Scientology Harm

Selections highlighting some of the top horrors of Scientology as documented in Lawrence Wright’s new book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief (2013) [trigger warning]:

Descriptions of Hubbard by doctors and those close to him: “Malignant narcissism.” “A manic depressive with paranoid tendencies.” “Paranoid personality. Delusions of grandeur. Pathological lying.”

Hubbard: “This hellbroth I cooked up works remarkably well on kids.”

“None except Hubbard family members were spared [overboarding]. John McMaster, the second ‘first Clear,’ was tossed over the side six times, breaking his shoulder on the last occasion. He left the church not long afterward. Eltringham had to stand with Hubbard and his aides on the deck when the punishments were meted out. If the crewman seemed insufficiently cowed by the prospect, Hubbard would have his hands and feet bound. Whitfield remembered one American woman, Julia Lewis Salmen, sixty years old, a longtime Scientology executive, who was bound and blindfolded before being thrown overboard. ‘She screamed all the way down,’ Eltringham said. ‘When the sound stopped, Hubbard ordered a deck hand to jump in after her. Had he not, I think Julia may have drowned.’”

“Hubbard increasingly turned his wrath on children…. A rambunctious four-year-old boy named Derek Greene, an adopted black child, had taken a Rolex watch belonging to a wealthy member of the Sea Org and dropped it overboard. Hubbard ordered him confined in the chain locker, a closed container where the massive anchor chain is stored. It was dark, damp, and cold. There was a danger that the child could be mutilated if the anchor was accidentally lowered or slipped. Although he was fed, he was not given blankets or allowed to go to the bathroom. He stayed sitting on the chain for two days and nights. The crew could hear the boy crying. His mother pleaded with Hubbard to let him out, but Hubbard reminded her of the Scientology axiom that children are actually aduults in small bodies, and equally responsible for their behavior. Other young children were sentenced to the locker for infractions–such as chewing up a telex–for as long as three weeks. Hubbard ruled that they were Suppressive Persons. One little girl, a deaf mute, was placed in the locker for a week because thought if might cure her deafness.”

“Even as Hubbard was inventing the doctrine, each of his decisions and actions would become enshrined in Scientology lore as something to be emulated…his casual misogyny…the legacy of his belittling behavior toward subordinates and his paranoia about the government. Such traits stamped the religion as an extremely secretive and sometimes hostile organization that saw enemies on every corner.”

“[Sheila Huber] can remember only one occassion when the children were taken outside: ‘They sat in a circle the size of their cribs under a tree. They were afraid, very afraid–of the sun, the grass, everything.’”

“To [Spanky Taylor’s] horror [after momentarily escaping from the church’s punishment division, the Rehabilitation Project Force] she discovered that [her daughter] Vanessa had contracted whooping cough, which is highly contagious and occasionally fatal. The baby’s eyes were welded shut with mucus, and her diaper was wet–in fact, her whole crib was soaking. She was covered with fruit flies.”

“[Elizabeth] Harrington wound up being sent to the RPF [Rehabilitation Project Force], and when she balked at that, she was demoted even further–to the RPF’s RPF, alone, in the furnace room under the parking garage of the Clearwater base.”

“Hubbard wanted [his wife] out of the way. He wanted all guns pointed at her so he could go about his old age without worrying about being thrown in jail.”

Lawrence Wollersheim: “I went psychotic on OT III.”

“One former Scientologist described training sessions in which members were hectored and teased over sensitive issues until they were determined desensitized and would no longer react. In two such instances of ‘bull baiting’ Christofferson Titchbourne saw the eight-year-old son of the registrar repeatedly put his hands down the front of a woman student’s dress and a female coach unzipping the pants of a male student and fondling his genitals.”

“One of the executives vowed that…Titchbourne would never collect because he was going to kill her. ‘I don’t care if I get the chair, he said. ‘It’s only one lifetime.’”

“Miscavige needed a lieutenant with similar qualities of remorselessness and total commitment [and that became Mark Rathbun]. Rathbun[‘s]…artistic mother was the daughter of Haddon Sundblom, the illustrator who created some of the most enduring images in American commercial history–Aunt Jemima, the Quaker Oats man, and the famous Santa Claus drinking Coca-Cola beside the Christmas tree.”

“Diane’s husband, John Colletto, a highly trained auditor, had recently been declared a Suppressive Person. John had gotten into an argument with church officials over a matter of policy. After being declared, he went to visit a Scientology chaplain, who could see that he was having a breakdown. He kept crying and grabbing his head in despair. At that point, he was forcibly detained in the RPF. He spent several weeks there, but managed to escape. Diane was ordered to disconnect from him. She told the chaplain that John had threatened her, saying if he couldn’t have Scientology, then neither could she. … Colletto broke free [from Mark Rathbun] and caught up to his wife. He stuck the gun in her ear. Rathbun says he saw what was happening and did a ‘flying sidekick,’ but at that fatal moment the gun fired. … As [Rathbun] heard the sirens screaming, she died in his arms. Three days later, John Colletto’s decomposing body was found. He had slahsed his wrists and bled to death on the shoulder of the Ventura Freeway.”

