Message-ID: <email@example.com> From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Stacy Young) Newsgroups: alt.religion.scientology Subject: One less scientologist in the world Date: Tue, 19 May 1998 21:08:28 GMT
Scientology is spreading the word far and wide through its Office of Special Affairs network that I have gone into the business of forcible deprogramming. During the past two weeks, OSA operatives have literally stalked me across the country. They have known my travel plans and have met my flights at various airports. They've known where I was staying and have showed up at my hotel rooms. They have harassed me while I was having lunch, and they have interrupted me at dinner to take my photograph.
The amazing thing is what I actually did to cause all of this commotion: I sat down with a young scientologist and told her about my own firsthand experiences in scientology. I gave her some information. That's all I did. After she had received the information, she decided she didn't want to be in scientology any more. No force, no violence, no coercion. Just a free flow of information. Freedom of choice.
Does this qualify as "deprogramming" at all, much less "forcible deprogramming"? I certainly don't think so. Personally, I would describe it as a conversation between two adults exercising their rights of free speech and free thought. But let me tell you the whole story of what has caused OSA to be so afraid of me, and then all of you - scientologists and non-scientologists alike - can decide for yourselves.
I've just spent several days in New Orleans with a wonderful family, the Wessels. Their 27-year-old daughter Lara was recruited into scientology about a year ago, and her family watched with alarm as their loving, vivacious daughter's life was gradually enveloped by scientology. She had been an aspiring, very talented actress, but once she got into scientology she dropped her acting career entirely. The family had been very close, but Lara had become distant. All she would talk about was scientology. Her family was afraid they were going to lose her forever.
Lara's father Dave has some friends who were peripherally aware of a network of people who deal with the cult problem. He contacted several of his friends, who put him in contact with Monica Pignotti, an exit counselor in New York, and Paul Grosswald, a former scientologist from New York. Monica invited me to participate because she knew I had recently helped another young woman who had left scientology on her own but had been in really bad shape emotionally and psychologically by the time she left. I had flown to the east coast to spend some time with her, and I had been able to help her and her family simply because I have so much information about what goes on and how it works inside.
So, after a long conversation with Lara's father Dave, he asked me to come down to New Orleans because he thought I might be able to contribute some useful information which Lara could use to make a decision about what she wanted to do.
I arrived Tuesday (before Monica and Paul) and spent the evening with all of Lara's family - her parents, her sister and her family, her brother and his family, her aunt and uncle. It was very heartwarming to see how much Lara is loved by these people. She is so lucky to have a family that cares about her as much as they do. They had many, many questions for me, and I answered them as well as I could. Lara had been home for the New Orleans Jazzfest for nearly two weeks, and the whole family had been on pins and needles, trying not to antagonize her by showing any negative feelings about scientology. It had been exhausting for all of them.
Lara had been vigorously trying to recruit her entire family into scientology ever since she'd been home, and everyone had been as polite in their refusal as possible. She wanted them all to take courses at the Baton Rouge mission, and she was sure that once they did a course they would see why she was ready to dedicate the next billion years as a member of scientology's elite Sea Organization. As horrified as the family was, they had tried hard not to show it. Instead, at every opportunity her brother Kris and her Aunt Shirley in particular had asked Lara if she would be willing to speak to anyone about another side of the scientology story. They told me Lara had said yes, she would. The family all agreed Lara had been an independent thinker all her life, and they hoped that that strength of hers would enable her to listen to legitimate information, even if it was negative about scientology.
But now that the time had come, the family was extremely nervous and wanted to make sure they knew what to do. The plan was for her brother Kris and her Aunt Shirley, the two people she trusted the most, to take Lara out for lunch the next day and tell her that her father had invited some people to New Orleans who could give her some new information about scientology if she was willing to listen to them. The family was particularly worried about this step. What if she got angry and said no? What if it drove her further into scientology and made the situation worse?
