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Ex-Scientologists Speak Out at LA Press Conference
By Randy Sly
February 15th, 2010
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
On Friday, six ex-scientologists spoke out about their experiences inside the Church of Scientology at a Press Conference in Hollywood.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) – The airwaves of Los Angeles were buzzing with accounts of Scientology abuses last Friday after ex-staffers held a news conference in Hollywood. This event and a weekend filled with activities called a Megaraid marked the second anniversary of Project Chanology, a global protest against Scientology by an internet-based group called Anonymous.
The press conference, which was also presented as a live video stream on the internet, was moderated by Mark Bunker an Emmy-winning journalist who has been covering Scientology since 1997. He is the webmaster for XENU TV (www.xenutv.com), which features video and audio interviews from former members, along documentaries, speeches, panels, protest videos, courtroom footage and a vast archive of broadcast media from around the world covering the controversial Scientology organization.
Each of the presenters was able to tell his or her personal story of life inside the organization. A prepared summary given to journalists at the event offered a brief biography of the speakers and a bit about their story. Additionally, the press was also given background information and samples of Scientology documents.
Marc Headley, the author of "Blown for Good," grew up in Hollywood, and joined Scientology´s Sea Org when he was just 16 years old. For 15 years he lived at Scientology´s International Base, where he worked 100-hour work weeks, for less than 50 cents an hour, and experienced mental and physical abuse. Headley told the conference of the dramatic escape he made, at age 32, from the heavily guarded Scientology compound in Hemet, California. He has since started a new life with his wife, who also escaped.
Jefferson Hawkins spent 35 years working for the Church of Scientology, all over the world, and at all echelons, including the top level at the Scientology International Base in Hemet, California. For much of his time in Scientology, Hawkins was a key executive in Scientology´s marketing department. He conceived and ran the well-known Dianetics campaign in the 1980s that resulted in Dianetics appearing on all major bestseller lists.
Hawkins talked about leaving Scientology in 2005 after experiencing firsthand the abuses and human rights violations at Scientology´s International Headquarters, including being allegedly beaten physically by Scientology´s leader, David Miscavige. Since 2006, he has been active in sharing his story concerning the Church of Scientology´s lies and abuses, and in providing help to individuals and families who have been harmed by Scientology.
Laura DeCrescenzo was recruited into the Sea Org at the age of 12. Married at16, she told of her story of becoming pregnant and subsequently forced to have an abortion, because children aren´t allowed in the Sea Org. She eventually became so desperate to escape she swallowed bleach to get herself thrown out. DeCrescenzo is now suing the church, alleging restricted freedom, forced abortions, severe punishment, and human trafficking.
Maureen Bolstad has stated that at age 15 she "got tricked into making a dumb mistake" and signed a contract to join Scientology staff. She was promised an education and regular pay. Instead, Bolstad worked 18 hours a day, seven days a week, and developed health and emotional problems. In 17 years, she only got to see her mother twice, for less than a week each time. She was allowed to leave after three years of being made to "confess her sins and evil intentions." Bolstad was divorced by her husband and still hasn´t heard from her sister, who stayed on staff, since 2006.
Will Fry was raised by scientologists, and attended Scientology boarding school while his parents worked for the church. As a teenager, he joined the Sea Org, but immediately realized he wanted out; it took him almost three years. Afterwards the church billed him $12,000 for a so-called "freeloader debt."
Nancy Many, author of "My Billion Year Contract," was a college student in Boston when she first joined Scientology. She signed the infamous "Billion Year" contract when she joined the Sea Org, and was sent to Clearwater, Fl, to work under L. Ron Hubbard.
When she was five months pregnant, Many was sent to the RPF (Rehabilitation Project Force--Scientology´s re-indoctrination and labor camp) where she was locked in the garage of the Fort Harrison Hotel until she was deemed "rehabilitated." After being subjected to relentless interrogations and confessions, Nancy suffered a mental breakdown that led to her leaving the church.
During her presentation, Many also talked about Greg Bashaw, who was a devotee to Scientology, and later took his life in 2002. "I hope you people today," she told the reporters present, "can relay the fact that people are dieing... people are dieing... people are going psychotic."
KABC, KTLA, KCAL/KCBS, KNBC and KTTV (Fox) all carried stories about the over two-hour press conference during their Friday evening news cycle, which also included a rebuttal by Scientology spokesman, Tommy Davis. Davis dismissed the statements as coming from angry former members who fabricated these stories.
Catholic Online contacted Davis´ office for a comment and is still awaiting a response.
One observer at the event stated, "The media was at the press conference in force and showed a high level of interest. Mark Bunker did an absolutely superb job as the moderator. The event was emotional at times. One can read the internet, but when you see the people who actually lived the stories talk about it, it is almost overwhelming."
"It is hard to hear a woman fighting back tears as she speaks about being pressured to abort her first child for the ´greatest good´ by Scientology. Laura Decrescenzo was only seventeen years old when this happened. She was powerless and was told by Scientology that her baby was only tissue. She was broke, young, lacked a formal education, and was a stat in some production graph."
A question and answer time by the media present followed the presentation. Questions regarding the speaker´s stories were offered but some of the reporters preferred to focus more attention on the two lawsuits and the work of Anonymous.
Randy Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online. He is a former Archbishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Church who laid aside that ministry to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church in 2006. His reporting on the Church of Scientology has received global attention as the group´s activities come under increasing scrutiny.
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