Church of Scientology linked to family breakups, child labour, exploitation
by Sydney Davis
Tuesday Aug 19th, 2008
Scientology's latest public relations stunt has drawn criticism, as former members speak out about the organization's destructive policies. Multiple reports indicate that children are being exploited, denied a proper education, and separated from their families by Scientology organizations.
Members of the Sydney Church of Scientology swooped upon Hunter's Hill's Moocooboola Festival last Sunday in an attempt to associate the controversial organisation with a legitimate police initiative focusing on missing persons. The Australia Federal Police (AFP) held Missing Person's Week to raise awareness of an issue that causes immense heartache to families. The AFP motto reportedly read: "When communication goes missing, so does our youth. Don't close the door to communication."
"This motto really tells it like it is," said Cyrus Brooks, the Vice President of the Church of Scientology Australia. However, these public comments are in stark contrast to the official policies of Scientology. In the United States, the Church of Scientology has come under intense criticism for its practice of enforced "disconnection". Critics claim this cult-like policy tears families apart, as Scientologists are required to cut off all contact with anyone who is considered by the Church to be a "suppressive person".
In a recent report aired by ABC Nightline, the niece of Scientology's current leader spoke out against Scientology's destructive and coercive policies. Jenna Miscavige Hill recounted how she rarely saw her parents, who were members of Scientology's core group known as the Sea Organization (Sea Org). "What we're told is that they have to work so hard because they're helping other people. Your family isn't the most important thing." At the age of 12 she was pressured into joining the Sea Org, where she was made to work extremely long hours for little pay. "I saw my mom probably a half an hour, one time, from when I was twelve 'til I was sixteen. I saw my dad maybe three times, for half an hour each time." After her parents left the church, Ms Hill was ordered to stop communicating with them, and she was prohibited from answering the phone in case they attempted to call her. Astra Woodcraft similarly was barred from speaking with her father after he left Scientology. She has since left Scientology and has joined Jenna Miscavige Hill and Kendra Wiseman in setting up the website exscientologykids.com to support those who have been harmed by the abusive policies of the Scientology organization.
In March 2008, Susan Lentsch issued a press release pleading for the Church of Scientology to allow her to see her daughter, Katherine "Kate" Olson. Olson had repeatedly been denied permission to leave the Scientology facility where she works in Scientology's Sea Organization. Ms. Lentsch reports "Kate was crying when she was put on the speaker phone to say hello to her grandparents." Following the release of her statement, the Church allowed a brief meeting between the mother and daughter, in the presence of a Scientology handler.
In Australia, the Workplace Ombudsman and the Victorian Department of Education are investigating allegations that children as young as thirteen are being used as child labour in Scientology organizations, while being denied a proper education. This investigation was prompted by the testimony of a whistleblower who went to the authorities with evidence of the illegal practice at the Melbourne Church of Scientology. "At the end of the day, Scientology is a business, that operates as a cult, pretending to be a religion." said the informant in comments to the media.
Former high-level Scientologist Jason Beghe left the organization last year, and has spoken out against the abusive practices in Scientology. "What they do to recruit actors is one thing - what about the little children they get into the Sea Organization? You hear my story, and I got out and I got some sad tales and maybe I got ripped off for a good chunk of money... If you look at that, as compared to someone who joins the Sea Org, it's not even comparable... A hundred hours probably is what the average Sea Org person works a week... and then you get that for 50 years, 40 years, because they get them when they're teenagers. I mean that's taking people's lives away. That's enslaving somebody's mind."
In comments to the Australian media, Beghe said "Everybody has a right to believe what they want to believe. But I don't believe that anybody has a right to trick anybody, to hurt anybody, to harm somebody for their own purposes."