Tuesday 29 December 2009

7 The Underwoods' Letters

Carmel Underwood’s letter listed a number of abuses: but her experience of a series of devastatingly hostile interrogations recalls similar incidents in the US that drove another woman to a mental breakdown.

Carmel Underwood, in her letter to Senator Xenophon, outlined a catalogue of abuse, ranging from pressure on pregnant staffers to abort and the cover-up of child abuse to verbal and physical assaults.

But it is her account of a series of devastating hostile interrogations to which she was subjected that stands out. The experience left her "an emotional wreck", she wrote.

This aggressive and destructive grilling bears striking similarities to Nancy Many's account in her book, My Billion Year Contract, of the sessions that drove her to a mental breakdown.

Underwood had been involved with the movement for 18 years: from early 1980 until early 1998, occupying senior executive positions with the movement in Sydney.

By the mid 1990s however, she had left her staff post.

Although she had already witnessed and experienced her fair share of abuse, she was still committed to aspects of Scientology's system, even if she had her doubts about the management.

Things started to go wrong for her and her husband Tim when they got involved in a project to promote the movement in Sydney.

They paid for a large, replica volcano that spewed smoke and lit up as though it was erupting – as per the cover of founder L. Ron Hubbard's book Dianetics: the Modern Science of Mental Health – together with a large screen showing Scientology advertisements.

It was an ambitious and costly exercise, but the Underwoods and a colleague put a lot of time and money into the project, signing a lease for 18 months with an option on another 18 months.

Carmel’s husband Tim Underwood explained what went wrong in his letter to Senator Xenophon.

Towards the end of the first 18 months they did not have enough money to take up the renewal option, but the movement wanted them to sign up again.

“The C of S [Church of Scientology] was insistent that the sign stay up. They agreed to help find someone who was willing to finance the lease for the second 18 month period.”

As the deadline approached, the couple became increasingly nervous. Although Scientology executives had made it clear the site had to stay, they had not delivered on their promise of a backer – and the Underwoods had been warned off looking for funds from fellow Scientologists.

Finally, as the last 48 hours to deadline slipped away, Tim Underwood faxed Scientology management: unless they delivered on their side of the bargain and found a financial backer, they would not be renewing the lease because they could not afford the payments.

That was when the real trouble started.

I was scoffed at, insulted, yelled at…”

Scientology executives appeared to view his faxed message as an attempt at extortion and summoned all three of them – the Underwoods and their partner in the venture – into the local headquarters, Tim Underwood wrote.

“We were taken into a conference room one by one where we were confronted and interrogated by 11 senior executives…” he continued.

“Judging by the tone and nature of their questioning all present had formed the opinion that we were enemies of the church and must have committed some awful crimes that we were now hiding.”

All three of them were subjected to hours of interrogation and then ordered to report for “security checking” a particularly aggressive form of questioning conducted using the device normally used for Scientology counselling, the e-meter. As several former members have said however, in “sec-checking”, the machine is used as a lie detector.

Normally, this kind of questioning was not a paid service, wrote Underwood. “We however were made to pay tens of thousands of dollars… under threat of expulsion from the church if we did not comply…

“When you undergo ‘Justice’ procedures in the church you are on your own against the hierarchy of the church," wrote Underwood.

"No advocate is appointed to defend you. You are expected to have learned all the policy and procedure so you can defend yourself.

“There are no clear rules of evidence. Reports are called for from any source and are not substantiated as to their factual correctness before they are presented in a ‘Court of Ethics’ or a ‘Board of Investigation’,” wrote Underwood.

And these reports could be on incidents completely unrelated to the matter in hand, he added.

“In other words, they can be a form of ‘character assassination’ undermining any position or status you have within the church.”

Tim Underwood wrote that he was subjected to 50 hours of this, after which his accusers decided he had committed no crime.

A “corrupting influence”

His wife was not so fortunate.

Carmel Underwood was identified as a “corrupting influence”.

She was “subjected to further interrogation that violated both church policy and procedure and probably violated civil laws of Australia,” wrote her husband.

“I personally felt completely betrayed and despite efforts in subsequent years to have the injustice corrected could not do so.”

What was particularly galling, he added, was they had tried to something special for Scientology and had ended up being punished, despite their past good standing with the movement.

