By Dennis Erlich
Scientology is child abuse
by Dennis Erlich
Early in the '60s, I remember seeing a movie that made a
profound impression on me. It was one of the "shockumentaries"
that was made after the success of the movie Mondo Cane, I
Perhaps some of you recall it. As a documentary about the
bizarre practices of various cultures around the world, it was
an eye-opener for any middle-class youth, especially one as
sheltered in suburbia as I was. I was shocked and utterly
fascinated by the diversity of cultures in the world, their
differing views of life, and what was considered "normal" in
various societies. Children who grow up in cults are cut off
from experiencing the wide range of choices the world has to
Sequestered and insulated from the rest of the world, their
parents' way of life is the only one to which they are exposed.
In the movie there was one segment, however, that was deeply
disturbing; whose images haunt me still. It concerned child
slavery going on at that time in Africa.
In that segment of the movie, slavers were shown stealing
infant children from their parents. They then put the children
in confining cages where they could not stretch out. Or they
bound them using shackles to twist their tiny arms and legs into
weird, contorted positions.
These children were kept this way for their entire childhood;
allowed to grow to maturity without ever being unbound. Their
bodies became twisted into grotesque human pretzels, with joints
bent in wrong directions, and calluses on the wrong sides of
feet. When grown, these children were sold by the slavers as
freaks to side-shows.
I recall thinking that the children seemed totally normal
before they were placed in these extreme conditions. That they
survived at all is for me a testament to the adaptive power of
the human body, mind and spirit.
These images helped form my conceptual model for child abuse.
Any set of experiences which bind a child's body, mind or spirit
into a warped, contorted posture is abuse. Any activity which
causes the child to have to adapt to extreme, unnatural
conditions is similarly abusive. This type of prolonged
adaptation produces a twisted mental posture which causes the
child to be maladaptive in society.
Libertarians may reasonably argue that adults should be
allowed to participate in or subject themselves to whatever
destructive activity they choose. When it comes to children
however, a different standard is universally applied.
Children in our society are, by law, protected from many
harmful influences or circumstances to which adults can be
subjected or can willingly submit. While adults are allowed to
go hungry on our streets or expire from need of medical
attention, children are generally protected from such neglect.
The ability to think and the right to speak critically can be
lost or knowingly forfeited by an adult and we might say that he
is a dedicated, single-minded, devoted or focused follower. But
a child, not having had the chance to develop the ability to
think for himself, is, in theory, protected from any influence
that would take that eventual right away.
In scientology there have been enough verified reports of
children being ordered locked in chain lockers on the "flagship"
by Hubbard himself or being subjected to the labor camp reform
of the RPF, to know that the
man hadn't the slightest regard for the welfare of children.
Children are housed in squalid conditions, deprived of proper
parental supervision, medical care and generally considered
excess baggage by the cult's leaders.
The abuse, however, that I would like to address here is what
I have personally witnessed: the mental and spiritual abuse
perpetrated upon children raised in the cult environment.
My four children were subjected to the practices of which I
speak and, God willing, will some day be free of the destructive
influence of scientology on their lives.
In scientology, people are routinely deprived of their rights
of free speech and thought, held captive, required to submit to
degrading conditions or undergo "rehabilitation" in the RPF
program. They are subjected to shunning, sleep deprivation and a
concentration camp environment to accomplish the cult's
brainwashing reform. These practices are not the worst of what
goes on hidden behind the public facade of the cult.
They are also not limited to the control and manipulation of
Many of the most repressive and authoritarian practices are
applied equally to defenseless children.
These practices are based on Hubbard's stated philosophy that
children are just
thetans in little bodies and should be required to
contribute as soon as possible to the group's survival.
In a child's life the application of this philosophy
translates to deprivation of parental nurturing: the right to be
"just" children. Instead children are deemed "upstat"
are "on-purpose" or "off-purpose." They are segregated [even
more than their scientology parents] from the normal influences
of society. Their concept of themselves in relation to society
is molded by Hubbard's own twisted world-view.
They learn they are very different from "wog"
They absorb Hubbard's prejudices against the government, the
education system, the mental health community and literally
everyone who is not a member of the cult.
