Strength in their numbers: More Church of Scientology defectors come forward with accounts of abuse
They are stepping forward — from Dallas and Denver, Portland, Las Vegas, Montana — talking about what happened, to them and their friends, during their years in the Church of Scientology.
Jackie Wolff wept as she recalled the chaotic night she was ordered to stand at a microphone in the mess hall and confess her “crimes” in front of 300 fellow workers, many jeering and heckling her.
Gary Morehead dredged up his recollection of Scientology leader David Miscavige punishing venerable church leaders by forcing them to live out of tents for days, wash with a garden hose and use an open latrine.
Steve Hall replayed his memory of a meeting when Miscavige grabbed the heads of two church executives and knocked them together. One came away with a bloody ear.
Mark Fisher remembered precisely what he told Miscavige after the punches stopped and Fisher touched his head, looked at his palm and saw blood.
These and other former Scientology staffers are talking now, inspired and emboldened by the raw revelations of four defectors from the church’s executive ranks who broke years of silence in stories published recently by the St. Petersburg Times.
Those behind-the-scenes accounts from Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder, the highest officials ever to leave Scientology, were buttressed by detailed revelations of highly placed former managers Amy Scobee and Tom De Vocht.
Now their stories have prompted other former Scientology veterans to go public about physical and mental abuses they say they witnessed and endured.
Some want to support and defend the initial four, whom church representatives labeled as liars attempting a coup. Others say they feel more secure now that Rathbun, Rinder and the others are on the record with their unprecedented accounts of life on the inside.
But fear still prevents many defectors from talking. For every former church staffer willing to speak out, one or two more refused.
Those who talked confirm the earlier defectors’ stories of erratic, dehumanizing treatment and provide a deeper view into the controlling environment in which members of the religious order known as the Sea Org live and work.
Four men joined Rinder, De Vocht and Rathbun in saying: David Miscavige assaulted me.
Church spokesman Tommy Davis said the new defectors’ accounts of physical abuse by Miscavige are “false and categorically denied.”
“It is clear that these new ‘accounts’ were stirred up by your recent articles,” Davis said in a written statement, “and are nothing more than the ranting of anti-Scientologists on the grassy knoll of the Internet corroborating each other.”
The church provided the Times two dozen written declarations from current and former church executives and staffers. Referring to those statements, Davis said: “You have been provided with volumes of evidence to show that your original sources are delusionary, bitter and dishonest; your new sources are more of the same.”
Those new sources are men and women who joined Scientology as children, teenagers or young adults and spent decades laboring to advance the mission envisioned by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
Morehead, who drives a tow truck in Portland and spent almost a decade as security chief at the church’s sprawling base outside Los Angeles, described how Miscavige struck a church executive in the chest so hard, “I could hear the hollow thump and see (him) lose his breath from the impacts.”
How does Morehead manage such recall after 15 years?
“It’s just like you remember when you touch a hot stove,” he said. “You’re never going to do it again, right? It hurts, there’s pain …
“Well, it’s as clear and conceptual as that is. I have a hard time remembering my address, but I can certainly remember this. You hold on to this because what the hell could you have done then, and what the hell can you do now?”