Monday 8 March 2010

The LA Press Conference

Six former members of Scientology’s elite Sea Org cadre joined forces in Los Angeles to denounce the violence and abuse inflicted on its most dedicated members.

On February 12, six former members of Scientology’s elite Sea Org cadre joined forces in Los Angeles, speaking out at a press conference to publicise the abuses to which they had been subjected in Scientology.

While all of them had spoken or written about their experiences in the past, this was the first time that so many former members with such a wealth of experience had come together to tell their stories.

The only comparable event would be last November’s speech by Senator Nick Xenophon, which drew on the experiences of eight former Scientologists, as set out in the letters they wrote to him.[1]

The US ex-members however have yet to find a politician willing to speak up for them, despite growing interest from the mainstream news media in the stories they have to tell.

The event marked the second anniversary of Project Chanology, the Internet-based campaign to expose the abuses inside the Scientology movement.

The six speakers were:

  • Marc Headley who has over the years been one of the best sources of information about what went on at Gold, or Int Base, the 500-acre compound near Hemet in California where Scientology leader David Miscavige and other senior executives are based. His book Blown For Good details his 15 years there;[2]
  • Nancy Many, whose time in the Sea Org included being sent to Scientology’s punishment programme, the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF) when she was five months pregnant. She too has told her story in a book My Billion Year Contract;[3]
  • Laura DeCresecenzo, who was recruited into Scientology’s elite cadre, the Sea Org, at the age of just 12. Married by the age of 16, she was pregnant at 17, but was pressured into having an abortion. She was so desperate to get out of the organisation she swallowed a mouthful of bleach to convince them she was a suicide risk. Like Headley, she is suing Scientology;[4]
  • Jeff Hawkins, who during his 35 years inside Scientology worked his way up to become a senior marketing executive for the movement. Like Headley, he spent many years at the Int Base near Hemet. He eventually left after repeatedly being subjected to Miscavige’s violence;[5]
  • Will Fry, who has only been speaking out relatively recently about his experiences. Raised in Scientology he worked on its sales team and described the hard sales techniques he and his colleagues used.
  • Maureen Bolstad, who of the six has been speaking out against Scientology the longest. She got pulled into Scientology as a teenager and spent many years being held against her will at Int. Base.[6]
Emmy-award winning journalist Mark Bunker, who has run the XenuTV website for more than a decade, acted as moderator for the event.

“The stories that they have to tell are really pretty amazing and shocking and in some cases even horrifying,” he told the assembled journalists.

“I’m certainly glad that they are standing up and speaking out – and more and more people doing that every day.

“And we are so thankful for all of you folks here in the media who are covering this, because the problem is the government isn’t doing anything about these abuses, which have been systematic and have been going on for decades.

“So the more attention that’s drawn to these abuses the better.”

Bunker suggested that Scientology should be considered more of a corporation than a religion.

As the speakers told the stories, he said, the audience should bear one thing in mind.

“If a regular business did to their employees what Scientology is doing to the people of the Sea Org, it would never be allowed to happen – never.

“But because they have this cloak of religiosity, Scientology has been able to get away with some really horrendous crimes and we are hoping that if enough people speak out that the government will actually do something about it.”

The following sections set out the main points of their speeches.[7]

[1] Xenophon’s speech and the letters themselves are covered in detail elsewhere on this site.
[2] I have covered Marc Headley’s story elsewhere on the site. For his 2008 speech in Germany, see here; for details of his lawsuit against Scientology see here. A review of his book will, eventually, follow, but see here for a summary.
[3] For a summary of Nancy Many’s book, see here.
[4] For details of Laura DeCrescenzo’s lawsuit see here.
[5] Jeff Hawkins was one of the main sources for the opening sections of this website, in particular, The Case Against Miscavige: I have summarised his story here, but you can find his own, far more detailed account, at Counterfeit Dreams.
[6] In 2005, Maureen helped Claire Hoffman and Kim Christensen of the LA Times break the story about Sea Org members being put to work all night to build a meadow of flowers for Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman – a story since confirmed by other ex-members. I began telling Maureen Bolstad’s story in some detail here.
[7] Mark Bunker has the entire event, with the speeches broken down into handy video segments, on his site. The press pack issued on the day is available here – and hats off to those activists who put together the transcript, without which I would never have had time to complete this write-up.


  1. Thks for coverage of this! Good to see the transcript being put to good user :)

  2. I love your work, Jonny.