We first learned the horrible disconnection story of the Smith family when we traveled to Clearwater in 2012. We told our Village Voice readers about the terrible decision that Gayle Smith was forced to make, but back then, we couldn’t reveal Gayle’s name.
We were able to describe how, like so many other Scientologists, she had “disconnected” from a loved one — in this case, her son Collin, who had rejected Scientology and was working to expose it — because she felt it was actually good for him. But then he had died in a car accident, and she would never get to reconnect with him again.
Later, we were able to tell Gayle’s story more plainly, but we still held back — her son Aaron Smith-Levin, Collin’s twin, wasn’t ready to be quoted on the record.
Since then, Aaron became a regular contributor here at the Underground Bunker with his series of videos, Growing Up In Scientology. And tonight, Aaron gets center stage in Leah Remini’s newest episode of Scientology and the Aftermath.
We asked Aaron for his thoughts about doing the episode, and the journey he’s taken to get there…
Doing this episode was very hard for me. It was harder than I expected.
It had been my goal to tell my story when I started the YouTube channel, Growing Up in Scientology. I tried to tell parts of the story a few times, but couldn’t get through it without breaking down. Since I wasn’t comfortable putting that content up on the channel, we’d always end up recording something else instead. I ended up at a bit of an impasse; wanting to tell my story in as positive a way as possible, but not being able to get through it. The irony is that I tend to look back on my time in Scientology with mostly rose-colored glasses. In my interview videos you won’t hear me do much complaining. I tend to feel like others have gone through much worse than me. For example, I never did the RPF. Life has turned out very well for me, and I tend to focus on the positive aspects and memories…and yet here I’m often not able to get through telling simple stories.
Well, I decided to give it a shot on Leah’s show. The trust I had in Leah and Mike to focus on what’s important is what made it possible for me to get through it. Looking back on it, it seems like it was two days of mostly ugly crying, but it probably wasn’t quite that bad. Hopefully the editing will be kind.
My goal in doing the show was to say, “This is what can happen to your family if you get involved in Scientology”. We were not the exception. We were the rule. There are so many families that have been torn apart as a result of their involvement in Scientology. Scientologists justify disconnection as being a temporary thing; something that will exist until the other gets their ethics in. But death makes disconnection even more sinister.
The impact this show has been having in my area has been incredible. I’ve gotten texts and emails from many, many “Scientologists” in the Clearwater area saying they’re hooked on the show and rooting for it to keep succeeding. These are people still in good standing with the Church. I suspect the Church has no clue how many of its “members” are hanging around the fringes because they’d rather not lose family, but otherwise, would be long gone by now.
At this point, if I were the Church, I’d probably be paranoid that anyone who is not on course each week is under-the-radar and disaffected. That’s a LOT of people. Something tells me that life is about to get harder for local “Scientologists” who are not on course.
I’ve heard from other former Scientologists who have never been declared, who hadn’t wanted to speak publicly before, but after watching a few episodes decided they wanted to lend their voice to informing the public about the harm Scientology does to families.
In one of Leah’s episodes she mentioned wanting to expose abuse of children. After she said that, people have started coming forward with stories that have not been heard before. Scientology should be very worried. The show is doing a great service, and I’m glad I could participate in it.
— Aaron Smith-Levin
Mike Rinder is explaining Scientology masterfully
Former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder uncorked another pitch-perfect essay today to help newcomers understand how Scientologists find it so easy to lie.
A couple of days ago, he posted another mini-masterpiece with his definitive guide to why you can’t be Christian and a Scientologist or Jewish and a Scientologist. We’ve been explaining that not long after you join Scientology you are asked to give up “other practices,” and that L. Ron Hubbard is heard on a 1968 tape saying “There was no Christ.” But Rinder really puts together all of the Hubbard writings to show how you have to give up everything else to “Keeping Scientology Working.”
In both of these pieces, Rinder shows you the Hubbard policies that spell out what is guiding Scientologists. We highly recommend them, and we’ll be forwarding people to these essays for a long time, we have a feeling.
Go here to start making your plans.
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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.
The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)
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