Maureen Bolstad’s Scientology Story
I was involved with Scientology for 25 years. I have a really long story to tell. I’ll try to summarize it here. I have written more on the Ex Scientology Message board, under the name “Twin A”.
I got involved originally when I was 14 years old. My parents were never involved. In fact, I was approached and sold courses by the Church of Scientology Mission of Stevens Creek (San Jose) staff without my parents present in 1980.
In retrospect, I do not feel that this was correct or even legal — despite the fact that the helpful and friendly Scientology staff did help me to improve some aspects of my life at that time.
I guess I kind of liken my Scientology experience to a bad bandage. The kind that sort of stops the bleeding but then causes a worse infection later on and has to be removed and replaced.
I’m going to college now, I’m 41, and I often find myself wishing that I’d never dropped out of High School in the first place, that many of the things I was looking for in Scientology, I could not find in Scientology at all, but I have found in the school system and elsewhere. So, here is kind of my story about how I ended up skipping out on my education and staying involved in Scientology for so long.
When I was 14 I was having trouble in school, I was having trouble emotionally and I did need help for it. Scientology was right there, prominently in my community, handing me a bandage. How could I refuse? And how could I not then, walk around and tell my friends and family afterwards how great Scientology was? I had my new band aid on and I felt better, and I was happier. When my step father or my school friends did not share my new enthusiasm and were skeptical. I of course, defended my new friends to my older friends and family… because my older friends and family didn’t seem to understand that I needed a band aid at all. Somehow, any lack of enthusiasm for my new found religion meant that they were against my new happiness and my new sense of hope, that they were against ME.
My friends and family didn’t know that I needed anything extra, that maybe they could have helped me with. Because I was never very communicative. In fact, I didn’t communicate to the Scientologists that I was having any trouble. They already knew! So that solved that situation. The weird thing is that I have no idea that they DID really know. I found out later that Scientology Registrars (sales people) are TRAINED to ask a person if there is anything about themselves that they want to change, and then to say that Scientology CAN help them with it! They say it to EVERYONE. It wasn’t just that they somehow already knew what all my problems were and really truly knew that they could help me with them or not. It’s a sales pitch. Something I was very unfamiliar with at age 14.
And what exactly were my really pressing issues at age 14? Well, one of them was that I was at odds with the Mental Health System. I’d seen my mother taken away in a straight jacket. I’d seen her after she’d gotten shock treatments. I’d seen her experiencing the side effects of the earlier drugs for manic-depression (bi-polar). I’d visited her at Agnew State Mental Hospital when she was there and San Jose State Mental Hospital. These were places etched in my mind. Not nice places. I’d seen her go to the California Mental Health system for help and instead get abused. She woke me up one morning when I was only 7 years old, to tell me about how she’d been repeatedly raped while in restraints at the San Jose State Mental hospital by a male nurse there.
She tried to tell her social workers and her psychiatrists and they did not BELIEVE her because she had earlier been diagnoses as being delusional. So, I was the only one who believed her. I couldn’t do anything about it. I couldn’t call the police or write to a government official. I was only 7. But I could hold my Mom’s hand and let her cry on my shoulder about it. And I could promise to myself that someday I would DO something about it. That someday I would help my mom with her problems, whether she was delusional or not.
I told one of my new Scientology friends about how I was having trouble with my Mom and he promised that learning Dianetics and Scientology would enable me to help my mother; that Dianetics and Scientology were the REAL answers to mental health problems. It was explained to me that they (Dn and Scn) were not accepted by the mental health professionals because it actually cures people and would ruin their “racket”, but that eventually organized Scientology would expand and take over and make everything better.
I was impressed to see an entire religion dedicated to the improvement of the mental health system. They already had THE ANSWERS and just needed to teach them to everyone. Scientology needed to be “disseminated.” I was enthused about this. I did not even know what Scientology and Dianetics really were or how they could help with mental health problems, or IF they could. But I did understand the enthusiasm and friendliness of the Scientology staff member looking at me eye to eye telling me this. I saw sincerity and conviction and I was convinced.
