I wrote recently that Lawrence Wright had released what looks like an interesting and pretty thorough book on the Church of Scientology that is titled Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. In an interview, he describes some of the weird things that he discovered. What they do to dissidents and young people is awful.
Q: Can you describe what you discovered about Scientology’s secret work camps in the U.S.?
A: There are re-education camps in different locations for Sea Org members (Scientology’s clergy) who have offended the leader or committed some infraction against the Church of Scientology. On one of them, Gold Base, there’s a place called “the hole”: two double-wide trailers married together, where people are sent, often without being told of their crimes.
In 2004, (church leader) David Miscavige cleared away all the furniture and sent top executives to stay there, some for years. An elderly man who was the president of the church (a nominal post) was in the hole for seven years.
Many of them joined as children, some were born into it. Many, if not all, of their friends and family are Scientologists. If you left, they would never talk to you again. They are only paid $50 a week, so they don’t have any income or education to fall back on. Young Scientologists don’t really get any formal education. Their knowledge of the outside world is very restricted and they are taught to distrust outsiders. From the very beginning, when you go into Scientology your world narrows down very quickly. You’re also taught that your salvation is at stake and if you bring disgrace on Scientology nothing could be worse. To some extent, they are not being held against their will; it’s their will that is holding them there.
He goes on to describe how the church woos celebrities and once they get people like Tom Cruise and John Travolta to join, offer them perks to keep them in and to ignore the abuses of the church. The interview reports that Miscavige “watches videos of Cruise’s secret confessions at night with a glass of whiskey”, which sounds downright creepy.