Carmel Underwood’s account more than bears out her husband’s summary of Scientology’s justice system.

“It was eleven on one,” she wrote of the first interrogation, when she was questioned by a battery of executives.

“It was done in the early hours of the morning when we were tired and hadn’t eaten… When they interrogated me, they were verbally abusive, accusative, and their interrogation was very damning.

“I was scoffed at, insulted, yelled at and prevented from leaving the room. I was treated like a criminal and put under severe duress. It was gruelling. Eventually I got worn down to the point where I couldn’t speak,” she wrote.

It was four in the morning by the time they were done, she recalled.

And she confirmed her husband’s account that they were forced to pay for their subsequent interrogation

“We were told individually, that if we didn’t, then we would be declared a suppressive person, and expelled from the C of S.”

That meant that all their friends, family, employees and clients would be ordered to disconnect from them: cut off all contact.

So despite the fact that they felt Scientology management had become quite “fascist”, they felt that they had no choice but to comply, she wrote.

The interrogations for which they paid involved spending three or four hours every night at the Scientology, wrote Carmel Underwood.

Since they were running three businesses at the time as well as raising three young children, this was particularly punishing.

She refused to tell them what they wanted to hear: she refused to acknowledge her “crimes”.

After about three months of this she even wrote up a detailed critique of everything she thought was wrong with the movement.

When she handed it in to one of the executives (name deleted in the Senate copy of the letter), he reacted angrily.

Their subsequent argument degenerated to the point that she found herself backed up against the wall while the executive shouted at her, “so close to me that his spit from yelling was going into my face…” she wrote.

When she tried to push him back, there was a scuffle and the executive called two colleagues in to physically restrain her. “I later got charged [under Scientology rules] with ‘striking’ him.”

“Then I started screaming…”

A few months later she was called in for more interrogation.

She was confronted with a “knowledge report”, a written denunciation by a fellow Scientologist, an old friend, of some misdeeds she was meant to have done.

They were false, wrote Underwood: and the wife of the man in question later told her that he had been pressured by two Scientologists all weekend to put his name to the charges.

Despite her protests that she was tired and hungry – it was already 10 o'clock at night – they took her into a small room with just enough room for a table and two chairs and started another interrogation session.

The interrogator’s superior and a colleague went into a neighbouring room where they could watch.

Here again, she was obliged to hold an e-meter, the device used in Scientology counselling. “It wasn’t like anything I had ever studied as any procedure in Scientology…” she wrote.

“[H]e was insulting me; calling me a liar; yelling at me; refusing to accept the information I was giving him as the truth; cutting me off mid-sentence etc. It was horrific.”

Her interrogator was wearing an earpiece and receiving instructions from the next room, she wrote.

“Several times he put the earpiece down, would go outside, and then I would hear [name deleted] yelling at him, saying things like ‘That counter intentioned fucked up piece of crap in there has crimes and you’re not getting them. If you weren’t such a counter intentioned pile of crap yourself, you’d be getting her to cough up.’”

“Counter-intention” is Scientology-speak for disobeying the orders of a superior, and thus the group.[1]

They finally let her leave at 3:30 in the morning – but despite her protests that she had only had two hours' sleep she was called in for more questioning the following night.

This time her interrogator was asking her about highly personal details of her youth.[2]

“He was verbally abusing me for what I was telling him, cutting me off then directing me to one thing, then another and another, in a very choppy manner,” she wrote.

“I was an emotional wreck after that interview.”

They let her go at 2:30 in the morning: the next day she had no recollection of her drive home.

She was ordered back for more questioning for a third night. And when after two hours she tried to leave, she was physically prevented from doing so.

“The repetition of it all… was nearly driving me insane,” she wrote. “I let some of that feeling of insanity out by screaming a few times.”

“I had been there for hours and had tried to leave several times, but I couldn’t get out of the room. Then I started screaming as loud as I could. I was calling for help and I was yelling for some-one [sic] to call the police.”

Once she had made it clear that she would go to the police if she was not allowed to go home, she was allowed to leave. She packed a few things and got out of Sydney as fast as she could, knowing that she needed time and space out of their reach.

But it only took them a couple of days to track her down: she was staying with a fellow Scientologist.

