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Commentary: Scientology survivors retell stories of hell

Natalie Veissalov, LV Life Editor

Natalie Veissalov, LV Life Editor

A couple of weeks ago, I was assigned to attend a news conference and create a story out of it for my Advanced News Reporting class.

But in no way did I think my first news conference would be so dramatic.

The news conference I covered was a talk given by six ex-Scientologists telling their horrifying stories full of claims that the Church of Scientology physically and mentally abused them when they worked for the church.

Some of the six members are embroiled in lawsuits against the church and are accusing them of this illegal behavior. All of them claim to have been mentally scarred by their experiences with the church.

Many claimed they have had a hard time rebuilding their lives after leaving the church.

For example, one person said she did not find a full-time job for five years after leaving the church and still has a hard time with the job hunting process.

She said she also has had a hard time making her own decisions.

When the first person went up to the podium to speak about the abuses he experienced while working for the Sea Organization, described as the church’s militaristic workforce, he claimed that he would work 100 hours a week for less than 50 cents an hour.

He said he had a dramatic escape.

He said when he finally escaped on his motorcycle out of the church’s gates, Scientology officials tried to run him over to the edge of the street.

If anything the ex-members claim, this is not a church interested in guiding its members spiritually.

Instead, from what these speakers said, it sounds like the Church of Scientology behaves like a corporation, dehumanizing its workers so that the leaders can live extravagant lives and increase their power.

From the ex-Scientologists’ description, the church operates more like a cult.

I actually became frightened when a journalist from Australia raised his hand and said that a person from the church was at this news conference spying on the entire event as these six ex-members spoke.

The ex-Scientologists said that if members want to leave the church they have sign documents stating that the church is good and that they promise to pay debts they have accumulated by being members. They call this the “freeloader debt.”

However, according to these ex-members, it is the church that owes the members for their long hours of work.

Some said the church uses reverse psychology on members who show signs that they want to leave.

I began to talk to some of these ex-members and research the events and crimes allegedly related to the church.

The Church of Scientology apparently tends to attract young adults and college students, knowing they are still naive about certain things.

The ex-Scientologists said the church lures these young people into thinking they will take courses to achieve a happier life. However, their intentions are questionable.

College students tend to be lured into certain things that they may not understand by many organizations, not just the Church of Scientology.

They are made to believe that what they are doing is good and beneficial towards their lives and futures.

Those who are vulnerable or looking to try something new, should always be careful about what they choose to join.

They should do a lot of research before they join anything.

I’m not sure if the stories by the ex-Scientologists are true. I am writing this column to tell college student to be cautious of their choices.

When I interviewed a Church of Scientology spokeswoman told me these people are disgruntled ex-members and utterly non-credible. They also said that all of their claims are false.

The church also responded by saying that the group Anonymous – a group of people against the Church of Scientology – is a dangerous group of people.

The Church of Scientology said the group Anonymous promotes religious hatred and violence.

Not only do they target the Church of Scientology, they also target Jews, blacks and Muslims, the Church of Scientology spokeswoman said.

Natalie Veissalov, a junior journalism major, is LV Life editor of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at natalie.veissalov@laverne.edu.

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