Friday 15 January 2010

10 Peta O'Brien's Letter II

As well as medical neglect, Peta O’Brien’s letter told of a hostile working environment, an arbitrary internal justice system and a culture of bullying among senior executives.

When Peta O’Brien wrote to Senator Xenophon, she had only recently quit Scientology, having worked for them between 1989 and 2009, first in the Sea Org and then in staff posts.

O’Brien described how she was recruited into Scientology after a recent divorce.

She was pulled in off the street to get a personality test – the much-criticised questionnaire dismissed in a 2009 Paris court ruling as being “devoid of any scientific value”.[1]

At the time, her children were aged five and seven years old and she had 38,000 Australian dollars in the bank from the sale of the family home.

O’Brien was escorted to different levels of the building, each time for a private lecture on a different aspect of the movement.

She spent the final three to four hours with someone from the International Association of Scientologists (IAS) who tried to get her to buy a lifetime membership.

The money, she was told, would be used to fight the movement’s enemies, the “psychs” – the psychiatrists.

She was also told about the other enemies of the movement: the US Internal Revenue Service (this was before the 1993 settlement with the IRS), the government and journalists.

The ban on having children in the Sea Org did not at that time apply to children over six years old and she had been urged to sign up.

Her recruiters assured her that Scientology would pay for all living expenses, both for herself and her children.

“I was told this included medical, dental, rent, transport, food, taxes and education,” she wrote. “I was advised to sell my car as all transport was paid for.”

The recruitment procedure involved an intrusive “life history”. It included not just a list of her friends and family – along with full contact details – but “every relationship I had and what sort of relationship it was (sexual or platonic) and if sexual, what were the exact details of the sexual activity.”

It was through this life history that her handlers learned about the savings she had in the bank. Scientology’s registrars – their sales staff – came calling.

Two of them came to her house on several occasions and each time they wanted her to buy books and courses.

“[Name deleted] rang me one Thursday afternoon, asking me if the church could borrow $2,000 because as they were hoping to reach a particular target on their statistics and were and were $2,000 short.”[2]

Thursday at 2:00pm is the end of the Scientology working week, when all Scientology staff members have to make sure they have met their targets – or face the consequences.

O’Brien lent them the money on the understanding that it would be credited to her account by the following week.

“After joining staff I found that the ‘loan’ of the $2,000 was a ‘financial irregularity’ against church.”[3]

The registrars meanwhile kept working on her. Within a few weeks, she had bought three sets of auditing procedures and the entire L. Ron Hubbard library.

One of the ways they did this, she noted, was never to give direct answers to the questions she put to them.

“…each time I was told by these registrars that I had to get the information myself from L. Ron Hubbard, from a particular book that I needed to purchase and that my questions would all be answered.”

Very quickly, the registrars persuaded her to part with all her savings. It was in these circumstances that she joined the movement’s staff.

Pay and conditions

She had been told that she would start on 50 to 75 Australian dollars a week, with all essentials paid for by Scientology.

In fact however, because the centre where she worked was not meeting its targets, she received only 20 dollars – sometimes not even that.

“Some weeks we were not paid anything and all staff were usually penalised by being served up beans and rice for dinner the next week.

“It was not uncommon to have to go without deodorant or toothpaste until one could afford it.

“Most staff members with children… had to rely on government benefits to buy the basic essentials let alone give them a treat once in a while.”

Nor was the promised medical cover was never provided (see previous section).

Her superiors suggested that she sell Scientology books to earn some extra money from the 10-percent commission. But she did not have time to do this on top of the duties she had as a staff member.

In addition to her usual 12-hour day, she and other employees would often be required to work extra hours, in what was called an “all hands”, to meet a crisis.

A crisis could simply be that the centre had not met its weekly targets, she wrote.

And having completed their overtime, they would still be expected to come in the next day and work a normal shift – even if they had only had three or four hours sleep that night.

This was particularly hard on elderly staff members, she wrote.

For even though on paper at least these staff members were on a reduced schedule of nine hours instead of the usual 12-hour day, they would still be obliged to work the extra hours required in an “all hands”.