From what they had told me about Lara, it didn't sound like she would refuse. She loved her family enough to be willing to listen to another side of the story if it was clearly important to them that she do so. It also sounded as if she might already have begun to have doubts about her involvement. I had not yet met her, but I had the feeling she was quite strong-willed, with a mind of her own. I thought there was a good chance that Lara would agree to listen to what we had to say.
By the end of the first evening the family was somewhat reassured, having realized that there was nothing mysterious in the least about what was about to happen. If Lara agreed to talk to us, we would provide her with information that she had not had access to as a scientologist, and with this information Lara would be in a position to make an informed choice about whether or not she wanted to continue her involvement in scientology. If she refused to talk to us, we would leave. It was as simple as that. But, I told them, I was confident that she would agree, perhaps out of a combination of love for her family and curiosity about what kind of information we might have.
The next morning Monica and Paul arrived and we all met at the hotel while Lara met her brother and aunt for lunch. As the time approached for the meeting, we all piled in the car and drove to Lara's parents' house, where, we hoped, Lara would soon join us. We made small talk for a while, trying not to be nervous, but we all jumped when the phone finally rang. It was Lara's brother Kris. She had agreed to meet with us, and they were on their way. We all breathed a sigh of relief. The first big step had been made!
Kris, Shirley and Lara arrived within a few minutes. Lara came right up to me, shook my hand, and said cordially, "Hi, I'm Lara. Nice to meet you." She did the same with Monica and Paul.
I asked her if she was nervous, and she said, "Yes, I guess I am a little bit, but I'm interested in what you have to say. Let's get started."
We began by introducing ourselves and telling Lara briefly about each of our histories in scientology. Monica had been in for six years, and she had been with Hubbard on the ship. Paul had only been in for six months, but he had joined the Sea Org in New York, where Lara had also joined, so they had had similar experiences and knew some of the same people. I had been in for fifteen years, at the Advanced Organization in Los Angeles and later in the Guardian's Office, Author Services, Inc., and the Office of Special Affairs.
Monica and Paul told her about some of their experiences, and Lara's response was pretty much to say, "OK, but that kind of thing can happen anywhere. No organization is perfect. It doesn't change the fact that scientology helps a lot of people."
I said, "That's true, and I used to feel exactly the same way. But I experienced some things that finally forced me to re-evaluate my relationship with scientology. I'd like to share those experiences with you so that you have a clear picture of the kind of organization you're involved in."
Lara shrugged. "OK," she said. "I'm willing to hear what you have to say."
I spent about 45 minutes telling her about some of the experiences I had in scientology. I told her that during all the years I was in scientology I had always believed that if I could only move high enough up in the ranks I would find scientology being practiced the way I thought it should be, based on the policies I had read. But then I got all the way to the top of the hierarchy, working directly with David Miscavige, and discovered that, if anything, it was worse all the way at the top than it had been lower down in the ranks. I told her about some of the things I saw Miscavige do to staff, some of the things he ordered me to do to staff which I refused to do, and I told her what happened that led me to refuse to work with him at all, for which I was sent to the RPF.
When I was finished with my story, Lara decided she didn't want to be part of a group in which people were abused the way I was, and the way other people were that I described. That was literally all that happened. She was given some information that she had not had previously. Monica and Paul also gave her information, not only about their own experiences in scientology but also about mind control and how it works. And that was the extent of what happened that caused Lara Wessel to decide she no longer wanted to be a scientologist.
Lara made her decision on Wednesday evening, May 6, the very first day we talked to her. The next day, Thursday, we were all over at her sister's house watching some videos of shows about scientology and mind control when her father arrived with the news that two scientologists had showed up at his house looking for Lara. He told them she had gone out of town for a few days, thinking that would cause them to go away. Of course, as we would soon find out, this just fueled their paranoia that Lara was being "forcibly deprogrammed."
Thursday evening Lara's aunt surprised us all with tickets to the New Orleans symphony. The music was wonderful and we all enjoyed ourselves immensely, particularly Lara, who commented on how happy she was to have her life back. After the program we were supposed to meet Lara's brother and his wife for dinner. But when Lara called him he told her an incredible story.