I had very few critical thinking skills at age 14 and 15. I tended to just trust anyone who took the time to sit down and talk to me carefully about anything. It was beyond my imagination that I, a kid on welfare with nothing that I really owned, could have anything that someone would want to steal from me. I had nothing to steal of value. No one had a reason to lie to me. But that was not true. Because I had my youth, my health and I could work very long hours if I had to. I had my labor, and that was stolen from me. I was easy game.
I didn’t know how much money my Mom paid for rent. I didn’t know how much money she paid for food. I did not know anything about the cost of living, I had no idea that, at 18 I’d be financially responsible for myself for the rest of my life. So… to expect me to make decisions involving my financial future was ridiculous. But that is exactly what the staff members at the Stevens Creek Mission asked of me. I was approached in 1981, when I was 15 years old, to join staff and work for the Mission of Steven’s Creek. I was asked to sign a five year contract. So was my little brother, only 13 years old.
Because I’d been sold on the idea that Scientology was somehow the answer to all my problems, of course I signed up for staff. I was told that I would get all the Scientology training and counseling I needed in return for my work on staff. They were somehow doing me a “favor” by allowing me to work for them. I was told it was some kind of work study program.
I was not paid for my work for most of my work, occasionally 20 dollars at the end of a full time week. It was nothing in the scheme of things. I thought it was a lot. If I had accepted a job arranged for me by school counselors as soon as I was 16, at a local TV station for pay and school credits, I would have made about 60 a week for part time work, and 120 dollars a week full time in the summer AND I’d have gotten school credits for it towards college. Yet, because I was approached by a staff member at the Church of Scientology at age 15, without my mom present, without consulting our social worker or my school counselors, I got tricked into making a dumb mistake.
I’m not against people in Scientology who have been made happier or helped when no one else seemed to be around to help. I’m not against those people in Scientology who still have hope that the Scientology movement is the cure all for all the world’s problems. I am not an enemy to Scientology or Scientologists. In fact, I consider myself a friend. If I was not criticizing, or talking to journalists about my experiences, or posting stories on the internet, or trying in some way to reach others about Scientology — then I wouldn’t care and I’d be perfectly willing for anyone getting involved, about to get involved, to just fall into the exact same traps I did. I’d be perfectly willing to let members of the Church of Scientology keep making all the same mistakes and telling the same lies to themselves and others.
Cults spring up around the world to solve problems real or imagined in the society. I can see that maybe my attraction to Scientology was somehow a way for me to solve my problems with an imperfect and not fully functional family unit. I could imagine that maybe, somehow the school system was letting me down, my social workers were letting me down and my family too. Yet, at the same time, I can also see that this idea didn’t occur to me until AFTER I’d been contacted by Scientology recruiters. I did not walk into Scientology looking for an escape from my own family and the school system, but that is what I got. I did not think that I was depressed about my life until a Scientology recruiter showed me my free Personality Test (OCA) telling me I was depressed.
So after about a year of working part time and full time for the Steven’s Creek Mission for little to no pay, and only two counseling sessions that didn’t go all that well , I was recruited by a Sea Organization Recruiter from the Church of Scientology of Clearwater. He told me he was from the Flag Personnel Procurement Office. An important sounding name. The recruiter was dressed in a navy uniform and explained to me that the Sea Organization was an elite group of well organized Scientologists dedicated to resolving all the worlds problems using the new discoveries of L. Ron Hubbard about the mind and life. I felt flattered that I was being approached to be a member. I’d seen this recruiter and other Sea Organization members in Navy uniforms treated with respect, their orders followed, around the Steven’s Creek Mission.
This Sea Organization recruiter told me that if I joined the Sea Organization, that I would get all the help I needed to finish high school and get a college education. I was even promised film school which I wanted to do. I was promised that I would be put immediately into full time training as a Scientologist. I’d learn how to become a Scientology counselor and I could learn how to help people. I could learn how to help my mom and others. I would get paid regularly/weekly and I would get room and board and free medical and dental care. I was promised that I’d get a vacation every year for three weeks to visit my mother AND a day off every other week as well. I was also told I could easily leave if I didn’t want to be in the Sea Organization anymore. I could not wait to sign up…
The recruiter came to my apartment in Santa Clara and told my mother all the same things to get her to sign the parental consent form. My mother was drunk at the time and she saw my enthusiasm, was intimidated by the guy in a navy uniform and she signed the parental consent. My little brother was there and he wanted to come with me. She signed a consent form for him too. He was only 14 years old.
