In anticipation of her biggest day in court yet, Laura DeCrescenzo and her attorneys hit the Church of Scientology with 928 pages of new filings
Details from 18,000 pages of evidence show how Scientology manipulated a child to keep her working under slave-like conditions
A key document describing DeCrescenzo’s unwillingness to have her coerced abortion is missing from the evidence Scientology was ordered to produce
By Tony Ortega
Wednesday afternoon, Laura DeCrescenzo filed explosive new information in her four-year legal odyssey against the Church of Scientology, submitting 928 pages of new declarations and exhibits in anticipation of a crucial October 23 hearing in her lawsuit against the church which alleges abuse, including allegations that she was forced to have an abortion at only 17 years of age.
Key to the new filings is information gleaned from thousands of pages of previously secret files that the church fought mightily to keep under wraps. But on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Scientology’s final appeal regarding the files, paving the way for DeCrescenzo to make use of the evidence, and she wasted no time getting some of that information on the record.
For months, the Church of Scientology has been pursuing expensive appeals, arguing that forcing it to turn over Laura’s “pc files” was like asking a Catholic priest to give up information admitted in a confession. Repeatedly, Scientology’s attorney Bert Deixler, in his petitions to the California and U.S. Supreme Courts, has referred to the information in Laura’s files as “deeply religious,” and central to the nature of Scientology itself.
Now, finally, we get to see the contents of those files. And the “deeply religious” nature of Scientology turns out to be about manipulating children to perform heavy labor on slave-like wages for 15 hours a day.
Prepare for a spiritual journey.
Laura Decrescenzo left Scientology’s “Sea Org” in 2004, and the church has argued that she was required by law to file her lawsuit within four years of that date. Instead, she filed in 2009, and Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald Sohigian agreed with Scientology that Laura had waited too long. But an appeals court found that Sohigian should have considered evidence that Scientology’s methods of persuasion had prevented her from filing sooner.
So Laura’s purpose in these new filings is to convince Judge Sohigian that she did not file her lawsuit earlier because of the manipulation she was under as a continuing member of Scientology.
“As detailed below, I was too afraid to sue the Church of Scientology until July 2008 when my parents told me for the first time that they were no longer Scientologists, that they believed I had been wronged by the Church of Scientology, and that they would stand by me regardless of what the Church of Scientology did or said,” she writes in her sworn declaration.
In order to convince Sohigian of her immersion into Scientology’s culture of fear and manipulation, she has submitted…
— Documents from her pc files showing how, as young as 12 years old, she was drilled on how to handle the doubts of her own family, and how to minimize her contact with them.
— Details about her life in the Sea Org, which included working 98 hours a week when she was 12, and for pennies an hour.
— Reports from the church itself which bolster her assertion that she did not want to abort her 1996 pregnancy, and which indicate that a more detailed report by the church is missing.
— Corroborating declarations and depositions by other young women in the Sea Org, including Christie Collbran.
— And a fascinating document by expert Robert V. Levine, who explains Laura’s actions as the result of Scientology’s persuasion and mind control.
It’s a huge amount of material, and we have all of the original documents at the end of this story for you to download and pore over yourself. A week from Wednesday, we’ll learn if it’s enough to convince Judge Ronald Sohigian that Laura DeCrescenzo filed her lawsuit in time.
In her new declaration, Laura DeCrescenzo explains that she was born into a Scientology family and began volunteering at the Orange County, California church as young as six years old. At nine she began working at the church in Albuquerque, New Mexico. At 11, she was sent to Los Angeles for training, and was there subjected to intense recruitment for the Sea Org, which requires total commitment to Scientology’s goals.
At 12 years old, with her parents’ approval, Laura signed the Sea Org’s billion-year contract. (She was Laura Dieckman then.) She was in the Sea Org for the next thirteen years.
Once she was in the Sea Org, Laura says all of her communications with her family were controlled and censored. “Before any incoming and outgoing mail was provided to me or sent to my family members, it was opened and approved by the Church of Scientology,” she writes.
Occasionally, she points out, she could get a phone call to her parents while not being monitored. But she knew that she’d be questioned about it later, so she knew not to utter anything critical of the Sea Org.
Laura attaches several examples from her pc files to illustrate how the church controlled her communications with her family to make sure they didn’t hear what she was actually going through.
At 12, she wrote out a confession that she had lied because she wanted to go home and because she missed her family.
I told [redacted] the reason for me not wanting to be at ITO [International Training Organization] was because of purpose when it was because I was just sick of waiting around and missed my family.
Time: Oct 24, 1990 afternoon-evening
Place: Chicken Delight (outside ITO)
Event: I told [redacted] that the reason I wanted to come home was purpose but really I missed my family and was tired of waiting to get out of review (KTL) [Key to Life].
I gave my [redacted] entheta over long distance phone lines when [redacted] had even told me not to and enturbulated me [redacted] very much…
We’re struck by the maturity in the writing of this girl of 12. But it’s also clear how much she’s already absorbed the language and thinking of a Scientologist. Laura at 12 has learned to treat her “crime” of missing her family with cold efficiency.
Laura’s homesickness that first year in the Sea Org was also described in a report written by “Supercargo” officer Javier Ruiz, who told Laura “that people who want to leave the Sea Org have done bad things or have crimes that they are withholding.”
Six months after leaving home Laura missed her parents even more, but “Javier Ruiz had told me that my mom’s questions about me coming home were antagonistic to the Sea Org and Scientology.”
Her files include a report written by Ruiz, which criticizes the dedication of a 12-year-old…
This is some data on Laura Dieckman.
She originated last week that she wanted leave the SO. This, she said, was based on her missing her [redacted].
Laura has not been doing well since she has been on post. She has not taken full responsibility for the area under her.
Today I went over why people blow with her. She is going to writing OW’s and we’ll take it from there. Apparently her [redacted] has been putting alot of “ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO BE THERE” stuff on her lines. There maybe a PTS sit to handle as the “reason” that she wants to take off is to “help” her [redacted] around the house.
I wanted this data known and will get in comm with you on it.
According to Laura’s declaration, the person who had been asking if she was “sure you want to be there” was her mother. Javier Ruiz here is warning about other people who have “blown” — Scientology jargon for defecting. He worries that there may be a “Potential Trouble Source situation” with Laura — a Scientology concept that a church member’s problems make them “PTS” because they have some attachment to a person who is critical of Scientology (in Laura’s case, her family). Ruiz has written this to his superior and expects to speak in person (“get in comm”) later.
An auditor — someone who asks a “preclear” or “PC” like Laura questions during a counseling session and then makes notes of what she has said in her pc file — reported that Laura had tried to take “unauthorized leaves” to see her mother. In a series of documents over several years, Laura describes being told she needed to “handle” her mother’s concerns.
At 15, Laura is “intensively drilled” before going home to see her grandparents so she can handle their questions about Scientology…
As the report indicates, she will do her best to handle her grandparents by deflecting their questions with the book What is Scientology?, which was designed for outsiders and for keeping a discussion vague and inconsequential (a “good roads, good weather” conversation).
In 1994, at 15, Laura proudly tells her supervisor that she’s “handled” her mother about taking leaves of absence (LOA) for things like Christmas…
At 16, Laura was interrogated about her mother’s loyalties to Scientology. “I was asked the same series of questions with respect to my dad, grandparents, and other family members.” If Laura expressed any doubts of her own about the Sea Org, she was told “I would be segregated from the main Sea Org population and not allowed to speak to any of” the other workers. Another document shows that Laura was convinced to report her mother’s “snide” remarks about the Sea Org.
At 18, Laura submits another report, feeling compelled to explain how missing her family makes her “griefy”…
Numerous additional documents show that Laura was constantly interrogated about her mother and the rest of her family. When she was 20, she was compelled to file a report on her mother: “I…noted that my mom was upset because we had not seen each other in almost 2 years and I had not been home in 3 years.”
