I was born. I grew up. I escaped.
That’s the tagline for ExScientologyKids.com, a website created by three women who grew up in Scientology and now are spreading the message about how the church impacted their lives and divided their families. These women, including the niece of current Scientology leader David Miscaviage, detail a world full of ridiculous jargon, long hours laboring to serve the church, suspicion at any activity that might negatively impact the church, an active campaign against psychiatry and a doctrine that forces people to sever relations with their families if they choose to leave.
My first experience with Scientologists came in college, long before Tom Cruise jumped the couch or professed his expertise on psychology. I was a student in Boston and living on campus. At the time, Scientology had offices in Kenmore Square in Boston, and there were always people outside the building with clipboards.
“Excuse me, would you like to take a personality test?” a girl near my age asked me. I turned and looked at her. She looked like every other college student in the way she dressed. But her eyes looked as vacant as my college neighbor, who smoked more pot than Cheech and Chong combined.
“Would you like to take a personality test?” I looked at her clipboard and her, and then up at the place she was standing in front of. In these days before the Internet, I didn’t know much about Scientology, but having been fascinated with cults, remembered reading a bit about them when I was in high school. I shook my head and walked away.
This was a regular occurrence when I’d walk through Kenmore Square. I always wondered what happened to those who agreed. Part of me thought it would be fun to find out. Another part envisioned myself selling flowers in airports soon after. So my stock answer to the question became, “No, I’m sorry, I have no personality.”
One day, my roommate and I were walking by the office when a woman said, “Excuse me.” I laughed to myself until I heard my roommate say, “Get your (bleep)ing hands off me.”
“I’m sorry, I just wanted to ask you if you wanted to take a personality test.”
“Then ask, don’t touch me. And if you or your nutso friends touch me ever again, I’m going to jam the clipboard down your throat.”
For several years, I didn’t think much about the church, occasionally surfing the Internet to read about their practices. Then, by sheer coincidence, when I was working to uncover medical fraud, I was handed a booklet by my manager, who said that it might be helpful in uncovering “psychiatric fraud.” The booklet was about how evil psychiatry was. I was flabbergasted that anybody would publish such garbage, so I did some research on Google about the group that published the booklet. It was an offshoot of Scientology.
While I think everyone should be free to worship in the faith of their choosing as long as they don’t harm me, themselves or others. As ExScientologyKids.com goes to great pains to point out, the people involved with the church aren’t necessarily bad, and truly believe in what they’re doing. But it is sad that those who wish to break away from the church have to disassociate themselves with the ones they love.