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.


  1. God looking at that picture of him as a kid is so freaking sad. Knowing that he had already been sucked into the SO and his family pressured into signing him over to Scientology - he was just a baby - what a nightmare. Poor kid. It's amazing he managed to survived and come out so strong.

  2. and he still has some ways to go in his personal recovery journey. But from what I have seen of his choices and courage, he is off to a very fine start. Well done Aaron. You are an inspiration to anyone recovering from an abusive background, scientology or whatever.