The recruiter had lied about all the things I would get when I joined the Sea Organization and he lied to my mother too. My little brother and I were essentially kidnapped and put on a plane to Clearwater Florida.
My twin sister joined the Sea Organization two years later, when she completed high school and found that she really missed us both. She is still involved and not speaking to me or my brother because we left staff and she has not.
I had no way of knowing back then that the C of S would make important promises to me and my mother and then not keep them. The internet didn’t exist back in 1982, and I hadn’t seen any bad reports about Scientology. I had no reason not to trust this guy in the navy like uniform in helping me make a very life changing decision.
Upon our arrival to Clearwater Florida, we were both put to work immediately doing laundry duty. We did this for a month. It was hard work. We also cleaned rooms. The duties assigned to us often kept us up until 4AM in the morning. We were violating child labor laws in Florida, but I did not know that and my new superiors at the Church of Scientology of Clearwater didn’t care.
When I complained that my brother and I needed to go to school, I was told by the Scientologist (also a 16 year old kid) supervising my work, that “wog schools will just brainwash you, all you need to study is Scientology.” When I complained that I was also promised full time training as a Scientology counselor, I was told that “Oh, well, you don’t have enough work experience, so you have to work more before you can get rewarded with full time training.”
When I complained that that was not what I was promised, I was told that I was being “first dynamic oriented” which is the Scientology and Sea Organization term for “being selfish.” I did not like being called selfish. I did not want to be that, so I quit complaining.
I was in a difficult position. I did not really like my assigned guardian, I wasn’t enjoying the work and the long hours. How could I get my little brother and I back home? I had no money for a plane ticket. My mom certainly could not afford it. I’d learned when I was 11 that my step-father was not my “real dad” so I was reluctant to ask him for anything, he’d never officially adopted us and I already felt like I owed him too much. I went to my superiors in the Sea Organization and I expressed that I was unhappy and that I wanted to go back to California.
I was told calmly that I “had withholds” and that I could cure myself of wanting to leave by writing them down. I didn’t really know what to write at first. I had to figure out that it meant things I didn’t think my new friends would like to hear about. I wrote that I’d complained over the phone to my sister about the Sea Organization and how it was not what I expected, I wrote that I made mistakes on the laundry—I had trouble with “double creases” on the shirt sleeves and pants and got poor service votes for that. I wrote that I could never get the laundry done on time. I was assigned a condition of “Confusion” and I was shown the Scientology Ethics Book on how to deal with confusion. I got given a “Locational” to help me to find out where I was.
I greatly enjoyed the “Locational”. It gave me the opportunity to look around and explore the Scientology buildings in Clearwater more. I got to go to the top of the Fort Harrison hotel and look out over Clearwater from high up. The person helping me with the locational was very friendly and nice to me. It was good to get out of the laundry room and be making a new friend. It was good to see Clearwater at a more leisurely pace than my first brief tour of the place. I asked questions about the FH and about the other buildings. I could see there were things about Clearwater I could like. I wanted to check out the beach, but we didn’t have time.
Then, I briefly read the other ethics conditions and did them too. One of them was “Treason” which is done after Confusion. I had to FIND OUT THAT YOU ARE ______. I had to find out that I was a SEA ORGANIZATION MEMBER, and that I now had that responsibility. I was not just Maureen from Santa Clara, I was a SEA ORGANIZATION MEMBER. After I studied and thought and wrote down things, with the help of the Ethics Officer helping me, I worked through the conditions of confusion, treason, enemy, and up to Doubt. On the Doubt formula, I had to look at the statistics of the church of Scientology. I got shown these graphs depicting all the great works of Scientology Organizations around the world and I was told how the Sea Organization influences that. I was shown all the thousands of people Scientology was helping and then I had to compare that to the statistics of the group I was considering going back to, just being a kid and finishing high-school.
Hmmm…. when I go to high school, I was only helping me and not anyone else. I didn’t have any statistics for spiritually freed beings. I had to decide which was a better group to be a part of. Being a Sea Organization member or being a student in a wog (a derogatory term for a non Scientologist) high school that apparently brainwashes kids with psychology information. With the “help” and guidance of my Ethics Officer, I decided to stay in the Sea Organization. This took all of a day to do. The next day I was given some “hatting” on how to do laundry so that it would not take me so long to do. My laundry duties were also lessened so that it would not take us until 4 AM in the mornings to finish all the work.