Her handlers told her they were preparing a Committee of Evidence, a kind of Scientology court martial. But she was convinced that the outcome had been decided in advance.

So in early 1998, Carmel and her husband shut down their three businesses and left Sydney, since when they had had little to do with the movement to which they were once so dedicated.

Looking back, she thinks Scientology considered her a threat because of her standing in the movement in Sydney and because she had been complaining about what had been going on.

“[T]hey effectively ‘shut me down’ and left me an emotional wreck for 10 years, until I discovered what had been and what was going on within the CoS worldwide,” she wrote.

“I would not be speaking about the CoS and Scientology now, if this was all in the past, but it is not," wrote Underwood. People were still being abused, "financially, physically and mentally" by Scientology, she added.

The movement needed to be held accountable for the harm it had done and prevented from inflicting further abuse, "...and this is the purpose of my letter."

Nancy Many’s experience

The parallels with Nancy Many's story are striking.

Many, as she explains in her book My Billion Year Contract, had also been on staff for several years (including a traumatic spell in the Sea Org).

Like Carmel Underwood, she had become increasingly disenchanted with the movement after witnessing – and experiencing – the abusive aspects of Scientology.

And when Many’s handlers picked up on her doubts, they too responded with more abuse.

In Chapter 21 of her book, “The Handling of Nancy”, Many tells how Scientology officers somehow got hold of an email she had written to a Scientologist who had been declared suppressive – an enemy of the movement.

When they confronted her with this, she told them she was no longer comfortable with the movement’s attitude that the end justified the means.

Her handlers however seemed more interested in getting the names of those disaffected members with whom she had been in contact.

She was called in for special auditing, which she was told would help her sort out her doubts and confusions about Scientology.

Instead, she found herself subjected to the kind of abusive interrogation that Carmel Underwood described in her letter.

Here is how Many described her experience.

It was not like any interview I had ever had. This was more like an adversarial interrogation… Did I know anyone who is a suppressive person? How about people I chat with? How about what I think? ... When I returned home I was numb.

Many so was upset by that first interview, she could not sleep that night. Her account of what followed also echo Underwood’s experience.

The next day I was escorted into the auditing room by Donna and Kirsten. The auditor was already set up behind a small desk, and they both followed me into the tiny counselling room…

The room was cramped with just enough room for a small desk and two chairs. I noticed a security camera in the upper left corner of the room. I had no way of knowing if it was on or off or if they would begin recording us when she started the session. Joan sat in the chair by the door, and I knew from past courses and experience that she had been trained to stop any unauthorized attempts by myself to leave the room. My chair was right up against the signe window that overlooked a parking lot many stories below.

What transpired over the next several days was like no auditing I had ever experienced. Grueling is a word that seems to fit. Mental torture is more accurate. The sessions were seven or eight hours long with very few breaks and went on for several days…

All night, I would feel these sessions repeating over and over, a constant drone in the background. It was like the session never really ended. I had brought the auditor home with me. She was in my mind, disagreeing with me, screaming at me, digging into my mind.

Carmel Underwood wrote in her letter that her interrogations left her “an emotional wreck.”

Nancy Many, in her book, is more explicit. Of one particularly tough session, desperate to leave but knowing that she won’t be able to get out of the building, she wrote: I spent most of those six hours sitting in the stifling auditing room, sobbing and doubled over a trashcan with dry heaves.

When they finally did let her go, she was in tears the entire drive home.

That Sunday night, February 11, 1996, I finally got to sleep. It was 2:00 am that I was violently awakened with an audible cracking of my mind, my soul, my self. I don’t know how else to describe it. My mind physically broke…

Many’s description of the mental breakdown that followed makes for extremely distressing reading.

The destructive interrogation to which Many was subjected – and her subsequent breakdown – took place in early 1996.

So far as one can tell from her letter, Carmel Underwood went through her ordeal from mid-1997, possibly into 1998.

Two women: one in Australia, the other in the United States; both long-time Scientologists; both of whom knew enough about the dark side of Scientology to pose a threat to the movement (of which more in future posts).

Scientologists subjected both women to abusive and destructive interrogation techniques that left them psychologically and emotionally devastated.

Senator Xenophon, in his speech to the Australian Senate, argued that the abuses about which he was talking were not isolated incidents but something that was systemic in Scientology.

