it clear that the pressure was not just on the public members to buy products and services: sales staff themselves were bullied into meeting their quotas by members of the Sea Org.

Staff at Scientology’s Sydney office were put under immense pressure to sell book and lecture packages at around Aus $4,000 each (US $3,700), she wrote.

“… [T]he Executive Director [name deleted] announced that she did not care if the Church public have to eat rice and beans for a year, they are to buy a book package.”

Sea org officers would stop staff members who failed to sell their package as they left the building at the end of the day and intimidate into working longer hours so as to get the sale, she added.

“Many staff were reduced to tears & stress due to the amount of pressure placed on them to enforce the public to buy the… package.”

She had seen both staff and Sea Org members discussing duping rich public members out of their money, she added.

“I witnessed staff and Sea Org staff saying ‘Let’s call Mr. Got bucks’ or ‘Mrs Got bucks’ meaning parishioners who had money to get them to buy extra so as to get them to buy extra sets of the expensive Basic book packages telling them they would be donated to poor countries or for PR usage or for libraries.

“Many of these packages were never delivered but thousands & thousands of dollars every day was being taken for the packages.”

The hard sell also extended to fundraising events for the International Association of Scientologists (IAS), she wrote. These tactics were directed against “parishioners”, which is to say public, paying members of Scientology rather than staff members or Sea Org officers.

They would be locked in rooms, sometimes for several hours, until the financial target– which could be as much as one million Australian dollars – was reached.

“Many complaints were expressed to me from the parishioners of feeling trapped and forced into having to pay large amounts of money at these events,” wrote Detheridge.

As a result, many public Scientologists simply stopped attending them, she added.

Obstructing refunds

Detheridge said he had both witnessed and participated in the stonewalling of people’s attempts to get a refund for goods and services.

“The routing form for refunds is almost as strenuous as the routing form for leaving staff and many simply give up all efforts.”


Despite Scientology officials’ persistent denials that people are forced to cut off from people deemed to be enemies of Scientology, Detheridge confirmed the practice existed. He himself was pressured either to leave his wife or quit Scientology, he wrote.

“Acceptable truths”

“The Church of Scientology lies. Per existing policy ‘acceptable truths’ are not only permissible but advocated…

“The most lies are told by church management to their parishioners. Glitzy re-recorded events are created by the organization’s cine department for the parishioners’ consumption.”

Seeing the difference between the actual event and the final footage was “a surreal experience,” he wrote.

“I’ve sat at such events in awe that such bald-faced lies could be acceptable in a ‘church’.”

Bullying, intimidation

Ana Detheridge, in her letter, told Senator Xenophon that she had witnessed staff members being abused by members of the Sea Org, the movement’s elite cadre.

She and others were bullied and intimidated into working 24 hours straight by Sea Org officers, she wrote.

She said she worked a minimum 50-hour week – from 8:30 am to 6:30 pm – with extra hours on Saturday and Sunday to make ends meet, because she never received the weekly Aus $700 she had been promised when she signed up.

“When I questioned the executives about this they just said they were sorry but the system had changed & it’s too late because I had signed a contract…

“I ended up working seven days a week, which put a lot of strain on my husband and my teenage son.”

Suicide waivers, information control

While on staff in Canberra, she and other employees were made to sign waivers to the effect that they would never discuss anything that had happened to them; that if they committed suicide it was not Scientology’s fault; and that they had never been coerced into joining.[2]

They also had to sign undertakings not to speak to the media about anything they saw while in Scientology.

She was warned not to look up Scientology on the Internet as some of the upper-level teachings had been leaked. As she was not yet “spiritually prepared” seeing them might drive her mad or give her cancer, they told her.

Purification Rundown cover-up

Detheridge also recalled a time in the late 1990s, when the Australian government was looking into Scientology’s Purification Rundown. There was panic at the prospect that the offices might be inspected.

A senior Scientology executive came to Canberra to take boxes of files away that contained the results from Scientologists who had been through the programme: results “that could be damaging to the Church of Scientology.”

Pay and conditions

During 10 years, between 1990 and 2000, Dean Detheridge was a full-time with the movement, during which time he lived “well below the poverty line” and was forced to fall back on social security.

Given his age – he was between 28 and 38 during this period – and his qualifications in electronics and computing, he felt that this was unacceptable.

His superiors quoted writings from Hubbard in which he said that Scientologists were doing such good work in society that “it was okay to live off the government…

“In fact the policy states that no other organisation even comes close to Scientology in terms of the effectiveness of our ‘social works’,” he wrote.

Abusive interrogation

It was in part because of the poor pay and conditions that Dean Detheridge decided he wanted to leave the movement. As a result, he was held against his will and subjected to abusive interrogation, he wrote.

On one such occasion, “a Sea Org Master-at-Arms [name deleted] questioned me about such sordid things as what had I done to small boys.”