Confirming that this compulsory, unpaid overtime also applied to the oldest members of staff, O’Brien referred to a 1964 Hubbard policy letter.

Stressing, the importance of employees being available to give auditing to members of the public, Hubbard wrote: “If a staff member's breath can be detected on a mirror, he or she can do his or her job.”[4]

The only exception he allowed for was “severe temporary illness or physical injury”.

Hubbard was even more blunt in “Keep Scientology Working”, a better known policy letter first issued on February 7, 1965.

The proper instruction attitude is, “You're here so you're a Scientologist. Now we're going to make you into an expert auditor no matter what happens. We'd rather have you dead than incapable.”[5]


O’Brien spent her last two years inside the Sea Org on its punishment programme, the Rehabilitation Project Force (RFP).

O’Brien actually followed her 17-year-old son on to the programme.

He was assigned after being called back in from his first day off in nearly two years to spend time with his father and brother, wrote O'Brien.

Told of her son’s RPF assignment, she demanded to see him and found him “contained in a locked room without windows, on his own, confused and upset.”

He had no idea why he was being punished and the document that was drawn up later justifying the RFP assignment contained false accusations, wrote O’Brien.[6]

Scientologists on the RPF programme have to do five hours of hard labour and spend another five hours studying the works of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, she wrote. They got a half hour for each of their three daily meals.

As an RPF inmate they also had to comply with the following restrictions (among others):
  • They were on quarter pay, which in this case meant five dollars a week;
  • They got no days off;
  • They could not speak to anyone outside of the RPF unless spoken to first;
  • They had to get permission if they wanted to speak to their family. And any correspondence they received from them would first be vetted by a security officer;
  • They received no medical or dental assistance, nor any health insurance – though given the lack of cover afforded ordinary members, this was a moot point, O’Brien wrote. (See the previous section on medical neglect.)
Because her son was effectively cut off from any communication with her, O’Brien got herself assigned to the RPF by declaring herself unfit for duty.

Even then however, she had difficulty seeing him: the fact that she was her mother cut no ice with the officer supervising the programme.

As noted in an earlier post, several former members in the United States have reported that the RPF functions as a thought reform camp. They have also alleged that inmates are held against their will.

It features in a number of civil lawsuits launched by lawyer Barry Van Sickle last year in the California courts on behalf of former Scientologists (see in particular the lawsuits lodged by Marc Headley, Laura DeCrescenzo and John Lindstein).


During her time in Scientology, O’Brien wrote that she witnessed and experienced psychological and physical abuse.

“An incident that I still remember vividly as it was degrading to see someone publicly mocked and humiliated – I believe ruined this man’s life.

“The whole staff body (approx 150 staff) were [sic] called into the mess hall / event space one evening for a ‘special briefing’.”

Three representatives of Scientology’s international management were standing on stage waiting for them: executives trained by the movement’s leader David Miscavige.

Part of their job was to ensure that everything was being done as per orders – and to enforce punishments if they found otherwise.

They brought one man up on stage, wrote O’Brien: “…he looked just as surprised as his audience.”

They had him sit down on a chair and said they were going to demonstrate how it would feel to a public member of Scientology if he wasn’t getting proper counselling.

“A stack of books and weights were loaded onto the lap of the man sitting down on stage until he couldn’t carry them anymore and the books toppled over,” wrote O’Brien.

“Of course all the staff were aghast, but mostly all in awe of how these reps could just single out a person and publicly ruin him.”

The man in question subsequently left staff. He was divorced from his wife, a senior Scientology executive, and presented with what is known as a “Freeloader Bill”.

This is an estimate of the value of all the Scientology services he had received while on staff: having broken his contract, Scientology considered him liable for the cost of those services.[7]

The staff member concerned was widely respected by both staff and public Scientologists, wrote O’Brien, yet “they made a public display of humiliating and degrading” him.

O’Brien herself experienced violence and bullying while working as a Scientology chaplain. One of her superiors had a different idea about the nature of her pastoral role.

This officer would “very sweetly and politely” interrupt her meetings with public Scientologists. Once the public member had gone however, she would change completely.