“What we are seeing is a worldwide pattern of abuse and criminality,” said the senator. “On the body of evidence this is not happening by accident; it is happening by design.”

Xenophon reached this conclusion mainly on the strength of the letters he had received from former members based in Australia.

But the accounts by former members in other parts of the world only strengthen his case.
[1] In Modern Management Technology Defined, counter-intention is defined as “a determination to follow a goal which is direct conflict with that known to be goal of the originator and the goals of the group…”
[2] Underwood does not say, but this is the kind of deeply intimate material that might have been found in her supposedly confidential counselling folders.

Wednesday 2 December 2009

6 Kevin Mackey's Letter

Scientology’s relentless hard sell has driven some members to the edge of bankruptcy, wrote one former member who had experienced such tactics.

While several former Scientologists had detailed how the movement ruthlessly milked paying members for their money, one letter to Senator Xenophon described what it felt like to be on the receiving end.

Kevin Mackey recalled not just the relentless pressure he experienced from Scientology’s sales staff, but how other members had given up inheritances or been driven to the edge of bankruptcy by their hard-sell tactics.

He himself had on several occasions been forced to kick sales teams out of his house after midnight after they had turned up on his doorstep and spent hours pressing him for more money.

He also wrote that he was involved in organising a class-action lawsuit in the United States in a bid to force Scientology to pay back some of the money he feels was fraudulently obtained.[1]

Mackey, 46, was a Scientologist for 26 years, during which time he had spent around a million Australia dollars on services from the proceeds of his business.[2]

“Having had a successful business in furniture manufacture I was ‘marked’ as someone they could extract large amounts of money from,” he wrote.

For the first 15 years, Mackey and his wife spent around 150,000 Australian dollars to get to Operating Level VII (OT VII), the second-highest level available.

“Scientology promises salvation from the life/death cycle,” wrote Mackey, explaining the incentive.

He had been taught that he was “an immortal being with personal power that would rival the characters of Greek mythology…”

The OT levels are supposed to unlock these godlike powers – though former members who have done these levels have dismissed these claims as nonsense.

“Once on and committed to attaining the spiritual freedom promised from OT VII we were bilked for another 820,000 to 900,000 [Australian] dollars between us,” he wrote.

They were to spend the next 15 years trying to get through that level.

In 1993, Mackey flew to Florida, reputed to be one of Scientology’s top centres, to learn how to do the solo auditing he would need for this level.

Auditing is Scientology’s version of counselling, or therapy, when the subjects go over their past – and their past lives – to discover what is blocking their spiritual development.

But unlike the lower levels, when you are audited by another Scientologist, those on the upper levels are expected to audit themselves.

And in the six weeks he was in Florida he paid more than 35,000 Australian dollars to learn how to do this.

For the next three years he went through the designated exercises several times a day, as required, and flew to Florida every six months for check-ups costing 800 dollars a day.

Those checks included confessional sessions in which he was expected to own up to any transgressions.

Hard sell

At the time, he thought it would take just a few years to get through OT VII.

But then in 1996 the movement suddenly released revised versions of all its training levels “… and we were told to return and retrain as we had been doing it all wrong.

“This was at our expense.”

At the same time, Mackey noticed a significant change in the way the training was delivered.

From what had been just a couple of hours, the mandatory six-monthly confessional sessions now lasted much longer: sometimes up to 36 hours.

One of Scientology’s “ethics officers” filed what was known as a “knowledge report” summarising the “crimes” that had been uncovered during the confessional.

And if the offences were considered sufficiently serious, the member concerned would be expected to make amends, wrote Mackey.

“As time went on these amends increasingly became donations of cash to the Church,” he added.

Offences could include failing to perform the daily training, taking alcohol or watching pornography.[3]

Those who had looked at critical material about Scientology or given a less than glowing account of their experiences in the movement were seen in a particularly poor light, wrote Mackey: these offences carried heavy penalties.

He recalled one Scientologist, a widowed mother of twins, being forced to hand over 60,000 dollars for having failed to lock away her worksheets properly after a session.

Also during this period, it became compulsory to get involved with all of Scientology’s various organisations, he wrote.

