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Courtney Greenberg

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Why this man decided to join, and leave, the Church of Scientology of Toronto

Why this man decided to join, and leave, the Church of Scientology of Toronto

As I prepared to release the second half of an investigative piece I wrote about the Church of Scientology in Toronto, I wanted to share the experience of one ex-member. (Check out the first half here if you have 20 minutes to spare!) It’s hard for anyone to understand why someone would want to join, especially if, after they leave, they open up about alleged abuses they endured. I’ve learned that each case is entirely unique, and there are many reasons why people join the Church. For some, its teachings help immensely, and I’m not condemning anyone who wishes to practice peacefully. However, every ex-member I have spoken to has revealed at some point or another, their disconnection from the Church was because of negative experiences. And, as no one from the Church will speak to me over the phone or meet me in person (after many requests), I am relying on the stories of those willing to speak up, to tell their side and to learn about something that leaves many confused.

I have agreed to keep this person’s identity anonymous, as they fear repercussions from the Church. And, as I’m unable to include this in my article, I think it’s still crucial to make this story public so we can have a better understanding of the religion and why people are attracted to it.

Why remain anonymous?

I don’t know if I would like my name associated with the article... the reason is because Scientology is excessively vindictive. They think nothing about suing people and harassing them at work and doing anything. There’s no bottom line. Anything is ok, which of course is insane, but that’s the attitude. So you can be an innocent person and be victimized.

When I was in Toronto at first, there was a lady and her family named Nan McLean. Nan and I were good friends. And I was a staff member in Toronto and she was public and something went amiss. I don’t know exactly all the inner details but she became a pariah. She became the antithesis of goodness. She became the devil incarnate. And it went on and on.

There’s instances everywhere. They’re notorious and the problem of course with Scientology is that a word of truth never leaves their lips and they speak the gospel so figure it out. And I’m being sarcastic when I say they speak the gospel.

So, why did you join?

At the time, I was tutoring mathematics as a sideline and one of my student’s mothers came to me and said, “Could you please help me out? My son is in Scientology. I don’t know what it is. I’m worried. Could you check it out for me?” So I went down to check it out (in Toronto) and before you could blink three times I was involved in Scientology. My original goal was self-improvement type thing. I was 25. My 25th birthday was a couple months after I started.

I never thought about spirituality. It never entered my universe ever. Scientology believes that we’re spiritual. This is fine. What attracted me was, I’m a magician as a hobby. I performed my magical things at the Church of Scientology of Toronto...But I amazed them. My ability with magic seems to parallel their concept of where you’re going as a being. In other words, ever heard the expression OT? OT is an operating thetan, is you, the individual. And if you’re operating as a being you should be able to function without your body, whether you die, you should still be there and aware and all kinds of interesting things.

And then one day, (name redacted), who was one of the senior people at the Church, we became instant friends. Her and her husband and I. I was doing some magic for them and she said, “I can do that.” Now what I had just done was I had taken a deck, given the deck to someone to shuffle the cards, and with my eyes closed, pulled out all four aces. The aces were in the deck because they put them in the deck. So it’s not like I didn’t perform this incredible trick.

When I finished it, (she) said to me, “I can do that.” And I said, “No you can’t dear.” And she says, “I can.” Now I’m well-versed enough in magic. I know what’s going on. There are no tricks that I can’t figure out. So I’m sitting there... She took a deck of cards and I shuffled them. And she pulled out all four aces in front of my face.

Now, I can do it. But I know she can’t do it. But she did! And the only way she could’ve done it is by looking, even though technically she couldn’t see because the cards are face down and she couldn’t see—but she found them anyway. And I considered that a good example of operating as a being. So that intrigued me. I wasn’t naive. I didn’t see this little thing happen and go “I’m a believer! I’m a believer!” I’m the farthest thing from that in the entire world.

But I saw something that she can’t do. As a magician, I would have seen trickery in one second. She just did it as simple as standing there and saying “Here’s one. Here’s two. Here’s three. Here’s four.” It was unbelievable. That attracted me, even though later on over the years many things happened to make me not want to stay. The goal of accomplishing that level of ability kept me going.

How long were you involved with the Church?

I was in Scientology 22 years. I started in Toronto in 1969. A few months after I started, I joined staff. I was on staff there until 1973. And then 1973 I went down to join staff in Los Angeles at the advanced organization of Los Angeles, which is part of the Sea Org. That was one of the major Sea Org locations on planet earth. So I went there and I was going to be a public speaker and a fundraiser.

Why did you leave?

They kicked me out. They had a Committee of Evidence without me being present except for the very initial questioning of me. They never saw me again. I never saw a person who accused me. I never saw the evidence. It’s like a kangaroo court. They held it without me being there...the irony of this, in 1991, in the fall, the Scientology management issued an amnesty, which is a forgiveness.

