Monday, 11 November 2013

On this day...Scientology's Children - Part Two

Horror story told in sect suit
Date: Sunday, 11 November 1984
Publisher: Clearwater Sun (Florida)
Author: George-Wayne Shelor
Main source: link (333 KiB)

CLEARWATER—Possibly the highest-ranking, most influential Scientologist to defect from the Clearwater-based, international sect has sued Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard for more than $225 million.

Citing physical abuse, the intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment and the violation of his civil rights, Howard D. "Homer" Schomer, the 49-year-old former treasury secretary of the sect's Author Services Inc. branch, is demanding a jury trial and damages of $226,528,200.

Schomer's claims, if proved true, offer a dark view of the inner workings of an arm of the most visible yet secretive of the world's "new religions."

Named in the suit, filed in U.S. District Court of Los Angeles, are Hubbard, Author Services Inc., and two executives of ASI, David Miscavige and Pat Broeker.

"What is so important about the suit is that this is the very first time that ASI, Miscavige and Broeker have been sued," noted Boston attorney Michael Flynn, who represents a number of other former sect members in suits against the Church of Scientology. "Also important is that this time the suit is not against the church, but rather a for-profit organization."

Hubbard, however, has been the subject of several multimillion-dollar lawsuits.

Schomer's suit alleges that he, having voiced reservations about Hubbard's true aims and those of his myriad of organizations, was subjected to intense interrogations for hours at a time, denied food and water, accused of stealing money and being an FBI or CIA agent, spat upon, threatened with bodily harm, locked up under guard and told he would be "falsely thrown in jail."

Schomer fled the sect in December 1982, and went into seclusion before filing his suit on Oct. 25.

"I was frightened because I didn't know what was happening and terrified of what they could do," Schomer said during an interview Friday. "I was threatened with injury and with going to court because they said they would bring false witness against me.

"And it still terrifies me what they can do to me, and that's why I didn't come forward sooner. But I realized that eventually I had to do something, so I came out in the open. And I guess that makes me, as one who was in ASI, the highest-ranking official who has ever come out to talk in public."

Author Services Inc. is a Los Angeles for-profit organization created and controlled by Hubbard, according to court documents. Former members say ASI is the organizational head of the sect's numerous ventures.
"Many of the top trusted leaders of the church were placed in ASI to run the church, but to also run Hubbard's affairs," Flynn said last week. Schomer concurred.

"It was an effort to separate Hubbard's affairs from the church, but also to keep him in control," Flynn said. 
"So they set up an independent corporation so they could run his affairs and the church's affairs."

Schomer's claims reveal many facets of the internal operations of ASI, the Church of Scientology and its many affiliated organizations which—if true—paint Hubbard as a charlatan who, using ASI, "skimmed millions of dollars from the Scientology Organizations."

The papers also state that ASI "laundered" money through a law firm, that "Hubbard diverted over 100 million dollars from Scientology Organizations to bank accounts controlled by him" and that in March 1982, Hubbard was receiving more than $200,000 a week in royalties from sect organizations.

"This figure increased until some weeks Hubbard received over 1 million dollars a week," the suit alleges. "Hubbard's personal estate within ASI grew from 10 million dollars to over 40 million dollars."

Schomer was first introduced to Scientology in May 1968, and two years later joined the sect's elite "Sea Org."

In his complaint, Schomer states he "devoted thirteen years of his life to Hubbard and the Scientology Organizations," including spending $20,000 on services. He states he quit his job, sold his car, home and possessions and left his 9-year-old daughter to work 15 hours a day, seven days a week for $12 to $25 a week because he believed in Hubbard's claims about his life and accomplishments.

But in time, Schomer found reason to doubt Hubbard's background, achievements and grandiose claims.
On March 22, 1982, Schomer became the treasury secretary of ASI. As such, the papers state, he was responsible for all bank accounts, opening new accounts, overseeing audits of Hubbard's assets, keeping financial records, paying bills and monitoring investment returns.

With such access to the internal operation of ASI, Schomer states, he learned of misrepresentations about Hubbard, the sect and other widely held beliefs dealing with Scientology. Consequently, he developed "serious differences of opinion about the practices and doctrines of the Church of Scientology" and made those reservations known.

It was then, the suit states, that the alleged abuses began. According to the suit: David Miscavige, Pat Broeker and others took Schomer from his room on Oct. 28, 1982, and interrogated him for more than 10 hours. He was denied food and water and accused of working for "enemies" of the sect.

During the interrogation, called a "sec check," Miscavige spat tobacco juice in Schomer's face and told him: "I'm going to fix you." Miscavige told Schomer that if he did not "come clean," Miscavige would see that Schomer "was thrown in jail by having 'witnesses' falsely accuse (Schomer) of having committed crimes."

"I hadn't openly spoke out," Schomer recalled, "but when Hubbard started losing money in deals, he suspected I had something to do with it. And I had expressed some desire to leave, but felt I was trapped." 

The suit continues:

Schomer subsequently was placed under guard for two days, locked up and unable to "contact the outside world." But Schomer "escaped" and traveled to Miami, only to return to sect headquarters Nov. 10 "because of his concern for the security of his daughter."

He was placed under guard again and not permitted to leave. But he "escaped the CSC (Church of Scientology of California) compound on December 23, 1982 and went to Boulder, Colorado," where he now lives.

According to interviews with former Scientologists:

David Miscavige, 23, is said to be at once one of the youngest yet most powerful of Hubbard's intimates. He was introduced to Scientology at the age of 8 when his family moved to England.

A diminutive man who suffers from asthma, Miscavige eventually moved to "Flag Land Base" in Clearwater, was put on the staff of Hubbard's Commodore's Messenger Organization (CMO) in 1976, and was assigned to the sects Special Special Unit (The Special Unit a consists of those who work directly for Hubbard.)

In time, Miscavige became involved in sect management on an international basis and was assigned to the position of CMO Action Aid International and eventually to ASI.

Pat Broeker, 35, also one of Hubbard's personal aides, joined the sect's elite "Sea Org" in 1970, where he worked in the Finance Banking Office.

By 1975, Broeker was working with Hubbard's personal messengers on the sect's flagship, the Apollo, and was responsible for communicating Hubbard's orders and wishes to other staff members.

Hubbard, according to a former sect insider, called Broeker "a very irresponsible and unstable character (who) could not make decisions on his own." Nonetheless observed Hubbard: "Those types have their uses."
Broeker traveled to Hubbard's Hemet, Calif., home of seclusion to work at his aide, which subsequently led to his lofty position within ASI.

Neither Miscavige nor sect President Heber Jentzsch returned telephone calls last week, and the Clearwater Sun was unable to reach Broeker. However, the sect issued an unsigned press release in which it called the court action "an old lawsuit and old news.

"This suit is part of a government conspiracy of the IRS and a Boston lawyer who are seeking to destroy religion for and in the name of the psychiatrists they work for."

[Picture / Caption: Sect founder L. Ron Hubbard is the subject of the lawsuit.]

Although Schomer, in the latter part of his 13 years in the sect, rarely if ever dealt with Hubbard, the 73-year-old writer is named in the suit because he was judged to be the "alter ego" of Scientology in a court case earlier this year, and thus is responsible for the actions of his brainchild.

"(Schomer) suffered (the aforementioned alleged actions) because he had been deceived as to Hubbard's qualifications and abilities and the true nature of Hubbard and the Scientology organizations," the complaint reads.

"The representations were part of an elaborate scheme to obtain monies and assets by creating organizations for allegedly tax-exempt purposes and subsequently," the complaint continues, "ordering the payment of such assets for (Hubbard's) personal use.

"To implement such a plan, Hubbard organized Scientology Organizations throughout the world that have fraudulently obtained hundreds of millions of dollars since their creation."

"It's terrifying," Schomer said Friday. "Here's a church preaching the 'clearing' of the planet for the betterment of mankind, but they do things like this."

Scientology's children: On education
Date: Monday, 11 November 1991
Publisher: St. Petersburg Times (Florida)
Author: Curtis Krueger
Main source: 

Like the church he founded, the teaching methods espoused by L. Ron Hubbard create controversy. And they are spreading, across the United States and around the world.

L. Ron Hubbard wrote science fiction stories and founded a religion — but he didn't stop there.

He went on, according to his followers, to achieve tremendous breakthroughs in education.

There are now more than 150 Hubbard-method schools around the world. They achieve superior results, according to supporters, and are free of drugs and drug-related violence.

Some bay area parents give high marks to schools using the Hubbard method.

"I have two children that are in a school where Scientology study tech is being applied . . . (and) both of them are really doing great," wrote Linda Hilton.

Schools in Australia, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Italy, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom use Hubbard's methods, according to Applied Scholastics, a corporation that licenses the techniques.

Critics say the schools are fronts for Scientology, that their hidden purpose is to lure the unwitting into a cult with designs on their money. Some students who have had instruction under the Hubbard system and at public schools say they learned more in public schools.

Even nations disagree on the matter.

In Germany, government authorities strictly regulate the schools. Strict regulations and grass-roots movements by citizens forced Scientologists to close one school near Munich and abandon plans for another near Hamburg. Authorities believe the methods cause psychological damage, said Monika Schipmann, an official with the Berlin Education Department, which is responsible for sects.

"They teach authoritarian, hierarchal thought patterns," said Ralf Mucha, an official of Action Psychocult Threat, a state-supported private agency in Dusseldorf. He said word clearing — a Hubbard method that focuses on the meanings words — "does not promote logical thinking."

Advocates of the method have shifted focus to the area that was East Germany, where the collapse of communism has left many young people in search of a new value system.

But in South Africa, the schools reportedly have had considerable success, especially among poor black families, and are backed by some South African corporations.

Three schools in Clearwater employ Hubbard's educational ideas, but there is no public record to gauge their effectiveness. Florida, unlike some other states, has virtually no regulation of teaching methods or curriculum at private schools. Like many other private schools, the Clearwater schools using the Hubbard method are unaccredited.

The Times asked a professor of education at the University of South Florida to analyze the Basic Study Manual, which outlines the fundamentals of Hubbard's methods.

"I don't see any harm in the techniques," said Evelyn Searls. "Neither do I think they are a panacea for literacy problems."

* * *

Hubbard "uncovered the basic reason for failures of a student to grasp any subject," according to Scientology advertisements.

The only reason a person becomes unable to learn, according to Hubbard, is that the person went past a word he or she didn't understand.

Most schools tell children to look up words in dictionaries. But it is pre-eminent in the Hubbard technique.

His methods are designed to help people learn to learn and can be applied to traditional school subjects. Hubbard's followers say his methods enable anyone to learn anything.

* * *

Failure to grasp the meaning of a word can lead to more than bad grades, according to Hubbard. It can make students appear tired or disinterested.

Lilly Dodd, 16, is a former student of the Delphi Academy in Los Angeles, which uses Hubbard's methods.

"So if you're sitting there reading a book and you yawn," she said, "then they will call you over to a place where they will try and look for misunderstood words.... They'll sit there and ask you what does the word `the' mean? If you don't answer it, and you don't answer it within three seconds or so, they'll send you over to a dictionary.

Illness might cause the same reaction.

Once, she recalls, "I actually had a fever, and then they said, `Well, before you call your mom to want to go home, I suggest you go down to the word-clearer (the person who helps students understand words) and find out if you have any problems in your study.' "

Lilly said she later enrolled in public school in Los Angeles and found she had fallen far behind. Old enough to enroll in ninth grade, she chose eighth instead.

"It was quite a shock for her to find out where she really stood," said her mother, former Scientologist and teacher Adeline Dodd- Bova. She said the staff at Delphi told students their education was far superior to what they would get in a public school.

Despite repeated attempts, Delphi Academy representatives could not be reached for comment.

* * *

Many Scientologists say they care deeply about their children's education, and they say Hubbard-method schools provide the best environment.

But former members said the church actually placed a low priority on giving its children a formal education.
Former Scientologist Michael Pilkenton used to talk to children at Hacienda Gardens, a Clearwater apartment complex that houses Scientology's staff members.

Pilkenton in 1989 was a member of the "Sea Org," or Sea Organization, the full-time Scientologists who work 12-hour days. He would ask the children whether they planned to go to college and choose a career.

He said the children told him: "You can do anything you want in college right here in the study room."
Former members say Scientology staff members believe they are saving the world, and other pursuits — such as college — often seem unimportant.

"Really for them there's no purpose for someone to be going to college anyway because what you really should be doing if you're a good Scientologist is joining that army of Sea Org people to clear the planet," Dodd-Bova said.

"Clear" [as a verb] is a term that means to deliver Scientology counseling.

* * *

Clearwater, the international spiritual headquarters for the Church of Scientology, is home to the True School, which uses the Hubbard methods. It denies being a Scientology front or teaching the religion.
The school is "not in any way connected to the Church of Scientology, they do not fund us or have any management over us," Christine Collbran, the school's vice president, said in a letter to the Times.

But it does have ties to Scientology.

School officers are listed in a local directory of Scientologists. The last executive director, Sheri Payson, left the school to work for a Scientology church in Tampa, according to a newsletter. "Child auditing," a Scientology counseling process, is offered at the True School, according to ads, although Collbran said a separate organization administers the program.

The True School is licensed by Applied Scholastics, Collbran said in a letter. According to a brochure, Applied Scholastics' trademark is owned by a group called ABLE International. The brochure says: "ABLE creates recognizable changes in society — changes that bring us that much closer to archieving the aims of Scientology."

Asked about charges that the schools are Scientology fronts, Church of Scientology spokesman Richard Haworth said: "Some people's claims don't happen to reflect reality." He said Applied Scholastics merely was exporting Hubbard's study methods — not his religion.

The True School has more than 100 students and advertises that it offers instruction for children ages 2 through high school. But state records indicate that during the past six years, it has not graduated a single student, said Patterson Lamb, who handles private school matters for the Florida Department of Education.

The True School is not accredited, which means that someone who wants to go on to college probably would have to take the GED high school equivalency test. That is not uncommon among private schools.

Asked why the school is not accredited, Collbran wrote that accreditation might force the staff to undergo "psychological or psychiatric training."

She added: "Psychologists and psychiatrists ARE the ones responsible for the drop in SAT scores and increase in rape, crime, RITALIN use and drugs in general. To us the idea of being `accredited' by these people is totally undesirable."

Scientologists also denounce psychiatry.

The Jefferson Academy, another Clearwater school marketed toward Scientologists, also is not accredited. Officials at the school declined to grant interviews.

Much less is known about the Scientology staff school, known as the Cadet School. It is at a former Quality Inn, 16432 U.S. 19 N near Largo, that the Scientologists also use to house members who have small children. The old motel also is home to a day-care center.

The Scientologists turned down a Times request to visit the school or interview pupils. Haworth said the school has about 135 students who study in six course rooms. They learn reading, writing, arithmetic and other subjects and go on a variety of field trips, he said.
"The Cadet School is far superior to a public school as there are NO drugs nor any of the drug-related violence unfortunately found in many of our public schools," he said in a written statement.

* * *

Hubbard-method schools deny they promote Scientology, but Michael Burns disagrees.
In 1988 at the age of 21, he enrolled in the Recording Institute of Detroit, a school for record producers. Soon he was learning Hubbard educational methods and being encouraged to visit a Dianetics center affiliated with Scientology.

Eventually, Burns said, he became a Sea Org member in Clearwater. He said he worked long hours, got five or six hours of sleep each night and lived in a two-bedroom apartment with 10 roommates. He left last year and is suing Scientology.

The Recording Institute could not be reached, but Haworth denied it is a front for Scientology.

"It was a dreadful, scary, horrifying experience I am ashamed to admit to," Burns said recently. "I'd like to be able to forget it."


Scientology's children: Church official responds to the Hutchinsons' story
Date: Monday, 11 November 1991
Publisher: St. Petersburg Times (Florida)
Author: Curtis Krueger
Main source:  

Asked to comment on the Hutchinsons' story, Richard Haworth, spokesman for the Scientology headquarters in Clearwater, said he had not seen their lawsuit. When a reporter offered to give him a copy, he declined to accept it.

In general, he said, "Scientology helps parents and children to improve their relationships with each other."

He denied that Scientologists are taught not to have sympathy for their children. "A child that is sick or hurt will get compassion, love and understanding to help him get well," he said.

On the matter of Scientologists not discussing their auditing experiences with each other, Haworth said someone who talks about the experience might upset others, without helping himself or herself advance spiritually.

The Church of Scientology in Georgia did not return phone calls from the Times.

Scientology's children: Children, adults write to the Times
Date: Monday, 11 November 1991
Publisher: St. Petersburg Times (Florida)
Author: Curtis Krueger
Main source:  

The True School and the Jefferson Academy, two Clearwater schools that use educational methods devised by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, declined to allow the St. Petersburg Times to interview students, graduates, teachers, administrators or parents.

But the True School did provide what it said were testimonials from some of the school's students and staff members.

In addition, Church of Scientology spokesman Richard Haworth arranged for Scientologists to write letters and send them to the Times.

Here are excerpts from the testimonials and letters.

Their accuracy could not be confirmed independently, nor could the spelling of the signatures, which in some cases were hard to read.


True School testimonials

"The data that L. Ron Hubbard has put together is so effective that students are happy and wanting to go to school. Just like me!! Some of the successes I have had I couldn't of had if I was in a school that did not use these methods.

"I can study without any problems and I get all the information. This school has changed the way I study, and that's good.

Becky Minkoff, 11

* * *

"This is the best day at school I've ever had. It is a lot better than sitting and listening to those headache makers. All the math I did was good!"

Ryan Ellenberg, 10

* * *
"I am extremely happy about passing the Basic Study Manual Course and the test. It feels good to complete a task and then discover that — IT'S TRUE!! — you did understand everything you read. This gives me extra desire to continue with my next task !!"

Anne Owens, 24

Letters from Scientologists

"I have two children that are in a school where Scientology study tech is being applied.

"With this study tech, both of them are really doing great.

"Their math levels have increased because they really know it; as well as their reading levels.

"As a mother, I very pleased and proud of what they have gotten with the Scientology study tech being applied at their school."

Linda Hilton

* * *

"When my son was in elementary school, he started to have problems in learning and he was very slow in understanding what the teacher was saying and I was very concerned.

"I heard about Scientology and its educational programs and took him to see if something could be done. Miraculously, he started to ask me if he could go to study on the weekends and on vacations too!! There was nothing that could stop him since then of wanting to learn and study. This made me want to investigate more about Scientology too and soon I found out it compromised a whole new and prosperous viewpoint in life and my life changed the same as my son's.

I don't know how to thank L. Ron Hubbard for this technology of his that gave me a happy family."

Ayako Balfour

* * *

"I have been in Scientology for the last 14 years. I came into Scientology when I was 12 years of age.

"Before I started doing Scientology, I was an illiterate kid. I could not read well or write well. In using the study technology that I learned, I was able to catch up and do better in school.

"I am now 26 years old and I believe that if I had not learned Scientology, I would have left school not really knowing how to read and write.

"Due to my Scientology education I am leading a very happy and productive life."
Christina Sheehy

* * *

"First, let me say that Scientologists children are not involved in drugs, even though they are smack dab in the middle of a 'drug culture.'

"Study Technology is the only workable system of education today. (Wish I had been brought up with it, how much easier life would have been!)

"The public school system today is infiltrated with 'psychology hog wash' which is responsible for the ever declining education level. Hubbard's study tech is the only hope, right now, for our future."

Leigh Oriel

* * *

There are many wonderful teachers around in our schools however there are also systems of the schools the teachers have to abide to. Some of the rules that exist can send children to psychologists or psychiatrists who orders them on Ritalin, a very dangerous drug that can be fatal for a person, child or adult; the real cause for children being uneasy in schools are misunderstood words. And what I don't see done in our public schools is the children made to clear up their misunderstood words, helped to learn how to do it and then doing it."


EDITOR'S NOTE: Some of the letters reflect Scientology's longstanding war on psychiatry. Church founder L. Ron Hubbard, according to the April 19 issue of the Wall Street Journal, "harbored a profound and obsessive hatred for psychiatrists, who, he declared, were 'chosen as a vehicle to undermine and destroy the West.' "

The article notes that the church is leading the campaign against the anti-depression drug Prozac and Ritalin, a drug used to treat hyperactive children.

Ralph Bailey, who supervises psychological services for the Pinellas County School System, said school psychologists do not order children to take Ritalin. He said a child who exhibits attention problems may be evaluated by a school psychologist, who would work with the children's teachers. If the problem persists, officials may suggest a medical evaluation of the child by the family doctor or a specialist. The doctor could recommend the use of medicine such as Ritalin. But it would be used only with the approval of the child's parents or guardians, Bailey said. In Pinellas County's experience, Ritalin has proved effective, with minimal side effects, he said. 

Scientology's children: "They took our lives"
Date: Monday, 11 November 1991
Publisher: St. Petersburg Times (Florida)
Author: Curtis Krueger
Main source:  

Eleven-year-old Laura Hutchinson went to Girl Scout camp scared. Not scared of camp. Camp would be fine.

Laura was scared that when she returned, Mom and Dad might be divorced.

Tom and Carol Hutchinson, self-employed commercial artists in the Atlanta area, had been having marital problems. When Tom started getting counseling at Atlanta's Dianetics center, affiliated with the Church of Scientology, Carol objected.

The parents fought as Laura left.

But when Laura came back, her parents were together. By then, both were getting Scientology counseling. Before long, both considered themselves Scientologists. Soon Laura and her 8-yearold sister, Molly, did too.
But Tom and Carol did more than switch religions. They switched focus. Scientology, rather than Laura and Molly, consumed them.

Within two years, Tom and Carol spent $60,000 on the church, according to a lawsuit. They traveled to Clearwater for Scientology counseling and spent virtually all of their free time on the church. They signed billion-year contracts and prepared to move the family to Los Angeles.

Their experience is not unusual. When parents plunge into Scientology, critics say, children often are swept along and family life takes a back seat.

"I mean, they took our lives away," said Laura, now 17. And then, one brief remark changed everything.

* * *

The Hutchinsons' story begins in the summer of 1985. Tom confided to a client that he was having marital problems.

The client referred Tom to Atlanta's Dianetics center. During a weekend auditing session he spent 12 hours telling his problems to a Scientology counselor, or "auditor."

"You come out of it, of course, feeling like you've dumped your troubles," Tom said. "You get real high off the whole thing. And of course you want some more of that feeling."

After Laura went to camp, Carol went to the Dianetics center, too, despite reservations. Like Tom, she went back for more.

But Tom and Carol did not discuss their counseling sessions with each other. They had learned an important rule of Scientology: You can't discuss your "case" with anyone else even your spouse.

* * *

One thing troubled Tom. Could he be a Christian and a Scientologist too?
No problem, Scientologists said.

"They kept saying, 'Well, you can be a Christian and a Scientologist at the same time,' " Tom said.

"Eventually the lifestyle takes over and the Christianity kind of just goes by the wayside," Carol said.

* * *

Laura was put off by the first Scientologists she met. They seemed pushy and phony. Both girls were enrolled in a Scientology study course and found it boring. But within a couple of months, Tom and Carol were spending seven days a week at the Atlanta Dianetics center for auditing or Scientology courses. The staff encouraged them to bring Laura and Molly.

While their parents sat for hours in auditing sessions, the girls went to the basement and stuffed envelopes with Scientology literature.

Mom and Dad were happy.

"We thought, well, this is good, you know," Carol said. "They're staying busy doing something that's of benefit rather than just wasting their time playing or watching TV."

Molly was audited only once, but Laura was audited several times. Like her parents, she was hooked to an "E-meter" — a device similar to a lie-detector. She held two metal cans while the auditor asked her questions and evaluated her responses.

She, too, found that auditing made her feel good. "I just felt like I was floating."

Eventually, the girls went along. Molly told her friends she belonged to the Church of Scientology, which she thought was a new denomination of Christianity. At Christmas, Laura gave her friends books by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

Laura was awed by some of the other Scientologists, especially the ones called "OTs" — for "operating thetans." She knew OTs supposedly could remember past lives, and that fascinated her.

"I used to ask them if they had met God at any time, you know? And like, what was God like? I never got an answer."

* * *

The auditing sessions soon got expensive, but Tom and Carol wanted more.

Scientology staff members told the Hutchinsons they were lucky because they could afford to get enough auditing to attain the state of "clear," an important goal within Scientology. Scientologists believe that by going "clear," they can increase their IQs, improve their health and accomplish their goals.

Many people couldn't have afforded the $35,000 price tag to go clear.

But the Hutchinsons could. A Scientology official explained how: All they had to do was get a second mortgage. For later counseling and training, they also cashed in their individual retirement accounts, charged up to the limit on their Visa card and sold a collection of antique, sterling-silver mint-julep cups.

Tom and Carol eventually were told to go to Los Angeles to be evaluated and certified as clears.

Thrilled, Tom and Carol flew to California.

* * *

But Laura was not thrilled. This Los Angeles trip meant Mom and Dad would miss her 13th birthday.
Laura's birthday just didn't seem so important, Carol said.

"We felt that the most important thing was to do the (clearing process), and that Laura would have other birthdays and she would get over it and, you know, no big deal. That's the way we felt," she said.

As a Scientologist, Carol said she was taught that children sometimes manipulate their parents in order to get attention. So she said she learned not to give her children much sympathy.

"The normal, mothering, motherly feelings that you have, where you want to nurture and care for your children is taken away from you."

Laura remembers that "We'd be sick or we'd hurt ourselves or there was something we were upset about and Mom would just say, 'I have no sympathy.' "

"I was always sick because I needed her attention so bad."

* * *
The news in Los Angeles was shattering. Although Carol successfully became clear, the Scientologists told Tom he failed. He wasn't clear. And it was his responsibility to get clear — by buying more auditing, even though he and Carol already had spent $35,000.

"I thought my whole world had fallen apart," Tom said. "I sat there and wept. . . . I had done everything that I could do to get what they had promised me."

"And then coming up empty-handed . . . just seemed to me to be the ultimate rip-off."

* * *

Returning to Atlanta, Tom and Carol soured on the church and found themselves swamped in debt, working extra hours to keep their business afloat.

Out of the blue, a Scientologist called from Clearwater to offer free auditing.

Clearwater, known among Scientologists as "Flag Land Base," is considered the spiritual headquarters of Scientology.

"We had always been told that Flag (Clearwater) was the Mecca of Scientology, that at Flag you could get the world's best auditing," Carol said. "And so I thought, this is fantastic. Free auditing at Flag!"

* * *

It was in Clearwater, at the Fort Harrison Hotel in 1987, that Carol had her last auditing session.

In the auditing room, Carol said she sat in the chair and relaxed, settling into something like a hypnotic trance. She picked up the two metal cylinders connected to the E-meter. Closing her eyes, she started feeling uncomfortable. Carol could see something; she wasn't sure what.

"I could see a lot of fog, and it was like the fog didn't want to clear, because there was something in the fog, or behind the fog. And I felt my back was hurting . . . and I didn't understand why."

"And finally . . . I started to get an image of what was in the fog. And it was Christ on the cross."