“Hatting” is the Scientology term for “training”. I was shown a Flag Order, which are the policies particular to Sea Organization members, that said that all Sea Organization Members are expected to do ANY JOB WHETHER HATTED OR NOT. So I could not refuse a job just because I didn’t know how to do it well. This was hard for me to accept. My step father had always taught me, “if you are going to do something, do it right” and so I felt that I was being pressured to do poor work whenever I got assigned jobs I had no training for. And did not like that I was expected to do a great job on the laundry without any training, but I could not refuse to do the work because of it. I was glad that I got the hatting on how to do laundry better. I wished I’d had it earlier.
My brother and I were then assigned to a month of studying about what a Sea Organization Member was so that I could become a better one. I was told that my “going into doubt” about the Sea Organization didn’t really count since I had not done Product Zero, the basic Sea Organization member training, which I should have done when I first arrived. I learned kind of the hard way that most Sea Organization Members often have not studied the LRH Policies for their assigned duties and so they make mistakes that later have to be corrected. It was apparently a mistake that my little brother and I were assigned to laundry duty when we first arrived and not to Sea Org Basic Training, a mistake that I could have noticed if I had read more books of LRH orders.
I was taught that LRH was always right about everything, so if something went wrong, it was because his orders were not followed by everyone involved. It was so contradictory to their practice of putting people onto jobs that they had not done any training for.
We went into a group of about 50 new Sea Organization Members in Clearwater and we had to do the EPF, Estates Project Force. I made many new friends, I was studying and learning. I was appeased for the moment and felt that I had made the right decision and that I should not have doubted it. But also, I felt safer going with the flow of things, with the group. The idea of being alone in Clearwater without anyone else’s support was terrifying to me. I’d found that “being in doubt” was really frowned on and I’d been given the cold shoulder even at the mention of it as if it was some kind of disease.
My brother and I were both very hard working. He got given a job at the Fort Harrison of the Internal Communications Flow Officer. He delivered all the mail and letters. He enjoyed the job, he didn’t have to work on the weekends, because it “looked bad” to have kids working on the weekends in Florida. Since I was 16, it didn’t matter if I worked on the weekends, so I always did. I was put into a management organization called the Commodores Messenger Organization. I did very well here doing errands and being a communicator/admin. I was promoted to “over the rainbow” which was a term for working out in Hemet at the International Management base and film studio for the C of S.
I spent the next 17 years at the Int Base, mostly working in Golden Era Productions, for the film crew and in the Grounds Dept.
During my 17 years, I never finished high school. I never got a college education. I learned some basic film making skills, but nothing that could be called a “film school.” I also never completed any formal Scientology training as a counselor as I was promised. I liked the “method one” that I received, which was counseling on the subject of past words not understood in studies. I got to do the Key to Life course which is also related to literacy and words. Mostly what I studied were the manuals to equipment and on the job training programs.
I worked an average of 18 hours a day or more, 7 days a week. I did errands, manual labor, building maintenance and repair, videography, camera work, video playback, set construction, gardening and irrigation projects, etc. Jobs ranging from semi-skilled work to very skilled work. Many of the skills I’d learned earlier in public school programs were taken advantage of. It was implied to me that I was smart because I was a “past life Scientologist” and not because I actually had a great school system taking care of me before Scientology. The Santa Clara County school system had and still has some of the best schools in America.
I was allowed to visit my mom only on two occasions for less than a week each time. My entire life was taken over. Whenever I complained or tried to change things for the better for myself, I had to do the appropriate Ethics Condition until I was perfectly happy to be taken advantage of personally and in relationship to my family. I never got any help with my mother. In fact, in 1992, I was told I had to disconnect from her! Because she was connected to psychiatrists who are the big enemy of Scientology.
