A former Scientologist who says she was a “child slave” and alleges she saw a six-year-old boy chained up in a ship’s hold is disappointed the Senate has blocked a full inquiry into the religious organisation.
Keryn, 54, grew up in the church and has asked the ABC to identify her only by her first name.
She says she was a victim of “hard labour, mental brutality and separation” on Scientology ships, which were used for the Church’s elite band of followers in the 1960s to 1970s. She is angry the motion for a Scientology probe has been blocked in Parliament.
“Australia is an egalitarian society; Scientology is not egalitarian,” she told ABC News Online.
“There is no protection for workers and no protection for children. It’s the push for the inquiry that has brought me out of the woodwork.”
Keryn says her mother was a founding member of the church and went on to become the CEO of Scientology in South Africa.
“It should be banned; it’s a very dangerous pseudo-religion and corporate enterprise, and it really needs to be looked at very closely,” she said.
“If it’s not looked at very closely and monitored and checks and balances put in place, then one day people are going to look back and say, ‘This is bad news and we did nothing’.
“The structure is very totalitarian, and I just think it’s very bad for mental health. They need to look into the separation of families. I know many broken families because of Scientology.”
Keryn wants an inquiry to investigate living and labour conditions as well as schooling for children working for the organisation at a young age.
“There is a belief in Scientology that normal schooling simply indoctrinates you with social norms and ideologies … so they prefer to indoctrinate with their own ideologies, with the result that Scientology children, if they manage to leave, are usually unskilled and uneducated.
“This forces them back into the world they know – in other words Scientology recreates its own labour force,” she said.
“People just get so brainwashed and it’s made so difficult for people to leave, they just don’t. Staff members don’t get paid so they can’t accumulate money to leave.
“There’s a belief system that if you find something wrong with Scientology, then there’s something wrong with you. That’s instilled in you so deeply that it’s very hard to shake.”
Keryn’s decision to speak openly about her experiences comes after ABC1’s Four Corners program, The Ex-Files, in which former members told of forced abortions, pressure to work extreme hours and being forced to hand over large sums of money.
Members of Scientology’s elite unit of full-time staffers the Sea Organisation – or Sea Org – detailed allegations of a strict regime of discipline and punishment in place during the 1960s.
Scientology has denied the claims, but Keryn says she can back up the allegations.
She says she signed a billion-year contract as a 12-year-old, lived on the Scientology vessels The Royal Scotman and The Athena, and was in effect a “child slave”.
Keryn says over the years Scientology has changed from the more idealistic early days.
“They’ve really refined their acts and become very slick at marketing and promotions and corporate management,” she said.
“They’re still doing what they’ve always done, but they’ve just morphed into something slicker so they’re much more dangerous than they were before.
“I’m really nervous about where it’s going – it’s just infiltrated so many educational programs, management programs.”
What makes Keryn very angry is the celebrity following.
“When I hear John Travolta and Tom Cruise come out and say ‘this is the way’, I think ‘have you actually ever been behind the scenes of the Celebrity Centre to see how they live?’ They don’t,” she said.
“The hard work is done by staff members. The people that have money do what people with money always do. They just throw money at stuff and people are nice to them. And Scientology has always courted celebrities because that is their legitimisation and it’s working.
“If there’s one thing I can say though, because Tom Cruise jumped on that stupid couch, that actually started the ridicule, and the ridicule has grown bigger and bigger and started to undermine Scientology’s image.”
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