So in order to get people to not be stuck in bad deeds or upsetting things that have happened or where they may have done something forgive them. Blanket forgiveness. And the forgiveness comes in the way of they offer you the amnesty and take the amnesty. You can take the amnesty in a number of fashions. (You can say) “I accept the amnesty” and you’re forgiven. Or you can sit down and write down your misdeeds that you want forgiveness for and they’ll forgive you for that also. It doesn’t matter what you did. So in the fall of that year when I was already not working on my post, I walked off the job and sat in my room under the pretense of being sick.

I was so fed up with everything that was going on. I had my foot out the door but I hadn’t quite gotten brave enough to walk out the door yet. Then in the middle of all this they had a Committee of Evidence. They found me guilty and threw me out. But because of the amnesty policy, anything that occurred prior to the amnesty cannot be used against me. Even if I was a murderer and blood-thirsty, stealing, and raping and pillaging, I’d be forgiven for everything (because of) Scientology policy.

All they could do was get things that I did subsequent to the Committee of Evidence. But subsequent to the Committee of Evidence I wasn’t even in the building. I was never there so they had zero evidence with which to accuse me and charge me and therefore they couldn’t find me guilty of anything. But that of course means you’d be following policy, and since the intention was to throw me out in the first place, they ignored that little fact and threw me out anyway. Lucky me. I was one of the earlier ones to get tossed out. 1992 is when I eventually left.

Do you still have family in the Church?


My wife was there and I wasn’t even allowed to say goodbye to her. I was physically thrown out. They didn’t send me with a dime. I’m working in an organization where the average staff pay was $5 a week. I’m not exaggerating. They offered room and board so they didn’t starve to death and had a place to sleep, but they worked 18 hours a day, seven days a week.

And they threw me out. I was completely in shock for a moment. I tried to communicate with the senior management justice people because of the injustices that were obviously occurring. But they would hum and haw and whistle and have a different story every time I talked with them…

My wife was left behind. I had remarried. So my first wife is still there with my daughter and I have a son—he was adopted—but nevertheless I had a son, and I had another daughter, again adopted. Not adopted officially but I raised them. I married my first wife, the little one was three years old. I raised her and when I divorced my first wife I got married to my second wife whom I had known since 1969 and her son was born in 1970, so I’ve known him his entire life. I helped raise him.

Well I haven’t seen any of these people, not even once. I try to communicate. They won’t respond since 1992. My daughter got permission to send me a book, which she did send me in 1993, saying “Please apply this book to your life.” It’s a (Scientology) book on ethics. So she understands that I’m a very bad person. I do terrible things and that’s why I’m no longer in Scientology. But there’s always a way back in, all you have to do is say you’re sorry, do appropriate penance, and a few other things that cost a lot of money and eventually you’ll be forgiven and allowed back in the fold.

My second wife called me in about 1995, something like that, which was an amazing thing to hear the phone ring and she was on the phone. She said, “I can’t take it anymore. Will you take me back?” I said sure get on a plane. I said to her, “When you get off the phone, you walk out the door with whatever you have under your arm and you leave. You don’t pack a bag, you just leave. If you don’t leave, you’ll never get here.”

She said ok. She never got there. Somebody stopped her or I don’t know what was said to her...End of story. She died about five years ago from cancer.

My first wife is still in Scientology in Florida. She’s doing horribly. She’s the level of OT VII and if you’re interested in a verbatim quote, the original ability as published by L Ron Hubbard regarding the state of OT VIII is “Ability to be at cause knowingly and at will over thought, life, form, matter, energy, space and time, subjective and objective” which basically means you are god.

What attracted you to Scientology?

Scientology has some positiveness to it. It’s not all terrible. The people do go in there and have wins. There are positive things that do happen. They have a type of confession like the Roman Catholic church does and it’s called counselling but it has a similar flavour to it. Get that off your chest, and eventually you feel better. It feels good to get the stuff off.

That technique they use to do that helps people and they have wins. There are other things but by and large, it’s mostly nonsense. And being a church is as close to being true as I’m an elephant in heat. They’re both equally true. I mean, it’s not a church in any way shape or form.

I was there for everything at one point in time. I was on the ship, the Apollo. Very few people were ever on the Apollo with L. Ron Hubbard. I was there. They had courses that he developed. They had counselling procedures he developed along the way. Everything that we developed or in the works to be done, I was on the pilot project to see how it worked.

Exciting was never the right word. It was a constant cope. Most people never got a day off. I took them whether they liked it or not. “I have a daughter, I have kids. I’m going to see them. Goodbye” and I got up and walked out the door with unbelievable threats behind me. But I just ignored because what’re you going to do?

The point is along the way, I found more and more things that were wrong. But true to being an adherent I overlooked them. I kept my eyes on the bigger picture. Very early on in Scientology, we’re talking like a couple months after I’m in Scientology, I read some bulletins. Bulletins in Scientology means a technical piece of material written by L Ron Hubbard how to make a person better. There were two bulletins talking about suppressive people. Suppressive people in Scientology are the bad guys. They’re the people who are trying to undo Scientology, hate L. Ron Hubbard, hate everything positive and love everything nasty. And to become labelled a suppressive person you have to be guilty of doing something that Hubbard has labelled as bad for Scientology or for Hubbard.

