Former Scientologist recounts 'torturous' past inside the church

KESQ News Channel 3, California/March 31, 2009

The Church of Scientology believes one woman, Maureen Bolstad, is one of the worst people in the world. She is one of a few to be declared a "suppressive person."

Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard declared so-called "suppressive" people "cannot be granted the rights ordinarily accorded rational beings." Her crime? Talking to the media about the church.

Bolstad was recruited into the Church of Scientology at age 16. She was told she'd get an education, and the chance to see the world.

Twenty-six years later, Bolstad walks down Gilman Springs Road near Hemet where Scientology's world headquarters is located. She walks with a sense of fear.

"I lost three years of my life staying out here," Bolstad said, "The confessional procedures were just torture. They weren't to help me. They were to get me to introvert and think about what I had been doing wrong as to why I wanted to leave. But the reason I wanted to leave was the sleep deprivation was killing me. I wasn't being allowed to visit my family. I wasn't getting paid for my work. I said, 'I can't do this. This is abusive.' Physically, I couldn't do it anymore."

When she tried to leave, Bolstad says guards tackled her much like they recently tackled protestors. When she tried to leave again, she says they placed her in the Rehabilitation Project Force, known as "RPF." This special "rehab center" is located at the Old Gilman House in the northwest section of the Scientology headquarters. Bolstad says she was assigned manual labor.

"Like 7:00 AM or so until the sun went down and I got $11 a week for that. And, I got meals. I basically ate in a shack over there. I had to eat separate from everyone else, because I was lower status and I was being segregated from everyone else."

Bolstad didn't spend all her years in the "RPF." To prove her claims, Bolstad showed us her social security tax forms. Despite working nearly 100-hour work weeks shooting Scientology videos, many years she earned nothing at all. She says the church forced her to pay for the camera equipment she broke when she first started on the film crew.

We asked Bolstad, "What do you say to the belief that the Church of Scientology says that what happens at RPF is only counseling?"

She answered, "I say that's a lie because there's a lot of punishment involved. Your status is lowered. You're only allowed to speak when spoken to, so you have to call everyone else "sir." You don't have the same privileges as other staff. Like I said, you're not allowed to send mail, you're not allowed to make phone calls. I had trouble getting medical care."

If this place is so terrible, than why did she stay for a dozen years? Perhaps because since the age of 16, it was the only life she ever knew.

Bolstad remarks as she looks at Hemet's IntBase, "I had laid the tiles for all those roofs over there. I painted a lot of the rooms in that "qual" building. I helped place some of these sidewalks. Everything here has my blood, sweat and tears in it. I thought it was my home. It was my home. That's why I invested in it."

We will have the second half of our interview with Maureen Bolstad Wednesday night at 11 on News Channel 3. Bolstad tells her account of 12 year olds working in the church headquarters and women coerced to have abortions or risk being declared a "suppressive person" by Scientology leadership.

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