Two weeks ago, in a YouTube video and an interview in the Voice, Jason Beghe denounced Scientology as a "rip-off" that "brainwashed" its members. A veteran actor of films and TV, Beghe recently left Scientology after 12 years in the controversial church, during which he estimates he spent a million dollars on classes and training in Scientology’s arcane practices.
Beghe went public with his newest offensive against the church last night by posting online a letter addressed to Scientology leader David Miscavige. In the letter, Beghe demands that Miscavige return his confidential confessional files-dossiers compiled during his therapy, which, Beghe says, are also kept on Tom Cruise and other celebrity Scientologists.
"I want my folders back. There’s no reason for Scientology to maintain them. I paid a million dollars for that shit," Beghe tells the /Voice/.
Followers of L. Ron Hubbard believe that they can develop superhuman abilities through a process called "auditing," which includes discussing past disappointments and bad behavior while holding the sensors of an "e-meter," a machine that measures electric current in the skin. What a parishioner admits to during auditing then becomes material that is recorded in folders as they progress through Scientology’s many levels, including beginners who are "pre-clear" or "pc," and more advanced believers who seek to become "operating thetans" or "OT." Such sessions cost Beghe as much as $1,000 an hour.
In the letter, Beghe demands his "pc, pre-OT and ethics folders" as well as any videotapes of his years of therapy. Beghe says that he’s not concerned about the material that was recorded in his files or what Scientology might do with them, but in part he wants to make a point about the church continuing to hold onto privileged information.
"More people have left Scientology than are currently in it. And yet they maintain these files about what people have said to them in private sessions. Why would you want these people to hold onto this stuff?" says Beghe, who appeared in films such as /Monkey Shines, G.I. Jane/, and /Thelma & Louise/ and TV shows such as /Melrose Place, Picket Fences/, and /Everwood/. "I can tell you with certainty that I’m never going back into Scientology. So I’ll never need their /help/ again."
He adds that he specifically referred to video recordings in his letter because he believes that celebrities are widely taped without their knowledge in what are supposed to be private, confessional therapy sessions. And he says he has reason to believe that famous Scientologist Tom Cruise, in particular, was taped without his knowledge.
About three years ago, Beghe says, he went through a special series of sessions in Scientology’s "Celebrity Centre" in Los Angeles with Marty Rathbun, who was formerly one of the top officials in the church.
"Marty was in town because he was auditing Tom Cruise. They had set up in a special room at CC." Beghe says he was told that Cruise had requested that nothing be taped. "However, a friend of mine claims to have designed the system that was used to put a hidden camera in an overhead light in the room, so it was recorded. And I know, because the only people who used that room-I would go in, then Tom would go in, then I would go in. It was just the two of us."
Because of such tactics by the church, Beghe says, he wants them to release what material they have.
"It’s like writing a diary. Wouldn’t you want that? I just want my shit. Maybe it would be interesting for me to look at. I don’t understand what their claim to it is."
But Beghe has been having no luck getting through to Miscavige, who has led the church since the death of L. Ron Hubbard in 1986.
Initially, he says, he called the Celebrity Centre and asked about getting his folders back. He was told to leave a message. The next day, he wrote his letter, and addressed it to Miscavige.
"When I was a celebrity in the church, I could give a letter to David Miscavige anywhere and it would get right to him."
When he called again, asking about where to drop off the letter, he was again, repeatedly, told to leave a message.
"It was their way of saying ‘fuck you,’" he says.
The actor then decided to deliver his letter in person to Scientology’s worldwide headquarters on Hollywood Boulevard, known as "HGB" for the Hollywood Guarantee Building, the previous tenant. "This is the worldwide center for all communications in Scientology. If I have some folders in Dusseldorf, this is where I’d have to go to access them," he says. At the reception counter, he recognized a friendly face. "It was a guy who’s been there forever. He knew me," he says. But when Beghe showed him the letter, addressed to Miscavige, he refused to take it.
"We don’t accept any communications here. There’s nothing that can be routed from here," Beghe says the man told him.
Eventually, Beghe had a friend of his, who is not a Scientologist, drop off the letter at the Celebrity Centre. "They refused to take it. But he dropped it on the desk and walked out," Beghe says.
"This is why I have concerns that my communication will not get to David Miscavige. So I decided to post it on the Internet to make sure he sees it."
Beghe chose a forum that he knew would get maximum attention from Scientology critics and the ranks of Anonymous: on the website "Operation Clambake," which is operated by a Norwegian man, Andreas Heldal-Lund. For years, Heldal-Lund’s site has been the most comprehensive clearinghouse for information critical of Scientology, and has withstood multiple attempts by the church’s attorneys to shut it down.
Scientology makes a point of recruiting high-profile actors and actresses. Some have quietly left the organization, and some have mildly criticized the church. But none has so publicly defected and denounced the organization. And Beghe’s timing couldn’t be worse for the church, which since January has been experiencing unprecedented global criticism, partly as a result of protests staged by ‘Anonymous,’ a leaderless movement sparked by young computer users offended by what they see as Scientology’s attempts at Internet censorship.
Beghe’s videotaped denunciation of Scientology got wide media play, including showing up on a recent episode about another high-profile defection, Miscavige's own niece, Jenna Miscavige Hill. But Beghe himself hasn’t made any television appearances. After giving an interview to the Voice and Fox News, the actor turned away other opportunities, even sending home two television crews after they had set up equipment in his Malibu home.
"I just wanted to make sure that the story isn’t about me. It’s not about me. It’s about helping others who are still lost in the cult, or toying with the idea of getting involved," Beghe says.