“This type questioning is part of the ‘murder routine’ wherein the interrogator tries to get the person to ‘cough up’ what he has done by asking highly exaggerated questions.”

The idea, wrote Detheridge, was to browbeat him into signing up for another five years (he had already completed three such contracts). If he had complied, he wrote, all his “ethics” problems would have been “forgiven”.

On that particular occasion, he was questioned until 3:00 am.

His wife, Ana, confirmed the pressure they came under. It was like “nothing I have ever experienced before,” she wrote.

“A Sea Org member came to Canberra and threatened to declare him [her husband Dean] as a Suppressive Person…” Being declared suppressive – an enemy of the movement – would have meant all other Scientologists including family members would have been obliged to cut off all contact with him.

Their employers seemed indifferent to the fact that they were in debt and forced to live on credit cards because they were so poorly paid, she wrote.

One reason they wanted to leave was to save the money for treatment for Dean Detheridge, who needed an operation on a cataract in one of his eyes that was threatening his sight.

“There was no care factor from the Sea Organisation regarding my husband’s health deterioration,” wrote Ana.

“We were just threatened and told we did not believe in the tech of Scientology and that a thetan (the human spirit) can survive anything.”

In the end, her husband quit his contact in Canberra, but she was forced to say another six months while they found a replacement for her. (In Scientology, it is a major offence to quit a post without finding someone to take your place.)

Dirty tricks, disconnection

Once they did leave, Scientologist friends reported that they had come under pressure to cut off all contact from her, she wrote.

She found this tactic particularly upsetting as it was also applied against her teenage son who, having grown up in Scientology, had many friends from that community.

Scientology officials also twisted material from her supposedly confidential counselling files to suggest that she was a lesbian and had left her husband, she added.

“I was very upset at hearing this information was being spread about me as it was not true…” she wrote.

She had seen the same tactics used on other people who left the movement and was aware of the homophobic attitudes among senior management, she added. [3]

At one point during her time inside Scientology, she had been told to disconnect from her own sister because she was gay, “which means she is dangerous to have in my life.” She had refused.

Dean Detheridge, concluding his letter, wrote: “I don’t know what the Church of Scientology was really like in its heyday (the 50’s).

“I do however know first-hand what it has been become – living proof that absolute power corrupts absolutely – tyranny under David Miscavige.

“And unfortunately like any high-level corporate criminal, it will now take government intervention put things right again.”

[1] It is certainly true to say that a common reaction of Scientology officials to allegations by former members is to say that they left because they could not live up to the movement’s ethical standards.
[2] This is reminiscent of the waivers that Dave Touretkzy, one of Scientology’s most outspoken online critics, discovered relating to the controversial Introspection Rundown. The IR is a forced isolation treatment meted out to Scientologists driven psychotic by the movement’s techniques. Touretzky dubbed it the Lisa clause, after Lisa McPherson, the Scientologist who died during her Rundown in Clearwater, Florida.
[3] Former senior executives including Jeff Hawkins and Marty Rathbun have remarked on David Miscavige’s vociferous homophobia.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

3 Saxton's letter II: in the US

While Scientology’s executives lived the good life, ordinary staff were over-worked, underfed and subject to arbitrary punishment, wrote Aaron Saxton in his letter to Senator Xenophon.

Aaron Saxton arrived at Clearwater in Florida towards the end of 1991, to take up a new post at what Scientologists called the Flag Land Base.

He was only 17 and the guardian he had been assigned to meet the legal requirements fulfilled the role on paper only.

Scientologists consider Flag to be one of the best centres for Scientology’s services anywhere. Saxton’s recollections however, give an altogether different view.

Saxton himself had been recruited to the Sea Org at the age of 15 in Australia, and was quickly alienated from his own family as he enforced Scientology’s harsh ethics policies against them.

In Florida, he disrupted family life among the staffers, forbidding parents to visit children during working hours on the grounds that it would effect production.

Most staff members did not get home before 11 at night, he noted. “This resulted in broken and dysfunctional families.”

Saxton also wrote about fabricating paperwork to fool the authorities that children based at Flag were being properly educated.

And in Los Angeles, when children as young as 13 were hired to work for the movement, they used a Scientologist to produce documents that falsified their educational qualifications – for a small fee.

Ordinary staff members in Scientology often live in overcrowded, sub-standard accommodation and live on a subsistence wage.

That was in stark contrast to what was laid on for the top brass, wrote Saxton.

More than a million dollars was spent building four villas for the movement’s top executives when they visited Clearwater.

Money was also siphoned off from the movement’s bank accounts to pay for luxuries for these same executives, he added.

In the year he was there, more than 100,000 dollars was spent on fine food, the best clothing, gym equipment and the rent or purchase of luxury cars for their use.

The officials responsible covered their tracks with false records, he added.

In his letter, Saxton named the main beneficiaries of this spending as the executives Marc Yaeger, Marc Ingber, Guillaume Lesevre and the movement’s current leader, David Miscavige.

