By: Ex-Sea-Org Member
My journey out of the church began in 2006/7. I was becoming increasingly unhappy with the state of things and once I started acknowledging outpoints they became so much easier to see.
One of these was the seemingly intentional and habitual separation of Sea Org spouses from each other. Either the husband or wife was sent on lengthy missions or one partner was transferred to a different post (sometimes this could even mean a different geographical location). This resulted in minimal or no access to each other for weeks/months and in some cases, years at a time.
It is part of a persistent pattern in the Sea Org to undervalue the family unit. Sea Org members are routinely separated from their spouses and family. This has been done since almost the beginning:
Ken Krieger and Jeanie Ibert were sent on Garrison (permanent) mission to South Africa in 1984. It took 3 years to get their spouses to join them here. Pierre Till was sent to Flag while her husband remained in South Africa for a further 12-18 months. Rena and Brian Weinberg were separated for more than 5 years. My own family life was extremely fractured thanks to parents getting divorced, one joining the Sea Org and me being shuffled from one place to another in the process.
More recently, in 2010 Robert Bokelmann went to Cape Town on a recruit mission for AOAF Trainees. While there, he got onto the lines of a young newly-wed couple (he was South African, she was Russian and could barely speak English). The husband had taken LSD and therefore didnt qualify for the Sea Org, so Robert spent almost three weeks convincing the husband that it was the “greatest good” to let his wife go so that she could join the Sea Org. She was brought up to Ezulweni (the Sea-Org owned property in Midrand) and put onto the EPF with other recruits with whom she could barely communicate due to the language barrier. She cried herself to sleep every night, and eventually, after a month of grief and untenable loss, she bowed out and returned to her husband.
Husbands and wives are separated when one (or even both) are sent to the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF) such as the case now with Nikita & Luke Byrnes. The RPF is known to take up to 5 years or more to complete, all without being with one’s spouse. Spousal separation is so common within the Sea Org it is barely remarked on internally, and it has become acceptable to divorce a spouse if he/she lands up on the RPF.
A personal friend of mine was faced with being assigned to the RPF for the second time which he declined and opted instead to route out. He was immediately separated from his wife and they were allowed no contact while he was kicked out. They were forbidden from discussing any possibility of a future together outside the Sea Org. It was traumatic and sad. They divorced after he left.
This, too, is not unique. The Sea Org do not want errant members tainting their husband’s or wives so they do not allow them to be a spouse – the one person you can lean on to receive succor and support. If one leaves, divorce is almost definite.
In the late 90s it became acceptable to divorce a partner if one were being promoted to a higher org. Kerry Ibert (now the CO CMO IXU) divorced John Ibert as she wanted to go to “Int” and John was not qualified.
In early 2000 I became aware that Sea Org members were having to get permission from CMO to marry, particularly where one partner was in CMO. CMO personnel were heavily discouraged from starting relationships with people outside CMO and often marriages of such were disapproved. There are numerous accounts from former Int members that Miscavige eventually banned all marriages at the Int Base.
At some point around 1998 – 2000 someone got the bright idea of recruiting anyone who had taken “fake LSD” – some arbitrary that if one hadn’t seen pink elephants while tripping out, then it was probably a fake version, thus qualifying them for the Sea Org. From South Africa, Marc Bentl, Hannes Nel, Louis & Rachel Welgemoed and Billy & Astrid Ashurst all qualified under this new rule. Billy and Astrid promptly joined ANZO, but eventually this arbitrary was cancelled, and all the “fake LSD” cases were booted – including Billy, but not his wife Astrid, as she had never taken LSD – fake or otherwise. She wanted to route out with Billy, but was prevented from doing so and they were put under a seperation order, where Billy was not allowed to see or speak to Astrid for almost 9 months. ANZO also destroyed Astrid’s Belgian Passsport to prevent her from fleeing the country. Billy told a close confidante that he had to threaten laying a charge of kidnapping with the Police before ANZO finally relented and allowed Astrid to route out and join her husband.
The targeted separation of spouses from each other was not the only interference in family affairs – many children were also adversely affected.
Initially, children of Sea Org members were left in the care of “nannies” and would often only get to see their parents for an hour a day, and perhaps 2 hours on a Sunday.
In the late 80s efforts were made to remove children from the Sea Org. Members who had children were sent to Class V churches for a period of 6 or 10 years.
In the late 90s children were finally totally forbidden with members being booted from the Sea Org if they had kids. This was not an LRH policy. The result was a culture that encouraged abortion for accidental pregnancies and some members deliberately falling pregnant in an effort to escape Sea Org life. In South Africa alone I am aware of 3 Sea Org members who had abortions to avoid leaving the Sea Org. I’m aware of 3 others that got pregnant in order to leave the Sea Org. Once again, the higher up the chain of command one was, the more one was “forcibly encouraged” to abort the child.
The very idea that Scientologists and Church Management have been encouraging abortions (and in some case forcibly so) beggars belief – especially considering how abhorrent LRH found this practice. “A society which suppresses sex as evil and which is so aberrated that any member of it will attempt an abortion, is a society which is dooming itself to ever-rising insanity” (DMSMH Page 161).
In the early 70’s the Church took a very heavy stance against abortion. The Religious Defence League in South Africa (a Church fronted group) successfully lobbied and prevented the passing of a bill to legalize on-demand abortions. It was only some twenty years later (early 90’s) that this law was finally overturned.
Perhaps one of the most prominent stories of the Sea-Org’s destruction of family life is the story of Jenna Miscavige Hill (DM’s niece) who released a tell-all book about her life and growing up in the Sea Org. It’s entitled “Beyond Belief – My secret life inside Scientology and my harrowing escape”. Her book attracted much media attention, and in many subsequent interviews she recounts how both her parents were sent on mission when she was just 4 years old. At age 6, she was sent to “The Ranch” which was essentially a “boarding school/berthing” for children of SO Execs. She signed a Sea Org contract at the age of 7. Initially, they were allowed to see their parents once a week for 2 hours on a Sunday, but then her mother was sent on mission to handle the Freewinds project and her dad went somewhere else. She reports that for a six year period from age 12 to 18 years, she saw her mother twice and her father on four occasions – for less than an hour each time.
The family unit is the building block of society. The constant, cultural devaluation of the family within this environment enforces Sea Org control. It has become accepted that family is secondary to the group. It is so inherent that it has become part of the fiber of that group. A lone sea org member loses any possibility of strength when separated from their group AND their spouse.
It is this culture that makes it a simple matter to summarily disconnect from a mother, father, child or sibling who gets declared. And over time, elements of this culture filter through the ranks to all levels of Scientology. If family is easy to disconnect from, then friends stand no chance.
This is the modern day version of the infanticide that LRH speaks of in his policy on Ethics, Justice and the Dynamics “This gets so batty that in one of the South Pacific societies, infanticide became a ruling passion. There was a limited supply of food and they wanted to keep down the birthrate. They began using abortion and if this didn’t work, they killed the children. Their second dynamic folded up. That society has almost disappeared.”
And so has this one.