Inside Scientology: Abuse, Human Trafficking, FBI Probes

Extensive Paul Haggis profile reveals allegations against church

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 7, 2011 7:38 AM CST

(Newser) – The New Yorker’s massive, 26-page takedown of Scientology is here, and it discloses—among other things—that the FBI has been investigating the church on suspicion of human trafficking for more than a year. Staff writer Lawrence Wright offers an extensive profile of ex-Scientologist Paul Haggis, the writer-director whose resignation rocked the church in 2009, and his experiences in the church and reasons for leaving. A book from Wright will follow, Gawker notes. Highlights from the article:

  • The FBI has been investigating allegations of abuse by David Miscavige—L. Ron Hubbard’s protégé, Tom Cruise’s best man, and the church’s current leader—since at least December 2009. Many former members of Scientology’s religious order, Sea Org, show signs that they may have been the victims of human trafficking or enslavement.

  • At Gold Base, the California desert center where leader David Miscavige has an office, church leaders are expected to “instill aggressive, even violent, discipline,” and physical force was sometimes used to “bring escapees back,” Wright writes. One ex-Scientologist gives an example of one punishment: getting sent to the “Hole,” two double-wide trailers where 80 to 100 people were confined and forced to “do group confessions all day and all night.” Another recalls being beaten by Miscavige five times, and says he didn’t report the incidents because Miscavige “holds the power of eternal life and death over you.”
  • Sea Org members are sometimes recruited as young children, who sign billion-year contracts to serve the church; some have alleged being cut off from their families and forced to do manual labor—for $50 a week, which can be docked to as low as $13 for infractions. Members who fail can be sent to what Wright describes as “punitive re-education camps."
  • The FBI is also investigating Miscavige’s swanky lifestyle. As the head of a tax-exempt organization, he is barred from enjoying “unusual perks or compensation,” but he has been given a $70,000 superbike, flies on chartered jets, wears custom-made shoes, has chefs and stewards, and basically lives like a celebrity.
Click for the entire piece, which details beatings and psychological torture by Miscavige, families forcibly broken apart, members disappearing, escaped members being followed, and more.

Director Paul Haggis poses for a photograph in Toronto on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010, to promote his film The Next Three Days.
Director Paul Haggis poses for a photograph in Toronto on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010, to promote his film "The Next Three Days."   (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)
In this Sept. 18, 2004  photo, confetti rains down as Tom Cruise embraces leader of the Church of Scientology, David Miscavige, during the opening of a new Scientology church in central Madrid.
In this Sept. 18, 2004 photo, confetti rains down as Tom Cruise embraces leader of the Church of Scientology, David Miscavige, during the opening of a new Scientology church in central Madrid.   (AP Photo/Paul White)
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