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Saturday, 22 December 2012
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Personal Stories - Born into Scientology

My name is Kendra Wiseman. If you were in the habit of reading the Clambake message boards, ARS or the ex-Scientologist message boards around 2005, you may recognize me by the names Emma (not the Emma from Ex-Scn Message Boards), Emma Goldman or SarahNW. I have been quiet about my Scientology experience for a long time, and I'm damn well sick of it. Yesterday was my very last day of silence. Starting today, I'm a vocal critic of Scientology.

Recently, thanks to the actions of Anonymous, a group of internet activists, and the public testimony of Jenna Miscavige Hill, I've decided to speak up. I'd like to personally thank all the members of Anonymous for helping to make us heard, for allowing me to feel safe to speak, and for giving me the inspiration to tell my story. Also thanks to Astra Woodcraft and Jenna Miscavige Hill, who I hope to share a coffee with someday. You're both invited to my wedding.

It is a strong possibility that coming out and speaking like this effectively closes the door on any chance I may have had to speak with my parents again. I will without a doubt be officially declared a Suppressive Person, I may be stalked and harassed, I may be ridiculed, but I'm beyond fear of that now. I do hope my parents know that I still love them, that I'm proud of them, and that someday I'll have the chance to talk with them and get to know them again.

I miss you guys. So here goes…

My father is the President of Citizens Commission on Human Rights US. My uncle is president of Narconon International, and my mother is President of the Earth Organization. With the exception of the Earth Organization, which is a genuine, independent and well-meaning environmental activist group run by Scientologists, these groups are owned and funded by the CoS. You can confirm all of this information on Google if the mood takes you.

As of today, February 8, 2008, I am 24 years old, and I have not heard from or seen any member of my immediate family in 2 ½ years. Despite that, I currently live in China, where I have a wonderful job, a stable home, and a fiance whose butt is totally worth pinching. As I sit here, the Chinese New Years festivities are raging outside, and the skyline is exploding with fireworks. There's vanilla cake and cheddar cheese in the fridge. Life is good.

Life, sadly, was not always so perfectly awesome. It was especially not awesome in July / August of 2005, when my family decided to invoke Scientology's Disconnection policy, and cut all ties with me, leaving me in China with no home, no close relatives, and no safety net to speak of.

I grew up in a prosperous Scientology household, with kind, loving parents who never let me want for anything. My parents are not members of the Sea Organization, and so I was afforded more benefits, privileges and opportunity than those kids who grow up inside the Sea Org. I was a fairly normal, happy kid that went from Scientology star material to Scientology apostate over the course of three years. I've worked for CCHR; I've run away from home; I've been sec-checked ad nauseum; I've been stalked online; I've been emotionally blackmailed; and most egregious of all, I've been made to feel guilty for being me.

I'm going to skip huge chunks of the story for brevity's sake, but this won't be at all short, so bear with me if you dare, and bolt for the nearest chaplain's office if you don't.

As a young child, up until I was around 14 years old, I thought Scientology was the jam. I'm not sure that "thought" is the right word to use there - I assumed it was the jam. I knew this because everyone said so. I'd like to say that as soon as I became old enough to start critically evaluating the morals of Scientology, I discovered that Scientology is a scam, but that just isn't true. Dissent begins on a much smaller scale, those miniscule nagging doubts that are easily explained away. I would attened the 8-times-yearly three-hour Scientology events at the Shrine Auditorium, and while the 3000 people around me seemed glassy-eyed with fervor, I just resented having to stand up and clap wildly every 3 minutes. I wondered vaguely if my mother really had those mind-over-matter powers OTs were all supposed to have, as I'd never seen her use them. I considered the fact that I'd never actually gone exterior to my body, though I had felt lightheaded sometimes, and I wondered if that was the same thing. I thought about the fact that there were high-level Scientologists that treated others in a very negative fashion, and I wondered why someone that high would need to yell and scream to get their way. I thought about these things, but only in passing.

But these things were all I knew, and I was progressing very quickly through Scientology. At the time, I was the youngest person ever allowed on the Freewinds, Scientology's cruise ship, and I had my 7th birthday there. I was among the youngest to complete the KTL/LOC courses, which I finished at age nine. For years, the regs at AOLA smiled at me when I came into the org, because when I was around 7, I had donated my only three dollars in the world to the IAS. The reg thought it was so cute, she wrote took me into the registrar's office and printed me out a reciept.