While the executives were living it up, staff at Flag base could find themselves assigned a diet of rice and beans if they were not considered to be producing enough.

“We would disallow the purchase of other food items,” wrote Saxton – and this extended to the children too.

Saxton wrote that he ordered this punishment on at least three separate occasions, for periods of up to four weeks.

They placed guards at the entrances to the staff canteens to ensure no one was trying to buy other food to get round the punishment: up to five people were disciplined for trying to do just that, he recalled.

Ordinary staffers could also find themselves assigned to Scientology’s punishment camps, the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF), which included long hours of hard physical labour.

For a while, Saxton himself was the hatchet man. And most of those he sent to RPF went on trumped-up charges, he wrote.

“I assisted and oversaw the assignment of more than 30 people to the penal colony often without justification.”

“Church policy allowed us to ‘pick’ on someone and assign them there… the idea was to scare staff into producing better…

“No medical examinations were done to ensure they were capable of the gruelling work, and many suffered permanent mental and physical scars as a result.”[1]

Coerced abortions

Just as he had in Australia, Saxton was involved in pressuring Sea Org members who got pregnant to have abortions.

Many of the staff there were Mexicans who had entered the United States on religious worker visas. In at least two cases, that was something they used as leverage against them.

Saxton and his colleagues told them that if they lost their staff status, their visas would be null and void and they would have to leave the country. “The result was they agreed to abort,” he wrote of two cases in which he was involved.

The obsession in the Sea Org about not having children got to the point that failing to use contraception became a disciplinary offence, he wrote.

Later, in Los Angeles, he was again involved in punishing Sea Org members who got pregnant who refused to have an abortion. Two Scientologists were put on a tough programme in the hope they would miscarry, he wrote.


And just as he had in Australia, Saxton also ordered staff members to disconnect from families considered hostile to the movement.

He oversaw a programme that required all correspondence from relatives to staff members to be reviewed.

Letters found to be too critical of Scientology, if they were not discarded or destroyed, were used to persuade the staff member to disconnect from the people concerned.

“Declare orders were done on those families and ordered disconnection,” wrote Saxton.

Scientology’s official line is still that no one is ever forced to disconnect: that when the decision is made, it is purely voluntary.

Abuse of auditing files

Several former members of Scientology have alleged that cameras were installed in some of the auditing, or counselling, room, to covertly record sessions, during which intimate secrets are often revealed.

Saxton wrote that he was personally involved in that project.

The official line, he said, was to make sure that the therapy was being correctly conducted. “In reality copies of these videos were sent off base and kept as… evidence of the person… admitting to illegal activities…

“On two occasions public Scientologists admitted to murders,” he added. Public Scientologists are those who pay for their services rather than working for the movement.

Executives kicked the people concerned out of the movement and when they tried to get their money back, threatened to turn their confessions over to the police. But the police were never informed of the confessions.

More dirty tricks

In 1992, after about a year in Clearwater, Saxton was transferred to Los Angeles to work for the Church of Scientology International.

There, he continued his career abusing his fellow Scientologists.

He culled the supposedly confidential counselling files for information he could to convinced disaffected Sea Org members to stay with the programme, “…including blackmail or threats to reveal personal information to family or friends…”

If the Sea Org member left anyway, they would be subject to a Committee of Evidence (or Comm Ev), Scientology’s version of a court martial.

“[T]he privileged information would be placed on staff notice boards for all to see…” he wrote.

When Saxton could not find embarrassing or compromising information, he just made it up.

“On no less than 15 separate occasions I declared staff suppressive [enemies of the movement, to be shunned by all Scientologists] and posted lies about what they had done so that the information could be spread outside of the church.”

In particularly important cases, they even hired private investigators to the relatives of a former member considered to be a threat, as a way of getting leverage on them. The investigators’ job was dig up material that could be used to blackmail the former members.

This was handled by Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs (OSA) – long be identified by critics as the movement’s covert operations and dirty tricks department.

The movement even had a list of former members considered of particular interest: a travel company run by Scientologists would keep track of these people, reporting their movements to the OSA. “Anywhere in the world they travelled, we would know, most of the time.”

And just as they had in Australia, they used they information they had to mess around with their lives: impersonating them so as to be able to cancel their flight reservations; even accessing their email accounts.

Nor were public Scientologists – those who paid for their services rather than working for the movement – immune from abuse.

Rich members found to have taken drugs after having started in Scientology were not always kicked out of the movement, which officially at least, is rabidly anti-drugs.

“Rather than be excommunicated they were allowed to stay as long as their donations to the Church increased,” wrote Saxton.

Several recent defectors from the Sea Org have complained that the demands made on them destroyed their family life. Saxton, in his letter, confirmed that this was in many case, deliberate policy.

He was involved in the separation of families who worked for the Sea Org. “The reasons were various, but all fundamentally designed to gain control over the person that was on staff,” he wrote.