Church head David Miscavige at five minutes in of his first time fishing: “[Miscavige] was visably shaking, his veins were bulging. ‘You got to be kidding me!’ he said. ‘This is it? You just sit here and fucking wait?’ Brousseau said that was the general idea. ‘I can’t stand it! I feel like jumping in and grabbing a fish with my fucking hands! Or cramming the hook down their fucking throats!’”

“Larry Brennan says that in late 1982 he witnessed Miscavige abusing three Scientology executives who has made some small error. The three offenders were lined up before their leader. According to Brennan, he punched the first one in the mouth. The next he slapped hard in the face. He chocked the third executive so hard that Brennan thought the man would black out. No explanation was offered. … Brennan says that after the beating, the three executives were held as prisoners on the base. They were assigned lowly tasks and Sea Org members spat on them whenever they passed.”

“David Mayo, who was Hubbard’s personal auditor, has also been shut off from contact. He, too, became suspicious of Miscavige and ordered him to be security-checked, but Miscavige refused this direct order from a superior. Gale Irwin says she confronted him, and Miscavige knocked her to the ground with a flying tackle. … Mayo was [later] sent to the RPF. He was made to run around a pole in the searing desert heat for twelve hours a day until his teeth fell out.”

“Miscavige hired Hill & Knowlton, the oldest and largest PR firm in the world, to oversee a national campaign. The legendarily slick worldwide chair of Hill & Knowlton, Robert Keith Gray, specialized in rehabbing disgraced dictators, arms dealers, and governments with appaling HR records. … Gray had also worked closely with the Reagan campaign. He regaled the Scientologists with his ability to take a ‘mindless actor’ and turn him into the ‘Teflon President.’ Hill & Knowlton went to work for the church, putting out phony news stories, often in the form of video news releases made to look like actual reports rather than advertisements. The church began supporting high-profile causes, such as Ted Turner’s Goodwill Games, thereby associating itself with other well-known corporate sponsors, such as Sony and Pepsi.”

“Scientology is quite likely the most ruthless, the most classically terroristic, the most litigious and the most lucrative cult the country has ever seen.”  –Cynthia Kisser, head of the former Cult Awareness Network

“The church began to plot its counterattack. The Cult Awareness Network, besieged by more than fifty lawsuits brought by Scientologists, went bankrupt in 1996. An individual Scientologist purchased its name and assets at auction. Soon after that, the reorganized Cult Awareness Network sent out a brochure lauding the Church of Scientology for its efforts to ‘increase happiness and improve conditions for oneself and others.’”

“The entire base became paralyzed with anxiety about being thrown into the Hole. People were trying desperately to police their thoughts, but it was difficult to keep secrets when staff members were constantly being security-checked with E-Meters. Even confidences whispered to a spouse were regularly betrayed. After one of COB’s lengthy rants, recordings of his statement would be sent to a steno pool, then transcripts were delivered to executives in the Hole, who had to read them aloud to one another repeatedly.

The detainees developed a particular expression whenever Miscavige came in, which he took note of. He called them ‘Pie Faces.’ To illustrate what he meant, Miscavige drew a circle with two dots for eyes and a straight line for a mouth. He had T-shirts made up with the pie face on it. Rinder was ‘the Father of Pie Faces.’ People didn’t know how to react. They didn’t want to call attention to themselves, but they also didn’t want to be a Pie Face.”

“One evening about eight o’clock, Miscavige arrive, with his wife and his Communicator, Shelly and Laurisse, flanking him as usual with tape recorders in their hands. He ordered that the conference table be taken away and chairs be brought in for everyone in the Hole–about seventy people at the time, including many of the most senior people in the Sea Org. He asked if anyone knew what ‘musical chairs’ meant. In Scientology, it refers to frequent changes of post. About five hundred people had been moved off their jobs in the last five years, creating anarchy in the management structure. But that wasn’t the point he was trying to make. Finally, someone suggested that it was also a game. Miscavige had him explain the rules…Miscavige explained that in this game the last person to grab a chair would be the only one allowed to stay on the base; everyone else was to be ‘offloaded’–kicked out of the Sea Org–or sent away to the least desirable Scientology bases around the world. Those whose spouses were not in the Hole would be forced to divorce.

While Queen’s Greatest Hits played on a boom box, the church executives marched around and around, then fought for a seat when the music stopped. As the number of chairs diminished, the game got more physical. The executives shoved and punched one another; clothes were torn; a chair was ripped apart. All this time, the biting lyrics of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ floated over the saccharine melody:

Is this the real life?
Is this just a fantasy?
Caught in a landslide
No escape from reality.

