The New York Times has a striking account today of Scientologists who allegedly faced threats and coercion in seeking to leave the church. Christie King Collbran and her husband, Chris, gave a detailed account of they were effectively raised to serve the ultra-secret Sea Organization, or Sea Org in the Church. After signing a “billion year contract,” they say that they were faced with fines and forced confessions in seeking to break free from the Church.
Defectors tell the Times that 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.” This is not the first time that Miscavige has been accused of physical violence against members, here.
The defectors also give accounts that say that celebrities like Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Greta Van Susteren, and Nancy Cartwright (the voice of the cartoon scoundrel Bart Simpson) are given special attention and treatment while other members are subject to coercion and threats.
What is most interesting is the degree that the defectors report that members are insulated from the accounts of defectors, but that more is getting through — as in the recent defection of director and screenwriter Paul Haggis, who won Oscars for “Million Dollar Baby” and “Crash.” It is also clear why Sceintology has spent so much time attacking Internet sites of defectors. The Internet was the only source of information for these defectors who found anti-Scientology sites and reached out to former members.
The article recounts that Scientology spokespeople seemed to struggle to give figures for membership, which defectors say is falling. The Church claims millions of followers around the world, but American Religious Identification Survey found that the the number of Scientologists in the United States fell from 55,000 in 2001 to 25,000 in 2008.
The story also gives the account of Marc Headley, who is suing the Church for back wages. He says that he worked for virtual slave wages of 39 cents an hour.
For the full story, click here.