By being constantly led on about what I was going to get from the Sea Organization for my work and then never actually getting it, I essentially had a great deal of my life extorted from me. I calculated approximately how much the Church of Scientology International and the Church of Scientology of Clearwater would have had to pay a regular worker for all the hours I worked for them in my 18 years in the Sea Organization, and it calculated to one million dollars. If the Churches of Scientology International and Clearwater had to pay minimum wage or slightly more for the more skilled work, plus the overtime then they would owe me about 500,000 (I subtracted what I was given as room and board and some counseling). There were thousands of hours I spent working on my sleep time on “all-nighters.” In 1993, I added up how many hours of actual sleep time I’d been given and divided it by the number of days in that year. The average of sleep time I got in 1993 was 2.5 hours a day! ALL YEAR. 1994 was better, I averaged about 4.5 a night all year.
I developed health problems and emotional problems just from the stress of never sleeping and some work related injuries. I had to quit staff. Or they kicked me out for not being as productive anymore. Whichever. I left. I “routed out” which took me three years of being forced to confess to sins and evil intentions. I just started making things up after a while. It was not fun. I totally understand why others have chosen to skip the “route out” step by simply leaving. I found it oppressive and challenging to my sanity.
My husband [name deleted by admins] filed for a divorce without even speaking to me during this time. He was a Scientology kid, raised in Scientology and it was all he knew, he did not want to ever leave. Even though I hadn’t really gotten to know him very well, (we were both too busy to have a real marriage), I was upset about the divorce.
Since I had donated half a million dollars worth of skilled labor, I feel like I have a right to complain about certain lies I was told about what I would get for all my work. During the last 4 years of my Sea Organization life, I discovered that medical and dental are not always given when needed. In fact, it has to get approved by financial planning committees and by the Medical Liaison office. I was often told that “there was not enough money” to pay for my medical and dental needs.
When I finally got out of the SO, I had 3,000 worth of dental needs (wisdom teeth, root canals, and a cap) and I had over 10,000 worth of physical therapy and MRIs needed for my spine problems. Injuries I’d gotten doing manual labor for the C of S that I had been denied proper care for. I did manage to finally get a little Workers Compensation Insurance, but not nearly enough.
David Miscavige, who runs the Church of Scientology from his position in Religious Technology Center, ordered a brand new house to be built for LRH around 1996. It cost 30 million dollars. There were no writings left behind by LRH asking for a new house. He liked his old one. I had actually seen that in writing, the “Very Well Dones” on the renovations projects of his old house when he was still alive to see the photographs of it. There were no verbal or written instructions to David Miscavige to spend 30 million dollars of the CofS money on a new house for LRH, yet DM did so, just on his own whim.
So, there was no money to help me see a doctor. I was mad about this, especially after I’d essentially “donated” about half a million dollars of skilled labor. But there WAS money to build a house that was not really needed. I will never forget this one time after I had read a note from the Medical Liaison Officer telling me that my request to get my back and neck examined was denied because of lack of money, and I looked up the hill to the north of the Hemet property and I saw a brand new house being built. Would LRH even care if he had a new house, or would he have wanted me to get my medical needs taken care of? If anything made me realize I was being a slave, that was it.
After I routed out, I tried to stay a public Scientologist in good standing for five years. I tried to take courses at the Glendale Mission and I volunteered regularly for the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, at their office on Hollywood Blvd.
I was stressed out by all the demands placed on me as a public Scientologist. I was routinely demanded to donate between 3,000 and 6,000 a year. Money I did not really have. I was also discouraged from going back to school and I was discouraged from pursuing medical care for my spine. I was told that what I needed was Scientology auditing and training. I wanted this to be true. I wanted to think that what I had worked so hard for was the answer to my problems. I wanted to think that I had not wasted over half my life promoting and training others in something that did not actually deliver what it promised.
Well, I kind of had to wake up one day, because I had an eating disorder. I’d suffered from it off and on for 10 years and it was getting worse again. Only this time, I didn’t have a bunch of Sea Org Members around me to come to the rescue, I was on my own with it. I’d had hours and hours of confessionals, checking for evil intentions and even three tries at the Introspection Rundown (probably about 180,000 worth of Scientology counseling) and it had not worked to permanently solve my eating problems. I HAD to seek help elsewhere. I was losing weight, I felt like I was dying. I contacted some ex-Scientologists on the internet asking for help. I emailed with Chuck Beatty and he found me some other ex-Scientologists who said they could help me. They did not try to convince me to leave Scientology. They gave me a choice. They said their offer of help, both financially and in terms of advice was not dependent on whether I wanted to leave Scientology or not. I found this refreshing, because Scientology will ONLY help you if you want to stay a member. They won’t help ex-members.
