Sunday, 10 November 2013

On this day...Scientology's children

 Scientology's children: What are church's beliefs?

Scientology's children: Saving the world
Date: Sunday, 10 November 1991
Publisher: St. Petersburg Times (Florida)
Author: Curtis Krueger
Main source: link (389 KiB)
Alternate and/or complementary:

Scientologists believe they are saving the world from insanity, war and crime.

"Saving the world is an understatement," said former member Kenneth Wasserman. "Saving the universe" is more like it, he said. This intense sense of purpose explains why some Scientologists are willing to work 12-hour days for $30 a week. Others pay up to $800 for an hour of counseling, and one couple brought a $35,000 counseling package.

Critics say this sense of mission has another consequence: Next to saving the world, caring for children may not seem so important. "Scientology comes first and everything else is off-purpose," said former Scientologist Vicki Aznaran, who is suing the organisation. "Parents who want to spend their time with their children are looked down on. It's not socially acceptable."

In fact, former members say Scientologists view children as "adults in small bodies," who don't need much attention.

Scientology spokesman Richard Haworth denies that the "adults in small bodies" concept exists.

He said the children who live in Scientology-owned staff apartments have a healthy environment. "It is a joy for me to see (staff) families together", Haworth said. Scientologists who aren't on the staff receive counseling and training that enhances their family relationships," he added.

Given the church's penchant for secrecy, and the strong opinions on both sides, the truth is hard to pin down.
According to the critics, here is the truth: Devotion to Scientology sometimes means...


Little time for children...

Eva Kleinberg moved from Germany to Clearwater with her 9-year-old son, Mark, in 1986. She had joined a group of Scientology staff members called the "Sea Org."

Eva was told she would have two hours a day for family time. But with travel time from work, she said she actually had only one hour with her son. Because of the 12-hour workdays, she couldn't always stay awake for the full hour.

"I would compromise with my son," she said. After eating, she and her son would divide the remaining half-hour of their family time. "I would play a game with him for 15 minutes, and I would get to lay down for 15 minutes and sleep."

While Eva worked, Mark cleaned up around the motel or played with friends.

About a year later, Eva and Mark left the church.

Asked what he thinks of Scientology, Mark, now 14, said, "I don't think it's too good 'cause the people . . . they don't get to spend any time with their family and it's real expensive."

Church spokesman Richard Haworth said staff Scientologists actually spend three or four hours a day with their children, which he said is more than the average family.

* Adeline Dodd-Bova also left Scientology. She said she got disillusioned after working at Los Angeles schools that catered to Scientology children:

"I started seeing just really blatant neglect . . . terrible cases of children that were not getting any food, they were being sent to school with no food for the entire day."

She was surprised at how strictly people followed the notion that children are adults in small bodies, capable of caring for themselves.

"What they ultimately sometimes end up creating are these children that turn out to be absolute, arrogant spoiled brats because no one can tell them what to do with their body under any circumstances because that's what they have been led to believe — they're totally responsible. So by the time they're 9 or 10, they don't want anyone to tell them what to do."


Parents leave children...

Ken Rose was in the midst of a Scientology counseling session in the mid-1980s when he realized: "I could never be fully free unless I abandoned my kids, divorced my wife and joined the Sea Org (a group of staff Scientologists)."

Rose said he did divorce his wife and sign the standard billion- year contract to join the Sea Org.
Rose eventually moved from Los Angeles to a Scientology complex at Gilman Hot Springs, Calif., and was allowed to drive back to Los Angeles once a week to visit his two sons. Then he was told regular family leaves would be canceled, he said. So he quit the church.

"In the end, it was the children who brought me to my senses," he said. "Had it not been for the vulnerability of these two kids, I don't know if I would have been brave enough to get myself out."

* When Bobby Horne was about 7, he went to visit his father and noticed something strange.

His father wasn't there.

Bobby's parents had divorced years before, and he lived with his mother near Atlanta. He normally visited his father every other weekend. But more and more often, Bobby went to his father for a visit and found himself with a babysitter.

Bobby's father had started spending his time at a Scientology center. He became interested after attending a seminar for dentists, sponsored by a consultant with ties to Scientology. Eventually, he sold his practice and joined the Sea Org in Clearwater. As a result, he would see Bobby once or twice a year, instead of every two weeks.

"When his father left, he looked at me one day in tears and he said, `Mom, how could a dad leave a son like me?' " said his mother, Suzi Horne McPherson.