When she did try to see her family one time when she was still just 12 years old, Laura was told she couldn’t get on a flight to Albuquerque until she’d been through a “sec check” — a tough interrogation to make sure she wasn’t harboring ill feelings about the church. If she tried to leave without it, she was told she’d go through a kind of court martial. With just a few hours to make a flight with a non-refundable ticket, she knew she didn’t have time for an hours-long sec check, and she made a break for it.
Desperate and confused, I went to catch my ride in a shuttle anyway. I was met by security guards from the Sea Org (including Al Sternson) and another staff member (Kaye Conley) trying to stop me. Al Sternson also tried repeatedly to open the door of the shuttle to get me out. I eventually gave in and did not go to the plane. Only after undergoing numerous questions and waiting for approval to leave for another day was I allowed to leave.
In her files, she found a couple of documents that now back up her memories of this event, and in which she clearly wrote at the time that she was “stopped from going” to see her family.
The result of years of this kind of control taught her, Laura writes, that Sea Org officials would find out if she ever “said anything negative or expressed a desire to leave.”
Laura’s declaration then moves to another method of manipulation Sea Org members endure: “life history questionnaires.” When they first join the Sea Org and then at times later on, members are required to fill out lengthy questionnaires that probe them about their most private experiences, especially sexual ones. In a story earlier this year, we revealed for the first time some of the information that Sea Org applicants have been forced to admit before joining the organization. In Laura’s declaration, she lists some of the questions to give a sense of how invasive the life history forms are.
Have you ever had doubts about being in Scientology and/or the Sea Org? Are you, or have you ever been a newspaper reporter or journalist of any kind? Have you ever been connected to anyone who has threatened or attacked Scientology? Are you an active drug pusher? Note any instances of homosexual activity from earliest time up to present time. Have you ever been employed by the Government? And many more questions.
(As an exhibit, Laura includes two of her full questionnaires, with answers, for when she was 12 and 13 years old.)
“I knew that the Church of Scientology used these Life History Questionnaires to keep detailed and deeply personal information about me, and that if I did anything to attack Scientology, this information would be used against me,” Laura writes.
And she knew this to be the case, she adds, because in her job as Investigations and Evaluations Director, it was her task to review the Life Histories of other Sea Org workers.
“I specifically reviewed other Sea Org members’ files and their Life History Questionnaires to determine what information we had available regarding these individuals. If they threatened to leave or acted out against Scientology, we would then use information from their files to convince them to stay or to get them to stop acting out,” she writes.
Laura then gives us a taste of what life was like in the Sea Org by telling us about her hours.
At 12 years old, she worked from 8:30 am to 10:30 pm, seven days a week.
That’s right — she worked a 98-hour week, but only because she was a minor.
Once she turned 13, her schedule changed to 8:30 am to 12:30 am, seven days a week. That’s 112 hours a week.
Things changed again when she was put into the Sea Org’s prison detail — the Rehabilitation Project Force — when she was 22 years old. Then her day started at 6 am and went to 9 pm, a fifteen-hour day of heavy labor, with only fifteen minutes for meal breaks. Lights out in the RPF was at 10:30 pm. Again, her schedule lasted seven days a week.
Over that time, her pay went from $22.50 a week at first and then up to $50 a week by the time she was 14. But when she went into the RPF at 22, her pay fell to about $10 a week.
That works out to about 10 cents an hour for heavy manual labor.
She received no formal schooling after joining the Sea Org, only informal time spent in a library. At 15 or 16, she took a high school equivalency exam, and after that received no further schooling in non-Scientology subjects.
Also at 16, she married another member of the Sea Org, Jesse DeCrescenzo. And in December, she went off the pill. She wanted to have a child.
[Next page: Pregnancy, thetans, and an abortion]