She would “enter my office, lock the door behind her and throw me up against the wall in a rage – using her body and physical force to pin me against the wall, accusing me of defying her as I wasn’t selling the public more services – like Scientology courses or auditing.”

Other times, when they met in the corridor, she wrote, “…she would surprise me by barring my way to stop me from walking on, she’d grab my arm and twist it as hard as she could until it was quite painful – threatening me to produce more, accusing me of slacking off.

“I could not understand why she was a respected senior executive, as her actions were contradictory to the ‘Aims of Scientology’ and the creed of the church, but I found other senior executives… also using physical force, and fear created through violent rages and threats – to get compliance and their ‘products’ or results.”

Other Scientology executives used similar tactics on her, she added – and from what she understood, the situation had deteriorated over the last 10 years.
In The Aims of Scientology to which O’Brien refers, Hubbard makes a series of grand claims about his movement’s aims.

“A civilization without insanity, without criminals and without war, where the able can prosper and honest beings can have rights, and where man is free to rise to greater heights, are the aims of Scientology…”

It is one of those sugar-coated homilies with which it is difficult to disagree but which promises more than it will ever deliver – much like The Way to Happiness, another Hubbard booklet.

Some Scientologists sincerely believe in these values and have made great personal sacrifices in the belief that they were working towards these goals.

But Hubbard never actually practised what he preached at this level.

It was the orders he set out in his policy letters, for internal consumption only, that determined how the movement was run – and they were based on a different set of values entirely.

As Hubbard wrote elsewhere: “Handling the truth is a touchy business… Tell an acceptable truth.”[8]

The tracts he wrote for general consumption were essentially public relations exercises – and presumably very effective recruitment tools.

[1] I will try to publish a long-overdue analysis of the 2009 Paris court judgment in the near future.
[2] Here, as in the other letters submitted to Senate, some names were deleted from the text. But Senator Xenophon said unedited copies of the correspondence had been submitted to the police.
[3] It is not entirely clear from her letter, but it does not look as if she got her money back on that occasion. What is clear is that Scientology eventually relieved her of all her savings.
[4] Hubbard Communications Office Policy Letter, February 21, 1964: “Staff regulations: Auditing versus Job”: my thanks Peta O’Brien for tracking down the reference.
Thanks too, to Caroline Letkeman, who dug up a very similar one from an August 23, 1971 bulletin: C/S (Case Supervisor) Series 1: Auditor’s Rights. This one was called “Auditors don’t have cases” – and by cases, Hubbard means problems. The gist of it was that an auditor had to leave his problems at the door of the auditing room if he was doing the auditing.
“In the chair no auditor has a case,” he wrote. “If breath shows on a mirror held to his face he can audit. Faint afterwards if you must …”
Letkeman notes that although Hubbard was talking to auditors “the reference would get used more generally for staff because staff are all auditors ‘on the 3rd and 4th dynamics’…” In Scientology, the third dynamic refers to the group; the fourth dynamic to Mankind.
The message inside Scientology is that the group is more important than the individual.
[5] Tom Cruise makes several references to “Keep Scientology Working”, or KSW as he insists on calling it, in his now-notorious 2004 message-to-the-troops video (still up at
[6] Her son had reported his superior for financial irregularities. O’Brien later concluded that this message had been intercepted by his boss and used against him, as the charges in the order sending her son to RPF echoed many of the allegations he himself had made.
[7] Although some former Scientologists do not realise it, this bill is not generally considered to be legally enforceable. Many members who have fallen out of favour with the movement do everything they can to pay off the bill in a bid to get back into good standing (financial considerations aside, being out of favour with the movement damages your relations with other Scientologists). The sums involved can run into the tens of thousands of dollars or more.
[8] From the Hubbard Communications Office Policy Letter, August 13, 1970, from the PR Series: “The Missing Ingredient”.

Sunday 10 January 2010

9 Peta O'Brien's Letter: Medical Neglect

Medical neglect in Scientology was so serious that staff members with cancer were left to die untreated at their post, according to one letter to Senator Xenophon.

Some staff members with cancer worked untreated until they died while others too weak to do anything received no palliative care, a former Scientologist wrote in her letter to Senator Xenophon.

