We first heard from Marie Bilheimer more than a year ago. Like so many other former members of the Church of Scientology, she wanted to communicate with us even though she wasn’t ready to go public with her story.
We understood. Marie’s is one of the more disturbing tales that we’ve heard, and we told her we’d be here when she decided she wanted our readers to hear what she’d been through.
We’re hearing from a lot of people now that Leah Remini is changing the public understanding of Scientology in a big way with her A&E series, Scientology and the Aftermath. And one of the people we heard from was Marie. Emboldened by Leah’s show, she’s decided it’s time to come forward.
And we’ll just say, you should brace yourself.
On the morning of Thursday, November 18, 2004, Marie got up early in her room at the Hollywood Inn so she could get to her Sea Org job.
In Scientology’s Sea Org, workers stay in dormitories with numerous men or women to a single room. The only way to get any privacy is to get married. And for that reason, Sea Org workers tend to marry very young. In 2000, when Marie and her husband Aaron were married, she was 16, and he was 17.
After initially sharing an apartment with another married couple, they had moved to their own apartment at the Hollywood Inn, a building on Hollywood Boulevard that had started life in 1922 as the Christie Hotel. It has provided berthing for Sea Org workers for decades, and the building has been through numerous renovations.
In 2004, part of the building was ripped up again, and Marie avoided it as she went down the stairs to catch the van that would take her to her job at the Hollywood Guaranty Building (HGB), a key location that housed some of the most important figures in Scientology.
Marie was just 21, but she had been steadily moving up with promotions in the Sea Org’s complex hierarchy. Aaron had not been doing as well. He’d been demoted, and they’d spent some time apart because of their assignments in different areas. It had frayed their relationship, and they had already been through one round of Scientology marriage counseling.
In a rare bit of good news, Aaron had recently been transferred to the Hollywood Celebrity Centre. And when Marie woke up alone in their bed that morning, she assumed Aaron had been pulling an all-nighter at his new job.
So she walked down the stairs, past the area of new construction, and out of the building to the van.
She only found out later that day that she’d walked right past her husband, who had hanged himself in the area of the building being renovated.
Aaron Poulin’s suicide — as a Sea Org worker, and in a Sea Org facility right in the heart of Los Angeles — somehow didn’t make the Los Angeles Times or any other newspaper. Marie tells us that Scientology worked very hard to keep Aaron’s death a secret so that only a very few people ever heard about it. For years afterward, she would run into people who would ask her how Aaron was doing.
Today she’s 33, she’s remarried, she has a 2-year-old daughter and a seven-month-old son, and she’s no longer a member of the Church of Scientology. But the church still has a heavy influence on her life in what has become a series of disturbing episodes, including the baffling suicide of her first husband.
Marie’s older sister Sarah Symcox, 37, tells us that their mother June first encountered Scientology in Canada, where they were originally from. June Kyle dated a man named Ron Tyrrell, who introduced her to the writings of L. Ron Hubbard. She later married another man, Kirby Carroll, whom she had met at the Edmonton Scientology org, and the Carrolls started having children. Sarah’s sister Alison was the oldest, they also had a brother, Nicholas, and the youngest was Marie.
Sarah remembers that she was nine years old when they decided to move to Los Angeles. By then, June and Kirby had separated, and L.A. beckoned. It was a powerful attractor for any Scientologist who was steadily going up the “Bridge to Total Freedom.”
A record we found in Scientology’s own publications shows that June Carroll became Scientology’s 7,428th “Clear” in the summer of 1978, after the birth of Alison but before Sarah was born in 1979. And that suggests that June had already been heavily involved in Scientology for several years. After going Clear, there were really only a couple of places for a dedicated church member to go even higher on Scientology’s scale of enlightenment, and one of them was in California.
“Mom drove us all down from Canada to Los Angeles. Then she was on course all the time. She also started a few different Scientology schools with different friends at various times,” Sarah says.