On one occasion, executives transferred 80 members of the Sea Org from Los Angeles, California to Clearwater, Florida. They were told it would only be for four weeks.

“We instead kept them at the Flag Land Base in Florida and would not send their families.”

Anyone who tried to return home or who protested too much could find themselves comm-ev’d or sent to the RPF. Saxton even sent his own brother to the RPF.

Saxton also assisted in the beatings of some Scientologists and ordered the beatings of others.

Scientology processing was also ordered as an alternative to proper medical treatment for terminal illnesses.

Two members of staff diagnosed with cancer and suffering severe symptoms “were denied funds for treatment and… forced to take auditing as a solution.”

Saxton finished his Sea Org career at the age of 21 in January 1996.
Summarising his letter, he wrote: “At an International Management level, these incidents are the norm, not the exception…” At lower levels, he conceded, they would be exception.

“The fact is that Church policy is currently condoning illegal activities…” he added.
[1] Saxton, in his letter, writes more about the abuse he inflicted than what he himself suffered. But in the caption to the photo above (1993 or '94) he noted it was taken after six days and nights without sleep. He is picture in full Sea Org uniform.

Friday, 20 November 2009

2 Aaron Saxton's letter I: Australia

Coerced abortions, chasing down runaways, disconnection orders: in his letter, Aaron Saxton described how, as well as suffering abuse, he dealt it out to other Scientologists – including members of his own family.

In his letter to Senator Xenophon, former Sea Org member Aaron Saxton detailed the abuse he had suffered during his time in the movement.

But he also described what he had inflicted on other Scientologists including his own family.

Saxton worked for Scientology from August 1989, when he joined the Sea Organization at the age of just 15 (pictured here just after completing basic training).

Initially he worked for the movement in Australia until being transferred to the United States.

During his time in Australia, he wrote, he was involved in what he considered to be both illegal and immoral activities, he wrote: “…activities which were condoned under Church policy that is not released to the public, but physically exists.

“These policies violate the creed of the Church and are in direct conflict with the Church’s stated purposes,” he added.

In order to join the Sea Org at such a young age, Saxton had to travel from his home in Auckland, New Zealand, to Australia. To do that, his parents had to sign over legal guardianship to a Scientology official.

Scientology officials fabricated documents to say that his grandfather was dying in Australia and he needed to travel there to see him, wrote Saxton.

“My mother was threatened with expulsion from the Church if she did not sign the papers assigning [name deleted] as my legal guardian or allow me to join.”

When, just a few months later, in January 1990 a man attempted to rape him, Scientology officials ordered that the matter be hushed up and no report be filed to the police.

Medical neglect, coerced abortions

Scientology members of staff were denied adequate medical treatment while at the same time being forced to work more than 16 hours a day, seven days a week, wrote Saxton.

Staff received no medical benefits and there was no budget for medical needs. Spending requests for any medical needs other than for senior executives in Australia were simply rejected out of hand, he added.

But self-medication was also frowned upon, he wrote. “…[S]taff were ordered by myself and the medical officer to not take any medical drugs, this included even to relieve period pain… As a result, dental situations and personal health issues went past unchecked.”

That meant that several members of staff, himself included, had to extract their own teeth “without the aid of tools or painkillers,” he wrote.

This neglect even extended to stopping female employees from seeking preventive care: they were not allowed to leave the building to get the Pap smear tests used to detect cervical cancer “or any other tests to avoid cancers…” wrote Saxton.

He was also aware of several Sea Org members being pressured to have abortions.

“They were informed that getting pregnant was not in line with the Sea Org plans, and that their departure represented a failure for the greatest good and that they should abort.

“Arguments always erupted,” he added. But those concerned knew they might be kicked out of Scientology and disconnected from their family.

Sea Org members who insisted on having their child would be subject to disciplinary measures, wrote Saxton. When he was in charge of enforcing these disciplinary measures, he admitted, “it was always the hope that the person would miscarry the child or abort at a later date.”

One staff member even used a coat hanger to carry out an abortion because she feared being sent to “the penal colony” – presumably a reference to the Sea Org’s Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF).

“She was a new staff member… and was ‘released’ instantly. All her files were destroyed,” he wrote.

Health, safety and employment abuses

Health and safety violations were “flagrant and allowed to persist,” wrote Saxton.

Staff falsely declared fire sprinklers to be working to avoid having to invest in proper maintenance.

Sometimes, as part of the movement’s disciplinary system, staff members were even denied access to adequate food.

For if Scientology’s in Australia was considered to be underperforming – if their statistics were down – all members of staff there would be put on a diet of beans and rice for up to two weeks at a time.

“I ordered this on at least 10 separate occasions,” wrote Saxton. And anyone found buying food on the side would be punished, regardless of how badly they needed the food, he added.

When there were workplace accidents, he wrote, the lack of medical cover had serious consequences for members of staff.

On one occasion a staff members had lost part of her scalp in an accident during renovation work.

“There was concern that it could obviously be associated with the slave labour we performed,” he wrote.

“She was sent to the hospital and made to foot the bill of the medical expenses personally and lie about how the injury came about.”

And although staffers were, on paper, allowed several weeks off a year, “… we did not allow this to happen.

“A typical way I avoided granting liberty days or holidays to members of the Church was to order an interrogation of them. In every case, anything they had done was used as an excuse to avoid them taking any time off.”

Abduction, confinement, dirty tricks

In 1990, Saxton was made a security guard despite the fact that he was aged just 16 and, as he put it, “untrained and unlicensed.”

During that time, he wrote, he issued disconnection orders to the families of half a dozen staff members who were hostile to the movement – including his own family.

“During my tenure in Security I tried to get my mother to join, and when this did not work and she began to protest at the lack of medical assistance I was receiving I ordered an ‘enturbulation’ order on her…”

This meant that if she created any problems she would be thrown out of Scientology and neither he nor any other Scientologist would be able to have any contact with her.

“This was successful in turning me against all of my family,” he wrote.

Saxton also admitted to having been involved in the “forced confinement and torture of [name deleted] a public Scientologist doing the [advanced] OT levels,” he wrote. The person involved had gone “insane and started screaming outside the building.”

He and others got her in a room and kept her there until another Scientologist took her out to a farm in the country where, held against her will, she was subjected to Scientology auditing.

After a month she escaped and again paraded outside the AOSH ANZO (Advanced Organization Saint Hill for Australia, New Zealand and Oceania) in Sydney, one of the main centres for Scientology in the region.

He again took her inside the building, he wrote. “From there two other staff took control of the situation and she was forced into a car and taken from the premises. I never heard of her or about her again.”

During his time as a security guard he was involved in a number of run-ins with anti-Scientology protesters, including some former members. He was regularly told not to report these clashes to the police.

When the police arrived after one such incident turned violent, he was ordered to remove his security jacket and pose as an ordinary member of staff.

Although he had been attacked and injured, he was not allowed to report this to the police, he wrote. “Instead, [name deleted] pretended that it was him and that had been chased and attacked and he filed the police report against the assailants.”

On one occasion, as he returned home early one morning he was chased by a man wielding a large butcher’s knife, a critic of the movement who had a grievance against its intelligence division, the Office of Special Affairs (OSA).

“He told me I would be killed in retaliation. I outran him and made it to safety,” wrote Saxton.

When he told his superiors the next day, he was not only forbidden to report the incident to police but was disciplined for “allowing it to happen.”

His work as a security officer also involved him in tracking down more than 10 members who had fled the organisation.

Working with the OSA and his commanding officer, he would go through their files to find information that would help them track them down. On some occasions that included the auditing files, which are meant to be strictly confidential.

“We used the information to call banks and cancel credit cards,” he wrote. They used the same deceptive techniques – impersonating the person concerned – to cancel their call airlines and cancel their reservations.

They would also contact the families of the runaway and use the information culled from the files to try to disrupt their relations with the former member.

Saxton was also involved in chasing several runaways through the streets of Sydney in a bid to get them back. If they tracked them down, they would try to intimidate them into returning, he wrote. “If this failed we would use physical force to bring them in.”

The only time this failed was when the person concerned was strong enough to fight free and escape.

Saxton also wrote that he had knowledge of an operation run by the OSA in which two Scientologists were issued with phoney suppressive declares expelling them from the movement. This allowed them to successfully infiltrate anti-Scientology groups and steal documents from them, which they then handed over to the OSA.

On another occasion, he was ordered to go through the files of a person who had committed suicide, though in what circumstances he did not know. Some files were sent to the OSA; others he was ordered to destroy.

Hard sell

On another occasion he was ordered to get a professional in to bug the offices of the registrars in Sydney – the sales staff. His superiors wanted to know if they were siphoning off money into their own pockets.

The tapes revealed illegal or unethical activities including:

  • Arranging for false cheques to be made out to Scientology;
  • forging the signatures of a client’s spouse;
  • advice on how to get the most money from spouses while divorcing them because of their hostility to Scientology;
  • advice on getting hold of money set aside for other needs, such as school fees or holidays, for spending on Scientology;
Registrars also often advised clients that Scientology processing could replace conventional medical treatment and health care, he wrote.

Clients were told that “cancer and any other related illness could all be avoided by paying for scientology service. It was sold as a fraudulent replacement for justified and required medical treatment.”

When Saxton reported back to the OSA they told him to stop the recordings but did not act to stop the actions by the sales staff.

They were not concerned that the registrars were cheating their clients, or helping them cheat their families, wrote Saxton: they only wanted to know if the registrars were cheating Scientology.

On an earlier occasion, when a member of staff defrauded Scientology funds from clients’ credit cards, he was told not to report it and to delete compromising telephone records to hamper any police investigation.