The New Orleans police and an ambulance had arrived at their parents' house, all lights flashing. The police had received an anonymous phone call that someone was committing suicide inside the house. No one was home (since we were all at the symphony) so the police gained entry to the house and searched it. Finding no one, they finally left.
We had warned the Wessels that scientology would not believe Lara had decided on her own to leave scientology, that they would believe she had been coerced or forced in some way to leave. But even we were flabbergasted that scientology was going this far. Lara and her father went down to the police station and both made statements about what was happening. Lara made it clear in her statement that she had spoken to us of her own free will, that she had not been coerced in any way, and that she had decided to leave scientology based purely on the information she had received.
We all thought that would be the end of it, but we were wrong. The next night, Friday night, Monica, Paul and I headed back to our hotel and Lara and her parents all went to bed by 10:30. At about 11:30 Lara was awakened by flashing lights shining through her bedroom window and the doorbell ringing repeatedly. She was afraid it was an OSA helicopter coming to get her and she ran upstairs to her parents' room for protection. She woke her father, who went downstairs and discovered several police officers at the front door.
The police said they had received an anonymous call that someone was being held against their will in the house and they wanted to come in and check it out. Lara's father said they were welcome to come in but said he thought he knew what this was all about and explained to them about what had been happening with Lara and scientology. Then he called Lara, who came upstairs in her pajamas and told the police she was not being held against her will, she loved her parents and was very glad they had helped her get out of scientology. The police by now were angry about being manipulated by scientology, and one of the officers told Lara's father that if he had any more trouble from scientology he would see that the offenders were arrested.
By now the entire Wessel family was astonished and alarmed at what scientology was doing. Certainly Lara was seeing a side of scientology that she had never seen before. We explained to them that it is literally impossible for a scientologist to accept the fact that someone might make an informed choice to leave scientology. A scientologist firmly believes that the only way someone in Lara's position would leave scientology would be if they were forced to do so by being handcuffed, gagged and held against their will. So these people who were orchestrating all of these incidents truly believed they were trying to help Lara escape from the clutches of evil forcible deprogrammers. The family just shook their heads in amazement.
Saturday Monica and Paul left, and Lara and I had a relaxing day. We had lunch at the House of Blues and she showed me a little bit of New Orleans. Then we headed back to my hotel room so she could watch a couple of videos that she hadn't had a chance to see yet. About 8:30 that night there was a loud knocking at my hotel room door. I opened it and there stood two heavy-set women, looking very serious. One of them pushed past me and elbowed her way through the doorway, saying, "We're here to see Lara Wessel. Where is she?"
Lara and I looked at each other in disbelief. More scientologists! Not wanting to be rude, I invited the women into the room and introduced Lara and myself. The two women looked surprised at my invitation but they came into the room, obviously uncomfortable. I asked them their names. "Mary," the dark-haired woman said. "Tracy," said the blond one. "No last names?" I asked. Tracy said, "You don't need to know our last names."
I invited them to sit down on the bed, which they did, and we all sat around chatting for quite a long time. Lara told them what had happened - that she had gotten information about scientology that she hadn't had before and based on that information, she had decided she would rather not be involved in it. This was completely unacceptable to Mary and Tracy. Didn't Lara realize that everything someone like me would tell her was a lie? Lara told them she didn't think any of us had lied to her, and she urged them to get the same information themselves. "I don't want to hear her lies," Tracy said in disgust.
I was able to find out that they were both public scientologists on lines at the Baton Rouge Mission. I explained to them that at their echelon they wouldn't know about the kinds of experiences I had at the upper echelons of scientology management, and that much of what I had seen had caused me to realize scientology was not what I had thought it was.
Tracy turned to Lara and, incredibly, said, "But look, what if you were a Catholic and you found out the Pope was banging some nun at a convent? That wouldn't keep you from being a devout Catholic and having the benefits of Catholicism, would it? Well, it doesn't matter what's going on in scientology management. You can still have wins and get up the Bridge to Total Freedom. What difference does it make to you and your life what management is doing?"
