Scientology's First Celebrity Defector Reveals Church Secrets

'I was Miscavige's favorite boy,' says veteran TV actor Jason Beghe

Veteran television actor Jason Beghe tells the Village Voice that the Church of Scientology will be feeling blindsided by the YouTube video of him that hit the Internet on March 14.

Long-held frustrations with the church motivated Beghe to leave Scientology seven months ago, after he had spent about 12 years in the organization as one of its most celebrated success stories. Over the course of about a year, he negotiated his “disassociation” with the church, trying to give every indication to church officials that he was parting on good terms.

In reality, he says, he was already planning to go public with damning allegations about L. Ron Hubbard’s controversial religion.

Jason Beghe

Beghe most recently appeared in the CBS series Cane, and he’s been a regular television presence since the mid-1980s, showing up in series like Everwood, JAG and Numb3rs. Overnight, however, he’s becoming much better known for being the first Scientology celebrity to come out against the church. Hubbard’s minions covet celebrities like no other religion, and although some, like Nicole Kidman, have only temporary affiliations with it, none with Beghe’s experience has ever been so public in denouncing it.

Speaking on the phone from his home in Malibu, Beghe, 48, says the 3-minute video is part of a much longer session. After leaving the church, Beghe had reached out to a Norwegian man, Andreas Heldal-Lund, who runs Operation Clambake (, probably the most comprehensive anti-Scientology website on the Internet. Heldal-Lund convinced him to meet him along with another of the church’s most well known critics, Mark Bunker, known as “wise beard man” to the “Anonymous” movement that in recent months has organized worldwide protests against Scientology.

“They came to my place out here, and we spent the day together. They set up a camera and I blabbed. And I barely scratched the surface,” Beghe says.

Originally from New York, Beghe turned a modeling career into television acting with relative ease. “I’m one of those guys who works. I never had a problem getting a job,” he says. “I never became a huge star, but I never stopped working.” While taking an acting class from Scientologist Milton Katselas in 1994, Beghe says he decided he wanted to learn more about the religion.

So he decided to hit up another student in the class, Bodie Elfman, then boyfriend (now husband) of Jenna. Elfman, he says, gave him a copy of What is Scientology, a lavishly illustrated hardback that introduced him to the idea that L. Ron Hubbard had come up with a “technology” of the mind that supposedly enables the devout to achieve superhuman capabilities. The purification rundown, a detoxification ritual, caught his eye, Beghe says. “This clear thing sounded good, too,” he adds.

Hubbard’s followers believe that if church members go through an increasingly complex (and increasingly expensive) process known as “The Bridge,” they may unlock the capacities of the mind so completely that they become a clear, and have total recall, have the ability to leave their bodies, and are impervious to disease.

After reading the book Elfman gave him, Beghe says he was ready to go whole hog. “Give me some Scientology, man,” he remembers thinking.

And it didn’t take him long to get hooked. In his first training session, doing something that, in typically arcane Hubbard argot, was called ‘OT TR Zero,” he had to learn to “confront.” Which, oddly enough, meant sitting motionless with his eyes closed.

“You sit three feet from someone with eyes closed, relaxed. You sit there and confront someone, unflinching, until you have a ‘major, stable win,” he says. Translation: after trying to hold perfectly still for twenty minutes, he had an epiphany.

“I kind of left my body, and realized, in a new sense, who I was. And it was like, ‘Oh, shit.’”

He explains that as a child, he realized that he was someone who had a deep curiosity about spirituality. He remembers that he would turn to another person, look into their eyes, and feel that he was able to learn something essential about them. But when he looked into the mirror, he didn’t get the same feeling. “Who am I?” became his mantra, he says, probably far younger than it does for, say, most college freshmen. It led him to have a sense of adventure about things spiritual.

Now, suddenly, he seemed to have an answer. “I’m not Jason Beghe. That’s just a body, like a car. And I’m the person driving it. I felt like for the first time I felt like I knew who I was.”

But now that he’s left the church, does he still ascribe that feeling to something L. Ron Hubbard had discovered, or some other psychological phenomenon? Only seven months out, he admits that it’s not really a question he’s been asked before.

“There seems to be a level of hypnosis or brainwashing or whatever you want to call it, and this training is a way of getting people hypnotized. And there’s a lot of patter that you’re constantly hearing that helps you get in that state,” he says.
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