Daily Notifications
Sign up for free emails to receive the feature story every morning in your inbox at


Disconnection: Scientology’s Most Toxic Sacrament

HandsetClaire Headley is taking us on our journey to train as Scientologists. She and her husband Marc were Sea Org workers who escaped from Scientology’s International Base in 2005. She spent years working with Scientology’s “tech,” and was trusted to oversee the auditing of Tom Cruise. Go here to see the first part in this series.

Last week, Claire began taking us through the PTS/SP Course (for Potential Trouble Source/Suppressive Person). It’s a crucial course for Scientologists, laying in some of the most important conditioning that produces an “us vs. them” way of thinking.

Rather than move on to the next course, we’ve asked Claire to spend some more time on one of the key ideas that is introduced in the PTS/SP experience — the policy of disconnection.

As Claire explained last time, when a Scientologist is found to be a “Potential Trouble Source” — for something as seemingly innocuous as a head cold — they are expected to identify which “Suppressive Person” is causing the upset. An “SP” might be a family member who refuses to get involved in Scientology and criticizes the church. Church members are required to “disconnect” from SPs, even if it means splitting up a family, separating a parent from a child.

CLAIRE: I think it’s worth discussing this because the church insists that disconnection is a church member’s “choice,” which is an utter fabrication.

In my opinion, disconnection is Scientology’s chief means of leverage to isolate members and separate them from loved ones who might question the church. Scientology understands well that the people who have the most influence over your choices in life are your closest family members. That poses a threat to the church if the family member does not approve of Scientology.


THE BUNKER: How does the church get involved in identifying the SP that is making you PTS?

Up_The_BridgeCLAIRE: It’s done with a PTS interview, where you are asked when you got sick or “roller-coastered” — had poor results in your courses — and who you were connected to right before that.

This establishes your “PTS item” — in other words, the person you are PTS to. And that person is an SP.

I would like to note that there were numerous times during the 14 years I worked at Scientology’s International Headquarters near Hemet that when staff members were labeled as PTS, in their PTS interviews the person they were found to be PTS to was David Miscavige.

THE BUNKER: The leader of Scientology, a suppressive person? Well, we’ve heard that before (and one of these days we’ll ask Jon Atack about writing up Miscavige in an SP declare that proved very popular with church members at the time).

CLAIRE: Well, for a further irony, the “SP Hole” was David Miscavige’s invention, established as a means to “disconnect” Scientology’s top executives, whom he had labeled as SPs, from the rest of the staff at the base as well as cutting all ties they had to the outside world. For example, this is why you no longer see Heber Jentzsch (nominally, still the president of the Church of Scientology International) and other top executives in Scientology’s public events.

THE BUNKER: So Miscavige decided that most of the members of his “upper strata” were a bunch of suppressives, and put them in a hellish, bizarre office-prison — some of them for several years — in order to keep them disconnected from the rest of Scientology. It’s mind-blowing. From 2004 to 2009, we have reason to believe, people like Heber Jentzsch were kept in captivity, day and night, forced to participate in mass confessions and sleeping on the floor of a ratty office. After press reports began exposing “The Hole” in 2009, we hear that conditions for its residents improved — but they are still kept separated from other base employees and under constant supervision. Some, we believe, have now been under this bizarre method of control for about nine years — prisoners of an office complex, in the United States of America. Truly, it’s incredible.

Claire, can you tell us a little about disconnection in your own life? Weren’t you threatened with disconnection from your own husband if you insisted on having a child?

CLAIRE: Disconnection was always something I feared. I wrote about it at some length at my blog.

I never knew my father (still don’t to this day) because he left Scientology when I was 2.

So disconnection has always been very real to me.

When I was 7, another girl I knew in the UK Cadet Org, Susie Bellmaine, had to disconnect from her mother Morag. Her mother was one of the people who posed as “missionaires” and were able to get copies of the OT materials in Europe in the early 80s. Morag was promptly declared a suppressive person and Susie lost her mother.

I always knew that if I tried to leave Scientology I would lose my mother.

And yes, disconnection was always used as a threat to come between me and my husband Marc. It could happen if one of us was sent to either the Old Gilman House — a place on the base where people were sent to be kept under constant watch — or on the Rehabilitation Project Force, the Sea Org’s prison detail. During the time we were married, Marc was often restricted to the property for months at a time, during which I never saw him.

There is a Scientology policy called Leaving and Leaves, where you are told that it is a suppressive act (and can get you declared a suppressive person) if you discuss leaving or wanting to leave Scientology with anyone other than an ethics officer (who of course will promptly tell you the only reason you want to leave is because you have committed crimes).

I am not a Scientologist today. And yet disconnection means that the only way I would ever be able to talk to my family members still in the church would be to go back into Scientology. That is simply not going to happen. Scientology’s punishment for my walking away from the church is to cut me off from my family.

The church says otherwise, but disconnection is not a “personal choice.” A Scientologist cannot say “no thanks, I don’t want to disconnect.” That has never happened.

THE BUNKER: Do you remember the story we did at the Village Voice about Tommy Davis, who was secretly recorded in 2009 threatening a low-ranking Scientologist with disconnection and losing his entire family if he didn’t quit his job working for your husband, Marc, who by that time had been declared an SP? (At the time, Tommy was still the church’s chief spokesman.) It was pretty obvious from those recordings that disconnection was being used as leverage, as you put it.

CLAIRE: Yes, and Tommy Davis had said in 2008 on CNN that disconnection doesn’t exist. I think it was one of the church’s biggest PR foot-bullets ever. I know for myself, his lying like that on national television had me so screaming mad — after all, I had lost my entire family to Scientology’s policy of disconnection. To hear him say “it doesn’t exist” was a complete outrage. I think what he meant to say was that the church doesn’t enforce it — but that’s another lie.

THE BUNKER: And just recently, the church may have made another blunder. In its rush to throw a monkey wrench into the Luis Garcia federal fraud lawsuit, it submitted a motion that described one of its former attorneys, Robert Johnson, this way: “Johnson had a good knowledge of the Church’s refund procedure and other internal policies such as the Church’s religious doctrine called ‘Disconnection’ from suppressive persons.” (Church motion to disqualify, p. 9)

In other words, the Church of Scientology just put into a court record that one of its former attorneys is important because he was familiar with disconnection.


Claire, what’s the worst case of disconnection that you’ve heard about?

CLAIRE: That’s hard to say. Every single example of disconnection is sickening, and outrageous. Every single instance I’ve ever heard of has been heartbreaking. But I think the worst ever was the situation with Karen de la Carriere and her son Alexander Jentszch. To not allow a mother to her son’s funeral is the worst form of evil I can imagine.

THE BUNKER: At one point L. Ron Hubbard appeared to cancel the disconnection policy. But you describe it as an essential part of the PTS/SP course, which is one of the most central courses in Scientology.

CLAIRE: Yes, that’s true and I’ve seen that policy cancelling disconnection. Ironically it too has been cancelled.

And unfortunately, to this day, disconnection is alive and well.

I’m working on a new website — Scientology has a fascination with statistics, so I’m putting together facts in regards to disconnection, where people can document disconnection. And reconnection. And hopefully one day this will be an evil of the past.



Tucson1On Sunday, we posted photos of Scientology’s Tucson mission taken over a series of months that showed the building had been vandalized with graffiti. Some of our commenters had doubts about the photos, suggesting that the graffiti was not real and had been photoshopped onto the building.

We need to protect the identity of our source for the photos, but we can say that the person is one of our better sources, with a long and spotless track record. We brought up several of the issues pointed out by our commenters, and our source sent this reply…

The photographs were taken about a month apart. The staff members at the Mission paint over the entire frontage of the Mission with an airless sprayer to get rid of the graffiti. The photos look like they’re taken from the same location because they are. I leaned my 300mm zoom lens up against a sign post that’s across a 5-lane street from the mission so as to eliminate any blur or shake. Of course, my own height doesn’t change, so the place at which the photos were taken is, within a tolerance of millimeters, exactly the same. Like I said, the mission front would be painted within hours of the graffiti appearing. That’s why I decided to start taking the pictures when the graffiti appeared. Any delay, like between the time I drove past the first time and drove past eight hours later, was fatal to the business of photo-capture.

And what, we asked, did our source think about the slogan from L. Ron Hubbard’s pamphlet The Way to Happiness being one of the slogans spray-painted on the building?

The slogan is easy enough to find on the Internet. But the three separate appearances and their content lead me to suspect a very disgruntled Scientologist. I never saw a message about “Scientology sux” or Hubbard lies,” for example. The church pisses off so many people with their disconnection policy and alterations of the refund/repayment policy it doesn’t surprise me there are alienated people in the field in general.

Our source also scanned his negatives and sent them to us. (For you kids, ask your parents what “negatives” are.) We grabbed just one frame from the strips to show here…


We’re pretty convinced that someone — probably a former mission employee or customer — is spray-painting graffiti that the mission is cleaning up as quickly as it can. And again, we’ll say that we find it a counterproductive way to protest Scientology.


Posted by Tony Ortega on May 21, 2013 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

If you’d like to help support The Underground Bunker, please e-mail our webmaster Scott Pilutik at


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email