I did eventually decide that I did want to seek non-Scientology help, so I got in touch with a very good psychologist who was a specialist in eating disorders. I had not officially said, “I’m not a Scientologist” but going over to see a psychologist for help is about the same thing.
Within about 7 sessions, only costing me $280.00, I was cured. I no longer had an eating disorder. I was amazed at how smart this psychologist was. She was amazed at how easy I was to work with. She was amazed that Scientology had spent so many hours trying to help me and failing, because I was factually one of her easiest cases. I’d been being told what a difficult and next to impossible case I was to work with by the best auditors and Scientology tech terminals in the world. I mean at the Int base, the tech team is expected to be better even than at Flag, they have twice as many things to do to get RTC OK to work in the tech teams at the Int base. Yet, they were complete failures in relationship to helping me with my problems. I’d been questioning Scientology before, but this really made me question it more.
I called [name deleted by admin], at the Citizens Commission on Human Rights on a Wednesday when I was supposed to volunteer at night, and I told her I was getting help with a psychologist. Sam said that I could no longer volunteer at CCHR because I was ‘sleeping with the enemy.’ I wished Sam would see my psychologist because she was dangerously overweight. I was worried that she too would not get any help for her eating disorder within the framework of Scientology. I had heard other stories earlier about Scientologists who died of eating disorders despite being on auditing lines at an Advanced Organization.
I began to think of the Citizens Commisison on Human Rights as more of a fanatic hate group than a group of people who wanted to improve the field of mental health. It broke my heart to think of them like that, because I really liked many of the staff there and I always thought about how my mom had been abused in a mental hospital long ago and how it would have been cool if CCHR was around back then to stick up for her. But the problem I was having with continuing to endorse the Citizen Commission on Human Rights is that they do not acknowledge that Scientology does not and cannot help with many kinds of mental health issues, they do not acknowledge that there are good psychologists and psychiatrists around. To them, they are ALL bad and Scientologists are forbidden to seek help from them. To CCHR ALL of psychiatry and psychology are some kind of evil plot against the human race.
So in late 2005, I was mad that I still had not been allowed to see my sister, and I was mad that I had needed to go outside of Scientology for help with my personal problems, problems I’d been told Scientology WOULD and COULD help me with but never did. I spoke to a journalist for the December 2005 LA Times article about the Int base. She quoted me about a project I’d worked on to impress Tom Cruise in the early 90’s. I’d had to stay up all night pulling up sod in a small field so that wild flowers could be planted there the next day to impress TC. The field never grew in very well and got re-sodded later. But the fact that 20 religious workers donated their sleep time preparing this wildflower field for TC was something I felt I had an obligation to report on. If Scientology gets tax exempt status, it seems like this was very clearly an abuse of this.
Because I contributed to an article that embarrassed the C of S, I was declared a Suppressive Person. In May of 2006, I was handed a piece of paper in Gold color with a bunch of lies about me. There is paragraph in my SP declare about how Suppressive Persons should not be accorded the rights of a rational human being. I found that Scientology was very clearly against freedom of speech. I had not lied, yet I was being told that I was a Suppressive and should not have any rights because of what I had done. I was given a message from my sister, “I hope she gets on with her life.” I don’t know what that was supposed to mean, but I never heard from my sister again. Being declared a Suppressive meant that none of my Scientology friends or family (sister) could speak to me anymore.
I have been going back to college and getting the education I wanted and I wished I could have gotten earlier. I have learned about the Constitution and about the Bill of Rights and about democracy. I have improved my writing skills and my thinking skills. I have been able to properly evaluate many of the things I was fed about Dianetics and Scientology.
I can say that despite whatever gains and improvements that Scientology gave me, it was not worth all the work I gave them. I do not think it was legal for them to kidnap me when I was 16 and then trick me into donating so much of my labor. I think it should be illegal for them to recruit minors into the Sea Organization at all. Donating time and/or money to any Scientology organization is gambling, they have no integrity as a group for delivering or keeping good on any of the promises that their recruiters and sales people use to obtain donations and new recruits.
Maureen Smith Bolstad