Lara and I were both speechless for a moment at this candid outburst. I recovered first and said, "Tracy, as a devout Catholic, wouldn't you feel some responsibility for at least making it known to the Pope that you didn't approve of his conduct? Wouldn't you feel it was awfully hypocritical of the Pope to bang this nun while insisting that all the Catholics in the world respect the sanctity of marriage? I personally felt that if the leadership of scientology was as corrupt as I discovered them to be, I couldn't condone their behavior by continuing to be a scientologist."
Tracy obviously felt she had made a blunder with her analogy of the Pope and the nun. She tried to change the subject back to my lack of credibility, but Lara interrupted her.
"I don't think you realize," Lara said, "that you aren't the only ones who have been to see me and my family." She detailed all of the events of the past several days, including the police and the flashing lights, the sirens, being awakened at nearly midnight, how it had really frightened her and her family. "At this point I have to tell you that you're inadvertently involving yourselves in a pattern of harassment and invasion of my and my family's privacy."
At this the two women glanced at each other uneasily, and then they both stood up.
"It was very kind of you to invite us into your room," Tracy said. "I think it's time for us to be going now."
Mary asked if we would be willing to watch a video with their side of the story. We both said absolutely, we would watch it. She said she'd get it to us, and then they left.
The next morning it was time to say goodbye. It was a sad parting, because Lara and I had gotten to be good friends. But we promised to get together again soon.
A production crew for a Swedish TV station had asked me to meet them in Washington, D.C., for an interview, so I caught a plane to D.C. The New Orleans trip had been emotionally draining for me. Settling into my seat on the plane, I was suddenly exhausted. I looked forward to a relaxing evening at my hotel.
But this was not to be. When I got off the plane in D.C., I saw Sylvia Stanard from OSA's D.C. Office of Public Affairs walking toward me. Sylvia and I have known each other since the late 1970s.
"Sylvia!" I said as she approached me. "What are you doing meeting me at the airport?"
"Well," she replied, "I hear you're in the business of forcible deprogrammings now, Stacy. I just want to make sure you aren't planning to kidnap any of my staff."
I could see that she was dead serious, and I couldn't believe it.
"What are you doing in D.C. if you're not here to deprogram someone?" she asked me. I told her I was there to be interviewed for Swedish TV, but she didn't believe me.
"Why would they want to interview you? You don't know anything about the situation in Sweden," she said, eyeing me skeptically. "No, that's not what you're here for."
I tried to tell her that all I had done in New Orleans was to give Lara information with which she then made her own decision. But it soon became clear to me that Sylvia was not going to believe me no matter what I said. In her mind, I was now a forcible deprogrammer and that was that.
Then she changed the subject. She wanted to know what happened that got me out of scientology, so I invited her to ride with me to my hotel. I told her the whole story of Vaughn getting beaten up by Norman Starkey, and how Marion Dendiu, then the Org Officer at ASI, had taken Vaughn to her office and assigned him lower conditions for upsetting Norman so badly that he lost his temper.
But Sylvia clearly thought I was lying to her. By the time we got to my hotel room she was back to worrying that I was going to kidnap her staff and deprogram them.
"Stacy," she said, "I want you to look me straight in the eye and promise me that you won't kidnap anyone while you're here."
I got so exasperated with her that I called Lara and asked her to tell Sylvia herself what had happened in New Orleans. Sylvia and Lara chatted for about fifteen minutes, while I unpacked my suitcase. Sylvia seemed surprised that I didn't mind her talking to Lara, but my feeling was, why not? Maybe something either Lara or I said to Sylvia might get through to her and get her thinking. There is always that hope.
Sylvia and I parted cordially that evening, and Sylvia said she'd like to get together with me while I was in D.C. I said that sounded fine. But as it turned out, it was not to be.
The next day I met Joachim and Phillip, the Swedish TV crew. They filmed an interview with me in the lobby of the Renaissance Hotel, and afterwards we sat in the hotel restaurant for lunch. Soon after we ordered, Sue Taylor and Alex Jones from OSA DC appeared at our table and began harassing us. Phillip picked up his camera and began filming the whole thing, of course. I was amazed that Sue was so rude to Joachim even though she knew she was being filmed and that it would appear on national television in Sweden.
