(Authored by Jeffrey Augustine, this essay was originally published by Tony Ortega at the Underground Bunker and is reprinted here for archival purposes)
Why no one should ever join Scientology’s ‘Sea Org’
Frequent contributor Jeffrey Augustine told us he was surprised to see how some of the language in Scientology’s latest court filing — in the Laura DeCrescenzo lawsuit — dovetailed in such interesting ways with the recent explorations he’s been making into the church’s legal underpinnings. We told him to let that take him where it would, and here’s the result…
Last week we discussed the reason why no one should ever believe anything said by Scientology Sea Org or staff members. And as we saw in Thursday’s column by Tony Ortega, the Church is fighting back in Laura DeCrescenzo’s forced-abortion lawsuit by arguing that the brutality it visits upon its staff is fully protected religious activity.
The Church’s legal filing in this case provides a frightening and instructive argument for our proposition that no one should ever join the Church of Scientology’s Sea Org. In the DeCrescenzo filing, the Church has made it perfectly clear that it is more than willing to weaponize the First Amendment in order to protect its shameless, self-serving, and bare-knuckled treatment of Sea Org members. When push comes to shove, the Church’s message is crystal clear: Sea Org have no legal protections from Scientology’s inherent brutality:
Church attorney Bert Deixler cited Higgins v. Maher (1989), a case which states that anyone who enters into employment as a religious clergy forfeits the protection of the civil authorities in terms of job rights:
This “ministerial exception” is why Sea Org workers do not have to be paid minimum wage or overtime; why they can be locked up and brutalized in the RPF; and why they receive no pension after decades of service. Scientology has been able to brutalize its workforce with endless hours, sleep deprivation, unhealthful food and psychological terrorizing and American courts have been reluctant to do anything about it. The Church has a culture of contempt and brutality in which it sees Sea Org members as “coins” that can be traded among Orgs and then kicked to the curb when they weaken by reason of age or infirmity. The Sea Org euphemism for this cruelty is called “Fitness Boarding.” Old and sick Sea Org members are fitness boarded, given $500, and then shown the door. Is what I am describing inaccurate? Is my language too strong? Not according to the language invoked by Bert Deixler and the Church of Scientology in their DeCrescenzo filing:
Scientology’s justification for its brutal, humiliating, and sadistic treatment of Sea Org workers is the First Amendment. Examples include:
— Decades of coerced abortions to keep young couples free to work endless hours
— L. Ron Hubbard throwing children into the chain locker of the Apollo.
— David Miscavige’s unfettered ability to physically assault Sea Org members with impunity.
— The Sea Org’s morally inexcusable use of child labor.
— The demand on Sea Org members for 16-20 hour workdays, seven days per week.
— Sleep deprivation.
— Humiliating and degrading interrogations known as “sec checks.”
— The brutality of the prison programs, the RPF and the RPF’s RPF.
— Censoring mail and communications with family members.
— The Church’s policy of attempting to kidnap and retrieve Sea Org members who have escaped.
— The routine use of “Too Gruesome” punishments demanded by L. Ron Hubbard. See: HCO Policy Letter of 5 January 1968, “Overfilled In-Basket, Bad News.” L. Ron Hubbard: “MAKE THE PENALTIES FOR NONCOMPLIANCE AND FALSE REPORTS TOO GRUESOME TO BE FACED AND ENFORCE THEM.”
As we have been discussing in our series of articles here at the Bunker, the intrinsic design of the Church of Scientology is to strip every Scientologist of their civil and legal rights, particularly of their right to sue the church for any injury no matter how grievous. This is accomplished by having all Scientology sign waivers in which they agree to irrevocably abandon and surrender their legal rights. Sea Org members also sign the contract language contained in the Church’s Religious Services Enrollment Application, Agreement, and General Release:
The disjoint between Scientology’s PR image of the Sea Org and the reality of its court filings is jarring:
How can the Sea Org create a “Sane Planet” when it itself is a fundamentally dystopian entity that does not even legally exist? To this point, as I noted in the comments section yesterday, Bert Deixler dropped an unexpected admission into the DeCrescenzo filing:
Deixler’s statement cannot be reconciled with the statement made by David Miscavige’s attorney Lamont Jefferson. In a statement he made defending the church in Monique Rathbun’s lawsuit, Jefferson emphasized that the Sea Org cannot have directors, officers, managing agents, executives, employees, staff members, or volunteers. Therefore, no Scientology senior leadership can be drawn from the Sea Org as the Sea Org has no members to draw from.
Given the contradictions between the statements of Church attorneys Deixler and Jefferson, one can see potential cracks appearing in the Church of Scientology’s First Amendment armor. The Church has now stated in a legal filing that Church leadership is drawn from the Sea Org. Conversely, the Church told the IRS there is no such organization as the Sea Organization:
In the DeCrescenzo case, then, the Church of Scientology is arguing that the courts may not interfere in the activities of the legally non-existent Sea Org no matter how “harsh, humiliating, unfair, or irrational” these activities might be.
The Church of Scientology knows that the Sea Org is an exploited workforce upon which all manner of inhumanity may be visited thanks to the First Amendment. And yet to hide its barbarous exploitation if the Sea Org from the world, the Church makes Sea Org members sign a non-disparagement agreement, an exclusive broken here at the Bunker. The legal language in that document says it all:
Accordingly, I PROMISE AND SWEAR NEVER TO SAY OR ENCOURAGE OR INDUCE OTHERS TO SAY OR WRITE ANYTHING NEGATIVE OR DISPARAGING ABOUT L. RON HUBBARD (“LRH”), THE CHURCH, CSI, RTC OR ANY OTHER CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY OR THEIR STAFF, OFFICERS, DIRECTORS OR TRUSTEES, IN WHATEVER CAPACITY, OR ABOUT THE RELIGIOUS PRACTICES, MATERIALS, TECHNOLOGY AND SERVICES OF THE SCIENTOLOGY RELIGION. I UNDERSTAND AND AGREE THAT THIS NON-DISPARAGEMENT COVENANT APPLIES NOT JUST WHILE I AM SERVING ON THE CHURCH’S STAFF BUT ALSO IN PERPETUITY, SHOULD I EVER LEAVE STAFF.
In addition to anything else a court may require me to do for violating this Non-Disparagement Covenant, that I shall pay the Church $25,000 as liquidated damages (and not as a penalty) for each individual violation of this Non-Disparagement Covenant and/or for each individual instance of causing, participating in, cooperating with or encouraging the publication or broadcast of information that results in a violation of this Non-Disparagement Covenant. I understand that it is difficult to ascertain the exact extent of damage and harm a violation would cause the Church, but I acknowledge that $25,000 is fair and reasonable.
What stands out in the Church of Scientology’s legal filings and contracts of adhesion is that no one should ever join the Sea Org, for to do so is to forfeit all rights and protections to enter a nightmarish and surreal shadowland devoted to serving the cruel whims and caprice of both L. Ron Hubbard and David Miscavige. Indeed, one is reminded of the dreadful words contained in Canto III of Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy:
“THROUGH me you pass into the city of woe:
Through me you pass into eternal pain…
All hope abandon, ye who enter here
— Jeffrey Augustine