One of the friends June Carroll started a school with was Divona Tyrrell, sister to the man she’d dated in Canada who had introduced her to Scientology. Divona was now in Los Angeles too, and she had married a man named Michael Lewis. Michael and Divona had a son, Johnny, who was friends with June’s son Nicholas. Divona Lewis and June Carroll whimsically named their Scientology school “Lewis-Carroll.” It was just one of several that June’s children attended and then later helped run.
Years later, Michael and Divona’s son, Johnny Lewis, would die in a bizarre psychotic rage during which he ripped apart his landlady’s cat, killed his landlady, and then dove or fell off a roof and landed on his head. His death shocked his fans, who had followed him on the hit FX series Sons of Anarchy. But the Carroll children had known Johnny many years before he’d become a television star.
June remarried in Los Angeles to a man named Mike Rees, who had his own lengthy involvement in Scientology. And in 1992, when she started up another new Scientology school, this time in her own home, she combined the family surnames to come up with “Carroll-Rees Academy and Arts,” located in the Silver Lake neighborhood of L.A.
Like her siblings Alison, Nicholas, and Marie, Sarah had grown up in Scientology and by her teens was helping her mother run her Scientology school. And then at 15, she was recruited into Scientology’s inner elite, the Sea Organization.
Sea Org members sign billion-year contracts and work 112-hour weeks for pennies an hour, and they are recruited heavily from the ranks of young children of Scientologists. As Sarah went through the Sea Org’s boot camp, the month long Estates Project Force (EPF), she found the conditions to be brutal. And there was constant pressure to move up the ranks or risk falling back. Sarah even found herself having to do the EPF for a second time.
“I spent my 16th birthday on my re-EPF. They had this bakery on PAC base,” she says, referring to the Pacific Area Command, the complex also known as “Big Blue” that is centered around what was the Cedars of Lebanon hospital on Fountain Avenue that was acquired by Scientology in 1977. “I was working in the bakery, and it was at least 100 degrees in there. I was sweating my butt off and sweeping, and I thought, this isn’t the best way to spend my birthday. I didn’t stay in the Sea Org very long after that.”
After washing out, Sarah was hit with a $7,500 “freeloader’s debt” — which she paid — but her Scientology career was essentially over. She ended up marrying a non-Scientologist, and her friends today are also not church members. She was done with Scientology.
But Sarah’s brief tenure in the Sea Org didn’t keep her sister Marie and her brother from making their own commitments. (Alison wasn’t interested.) Marie joined at 15, Nicholas at 16.
And it was while negotiating her own way through the EPF that Marie met a young man only a few months older than her who had been groomed for the Sea Org since he’d been born.
Aaron Poulin’s parents were in the Sea Org, and he’d been brought up in something called the Cadet Org. He seemed way ahead of her, Marie remembers.
“Before the Sea Org I was a Scientologist by name, but I didn’t really understand it at all. I basically became a Scientologist while on the EPF,” she says. “I was a green little newbie. Aaron had been there pretty much his entire life and he somewhat showed me the ropes.”
Aaron was there to be turned into a second-generation hardass. He had trained as an auditor and he was put into the “Crackerjack Unit,” Marie says.
“He would put people on the meter for ethics actions.” Translation: Aaron was interrogating people with the use of Scientology’s quasi-lie detector, the E-meter, to keep them in line.
It’s one of the more arresting images of Scientology’s secretive inner landscape: Young executives, some in their teens, terrorizing the older recruits by being posted in high positions, or in “ethics,” which was L. Ron Hubbard’s euphemism for “control.”
If Aaron’s job was to enforce discipline, it was his beaming smile that charmed Marie. “He was always goofing around and he loved to dance,” she says.
When they got married on July 16, 2000, Marie had to get permission from her mother because she was still a few months shy of turning 17.
“We flew to Las Vegas, got married, and then flew back the same day,” Marie says.
The same day?
“I think we even worked that same day.”
Well, that was the Sea Org. Later, they had an actual wedding at Elysian Park, near Dodger Stadium.
“I did all the flowers, and made cupcakes,” Marie’s sister Sarah says. “At the last minute, Aaron said he wanted a bachelor party. So we rented a hotel room for him and some of his friends. I’m sure they just sat around and watched television,” she adds with a laugh. “He was always smiling. And he was a dapper dresser. He took a lot of pride in his appearance.
“At the wedding, people from the Sea Org kept cycling in and out because they had to go back on post. No one really had time off to be there. Marie was so busy, she couldn’t make it to any fittings for her dress, and they had to guess at her size.” Sarah remembers trying to explain what the Sea Org was to the dressmaker and why the bride couldn’t come in to get sized. “The dress ended up being a little big and she was swimming in it,” Sarah remembers.
After the wedding, Marie and Aaron moved into a room at PAC base and then to the Hollywood Inn. But Marie’s promotions soon took her to a special unit, the Commodore Messengers Organization International Extension Unit (CMO IXU), which sent her for nine months to Scientology’s “Flag Land Base” in Clearwater, Florida.
Marie says that the time at Flag was a strain on her marriage. She became aware that Aaron — who was now just out of his teen years — had begun making trips to a Hollywood mall at night. When she came home from Flag, she confronted him about things she was hearing. He admitted that he’d spent time with other women. And so they decided to get some Scientology marriage counseling.
We’ve written about Scientology’s brand of marriage counseling before. It consists of an auditor sitting the couple down and then repeatedly asking them just two questions, over and over again. First to one member of the couple, and then the other.
While she held the sensors of the E-meter in her hands, Marie would have been asked, “What have you done to Aaron?” and “What have you withheld from Aaron?” Over and over and over. And then it would be Aaron’s turn.
“That was actually kind of fun. And we decided to stay married,” Marie says.
But adding to their stress was that while Marie’s career was rising, Aaron kept getting into trouble and he was demoted.
We asked Marie why she thought she was doing so well at the same time that he struggled. “I toed the line and always kept my stats up. More out of fear than anything,” she says. “For the most part Aaron was a happy person, but he did have trouble following orders. I just think he was a very young dude.”
She remembers there was an odd incident that makes her wonder if it had more significance than she gave it at the time. “He said I might get a call from the police, and they might say they had arrested Aaron Poulin in San Francisco for resisting arrest. Aaron told me to say they had the wrong guy. And I never followed that up.”
By October 2004, things were souring between them again. “He said he wanted a divorce. Then, in late October, he got home very late and said he had gotten pulled over. It was really foggy out, and he said he’d fallen asleep in the car. He had a ticket and said he had to go to court and he was worried. At this point we weren’t sure whether we were going to stay together.”
On the night of November 17, as his court date neared, Aaron came home briefly to their apartment and told Marie that he had to get back to his post at the Celebrity Center. “It was an all-hands thing about the folders. He was just home to change his clothes,” she remembers. “As he was walking out he said, ‘Today I realized that I do love you and it was just my out-ethics.’
“That was the last I saw him.”
The next morning, November 18, she got up early and made her way past the construction on the 2nd floor of the building and then to her post at the Hollywood Guaranty Building.
“At 10 a.m. or so, I got the call from Kirsten in OSA Int saying she wanted to talk to me,” Marie remembers. Kirsten Caetano is an executive in Scientology’s notorious Office of Special Affairs, which works as part public relations agency, part secret police. “There were ambulances at the Hollywood Inn. I learned that I’d literally walked right past him in the morning.”
We asked Marie if Aaron had left a note. “He did. They didn’t show it to me. But they told me it said, ‘Tell my wife I’m sorry. I love her, and I meant what I said last night.'”
Marie recalls how strange it was to deal with what had happened in the bizarre world of the Scientology Sea Org. “His mother was there. She was posted at the Flag Bureaux at the Flag Liaison Office at the HGB. We walked by each other as if we didn’t see each other, crying. It was so weird.”
Marie thought about what pressures Aaron was under — they were all under insane pressure in the Sea Org. But Aaron had been failing, and he didn’t seem to have a place to turn. “His dad by that time was out of the Sea Org. I only met him when we got married. Aaron never mentioned to me that he wanted to leave the Sea Org. He never mentioned that he was suicidal. The only thing I can think of is that he couldn’t keep going and was getting into trouble and he didn’t know where to turn.”
Meanwhile, the Sea Org itself was focused on one thing: Keeping Aaron’s death a secret.
“They called us in as a family to the HGB,” Sarah remembers. “They asked us not to tell anybody. If anyone asked about Aaron, we were told to say he was traveling.”
A service for Aaron did take place, but it was held at June’s house. Even Aaron’s close friends were kept in the dark.
Marie says the Sea Org spread the rumor that Aaron had “blown” — Scientology’s word for going AWOL — and had been declared a suppressive person, Scientology’s version of excommunication.
That cover story apparently worked very well. When we asked former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder what he’d heard about the death, he pointed out that he’d spent much of 2004 locked up in “The Hole,” Scientology leader David Miscavige’s bizarre prison for his top executives. But even so, Rinder said he was stunned to hear that a Sea Org worker had killed himself at the Hollywood Inn that year and that he’d never heard about it. (We found only one reference to Aaron’s death online at all, at a website which collects the many cases of Scientology suicide. But it put his suicide in the “Holiday Inn” and in 2003.)
Twelve years later, Marie still wonders about what motivated Aaron to hang himself. And while we were talking, she referred again to the strange way Aaron had acted about getting a traffic ticket a short time before his death. He had said he had a court date and he seemed worried about it. When she brought it up this time, she mentioned to us that when she had cleaned out their apartment after his death, she had come across the ticket.
“I never looked into it. But I’ll tell you that it said something about prostitution,” she says. She almost apologizes, saying that she never really understood what charges Aaron was facing. She no longer has the ticket.
But we managed to find Aaron Poulin’s criminal charges, and we told Marie that he was facing a count of disorderly conduct and another misdemeanor charge — loitering with intent to commit prostitution. It’s a common charge that police make when they suspect that a prostitute is loitering in a particular spot looking for a customer.
The next day, after Marie had spent some time with that information, she sent us an email.
“It’s been a lot to process and a little difficult getting back into that head space since I’ve worked hard to push it out of my mind for so long,” she said.
“I don’t know if this was a regular occurrence or a one-time thing, and he happened to get caught that one time. I don’t even know what he was really doing….What he was struggling with, I don’t really know. It’s possible he was gay and was unable to express that or he was confused and didn’t really know what he was feeling,” Marie added.
“I wish he would have shared it with me. And if he had, I hope I would have been able to help him.”
“When I did the TRs and Objectives starting out in Scientology, it went pretty rough. And I had review auditing because it wasn’t going well. And during that auditing, I admitted to dressing up in women’s clothing. It was treated as a ‘withhold’ — something I should be ashamed of and that Scientology could cure me of. And that was still in my mind when I joined the Sea Org. I wasn’t hiding it. And when I was graduating my EPF at the Celebrity Centre, it sort of was an issue. They basically had me do a sec check [an interrogation].”
Still then living as a man, Nichola Kyle-Carroll, born Nicholas, was sent to the Pasadena org to work as a “Flag rep,” encouraging Scientologists there to book trips for the expensive upper-level courses at the Flag Land Base in Clearwater, Florida.
Nichola was twice married to women in the Sea Org, but each time they were assigned to different posts in different cities and didn’t live together. The first marriage only lasted about six months.
“I was very depressed during this time. At one point I even wrote to David Miscavige, saying who I was in a past life, and looking for some kind of help. And right around the time that Aaron took his own life, I was told that I had to leave the Sea Org,” Nichola says. “They said I was never qualified to have been in the Sea Org in the first place and I never should have been in it. Because I was trans and I had ‘gross and glaring outpoints.’ I was ‘low-toned.’ And the fact that I was also telling them on occasion that I was suicidal.”
Right around the time of Aaron Poulin’s 2004 death, Nichola was told to leave. “They pulled me off my job. I had a few people under me at that point, but I couldn’t tell anyone what I was doing. I did a sec check for about a month. Getting off all my ‘crimes’ I had committed. That was a bit rough.”
“Nichola had talked about being trans and about suicide, so they wanted her out of their hair,” Sarah says. “They turned my sibling loose and didn’t tell us that she was suicidal. And at that point, Nick wasn’t identifying to us as a female. I found that really troubling, because she did have one psychotic episode later. Scientology says it’s so great and that it’s saving the planet. But they turned this person out without even telling her family that she was suicidal. That’s troubling to me.”
Meanwhile, Marie was still trying to hold things together after her husband’s suicide. “Only a handful of people even knew about it. I just sat there at my desk, crying. At a certain point, with Kirsten [Caetano], we decided it was best that I leave that post. They said I could go anywhere I wanted. But at that point all of my family was in Los Angeles, so I didn’t want to go anywhere.”
The others in the Sea Org hadn’t been told what happened, so they treated her like any other recruit. “The others treated me like shit. I got put in regular berthing, and then I got written up for abandoning my post.”
Every Saturday, there would be a staff briefing, and a lecture by L. Ron Hubbard would be played. “They decided to play the marriage lecture. I was sitting in the front row. The person who chose the tape that day knew my situation. It was just inappropriate and weird. It was only three days after Aaron’s death. I got up and walked out, in front of 800 people at the base.”
She decided to leave the Sea Org. After a sec check, she “routed out standardly” and was out early in 2005. She was still just 21 years old.
“I moved in with my parents and got a job at a WISE company,” she says, referring to firms that operate as fronts for Scientology through the World Institute of Scientology Enterprises (WISE) network. She was also hit with a freeloader debt of $160,000, but she didn’t pay any of it.
Two years later, in 2007, Marie met Scott Bilheimer, another second-generation Scientologist. But after they started spending time together, Marie began to move away from Scientology over the next several years. By 2012, she considered herself out of the church, the result of reading “entheta” — negative press — about the organization on the Internet.
In the meantime, Nichola walked through a plate glass window. She describes the 2010 event as an emotional meltdown and it sounds like it might have been a fugue state. She was thinking about Scientology and her family one moment, and the next she woke up in an ambulance and had suffered serious blood loss because of gashes caused by the glass.
“My older sister Alison helped take care of me at that time. And from there I was thinking I can’t ignore these feelings anymore. I talked to a therapist to get permission to get on hormones. That didn’t go over well with my parents,” she says. “They weren’t enthusiastic about that.”
While Nichola was recovering from her injuries and began transitioning to a trans woman, Alison moved back in with her parents. “She was not doing well. She had been fired from a teaching job because she came to work with alcohol on her breath,” Nichola says.
“For years we knew she was having trouble with alcohol, but she had been holding down a job and managing her relationships,” Sarah tells us. “Then she got let go from a couple of jobs because of alcohol. And that made her spiral down even further. She stayed with me for a while. I tried to get her to a therapist. But she wouldn’t have it. I think her problem was more about depression than alcohol anyway. She moved around, staying with friends or family.”
Alison’s situation continued to deteriorate. Three years ago about this time of year, Sarah’s husband decided he needed to do something about Alison’s situation. “My husband’s not a Scientologist. He’s been a great sport about all this the whole time. But he tried to get Alison to the hospital. ‘You need help,’ he told her.” Alison continued to refuse.
“She was pretty much bed-ridden with it by this time,” Nichola says. And Alison was in a second-floor bedroom in the same house where her mother June ran a Scientology school on the ground floor.
Since 1992, June had run the Carroll-Rees Academy and Arts in her own home. And while her daughter deteriorated upstairs, June continued to run classes downstairs.
But that September in 2014, June had made plans to close down her school after 22 years. In the meantime, she was still working diligently at her Scientology courses. On September 20, 2014, she posted a photograph of herself with her newest certificate on her Facebook page.