Then in late 1991 he was transferred to work for Scientology in the United States.

The Letters filed to Senate

As well as summarising former Scientologists' allegations against the movement in his Senate speech, Australian Senator Nick Xenophon tabled edited versions of the letters they wrote him. This section covers the main points.

Australian senator Nick Xenophon’s broadside against Scientology in Tuesday’s adjournment speech has attracted media interest around the world.

The opportunity to cover such serious allegations with the legal protection accorded to reports on a parliamentary speech was too good to miss.

But Senator Xenophon also tabled more than 50 pages of correspondence from his sources into the Senate files.

Some of the identifying details were deleted, but he made it clear that the police would be getting the unexpurgated versions.

The letters, as submitted to the Senate now carry the same parliamentary privilege. What follows is a summary of the allegations they contain.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

1 Australian senator attacks 'criminal' Scientology

An Australian senator has called for a parliamentary inquiry into Scientology – and the allegations made by former members he cited could help ongoing lawsuits and criminal investigations in Europe and the US.

An independent member of Australia’s senate has launched an extraordinary attack on Scientology, denouncing it as a criminal organisation and calling for a Senate inquiry into the movement’s tax-exempt status.

Senator Nick Xenophon used his parliamentary privilege to list a catalogue of allegations passed on to him by former members, some of whom said officials in the movement had covered up serious crimes.[1]

Xenophon said he had been contacted by several former members after he spoke out against the movement on Australia’s Today Tonight documentary programme.

These same former members have spoken to the programme to confirm and elaborate on their allegations. And the story is already doing the tour of the world’s media.

Many of those who had contacted him were confessing to “truly shocking” crimes and abuses, they said they had been forced to do while inside the movement, said the senator.

One former member had told him had twice been pressured into helping to cover up the circumstances surrounding the deaths of his own daughters, a 14-month-old baby and a two-and-a-half year old toddler.

And another former member alleged he had been ordered to cover up serious crimes:
  • Aaron Saxton told the senator that after a man had attempted to rape him he was ordered not to report the incident by his superiors to avoid negative publicity for the movement;
  • He said he deleted the files of a member who had committed suicide;
  • And he said that on two occasions, when a member confessed to murder, the information was not passed on to the police.
Xenophon’s sources also repeated earlier allegations of abuses including forced abortions, verbal and physical abuse and the culling of members’ supposedly confidential counselling files for compromising information.

The evidence supplied by these former members could be relevant not just to the lawsuits launched in California against the movement but to ongoing criminal investigations in France and Belgium.

The senator closed his speech with a call to other former members to come forward and tell their stories.

Scientology has already issued a statement denouncing what it said was Senator Xenophon’s “outrageous abuse” of parliamentary privilege. It denounced his “fascistic” attack, saying the senator had refused to meet with them to discuss the allegations.

But Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, while responding cautiously to the allegations, has not definitively ruled out launching an inquiry.

The senator used the opportunity of an adjournment debate on Tuesday, November 17, to launch his attack. [2]

Addressing what appeared to be an almost empty chamber, he said: “I am deeply concerned about this organisation and the devastating impact it can have on its followers.”

For while claiming to offer guidance and support to its members, in private it “abuses its followers, viciously targets its critics and seems largely driven by paranoia.”

He recalled the movement’s recent fraud conviction in France and the fact that it faced similar charges in Belgium.

He referred too to the Truth Rundown, the ongoing St Petersburg Times exposé in which former senior executives have denounced the violence and abuse meted out by the movement’s leader David Miscavige (also covered here).

“Scientology is not a religious organisation,” he continued. “It is a criminal organisation that hides behind its so-called religious beliefs. What you believe does not mean you are not accountable for how you behave.”

A catalogue of crimes

Summarising the letters he had received, he said: “There are allegations of false imprisonment, coerced abortions, embezzlement of church funds, physical violence, intimidation, blackmail and the widespread and deliberate abuse of information obtained by the organisation.

“It is alleged that information about suspicious deaths and child abuse has been destroyed, and one follower has admitted he was coerced by the organisation into perjuring himself during investigations into the deaths of his two daughters.

“These victims of Scientology claim it is an abusive, manipulative, violent and criminal organisation, and that criminality is condoned at the highest levels.”

Perhaps the most distressing story Xenophon told during his speech was that of Paul Schofield, who admits to having lied to cover up the truth behind the deaths of his own daughters, under pressure from Scientology officials.

“Paul says his first daughter, Lauren, who was 14 months old, was being babysat at the organisation’s building in Sydney when she was allowed to wander the stairs by herself and fall,” said the senator.

“She died in hospital two days later.”

Pressured by Scientology executives, Schofield did not push for a coroner’s inquiry, said Xenophon.

“He was also told if he sought compensation from Scientology he and his wife would be ineligible for any other services.

“His second daughter, Kirsty, who was 2½, died after ingesting potassium chloride—a substance used as part of a so-called purification program [Purification Rundown] run by the organisation.