We finally persuaded them to leave so we could eat lunch, but ten minutes later Sue, Alex and Sylvia all came back to our table. They were totally in our face and it was impossible to eat our lunch. I excused myself and went and asked hotel security to escort them out as they were harassing us. I returned to the table and sat down, and pretty soon security arrived and said quietly to Sue Taylor, "If you don't leave immediately on your own, I will have to help you leave," whereupon they all filed out of the hotel.
Bob Minton had to come down to D.C. on other business, and I had never actually met Arnie Lerma in person, so Bob took us both out on Tuesday evening for a nice dinner so we could finally meet each other. We were having a wonderful time when suddenly Matt Baraschi, one of OSA's more boorish operatives, appeared at our table and began snapping photos of us. It was incredibly offensive. I got up and convinced Matt to sit down next to Bob so I could take their photo together. He handed me his camera, and I immediately handed it to the maitre d', who turned around and took it into the kitchen to dispose of it. Matt jumped up and ran after him into the kitchen, creating an unbelievable scene in the restaurant. He soon emerged with his camera and stormed out, after accusing me of theft.
Finally my trip was at an end. All of the confrontation with the scientologists had been exhausting for me. I fell asleep as soon as the plane took off and didn't wake up until the pilot announced we were about to land in Seattle. I was really looking forward to getting home and relaxing. I walked off the plane and into the terminal. The first person I saw was Vaughn, and the next thing I knew Ann Ruble, the DSA Seattle, was coming between Vaughn and me so that it was impossible for me to say hello to him. She had a man with her named Larry something -- I missed his last name. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was. I couldn't believe they were there. Now I realized that I was virtually being stalked all the way across the country. They knew what flights I was on; they knew what hotels I was staying at, even what hotel rooms. It was unnerving to realize I was being watched so closely by these people.
"Stacy," Ann said, "Sylvia called me and said you promised her you would call her and let her know before you deprogrammed any of her staff in D.C. I just want you to promise me the same thing here in Seattle."
These people had caught Vaughn off guard. He hadn't realized they were scientologists at first, but when he did, it made him furious. He wanted to call airport security and have them escorted out. I convinced him to let me speak to Ann for a few minutes but she was actually quite rude and was clearly there only to harass me and try to frighten me.
She said, "Stacy, you know who Rick Ross is, don't you? You don't want the same thing to happen to you here in Washington, do you?"
Vaughn heard this and asked her if she was the one who supervised the leafleting of the town of Vashon with hate literature about us, or if she was the one who ordered our dog kidnapped and beaten almost to death. She denied any knowledge of those things, and even denied knowing who private investigator David Lee is.
In fact, it is possible that she really hasn't been in charge the harassment we have been subjected to, and that she hasn't been kept informed other than what she has read in the local newspaper. It has probably all been run directly from Los Angeles. I don't think Ann would have the stomach for the dirty tricks they've run on us, certainly I don't think she would condone torturing our dog Mac. She is basically a caring person who thinks she is helping people by her involvement in scientology. She is just a dupe.
Lara Wessel, in the meantime, is thrilled to have her life back. She is looking forward to getting her acting career back on track. She is happy to be able to have all of her old friends back. She is educating herself about mind control so she won't ever be taken in again. She is greatly relieved to be in control of her own thoughts again.
After this experience it is more clear to me than ever that freedom of speech and freedom of thought are the mortal enemies of totalitarianism. No wonder scientology is out to destroy the Internet. No totalitarian system of government can survive the free flow of information. No wonder scientology is so afraid that one of their members might sit down and have a conversation with me. God forbid a scientologist gains access to information that is not under the control of the organization. God forbid scientologists begin to exercise their inalienable rights of free speech, free thought and free association.
I hope I have many more opportunities to sit and talk with scientologists. I would be more than happy to share my experiences and insights with any scientologist who is interested in what I have to say. I can be reached at 206-463-6809. Feel free to call any time of the day or night.