I read this bulletin about suppressive people and it said that two per cent of the population are suppressive. We’re not battling the entire population but there’s a lot of people who are really nasty. In another bulletin written around the same time, he said 25 per cent of the population are ill, they’re not doing well. And of those 25 per cent, two per cent of those are the suppressives. So one is two per cent of a hundred percent, and one is two per cent of 25 per cent. They’re completely different numbers. They’re not even in the same ballpark. One is saying 2 out of 100 and one is saying 8 out of a hundred. That’s 400 per cent more that’s a whole different number.

I actually questioned this. One of the practices in Scientology is you never answer a question. Ever. The response to your question is look it up in the material. You’re misunderstood, because you obviously misunderstand something if you read it and you don’t understand it. So find your confusions. Clear them up and you’ll be set. The problem with that particular concept is I’m really smart, not to brag, I’m just a very smart person. I read it and there’s no question what I read and there’s no question that I didn’t misunderstand. It says what it says it’s as simple as that. I wrote to Hubbard and asked him how come these two numbers?

The response from him was, “Why do you want to know?”

If that isn’t the most bizarre response... I just took the letter, tossed it in the garbage and said, “Fine.”

That was an example early on of nonsense. But I didn’t feel like getting into it. It wasn’t important enough to worry about that so I let it be.

Over the years, many other occasions came up. Many questionable things came up, which I tended to ignore. It was my own stupidity for doing that, but that’s the way it was. Eventually it just became unpalatable. It was impossible. You couldn’t function with all the madness going on around you. Just a daily thing.

You mentioned you went to RPF twice?

Oh yes.

Two years before I was declared suppressive, David Miscavige, who was running Scientology at that time, said, “Oh we’re going to do a provisional suppressive person, whatever that means. You’re suppressive, but only because I haven’t given the gold seal of approval that you’re suppressive. I’m going to give you a chance.”

They put me in the RPF, the hole. They had their own version in Los Angeles. Not the exact same one as in Hemet, california, but they had that also. I was sent there twice. The first time I was sent there, I went with another hundred people. They were doing a clean up or something. And a couple days later, one of Hubbard’s books came out and they wanted to get it sold and pushed and promoted so they pulled me out of the RPF and sent me off to do this. I wasn’t suppressive at that time. I was just at RPF.

The second time I went to the RPF I was declared suppressive and every rule L. Ron Hubbard has ever written about how you treat people, ethics, how you handle the punishment—every single thing that he wrote was violated with me. I’m a tough enough guy. I sat down there. Five months later, I was finished with the RPF. people had been in there for years. I have a friend of mine who is no longer in Scientology who was in there for seven years.  That’s seven years, no contact with anybody. No friends. No family. No days off. Nothing. Eat. sleep. And work. That’s it.

Do you believe Church activity should be covered by the media?

It’s vital. Because it’s easy to get...I was a public speaker. I was very good. Believe me. I could get anybody into Scientology. Anybody. If i sat down with you, and you didn’t know what you saw on TV, you’d be in Scientology tomorrow.

When I finally got out, I wrote a letter one day and posted it on one of these ex-Scientology websites and apologized to the people. I wrote an apology. At the time I did the things that I did and the promotions I did, it was always with the intention of helping people to become better.

I now know that a lot of what I was doing was pointless and ridiculous but I didn’t think of it at the time. I apologize if I adversely affected your life. Because I adversely affected (people’s lives) and I didn’t even do bad things. But I still adversely affected their lives because I got them into Scientology. It’s because of me. I don’t like it as a claim to fame. It’s an embarrassment. Scientology needs to be gone because it’s not what it purports to be. It has nothing to do, nothing to do, with what is said Scientology is.

It’s just all public relations, propaganda, and it’s been repeated so many times that even they believe it.

In 1972, it was “8 million Scientologists worldwide” and “Scientology is the fastest-growing religion in the world”... And here we are 45 years later, and the number’s the same? I’ve got news for you. That number, if you take it and divide it by a hundred, instead of 8 million… it should be 8,000.

How do I know this? Because when I was still in Scientology, I was a public speaker. In the heyday of Scientology, I would do an event and there were hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people there.

At the end of my tenure, when I was still periodically going and doing events because they still wanted me out there, I’d walk into places, there’d be 15 people.

I mean, I came to Toronto once in 1976. I did an event and they had a church that they rented out at Avenue Road and St. Clair, the one on the corner there, and you couldn’t get in. Packed wall to wall with bodies. The last event I did there, which was some time in the 1980s, 15 people showed up. And believe me, I was popular, and in Toronto I was even more popular because they knew me. I was the guy who was once in Toronto and here I am now in the big place in Los Angeles. They would just to see me and shake my hand and say hello. I was a celebrity and here it is. The moment shows up. It was embarrassing.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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