We couldn’t think of a more appropriate breaking story for Independence Day: Jeremy Powers, who we first wrote about more than two years ago, has ditched the Church of Scientology and was reunited yesterday with the family he “disconnected” from, including his grandmother, Edie Fields.
After three and a half years, Jeremy suddenly ended his exile from his family when, a week ago, he sent a text to his mother, Meshell Little.
At first, she assumed it was a prank. And it’s not hard to understand why. She hadn’t heard a word from her son in all that time. Not even after she started a blog in June 2011 and wrote post after post trying to get his attention. But after several messages back and forth Friday evening — slowed by excruciating delays — Meshell was certain she was actually communicating with her son.
And once he had made that contact, he knew there was no turning back.
Yesterday, they had the reunion that Meshell has been waiting for. Her husband, Jim Little, captured it on video…
Last night, we talked on the telephone with Meshell in her St. Louis-area home as she was still reeling with emotion.
“I’m upstairs with my son Jeremy, and we’re putting his room together because he’s moved back in with us,” she told us.
If you read our previous story, you know that Meshell and her mother Edie were longtime, loyal members of Scientology who had grown increasingly frustrated with the church, like so many other veteran members who have been leaving the organization in a recent exodus.
Meshell, her husband, her mother, and her two other children all left the church in 2010. But her son Jeremy was going in the opposite direction. As his family was leaving Scientology, he was increasing his involvement.
Like other children of Scientologists, Jeremy had been recruited at a young age into the church’s “Sea Organization” — the hardcore unit that requires the signing of billion-year contracts and total dedication. Jeremy had brief stints with the Sea Org at only 12 years of age and at 15, but then had returned home, and then later had become involved with the daughter of a prominent local Scientology family.
When Meshell and Jim and Edie decided to leave Scientology, Jeremy was faced with a stark choice: Give up the woman he had fallen in love with and her church, or give up his family. He chose Scientology.
About a year later, the family’s story came to our attention when we learned that Edie, then 71, had been targeted with an intimidation attempt by local Scientology officials, as we detailed in our 2012 story. That’s when we learned about Meshell and her determination not to give up hope about seeing her son — like Lori Hodgson and Cindy Plahuta and other women who have been separated from their children by a church that uses the “leverage” of disconnection to keep its members under control.
In her blog, Meshell wrote about what the rest of the family was doing, trying to keep Jeremy updated about family holidays, or what his younger sister Heather was up to. Meshell also vented her anger at him at times as she tried different strategies to get him to question his decision to cut them out of his life.
Jeremy says he was aware that his mother was writing on the Internet about him, but the DSA at the St. Louis org, Ellen Maher-Forney, had told him not to look at Meshell’s blog. (Scientology’s “Office of Special Affairs” handles the church’s public relations and intelligence-gathering. Each local church, or “org,” has a person who handles Special Affairs in that area, known as a “DSA.”)
Working for his fiancée’s family in a job that had him on the Internet, Jeremy says he and the church worked hard to keep him cut off from his mother.
“I had people who would check my mail for me. All of my e-mails were scrubbed or deleted,” he says.
But Jeremy admits now that he never stopped thinking about his mom, and always felt depressed about cutting off contact with his family. He wondered if he’d done the right thing.
And despite doing his best to shield himself from “entheta” — Scientology jargon for negative public information about the church — his access to the Internet meant that he couldn’t remain entirely ignorant of Scientology’s bad press.
“I went to the church and I asked a lot of questions that don’t normally get asked. And I got a lot of answers,” he says. “I was given special issues of magazines that were supposed to answer my questions.”
One of those magazines was an issue of Scientology’s propaganda organ, Freedom, which featured stories criticizing Anderson Cooper for CNN’s 2010 coverage of allegations of abuse committed by Scientology leader David Miscavige. Like so many other people we’ve talked to who were shown copies of Freedom from that time, the strategy backfired badly. The magazine only confirmed for Jeremy that the stories about Scientology were true.
But he still avoided looking at websites criticizing Scientology, and especially his mother’s blog. “I was too afraid to look at it because I’d have to confront it,” he says.
Four months ago, he married the young woman whose family he had been working for. And things didn’t go so well. His doubts only increased.
Finally, he decided to look at his mother’s website. Not to read it, he says, but to find her telephone number. A week ago, he sent her a text at 4:38 pm.
About an hour later, Meshell first spotted the message, and then immediately texted back, “OMG I love you so much.”
By that time, Jeremy had gone to a friend’s wedding, and he couldn’t answer for several hours.
Meshell figured she had been the victim of a prank. But then he answered, and confirmed that he was Jeremy Powers.
Jeremy admits that he wasn’t entirely sure what he was doing. “I wasn’t so sure at that point. But the more I talked about it the more sure I was.”
And now, they had some important decisions to make.
Jeremy decided that he wanted to come home. But they knew how hard Scientology fights to keep someone from leaving, particularly someone involved in a prominent church family.
Jeremy decided the only way he could get away was to gather his things and leave yesterday while his wife was at work with her family.
“I didn’t want to be ‘saved’ from my decision,” he says. And then he had to inform his wife. “I called her at work. I had to do it over the phone, so she would be in the right place, where her family was.”
“I feel so much sadness for Sarah,” Meshell says about Jeremy’s wife. “Either he has to leave her to be with his family, or she has to leave her family to be with him.”
That’s how Scientology works.
But Jeremy sounds resolute.
“I made my decision a week ago. It feels like the right one. I’m really happy.”
Posted by Tony Ortega on July 4, 2014 at 07:00
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