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Melissa Harris-Perry has been under right wing attack for making the really unremarkable statement that we all are responsible for children and that

"we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to their communities."

Over the past few weeks I have read a half dozen books on Scientology and spent hours surfing the net and reading blogs such as Tony Ortega's Scientology Blog, The Underground Bunker. The most affecting blog was the one run by Jenna Micavige Hill, Astra Woodcraft and Kendra Wiseman called Ex-Scientology Kids.

We feel that growing up in the Scientology environment is a unique experience that’s almost impossible to comprehend unless you’ve lived it yourself. For what it’s worth, we offer non-judgmental support for those who are still in Scientology, discussion and debate for those who’ve already left, and a plethora of easy-to-understand references for the curious.
Reading the stories on that blog, and the memoir written by one of the founders only emphasizes the claims that Melissa Harris-Perry makes. Children are not property. Not of their parents. Not of their family. And definitely not of their parent's church.

Upon the death of L. Ron Hubbard, the running of the cult church was taken over by David Miscavige, who had been Chairman of the Board of the Religious Technology Center responsible for licensing the church's intellectual property. His niece, Jenna Miscavige Hill, was raised occasionally looked after by her Scientology parents who, like David Miscavige were members of the Sea Org, the volunteers/ministers/employees who run Scientology.

Due to her parents busy schedules, she was sent, at six years old, to the Ranch located near the International Management Headquarters, known as Int Base, in Hemet. She was put to work cleaning up and rehabbing the quarters so that they would be fit to live in. At seven she signed a Billion Year Contract of servitude to the church. She had very limited contact with her parents and was finally forced to disconnect from them.

Her story, Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape, is told with a refreshing candor and clear prose by her co-author Lisa Pulitzer, a former journalist who now specializes in stories of women breaking free from religious cults. (Her latest work, Banished, was co-authored with Lauren Drain, the former Westboro Baptist Church member.) In the book Jenna Hill outlines her daily life growing up in a church that valued conformity and control more than integrity and creativity. Her school lessons were those developed by L. Ron Hubbard and that are now being peddled to schools across the country, even though they left her, and others like her, lacking in basic knowledge. (An illuminating discussion of Scientology's Study Tech, co-authored by Dr. David S. Touretzky of the Carnegie Mellon University and Chris Owen, MBE, of Rotherhithe, London, can be found here).  

The most important question the book raises in the mind of a reader is what kind of church puts its children to hard labor, separates them from their parents, provides minimal schooling and subjects them to frequent security checks (first question: What has someone told you not to tell?)? Fox News may have gone crazy recently over Melissa Harris Perry's suggestion that society does have a responsibility to its children, but we do have that shared duty to protect children. It is one of the reasons that societies form.

Blown For Good: Behind the Iron Curtain of Scientology was written by Marc Headley. Raised a Scientologist, he was recruited as a teenager to become a member of the SeaOrg. Marty Rathburn, a former high ranking Scientologist, explains why teens like Mark were recruited in the forward that he wrote for Headley's book.
"After all, over the past thirty years Scientology’s numbers of new members had been dwindling. The Sea Organization had increasingly relied on recruiting the teenaged kids of long-term Scientologists in order to keep its ranks filled."
Which is not really a good sign.

Marc Headley's work is not as polished as Beyond Belief. It is clear that he had no professional co-author. But that only makes his tale a bit rawer, and closer to the source. And as sure a condemnation of the Study Tech that is used in place of education for the children of Scientology as any you will read. Blown for Good is a biting indictment of the church and its head, David Miscavige.

Born to a woman who adopted Scientology, Marc Headley was sent to Scientology-based schools for most of his education which stopped early when he simply quit going. He joined the SeaOrg as a teen, and spent 15 years in the church's Int Base which is also called Gold Base in recognition of the Golden Era Production company that is based there. It was for the production company that Headley worked, and much of his account contains descriptions of what he did there and his relations with the leader, Miscavige.

His escape from the organization's compound in Hemet involved an attempt by Scientology's security forces to run him off the road and a police escort to protect him as he made his way into the town. His wife had her own harrowing escape from the church as well, after finding herself once again pregnant and not wishing to undergo another forced abortion.