"And I couldn't answer because here is a straight-A, gifted child who had never been in done anything but love his father. And when he said that, I broke into tears and I said, 'Son, they have stolen your father's mind.' "

Bobby still loves his father and has visited him in Clearwater and California, Mrs. McPherson said.

Told of her account, Haworth said, "You have been provided with a half-truth in an attempt to falsely portray a situation in a negative light."


...and children leave parents

[Picture / Caption: Nan Herst Bowers posed with her family before her son Todd, far left, "disconnected" from her. The others are Ryan, next to his mother; Brad; and her husband, Jim, right. A photo of L. Ron Hubbard is over Todd's left shoulder. At left is a copy of Todd's letter.]

Former Scientologist Nan Herst Bowers got this letter from her 21- year-old son, Todd, in April:

Dear Mom:
I am sending you this letter to let you know that I have to disconnect from you. I feel that disconnecting from you is the right thing to do. . . .
. . . I can 't see you, the babies or Jim until this is all over and handled.

In another letter, she said her 16-year-old son, Ryan, wrote:
. . . don 't call me, I don 't want to talk to you until you . . . (settle your problems with the church). 
What had Mrs. Bowers' done?

The Church of Scientology thought she had told a gossip tabloid that actor Tom Cruise was studying Scientology, she said. The church also thought she had spoken to the Los Angeles Times.

So Mrs. Rowers was slapped with a harsh punishment.

She was declared a "suppressive person" — in other words, an enemy of Scientology. She would be shunned by other Scientologists. Scientologists think they won't advance spiritually if they continue to associate with "suppressive persons."

To protect their pathway to spiritual achievement and to obey the organization, Scientologists may "disconnect" from suppressive persons — even if that person happens to be their own mother, Mrs. Bowers said.

Ryan, now 17, acknowledged in a Clearwater court hearing in September that he told his mother he wanted nothing to do with her.

Asked about Mrs. Bowers' case, Scientology spokesman Richard Haworth said she used her children to collect information about celebrities and sold it to sensational tabloid newspapers "to line her own pockets with money at their expense." She denies the accusation.

In a letter to the St. Petersburg Times signed by Ryan and his father, Ben Kugler, both of Clearwater, Ryan said he tried to improve his relationship with his mother, who lives in California.

Mrs. Bowers complicated the effort by trying to use "violent criminal deprogrammers" to get him out of Scientology, he wrote.

Asked about the letter, Mrs. Bowers acknowledged that she did hire two people to try to talk to Ryan about the dangers of Scientology. But the meeting never happened. Mrs. Bowers said the men had agreed that Ryan's presence at the meeting was to be purely voluntary — Ryan would be allowed to leave the session at any time.

And Mrs. Bowers denied that the incident was what hurt her relationship with her son. The would-be meeting was two months after Ryan disconnected.

She said she still has not been able to establish normal relations with her sons.

* Kenneth Wasserman, a Los Angeles lawyer, often received Scientology counseling in Clearwater. He said he had a close relationship with his daughters, who were raised in the church. But then, in 1989, he told them he was no longer a Scientologist.

Afterward, daughters Jaime and Kelly, then 15 and 13, lived with his ex-wife, visited him only rarely and avoided serious conversation, he said. Wasserman thinks his daughters were told to "disconnect" from him.

He said he hasn't heard from them since February. Father's Day and a birthday passed without even a telephone call. Now, his favorite photo of Jaime and Kelly brings him only pain.

I'm tired of looking at it because it makes me cry, said Wasserman, who recently settled a lawsuit with the Scientologists about fees he paid to the church.

Haworth called Wasserman's claims "outrageous."

[Picture / Caption: Ken Wasserman says this photo of him with daughters Kelly, left, and Jaime, right, makes him cry because they no longer talk to him. Wasserman is holding Lindsey, his daughter from his current marriage.]


Children work long hours...

Someone at the Church of Scientology called Clearwater police this March to complain about a trespasser. An officer found Carlo D'Aubrey, 15.

Carlo, crying, told the officer he didn't go to school. He had just quit his job as a maintenance worker for Scientology — a job in which he worked from 8:30 in the morning to 10 at night for $30 a week.

He was having trouble getting his last three paychecks.

Carlo's mother, Beverly D'Aubrey, lived in Clearwater, but not with him. He indicated she worked for the church. His father lived in England and had been accused of a "high crime" within Scientology. Therefore, Mrs. D'Aubrey had to divorce him.

Carlo said his father would have to get permission from Scientology's "international justice chief" before the two could see each other again.

After a call from police, Carlo's mother, who was ill, arranged for a Scientology official to pick up Carlo at the police station.

Asked if the boy's work schedule would violate child labor laws, Scientology spokesman Richard Haworth said, "I would think so, if he actually worked such hours."

Francisco Rivera, a senior attorney with the Florida Department of Labor and Employment Security, agrees. State law generally prevents 15-year-olds from working more than four hours a day when school is in session.

Haworth said Carlo has returned to England and that his story is "as far from a true picture of Scientology children in Clearwater as you can get."

* A Clearwater police officer was surprised to see a 10-year-old boy walking downtown — at nearly midnight.

The boy, Mark Martin, said he had gotten off work about 10:30 p.m.

Mark said he worked six days a week for the Church of Scientology.

He was supposed to earn $12 a week but hadn't gotten paid since starting four weeks earlier.

His mother lived in California and was supposed to be moving to Clearwater soon, he said. In the meantime, Mark lived with two brothers, 13 and 16, in a Scientology-owned motel.

An investigation by state officials into the 1983 incident ended after two months, when Mark apparently returned to California.


...and live in crowded quarters

Church staff members, who administer counseling sessions that can cost as much as $800 an hour, live simply. So do their children.

* Eva Kleinberg said she lived in a one-bedroom motel unit with her 9-year-old son and another mother and child. She said she knew of a family of seven that lived in a single room. Home was the former Quality Inn, 16432 U.S. 19 N near Largo.

"When I came here (in 1986) it was such a disaster, she said."

Michael Pilkenton said he used to live in a two-bedroom apartment with seven roommates, including a boy of about 10 whose parents were in California.

Pilkenton, 27, is a former staff Scientologist. He lived in Hacienda Gardens, a Scientology-owned apartment complex, in 1989.

Asked about cases of overcrowding, Scientology spokesman Richard Haworth said the organization has complied with fire codes that regulate how many people can live in buildings.

Scientology's children: Introduction
Date: Sunday, 10 November 1991
Publisher: St. Petersburg Times (Florida)
Main source: link (538 KiB)  

Roy seemed adrift. He was 14 and headed for trouble. But when he entered a Scientology school, the transformation was swift. Within two years, he was working alongside the Church of Scientology's most senior executives.

The church reels off dozens of success stories like Roy's. But it doesn't mention a Clearwater boy named Carlo.

Carlo, 15, didn't go to school. He worked from 8:30 in the morning until 10 at night for $30 a week. He told police that he couldn't contact his own father because his father had run afoul of the church. His mother lived in Clearwater, but not with Carlo.

These are glimpses of Scientology's children. The stories in this two-day series will give you more glimpses. 

What they will not give you is the definitive story of Scientology's children because for the most part they exist behind a shroud.

More than 200 children of Scientologists live in the Tampa Bay area. Clearwater is the church's international spiritual headquarters. It is home to 600 staff members who work with thousands of visiting Scientologists each year.

Scientology is a most visible presence: The staff's uniforms give downtown Clearwater the look of a naval base. But the daily lives of Scientologists — and their children — are kept far from view.

Richard Haworth, the church spokesman, says, "Scientology families are among the happiest there are." And 180 Scientologists wrote letters to the Times saying the church helped them or their children.

But the Times' requests to interview children or parents on Scientology's staff were declined for months. The Times turned to former Scientologists and other sources. They remember a lifestyle quite different from what Haworth describes. They say that for some children, home is a crowded apartment.

Haworth blamed a handful of disgruntled ex-members for those accounts, and accused the Times of malice toward the church.

But whatever their motives, the critics' stories are consistent. And troubling.


About these stories

Beginning July 29, Times reporter Curtis Krueger asked Scientology spokesman Richard Haworth eight times for permission to interview Scientologist parents and children. No such interviews were arranged. On Friday, after learning these articles were to run this weekend, Haworth called the newspaper and offered to schedule interviews at a later date, but not with Krueger, whom he called biased. The Times said it would be willing to do the interviews today, but declined to switch reporters. Haworth rejected that offer.


The reporter

Curtis Krueger covers social issues, Pinellas County politics and the Church of Scientology. He came to the St. Petersburg Times in 1987 alter working at the Fort Wayne, Ind., JournaI-Gazette. Krueger, 33, is from Bloomington, Ind., and has a bachelors degree in journalism from Indiana University.

Scientology's children: Church responds to Erlichs' claims
Date: Sunday, 10 November 1991
Publisher: St. Petersburg Times (Florida)
Author: Curtis Krueger
Main source: link (115 KiB)  

The Church of Scientology says that Dennis Erlich cannot be considered a reliable source of information about the church.

Erlich, wrote church of Scientology spokesman Richard Haworth, is nothing more than a disgruntled former member who blames the church "for his troubled life."

"Ten years ago he was asked to leave the church following complaints from his wife that he was physically abusing her. . . . Erlich was also violent and abusive to other staff."

Haworth labeled Erlich a "hate vendor" and a member of the Cult Awareness Network, which he said harbors "deprogrammers" and encourages "individuals to pay thousands of dollars to kidnap family members . . . and mentally and physically harass them until they . . . denounce their religious beliefs."

Erlich admitted he once slapped his wife and went to a Scientology counseling session to discuss it but denied other allegations of violence. He denied he is a deprogrammer or a member of the Cult Awareness Network. He said he does support the group and warns people about what he considers to be the dangers of Scientology.

A spokeswoman for the Cult Awareness Network says the organization provides information and emotional support to cult victims and their families but does not advocate involuntary deprogramming.

On some specific points raised in the Erlich story, Haworth said:

* On Beth's long work hours — "Children of this age are not allowed by the church to work late."

* On forcing Beth to change rooms often at the former Quality Inn where she lived — "This is certainly not the case in present time nor have I found it to be true."

* On how an 11-year-old could understand the concept of a billion-year contract — Many children "spontaneously originate a desire" to sign the contract. Children work only if their parents agree.

* On the quality of food served to the Sea Org staff and family members — "There were periods in the past when conditions were not optimum regarding crew welfare. However, church executives conducted an investigation and the reasons why were located. An upgrade of both the quantity and quality of the food is the result."

* On the church as a factor in the separation of the Erlich family — "It is not church policy to separate children from families."

* On the general criticism that some Scientologists spend little time with their children — Church staff families spend three or four hours a day with their children and "this is time actually spent with the children not just time when they could be together."

[Picture / Caption: Kristi, left, and Beth Erlich didn't get together often after Beth moved to Clearwater in 1978.]

Scientology's children: 'I still have nightmares'
Date: Sunday, 10 November 1991
Publisher: St. Petersburg Times (Florida)
Author: Curtis Krueger
Main source: link (538 KiB)  

[Picture / Caption: Kristi, left, and Beth Erlich grew up in the Church of Scientology, but eventually left. In the top photo, taken by their mother when Kristi and Beth were children, the two girls perform TR-Zero, Scientology drill that calls for two people to stare at each other "without any compulsions todo anything." The routine is designed to improve communication skills.]

When Beth Erlich was 11, she signed her first contract.

A billion-year contract.

Beth didn't understand it too well. But her father had explained: If she signed the contract, she would help save the world.

"I thought that, of course I want to save the world."

The young girl had just pledged her life to Scientology.

The contract is a standard document whose unusual duration is not questioned in a church that believes in reincarnation.

For the next several years, she grew up in Clearwater as a loyal Scientologist. In her early teens, she said, she worked until 10:30 almost every night, including school nights. She said she didn't complain when dinner was rice and beans, or when cockroaches scampered across her room.

Now, eight years have passed since Beth last saw Clearwater. She has left the church.

But the nightmares haven't stopped.

Even now, she sees Clearwater's Fort Harrison Hotel in a recurring dream. Her former guardians appear. A sensation of pressure stifles her.

"I can't get out," Beth said recently. "I can't leave the Fort Harrison building. It's still making an impression."

"I'm still not over it," she said. "I'm still not. I still have nightmares."

Beth and her sister, Kristi, grew up in the Church of Scientology. It was a shattering experience that, in ways big and small, forced them apart from their parents and each other. Critics of Scientology say their story is not unusual In a church that demands total devotion, they say, family life and children often come in second. So the story of Beth and Kristi is the story of many of Scientology's children.
The church labels its critics disgruntled former members and "hate vendors" Actually, said church spokesman Richard Haworth, "Scientology helps parents and children to improve their relationships with each other."

The two sisters shared a bedroom at their home in Los Angeles and rode their bikes to school together.

