As we explained yesterday, TMZ probably messed up when it claimed that Katie Holmes was filing for divorce because she feared that her husband Tom Cruise and Scientology would send her daughter Suri away to the Sea Org, which is a “boot camp.”
We went to some lengths yesterday to point out that the Sea Org is not a boot camp — but it has a boot camp called the Estates Project Force. Also, Sea Org members work in various places around the Scientology empire, from Los Angeles to Clearwater, Florida and on the church’s private cruise ship the Freewinds. A Sea Org member does not necessarily get shipped off to the International Base east of Los Angeles, as some news organizations implied yesterday. (However, that did give them the excuse to show some nifty photos of the base — something we’ve had fun with ourselves.) And also, it’s just not likely that a celebrity like Suri would end up in the Sea Org.
However, the best part about this flub by the tabs is that it elicited a response from the church itself. Scientology huffed and puffed, saying that Suri isn’t eligible for the Sea Org because the church doesn’t take anyone for the hardcore, elite unit under the age of 16.
Wow, is that a big fat lie.
How do we know that? Well, just take a look at this promotional flier that the church itself mails out…
Gosh, Sebastien Kunzli was just 15 when he started his exciting life in the Sea Org, signing a billion-year contract and promising to come back, lifetime after lifetime.
Were you prepared, at 15, to sign a billion-year contract and go to work 100 hours a week for pennies an hour?
Kunzli’s mailer brought back memories of another flier we posted back in December. Perhaps our longtime readers will remember it.
It featured an 18-year-old Sea Org member named Denny Chang, who told a story that made him out to be a very experienced young man…
We couldn’t help noticing that his testimonial seemed to imply quite a long term of service…
I’m 18 years old; I’m already an experienced Professional Course Supervisor and a permanent Class IV auditor. And I’m a Commodore’s Messenger Organization staff member.
We asked Melissa Paris, who had joined the Sea Org at only 14, to interpret Denny’s list of qualifications, and estimate for us how long he must have been working.
“Years,” she responded. “Pro supervisor is 6 months to a year. Class IV auditor is easily a year and that’s studying every day — he said that he did it on his own time. Probably longer. I’d say he’s been in since 14-15 years old if not younger.”
Again, this flier was sent out by the church itself in order to attract other youngsters to the high-flying life of the Sea Org, where kids work incredibly long hours for pennies an hour, generally get little or no formal schooling, become cut off entirely from the Internet or books not written by L. Ron Hubbard, and can spend almost no time with their own family.
As we’ve pointed out several times before, Australian journalist Bryan Seymour reported recently on a young man who had joined the Sea Org at 8 years of age, and finally escaped from a suburban labor camp at 20. By 14, he was working 14 hours a day, seven days a week.
Labor laws? Pshaw. These youngsters are getting spiritual training as they muck out toilets, operate machines at publishing facilities, and swab the decks of a cruise ship. Labor laws be damned.
More Obnoxious Self-Promotion
If it weren’t bad enough that yesterday we posted video from a television appearance, we’re going to put up in this post a link to a radio show we did yesterday morning.
But we have a reason that is not entirely self-serving. We were really impressed by the questions that Brad of the Rick & Brad morning show at KATT-FM in Oklahoma City asked us during this lengthy interview. The guy had done some homework, and it allowed us to get into some very interesting areas. (Note to Tony: work up a better, less stutter-filled description of the Tone Scale for the next time.)
I’m just glad I managed to get a plug in there for Fox 25 and the work it’s doing on Narconon Arrowhead in Oklahoma. Looking forward to more from them at some point.
Hey, have a great Independence Day. Here at the underground bunker, we’ll be sipping a cool one and trying to relax after one of the busiest weeks ever. And thanks to all of our loyal readers for sticking with us as the rest of the news media went Scientology-crazy!
Please remember to check our Facebook author page for updates and schedules.
Tony Ortega has been the editor in chief of the Village Voice since March, 2007. He started writing about Scientology in 1995. You can reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you ask nicely he’ll put you on his mailing list for notifications of new stories. You can also catch his alerts at Twitter (@VoiceTonyO), at his Facebook author page, on Pinterest, a Tumblr, and even this new Google Plus doohickey.
New readers might want to check out our primer, “What is Scientology?” Another good overview is our series from last summer, “Top 25 People Crippling Scientology.” At the top of every story, you’ll see the “Scientology” category which, if you click on it, will bring up all of our most recent stories.
As for hot subjects we’ve covered here, you may have heard about Debbie Cook, the former church official who rebelled and was sued by Scientology. You might have also heard about the Super Power Building, Scientology’s “Mecca,” whose secrets were revealed here. We also reported how Scientology spied on its own most precious object, Tom Cruise. (We wrote Tom an open letter that he has yet to respond to.) Have you seen a Scientology ad on TV lately? We debunked some of the claims in that 2-minute commercial you might have seen while watching Glee or American Idol.
Other stories have looked at Scientology’s policy of “disconnection” that is tearing families apart. You may also have heard something about the Sea Org experiences of the Paris sisters, Valeska and Melissa, and their friend Ramana Dienes-Browning. We’ve also featured Paulette Cooper, who wrote about Scientology back in the day, and Janet Reitman, Hugh Urban, and the team at the Tampa Bay Times, who write about it today. And there’s plenty more coming.