Philip Boyd, Saving Grace Actor, Rips "The Business That Is Scientology"

Village Voice/October 4, 2011

"If I could save one person from buying into the business that is Scientology, then it would be worth you writing my story."

That's how actor Philip Boyd concluded an interview that I didn't even expect to happen.

Let me back up: I'm in Southern California for a school visit, and with some free time on my hands, I went to Santa Monica to meet some folks I talk to for our Scientology stories.

Through something of an accident, however, I was introduced to Boyd, an up-and-coming actor who has appeared or had recurring roles in several series (Saving Grace, Franklin and Bash, Knight Rider) and movies (Deadland, First Daughter).

And here's what's really remarkable about him: even though he was never publicly identified as a Scientologist, he left the church and decided it was time to speak out about it.

There's something of a cottage industry in trying to identify all of the television and movie actors who get pulled into Scientology. But I don't remember ever seeing Boyd's name listed among the various websites that engage in that pastime.

But for about two years, in 2007 and 2008, Boyd was among the pampered elite who take courses at the Hollywood Celebrity Centre, and he went regularly, seeing Tom Cruise there and also hanging out with Giovanni Ribisi.

Boyd told me that he had first encountered L. Ron Hubbard's book Dianetics years before and "thought it had good ideas." But he didn't actually join the organization until 2007, when his career was stalling because of a "toxic relationship," he says.

Taking the courses seemed to help get him back on track.

But despite that positive turn, Boyd says he felt odd about the way others acted around him.

"I never got to the point of pure excitement about L. Ron Hubbard," he says. "That was one of the things that kind of freaked me out was the way they thought of him."

At gala events, for example, crowds would cheer "Hip-hip-hooray" to Hubbard's portrait, dozens of times.

Boyd says he couldn't help feeling that it had parallels with a Nuremberg rally.

Another time, he encountered the word "enturbulation" in a Hubbard book. "I tried to look it up and realized it was something Hubbard invented," he says. (Hubbard used it to mean agitation or disruption.) Boyd asked a supervisor about it and says he was told, "Hubbard was highly educated, and used words that weren't on this planet."

Boyd says he found that pretty ridiculous.

He also had problems with Scientology's famous detox program, the "purification rundown." For days and days, he sat in a sauna, five hours at a time, while taking increasing doses of niacin.

"A girl passed out and was taken to the hospital," he says. "Then they wanted to charge her $300 for auditing to explain why she got sick." Boyd thought that was pretty ridiculous, too. "She ended up blowing as well," he says, using the Scientology word for "defecting."

After almost a month in the sauna, Boyd himself began to have problems.

"On the 29th day, I started throwing up. A lot. But they would tell me to go back in. When I did, after five minutes, I'd throw up again." For three days, it was the same. But Boyd says he could feel that he was hurting himself with the procedure. "I finally told them, 'I'm done.' I wanted no more part of it."

If he had doubts about Scientology's procedures, what really wore him down was the constant pressure for money and for the names of friends that might also want to take classes.

After each course that he completed, Boyd says he was ordered to turn over the names and e-mail addresses of friends who Scientology could go after. He refused, even after they made it plain to him that it was a required step to finish the course.

Also, he told me something about case files that I'd never heard before. "When you finished a course, and you went to start a new one, your case file -- your PC folder -- had to be transferred to a new supervisor."

Boyd said there was a $300 charge just for that to happen, for his file to be transferred from one supervisor to another. He shakes his head, trying to get across just how much it offended him.

Multiple times, he says, he was asked to join the Sea Org, the hardcore cadre of lifers who sign billion-year contracts and work 100 hour weeks for about 50 dollars a week.

"Are you kidding?" he says he asked them. There are no actors in the Sea Org.

"'At least watch the film,' they'd tell me. No!" he says, like it was the dumbest request in the world.

Boyd estimates that he spent about $20,000 in the short time he was in Scientology.

At one point, as his concerns grew, he says he sat down with a Sea Org member who was an assistant to celebrities. He says her name was Veronica.

"I told her, I don't feel like this is a religion. Every time I come here you ask me for more money and ask me to take more courses. It's more of a business than a religion. She said she was sorry I felt that way. I told her, if this is so great for the world, why don't you make it more affordable so more people can use it?"

The final straw, he says, came when his registrar -- the person assigned to getting money out of him -- asked for his bank account information so that money could be taken directly out of it.

"They told me all the other actors did it that way. They told me it was a way to help organize my finances," he says.

"It was less hassle for me, they said. Yeah, less hassle for them to rape my bank account."

Boyd walked away, but not without Scientology hounding him, multiple times a day, with phone calls.

"I changed my phone number after I left, and I never gave it to anyone at Scientology. But they would call me on the new cell number. How did you get this number? I'd ask them. 'It's on the sheet,' they would say." Supervisors were also calling him, but he would tell them off.

One thing he told them: he had seen Tommy Davis on CNN denying that Scientology had a policy of disconnection, but Boyd knew that the policy was used.

"So lying is part of what you do?" he would ask the people who called. Eventually, they gave up on him.

Boyd got away around the time that the infamous Tom Cruise video came out, in January 2008. I asked him what he thought when he saw it.

"I thought, thank God I'm not associated with them anymore."

Was he worried, I asked, that leaving the church might hurt his career?

"A part of me did, yes. But I've been doing great," he says.

He added that he thinks there are benefits to the self-help ideas in Scientology.

"But the business side of it, that should get them shut down."

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