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.


  1. I have two points I'd like to make here.
    One is the use of printouts stuck around the org that Scientology reps point to to "verify" what they say is true.

    Example: pointing out a sign on the wall instructing Scientologists to seek medical care if needed.

    Example: Sea Org documents stating that time off is allowed.

    Their "If it is written it is true" seems to be working with the media. Oh, okay. You have a sign. It must be true that you seek medical care, then. Fact is, nobody is going to get the truth from a Scientology representative.

    Second; this so-called "voluntary" disconnection. It's only handled on a superficial level by reporters. I would like to see the following question asked of Tommy Davis, or anyone else who claims this practice is voluntary.

    "If a member refuses to disconnect from family, what will they be giving up in Scientology?"

    What do they lose? Friends, associates, livelihood, eternity? How would that play to the world stage, hearing it out of Tommy Davis' own mouth? Will it look like the individual will lose their entire life structure if they don't comply? I hope that it would, because clearly, with that hanging over one's head it will appear that the individual has little choice in the matter.

    I would suspect this would play well in court too, should the subject of coercion arise.

  2. On your first point, I'm not sure I agree.

    The problem with media coverage is not that they are gullible enough to believe the official line: the problem is that for the most part the mainstream media does not cover the real issues concerning Scientology.

    Instead of looking at the issues raised in the various lawsuits, they content themselves with celebrity gossip and cheap cracks about the contents of the secret, upper levels. (The real issue with the upper-level materials is not that they are "silly", but that they give the lie to Scientology being compatible with other religions.)

    On your second point, I couldn't agree more: disconnection is a core issue and I'll be writing more about it in the new year.

  3. On terminololgy: Part of the problem is Orwellian use of language. One assumes a Medical Officer is someone who helps gets medical assistance, rather than one whose job it is to prevent it.

    Journalists: I think many are stuck in "lol Xenu aliens" mode because they are afraid to take on the moral issues. Also, it seems very few are willing to take the time to research and delve into things. Jonny and Randy Sly at Catholic Online are two of the most outstanding of very few.

    Disconnection: After coerced abortion this is the most morally offensive imo, and it does far more damage to a greater number of people. Very much looking forward to seeing more on this.