There was a time, if you Googled "drug rehab", you would find a list of facilities, usually starting with Narconon and then independent websites where you could find information about the different facilities. What most people didn't know, was that many of those independent websites were run by Scientologists like Lucas Cannon, a former President of Narconon Arrowhead in Oklahoma.

If the name of Narconon Arrowhead sounds familiar, it has been much in the news lately. The facility had three deaths onsite within nine months, and another one in a nearby hospital. The national accredidation for counselors, which was accepted by the state of OK in lieu of state accreditation, revoked the certificate for the counsellors at Arrowhead, including the one issued to the current head of the rehab center located in Pittsburg County, OK. Five lawsuits have been filed, claiming fraud, false representation, breach of contract, non-disclosure and civil conspiracy. And according to Tony Ortega, the total of lawsuits now stands at eleven.

And then, NBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams, followed up on its August 2012 exposè with a new segment on Narconon Arrowhead during its April 5th show.

All in all, not a good time for Narconon. But a very good time for past President Lucas Catton to publish his book about his twelve years with Narconon, as a student (all non-staff residents are called students instead of clients or patients), counselor, President and owner of websites pushing the drug rehab center.

In Have You Told All?, Catton recounts his wild lifestyle when at 20 years old, lacking any direction in his life, he drank heavily, had dropped out of college, and had no job. His parents finally stepped in and sent him to Narconon Chilocco in Oklahoma.

He outlines the treatment that he received, which very much resembles the first steps on the Bridge to Total Freedom of Scientology. Books written by L. Ron Hubbard are used as course material and the same basic Training Routines are practiced. The students are put through Hubbard's sauna therapy which was the subject of his book, Clear Body, Clear Mind.
The concept, developed around 1978, was to rid the body of unwanted stored toxic residues. In Scientology it is supposed to be a spiritual practice, while in Narconon propaganda it is said to eliminate cravings for drugs. Despite some basic studies of toxic metabolites in the body, there have been zero studies to agree with the principles or condone the procedures that Hubbard developed for his sauna cleansing procedure other than those that were funded by or connected to Scientology and Narconon that I am aware of. On the flip side, there are multiple medical evaluations done by doctors to indicate that the sauna program is not only ineffective, but potentially very dangerous.

A regular day in the sauna program includes weighing in and then getting your blood pressure and heart rate recorded. This is followed by consuming niacin (B3) just prior to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise such as running on a treadmill. Niacin levels start at 100 mg and can go up to 5,000 mg in some cases. Niacin can create a heavy flush and itching sensation and high doses have been said to be at risk of causing liver damage. After the exercise comes another four and a half hours of sweating in a dry-heat sauna in roughly ten to fifteen minute increments, taking a break to cool down or take a cold shower.

During this entire time salt and potassium tablets are taken and a lot of water is consumed. At the end of the sweating process your weight and blood pressure are recorded again. You also take very large amounts of other vitamins and oils and drink a mixture of calcium and magnesium powder dissolved in vinegar and water. This is called Cal-Mag.

After completing his treatment, Lucas leaves, returns to his former lifestyle, contemplates suicide and is readmitted to Narconon (discount for returnees). He then spent a year on the outside, doing Scientology auditing, before joining the staff at Narconon, eventually rising to the Presidency of the flagship Arrowhead facility.

While with the organization he married a fellow Scientologist and together they had a child. He left the Narconon staff and started up websites to provide positive recommendations for the drug rehab facility while his wife continued to take Scientology courses at the Flag Headquarters in Clearwater, FL.

And he made a good living with those websites, which he needed for Scientology courses, because bottom line, Narconon is all about making money. But, then, so is the church.

Here is a video of the original Rock Center presentation.

And finally, according to Talking Points Memo, Scientology is now offering their treatment to victims of Agent Orange in Vietnam.

Many medical experts regard the treatment — a 25-day vitamin and sauna regime — as junk medicine or even dangerous. But for now at least, it has found fertile ground here.

The Vietnamese advocacy group overseeing the program in Thai Binh province wants to offer it to all 20,000 people suffering from ailments blamed on dioxins in Agent Orange. U.S. airplanes sprayed up to 12 million gallons of the defoliant over the country during the Vietnam War to strip away vegetation used as cover by Vietnamese soldiers.