Peta O’Brien's allegations echo earlier accounts from other defectors from the movement's Sea Organization cadre.

Similar concerns were also expressed in an official Australian report published as far back as 1965.

Scientologists are taught to consider Sea Org members as an elite; the movement’s most dedicated members.

But despite what her recruiters had promised her, O’Brien soon learned that the movement would not pay for urgent medical care for her and her colleagues.

She gave several examples of how this worked in practice.

Two involved people refused the money for urgent dental work (her own son and a senior Scientology executive).[1]

But the third incident, drawn from her own experience, was far more serious.

She got the results of a smear test back that showed abnormal cells lining her cervix. This showed that she was at the C.I.N. 3 stage, the worst on a scale of three: while she did not necessarily have cancer, she nevertheless needed further treatment as soon as possible.

O’Brien knew she had two options. One was to have an immediate biopsy, with follow-ups every six months; the other was to have a hysterectomy, an operation in which her womb would be removed, which of course meant she would be unable to have any more children.

“I knew the CofS [Church of Scientology] methods of encouraging abortions so the thought of having any more children was unlikely,” she wrote.[2]

“I thought I had no choice, being a staff member of the CofS … to settle for the…hysterectomy.”

It was not just Scientology’s policy on having children that affected her decision; she made it clear that their failure to finance basic medical had also played a role.

“I also knew I would never be able to afford an operation every six months and certainly would not be assisted by the CofS financially or medically,” she wrote.

But she could not even afford the 5,000 dollars for the hysterectomy.

Two of her superiors made it clear they would not finance the intervention – they even advised her against having it, she wrote: “…they both disapproved of having any sort of having any sort of operation or surgery at all, to handle the cancer.”

She eventually came to an arrangement with the doctor by which she repaid the cost of the operation by doing an architectural rendering of his home (O’Brien is a trained architectural designer).

According to O’Brien, this was not the only time Scientology’s management ignored a serious, or potentially serious medical situation.

“There were three other CofS staff members diagnosed with Cancer when I was there… One continued to work at his desk until he died. There was no support or palliative care at the CofS, although there was a medical officer… not medically trained.

O’Brien said her final two years inside the Sea Org were spent on its Rehabilitation Project Force (RFP) a punishment programme for those members deemed to have failed to live up to the movement’s ethical standards.

The level of medical neglect there was if anything even worse, she wrote.

“On the RPF I was concerned about a bedridden elderly staff member who had cancer, who had seeping open chest wounds that needed to be cleaned and bandages change daily.

“Somehow I made time to do this for her, and even put up some curtains and cleaned her room.”

O’Brien was put on an even tougher programme as punishment for having put up curtains in the women’s dormitory: this was considered “idle” behaviour. She heard later that her bedridden colleague had died.

The Anderson Report

More than 30 years before O’Brien wrote her letter to Senator Xenophon, a senior Australian lawyer warned about the dangers of Scientology’s contempt for conventional medicine.

Kevin Anderson, a Queen’s Counsel (QC), submitted a scathing critique of Scientology to the State of Victoria in Australia in 1965.

One of the great dangers of scientology is that it poisons the minds of its followers against the medical profession and generates an abhorrence of medical treatment generally, and psychiatric and psychological treatment in particular, he wrote.

For while Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s attacks on psychiatry and psychology were particularly virulent, he also found time to disparage the medical profession

Anderson quoted a number of such attacks in his report including one on the British Medical Association in which Hubbard wrote:

“With their hands caked with blood they sought to point a grisly finger at us and to bring down upon us the wrath of the government they claimed they controlled. Folly, thy name is medicine… I have found that the British Medical Association in England… has encouraged its doctors to spread vicious lies about us via their patients.”[3]

Anderson devoted another chapter of his report to the extravagant medical claims Hubbard made for his system – again quoting extensively from his writings.

In various places Hubbard has written to the effect that arthritis, eye conditions, heart conditions, cancer, all psychosomatic illnesses, morning sickness, ulcers, tuberculosis, the common cold, the common cough, illness from bacterial or virus infections, alcoholism and a multitude of other complaints and conditions… respond to processing, the lawyer noted.

