Tory Christman was once such a dedicated Scientologist, she called herself "Queen of the OSA volunteers." She was so determined to help out the Office of Special Affairs -- Scientology's intelligence and covert operations wing -- she went online to do battle with the church's critics. But in the year 2000, the skirmishes being waged at the Usenet newsgroup alt.religion.scientology were fierce and frenetic -- how would she be able to make a dent? Her strategy was to post relentlessly, day and night, and under the moniker "Magoo." She wrote so often, defending Scientology by making vicious attacks on its critics, other users of a.r.s came to believe that Magoo was really a team of OSA employees working around the clock.
The truth finally came out in spectacular fashion, when on July 20, 2000, Tory announced to the world her real identity, and that she was abandoning Scientology. It turned out that while she was doing battle with church critics, their arguments had begun to give her doubts, and a caring overture by Andreas Heldal-Lund made her question her deepest beliefs. Tory's defection seemed to symbolize the dire threat a connected world posed to an organization built on secrecy and control.
If Tory was a relentless church defender, she's been an even more relentless critic since her famous escape. I asked Mark Bunker about Tory's stamina as one of the noisiest ex-Scientologists, and he sent this lengthy tribute to her:
I met Tory when she was still in Scientology. I encountered her and her then-husband Harold Bezazian at several protests in which she tried to handle critics of the group. She and Harold were good people. I could see that then. I enjoyed my encounters with them. Tory was feisty but sweet and Harold had a nice sense of humor. He looked a lot like Wayne Newton, too, so it was hard to think of him as a badass. (Here's a little footage of him.) A year later in 2000 Tory left the group and came to the Lisa McPherson Trust for help. I wish I had been at the airport when she arrived in Clearwater because Scientology was waiting to try to snatch her up before she could join us and the police had to intercede. We didn't want our camera there because we didn't want Tory to think we were out to exploit her situation. Ironically, it didn't take long for Tory to decide she wanted to speak on camera and she hasn't stopped since. We took her to a protest in Boston and she was so pissed off by Scientology's actions that she got out of the car to join in. Since that time, Tory has given numerous speeches about her experiences and she always charms the crowd with her natural warmth, her good humor and her ability to connect with people one on one even while in front of a large group. She instinctively picks out a person in the group and explains how a process like disconnection can affect that one person and makes the experience something to which we can more easily relate. Her first speech at the Center for Inquiry West has several good examples of that technique. When she left Scientology, her entire world evaporated. Her husband, her friends, former co-workers all disconnected. She found a new family online. I got Tory a webcam and walked her through how to use it and she makes almost daily videos to post on YouTube. The power of these videos is pretty staggering. There are millions of videos online but Tory has cut through the clutter. I've been around the world with her and seen people stop us in the street because they recognize Magoo from her videos. The most amazing incident was when we were walking outside the BBC in London with John Sweeney. We passed some dude who could have cared less that a nationally renowned TV journalist was standing there with us. It was the sight of Magoo which stopped him in his tracks. Tory also talks about her experiences every day with people in restaurants, and shops. She hands out cards with URLs of sites like xenutv.com and xenu.net and posts her phone number online so people can call her and get answers and advice. I only wish I had her energy. There's no stopping Magoo.
Tory is truly one of a kind. But many other Scientologists who leave the organization choose not to fade into obscurity. We want to recognize those who've had the greatest impact. Some have spent years trying to educate the public about their experiences and warn governments about Scientology's abuses, and some ex-members pose a threat because of who they were in Scientology.
Larry Anderson joined Scientology in 1976, and he was well known in the organization because the actor appeared on a 1996 orientation video that new (and prospective) members were shown. As the St. Petersburg Times put it, his was "the voice extolling the virtues of Scientology and the perils of walking away." So it shocked the church when, in 2009, Anderson not only wanted out of Scientology, he wanted about $120,000 in refunds. He taped a meeting with Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis, who denied him his refund, saying that any money he gave the church was a donation and not refundable. That recorded conversation was the basis for the embarrassing St. Pete Times story -- and the church also reportedly had to spend millions to remake videos to replace the man who had been its recognizable icon.
Gerry Armstrong was such a trusted member of Scientology, ten years after he joined in 1969 he was asked to gather documents for an authorized biography of L. Ron Hubbard. As he writes on his own website, what he found was shocking: "During the course of my research, I discovered and documented that Hubbard had lied about virtually every part of his life, including his education, degrees, family, explorations, military service, war wounds, scientific research, the efficacy of his 'sciences' -- Dianetics and Scientology -- along with the actions and intentions of the organizations he created to sell and advance these 'sciences.'" When Armstrong tried to bring up these discrepancies with church executives, he was punished severely. So he fled, but then became the subject of a sadistic legal persecution that would strain credulity if it weren't documented truth. Few people have paid as severe a price as Armstrong for speaking out against Scientology. But the man never seems beaten in the least.
Jon Atack left Scientology in 1983 after nine years in the organization, but he's remembered for writing the most comprehensive and scathing history of Scientology's early years, A Piece of Blue Sky, which came out in 1990, despite the church's attempts to have it blocked. I was stunned at the level of Atack's intelligence and writing ability when I read the book -- and I remember thinking that it was a shame so few copies were available for the world to see. (Yes, commenters, I know the book is "available" on the 'net, but that doesn't have the same impact as a bestseller, which we now have from Janet Reitman.) Even with Reitman's success, I hope people don't forget what an excellent book Blue Sky is, with its mix of personal experience and thorough research.
Chuck Beatty spent 27 years in Scientology, but an incredible seven of those years -- from 1996 to 2003 -- in the RPF, the Sea Org's notorious prison detail, before finally departing and then becoming one of the church's most outspoken critics. An indefatigable researcher, Beatty eagerly helps journalists gathering information about Scientology, which is why he showed up in Janet Reitman's Rolling Stone article that became the basis for her book, Inside Scientology. Also, he's a hoot. As he boasted to me recently, he'll challenge anyone to beat him on his knowledge of Hubbard's policies like he was talking about taking on all comers in an arm-wrestling match.
Maureen Bolstad joined Scientology at only 14 in Stevens Creek, California and after some time in Clearwater, Florida spent 17 years at Int base in the southern California desert. Disillusioned by many things, particularly the lack of education she received as a Sea Org employee, she talked to the L.A. Times for a 2005 story about the secretive headquarters. Bolstad was declared a suppressive person (excommunicated) for that bit of indiscretion. She went on to become a key source for Nathan Baca's excellent 2009 series about the base on a local TV station, KESQ. [Here's video of her talking about her story.]
Larry Brennan is one of the most active former Scientologists, but what makes him so formidable is what he knows. As a former member of the Guardian's Office and the Watchdog Committee, Larry watched over and participated in Scientology's intricate restructurings as David Miscavige wrested control of the organization. As Brennan said in a declaration, "I have more factual and legal knowledge of the history of organized scientology's corporate, tax and other legal matters outside of the courts from the 1970s through early 1984 than any single person currently in organized scientology or outside of same." And that's no boast. Brennan has used his vast knowledge of Scientology's structure to produce the kind of bedrock, unassailable data that governments around the world are relying on to investigate the church. But if Brennan is scarily smart, he's also one of the more gregarious "exes," and one who has moved seamlessly into the newer Anonymous community.
Laura DeCrescenzo was born to Scientologist parents, and she was working for the church by the time she was nine years old. She joined the Sea Org at 12. She then endured years of the kind of outrageous treatment that we're hearing about now more and more: weeks of more than 100 hours of work for little or no pay, harsh living conditions, promises of education and visits to family that amounted to nothing, the constant threat of interrogation and punishment for trivial slights. Like other young women in the Sea Org -- where having children is banned -- she was forced to have an abortion, which she regrets today. Her life in the Sea Org became so unbearable, she knew only a suicidal act would get her out of a particularly maddening assignment. "So I took a nice big gulp of bleach and made sure people saw me spit it back up. And I was out of there within less than 24 hours," she writes in a series of Internet posts about her time in Scientology. But if Laura's experience was dramatic, her subsequent lawsuit against the church has also been an explosive one, watched closely by many of us. It challenges Scientology's use of e-meters for "sec checks," among other strategies that get right to the heart of how the Sea Org works. Caught up in hellacious legal battles over jurisdiction and timing, her lawsuit was the subject of a recent decision that looks like Laura D is currently in a strong position.
Will and Scarlett De Boer were recently married in the most unusual way -- they had Russell Brand wed them during his standup concert at a Santa Barbara casino. But that's just part of the whirlwind romance that has joined these unique young ex-Scientologists who were brought up in the church, only to denounce it after escaping. Under their previous names Will Fry and Scarlett Hanna, they are part of a new generation defecting and going public on television and in Anonymous protests. Scarlett's coming out was particularly noteworthy in Australia, where her mother is president of the church. That these two found each other, and made it legal in such an interesting way -- well, as one of our commenters noted, one of the first things you get back after leaving Scientology is your sense of humor!
Karen De La Carriere went public with her disaffection with official Scientology in a remarkable statement at Marty Rathbun's blog last year. As she points out, she was the last Class XII Auditor (the highest level achievable) trained personally by L. Ron Hubbard himself to leave the church. She was not only known for her achievements in Scientology but also for being married to Heber Jentzsch, who was president of the Church of Scientology International (a largely nominal role, but still respected in the organization). Today, Karen is speaking out about the way she was forced to divorce Jentzsch, and urging Scientology to release her 76-year-old ex-husband from his seemingly permanent prison status at the church's desert headquarters.
Tom De Vocht for years oversaw construction projects at Scientology's spiritual headquarters in Clearwater, Florida. But after more than 30 years in the organization, he left in 2005, and in 2009 was one of several former high-ranking executives to make allegations that Scientology leader David Miscavige frequently gets violent with his employees. De Vocht was featured in the St. Petersburg Times series, "The Truth Rundown," and in a subsequent series on CNN.
Dennis Erlich caused a stir when the former high-ranking Scientology executive began showing up at the Usenet newsgroup alt.religion.scientology in 1994. The posting he did there of Scientology's nutty secret scriptures got him raided by federal marshals in 1995. Those were different days, when the few online critics were facing real consequences because Scientology still had courts convinced that its secrets of the universe couldn't be even whispered by others without facing legal armageddon. Erlich earned a spot on this list for helping to establish an environment of online freedom that we all enjoy.
Michael Fairman is a very familiar face from television and film. The character actor has portrayed villains in productions like the Firefly series, the "Penske" business man in Seinfeld, and for years has been a member of the The Young and the Restless cast. He was also a longtime Scientologist, but he not only recently left the church, in a rare move he made public his "suppressive person declare" which listed his "crimes." He's now speaking out in a big way, and continues to shake things up at Marty Rathbun's blog.
Dan Garvin was a longtime Scientologist whose career included years in the Office of Special Affairs -- Scientology's intelligence and covert operations wing -- as part of his duties in the Sea Org. After he left in 2001, he came forward to tell a remarkable and diverting tale about what finally turned things sour for him -- he was unable to find any evidence of superhuman "OT" powers that he had been assured would be within his grasp as a high level church member. He's continued to speak out about Scientology with a great sense of humor -- after leaving a 25-year career in the Sea Org, he quipped, "That's right, I broke my contract when I still had 999,999,975 years left to serve."
Paul Haggis was more famous for being the director of movies like Crash -- which brought him an Academy Award for writing the screenplay and a nomination for directing -- than he was for being a Scientologist. But it was his defection in 2009 and then his subsequent profile earlier this year by New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright that has made Haggis symbolic of the recent exodus of longtime, loyal Scientologists from the fold. Haggis will get another round of attention as the church's most famous recent "apostate" when Wright's book is released, sometime next year, we hear.
It was only after his death in 2001 that Joe Harrington was revealed to have been "Scamizdat," the anonymous source of high-level secret Scientology materials that were posted and reposted at alt.religion.scientology in the 1990s. For many, it was their first look at these original Scientology documents, and the church fought through the courts to have them taken down.
Arnie Lerma was involved in Scientology for about ten years, but after leaving it in 1976 he's been criticizing it about as long as anyone, and paid the price by being raided in 1995 by federal marshals. One of the earliest and most vociferous of Scientology's online critics, Lerma is best known for giving the galactic overlord Xenu his Usenet debut, by posting a text version of the Fishman Affidavit. On January 1, 2000, Lerma famously embarrassed Scientology by revealing his discovery that the church had published pictures on its website of an event they claimed was attended by 14,000 Scientologists but was actually heavily photoshopped to disguise the thousands of empty seats.
Brian Mandigo only spent a short time in Scientology, but he's become well known for his relentless protests at the Washington DC org, which landed him in court for both criminal and civil proceedings. Known better by "AnonSparrow," Mandigo managed to make Scientology lawyer Kendrick Moxon look silly as the criminal charges against him were dismissed. Mandigo is still facing a civil lawsuit, but he was recently named "SP of the Year" by east coast activists, which he accepted proudly.
Nancy Many's book My Billion-Year Contract is a harrowing look at her career in the Sea Org, which included a period in the RPF prison detail while she was five months pregnant -- her punishment included sleeping in a parking garage. Many also is featured prominently in Janet Reitman's book Inside Scientology and Hugh Urban's new academic history The Church of Scientology. And it's no wonder: Many's life has taken her to some of Scientology's most interesting places and eras, from working directly for L. Ron Hubbard to spying for both the Guardian's Office and the Office of Special Affairs, and even running the Hollywood Celebrity Centre. She saw it all.
Jenna Miscavige Hill was one of three young ex-Scientologists who started a website about what it was like to grow up in the church, exscientologykids.com. But it was that second name that also thrust her to prominence. Jenna is niece to Scientology's supreme leader, David Miscavige, so her criticisms of her uncle's church -- on Nightline for example! -- have made her a real problem for DM's outfit.
Patty Moher has never received, publicly, the credit she deserves for bringing to the public the notorious 9-minute Tom Cruise video that caused such a sensation in January, 2008, and helped launch the Anonymous movement. She was integral to bringing it to other people who later got much of the credit. Now an outspoken, brash critic of the church she once belonged to, she told me she's ready, finally, to take a bow for springing Tom's bizarro moment on the world.
Frank Oliver left Scientology in 1993 after working as an operative for the Office of Special Affairs. I met him a few years later, and asked him what his duties were at OSA. "Spy on people. Gather intelligence. Write reports," he replied rather succinctly. Oliver is a no-nonsense kind of guy. And although he's been less active lately, he provided a treasure trove of documents from his OSA days, some of which we used for a story just recently.
Jesse Prince fled the Int base in 1992 and didn't start speaking out about Scientology for six years. But then he had a lot to say: how he was once Inspector General of the Religious Technology Center, making him one of the most powerful people in Scientology, and was a witness as David Miscavige wrested control of the church following L. Ron Hubbard's death. As a critic, he faced fierce retaliation, including a Kafkaesque marijuana misdemeanor prosecution that was intended to derail his being a witness in the Lisa McPherson civil trial. Prince was also an influential speaker in Germany, but has been dealing with serious health issues lately.
Aaron Saxton and "The Australian 7" we're including with thanks from Aussie journalist Bryan Seymour. Saxton, Kevin Mackey, Paul Schofield, Carmel and Tim Underwood, and Anna and Dean Detheridge were the first in Australia to speak out in detail despite the threat to their well-being, families and livelihoods -- their stories formed the substance of Senator Nick Xenophon's speech to parliament that led to a Senate Inquiry, the establishment of a Charities Commission and changes in the law that may rob Scientology of its tax exemption in Australia. This also led to the arrest and charging of Jan Eastgate for "perverting the course of justice" over allegations she covered up child sex abuse. The complainant in that case, Carmen Rainer, who was just 11 when Eastgate allegedly coached her to lie to the police, was inspired to speak out by the 7 Aussies, and Carmel Underwood supported her during this traumatic exercise. Saxton came by the offices of the Voice last year, and helped us understand the dramatic changes happening Down Under.
Margery Wakefield left Scientology in 1980 after 12 years in the church, then sued the organization in 1982. She was offered $200,000 if she'd keep quiet. She took the money, and then talked her head off. She went on radio, she wrote several books, and faced more litigation from the church. But Wakefield would not be silenced, and she spoke out during a time when courts tended to take Scientology's prattle about trademarks trumping free speech more seriously.
Larry Wollersheim finally got his thin dime. Wollersheim's 1980s lawsuit against Scientology is still a landmark legal event in the history of the church. Vowing never to pay "one thin dime to Wollersheim," Scientology fought for years against a $30 million jury award after the former Sea Org member proved that the church's "technology" was really at the root of the harm caused to him. Eventually, as I wrote in a story that was delayed six years, the church forked over almost $9 million rather than allow new evidence in a Wollersheim hearing in 2002. That's 86 million thin dimes.
