A former Scientologist that was on a compound since childhood is now going public with a book and media appearances to speak about the brainwashing, child labor camps, as well as other horrors that she witnessed and experienced.
Despite it’s enduring popularity in Hollywood, the Church of Scientology has been riddled with scandals involving terrible human rights violations. For a long time, the things that actually went on inside the church of Scientology were largely unknown, but in recent years there have been a series of whistleblowers, and documented cases of people escaping from labor camps.One such whistleblower is Jenna Miscavige Hill. According to Wikipedia:
Jenna Miscavige Hill (born 1984) is a former Scientologist who, after leaving the Church of Scientology in 2005, has become an outspoken critic of the organization. She is the daughter of Ron Miscavige, Jr. and the niece of current church leader David Miscavige.
Hill, with Kendra Wiseman and Astra Woodcraft (both also raised in Scientology), founded the website exscientologykids.com. She has been interviewed about her experiences within Scientology by a number of media outlets, including ABC’s Nightline in April 2008, and on Piers Morgan Tonight in February 2013 discussing details of the church.
In 2000, when Hill was 16, her father and mother left Scientology. Hill states that due to the Scientology-ordered practice of disconnection with relatives and friends who don’t support Scientology or are hostile to it, letters from her parents were intercepted and she was not allowed to answer a telephone for a year.
She described her experience from ages five to 12 as this: “We were also required to write down all transgressions …similar to a sin in the Catholic religion. After writing them all down, we would receive a meter check on the electropsychometer to make sure we weren’t hiding anything, and you would have to keep writing until you came up clean.”
September 2012 she announced that she will be releasing her life story in her book Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape, published under the William Morrow imprint of HarperCollins.
Jenna was the third generation of Scientologists in her family and grew up on a compound in California. At the age of seven, she was admitted to the “Sea Organisation” (Sea Org) – the executive branch of Scientology’s most dedicated followers.
She was made to sign a billion-year contract that bound her immortal spirit (known as the “Thetan”) to lifetime after lifetime of dedication to the organisation.
She was also, as camp medical liaison officer, responsible for the health and well-being of her fellow trainees.
“None of this struck me as odd at the time,” she says.
“Looking back I feel completely brainwashed. I didn’t even know what I liked or what sort of person I was. I was just a robot of the church.”
Jenna says that she was made to incur several hours a day of gruelling labour from the age of six until she was 12.
“We wore uniforms and would be digging trench holes for irrigation and rock hauling. We would be doing 25 hours of heavy-duty labour a week. My hands were always full of blisters.”
Any dissent from the group could result in a bucket of ice water thrown over their heads or “pigs berthing” – spending the night on an old mattress in a dilapidated room filled with bats.
Those who resisted authority were declared “suppressives” and cast out.
Jenna became isolated from the outside world. She was taught that non-Scientologists (referred to as Wogs – Well and Orderly Gentleman) were ignorant.
Jenna’s testimony paints a picture of mistrust and suspicion sowed among the students by the leaders, urging them to tell on each others’ misdemeanours or else be considered an “accessory” and face the same punishments.
Jenna explains that any violation of rules could result in offenders being sent to the Orwellian-sounding Rehabilitation Project Force.
“It was like a reprogramming camp for inmates who strayed in an attempt to bring them back into line. Offenders could be sent to a segregated location in the base for at least two years.”
Between the ages of 12 and 18, Jenna saw her mother only twice and father four times.
Jenna’s parents left the church when she was 16, though she decided to stay on.
“By that time, I didn’t know my parents. I thought that my life and world was always going to be the church. The idea of leaving at that time was just scary to me.” Jenna stayed on.
In 2001, Jenna met her husband at the Sea Org and they started dating.
Marriage followed soon after and they were sent on an assignment to Australia where, against church rules, they watched TV and searched the internet.
It was here that she first encountered negative comments about her uncle.
Jenna also struck up a friendship with a pregnant woman, which made her start thinking about her own life.
“Scientology rules stated that Sea Org executives couldn’t have children. I felt like I could be really missing out. I slowly became more aware of the outside world and started to see how regular people lived.”
In 2005, Jenna made the decision to leave the church.
“I realised it wasn’t the place I had always thought it was and I could no longer look away from its abuses.”
But her husband suddenly had doubts about leaving; the church was trying to persuade him to stay without her.
“They had pulled Dallas aside and were telling him bad things about me and my family and convincing him to stay. They told him that if he left, he wouldn’t be able to speak to his family. It all backfired on them and we got out together.”
Jenna calls her uncle “evil” for the forced labour and theft of her childhood.
“It’s disgusting that they completely take advantage of innocent and vulnerable children,” she says.
She feels he doesn’t follow any religious creed, but is motivated by the power and authority.
The church issued a statement, in response to Jenna’s book, that it does “not engage in any activities that mistreat, neglect or force children to engage in manual labour.
The church follows all laws with respect to children. Claims to the contrary are false.”
It says it always respects family units and that Jenna’s recollections are at odds with those of many of her contemporaries who are still in the church. Jenna says they are lying.
What does she think about prominent Scientologist celebrities such as Tom Cruise who are proud and in praise of the church?
“Either he doesn’t know what’s happening or is wilfully ignorant about it. Those inside who know what goes on have a responsibility to speak out against it.”
Since leaving, Jenna has rebuilt her relationship with her parents. Jenna says she wrote the book to bring closure to the past.
“I want to turn this horrible episode into something meaningful and in the process show the dark side of a church that presents itself as benign. I hope it will discourage others from joining and convince those on the inside to see it for what it is and leave.”
Heather Van Nest: What was the worst thing that happened to you as a Scientologist?
Jenna Miscavige: The worst part, I believe, is the robbing of your education, and taking away your childhood, and taking you away from your parents so you have no one to turn to. You have no one in your corner, and essentially brainwashing you from such an early age.
Heather Van Nest: You talk in your book about your uncle’s power over the church and members even fear him. You have even called your uncle ‘evil.’ Explain why?
Jenna Miscavige: He’s the head of this organization- the one responsible for child neglect and abuse, to separating people from their families, to having people work there… 100 hour weeks with little to no time off, and I thought it was about helping people. I thought maybe we have to make some sacrifices in that way, but there are so many things imposed on its members that are pointless. They’re not helping anybody. It’s just about control and power at this point.”
J.G. Vibes is the author of an 87 chapter counter-culture textbook called Alchemy of the Modern Renaissance, a staff writer, reporter for Intellihub.com and Executive Producer of the Bob Tuskin Radio Show. You can keep up with his work, which includes free podcasts, free e-books & free audiobooks at his website www.aotmr.com