A confession: I am weirdly obsessed with Scientology. And not for any positive reason but because I continue to be amazed that what is clearly a vicious cult continues to hoard literally billions of dollars of cash, skirt tax regulations, and subject its participants to what would in any other circumstance be considered slave labor all in the name of ‘religion’. I have read volumes and watched hours on the organization and one thing remains ‘clear’: they are a tough group with which to tangle.
In the last month, I listened to Jenna Miscavige Hill’s audiobook Beyond Belief and read Michelle LeClair’s book Perfectly Clear. Although their experiences within the church were vastly different, their criticisms are perfectly aligned with one another as well as with other defectors from the church.
Jenna Miscavige Hill, although not born into Scientology, was a member from a very young age. Her parents joined and became members of the Sea Org early on. Touted as a privilege and honor to be a member of this internal ‘leadership’ group, the work is arduous and the pay is criminal. Members are expected to work 14 hour days and have family time for less than 10 hours a weekend. Parents spend virtually no time with their children. Once Jenna reached elementary school age, she was shipped off to The Ranch where she was required to do exhausting physical labor and her education consisted of primarily church related things.
It was both a blessing and a curse that Jenna is the niece of the church’s current leader, David Miscavige. In some ways, the relationship provided her protections. In others, such as when her own parents left, it subjected her to extra negative attention and repercussions.
Michelle LeClair, unlike Jenna, was a “public” Scientologist, meaning not within the Sea Org. Michelle is beautiful and was highly successful, turning her part-time job in a Scientology based insurance company into a full time major money-making operation. By her account, she made the church millions through her business and paid the church millions over the years to stay in good standing. Her break with the group arose after she fell in love with a woman, which she writes the church would not accept.
While Scientology claims it takes no position on homosexuality, countless defectors have written and spoken of specific church policies against same and have provided statements by L. Ron Hubbard that homosexuals are perverts and deviants.
LeClair has more of an axe to grind with “the church” than Miscaviage Hill. The former seems to have written her book in large part to clear her name as it relates to criminal and civil proceedings against her in California courts that she claims were a result of church instigation. Miscaviage Hill’s story is more one of personal growth and survival and a retelling of what she experienced and how it has shaped her life. While there is room to question some of LeClair’s motives and allegations, Miscaviage Hill’s recounting of what she experienced as a child at the hands of this group are both heartbreaking and difficult to doubt.
When they speak of Scientology rules, policies and terminologies, however, their stories line up perfectly. The both discuss “nattering” (gossiping), Sec Checks (withering interrogation for wrong doers), RTC (the Religious Technology Center who oversees church member behaviors), the cans and floating your needle (the “E meter” and reading it’s results), the policy of disconnection (a requirement to disassociate with any friend or family that leaves), the consistent use of punishment for being “out ethics” (i.e. Premarital sex), “potential trouble sources” (anything or one who does not line up with Scientology policy or belief), “SPs” (suppressive persons – those that do or may thwart the “mission” of Scientology).
All defectors agree on these things and despite Scientology brass’ attempt to discredit and disparage every defector (see also, Leah Remini, Jason Begge, Mike Rinder, Paul Haggis), once the same story is told a hundred times, it is virtually impossible not to believe it.
My personal hope is that with the widespread availability of information about this cult, eventually, by pressure from the outside and the ability of insiders to actually research the truth about their ‘religion’, this group will ultimately just fade away. Books like Miscavige Hill’s and LeClair’s are now part of the ever-growing canon of literature confirming how destructive this group is.
Perfectly Clear: Escaping Scientology and Fighting for the Woman I Love, by Michelle LeClair
Elizabeth’s rating: 3 stars
Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape, by Michelle Miscavige Hill
Elizabeth’s rating: 4 stars