Astra Woodcraft founded the website exscientologykids.com with Jenna Miscavige Hill (see above) and Kendra Wiseman. She is also the sister to Zoe Woodcraft and daughter to Lawrence Woodcraft. All three family members left the church, and Astra in particular has been active speaking out about what it was like to grow up in Scientology with no real choice about it. Along with Jenna, she's been very effective making the media aware of what children go through in the Sea Org. In 2001, she told the San Francisco Chronicle: "You are in such a state of paranoia. All these kids are running around yelling at you. They'll come up to you and yell, `What are you doing! Your statistics are down! What are your crimes?'"
Robert Vaughn Young died in 2003 of cancer, but not before he labored, through his illness, to produce devastating information that was intended to challenge Scientology's tax exempt status in a court hearing. For years, after his 20 years in the church, RVY had been a willing expert witness in litigation against Scientology. In 2002, he produced an affidavit in the Wollersheim matter that, he and Wollersheim's attorneys believed, would have jeopardized Scientology's 1993 tax-exempt agreement with the government. The very morning that evidence was to be heard in open court, Scientology cut a check for nearly $9 million to end the case and keep Young's affidavit from being presented.
There are many more ex-Scientologists who have made noise and have worked to spread the word about Scientology's abuses. No doubt, our commenters will remind us of many of them. And tomorrow, and next week, and next month there will be even more coming out to speak up. If Scientology conditions people to become fanatical believers, it also leaves in its wake disillusioned, damaged people who want to keep others from falling into the same snare. [And once again, special thanks to Scott Pilutik for his help on this entry.]
Bent Corydon was one of the "mission holders" -- somewhat independent operators in Scientology's original structure, something like franchise owners of a fast food chain -- when, in an infamous meeting in October, 1982, the mission holders were terrorized by a diminutive Sea Org commander named David Miscavige, who made it clear that their independence was now a thing of the past. A few years later, in 1987, Corydon, with help from L. Ron Hubbard Jr. (now calling himself Ron DeWolf), produced an unauthorized biography of the recently deceased Hubbard Sr. that the church fought strenuously to prevent from ever seeing the light of day. As Chuck Beatty has commented, L. Ron Hubbard, Messiah or Madman? is particularly good for its richness on Hubbard's life in the 1940s and 1950s, as Dianetics and Scientology were first being developed and began to take off.
Technically speaking, Montreal-resident David Edgar Love is not an ex-Scientologist. But he is an ex-Narconon "patient" and later staff member whose experience illustrates why the line between Scientology and Narconon is not only blurry, but practically non-existent. Love's disillusionment with Narconon grew gradually, first after realizing that most of what Narconon espoused -- such as its claimed relapse rates -- were simply false, and later when he was hired to form a charitable organization in a name other than Narconon which would serve as a Narconon recruiting entity. Once he'd had enough, though, Love became Narconon's -- and therefore Scientology's -- worst nightmare. On July 27, 2011, at Love's prodding, the Quebec College of Physicians formally found that an unnamed doctor working for Narconon was in breach of ethical obligations for "administering treatment not scientifically recognized in current medical literature." Canadian medical professionals are now on notice that providing authoritative cover to pseudoscientific cults can land them in hot water, which spells bad news for Narconon due to Love's efforts (with no small amount of help from Anonymous).
How could we possibly forget Australian ex-Scientologist "Emma," creator of the Ex-Scientologist Message Board? Emma's message board has become so ubiquitous and integral part of the fabric of the Scientology-watching community that it's as if she was hiding in plain sight. She started the board in early 2007. The newsgroup alt.religion.scientology was useful for ex-members in the early days, but Usenet is unmoderated by design, and Scientology diligently attempted to make it unsafe for ex-members to post there when they weren't otherwise trying to destroy it. Emma's message board thus "filled a void," as she says, becoming a meeting place for ex-Scientologists to share and discuss their experiences. And it's been a smashing success -- an unscientific glance at forum.exscn.net reveals there to be at least 500,000 posts in the less than five years the board's been up and running. And should you imagine Scientology hasn't taken notice of Emma's board, this past November law enforcement officials confiscated three of Emma's computers and two external hard drives after Scientology alleged that Emma had participated in a denial-of-service attack against Scientology's website in 2008. In June of this year law enforcement informed her that there was no evidence to charge her with anything, turning Scientology's fair game into yet one more foot-bullet.