The abusive practices of Scientology

Scientology has again got what it hates, negative publicity about its abusive practices. The Village Voice has published a two-part series (part 1 and part 2) largely based on information provided by John Brousseau, a a member of the cult since 1977 until he left in 2010, and at one time brother-in-law of its current leader David Miscavige, the two of them having married two sisters.

[Brousseau and Miscavige] were both young cameramen working for Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard during his movie-making phase. Brousseau was Hubbard’s personal chauffeur and helped maintain the cloak of secrecy when Hubbard vanished for good. He watched Miscavige transform Scientology and turn its base into a prison camp. He worked for Tom Cruise, which included serving in the household with Cruise and Katie Holmes. And having worked closely with both Cruise and Miscavige, he has choice things to say about the nature of their relationship.

There are few people, in other words, more qualified to provide a front-row seat to what the Church of Scientology has been through since 1977.

The author of the series, editor in chief Tony Ortega, gives the background, especially how Scientology paid extremely low wages to its workers while Miscavige lived luxuriously and paid lavish attention to the church’s star member Tom Cruise. In return, Brousseau says that “Tom Cruise worships David Miscavige like a God.”

What particularly struck me were the abusive practices. In a follow-up blog post Ortega says that the church has what amounts to a concentration camp called ‘The Hole’ where errant senior Scientologists are sent for rehabilitation.

Debbie Cook was in for only 7 weeks in 2007, but her experience was brutal. She testified that Miscavige had two hulking guards climb into her office through a window as she was talking to him on the phone. “Goodbye” he told her as she was hauled off to the gulag. Like Rinder, she described a place where dozens of men and women were confined to what had been a set of offices. Cook testified that the place was ant-infested, and during one two-week stretch in the summer with temperatures over 100 degrees, Miscavige had the air conditioning turned off as punishment. Food was brought up in a vat riding on a golf cart. Cook described it as a barely edible “slop” that was fed to them morning, noon, and night. Longtime residents of the Hole began to look gaunt.

They had to find places on the floor or on desks to sleep at night. Rinder said there were so many of them they slept only inches from each other, and having to get up in the middle of the night was a nightmare of stepping over sleeping figures in the dark.

In the morning, they were marched out of the offices and through a tunnel under Gilman Springs Road to a large building with communal showers. They were then marched back to the Hole, and during the day would be compelled to take part in mass confessions.

During these, Rinder says people he had considered friends would put on a show for the officials overseeing them, trying to outdo each other with vile accusations against each other. Cook testified that Miscavige wanted Marc Yager and Guillaume Lesevre, two of his longest-serving and highest-ranking officials, to confess to having a homosexual affair. The men were beaten until they made some forced admissions. When Cook objected to what was happening, she herself was made to stand in a trash can for twelve hours while insults were hurled at her, she was called a lesbian, and water was dumped on her head.

As part of their training, Scientologists are subjected to constant abuse so that they learn to accept it as part of their job. In another post, Ortega reports on Lana Mitchell, an Australian and a long-time Scientology member, whose job it was to serve gourmet meals to Miscavige every few hours, especially when Cruise showed up. But one day, Cruise got food poisoning, apparently from eating a bad shrimp, and Mitchell was summarily punished for it. Mitchell describes what happened to her on Australian TV.

The transcript of the full interview has more details.

“[Miscavige] has his own personal hair dresser that gets flown around with him where ever he may go, a chiropractor who gets flown around the world whenever he goes off, whether it be to Clearwater or to the UK or where ever it might be. There‟s a whole entourage and then his living quarters, I mean, there‟s no expense barred to make sure that he has the best of the best. And that‟s not just at that location; it‟s also at any location he‟s going to go to.”

“We‟re talking Audio Visual equipment, lavish furnishings, essentially anything that he wishes or wants; he has a six car garage filled with many luxury cars.”

“This is the point that has really rubbed me and this is I guess what has brought me to speak out now is the fact that… people don‟t actually know, particularly parishioners within Scientology, they don‟t know the way this individual is operating the lifestyle he runs and what he‟s doing behind the scenes.”

“Is he a psychopath? In my view, absolutely. Because he is, in a cold and calculating way, working to destroy my religion; he is using the position that he has within the Church of Scientology for personal benefit, for personal control, to be able to manipulate others, to be able to live a lifestyle that is simply not worthy of what he does or even legal frankly in my view with parishioners funds.”

Interestingly, she still believes in Scientology, which tells you something about the power of religions to obtain allegiance.

It is quite amazing that such an organization can have tax-exempt status as a religious institution. As Ortega writes, “Your tax dollars at work.”


  1. says

    Is he a psychopath? In my view, absolutely. Because he is, in a cold and calculating way, working to destroy my religion

    They are making it sound like Scientology used to be jolly good until Hubbard left the picture and MIscavige came into it. I don’t know what Miscavige has introduced but Scientology has always been this way.

  2. bmiller says

    Which is the fundamental problem. Certainly she is a victim, but to a degree she victimized herself.

    Believers in Scientology can’t even use the excuse of culture or tradition. They CHOOSE to believe in the insane sci-fi mumblings of a hack writer.

    of course, it sounds like the Scientologist’s could be charged with kidnapping or false imprisonment. But the question remains: is residence in the prison fundamentally voluntary? could they leave if they were able to overcome their self-deluded decision to beleive in this errant nonsense?

  3. justsomeguy says

    I think the answer to “could they leave if they wanted to” is yes-and-no. As in, yes, they could leave, but they’re already malnourished and presumably in a secluded location. So a person leaves, and goes….. where? And how do they get there? Would they even know which direction to start walking?

  4. Mano Singham says

    I think you are exactly right. Even in those situations where they are not physically isolated, in most cults people can theoretically walk away but by then they are so beaten down that they do not have the will or the energy or the resources to escape. These people are deprived of any money and have abandoned all the family and friends from their former lives. What can they do if they escape?

  5. thewhollynone says

    How does this psychopath maintain control over wealthy people like Cruise and Travolta? Blackmail? They certainly have the money and the options to escape this cult if they wish to.

    Well, all religions are cults, you know. Look at all the Catholics who think that Ratzi is some kind of saint.

  6. cathyw says

    My understanding is that the wealthy, and especially celebrities, get the VIP treatment from the “church”. So their experience is vastly different from an ordinary person’s – and they may not even be aware of it.

  7. badgersdaughter says

    That’s absolutely right. Scientology believes, essentially, that success and celebrity are outward signs of inward virtue, that successful celebrities are people who in some sense “get life right”. It’s sort of like a New Ager saying someone is successful because they “manifest” success. Scientologists think that success is itself a virtue that needs to be rewarded, and failure is itself a sin that requires punishment.

    When I worked for a small company run on Scientology principles years ago, I was given the raw materials I needed for a week’s production based on how well I did the week before. If I didn’t get enough orders in to keep production up one week, I was not issued enough supplies to get production up the next week. It was literally that stupid.

  8. Musca Domestica says

    Are you in the know about the levels Cruise and Travolta are on? My understanding is that it’s pretty much impossible for regular people to reach the highest levels. (Probably because the first I ever heard of Scientology was a Finnish documentary on how people were made to take loans and act as a guarantor for other’s loans in order to hold their membership/advance in the levels…)

  9. Musca Domestica says

    Which I find a bit weird. Miscavige has to be the holder of the highest level amongst living Scientologists, and she has seen for herself how the higher-ups operate. She could also see that it was wrong to keep her away from her family, and probably broke several rules by leaving. Maybe Scientology has become so big that it’s gaining the kind of credibility the older religions have (I’m thinking of catholics not leaving despite the systemic child molestation).

  10. M Groesbeck says

    So they’re Libertarian-free to leave. Sure, they may lose their jobs, their families, their friends, their means to make a living (even, in the case of secluded locations, their possibility of survival). But they’re choosing to have their lives destroyed!

  11. M Groesbeck says

    It’s the same schtick as the “prosperity gospel” — people who are rich are assured that they deserve everything they have, people who aren’t are assured that they will be if they’re committed enough.

  12. Brian M says

    Well…think about some of the horrible people who were popes during the Middle Ages and Renaissance eras. Borgias, etc. Yet the church survived.

  13. sigurd jorsalfar says

    The data suggests that Scientology membership numbers have been dropping since the late 1980s and that there are probably a maximum of about 50,000 Scientologists in the US, and 100,000 world wide.

    Former high ranking Scientologist Mike Rinder maintains there are no more than 30,000 Scientologists, and that he knows this because Miscavige once ordered the production of 60,000 units of the new e-meter so there would be 2 for every Scientologist.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *