Former Sea Org worker Chris Shelton has been a regular contributor here at the Bunker and he’s made a name for himself with his video interviews of fellow former church members. Often, he premieres those videos here. But recently, he posted a “bonus” interview series at his YouTube channel, and now it’s blown up into a bigger story.
Shelton interviewed Shane Weightman more than a year ago, but for several reasons the two of them decided to sit on it, waiting for the right time to make it public. Shane grew up in Scientology, met his wife Chrissie Weightman in England, and then the two of them became disillusioned and left the organization in 2010, announcing that they had left the church on Marty Rathbun’s blog. They now live in the Denver area, where Shelton also resides.
Shane tells us that their 2010 public coming out didn’t sit well with his parents, Martin and Christine Weightman, who are Scientology lifers and served stints in the Sea Org. Martin also is known for Scientology’s “European Office for Public Affairs and Human Rights,” opened in Belgium in 2003, where he was “human rights director,” and which was caught up in the lengthy fraud prosecution and now trial going on in Brussels. Martin is a defendant in the case. (Our man in Paris, Jonny Jacobsen, recently wrote about Martin’s testimony.)
Shane, like many who leave Scientology, faced the possibility that he would be “declared” a “suppressive person” and every member who wanted to stay in good standing would “disconnect” from him, even his own parents. But at first, he says, they didn’t do that. (Chrissie’s entire family is out and she’s in touch with all of them.)
Then, two years later, Shane’s parents disconnected. “They wanted to get back onlines,” Shane says, explaining that his parents, who lived in England, wanted to start taking courses again at the church there, and were given an ultimatum: Cut off ties with Shane and Chrissie, or you won’t be eligible for services. “My mom was the only one who called me. My dad just stopped talking to me. Mom said they were disconnecting, and it was on orders from OSA Int.” (The Office of Special Affairs is Scientology’s public relations and intelligence division.)
“Then I found out recently that my dad went to Flag,” Shane says, referring to Scientology’s “spiritual mecca” in Clearwater, Florida, which is the only place where Scientologists can go for some of the higher-level counseling, costing up to $1,000 an hour.
Shane was disappointed to hear that his father was going to Florida to begin “OT 7” — Operating Thetan Level Seven — the second-highest counseling level in Scientology and the highest that can be achieved at Flag. It can take years to complete OT 7, and it’s one of the most expensive levels, at about $50,000, plus fees for semiannual “sec checks” — interrogations — that members on OT 7 have to pass, and only in Clearwater, no matter where they live in the world.
Shane decided the time was right to release his video interview, and gave Chris the green light. Shelton put it on his YouTube channel, and has posted the first four parts.
Shane then heard through a family member that the videos had turned things upside down at Flag, and that his father was being prevented from either starting or continuing OT 7. Shane admits it was the effect he was looking for.
People hoping to reunite with family members still inside Scientology agonize over whether to take a quiet or loud approach. Many keep quiet, hoping that eventually they’ll see their children or siblings or parents again, knowing that it can take years to happen. (On our book tour in Australia, we met an older couple who have been waiting 30 years to see their children again, so far to no avail.)
Others try to be as loud and disruptive as they can be, and we find that, at least in recent years, this seems to be having more success. If you can become enough of a nuisance to Scientology, you make it hard for your loved one inside to stay on the “Bridge,” or hold their Sea Org job. At least, that was the theory Shane was following.
Now, Shane has heard from a family member that his parents are trying to bargain with him (through intermediaries). They’ve let him know that if he can prevent the publication of the fifth and final segment of his interview with Chris Shelton, and turn over the rights to all five segments to the church, then his mother won’t have to disconnect from other members of the family and Martin can get back on OT 7.
And that’s why you’re going to see part five of the interview today, and here on the Underground Bunker.
“I love my parents, but I’m not going to let anyone tell me what I can and can’t say. I’m not going to let the church control me,” Shane tells us. “And if other family members are asked to disconnect from me, the church is going to be hearing even more from me.”
Chris Shelton sent us this synopsis of all five video segments…
Part 1: Shane talks about being born and raised in Scientology, growing up in a small apartment with his siblings while his parents worked at the Church of Scientology of Paris. We go over what it was like to go to Scientology-affiliated private schools, how Shane ended up at the Greenfields Academy in East Grinstead, England and how much Scientology was an influence in his early years.
Part 2: We continue to talk about Shane’s schooling in England, what it was like to be educated in a Scientology world and how he learned to deal with critical media and comments about Scientology. He talks about how he was interviewed countless times by Sea Org members and pressured to join but how he resisted and eventually joined staff at the “Ideal” Church of Scientology of London with the aim of training at Flag.
Part 3: Shane details going to Flag for training (including violating visa law to get into the country) and what it was like during his first trip there, how he was put on “work/study” since London was not paying for his training, and what sort of duties he was assigned. He talks about how even if work/study was paid for, all trainees were still required to sell Basics books every day and lots of other details of life at Flag. Finally, he talks about meeting Chrissie, his future wife, and how his doubts about Scientology started.
Part 4: Shane talks about how his doubts and questions about Scientology developed and how Scientology tried to deal with him using authoritarian tactics over and over again, including sending him back to Flag and how he was held under watch there for being a “security risk” and what that entailed.
Part 5: In this final video, Shane talks about getting back to England from Flag and how his parents and the Office of Special Affairs tried to separate him from his girlfriend, what ended up happening that almost had him convinced to stay in Scientology and how he finally broke away forever. We also talk about how his parents have now disconnected from him and what that has meant for his life now that he is no longer involved in Scientology at all.
If Scientology were advertising HowdyCon 2016
Just for fun, we took a Scientology flier we posted yesterday and, with the magic help of Observer, turned it into a reminder that HowdyCon is just around the corner!
Bonus photos from our tipsters
Um, Narconon Mexico, this is not a good look.
Youth for Human Rights pamphlets Colombia’s military. (Thanks, Legoland.)
San Francisco gets a new Clear! This planet will be cleared in no time.
Actual caption: “Here’s Colin Taufer (headmaster of Delphi Academy FL) with Deb Voss (one of his senior execs at Delphi FL) and Heather Tapia, Tampa Day’s Director of Registration. Colin helped get Deb Voss’s Clear packaged secured before LRH’s Birthday!!”
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Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.
Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts
Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ
Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield