Brainwashing in Scientology's Rehabilitation Force (RPF) - Postscript

by Dr. Stephen A. Kent


The RPF and Scientology's Hollywood Stars

Social implications exist concerning the findings of this study, specifically for one of America's largest and most profitable industries -- entertainment. Scientology boasts about the Hollywood stars who are proud to be members and who often serve as spokespersons for various Scientology causes. It seems likely, however, that inmates working in RPF programs built or renovated facilities that some of the Scientology movie stars use, including the renovation of the Celebrity Center in Los Angeles (SB, 1998d: 2). (Scientologist (SB" claims to have met both Tom Cruise and Lisa Marie Presley while working as an RPFer on these renovations [SB, 1998a: 2; 1998d: 2].) Equally serious is the probability that at least some of these prominent stars know, or ought to know, about the abuse RPF program but have not spoken out against it.

The March 5, 1994 affidavit by former Scientologist Andre Tabayoyon was especially damaging to the reputation of Scientology celebrities, since it outlined the extent to which RPF labour built or renovated facilities that they used at Scientology's Hemet, California base. Reputed facilities included a movie theatre, apartment cottages ("built for the use of John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Edgar Winters [sic: Winter], Priscilla Presley and other Scientology celebrities" [A. Tabayoyon, 1994: 23 para. 120]), "Tom Cruise's personal and exclusive apartment," and an elaborate gym in which Tom Cruise worked out (A. Tabayoyon, 1994: 23-24, paras. 117, 120-122). (For the organization's part, Scientologist and lawyer, Kendrick Moxon, Disputed Tabayoyon's claims that "'inmates' or 'slave labor'" operated on the Hemet Property, and he asserted that "[n]o special apartments or facilities were ever built on the Church's property for the exclusive use of Tom Cruise or any other celebrity ..." [Moxon, 1994: 4] In a 1993, Cruise stated, "[i]n the last two years or so, I only remember going to the Gilman Hot Springs location once, for a day and a half" [Cruise, 1993]). While Tabayoyon acknowledged that Scientology celebrities "are carefully prevented from finding out the real truth about the Scientology organization" (A. Tabayoyon, 1994: 23, para. 120), they are acting irresponsibly if they do not inquire into the probably human rights issues (especially related to labour) involved with the people who constructed and/or maintain the exclusive Scientology facilities to which they have access. Indeed, the only indication researchers have that any movie star has enquired about RPFers is Mary Tabayoyon's conclusion that Scientology officials let her and others out of the RPF (after she had been in it for a year) because Tom Cruise's questions "about the group during one of his visits to Gilman Hot Springs ... prompted the higher-ups to reassign them to regular posts" (Thurston, 1999: A2). We do not know what Cruise asked or even how Mary Tabayoyon knows that he did, but her husband's conclusions nevertheless ring true about how Cruise presumably benefits from RPF labour when he stays at the Gilman Hot Springs complex: "[u]sing RPFers to renovate and reconstruct Tom Cruise's personal and exclusive apartment at the Scientology Gold base is equivalent to the use of slave labor for Tom Cruise's benefit" (A. Tabayoyon, 1994: 24, para. 120).

The fact that Cruise probably queried about RPF workers suggests that it may not always be possible to shelter the movie stars from the harsh realities of the RPF world. Remembering back to late 1977, Jesse Prince spoke about an encounter between Travolta and RPF members. Travolta's hit movie, Saturday Night Fever, just had been released, so someone with contacts to Travolta and his office arranged for a private showing of it to the RPFers as a reward for all the hard work they had performed. Moreover, the RPFers were supposed to meet Travolta himself:

And he came to us, being all wonder and great and grandiose.... I will never forget the look on his face when he saw us. We must've looked like something from one of those prison camps, one of the German prison camps, because he looked at us and ... he was utterly unable to speak. He just stood there. He was supposed to talk to us, and tell us all this shit, and he literally stood there in horror (Kent Interview with Prince, 1998: 25).

Despite what must have been a disturbing encounter with RPFers, Travolta continues to serve as an official public relations officer for the Scientology organization.