For example, he noted, Hubbard had written in one issue of a Scientology magazine: “Leukaemia is evidently psychosomatic in origin and at least eight cases of leukaemia had been treated successfully by dianetics after medicine had traditionally given up.”[4]

Anderson also made it clear that many of the Scientologists who had testified to his inquiry believed that their system could cure a range of physical and mental ills, including polio, hepatitis, malaria – and cancer.

And he described the case of “one unfortunate man” who during a five-month period between 1959 and 1960 had been audited by the Melbourne Scientology centre.

The client was dying of cancer at the time.

At a time when it was known… that he had been under medical treatment and was suffering from a malignant growth in his lower abdomen, the [centre] quoted him 200 hours' auditing for a stable case gain, wrote Anderson.

His auditing had only stopped a few weeks before he died, he noted.

This case is typical of the callous disregard which the scientologist practitioners are trained to have for their preclears [clients]. It is a sign of weakness in an auditor to feel pity for a victim, and the auditing processes in this case, as in very many others, were applied quite brutally...

The auditing notes had shown that this man had frequently been in pain during the sessions, noted Anderson. He had also experienced  “hallucinations about murder, rape and other acts of violence, as well as recalls of death and hanging in past lives,” he wrote.

Incidents such as this one help explain why Anderson wrote such a damning report on Scientology. The opening passage of his conclusions should suffice.

If there should be detected in this Report a note of unrelieved denunciation of scientology, it is because the evidence has shown its theories to be fantastic and impossible, its principles perverted and ill-founded, and its techniques debased and harmful.

Scientology is a delusional belief system, based on fiction and fallacies and propagated by falsehood and deception.

While making an appeal to the public as a worthy system whereby ability, intelligence and personality may be improved, it employs techniques which further its real purpose of securing domination over and mental enslavement of its adherents.

It involves the administration by persons without any training in medicine or psychology of quasi-psychological treatment, which is harmful medically, morally and socially.

“Cancer has been eradicated…”

Nearly 30 years after the Anderson Report Hana Eltringham Whitfield told a similar story, albeit from a different perspective.

Whitfield was one of the original members of the Sea Org in the 1960s, serving under the founder L. Ron Hubbard himself,

In a lengthy affidavit dated March 8, 1994, she declared: I have known many Scientologists and Sea Org members who died from cancer.

The common denominator among them is that they did not seek medical assistance rapidly, when they first noticed something wrong.

The overwhelming belief among Scientologists and Sea Org members was to get audited or continue on with auditing (if they were already receiving auditing) with the conviction that auditing would resolve the cancer. [5]

Whitfield went on to quote the 1975 edition of Hubbard’s History of Man, in which he wrote on page 20: “Cancer has been eradicated by auditing out conception and mitosis.”[6]

This, and similar claims for other illness in Hubbard's DMSMH [Dianetics: the Modern Science of Mental Health], may have helped to bring about the disregard for the medical doctor, she added.

One death Whitfield described in distressing detail was that of a friend, Yvonne Gillham Jentzsch.[7]

Whitfield first realised that her friend was ill when the long letters she usually wrote became shorter and shorter.

She said she was tired, losing weight and getting headaches, all unusual for her, wrote Whitfield. I didn't think much about the last; I also had constant headaches.

In late 1977, Yvonne suddenly arrived in Clearwater, very ill. She talked with difficulty, lost track of what she said half way through a sentence and lost her balance while walking.

Jentzsch told her she was dying from a brain tumour.

She said she hadn't seen a doctor because she thought auditing would fix it, wrote Whitfield.

But when she finally did see one, it was too late. If she had sought help earlier, the doctor told her, the tumour would have been removable.

We both cried, wrote Whitfield. I knew auditing did not resolve everything, but I was shocked that her life was wasted through such neglect.

Far from criticising Scientology however, Jentzsch seemed to think it was her fault, wrote Whitfield. One day she cried and blamed herself for the terrible overt [sin] of dying and deserting Hubbard.

And although she was in constant pain, she refused to take medication to relieve it: that would have disqualified her from receiving Scientology auditing.

Jentzsch’s condition deteriorated in the months that followed, wrote Whitfield. She never received medical treatment of any kind that I know of. She died in early 1978.

