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Probe of religious sect's practices sought by ex-members

Title: Probe of religious sect's practices sought by ex-members
Date: Monday, 22 July 1974
Publisher: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Author: John Marshall
Main source:

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Directors from the Church of Scientology in Ontario and Alberta are seeking Government inquiries into its practices.

One of them, Lorna Levett, was the head of the Scientology mission, a franchise operation in Calgary. After 12 years in the movement she walked out and took all but a few of her Calgary disciples with her.

A Scientologist franchise, Mrs. Levett said, is a charter granted by the Scientology head office. The holder agrees to send 10-3/4 per cent of the local organization’s weekly revenue to world headquarters. He also agrees to send anyone who achieves a certain level of training to another organization for advance training. In turn, he is granted access to Scientology processes.

Mrs. Levett, a 42 year old divorcee now operates her own counseling service full-time.

Voicing regret that she lacked the insight and courage to quit before, she says she induced Calgarians to spend more than $200,000 on Scientology, half of it for advanced courses in Los Angeles. It costs anywhere from $50 to $500 an hour for these therapy like sessions.

Scientology, which has described itself as "an applied religious philosophy" and "the largest mental health organization in the world" was founded in the United States in the early 1950s by Lafayette Ron Hubbard, a former science fiction writer from Nebraska.

A precise definition of Scientology is hard to find but it has been described as having some of the characteristics of a religion, an educational system, and a mental health program.

Mrs. Levett says one man paid more than $27,000 and a woman in her 70’s seeking self-fulfillment, spiritually and mentally, paid more than $8,000 in the past two years.

Nearly all the Calgary members, she said, had to borrow to keep up their payments, and Mrs. Levett induced four to mortgage their homes to get the cash.

She is asking the Alberta ministry of Consumer Affairs to look into the movement.

Mrs. Levett has retained her voluminous files, which include factual policy statements by Mr. Hubbard about controlling the planet from his floating headquarters, the ship Apollo, as well as directives from Canadian headquarters in Toronto and information letters about defectors from various other units.

World mental health movements — the late, highly respected Brock Chisholm is named as one of the leaders — are labeled as enemies and are linked to Nazism.

There are letters identifying ex-members of Scientology and members fallen from grace, by name and sometimes address, and calling them homosexuals, drug addicts, "SP" — suppressive persons — or describing trouble with spouses.

Some of these unlucky people are called "fair game" and "beyond any consideration for their feelings or wellbeing."

In Ontario, the McLean family of Sutton — Eric and Nan and sons John and Bruce and the latter’s wife, Dawn — have the feeling that they have been declared fair game.

They left the organization in October, 1972 — Mrs. McLean was an ordained Scientology minister and son John was a third mate on the Hubbard flagship and things immediately began to happen.

A mock funeral was held on Sutton’s main street by Scientologists. Pamphlets were handed out that called the McLeans "lost souls … who harass religious people with their irreligious attitudes".

Neighbors began getting phone calls from unidentified persons charging members of the family with everything from embezzlement to sexual immorality.

Not long ago, John’s fiancée was called by a women alleging she was having an affair with John and they were to meet that night in a motel.

Eric McLean, a 52 year old auto mechanics teacher on leave to work for the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, has been picketed at a meeting he was addressing.

The family has been in in touch with various government agencies seeking an inquiry into Scientology.

Mrs. McLean, who still ardently believes and practices Scientology precepts, has been travelling throughout Canada and the United States collecting material from other defectors about the organization’s ethics, economics, and influence.

She has just returned from long consultation and comparison of notes with Mrs. Levett and others of the Calgary group who are remaining together as a spiritual counseling service.

"It’s wonderful that Lorna and her people have decided to speak up publicly," she says "It’s been a long haul alone."

Nearly everyone who leaves the organization, she says, will not talk about it afterward.

There are Hubbard policies that say when a person joins it is forever (contracts for those serving on the ship are actually written for a billion years), and intense follow-ups are used to get people back in.

If anyone speaks against the organization, the McLeans say, the harassing phone calls begin.

The most recent development — a strange reverse twist — is anonymous circulation of a Photostat of what purports to be a document outlining a scheme wherein the McLeans pretend to defect so they can give false information to publications that could then be sued for libel.

If accepted, it would destroy the McLean’s credibility. What it doesn’t say is that the documents they have, some duplicated in the Calgary files, are also bogus.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Levett, too, thinks Scientology techniques can be helpful in developing a healthy mental and spiritual approach to life.

In fact, she put Mrs. McLean through a higher degree of the many-classification, never-ending courses while the Sutton woman was in Alberta. Mrs. McLean wasn’t charged for the service.

But both women say the main stress in the organization is to use the techniques not so much for self-improvement but to make people into totally dedicated Scientologists, which means a continuous spending of time and-or money in the organization.

Mrs. Levett’s files are full of exhortations to seek out those who have quit elsewhere, particularly from the Hubbard flagship, to get them to pay the thousands of dollars they allegedly owe for courses they have taken.

The stress is on the commissions (10 percent) that she could make — with afterthoughts about getting them back into Scientology.

Be prepared with handfuls of promissory notes, she was told in one notice right from the top. Get them to agree to any form of repayment, however small, and rush the money immediately to Flag (the organization on the Hubbard ship which drifts around the Morocco-Portugal area).

One bulletin gives leader Hubbard’s glowing endorsement of Big League Sales Closing techniques, a book by a U.S. super salesman type, "Use it to the hilt, Make More Money," she claims she was told.

Mrs. McLean also did her part, she says, to make more money for the organization when she was a highly regarded member of the Toronto unit.

She says she twice falsified her income so that she could sign for bank loans needed by two students who wanted to buy more courses. The McLeans put more than $9,000 of their own into the organization.

John, who jumped ship on the pretext that he was going to try to get the others of his family back into the movement, is on what is called the Flag Freeloader List. They say he owes $17,500.

The January list names a Mississauga man who supposedly owes $5,000; a Toronto woman, $5,000; a Scarborough couple, $10,000; and a Sault Ste. Marie man, $4,930.

An earlier list had another Ontario man billed for $28,723. The amounts are usually run up by people who have become staff members, which means courses are obtained for nothing or are partly subsidized while they are serving on staff. If they quit, they are charged the full amount.

Being on staff can mean anything from handing out pamphlets on the streets of Toronto to working seven long-hour days a week on the converted cattle ferry Hubbard uses as one of his homes. It’s one of four ships Scientology operates.

Very few have talked about their experience on the ship because to get off they must apply directly to the leader for the release of their passport, John McLean says, and they sign promise not to talk.

John didn't sign it.