Scientology cult ordered me to have an abortion

Sun Investigation: British mum's hell in celeb church

The Sun, UK/May 20, 2012

A British mum who escaped Scientology after 20 years has revealed her hell in the clutches of the weird secretive cult that targets Hollywood celebs.

In a startling expose of the sci-fi inspired church — which boasts Tom Cruise and John Travolta as leading members — brave Sam Domingo, 45, from Kent, says they:

Forced her to have an abortion when her husband got her pregnant because cult leaders didn't approve.

Punished her for disobedience by making her dig a huge hole in frozen earth with a pickaxe for two weeks.

Sent her to indoctrinate rich stars at the Scientology Celebrity Centre in Hollywood.

Took her passport away so she couldn't flee and fly home.

Made her scrub a tunnel full of rats and cockroaches for being "disloyal".

Mum-of-three Sam, who was once married to opera legend Placido Domingo's son, said last night: "Some of the things I went through really pushed me to the edge of insanity.

"Now I just want to see the Church of Scientology crumble. It is a cancer, rotten to the core. It was all a big con."

Sam was 21 and looking for the meaning of life when she first became a member.

She said: "I fell in love with it because it had all the answers I was looking for. The goal was to make the world a better place.

"I thought at last I'd found a higher purpose for my life."

After training at their UK headquarters — Saint Hill Manor in East Grinstead, West Sussex — she was shocked when she was told she was being sent to Hollywood to work at the cult's top-secret celebrity centre.

Located on Franklin Avenue, Hollywood, it was like stepping into a five-star hotel, complete with fine paintings, crystal chandeliers, a top-class restaurant and plush carpets.

And she found herself rubbing shoulders with some of the hottest names in showbiz.

Sam recalled: "I was a supervisor in the course room for the newest celebrity recruits.

"Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kirstie Alley were already members, so I looked after people like the actress Juliette Lewis and the musician Isaac Hayes.

"Juliette was utterly charming and Isaac was adorable."

Lewis starred in Cape Fear and Natural Born Killers. Hayes was the voice of the chef in South Park and had a No1 with the song Chocolate Salty Balls.

After gruelling ten-hour days Sam would be bussed back to the squalor of the cult's dormitories in an old dilapidated hotel.

She said: "The heating didn't work, the food was awful and we were kept in dire conditions."

Lonely and far from her family, Sam found herself falling for a colleague called Michael and they married. Despite being on the pill, she got pregnant. The church's response chills her to this day.

She said: "I was told in no uncertain terms this was not to be — and to have an abortion as it was for the greater good.

"It felt like I had just committed a criminal act, the way they reacted. I was full of shock and horror. As I believed in this organisation at the time, the only option was utter compliance. My passport had been taken from me, so I couldn't just pack up and fly home.

"An 'ethics officer' helped arrange an abortion at a free clinic and I was given a week off to recover and then I was back on post as if nothing had happened.

"Michael and I divorced a short time later."

Recalling how she originally fell under the church's spell, she said: "When I first became a Scientologist my mother said it was a cult. I told her not to worry, I wouldn't shave my head and start wearing orange robes. But looking back it led me to do even stranger things."

Sam worked for the church full-time in England. She joined its elite Sea Org division and even signed a ludicrous "billion-year contract" which is standard for all members of the unit.

She was subjected to "auditing" sessions, in which she was grilled in detail about every part of her life. And there were strange punishments for anyone who broke any of the rules. She said: "In Sea Org you start off as a 'swamper' and wear a naval-style uniforms.

"The ranks include petty officer, captain and lieutenant. I earned around £10 a week and the conditions were terrible.

"At one point we were surviving on nothing but dried oats, powdered milk and water.

"I took an unsanctioned visit to see my mother in Derby one Christmas and she gasped when she saw how pale I was.

"She thought I looked like a plucked chicken. When I got back I was told to dig a hole with a pickaxe as a punishment. It was January and the ground was frozen solid, I spent two miserable weeks outside battling to dig through the hard soil. It was a useless exercise that left me exhausted."

It was soon after that when Sam's superiors informed her she was being sent to Los Angeles — and then began the period of her life that led to the abortion.

Back at Celebrity Centre after her baby heartbreak and marriage break-up, Sam met a recent Sea Org recruit, Placido Domingo Jnr, son of the star tenor.

The pair clicked immediately — but church officials tried to ban them from seeing each other. Placi, as Sam calls him, was outraged and they escaped for two days. After their sheepish return to the church, Sam soon learned of the consequences of their disloyalty. She said: "I was placed on the Rehabilitation Project Force, which is for Sea Org members who are in trouble.

"Someone was assigned to watch me 24 hours a day — they even stood outside the bathroom door.

"You wear a black boiler suit and have to run everywhere.

"But the worst part of my punishment was being made to clean a small tunnel under the kitchens in the Sea Org headquarters known as Rats' Alley. You are given a board with wheels and have to slide in on your back with a bucket and disinfectant.

"It's full of cockroaches, silverfish and hardened grease. I spent two weeks down there. It's not an experience I'd ever care to repeat."


But Sam went on to marry Placido in 1996. Although they are now divorced, they are on friendly terms and have three beautiful daughters — Paloma, 16, Victoria, 14, and Daniela, ten.

It was when Sam and Placido's marriage ran into difficulty that irreparable cracks also began to appear in her relationship with the church.

She explained: "I had become aware of several high-level Scientologists having affairs. The high moral fibre and ethical standards that attracted me to the church were lacking.

"I realised deep down many Scientologists aren't happy.

"They were deluding themselves wearing silly fixed grins. Underneath the surface I saw insanity."


Sam, who donated £250,000 to the cult in her 20 years, walked away from the church in 2009.

Her husband left soon afterwards after they tried to ban him from seeing his ex-wife and children.

During her time as a Scientologist, Sam progressed to the extremely high spiritual grade of Operating Thetan Five — or OT5 — on the sect's unique faith scale. She believes Tom Cruise is currently at OT7, meaning he only has one more level to go to reach the highest state, OT8. She is now back in England with her three daughters.

They want nothing to do with Scientology — and Sam is praying for the collapse of the cult that ruled her life.

She said: "When I think back to all the celebrities I helped bring into Scientology, I'm sure it's only a matter of time until they leave.

"Lisa Marie Presley is rumoured to have quit recently. She appears to have woken up and removed all mention of Scientology from her website.

"So Lisa Marie Presley has left the building — and more will follow."

Sci-Fi writer dreamed it up

Scientology was founded in 1952 by the late L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer from the US.

His best-selling book, Dianetics, is a key text for those who follow the faith.

He claimed humans are really spiritual beings called Thetans, which have lived for trillions of years and are constantly reincarnating.

As well as attempting to explain the power of the mind, it promotes a unique counselling technique Scientologists call "auditing" to enable individuals to deal with their past.

The controversial cult has several high-profile converts who are thought to hand over large sums of money to it.

Hubbard bought Saint Hill Manor as Scientology's British headquarters at East Grinstead, West Sussex, in 1959.

In October 2006, a multi-million pound Scientology centre was opened in London, with Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Juliette Lewis in attendance.

The church claims to have 123,000 followers in the UK.

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