We had a short briefing in which we were told that Yvonne had dropped her body happily and was in good case shape to pick up the next one, and that as this was a happy occasion, there was to be no time wasted in unnecessary grieving…

Hubbard, in a published memo after her death, applauded Yvonne's achievements and granted her a leave of absence for twenty one years until she rejoined the Sea Organization in her next reincarnation.[8]

Carol’s story

It is bad enough when Scientologists on staff fail to seek treatment for life-threatening illnesses because of a misguided faith in the healing powers of Scientology.

It is inexcusable that Scientology employees die of preventable diseases because the movement does not provide for even basic tests.

Whitfield told the story of Carol, another Sea Org member who died of cancer.

She developed breast cancer after joining the Sea Org. She told me that she did not report it because she believed that auditing would cure it, wrote Whitfield. She also did not want to bother anyone.

Carol never received medical treatment for the cancer. She never got regular PAP smears and mammograms.

When the cancer entered its terminal phase and she was hospitalised, an executive decided that she had to be sent home to die there rather than at Scientology’s base in Clearwater, “as it would be bad PR for Scientology and the Sea Org,” wrote Whitfield.

Carol looked terrible when I saw her. She had lost fifty pounds, was very weak and her mind was wandering. She pleaded to stay in Clearwater because she did not want to go back to her family.

Her request was denied.

Whitfield was assigned to get her home to her family in England, but the nurses in Clearwater said she was far too sick to travel: the cancer had spread to all her vital organs.

So Whitfield’s superior told her to concoct a “shore story” – an “acceptable truth” as Hubbard once put it.

When they said that Carol’s parents were desperate for her to come home before she died, the nurses gave them their full cooperation.

Her parents were very happy to see Carol though shocked at her condition, wrote Whitfield.

The family doctor was so disgusted after I gave him the medical reports the next day, and that Carol travelled while critically ill, that he refused to talk to me thereafter… I was deeply disturbed by the experience.

On her return to Clearwater however, Whitfield was commended for having handled “a potentially dangerous and sensitive situation.”[9]

“Left to die on her own…”

Just as O'Brien wrote 15 years later, Whitfield reported that in many cases there was no palliative care for people who fell seriously ill.

Sally Esterman (formerly Chaleff) was another Sea Org member who died of cancer in January 1987, wrote Whitfield. She developed cervical cancer, which in 99 percent of cases is curable if caught early.

Sally never received regular PAP smears or mammograms, and by the time she reported her condition, the cancer was terminal.

But it gets worse.

Esterman was put in a convalescent home in Los Angeles. She stayed there for more than a year, “bedridden, to weak to do anything,” wrote Whitfield.

The room she was in and her sheets, towels and night clothes, were filthy. She didn't have the strength to clean them.

Sally had no visitors, not even her Scientology husband, Mitch, who worked nearby. He was mad at her, said she was lazy, that she allowed herself to get ill so as to shirk work.

Sally was left to die on her own. She was in terrible pain continually, with nothing to alleviate it. Dr. Gene Denk… told Sally one day that she was too far gone, and all that was left for her to do was die and that she better not mess that up.

As Whitfield points out, Denk had also been Hubbard’s personal doctor – and he had made sure the founder never lacked for medication.

A friend of Esterman, a former Scientologist, did what she could to care for her in the final months.

But Whitfield concluded: Sally suffered her last days on her own, abandoned by Scientology.

Whitfield’s affidavit repays careful reading. It tells several similarly shocking stories, making it clear that these were not isolated incidents.

Anderson, in his report, noted the “callous disregard” shown by the Melbourne Scientologists towards their client as he was dying of cancer.

The apparent indifference, even hostility of some Scientologists to the sick among them, might in part explained by the uncomfortable fact that they embody the emptiness of the movement's medical claims.

But there is also a belief inside Scientology that if you fall ill, if anything bad happens to you, then you have “pulled it in” – it is somehow your fault.

In Scientology, a Potential Trouble Source (PTS) is a serious condition that means that you are connected to a Suppressive Person, an enemy of Scientology and of humanity. And Hubbard was quite clear: “All sick persons are PTS.”[10]

Bear in mind too, that on Hubbard’s Tone Scale of emotions, Sympathy rates very low.