The auditor peppered her with questions. "She kept pushing me for more and more information . . . and that's the way you do it with an auditing session. And the more I described it, the clearer the picture got. And finally I heard a voice speaking to me, and I knew that it was his voice, Christ's voice. But I didn't want to tell the auditor."

But the auditor pushed, and eventually she explained.

"I knew that what he was saying was, Don't be afraid, I'll always be with you.

"And I burst into tears, and I felt this immediate, incredible relief, and this understanding and knowledge that that was true."

She wasn't sure what it meant. But she was exhilarated.

* * *
Carol went back to Atlanta ecstatic.

"She comes home from Clearwater, and it's like her feet don't touch the floor," Tom said. He wondered what had happened, but, under the rules, she couldn't tell him.

Before long, Tom was off to Clearwater. While they chased that dream, their debts were catching up to them.

At about this time, a recruiter visited them from the "Sea Org," short for Sea Organization.

Sea Org members are full-time Scientologists who work 12-hour days, and wear naval-style uniforms. Tom and Carol were told they would earn $35 a week. It was a way out. They could sell the house, leave their debts behind and move to Los Angeles with the girls.

Tom and Carol joined and signed the Sea Org's standard billion- year contract.

Tom, Carol and the girls told their friends they were leaving.

"I was really scared," Laura said.

"I felt like I didn't have anywhere to go. There was no home for me, there was nothing."

* * *

As he prepared to leave, Tom ran an errand to a typesetter. He told a woman there that he was moving to Los Angeles. She asked why.

Ever heard of the Church of Scientology? he asked. "She says, 'I was an auditor in Los Angeles 15 years ago,' " Tom recalled. "And she says, 'Now I'm a Christian, and I don't believe in anything that they were doing, and it's a cult.' "

The words hit Tom like a lightning bolt. Thunderstruck, he went home and told Carol. Neither of them had read any material critical of Scientology or run across former Scientologists.

"Oh my God," Carol said.
"We sat there," Tom recalled, "and said, 'Could it possibly be that we are making a huge mistake?' "

They took the telephone off the hook. Tom and Carol told their daughters to turn away anyone who came to the door. The children stood guard while the parents holed up in the bedroom.

Tom and Carol each had doubts, but, in accordance with church rules, they had never discussed them.

Now they talked heart-to-heart. After two days of talking virtually nonstop, they realized that there was no way they could go back to Scientology.

* * *

Tom and Carol were exhausted from their marathon discussion. They needed an excuse to get out of the house.

Molly said her girlfriend had invited her to a church play.

The whole family went along. Carol said she walked into the Peachtree Christian Church and stared at a stained-glass window depicting the baptism of Jesus.

"I looked up at that and I just burst into tears, because I was just overcome, knowing that this was where we were led."

A memory came to her. Don't be afraid, I'll always be with you. After the play, a crowd of churchgoers surrounded the family and welcomed them. Tom met the minister.

"I remember distinctly tears welling up in his eyes," the Rev. James L. Collins said. Collins told him Scientology was a counterfeit religion that had caused turmoil in many lives.

* * *

Today, Tom and Carol still are working as commercial artists in the Atlanta area. They say they cannot think of a single benefit from their two years in Scientology.

The Hutchinsons have sued the Church of Scientology in Georgia, seeking unspecified damages for their unhappy experience in the church and seeking to prevent Scientology from using what the suit says is a policy of harassing former members who speak out. A countersuit says the Hutchinsons' action is frivolous.

The family still attends Peachtree Christian Church. At first, Laura said, she had reservations about getting involved in another religious organization. But now, Molly and Laura both said their Christian faith is strong.
For Laura, it's stronger than before.

"I know what it's like, you know, what life is like without it," she said.

"It's a very greedy cult," said Molly, now 15. "They don't leave you any room for anything else," said Tom. 

"It's total control. . . . And when they're through with you, there's nothing else in your life."
Carol said she still feels a sense of guilt.

"To admit that you have done something so traumatic to your children . . . is just real hard to deal with afterward."

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