“Under the direction of Scientology executives, Paul says he perjured himself to the police,
and during the coronial inquest, in order to protect the organisation.

“Under incredible pressure he agreed to lie because he was scared he would be heavily punished by Scientology if he told the truth. It is a decision he regrets to this day.”

Arguably Xenophon’s most important source was Aaron Saxton, who worked for the movement in both Australia and the United States, was born into the movement.[3]

Saxton told Xenophon his parents had been coerced into handing over guardianship to a Scientology official so he could be transferred to Australia.[4]

“In or around January 1990, he was told by the organisation not to report the attempted rape of him by a man,” said Xenophon. This, he said, was because of Scientology’s public relations policy.

While still a child inside Scientology Saxton was asked to cover up an employee’s credit card fraud, said the senator.

Punishments included being put on a rice and beans diet for up to two weeks, he added, “…and because of Scientology’s bans on medications and seeking medical attention, he says, he was forced at times to extract his own teeth without the aid of painkillers.”

A security guard (master-at-arms?) at the age of 16, Saxton was involved in issuing disconnection orders (Xenophon calls them non-communication orders) on half a dozen families.

“In his statement, Aaron says he was also forced to participate in the illegal confinement and torture of a follower who was kept under house arrest,” said the senator.[5]

Saxton also told Xenophon he had accessed more than 150 files that contained the personal details on Scientology obtained during auditing, or counselling sessions – information that was meant to be confidential.

“It is not,” said the senator. “Aaron says this information was used to blackmail followers to keep them in the church as well as to discredit former followers if they left.”

He and other Scientologists applied the same procedure to the files of celebrity members looking for leverage “to force a greater commitment to the organisation,” said the senator. “Some might call that blackmail,” he added.

Lies and cover-ups

Saxton also told the senator he had deleted the files of a member who had committed suicide and he admitted to having forced female followers into having abortions.

“Aaron says women who fell pregnant were taken to offices and bullied to have an abortion.
If they refused, they faced demotion and hard labour.

“Aaron says the hope in the organisation was that if these pregnant women were given these punishments they would give in and have an abortion or miscarry.

“Aaron says one staff member used a coat hanger and self-aborted her child for fear of punishment. He says she was released from the organisation and the files were destroyed.”

Sent to work at Clearwater, in Florida, in 1991, his duties involved sending more than 30 people to “Scientology’s work camps, where they were forced to undertake hard labour” (presumably the Rehabilitation Project Force, or RPF).

Saxton also admitted to having used members’ personal and financial information to track down people who had tried to flee the movement; and having created fraudulent education certificates for children under 15 in order to allow them to work for Scientology.

On five separate occasions Saxton put people under house arrest until they had signed the statements the organisation wanted them to sign.

And the senator added: “Aaron also claims knowledge of two instances where followers in the United States confessed to murder but this information was not passed on to police.

“He also says while in the United States he was ordered by superiors to remove documents that would link a Scientology staff member to murder.”

The evidence of Xenophon’s other contacts also corroborate earlier accounts of abuse.

The information supplied by Carmel Underwood, a former staffer in Sydney, showed the flipside of the admissions made by Saxton: on more than one occasion she was a victim of the kind of abuse he described.

She was, for example, one of those who had been put under extreme pressure to have an abortion (she refused).

“Carmel also worked for the organisation’s financial planning arm and says that when requests for payments for abortions were made by the organisation’s executives they were never questioned, even though all other requests for funds were met with delays and haggled over,” said Xenophon.

“Carmel says she also witnessed a young girl who had been molested by her father being coached as to what she should say to investigating authorities in order to keep the crimes secret,” he added.

Underwood also told Xenophon that she had been physically assaulted by a Scientologist during an argument, corroborating the reports of the abusive working environment inside the movement.

And when she finally quit Scientology, sensitive personal information she had told them during supposedly confidential counselling, or auditing sessions, was used by the movement in a bid to discredit her – just as Saxton, and others, described.

Former Scientologists Anna and Dean Detheridge also supplied information concerning coerced abortions and the abuse of members’ confidential files for the purpose of blackmail.

In addition, said Xenophon, “Anna says she was instructed by the organisation to disconnect from her sister because her sister was gay and therefore, according to Scientology, dangerous, perverted and evil.”

Peta O’Brien, another former member, said she had been discouraged from seeking treatment for cancer, and said she had been “cut off” (presumably disconnected), from her son while tey were both still in the movement.

And Kevin Mackey told the senator how he and his wife had paid over 26 years paid nearly a million Australian dollars (Aus $1 million = US$930,000) for Scientology processing.

“These victims of Scientology have spoken out at considerable personal risk, and I commend them for that.

“And I would encourage other victims of Scientology to come forward, contact the police or contact my office — but, most importantly, speak out.”