The Tone Scale – in which Hubbard set out the least and the most desirable emotional states – runs from Total Failure at -40, to Serenity of Beingness no less, at 40.

Sympathy clocks in at a lowly 0.9.[11]
[1] Her son needed dental work, but after repeatedly having her request for the treatment refused, she was finally told that she was wasting her time: despite what her recruiters had told her, now her superiors said there was no money available. In the end, her family paid for her son’s dental work.
On another occasion, a senior executive (name deleted from the letter filed to the Senate) also found applied to have his dental work covered, wrote O’Brien. “…after weeks of his request being ignored, his condition became worse and more painful, and I believe he had an emergency operation to have his tooth removed at his own cost.”
[2] As I have covered in previous entries, having babies in the Sea Org is banned. Any staff member who does become pregnant comes under tremendous pressure to abort the foetus. See the testimony of Aaron Saxton, Carmel Underwood, in their letters to Senator Xenophon as well as the California lawsuits filed by Claire Headley and Laura Decrecenzo.
[3] Anderson sources this to a Hubbard’s Communications Office Bulletin dated July 24, 1960. He quotes it in Chapter 22 of his report: “Hostility to the Medical Profession”.
[4] The reference is Issue 15-G of The Journal of Scientology, May 1953. He quotes it in Chapter 19 of the report: “The Healing Claims of Scientology”.
[5] Paragraph 222 in the affadavit.
[6] She also noted that the contentious passage in History of Man had been rewritten in subsequent editions to read “Cancer has reportedly been eradicated by auditing out conception and mitosis.” Anderson quotes the same passage in Chapter 19 of his report: “The Healing Claims of Scientology”.
[7] Whitfield tells how they originally got to know each other in 1967 when they served together alongside Hubbard in the Sea Org. Yvonne Gillham Jentzsch was the wife of Heber Jentzsch who for years was Scientology’s most prominent spokesman, occupying the post of President of Church of Scientology International. According to the testimony of several former executives, he did not have any real executive power in the movement.
[8] You can find Whitfield's account of Jentzsch’s death in paras 227-232 of her affidavit.
One of the darker ironies is that in the 1960s, Jentzsch testified to the Anderson Inquiry in Australia as to the medical benefits of Scientology. She thought that “illnesses such as colds, 'flu and heart trouble and some mental disorders could be cured by scientology, and that it was possible to proof against the strain of physical and mental illness.” (Chapter 19, “The Healing Claims of Scientology”). At the time she was known as Yvonne Doreen Gillham (she was married to Peter Francis Gillham)
[9] You can find Whitfield's account of Carol’s death in paras 233-238 of her affidavit.
[10] Hubbard Communications Office Bulletin, April 20, 1972; this also features on p326 of the Dianetics and Scientology Technical Dictionary. My thanks to “Hubbard’s Mushroom” for putting me on the right track.
[11] Curiously, No Sympathy rates a little higher on the Tone Scale, at 1.2.

Sunday 3 January 2010

8 Carmel Underwood's Letter II

Pressure to abort, child exploitation and physical abuse: Carmel Underwood had witnessed enough abuse over the years to have serious doubts about Scientology even before she quit.

It was a series of abusive interrogations that ended Carmel Underwood’s association with Scientology.

Even before that however, what she had seen and experienced during her years as a staffer had given her increasing pause for thought. Some of this she listed in her letter to Senator Xenophon.

In 1982, for example, while working on staff she fell pregnant. She already knew that she would come under pressure to have an abortion, as a pregnant colleague had been pressured by executives to have an abortion just months earlier.

So she kept quiet about her own condition until two weeks short of her first trimester.

Sure enough, she wrote, when she did speak up, “…I was put under extreme pressure to have an abortion, as having a child would cut across my contribution to the CoS [Church of Scientology].

“I was put on a disciplinary programme for about two weeks… The disciplinary program got dropped when I reached three months pregnant, but by then I was bleeding…"

She wanted to see a doctor, she wrote, “but I was told that ‘bleeding’ during pregnancy was normal…”

She was refused permission to see a doctor.