The advocacy group, which has the implicit support of the government, has almost completed a two-story accommodation block for patients and is raising funds for a much larger complex, with 15 more saunas than the five it currently has.

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alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM LGBT Literature Texdude50, Dave in Northridge
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SAT (fourth each month) 11:00 AM Windy City Bookworm Chitown Kev
Sat 9:00 PM Books So Bad They're Good Ellid

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 08:30 AM PDT.

Also republished by Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter and Street Prophets .

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Comment Preferences

  •  Happy income tax day, everyone. And know that (30+ / 0-)

    your tax dollars make the Church of Scientology possible.

    We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty - Edward R. Murrow

    by Susan Grigsby on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 09:38:22 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for doing such a thorough debunking, Susan. (11+ / 0-)

    Between this diary and your earlier Going Clear and Church of Fear diary, you lay out a convincing case, showing all the greed and inhumanity behind Scientology's smiling public face.

    Do you believe that all of these books and news coverage point to a changing tide, and that the Church of Scientology will be dismantled anytime soon?

    "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

    by Brecht on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 09:21:38 AM PDT

    •  The church has some serious problems right now, (14+ / 0-)

      that seem to have grown worse since Katie Holmes left Tom Cruise and took their daughter with her. That bad publicity has been amplified by media coverage that no longer appears intimidated by the church's lawyers.

      The fact that they abuse children and prevent them from getting an education is one they share with other religions, but Americans still don't like it.

      But the real problem may be in Narconon which was a cash cow for the church, generating as much as $300,000 a week in income according to Lucas Catton's book. They are in trouble on multiple fronts in Oklahoma, from licensing to lawsuits.

      Their membership stats are dropping and they continue to face an exodus of top management who can no longer work with David Miscavige and under his direction the organization has clearly shifted to a thinly veiled pursuit of wealth.

      OTOH, they have survived for quite a while now, so who knows, they may survive these scandals.  

      We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty - Edward R. Murrow

      by Susan Grigsby on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 09:43:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's amazing this "church" has survived so long - (8+ / 0-)

        they have millions of pages of dirty laundry.

        The pain they have caused to thousands, the families they've ripped apart, the lies, hypocrisy, corruption, bribery, blackmail and skullduggery - the thing is, it's not just a tragedy, it's a lurid, incredible reality show.

        They've been fighting for decades to keep their dirt from public view. So there will be a tipping point, when their powerful friends in the US and the UK can no longer protect them, as the walls come down and more and more people come forward to tell their stories. This is a massive soap opera waiting to happen.

        The people who watch Katie Holmes: We have this huge gossip industry, who are paying attention now. The celebrity magazines and websites are the tip of the iceberg. Most of the people who watch cable news have been trained to crave soap opera. If they can squeeze a few months coverage out of Anna Nicole Smith's death, when nothing was even happening, they'll be knocking each other over to tear down Scientology, Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and others.

        Since you say "That bad publicity has been amplified by media coverage that no longer appears intimidated by the church's lawyers", I believe it's already started, and the emperor has no clothes.

        "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

        by Brecht on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 10:22:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Their Oklahoma troubles just got bigger (10+ / 0-)
        Legislation regulating Narconon Arrowhead and other drug rehabs is has passed the House and will head to the Senate for one more vote before it hits the Govenors desk, according to state offiials.

         Senate bill 295 passed the House 80 to 13 today and will now go before the Senate one last time before it's presented to Gov. Mary Fallin for signing.

        "No one life is more important than another. No one voice is more valid than another. Each life is a treasure. Each voice deserves to be heard." Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse & Onomastic

        by Catte Nappe on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 11:59:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for this fascinating diary, Susan! (11+ / 0-)

    Before reading it, I hadn't known much about Scientology, other than the fact that Tom Cruise is reputed to be a member.  It sounds like just another bunch of hoakum to make money.

    Re the persecution of Melissa Harris-Perry:  I worked with an older woman once who averred, "Children are everybody's business." Of course they are--they are the precious hope of the future.

    Hope this diary is seen by many pairs of eyes!  Tipped and rec'd.