That included groups such as the International Association of Scientologists (IAS) to the World Institute of Scientology Enterprises (WISE), an umbrella organisation for businesses run by members of the movement.

And every one of them wanted a piece of the action, wrote Mackey.

“Some of these groups would ask for donations of up to $100,000 and if they sense any weakness of resolve would push until the parishioner would sell their house if they required...”

When they felt there was money to be made, the different Scientology organisations would work together to get the maximum amount out of a parishioner, wrote Mackey.

“I know of several people who were coerced into giving up inheritances and pushed to the point of bankruptcy from these actions, which the Church calls ‘reg cycles’.”

Nor were these hard-sell operators restricted to Florida, he added.

“I have had teams… come uninvited to my home and have to be forcibly thrown out after midnight.” That had happened on at least four separate occasions, he added.

“My wife and I were persuaded to donate around $200,000 Aus from the early nineties in this manner,” he wrote.

“After 1996 I endured another 12 years of OT VII…” and Scientology’s “capricious and relentless efforts to defraud us of our money,” he added.

The IAS would call them regularly to tell them they needed more money to fight the mandatory drugging of school children “…by the evil psychiatrists or defeat Nazi Psychs who were behind the German government’s dislike of the Church…”

The IAS even likened Germany’s campaign to the Nazi-era persecution of the Jews.[4] So they handed over 80,000 US dollars.

Why they stood for it

In his letter, Mackey tried to explain how financially independent public members of Scientology could allow themselves to be subjected to this kind of abuse.

“When one begins in Scientology there is nothing weird or space alien about it,” he wrote.

“One learns to resolve conflicts, work more efficiently, live without the use of drugs or alcohol, communicate more clearly and study better.”

For a troubled newcomer, wrote Mackey, Scientology would be seen as Godsend.

But he added: “Once you have taken the bait and become hooked, the real Scientology is presented, very slowly, over the years. It slowly becomes the only chance the human race or indeed the whole universe has.”

That, and the promise of the powers to be unleashed on the OT levels, helps explain why the paying Scientologists paid over such vast sums of money, he added.

“The fact is a Scientologist believes the Church holds their immortal soul in the palm of their hand…” he wrote.[5]

[1] So far as I am aware, the proposed class-action lawsuit – against Scientology’s International Association of Scientologists (IAS) and its Super Power project ( a major development in Clearwater, Florida) – has not yet been filed: but when it is, it will be in California. The lawyer involved in this is Barry van Sickle, who is already representing several other Scientologists in separate lawsuits: Marc Headley; his wife Claire Headley; Laura Decrescenzo and most recently John Lindstein.
In a letter to Scientology’s lawyers, Van Sickle warns of the impending lawsuit unless they show a real willingness to settle. Summarising their case, he writes: “…the IAS has a history of obtaining money by misleading, coercing and deceiving its targets. A payment is not "voluntary" in the eyes of the law if made in circumstances of misrepresentation, deceit, coercion or fraud.”
Mackey posts as “Feral” at the Ex-Scientologist Message Board. For more information on the lawsuit see Mackey’s thread here.
[2] At current exchange rates, one Australian dollar comes to 0.92 of a US dollar. All prices stated here are in Australian dollars unless otherwise stated.
[3] Since Scientologists are forbidden to have auditing within 24 hours of having taken alcohol, that presumably rules out any consumption for people on the upper levels as they are required to audit every day. I’m not sure about the ban on pornography but Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s views on sex were, to say the least, fairly mixed up. “Pain and sex were the INVENTED tools of degradation,” he wrote in an August 26, 1982 policy letter, “Pain and Sex”.
[4] For a taste of Scientology’s position on this subject see “Practising Religious Intolerance”.
[5] Reacting to Mackey’s allegations, Raymond Hill, in the blog that goes with his excellent Scientology Critical Information Directory, makes the point that very similar hard-sell tactics have been well-documented in several investigations over the past two decades, suggesting that this is standard practice inside the movement (as does the evidence submitted by some of Senator Xenophon’s other correspondents, posted earlier).
The recent French trial (and eventual convictions) of several Scientologists and two of its organistions there for organised fraud also heard evidence of late-night hard-sell sessions. Some of the defendants tried unsuccessfully to convince the court that the French translation of “hard sell”, meant “looking after people”.

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.