Then, about four months into her pregnancy, she started to get bad cramps and was bleeding heavily. She told a colleague (whose name has been deleted from the letter filed to Senate).

“She told me that I had a job to do, and that at the end of the day I should go home and get some rest over the weekend,” wrote Underwood.

Later that night, she was rushed to hospital from her home suffering major haemorrhaging and had to undergo an operation.

Underwood was 23 years old at the time, and she concedes, “…I was na├»ve, and made the mistake of not getting medical attention when I needed it.

“However the pressure put on me to get an abortion, and then later, the denial of medical attention, put me at severe risk physically, and was inexcusable.”

Nor was she the only staff member to experience this kind of pressure, she wrote. Through her job supervising Scientology counselling, she knew that most of the women in management position at that centre had been pressured into having abortions.

Those who had complied, she added, ended up regretting the decision.

Covering up child abuse

Underwood also described an incident dating back to the mid-1980s in which the step-daughter of one of their trainee counsellors told her mother that her step-father was abusing her.

The mother contacted the authorities, wrote Underwood. The next day both the mother and her daughter were with the staff of Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs [OSA]. The girl was being coached on what to tell investigators.

“I argued with these people that day, as I objected to what seemed to be occurring, but I was ‘over-ruled’…” wrote Underwood. To her shame, she added, she did not take it any further.

Years later, she discovered through a colleague that the victim had been coached into lying to the authorities about the abuse.

The abuser was subsequently prosecuted, she wrote, “…but the CoS officials covered it up at the time, to protect the ‘PR’ of the ‘Church’.”

Physical abuse

In 1985 she and a colleague were sent by Scientology to Florida for conference. On the way there, they stopped over in Portland, Oregon, to join a protest involving a court case against the movement.[1]

But when they tried to leave for the Florida conference the next day, the movement’s security guards physically prevented them.

A friend helped them get hold of their luggage and escape to a motel room, but there they were confronted by several senior Scientology executives.

“I was physically shoved against a wall and slapped across the face,” she wrote.

Child exploitation

In the 1990s she saw how the children of Scientology’s management staff were themselves subject to exploitation: after attending their Scientology school, they would be put to work for the movement.

“These children… were expected to perform like adults, and were treated as such. They saw their parents for maybe an hour, maybe once or twice a week.

“The boys had an especially hard time of it, and were often subjected to bare minimum food rations and made to do heavy labour.

“I was aware of this as I was on the Board of the school at the time, but I have found out more about it in the last few years, as some of these boys are grown up now, are out of Scientology, and are friends with my sons.”

Abuse of auditing files

Years after Underwood had quit the movement she decided to speak out because the same abuses were still going on.

She started contacting former colleagues in October 2008 she soon received a phone call from a Scientology official.

This official, whose name has been deleted from the copy of the letter filed to Senate,
warned her that embarrassing details from her youth would be revealed if she kept speaking out.

“He told me that if I didn’t get posts that I had made on the internet retracted/removed, then I would regret it,” wrote Underwood.[2]

Sure enough, by 2009 she had heard from several people that personal material about her youth had been leaked to Scientologists – information that had come from her supposedly confidential auditing files.

If this was a bid to discredit her, appeared to have some success, wrote Underwood.

“Many past friends of mine, still in the CofS, have disconnected from my family and I.

“The ones who haven’t hide the fact that they are in contact with us for fear of losing employment by Scientologists, clients/customers who are Scientologists, and/or having friends/family disconnect from them… just as has happened to those of us who have spoken out against the ‘Church’.”
[1] This would have been the Julie Christofferson Titchbourne case, which had been dragging on since 1977. The May 1985 jury verdict awarding damages of $39 million against Scientology (of which $20 million was against the founder, L. Ron Hubbard himself) was overturned two months later after a Judge Donald Londer granted a mistrial on the grounds that her attorney had made an improper and prejudicial closing speech. For more on this, see the relevant passage in Jon Atack’s A Piece of Blue Sky (Part Eight, Chapter Three).
[2] She had been posting as “Carmel” on the Ex-Scientologist Message Board since July 2008.