Fighting against Scientology can be hazardous. Since initiating litigation against the "Church" ten years ago, I have learned new meanings for the word "harrassment," ranging from the macabre to the ridiculous. On one steamy Florida summer night several years ago, I returned to my apartment late at night to find the door wide open. No one seemed to be inside. Nothing in the apartment appeared to be disturbed. However, when I went into the bedroom, I saw that a dark red liquid had been splashed against the bedroom wall just beside the bed. It was blood, and it was still wet and still dripping.
On other occasions Scientologists have come to my apartment or accosted me at the mall where I worked. Sometimes they would call my boss and ask when and from which door I would be leaving. Occasionally, they would wait for me and come up to me as I walked to my car. On two occasions, my life was threatened. "If you don't drop your lawsuit against the Church," I was told, "you know what will happen to you." They didn't use the work "kill." They didn't have to. From my experience working for the Guardian's Office (now renamed the Office of Special Affairs), I knew what they meant. Twice my car has been vandalized. I have received threatening phone calls at all hours of the night and day. Ominously, mail has been sent to my siblings who have small children. And in the most recent campaign against me, someone has been leaving my phone number on the beepers of various men in my city, resulting in some curious late-night phone calls.
My old friend Antonio is still alive, and, to my knowledge, still in Scientology. Aileen, the lovely lady who was the founder of Celebrity Center in Los Angeles, died about fifteen years ago from a brain tumor, remaining until her death a dedicated and loyal Scientologist.
I believe Scientology to be one of the most, if not the most, vicious of the three thousand or so cults in the United States today. I believe that many Scientologists, if they should come to know that their mission on planet Earth is doomed to failure, would willingly commit suicide on command. There are rumors that one of the secret upper levels contains suicide training. If this is true, Jonestown would pale in comparison with the potential for disaster in Scientology.
Most Scientologists are good, loyal and well-meaning, though misguided, people. Most Scientologists are very likeable. But all Scientologists are fanatic about one thing, Scientology, and, as many parents have discovered, concerning that one subject they are impervious to reason: the result of years of hypnotic training.
Parents are helpless against Scientology. The one effective way of extracting a loved one from this cult, deprogramming, is illegal, because restraining someone against his or her will is considered kidnapping, a felony under United States law. The fact that the loved one, often a minor, has been psychologically kidnapped by the cult, and in the case of Scientology, hypnotized without knowledge or consent, is not taken into consideration by the courts. Hopefully, in time, that will change.
My life is different in many subtle ways because of my experience in Scientology. I have psychological scars similar, I believe, to someone who has been raped. I frequently have nightmares about the cult. I feel deceived and betrayed on many different levels: mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and financially. I will never again trust in the same way that I did before Scientology.
There are other scars as well. It is not possible for me to see displays of Hubbard's books in the bookstores, especially the Dianetics book, which has successfully lured thousands of unsuspecting people into Scientology, without feeling a sense of revulsion. I have the same reaction to the Scientology ads on television. I feel a certain anger, and the sense of powerlessness of a victim.
Last week, I was wandering through the flea market at the local university. Once a week the university sponsors an open-air flea market where vendors can sell their wares, and students can buy inexpensive clothes, plants, and books, etc. Last week I noticed a new display. A young man was selling Dianetics books to the students.
And as I watched, a young girl, perhaps seventeen or eighteen years old, was listening raptly to the Scientologist's spiel. There was a forlorn air about her, an air of one who is lost and who is seeking. Instantly I was thrust into a time warp, as I watched myself twenty some years earlier listening transfixed to the beguiling message of hope and promise. I, she, reached out for the book.
"Excuse me," I ran after her through the crowded market. She looked at me in surprise. "That book you have there," I pointed to the Dianetics book. "That book is about a dangerous cult, Scientology. I know because I was in it for twelve years."
She looked suspicious. "Look," I continued, pleading, desperate to save her, myself. "Here, I'll give you the five dollars you paid for the book. You don't need it. It's a cult. I don't want you to have to go through what I have been through."
She smiled, and handed me the book. "Fine," she said as she took my money. "And thanks." Then she disappeared into the crowd.
I walked over to the trash bin and buried the book deep inside the bin. Then I, too, turned and walked into the crowd.
"If only," I couldn't help thinking, "if only someone had been able to warn me."
But I had the great satisfaction of knowing that, because of my experience, there would be one less victim of Scientology. And that one is enough.