Even one of Hollywood's newer faces - Juliette Lewis (b. June 21, 1973) - may know about the RPF, and if she does, then she says nothing about it. Her alleged knowledge of the program stems from that fact that her step-mother seems to have served time in it. This information came from the (now former) high-ranking Scientologist, Jesse Prince, who (during one period while he was assigned to the RPF) reported drove busloads of children (including the young Lewis) to the Cedars Sinai complex in order for them to see parents who were in the RPF (Kent Interview with Prince, 1994: 44-45). If Prince's account is accurate, then she must have some idea about the harshness of the RPF program, if only because she experience many of the restrictions that the program imposed upon a person who (at the time) was a member of her own family.

If these allegations are true, then they likely will provide impetus for German boycotts of the movies in which Scientology stars perform, like the unsuccessful attempt in August, 1996 by the youth wing of the Christian Democratic Union to organize a boycott of Tom Cruise's movie, Mission Impossible (see Demick, 1996). Certainly the boycott attempt occurred long after information about the RPF was in the German press, but I cannot determine whether the effort's organizers knew about the allegation that RPF forced labour built and maintained some of Cruise's recreational facilities. Presumably the United States Department of State's press spokesperson, Nicholas Burns, did not know of the allegations when, during an official briefing, he criticized the boycott effort and praised Cruise and his film:

... [W]e note the call by a youth wing of one of the major [German] political parties for a boycott of the film, 'Mission Impossible,' because its star, Tom Cruise, is a Scientologist. We here in the State Department gave that [movie] four stars, two thumbs up. We think it's a good movie. We would encourage Germans to watch it, and we don't think it's proper to see that movie banned anywhere in the world. It's a good product of Hollywood - American cinema (United States Department of State, 1997: 5).

The Bavarian State Minister of the Interior, however, Dr. Gunther Beckstein, knew of the allegations in early 1997, since he referred to the Andre Tabayoyon affidavit in an impassioned response to thirty-four Hollywood 'personalties' (many of whom had connections with Tom Cruise [see Spieler7, 1997] who criticized Germany's opposition to Scientology.

In a letter published in the International Herald Tribune in early January 1997, these entertainment leaders "drew a parallel between efforts to boycott performances by actors and musicians who are Scientologists to the book-burnings staged by the Nazis in the 1930s. It urged [Chancellor Helmut] Kohl 'to bring an end to this shameful pattern of organized persecution'" (Drozdiak, 1997). Beckstein blasted back:

'The Hollywood VIPs who criticized the Federal Republic of Germany's stance position against Scientology in an "open letter" would be better off expressing their outrage at the inhumane practices taking place in Scientology's own penal colonies.... All they need to do is look a little more carefully in the greater Los Angeles region.' Former members of Scientology report that the camps, known as the Rehabilitation Project Force, are for leading Scientologists who do not perform as the organization wishes. One Vietnam veteran [i.e., Andre Tabayoyon] stated that the brainwashing and punitive methods used in these camps were reminiscent of those practiced by the Vietcong and the Chinese during the Vietnam war (Beckstein quoted in the Bavarian State Ministry of the Interior, 1997).

German politicians such as Beckstein who oppose Scientology's quest for religious standing are well versed in the existence of the RPF programs, and they are aware that the program still exists (Hessische Allgemeine, 1997). The also have little patience for ill-informed American meddlers into German governmental and social affairs.

RPF and American Law Enforcement

Beckstein's challenge to American entertainers and their business associates - that they look within their own borders for human rights abuses before criticizing a German situation that they do not understand - also has a message for the American law enforcement agency. Undoubtedly the waiver or release that many RPFers sign before entering makes American police agencies reluctant to intervene, and it is impossible to know how many former or escaped inmates lodge formal police complaints. Moreover, the Deputy District Attorney for the Gilman Hot Springs area, Alina Freer, did not find any evidence that people were being held against their will when she viewed the Happy Valley facility (although researchers know nothing about the amount of warning that Scientology might have had about her visit [Thurston, 1999: A2]). Nevertheless, on at least three occasions, police may have failed to take advantage of crucial interventions or investigate opportunities. In one instance around the summer of 1977, "a guy named Bill" reportedly "climbed that barbed wire fence ]around the new L.A. headquarters], got chewed up by the dogs, and actually got away." As Jesse Prince related, Bill returned with the police to get his things, and when he arrive he was met with, "I don't know, ten attorneys, dressed impeccably, there to explain it all away." He picked up a small sack of clothes, and left - without any law enforcement intervention against the RPF program (Kent Interview with Prince, 1998: 25-26).

