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Title Scientology - Defectors Say Church of Scientology Hides Abuse [New York Times]

Defectors Say Church of Scientology Hides Abuse [New York Times] April 2nd, 2010 - Raised as Scientologists, Christie King Collbran and her husband, Chris, were recruited as teenagers to work for the elite corps of staff members who keep the Church of Scientology running, known as the Sea Organization, or Sea Org. They signed a contract for a billion years in keeping with the church s belief that Scientologists are immortal. They worked seven days a week, often on little sleep, for sporadic paychecks of $50 a week, at most. But after 13 years and growing disillusionment, the Collbrans decided to leave the Sea Org, setting off on a Kafkaesque journey that they said required them to sign false confessions about their personal lives and their work, pay the church thousands of dollars it said they owed for courses and counseling, and accept the consequences as their parents, siblings and friends who are church members cut off all communication with them. [.] Fifty-six years after its founding by the science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, who died in 1986, the church is fighting off calls by former members for a Reformation. The defectors say Sea Org members were repeatedly beaten by the church s chairman, David Miscavige, often during planning meetings; pressured to have abortions; forced to work without sleep on little pay; and held incommunicado if they wanted to leave. The church says the defectors are lying. The defectors say that the average Scientology member, known in the church as a public, is largely unaware of the abusive environment experienced by staff members. The church works hard to cultivate public members especially celebrities like Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Nancy Cartwright (the voice of the cartoon scoundrel Bart Simpson) whose money keeps it running. But recently even some celebrities have begun to abandon the church, the most prominent of whom is the director and screenwriter Paul Haggis, who won Oscars for Million Dollar Baby and Crash. Mr. Haggis had been a member for 35 years. His resignation letter, leaked to a defectors Web site, recounted his indignation as he came to believe that the defectors accusations must be true. These were not the claims made by outsiders looking to dig up dirt against us, Mr. Haggis wrote. These accusations were made by top international executives who had devoted most of their lives to the church. The church has responded to the bad publicity by denying the accusations and calling attention to a worldwide building campaign that showcases its wealth and industriousness. [.] They may spend hundreds of hours in one-on-one auditing sessions, holding the slim silver-colored handles of an e-meter while an auditor asks them questions and takes notes on what they say and on the e-meter s readings. By doing enough auditing, taking courses and studying Mr. Hubbard s books and lectures for which some Scientologists say they have paid as much as $1 million Scientologists believe that they can proceed up the bridge to total freedom and live to their full abilities as Operating Thetans, pure spirits. They do believe in God, or a Supreme Being that is associated with infinite potential. [.] They could not just up and go. For one, they said, the church had taken their passports. But even more important, they knew that if they left the Sea Org without going through the church s official exit process, they would be declared suppressive persons antisocial enemies of Scientology. They would lose the possibility of living for eternity. Their parents, siblings and friends who are Scientologists would have to disconnect completely from them, or risk being declared suppressive themselves. You re in fear, Mr. Collbran said. You re so into it, it s everything you know: your family, your eternity. Mike Rinder, who for more than 20 years was the church s spokesman, said the disconnect policy originated as Mr. Hubbard s prescription for how to deal with an abusive spouse or boss. Now, disconnection has become a way of controlling people, said Mr. Rinder, who says his mother, sister, brother, daughter and son disconnected from him after he left the church. It is very, very prevalent. [.] All of the auditing that you do, there s files kept on it, Ms. Collbran said. All of the personal things you ever said, all the secrets, the transgressions, are all kept in there. They went through that file, wrote this affidavit as if I wrote it and I never wrote this affidavit, the church wrote it and made me sign it. They were also handed what the church calls a freeloader bill for services rendered, of $90,000, which they later negotiated down to $10,000 for Ms. Collbran s portion and paid. They now had a child and no money, but they thought they were still in good standing with their church. [.] In 2008, organizers with the Internet-based group Anonymous began waves of protests outside Scientology churches in many countries. Anonymous said it was protesting the Church of Scientology s attempts to censor Internet posts of material the church considered proprietary including a video of Tom Cruise, an ardent Scientologist, that was created for a church event but was leaked and posted on YouTube. Since Anonymous has come forward, said Marc Headley, who belonged to the Sea Org for 16 years, more and more people who have been abused or assaulted are feeling more confident that they can speak out and not have any retaliation happen. Mr. Headley, who wrote a book about his experiences, is suing the church for back wages, saying that over 15 years his salary averaged out to 39 cents an hour. His wife, who said the church coerced her into having two abortions, has also filed a suit. [.] This is an extract from the full article in the New York Times as it appeared March, 2010. Read the full article