They learn the cult's concept of responsibility. If they are
critical of scientology or anyone in it, it is because they
themselves have committed an anti-social act. They are instilled
with the idea that the only worthwhile ambition they can have is
to become a "professional" scientologist and help save the
In the case of my own daughter, this conditioning translated
in her young mind to helping scientology stop people from
slaughtering baby seals and other similarly naive images. Of
course she wanted to help "save the planet." What child
wouldn't? So at age 8 she became a
Sea Org member. I was, of
course, very proud of her. She worked 7 days a week till 10:30
PM at the Clearwater Headquarters.
She was a Cadet until she was 15. It was with the grace of
God that she escaped and started building her life back toward,
instead of away from society. It took her several years of
constant struggle to catch up from the "education" she received
while a Cadet in the Sea Org. She is currently receiving
counselling to deal with the twisted ideas and unnatural
childhood she experienced growing up in the cult. But,
nonetheless, she graduated from college this year, CUM LAUDE,
and is beginning a new life in the "real world."
Another of my children, who once had a wonderful sense of
humor, claims she lost her ability to laugh when she did the
communication course as a six year old. The
in the training drills tampered with her spontaneity and caused
her to arrest her natural urge to react to things.
As a result she now tends to be placid, self-conscious,
detached and objective. Once that spontaneity was disturbed by
the unnatural, hypnotic discipline of
TRs, she tended to
be un-reacting. I have known many adults in my cult career who
displayed this fixed, robotic, un-reacting countenance, but in
the case of my child, it produced a severe, dramatic,
destructive change in her personality which has not been
Like her sister, she had a difficult time trying to adapt in
"wog" schools, to the children and the need to catch up
academically. After several years of constant effort, she
managed to come up to speed with those she had previously
considered her inferiors — the "wogs."
Another of my children, who rebelled against the notion of
scientology indoctrination, constantly felt like the outsider in
the family. Because she didn't aspire to the same goals as the
cult demanded, she was considered "out-ethics." This stigma,
caused by her unwillingness to give up her natural tendency to
question and be critical, created in her the self image of being
inadequate and flawed.
She blamed herself for being "imperfect." Only now, years
later, through counselling, is she realizing that faulting
herself constantly for lack of perfection is unhealthy and came
from the cult's indoctrination designed to control its members
and keep them in line.
My youngest child nearly died shortly after birth because of
scientology's distrust and unwillingness to get competent
medical care for members. She spent the first several years of
her life in a Sea Org nursery. I used to wonder why she would
cry hysterically each morning when she was deposited in the
It was staffed by children, usually 12 to 16 years old, from
the Cadet Org.
The nannies had no sense of hygiene, and the children often
suffered from infections, illnesses, fleas, lice, scabies or
During all of this, I was so focused on my job in the Sea
Org — Chief Quality Control Officer in the brainwashing
factory — that until one day when I was changing my child's
diaper and saw little white worms wiggling their way out of her
anus, I didn't realize the abuse going on.
Shortly after that I left the cult. But the image of those
worms exiting my infant daughter still haunts me, just as the
image of the twisted, forgotten children in the movie, Mondo
Cane, seared into my memory.
It will for all time serve as a reminder to me of the neglect
and abuse to which I subjected my own flesh and blood in order
to "clear the planet."
Fortunately my children have all become strong enough, on
their own, to overcome much of the handicap of growing up in the
cult. They still bear me a certain amount of unspoken [and
well-deserved] animosity for submitting them to this abusive
upbringing and for my parental neglect. Our relationships as
child and parent may never be fully normal.
In spite of this, I am proud to say, none of my kids have
hesitated to warn other children and adults:
STAY AWAY FROM SCIENTOLOGY!
I have not mentioned the parental neglect of children I have
witnessed in my 15 years in the cult, the conditions in the
Cadet Org where children of Sea Org parents are warehoused
without contact from parents for weeks on end, or the work camp
conditions of some of the facilities for children because it is
enough for me to admit the abuse to which I exposed MY OWN
I don't know if anyone can comprehend the remorse I feel for
subjecting my children to this alienating, warped, repressive
environment. I pray our story serves as a warning:
SCIENTOLOGY IS DANGEROUS TO THE HEALTH AND SANITY OF YOUR
Copyright (c) 1991 by Dennis Erlich.
All rights reserved.
See also: Scientology