Analysis: a ripple effect

One of the key points that Senator Xenophon made in his speech was that these allegations revealed not a series of random events, but something that was systematic in Scientology.

“What we are seeing is a worldwide pattern of abuse and criminality,” said the senator. And it was not happening by accident but by design.

Even if Australia’s government decides to keep looking the other way then, the senator’s speech has already generated a ripple effect: the allegations set out in his speech will have an impact further afield.[6]

For the claims being made by Senator Xenophon’s sources bear striking similarities with those made elsewhere against Scientology.

Saxton’s testimony alone is devastating. And it could have implications for a number of ongoing lawsuits against — and criminal investigations into — Scientology.

His confession about his role in pressuring Scientologists – presumably members of the movement’s elite Sea Org cadre – into having abortions, has a direct bearing on at least two ongoing lawsuits in California.

As reported in previous postings, both Claire Headley and Laura DeCrescenzo have accused Scientology of forcing them to have abortions because of the ban in the Sea Org on having children.

Their claims against the movement, both handled by attorney Barry van Sickle, echo the accounts told by several other former Sea Org members.

And Saxton’s account is all the more convincing because he owns up to his own involvement in this kind of abuse.

The testimony of Xenophon’s other sources, particularly Carmel Underwood, will likely provide further corroboration of the Sea Org practice of bullying staffers into having abortions they do not want.

Saxton’s testimony about deleting the files of a member who had committed suicide echoes the admissions by Marty Rathbun to the St Petersburg Times about having ordered the destruction of evidence in the Lisa McPherson case.

It is the kind of testimony that the magistrate investigating the suicide of French Scientologist Gloria Lopez might be interested in hearing about.[7]

Saxton’s description of having participated in the “confinement and torture” of another member recalls French Scientologist Martine Boublil’s claims that she was abducted and held against her will in Italy. That is the subject of another investigation in France, (Scientology had denied any involvement).

And Peta O’Brien’s testimony about being discouraged to seek treatment for cancer might also have a bearing on one of the two cases currently being investigated in Belgium. At one point at least, the movement was facing a charge of illegal practice of medicine.

Since at least some of the abuses Saxton describes took place during his time in the United States, law enforcement might also be expected to take an interest. (Reports from some former members suggest that the agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation are taking their stories seriously.)

But it has taken an Australian senator to highlight an issue that US politicians should have tackled years ago. Much of the abuse has, after all, been happening in their back yard – the movement’s leadership is based in the United States.

Instead, in the US at least, that job has been left to a newspaper the St Petersburg Times, which in an editorial earlier this month supporting its own investigative series, argued that an investigation into Scientology’s abuses was overdue.

It does not say a great deal about US politicians that one of the country’s newspapers – albeit one with a great track record in this field – has had to do their job for them.

But US politics is afflicted by what the Danish theologian Johannes Aagaard used to call “First Amendment neurosis”: that anything designated a religion is somehow above criticism, beyond reproach.

One suspects that has little to do with what the US Constitution intended – but everything to do with the way things work in practice.

Senator Xenophon anticipated Scientology’s response that his speech was an attack on their “freedom of speech and the right to religious beliefs.” He had his response prepared.

“It is twisted logic, to say the least. Religious freedom did not mean the Catholic or Anglican Churches were not held accountable for crimes and abuses committed by their priests, nuns and officials—albeit belatedly.

“Ultimately, this is not about religious freedom. In Australia there are no limits on what you can believe. But there are limits on how you can behave. It is called the law, and no-one is above it.”
[1] Briefly, parliamentary privilege allows an elected member in parliament to make allegations in the safety of the chamber that might otherwise leave him open to a lawsuit for defamation. Media reports of such allegations, in most circumstances, also carry some legal protection. For more, see the Australian parliamentary site here.
[2] An adjournment debate, just before the end of the day’s business, allows an elected member to speak on any subject for five minutes.
[3] Aaron Saxton has confirmed to methat he was previously known as Aaron Tweddell.
[4] The senator did not specify, but it sounds very much as if Saxton was recruited into the Sea Org, possibly while still a minor. Xenophon was careful to avoid using Scientology terminology during his speech.
[5] This sounds as if it could have been the notorious Introspection Rundown used on members who suffer breakdowns or psychotic breaks during Scientology auditing. It was used to disastrous effect on Lisa McPherson.
[6] His decision to publicise these allegations in parliament made it that much easier for them to be reported. The mainstream news media has been notoriously wary of critical coverage of Scientology without the protection of court or parliamentary coverage.
[7] Senator Xenophon, in his speech, also referred to reports that a recent inquest in Australia into the death of soldier Edward McBride had been hampered by the movement’s management.
It emerged that McBride had spent 25,000 Australian dollars on Scientology courses just two days before his death. His phone also showed he had been bombarded with calls and text messages to get him to return to their offices.
Scientology officials transferred McBride’s personal records, which the coroner John Lock had requested, out of Australian jurisdiction to the United States.