How to Escape from Scientology
You may have read last year that Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise are no longer jumping on sofas to celebrate their love. Instead, Katie Holmes used disposable cellphones and hired multiple law firms in a mad panic to escape their love. Oh, those crazy kids.
It seems very likely that we'll never know the full details of why Holmes wanted to leave in such a cloak-and-dagger manner, but there are reasonable inferences to be made from the way she did it and what has happened to other people who have tried to get away from the Church of Scientology. So let's take a look and see how you too could distance yourself from the church, if you were so inclined.
The Celebrity Route
Leaving the Church of Scientology as a celebrity requires a bit of forethought. Do you want to go the Katie Holmes route and hire many law firms while escaping to the other side of the country? It couldn't hurt.
In 2009, director Paul Haggis opted to leave the church as a result of their support of Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage, in an open letter to Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis. In the letter, he also mentioned Scientology's practice of "disconnection," where church members are encouraged to sever all ties with former members. Haggis said his wife experienced this with her parents. Surprisingly, it doesn't involve filling your pants with raw fish or spending seven minutes in a closet with John Travolta.
Like Katie Holmes, former Tom Cruise wifebot Nicole Kidman was also a Scientologist, and she also left the church, also to protect her children from the church, which we assume she found even more off-putting than sharing a bed with a man who willingly starred in Vanilla Sky.
"The film's about how I look like Rocky Dennis but pork Cameron Diaz or some shit. I dunno."
Former star of hilarious sitcom Living Dolls Leah Remini had been an ardent supporter and member of the church for years until she one day questioned why no one had seen Shelly Miscavige, wife of church leader David Miscavige, in years. She was told to shut her filthy Kevin James-kissing mouth. Not content with that, Remini eventually left the church and filed a missing persons report on Shelly, who, I can't stress this enough, has not been seen in almost 10 years. The LAPD promptly assured the world via press release that Shelly was fine and the case was closed. Where was she? Shut your filthy Kevin James-kissing mouth. No one's required to answer that.
Basically, if you're famous, you can leave by standing in front of the media and saying "Hey, isn't Scientology weird? I quit those weirdos!" Then you must stay in front of the media for the next several weeks to ensure you're not locked in a fun house somewhere.
Scientology's biggest weapon is that it kind of has a peer pressure/bully approach to everything. If your whole family is in the church, and all your friends, what's a good way to deal with you if you choose to leave? Maybe cut you off forever from contact with literally everyone you know. The church says they don't do this, but, oddly, literally every person ever who has left the church says otherwise. So probably yeah, they do that.
When you leave the church, you're considered a "suppressive person." That's L. Ron talk for dick waffle. As a dick waffle, you get ostracized. Remini has spoken openly about it, Haggis talked about it, Samantha and Placido Domingo Jr. have talked about it. If you left the church and have given an interview, you've talked about it. It's as real as Tom Cruise's public insanity. Sorry if that came across sounding glib.
"Well, if it isn't Glibby Glibberton."
Fortunately for our celebrity friends, when they leave Scientology, it's newsworthy. It's a big event. This is bad news for an organization that famously broke into 136 agencies, government or otherwise, in 30 different countries to destroy records that said anything bad about the church or L. Ron Hubbard. They don't want you to think they're bad people, despite organizing massive criminal conspiracies. So when you leave them in a public way, they can't really do massive criminal things to you or else that will get noticed, too. I'm not suggesting that the church would break into Remini's home in the middle of the night, wrap her in a wet carpet, drive her to the nearest active volcano, and toss her in before filing numerous lawsuits against anyone who even suggests that that's what happened if they thought they could get away with it; I'm just saying it took me all of 30 seconds to think that up, and the church has been coming up with kooky bullshit since the 1960s.
Mind you, if you're not a member and still in the public eye, they could try to maybe get you committed to a mental hospital like they did with author Paulette Cooper via something they called Operation Freakout. Before going any further, please take a moment to appreciate that the Church of Scientology has knowingly developed plans to ruin people's lives and code named them things like Operation Freakout.
"John Travolta touches me from the inside! Beware the Ides of March! Free Tibet!"
Freakout was meant to stop Cooper from criticizing the church. They planned to do this by calling in bomb threats to Arab consulates in New York with someone imitating her voice. Threatening letters written on paper that they had gotten Cooper's fingerprints on would also be sent to the consulates from Cooper. Finally, someone would impersonate Cooper in a laundromat and make threats against President Gerald Ford, as well as Henry Kissinger. Clearly it all made perfect sense, and it makes you wonder why the woman ever said anything bad about the church to begin with.
Lisa Marie Presley had for a long time been a prominent church member but then one day seemed to slide off the radar while she refused to answer any direct questions about her involvement. Why no talk? Her mother was still in the church, and speaking out would get her a fatty disconnect right in the Graceland. If you leave the church and want to still have contact with anyone in the church, you'd better keep your mouth shut.