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 09:31:51 AM PDT

    •  Thanks Diana. Personally, I have wondered why (13+ / 0-)

      the so-called right to lifers haven't picked up on the forced abortions that occur amongst SeaOrg women.

      SeaOrg considers children a distraction, and their members are not allowed to have them. So if a member becomes pregnant she is pressured into having an abortion or is reassigned to some low level menial task.

      As a strong supporter of choice, I recognize that there is no choice in either the position of the church or the position of the lifers.

      All church members consider children to contain fully developed Thetans, and as such they deserve no special consideration but are expected to contribute to the society. Which means all work and no play and very little education.

      It is capitalism without restraint and with the tax blessing of our government.

      We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty - Edward R. Murrow

      by Susan Grigsby on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 10:02:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  so much here I didn't know (9+ / 0-)

    Thanks for doing so much research and laying it out so clearly -- as usual, an excellent diary!

    "I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that's the America millions of Americans believe in. That's the America I love." Mitt Romney

    by scilicet on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 10:51:40 AM PDT

  •  OK, wow. (5+ / 0-)
    Billion Year Contract
    Doesn't that phrase just scream insanity?
  •  I second the hope that your diary gets a wider (5+ / 0-)

    audience. You've done the hard work and laid it out for us, which I appreciate. (And I have learned is a given in your diaries.) It's hard to believe people would do such horrible things to another human, much less a child. I think it's child abuse, and in some cases amounts to torture.  It reminds me of the deliberate psychological breaking of a person's will and spirit, and it should be illegal to do to a child. Can't do a lot if you willingly sign up for the abuse as an adult. Children can't form consent (fully grown thetan inside or not, it's one of those pesky legal things. snark)

    I'm kinda surprised that someone on the inside hasn't staged a coup, using the bad publicity angle to get rid of Miscavige.  Guess when you rule by fear and psychological torture it takes longer for the discontent to rumble up an alternative.  Frankly, I hope the lawsuits keep coming and are enough to bury them. (Like the blow SPLC dealt a branch of the KKK).

    What frustrates me is the subsidizing of religion that is done by the government using our tax dollars.  I get the benefits for the churches.  What benefit is it supposed to do us, average Joe citizens?

    Re MHP and the "takes a village" controversy: amazing what chains of illogic a sanctimonious, persecuted, and paranoid outlook can do to prevent rational thinking.  But isn't the whole idea of owning a child traced back to the Bible?  After all, you can stone a child, or sell one.  Both options require ownership as a prerequisite.  I am always amazed at how frequently Christians who claim to worship Jesus completely ignore the lessons he taught.

    "In politics stupidity is not a handicap." Napoleon Bonaparte

    by citylights on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 09:40:51 PM PDT

    •  Some of the top leaders have left Miscavige's (4+ / 0-)

      church, like Marty Rathburn who was number two, and formed their own breakaway church of Scientology.

      I don't know how much better it can be, since they still use Hubbard's teachings.

      The fact that our tax dollars support this con game irritates me more than the fact we support other religions. Perhaps because they have become so flagrant in their attempts to fleece their flock, and anyone else they can get their hands on. Like the addicts who turn to Narconon expecting to get helped.

      We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty - Edward R. Murrow

      by Susan Grigsby on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 09:59:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Oh, I completely agree with both your (4+ / 0-)

        assertions. Thanks for reminding me of the Rathburn splinter group.  You're right; as long as they use the same orthodoxy, the best they can say is we're not as bad as Miscavige.

        I agree, as well, that Scientlogy (and do they not see the irony of science in their name?) is the worst of the tax-exempt religions.

        "In politics stupidity is not a handicap." Napoleon Bonaparte

        by citylights on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 11:34:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  There have been a number of splinter groups (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RiveroftheWest, Susan from 29

        over the years. The oldest is the "California Association of Dianetic Auditors". Founded in 1951, it actually predates the incorporation of the current Scientology organization. (All of the earliest ones went into bankruptcy & were shut down. Which says volumes about Hubbard's business skills.)

        The CADA has a website here. For many years they kept a low profile, & spent most of their time fighting for survival against CoS harassment; if the website is correct, the CADA is attempting to attract new members & actually exist as a group. (Whether they can be a truly benevolent organization is an open question, awaiting further evidence.)

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