#2. You Help Them Shake People for Money
At one point during my three years in the Sea Org, I was assigned to assist the salespeople, called Registrars. I'd bring believers in to be endlessly harassed to hand over money for services and materials. People would take out second and third loans on their homes at the insistence of the Registrars.
I witnessed Registrars taking out credit cards in other peoples' names. They'd be on the phone with the credit card company while the person gave us the information we needed to raise their limit or get a new card. Why would you possibly go along with what is essentially a telecommute mugging? Because if you didn't comply, you'd have to go to Ethics -- the ominously titled enforcement bureau -- where they forced shameful confessions out of you: How often you jerked off, what drugs you did, which Fresh Prince albums you thought were "just all right."
At which point you may be required to get jiggy wit' it before witnesses.
You know, all of the truly unspeakable transgressions.
#1. They Record Everything
I knew I was gay when I hit puberty at 12. My dad made his feelings about gays well known, and Scientology is also seriously homophobic, so even at a young age, I knew that I wouldn't be accepted. I was trying to hide this secret the entire time I was going through the aforementioned re-education programs, which is what kept me from raising too much of a fuss for those three years. I think everyone has a secret like that, something they want to stay private: your sexuality, your doubts, how hard you cried during the moving finale of The Smurfs movie. The church leaders know you have a private shame hidden away somewhere, and they try to find that secret for every member.
"He likes yellow Starbursts."
Eventually I wound up at Flag (Scientology's headquarters) in Clearwater, Florida, for training at age 17. I was in this studio-size hotel room converted into a six-person dorm. There was another guy in the room with whom I formed a relationship. We didn't do anything super sexual, but it was intimate enough that I'm not comfortable saying more, even to the notoriously tight-lipped and trustworthy Internet. Another member in the dorm found out what was going on, wrote a long report, and submitted it to Ethics. This is the part of the dystopian sci-fi film where our hero leaps out of a window onto a helicopter, pursued by sinister, sunglasses-wearing Re-education Agents.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Just like a scene out of a Tom Cruise movie, ironically enough.
Instead, I was sent back to LA and called in front of a small group of people who were tasked with officially telling me that I was guilty of being ... well, me. They kicked me out of the Sea Org entirely just after my 18th birthday, at which point my family followed standard Scientology procedure and accused me of being a child molester. Dad threatened to disown me and throw me out on the street. I literally had nowhere to go, so out of necessity I learned to keep quiet and internalize all my feelings. I knew that I needed a source of income in order to survive, and I was still technically a Scientologist. After I told him I'd be paying rent, my dad leveraged his Scientology connections to get me work. I spent a couple of years acquiring experience and then used it to get a job not connected to a strange Hollywood cult created by a third-rate science-fiction author.
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty
No offense to any Lucasists.
Eventually, after eight years, I had finally built a sustainable life away from my Scientology family with a group of friends who treated me like real family. In early 2012, I discovered the Ex-Scientologist Message Board and wanted to share my story. I asked my friend if she and her husband would let me live with them should my parents find out that I posted my story. They told me to go ahead and move in right away, but I decided to wait, because I wanted to see if it was true that Scientology monitored the Internet for dissent. Sure enough, a couple of months later, my parents had the story in their hands. They told me I had been declared a Suppressive Person (because if there's one thing sci-fi writers are good at, it's ominous-sounding designations). My parents, sister, and brother turned their backs on me at the behest of Scientology in April of 2012.
It's been just about two years since I've spoken with any of them, but that's OK. I have friendships now that aren't based on a crazy space cult. And now that I'm out, I know that there aren't millions of loyal Scientologists standing arm in arm across the world. There are barely even 25,000 in the United States. And now there's one fewer.
Derek's original coming out story was published by Tony Ortega, an accomplished investigative journalist who has been reporting on Scientology since the early 1990s. Derek also has a YouTube Channel if you'd like to know more about his story.
Related Reading: Cracked also spoke with a young woman who was raised in the Church of Scientology. We've made a habit of talking to people who grew up in dark situations, like this woman who was raised in a Christian fundamentalist cult. We went behind the scenes of a weight loss infomercial and even covered the recent Ukrainian revolution.