They called each other "Gold" and "Silver" because they were alike, but slightly different.

Beth was brunet, Kristi blond. Beth was 9, Kristi 8. Even their Christmas gifts were alike, but slightly different. They usually got the same gift in different colors.

"People, when they talked about Beth, they talked about me, too, and vice versa," Kristi remembers. "We were kind of one person in a way: Beth-and-Kris."

But not for long.

* * *

Beth and Kristi's parents, both Scientologists, had divorced in the early 1970s. The girls lived in California with their mother, who snapped a photo of Beth and Kristi staring at each in a church training routine.

Their father, Dennis Erlich, had left to join the staff at the church's spiritual headquarters in Clearwater Florida. He was the "chief cramming officer," a position he now describes as "the quality control engineer at the brainwashing plant."

At the time, the job seemed crucial. But Erlich missed his daughters. On visits to Los Angeles, he urged the girls to move to Clearwater with him. Eventually, Beth agreed.

Beth moved to Clearwater in 1978, and missed Kristi immediately. The two girls, 9 and 10, became instant pen pals.

Beth learned quickly that her life had changed dramatically.

She lived with her father and his new wife in a room "the size of a closet" at the Fort Harrison Hotel, the biggest Scientology-owned building in Clearwater.

That didn't last. Soon she moved in with about 20 women church workers in a different room in the hotel. 

The room was bigger, but stuffed with bunks and dressers.

Next she moved across town, to the "QI" — a former Quality Inn the Scientologists had bought on U.S. 19, near East Bay Drive. Dennis Erlich said it was not unusual for parents and children to live in different rooms at the QI. That's just the way it was, he said.

Sometimes Beth would return to discover she had been moved out of her room with no warning. "We're talking, at like, 10:30 at night I would come home and my stuff would be someplace else." She guesses she eventually was moved as many as 20 times. Children, she said, were moved routinely to make room for adult Scientologists.

During the day, Beth attended a Scientology-affiliated school. She described it as a go-at-your-own pace, choose-your-own-courses system.

One year, in eighth grade, she went to Oak Grove Middle School, a public school in Clearwater.
"We were such poor students," she said. "That's all I can remember, was how backward, how awful I felt."

Beth did love one thing about public school: the food.

"At the time, I was used to eating main dishes which were rice with something or beans with something."
Compared to the food served up at the QI for the Scientology staff, lunches and breakfasts at school were wonderful, she said.

"Oh wow, it was heaven," she said. "It was incredible. A square meal."

Why would someone allow their child to live as Beth did? Scientologists, particularly staff Scientologists, firmly believe they are saving the world, former members say. Next to that grand purpose everything else is secondary.

"Scientology comes first, and everything else is off-purpose," said Vicki Aznaran, a former high ranking Scientology official who is suing the church. "Parents who want to spend time with their children are looked down on. It's not socially acceptable."

Haworth responded: "True, parents (on the church staff) do work longer hours because of their commitment to the goals of the church, but they also have fashioned a system that provides for families to live in a healthy environment despite the demands on time."

Dennis Erlich was happy to have Beth by his side. And proud.

He considered himself a superior parent. He had brought Beth to Clearwater, where she could accomplish something truly important. Here, she was helping church staff members who gave people Scientology counseling and training.

The thought of preparing her for college and a career never crossed his mind.

"I didn't want my daughter to be part of just normal society," he said. "I wanted her to grow up to be, you know, like me. An auditor or a cramming officer, or something worthwhile."

Beth accepted the role. She took Scientology courses and after turning 11, signed the billion-year contract to join the "Sea Org." The Sea Organization is a group of highly committed staff members who do the church's business and spiritual work.

Members generally work 12-hour days, six or seven days a week and currently are paid about $30 per week. The church gives them room and board.

Beth still went to school during the day. But at night, she worked as a file clerk and at other jobs, often alongside her father at the Fort Harrison. At her request, she sometimes studied Scientology during work hours.

The Scientology school never assigned homework, she said. "It was just understood that when we left school, we left it and went to work." She described a typical schedule:

Sunday: From 8 in the morning until 10:30 at night.
Monday through Friday: From after school until 10:30 p.m.
Saturday: Noon to 10:30 p.m. one week, off the next.

That works out to about 50 hours of work a week, during school. In the summer, Beth said she worked "full time." Other children worked similar hours, she said.

"I never got a chance to just sit around."

