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Defectors Detail Abuse at Church of Scientology

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Journalist An explosive new report by The New York Times documents two more defectors from the Church of Scientology who say they were routinely abused by the cult and its leaders. The latest defectors from Scientology, Christie King Collbran and her husband Chris, are adding their names to the list of other former members who say that while wealthy movie stars like Tom Cruise and John Travolta are paying the bills, their Church membership continues to shrink due to rampant abuse of its members.   In the Times article, the Collbrans say they belonged to an organization within Scientology known as the Sea Organization, or Sea Org, since they were teenagers. Sea Orgs work for an elite corps of Scientology staff members who are responsible for keeping the Church running. The couple signed a contract with the Church for a “billion” years, which is in keeping with their belief that Scientologists are immortal, and worked there for 13 years before becoming disillusioned. During that time, they say they worked seven days a week, often on little sleep, for “sporadic” paychecks of $50 a week at most. They said  Sea Org members were repeatedly beaten by the church’s chairman, David Miscavige, and others were pressured to have abortions. After the Collbrans decided to leave, the Church forced them to sign false confessions about their personal lives and their work and to pay thousands of dollars for the coursework and counseling they received. They were also made to cut off all communication with their parents, siblings and friends who remain in the Church. Tommy Davis, spokesman for the Church, told the Times the  Collbrans were  “apostates” and claim they didn’t leave out of protest, but were expelled. Chris Collbran says  he no longer believes in Scientology. “Eventually I realized I was part of a con,” he said, “and I have to leave it and get on with my life.” His wife, however, claims she still believes in its teachings and has only disavowed its leadership. Scientology was invented by L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986) in 1952 as an offshoot of his self-help program described in the book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.  Scientologists believe that people are immortal spiritual beings (thetans) who have forgotten their true nature. It offers a method of spiritual rehabilitation known as “auditing” which attempts to free people of the scarring effects of painful and traumatic events in their lives. Scientologists scorn the use of all medicines, believing that most physical problems are manifestations of spiritual ailments.  Some of their more outlandish beliefs surround an evil galactic ruler, Xenu, who supposedly lived 75 million years ago and who solved a universal over-population program by transporting trillions of people to earth where they were destroyed. The souls of these dead people – known as body thetans – are thought to inhabit our bodies. The object is to get rid of these beings in order to be healthier and to gain special powers of powers of mind-over-matter. Apparently, this facet of scientology is not revealed to practitioners until after they have paid thousands of dollars to the Church of Scientology, which is why this belief-system has been beseiged with accusations of fraud and other cult-like practices. The Collbran’s claims are not the first to surface of alleged abuse at the hands of Church of Scientology leaders.  Last year, director and screenwriter Paul Haggis , who won Oscars for “Million Dollar Baby” and “Crash” left the Church after 35 years. In a letter he wrote to Church leadership that was leaked to the press,  he cited Church backing of California’s Proposition 8 in support of traditional marriage as a reason that was only made worse when he caught leader Miscavige lying during a CNN interview about the Church’s policy about “disconnection” – the cutting off of members from their families. “I was shocked. We all know this policy exists,” Harris wrote in his resignation letter. “I didn’t have to search for verification – I didn’t have to look any further than my own home.” He went on to recount the heartbreak his wife suffered when being ordered to “disconnect” from her parents because of “something absolutely trivial they supposedly did twenty-five years ago when they resigned from the church,” Harris said. “This is a lovely retired couple, never said a negative word about Scientology to me or anyone else I know – hardly raving maniacs or enemies of the church. In fact it was they who introduced my wife to Scientology.” His wife cut off all contact with them for a year and a half, during which time they were unable to see their grandchild.  “It was a terrible time,” Harris wrote. In June of last year, several prominent members-turned-defectors of the Church of Scientology, Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder, agreed to an interview with the St. Petersburg Times in which they talked about the rampant abuse in the Church.  Close associates of leader Miscavige, they claimed he routinely attacked his “lieutenants” and that they often did the same to their underlings to “demonstrate loyalty to Miscavige and prove their mettle.” They said Church staffers are disciplined and controlled by a multilayered system of "ecclesiastical justice” which includes the public confession of sins, facing embarrassing “security checks” or threats of being isolated as a “suppressive person.” These defectors also revealed how the Church covered up its role in the death of Lisa McPherson, a Scientologist who died of a pulmonary embolism in 1995 after being held by fellow Church members for 17 days in isolation at a Florida hotel. The state’s medical examiner determined that Lisa was a victim of negligent homicide and the Church was officially indicted on two felony charges of “abuse and/or neglect of a disabled adult" and "practicing medicine without a license."  According to the Times, membership in this dangerous cult has been steadily declining. The American Religious Identification Survey reports that the number of Scientologists in the United States fell from 55,000 in 2001 to 25,000 in 2008. © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly®/Women of Grace®