I first decided I wanted to leave Scientology at the age of 15. Some people called it puberty, I preferred to think of it as righteous indignation. The truth was, I was having a very difficult time completing the Pro Metering Course at Celebrity Center International, and it was destroying my spirit. What should have been a 2-month course finished over summer vacation ended up being an 8-month emotional Beirut. I had whizzed through the course itself, but I simply couldn't seem to pass the final step. I had always been a star Scientology student before, but now course tended to end with me crying in the bathroom while various hapless Sea Org members banged on the door and demanded, cajoled, and threatened until I came out.

I won't get into it too much, but there is nothing more soul-destroying than repeatedly giving something your all, and being told it's not good enough. Scientology helpfully provides us with a concise list of reasons why someone would not be able to pass a drill.

dot.gifThey're committing overts (sinning) in present time, and it's affecting their progress.
dot.gifThey have words in the materials they don't understand.
dot.gifThey haven't practiced enough.

While these three explainations may sound fairly benign and mildly logical on the surface, the effect they have on a human being is actually quite heinous. Let's say you're trying to throw a frisbee that's made of lead. You fling that frisbee as hard as you can, but it falls to the ground a few feet away. You coach urges you to practice more, and you do, but the frisbee won't fly. The coach then tells you that you clearly don't understand how the frisbee works, otherwise you wouldn't have a problem. You study more about frisbees, give it another go to no avail. The coach now assumes that it's obvious you must have damaged the frisbee on purpose. You're a frisbee criminal, and by George, he's going to see you brought to justice, both for your own good and the good of the frisbee. All the while, you're being told that the frisbee itself is flawless. All hail the frisbee.

Horrible analogies aside, it is one of the most basic tenets of Scientology that "The Tech", as they call Hubbard's teachings, works if applied correctly. This is the most fundamental assumption on which a Scientologist is built. The Tech is flawless, it is only we who are flawed. All hail the Tech. With this foundation in place, one can shift the burden of responsibility to anywhere except where it actually belongs. Any disagreements or doubts about the workability of Scientology becomes the fault of the student.

After 8 months of practice, repeated punishment, and endless re-studying, I just about exploded. It had generally been decided amongst the course supervisors that I was either an idiot, a criminal, or a failure. The senior sup barely spoke to me. I'd spent weeks with the ethics officer doing confessionals, I felt unsafe around my peers due to Scientology's heavily enforced policy of reporting on the activities of friends, and if I ever saw another E-meter again for the rest of my life, it would be too soon.

During the day, I was also attending Delphi Academy Los Angeles, a Scientology high school, and because of my general discontent with Scientology, I began reading books about other religions. Scientology had already convinced me that Christianity was an implant made by intergalactic psychiatrists – and everyone knows that anything made by intergalactic psychiatrists shouldn't be touched with a ten-foot pole - so I started with Buddhism, Daoism, Kabbalah, and eventually Wicca. A whole religion for Lord of the Rings fans! I was stoked.

The faculty at Delphi Academy were stoked about my new books, too. By "my new books", of course I mean "sending me to ethics". In fact, they were so into "my new books" that spent a considerable amount of time with "my books" for the next few months. At one point, one of the parents of the other kids heard that I was reading about Wicca, and issued an order that no child on campus was to speak to me or fraternize with me until I'd come to my senses. Delphi Academy, for the record, markets itself as a non-denominational school. (To be fair, both my teacher, Mike B. and the ethics officer at Delphi LA at that time were very very cool about the whole thing.)

Likewise, when Celebrity Center staff discovered that I was sitting around in my room at night staring at a candle, they immediately seized on this as the obvious "withhold" that had been preventing me from passing my drills. I was engaging in "other practices" while on course. Looking back on this now, it seems completely ludicrous that my interest in incense and bad poetry (no insult to real Wiccans – I wasn't a very good one) would have caused me to fail my e-meter drills, but at the time they had me damn near convinced that I'd seriously screwed up by trying something else.

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