As people fell out of the game, COB had airline tickets for distance locations printed up for them at the base’s travel office. There were U-Haul trucks waiting outside to haul away their belongings. ‘Is it real to you now?’ Miscavige teased. They were told that buses would be ready to leave at six in the morning. Many were it tears. ‘I don’t see anybody weeping for me,’ Miscavige said. The utter powerlessness of every else in the room was made nakedly clear to them. The game continued until 4 a.m., when a woman named Lisa Schroer grabbed the final chair.

The next morning the whole event was forgotten. No one went anywhere.”

“In Scientology, there is a phrase that explains mob psychology: Contagion of Aberration, meaning that groups of people can stimulate one another to do things that are insane. According to former church executives, one day Miscavige arrived at the Hole and demanded that Marc Yager, the Commanding Officer of the Commodore’s Messengers Org, and Guillaume Lesevre, the Executive Director of the Church of Scientology International, confess that they were homosexual lovers. He threatened that Tom Cruise would come to ‘punch you guys out’ if the other Sea Org members in the Hole failed to get a confession from the two men. The captive executives took this threat seriously. When Miscavige left, a group of women executives who had been appointed as leaders of the detainees urged some of the bigger men in the Hole to ‘give some people some black eyes before Tom has to.’ Several men dutifully beat up Lesevre and Yager. Then one of the women reported to Miscavige that the men had confessed that they were gay lovers. When Debbie Cook, the former Captain of Flag Service Org and one of the most respected executives in the church, said that wasn’t true, she was declared a traitor. She was made to stand in a garbage can for twelve hours, as the other detainees demanded that she confess her own ‘homosexual tendencies.’ The women in the room repatedly slapped her and poured water over her head. A sign was hung around her neck, saying LESBO.”

“Then, on December 5, 1995, a Scientologist named Lisa McPherson died following a mental breakdown. She had rear-ended a boat that was being towed in downtown Clearwater, Florida, near the church’s spiritual headquarters. When paramedics arrived, she stripped off her clothes and wandered naked down the street. She said she needed help and was taken to a nearby hospital. Soon afterward, a delegation of ten Scientologists arrived at the hospital and persuaded McPherson to check out, against doctors’ advice. McPherson spent the next seventeen days under guard in room 174 of the Fort Harrison Hotel.

For Scientologists, McPherson’s mental breakdown presented a confounding dilemma. McPherson had been declared Clear just three months before, after ten years of courses and auditing and substantial contributions to the church.

Clears are supposed to be invulnerable to mental frailty. People on the base knew that McPherson had been acting strangely before her breakdown. Marty [Mark] Rathbun, who was at Flag Base during this time, remembers seeing McPherson screaming in the hallways of the Fort Harrison Hotel, because she had just been declared Clear. “Aaaaaah! Yahoo!” she cried. She looked insane. How did she get to be Clear when she was obviously irrational? And who was responsible for deciding that she had achieved that state? According to Rathbun and several other church officials who were present at the time, the case supervisor who pronounced Lisa McPherson clear was David Miscavige. He had gone to Flag in the summer of 1995 to take over the auditing delivered at the base. He would also supervise the treatment of McPherson that followed.

When McPherson entered room 174, she was a lovely, shapely young woman. She underwent an Introspection Rundown, the same procedure that Hubbard had developed on the Apollo two decades earlier to treat psychotic behavior. It involved placing McPherson in solitary confinement and providing her with water, food, and vitamin supplements. All communication had to be in writing. Instead of calming down, McPherson stopped eating. She screamed, she clawed her attendants, she spoke in gibberish, she fouled herself, she banged her head against the wall. Staff members strapped her down and tried to feed her with a turkey baster.

On December 5, McPherson slipped into a coma. When church members decided to take her to the hospital that night, they bypassed the Morton Plant Hospital, just down the street, where McPherson had originally been seen, and drove her forty-five minutes away, passing four other hospitals, to the Columbia New Port Richey Hospital, where there was a doctor affiliated with the church. The woman they finally wheeled into the emergency room was skeletally thin and covered with scratches, bruises, and dark brown lesions. She was also dead. She had suffered a pulmonary embolism on the way to the hospital. In the eyes of the world press, Scientology had murdered Lisa McPherson. She was one of nine Scientologists who had died under mysterious circumstances at the Clearwater facility.”

“Gold Base is in a desert, but Miscavige demanded that the building appear to be set in a forest.”

“When Daniel [Montalvo] was fifteen, he was assigned to work on the renovation of Scientology’s publications building in Los Angeles, operating scissors lifts and other heavy equipment. According to California child labor laws, fifteen-year-old children are allowed to work only three hours per day outside of school, except on weekends–no more than eighteen hours per week total. Sixteen is the minimum age for children to work in any manufacturing establishment using power-driven hoisting apparatus, such as the scissors lift. Daniel graduated to work at the church’s auditing complex nearby, called the American Sain Hill Organization; then from six in the evening until three in the morning he volunteered at Bridge Publications. He was paid thirty-six dollars a week.


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