[The following was written by Shelley Birnie whose sister, Jenny Retief, was declared in December last year. Their mother, Sylvia Coward, has been a Crimanon volunteer for 13 years and the below came in response to the way Sylvia was treated following the secret declare. We are publishing this as an example of how the church continues to make its own enemies.]
Sylvia Coward was ex-communicated by members of the Church without notice, despite the fact that she was still holding her volunteer post as a Criminon supervisor; the same post she had held for 13 years with great success and many commendations. The email exchange which took place between Sylvia and Criminon management when Sylvia subsequently resigned her post, riled me enormously, and prompted me to write an email of my own to the four Criminon terminals. As my brother, Russell, and I have both supported our mom in her Criminon work financially and in kind, she forwarded the email trail to us to let us know what was happening.
My email to Criminon management read:
I have been an ardent admirer – and supporter when possible – of the Criminon work my Mom has done over the years, and have just learned of her ex-communication from the programme (and the “Church”?). For that matter, I have also been an ardent admirer of the massive contribution my sister, Jenny Retief, has made over the years.
As you are all fabulous contributing staff members who I assume do what you do because you want to help, I am shocked at the contradiction that none of you appears to see: you state what you observe – which is goodness, contribution, goodwill. But what you DO is act on what you are TOLD – how do you KNOW what is entheta and who is “good” and who is “bad”?
My wish for you all is that one day you lose the fear and regain the self-determinism that has been taken from you; be brave enough to ‘Look at things and life and others directly, not through any cloud of prejudice, curtain of fear or the interpretation of another’.
I wish to state publicly that until I observe a reason to act to the contrary, I will continue to support Sylvia (my Mom) and Jenny (my sister) in their continuing good works in any way I can.
Basically what happened is that our sister Jenny was declared – in all its twisted, under-the-radar glory, – late last year, although this, to my knowledge, has never been made public. Our family simply learned about it because Jenny is family. The merits (or otherwise) of that declare is a whole separate discussion. Jenny’s daughter Taryn, who is Durban Org ED, then disconnected from Jenny but continued communicating with the rest of the family, including Sylvia, happily spending Christmas with us.
Sylvia then received an email from Cathie Robertson telling her to remove certain names from her address book. Incidentally, Jenny’s name was not on this list.
Without notice or communication of any description, Taryn then completely cut comm with my mom and myself. Shortly afterwards it became apparent that others within the various Church structures had also cut comm with Sylvia, including Saint Hill regarding FSM commission due to my mom. And all this despite the fact that Sylvia was still a Criminon Durban supervisor.
On 19 Feb Sylvia stated that since all comm had been cut with her, she did not feel able to continue working as a Criminon supervisor.
There followed a string of email interchanges with four people, all basically following the same pattern of – “we think you are wonderful and do an awesome job” and “why have folk cut comm with you – have you been fraternising with squirrels and people who read entheta?”.
To my knowledge, Jenny’s declare has never been made public; and no-one has ever asked Mom if she disconnected from Jenny (not that she would have); and no-one that I know of has ever had the opportunity to discuss who gets to decide what constitutes “entheta” or why whatever is supposed to have been read is deemed “entheta” in the first place.
Sylvia kept her integrity and self-determinism, quietly stating her position and committing to honour a responsible wrap-up and hand over of her work. The response from Cathie Robertson was filled with good ARC and a warm, wonderful acknowledgement of Mom and her work:
There is no question that you have been one of the most productive and loyal supporters of Criminon over the past 13 years. Reliable and a mainstay. Yes, in The Way to Happiness LRH also talks about People of Goodwill and you definitely epitomize this Precept as you quietly went about your task.
But Cathie goes on to say:
…but Jenny has chosen to follow a course of action that has taken her outside of the Church of Scientology. She has announced this publicly and as a result has been Declared. LRH Policy applies to any person remaining connected to a Declared person. The door is never closed for those people who come to their senses and wish to return but their comm line is International Justice Chief.
Perhaps it was Cathie’s response that triggered my email. The absolute, in-your-face, illogical, indoctrinated mindset that forbids looking beyond your nose. How can such good people, who roll up their sleeves and face the muck day after day, be so blinded and so willing to do things that
somewhere deep in their bellies, they must feel is not right?
Anyway, I had one goal in writing my original email, and that was to make a public stand showing support for two people for whom I have huge admiration, who I believe have been grossly and inexcusably wronged. My brother Russell joins me in this statement.
The approach of using a hidden attack against which one has little chance of defence, and fear tactics for control – fear of speaking out, fear of questioning what is illogical – is despicable. Our purpose in having the email published- in addition to making a public declaration of support for Jenny and Sylvia – is the hope that our family’s story will contribute to breaking down that fear and making it safe for others to take a self-determined viewpoint, whatever that may be.