Earlier this year, Phil and Willie Jones came to us when they wanted to raise money for a billboard in Los Angeles that would urge Scientologists disconnected from their families to pick up the phone and call their loved ones. Our readers came through in a big way, helping to raise enough money for that “Call Me” billboard to appear in the Echo Park neighborhood, garnering a huge amount of media attention.
Phil and Willie are separated from their two grown children, Mike and Emily, who work for Scientology’s “Sea Organization” in L.A., and who have cut off all ties from their parents since Phil’s sister, another longtime Scientologist, turned the couple in for expressing doubts about the organization.
More recently, this website once again helped Phil and Willie raise money for a similar billboard in Clearwater, Florida, which is where Scientology has its spiritual headquarters. Phil explained that their campaign was about more than their own children, and they had heard from many ex-Scientologists in Florida whose families have also been ripped apart by disconnection. This week, the Tampa Bay Times wrote about Phil and Willie, and the newspaper received a letter from Emily Jones, accusing her parents of exploiting their children for monetary gain. Emily’s letter can be seen in full at the end of the Tampa Bay Times article.
One of the unusual things about this situation is that Emily has been so visible. For most former church members who have been cut off from their loved ones, it can be near to impossible to get any information about their family members still in the church, especially if they are in the Sea Org. But Emily works for Galaxy Press, Scientology’s publisher of L. Ron Hubbard’s science fiction, and she’s been active promoting the republication of Hubbard’s 1982 novel Battlefield Earth, appearing at science fiction conventions and in other ways that put her in the public eye.
“We truly believe they are exploiting our family in this way motivated solely by money,” Emily writes in her letter to the newspaper. “It is a scam, as is their fundraising efforts to finance their ‘billboard.’ And now they have decided that the course of saying and doing harmful things to us, and our reputations is their chosen course for money!”
Actually, although Phil and Willie have been successful in raising enough money to keep a billboard up in Los Angeles for several months, and to put up another one for at least a month in Florida, the money they have received just barely covered those costs — and that’s not counting the money the Las Vegas couple has spent traveling to California and Florida as part of their campaign.
If this is a money grab, as Emily charges, it’s not a very lucrative one. Emily also accuses her parents of being motivated by the money they’ll make from a television series that is filming their story. Phil assures us that the production company that has filmed them has paid them nothing for their appearance.
Phil contacted us, refuting everything in his daughter’s letter, and he sent over something else — a response from Willie.
He said that they had sent the letter to Emily via email addresses that they are not sure are valid anymore.
“Willie wrote a letter to Emily but we really have no way of reaching her. We’ll try to get an email to her, but we’re wondering if you want to post it,” he said.
We sure do want to, Phil. We sure do.
To my dearest Emily,
First and foremost if you get a chance to read this I want you to know and understand that the decisions your dad and I have made, as imperfect as they are, were made based not only on the love we have for you and Michael but also having had the ability to view this from inside and outside Scientology.
You state in your response to the Tampa Bay Times that we were the ones who disconnected from you. I am not sure exactly what you were told, but nothing is further from the truth. After we received your letter, we tried to contact both you and Michael. We tried for almost a year and a half, calling every week no fail. We tried getting into Celebrity Centre and Author Services to talk to you personally. We were stopped every single time. After one of our visits to CC, we were told our only terminal is the IJC (International Justice Chief). We both know what that means, utter and complete disconnection from any and all Scientologist. That was the nail in the coffin. We knew in that moment we were 100 percent cut off. We were never allowed the opportunity to give you another side of the story.
In the following months we learned just how many families have been torn apart. I always thought Scientology was supposed to bring people together. But sadly, I found out just how many people were affected by disconnection and it was staggering. In failing to contact you we knew we had to do something not just for us but for all the families affected.
Emily, Michael, the charge that what we are doing is motivated by money is heart-wrenchingly sad. You know us! How could you think that we would choose money over our children? Deep down, I hope you truly know this is not the case. I want you to know that even if we were offered millions of dollars to go away and be quiet forever, my answer would be “never.” Never, Emily! Money is not the motivation! A family intact is much more powerful than that.
We may have a difference of opinion, but that doesn’t mean we cannot maintain a healthy relationship. Your dad and I love and miss you both more than you know. We will never disconnect from you, our arms will always be wide open no matter what you do in life.
Phil and Willie are holding an event to dedicate their Clearwater billboard on July 23. As soon as the billboard is up, we’ll reveal its location.
Chris Shelton on Battlefield Earth
Clearly, Chris Shelton is still traumatized for having been forced to watch John Travolta and his codpiece five times back in the day. Enjoy…
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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