On her fortnightly days off, she liked to spend time with her dad. They would sleep late, eat at a favorite deli, go to the beach and see a movie.

Beth also got Scientology "auditing," in which she was hooked up to a device called an "E-meter," similar to a lie detector, and asked about things that troubled her.

The future looked clear.
"I grew up thinking that I was going to become something in the church," Beth said. "I wasn't going to college, I wasn't going to learn a trade."

Despite his pride, Dennis Erlich was a little worried. He knew the Church of Scientology's environment was a harsh one — people always screamed at each other, and important people got demoted and shamed at a moment's notice.

So he decided to toughen her up. Once, when she did something that irked him, he simply stopped talking to her for several weeks. He didn't say a word — not even on her birthday.

The ideal Scientology parent does not pamper a child. In fact, several former members said Scientologists believe children are "adults in small bodies" who shouldn't be ordered around.

"In order to be a good Scientologist, " says former member Adeline Dodd-Bova, 'you're allowing your child to be responsible for themselves. I don't have to tell my 5-year-old son if he's hungry or not, he knows. I don't have to make him dinner, he can go get food."

Scientology literature on children, like much of Hubbard's other writings, is subject to several interpretations.

The following passage, for instance, from Hubbard's "How to Live With Children, 2' could have come from Dr. Spock. "A good, stable adult with love and tolerance in his heart is about the best therapy a child can have."

Other passages sound more like what Dodd-Bova was talking about. "Any law which applies to the behavior of men and women applies to children." Or, "When you give a child something, it's his. . . . So he tears up a shirt, wrecks his bed, breaks his fire engine. It's none of your business."

As Beth worked in the cloistered world of Scientology, Kristi's letters from California provided a link to the outside. They told Beth which bands were hot, what slang was in vogue.

But Kristi's letters weren't enough. Beth suffered bouts of depression because she missed her sister and mother.

This created a conflict.

"I felt like I needed to be in the church because that was the right thing to do," she said. "But then the little girl inside of me was saying, 'I need to be with my mom.' "

She wished her mother would have told her to stay home in Los Angeles. That would have made it easier to leave.

But her mother never said a thing.

It wouldn't have been proper, family members said.

"That just wasn't part of Scientology," Kristi said.

"Part of my mom was saying 'Beth is a being unto herself and she must make her decisions and do her thing.' And the other half of her was saying 'wait a second, you're her mom, you love her, you want her to be with you. And in a way, I think that's all it would have taken to get Beth to stay . . . but that Scientology in my mom wouldn't allow her to express her feelings about that."

Beth didn't learn until years later how her mother really felt.

"She was crying really the entire time that (Beth) was gone," Kristi said.
Kristi said her mother did not want to comment for this article.

* * *

Beth was allowed to visit her family in Los Angeles a couple of times a year.

Every time Beth returned, "it was like lovers reuniting," Kristi recalls. "I mean we practically, all of us kind of clung to each other the entire time she was there."

Then depression would sink in.

"After the first couple days, I would just be totally just scared about the fact that I had to leave," Beth said.

"I can remember them telling me, you know, 'You're here right now. You're not leaving. There's no reason to feel like you're losing us, because you're here, right here.' "

"And it didn't mean anything. I was a basket case."

* * *

Then one summer, things looked up.

When Beth was 13 and Kristi was 12, plans were made for Kristi to visit Clearwater.

Beth was ecstatic.

So was Kristi — until she saw the room she was going to share with Beth at the former Quality Inn.

"Oh my god, I couldn't even believe that Beth lived in a place like that," Kristi said. "There were bugs everywhere. ... We were always scared of having bugs run across our feet and face and stuff while we were sleeping."

One night, while Beth was working, Kristi and some other young people went to Clearwater Beach. An officer stopped them, said they were out too late and called Scientology officials.

The decision was swift. Kristi's summer vacation was cut short. She immediately would be sent back to California.

Beth found her sister crying in the Fort Harrison Hotel. Once again, Beth was torn. She anguished over Kristi. But if she went to the airport to see her sister off, it would look as if she condoned Kristi's mistake. 

So she didn't go. "For me to go and show her any sympathy was a no-no."

Kristi was flown home without even a kiss from her father.

"I cried the whole way home," Kristi said. "Basically, I just felt like dirt. I felt like I had committed the biggest sin in my whole life, and there was no way that I could possibly make amends. It was real, real hard."

* * *

As Beth neared 15, she got tougher. She had suffered so many heart-wrenching emotions that she grew numb to them.

So she was surprisingly calm upon hearing some unexpected news:

Her father was in trouble. He had been declared a "suppressive person" — an enemy of Scientology — after pushing for improvements in staff conditions and for refusing to be demoted.

"I was confused," she said. "The organization that my dad had wanted me to be a part of was now telling him to leave."

But even though he was leaving, Dennis Erlich still believed Scientology doctrine. Like his ex-wife, he would not urge his 14-year-old daughter to leave Clearwater.

He told Beth she should make her own decision.

She stayed.

"She had more allegiance to the cult than she did to me," Dennis Erlich said. "And I can only say that that's my own doing. Because I was less a father than I was a cult leader to her."

Beth said the church designated a man and woman as her guardians, and she remained in Clearwater, thousands of miles from her mother, father and sister.

Ray Emmons is a former Clearwater police lieutenant who specialized in Scientology affairs and sometimes interviewed people who wanted to leave the church. He said he was surprised at the number of Scientologists who wanted to leave family members behind. "Husbands and wives have been split from each other, and kids have been split from parents," he said.

"Most cases it was the parents that got disenchanted with Scientology, and the child was not. So the parents would leave, and the child would not."

Within a year, Beth had decided she wanted to leave. She was confused. She told her superiors, and herself, that she wanted to move back to California.

She requested a leave, which her Scientology superiors approved in 1983. Her flight to her father's home in Colorado was arranged.

But on the day of the flight, she was called to the Fort Harrison to talk to the "ethics officer," who deals with people who break Scientology rules. Her guardian was there. He accused her of wanting to leave without coming back. "It was so awful," she said.

Three hours before the flight, they were still debating the point. "I started feeling like, well, they're trying to pressure me to not go."

Finally, she told her guardian, "Look, I'm leaving. I'm going now. Goodbye."

* * *

She caught a Scientology bus from the Fort Harrison to the QI and picked up her things. There, a Scientology shuttle bus was going to take her to Tampa International Airport.

She stood outside the QI, waiting. Rain started to fall. An hour before her flight, no bus had shown up.

"I was frantic. I didn't know what to do."

Some other Scientologists came by and mentioned they were going to the airport. She asked for a ride. In the car, one of them turned around and asked: "You do have clearance to leave, don't you?"
She said yes. It was true, but the ethics officer had made her feel as if it was not.

"I felt as if I were escaping. I was escaping the pressure. . . . I was escaping these people who were trying to guilt me into staying. And I didn't have anybody. There was no one there who was trying to help me."

From Tampa, she flew to Colorado. She later returned to her mother and sister in Los Angeles.

* * *

Before long, all the Erlichs had left Scientology.

For Kristi and her mom, the break centered on a dispute between her school, which catered to Scientologists, and the church, Kristi said.

Kristi entered a public school in Glendale.

"It was such a shock to me . . . my grades started going down, I became uninterested in school. I actually left high school in the 11th grade because I was really having a hard time adjusting."

After leaving, "I didn't have those stable things anymore."

One of those was the church's insistence on a drug-free environment.

"I really kind of ended up on the streets for a while," Kristi said. She "did a lot of drugs when I first left. . . . It was the only way that I kind of felt okay about myself."

She said she realized she was in a rut, got some counseling and got herself together. Now 23, Kristi is a college student.

Dennis Erlich, 44, regrets bringing his family into Scientology. He now manages a small business in Los Angeles. On the side, he publishes a newsletter for former Scientologists called The Informer. He recently wrote:

"I don't know if anyone can comprehend the remorse I feel for subjecting my children to this alienating, warped, repressive environment. I pray our story serves as a warning: SCIENTOLOGY IS DANGEROUS TO THE HEALTH AND SANITY OF YOUR CHILDREN!!"

"He's very remorseful," Beth said. "He's always saying how sorry he is."

Now 24, Beth is married and lives in California. She said she recently graduated from college with honors in graphic design.

When she left Clearwater in 1983, she realized quickly she was never going back to Scientology. But some of the doctrines are hard to shake. Scientologists abhor psychiatry, for example, and it took Beth until this summer to seek therapy, to deal with the pain of her unusual childhood.

She said it has been hard to build a meaningful relationship with her father, but she is trying.

"It's not like life is normal. I really don't think it ever will be. That was a really powerful time."

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