Eventually Presley spoke up about the church in much the same way actor Jason Beghe did, but with less swearing, talking about the bad advice the church offers and how they take your money and cut you off from reality. He, of course, went on to say, "If Scientology is real, then something's fucked up."
The Common Route
Now suppose you're not famous: How exactly do you get away from the Church of Scientology? Logic states that you just say "Thanks for all the crazy" and wave goodbye, but logic has no place in the world of Travolta and Hubbard.
Jefferson Hawkins, a journalist who left the church and wrote about it, has an entire website dedicated to helping others leave Scientology behind. If you read it from the viewpoint that Scientology is a valid, normal religion like any other, it's absolutely batshit crazy and will blow your mind, because if Scientology is a valid, normal religion, then why would anyone go to these insane lengths to stop being a member?
Hawkins recommends that you first distance yourself -- say you're taking a break, or maybe you have to go to Thailand as part of this sex tourism group you've recently founded -- but in no way speak out against Scientology. You don't want people thinking you're up to something, like maybe leaving the church. That's how you get cut off or have alien ghosts jammed in your bum while you're sleeping. Right in there!
Commence ghost insertion.
Hawkins' next recommendation is that you read things written by people who have never put their tongue inside Tom Cruise's lower extremities, either metaphorically or literally. Basically read news and information by people who are non-Scientologists. He even recommends practicing Scientology, if you so choose, apart from the church. Live the life of a normal person so you can judge for yourself whether or not Scientology is a total sack of sloppy shit.
Basically you kind of have to ooze away like a slug in the night. No sudden movements, no violent outburst, not a peep or a fart out of place, and then when you're nestled in a warm, damp location away from the influence of Battlefield Earth, you just stay there. Stay calm and quiet as long as you can. The best way to escape Scientology is to put your tail between your legs and roll over in the hopes that it won't even bother to hump your placid little carcass and will instead keep on moving, forgetting that you were ever there.
Here's the tricky part: Say you're just like me. You write funny articles for Scientology's version of Cracked. They probably call it "Psychiatry" or something like that so they can all have a good chuckle over it. And you're writing your article, "The 7 Most Unexpected Ways to Steal the Life Savings from Some Schmuck," and it's pretty great, and then you realize at the end, oh shit, this is depressing. What if I'm not haunted by the ghost of an alien that was strapped to a volcano by galactic overlord Xenu a bajillion metric years ago? What if most of John Travolta's films are actually poor quality? I think I need some time away. And then you walk out the door.
According to numerous ex-staff members of Scientology organizations, shit just isn't that easy. Don Jason used to work at Scientology's Clearwater facility and was the #2 man there. After he left, he says the church literally tracked him down and took him back, putting him on one of their bizarre cruise ships and locking him in his room. Gary Morehead, former chief of security, says he was the one who developed the procedure for hunting down and spying on ex-members of the church and had lost track of how many people he brought back after 75 or so.
"Back! Back to ironing Travolta's thongs! Back!"
So while it's all well and good to say you want to leave the church, you need to remember that the church may not want to leave you, especially if you had any value to them. As someone paying them an exorbitant fee to have a box hooked up to your head that helps read how many Thetans and tube steaks are in your brain, they probably won't care if you vanish in the night. But if you had any responsibilities whatsoever, if you were ever entrusted with any information or secrets or carrying around David Miscavige's solid gold scrotum oscillators (just assume they exist), you may be in for an uphill battle.
Since the church will open all your mail if you live in one of their compounds and keep records of things like bank accounts and credit card numbers, your ability to leave is not nearly so great as their ability to hunt you down once you go. Then they have access to all the "counseling" sessions you were a part of, including all the transgressions and confessions you've admitted to, so there's some good blackmail fodder in case you want to struggle once they do find you again. Plus you'll lose contact with family and friends, and, of course, you're going to be damned for eternity. Shit.
"I can't be an immortal, superpowered alien now? Dang it!"
Alternately, you can leave through "official" channels called "routing out," which basically means you get tortured in the most mild of ways, possibly for months, while you are forced to explain over and over again why you want to leave, what transgressions you have committed, and how you are a bad seed and the church is great and totally not at fault for you sucking so much. You do some excessive manual labor at an isolated location for several months, then you sign some papers agreeing to never say anything and you're good to go, you suppressive person, you.
I'm not a theologian, so who am I to say that a subpar sci-fi author from the 1950s who had an extensive and well-documented history of shady dealings didn't really think up a legitimate religion despite its also extensive and well-documented history of shady dealings? All I will say is that, like any religion, it's certainly easy enough to walk away from, assuming you can walk very fast and cover your trail like a Native American hunter during frontier times. If you're a Scientologist thinking about leaving, go ahead and try it today! If you make it, comment on my article before they come for you so we all can see how well you're doing, and if I may be so bold, maybe you'd like to look into Raelianism.