The certificate June is holding reveals that she had finished the Student Hat, and had learned L. Ron Hubbard’s “study technology.” Usually, this is one of the first courses that a new Scientologist encounters in their church career. But under leader David Miscavige, longtime Scientologists are being pressured to retake beginning courses such as Student Hat. For a veteran educator like June to be holding this certificate, you might imagine a PhD showing off a diploma for redoing an elementary school class. Such is the upside down state of Scientology under Miscavige.
Three days after June posted this photo of herself to Facebook, she made a grim discovery in her own house.
Her daughter Alison had hanged herself.
June’s husband Mike was at Scientology’s headquarters. “Mike was in session at AOLA,” Marie says, referring to the Advanced Organization of Los Angeles, where Scientologists pay for expensive “OT” levels of counseling. “Scott and I actually went there to try to get him, but they wouldn’t disturb him. The police needed to speak with him, and my mom needed his support. But the lady in the Hubbard Guidance Center didn’t care, or she didn’t think it was important.”
Besides dealing with the police, there was another grim problem for the family. Alison had killed herself on a Tuesday during the final week of classes at her mother’s school.
June decided to finish out classes that week before closing the school permanently as she’d planned, and then she and her husband Mike moved out of the house.
“We tried to convince her not to keep it open that last week, but she wouldn’t listen,” Marie says.
“Mom didn’t close the school even for one day, even after finding her daughter hanging upstairs. And we couldn’t talk about it. The whole thing was just surreal,” Sarah says. “She didn’t tell any of her close friends what had happened. She was really sad and devastated, but she put on a good face.”
We asked Sarah if she has thought about whether the family’s involvement in Scientology had anything to do with Alison’s sad experience with alcoholism and her suicide.
“Alison hadn’t been involved in Scientology since she was about eight years old. She worked for Scientology schools, and so she did the Student Hat and the Purif later, for job reasons,” Sarah says, referring to the Purification Rundown, a sauna-and-vitamins regimen that Scientologists are required to submit to.
“But I think that her only support system being Scientologists — her parents were trying to make her deal with her alcoholism by taking vitamins and reading L. Ron Hubbard — was probably a contributing factor. If her family and the people around her weren’t involved in Scientology, she might have been more open to mental health care. She was only 37.”
During this week’s episode of Scientology and the Aftermath, Leah Remini attempted to explain to people who have never spent any time in Scientology why it can be so easy to rip apart a Scientology family.
In part, it comes from L. Ron Hubbard’s bizarre ideas about the true, ancient nature of human beings and the intense dedication demanded of Scientologists, as Remini and Mike Rinder pointed out.
LEAH REMINI: The core belief of Scientology is that you are a spiritual being. That you have lived many lives and you will live many lives. So, your mother’s really not your mother — I mean, she’s your mother this lifetime, but you’re going to have many mothers. So they put very little significance on interpersonal relationships between family members, and the same with marriage.
MIKE RINDER: Scientology teaches that you are doing something that is more important, and it is so important and so vital that nothing can distract you from it.
It’s this kind of thinking that allows Scientology to talk parents into abandoning their own children, or the other way around.
By the time of the 2014 suicide of Alison Carroll, the rest of the family was holding together only very uneasily.
Nichola had struggled to find a place for herself in post-Sea Org life. She had skills in 3-D computer design, but she was mocked about her transition at a job in Huntington Beach. She stayed for a while with Sarah in San Francisco and got a food delivery job just to bring in some money. “It was a pretty rough period. I was even staying in my sister Alison’s car for a few weeks.”
But then she got into a house with some friends in Oakland, and earlier this year, she got a job that she describes as the best she’s had in her life. It’s helping her cope with being disconnected from her mother.
“It’s been a long time coming,” she says. Several years ago, Nichola became active at the WhyWeProtest and Ex-Scientology Kids websites, using a pseudonym. She posted a letter about her experiences as a trans woman, addressing it to her family. “I had left a few personal details in there, and somebody figured out it was me.”
Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs contacted June. “She was told it would be an issue for her continuing with Scientology services. So she came to me about it. I told her I believed I should be able to talk about it. I wasn’t wrong to have an issue with the church that hadn’t treated me very well. That went around between us for a couple of years. They had let her do the PTS/SP course, but she couldn’t do the OT levels.,” Nichola says. In other words, June was allowed to finish up another relatively low-level course, but she couldn’t make progress where it really mattered, moving up through the highest and most expensive levels — not as long as she had a daughter posting negative material about the church on such hated websites.
The next incident that brought things to a head occurred on Facebook last year. Nora Crest, a contributor here at the Underground Bunker who has written brilliantly about her own experiences with sexual orientation in Scientology, posted something to her Facebook page that Nichola was impressed by.
“I pushed ‘like’ without really thinking about it,” Nichola says. “And a friend of mine who I grew up with saw that, and she wrote to everyone on my friends list who was a Scientologist and said I was spreading anti-Scientology propaganda. She also wrote a report to the church. I was told I had to unfriend Nora and do some sort of handling about the things I had posted. I said I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to be bullied anymore. I guess at that point I got officially declared, but I never saw a document.”
In August last year, Nichola went to her mother’s house in Los Angeles to pick through some of Alison’s things that her mother was saying she was going to donate. “It was while I was looking through Alison’s things that they told me they weren’t going to speak to me anymore. It was that same day. I was there to go through Alison’s things, and yeah, that’s when my mom told me that I’d been declared and they were disconnecting from me.”
Marie and Sarah refused to disconnect from their sister Nichola. “My mom was getting pressured to deal with Marie too,” she says. (Marie had her own issues with the church, again over minor things like a Facebook post.)
For sticking by their sister, Marie and Sarah were also told by June that she was disconnecting from them.
“Mom disconnected from me officially when I was six months pregnant,” Sarah says. “She’s disconnecting from us just when we’re having her grandchildren. Because Nichola got declared. I’ve always been supportive of my mom and Scientology. I understand that it’s really key to her identity on the planet. When my sister died, I even encouraged her to get help from people at the org. So it was really weird that she was disconnecting from me when I hadn’t said anything negative about Scientology. I don’t think I’m declared. I was just disconnected by my mother because my sister was declared and I stood by her.
“I told her that I didn’t want to lose my mom after losing my sister, and I wanted her to hold my son, but she turned away from us. She’s disconnecting from us because we’re supposedly making Scientology look bad. But she’s making it look far worse.”
Marie says she found out this September that she and her husband had both been declared suppressive persons. “People we knew started jumping ship. It’s been a lot of family and friends who have been dropping their connections to us randomly, here and there.”
And then, last month, there was a showdown, of sorts.
The entire clan, and hundreds of friends, were invited to the 90th birthday party of June’s mother, Kay, to take place in Edmonton.
“When we were booking our tickets and talking to our aunts and uncles, they were asking us, how is this going to work? We really didn’t know,” Nichola says. On the day they were set to fly up, there was only a single flight scheduled from Los Angeles to Edmonton. “And there were my parents, at the check-in counter, just as we were walking up.”
Sarah had her three-month-old son with her. Marie had her daughter and her own six-month-old son.
“They were standing there with their kids, and my parents wouldn’t talk to them. They got on the same plane and still wouldn’t talk to them,” Nichola says.
“She just straight-up ignored us and my baby. She’s never met him. It’s just so bizarre,” Sarah adds.
The party in Edmonton for their grandmother Kay, who had been a popular local teacher, drew hundreds to a large hall. “My mom was literally on the dance floor at the same time as Marie with her little daughter, and they didn’t acknowledge her. They didn’t say anything,” Nichola says.
“It took me three years to get pregnant. And my mom disconnected from me right when I got pregnant, and within a year of my sister dying. I never needed her more than at that moment. But she couldn’t put Scientology aside. Her progress on The Bridge is more important to her than any of us,” Sarah says. “I wrote to her and said, how can you achieve spiritual freedom and devastate your entire family?”
She didn’t get an answer. And neither did we when we called June Rees and left her a detailed message. If she gets back to us, we’ll add whatever she says to this article.
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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, Kindle, and audiobook versions. 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