More dramatically, Prince recounted that he was asleep in the RPF "in a place where there was no light ... because there was no electricity "when the FBI raided Scientology's Los Angeles building in 1977. Agents came into the area with flashlights shining and guns drawn, and (as Prince stated), "[t]hey woke me up from my sleep with a gun at my head" (Kent Interview with Prince, 1998: 24). No one, however, asked (or begged) to leave with the agents, but Prince insisted that "[w]e were pretty numb," suffering from malnutrition and psychological assault (Kent Interview with Prince, 1998: 24). Besides, the FBI's search warrant was for documents, not inmates.

Finally, some months after I undertook my initial study of the RPF, I grew sufficiently alarmed at what I was learning that (in mid-April, 1997) I mailed information about the program to an agent in the Violent Crimes and Major Offenders Office of the FBI in Washington, D.C. (Kent, 1997a). I never received even an acknowledgment of receipt, so in 1999 I followed up with a letter to the FBI's Chief of Staff, Agent Robert Bucknam (Kent, 1999b). Once again I received no answer, nor have I ever received a reply to a letter about the RPF that I sent to a member of the United States Congress, Representative Mary Bono (Kent, 1999c).

The RPF and Human Rights Issues

Contrary to the judgments of some social scientists, the brainwashing term has validity in the discourse of politics and legal debates, in this case about human rights. Without question the RPF's operations violate a number of human rights statutes, which the United Nations proclaimed in both its 1948 resolution entitled The International Bill of Human Rights (United Nations, 1996b), and its 1996 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (United Nations, 1996a).

First, Scientology's procedures involving committees of evidence, sec checking, gang bang sec checking, and the two RPF programs almost certainly violate Articles 9 and 10 of the Bill. Article 9 protects people against "arbitrary arrest, detention or exile" while article 10 guarantees "a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his [sic] rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him" (United Nations, 1996b: 23).

Second, Scientology's invasive probing into people's thoughts through sec checking and obligatory confessions almost certainly violate articles 18 and 19 of the Bill that deal with both "the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion" and "the right to freedom of opinion and expression" (United Nations, 1996b: 25).

Third, the various Scientology practices and procedures that restrict communication by RPF inmates probably violate Article 17 of the Bill, which states that "[n]o one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation" (United Nations, 1996b: 49).

Fourth, the conditions of the RPF and the RPF's RPF almost certainly violate Article 7 of the Covenant, which discusses "the right of everyone to the enjoyment of just and favourable conditions of work...." (United Nations, 1996a: 38). The article specifically identifies fair wages, "[a] decent living for themselves and their families...., [s]afte and healthy working conditions...., and [r]est, leisure, and reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay...." (United Nations, 1996a: 38). Indeed, many Sea Org jobs themselves may not meet these reasonable standards of propriety, safety, and fairness.

Fifth and finally, the extreme social psychological assaults and forced confessions that RPF and RPF's RPF inmates suffer almost certainly violate Article 12 of the Covenant, which recognizes "the right of everyone to enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health" (United Nations, 1996a: 18).

These and probably other serious human rights issues swirl around Scientology programs that have tax exemption and operate within the boundaries of the United States. With these serious issues in mind, the American human rights criticism of Germany's opposition to Scientology is the height of diplomatic arrogance. By granting Scientology tax exemption, the United States is cooperating with an organization that appears to put citizens from around the world at significant mental health and medical risk (see Kent, 1996: 30-33). The human rights issues become even more significant with awareness that children and teenagers have been in various RPF programs, and still appear to be so.


1. Begun in 1967, the Sea Org is comprised of members who have signed billion year contracts with the Scientology organization, but (more realistically) work for years doing "whatever their assigned tasks may be in the furtherance of the objectives of Scientology." Often these tasks are related to the "delivery of the most advanced levels of Scientology" (Church of Scientology International, 1992: 360).

2. Uninformed consent means that people who agreed to enter programs did not know either about the techniques that they would undergo or about the demands under which they would live and work. In a phrase, people who give uninformed consent do not know what they are getting into.

3. Interestingly, Dick Anthony consulted for Scientology on this case, yet even after the legal decision he continued to deny the social scientific utility of brainwashing in the context of Scientology (see Anthony and Robbins, 1992: 6n.1).

4. The earlier footage shows someone in an RPF "uniform" (i.e., long-legged black work trousers, a short-sleeved black "T" shirt) working in a corner on the roof of Scientology's Office of Special Affair building, with two other workers (probably on the Estates Project Force [EPF], judging by their clothing) working not far away. A strong possibility exists that the RPF inmate was on the RPF's RPF (which I will discuss) and is being guarded by the two EPF members. The August 1998 footage shows what appear to be RPF people (wearing blue "T" shirts with black bands around their right biceps and either knee-high or long black trousers) working on the back of a Scientology building, with some additional people running from place-to-place as RPFers are required to do.

5. Some of these indicators are unusual phrases such as "pain-drug-hypnotism" (Hubbard [probable author], 1955: 33) and "P.D.H., or Pain-Drug-Hypnosis" (Hubbard [probable author], 1955: 37, 39. This phrase does not appear in standard English language dictionaries, but it is in one of Hubbard's Scientology dictionaries (Hubbard, 1975: 296). Other direct indicators that Hubbard wrote the brainwashing manual include its: attack on psychiatry, discussions of hypnotism, and the "stimulus-response" pattern in conditioning (Hubbard [probable author], 1955: 35; Hubbard, 1975: 407, etc.). The most telling indicator, however, of Hubbard's authorship is the fact that one version mentions Dianetics in the text while another replaces the "Dianetics" mention with "Church of Scientology." The (presumably earlier) Dianetics mention was as follows: "The psychopolitical operative should also spare no expense in smashing out of existence, by whatever means, any actual healing group, such as that of acupuncture, in China; such as Christian Science, Dianetics and faith healing in the United States; such as Catholicism in Italy and Spain; and the practical psychological groups of England" (Hubbard [probable author], n.d.: 49). "Dianetics and faith healing" is replaced by the "Church of Scientology" in (Hubbard [probable author], 1955: 49).

6. Apparently researchers received copies of Hubbard's correspondence with the FBI through Freedom of Information inquires, since I have a photocopy of a letter (dated December 16, 1955) that Hubbard sent to the FBI in Washington, D.C. along with a copy of the "brainwashing/psychopolitics" booklet. He concluded this letter by saying, "[s]hould you run into this manual on how to brainwash people you will now be able to recognize it as printed and distributed by an anti-Communist group for their [sic] research."

7. I remain unclear about the extent to which the RPF was Hubbard's brainchild. Hana Whitfield, for example, insists that Hubbard did not merely authorize the RPF's creation - he created it himself. As she related to me by e-mail, "In January, 1974, I was head of AVU, the Authority and Verification Unit, on board the [Scientology flagship] Apollo, Kenneth Urquhart, LRH Personal Communicator, came to my office carrying screeds of hand-written pages. He handed them to me and said [that] they were several Flag Orders, authored by Hubbard and dictated to Ken. Hubbard had had an accident and could not write or type. Ken told me to read them, [and] let him know my opinion, then send them to Mimeo for publication and distribution. He said he needed a witness if questions ever arose as to why he had written them over Hubbard's name. I was horrified by their content; the first one established the FLAG RPF onboard. It was given the number 3434 in Mimeo" (Whitfield, 1998:2). Another person, however, who was informed about Hubbard's inner circle, indicated that Urquhart designed the RPF after Hubbard instructed him to handle people on the ship who "were not pulling their weight" (Kent interview with Ernesto, 1997: 2). It may be that these two accounts are compatible. Perhaps Urquhart designed the initial RPF design, gave it to Hubbard, and Hubbard dictated back to him a final version that Urquhart showed to Whitfield.

8. The normal Sea Org stipend rate was $17.50 a week in the early 1970s (Kent Interview with Fern, 1987): 10) and reportedly was about $30.00 a week in 1990 (Harrington, 1997a). It may have increased to $50.00 a week in 1993 or 1994 (Harrington, 1997b), although exact amounts vary according to the organization's net income, one's job the "ethics" level of people and possible commissions that some positions can earn (NUKEWASTER, 1997).

9. According to former Sea Org member, Hana Whitfield, routing out of the RPF involved several obligatory steps. First, the person wanting to leave was isolated from other RPF members, presumably so that the person could not 'infect' others with the desire to exit. The person ate separately, and sometimes even slept away from the other RPFers. Second, this person remained under constant guard. Third, the person routing out had to pass security checks to the satisfaction of technical superior in the RPF along with other Scientologists of rank. Consequently, as higher ranking Scientologists send back questions that they wanted the person to answer, security checks sometimes extended over four days. On any day, a security check session could have extended for up to ten hours (with quick bathroom and food breaks). Fourth, as the RPFer was undergoing these 'routing out' procedures, RPFers in good standing went through the person's auditing files and culled all examples of crimes, transgressions, or misdeeds. Fifth, these examples (combined with information revealed in the security checks) became an attachment to a long waiver that the person had to sign that supposedly absolved Scientology and its leaders from any future legal action against it for things that might have happened to the person while he or she was a member. Sixth, after signing the waiver and list of crimes and misdeeds, a guard allowed the person to gather up personal effects and then escorted him or her off Sea Org premises. I thank Hana Whitfield for this information (Whitfield, 1998: 1-2).

10. The range of options is extremely limited for those Sea Org members who supposedly have a choice about entering the RPF. If they refuse to enter the RPF after being assigned to it, then they will expelled from Scientology, labelled "insane" and an enemy of the organization, and banned from Scientology courses and auditing forever. They also may be presented with a bill (called a "freeloader's bill") for all of the courses that they took without having to pay because of their Sea Org status. This information comes from a number of sources. I own a photocopy of a "Rehabilitation Project Force RPF Waiver" (which does not contain any other identifying information), and "it is the policy of the Church of Scientology to dismiss or expel" anyone who quits the program. Hubbard discussed a "freeloader" in one of his standard dictionaries (Hubbard, 1976b: 225). Hubbard's definitions of "insane," "insane act," and "insanity" dovetail with the stated reasons that he used to make RPF assignments (see Hubbard, 1976b: 281-282; 441).

11. A 1961 policy letter that Scientology reprinted in 1976 stated that the person about to administer a sec check should tell the target individual, "[w]hile we cannot guarantee you that matters revealed in this check will be held forever secret, we can promise you faithfully that no part of it nor any answer you make here will be given to the police or state" (Hubbard, 1961: 276). Use of the E-meter as a de facto lie detector rather than a reputed religious device raises interesting issues about legality. An American District Court decision from 1971 (affirmed in 1973 [United States Court of Appeals, 1973]) indicated, "[t]he E-meter should not be sold to any person or used in any counseling of any person except pursuant to a written contract, signed by the purchaser or counselee, which includes, among other things, a prominent notification as specified immediately above" (United States District Court, 1971: 365). Reference to the earlier "prominent notification" was the requirement that the E-meter was to "bear a prominent, clearly visible notice warning that any person using it for auditing or counseling or any kind is forbidden by law to represent that there is any medical or scientific basis for believing or asserting that the device is useful in the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of any disease" (United States District Court, 1971: 364). It remains an open question, therefore, about the legality of Scientology using it outside of "priest/penitent confidentiality" as a de facto, scientifically sound lie detector.