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Sindy Fagen, photo source

Sindy Fagen, photo source

In the wake of Leah Remini’s defection, Church of Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw has repeatedly claimed that there is no Scientology policy of forced “disconnection,” which compels a church member to cut off all ties from someone who has been excommunicated (“declared a suppressive person”) — even if it means cutting off ties with a close friend or family member. When Pouw’s predecessor, Tommy Davis, made the same claim on CNN in 2008, it was a disastrous move: many church members who had been affected by the policy were deeply offended. One of those was director Paul Haggis, and we’ve heard from many others who say Tommy’s denials helped convince them to leave the church.

Today, Pouw is stepping into that mess once more, and it’s angering current and former Scientologists all over again. Claire Headley responded by showing us the written — and therefore inviolable — church policy that lays out in black and white how families get ripped apart by rules that force church members to choose between Scientology and their reliationships with friends and relatives.

And now, Sindy Fagen has given us an even more devastating example that should be hard for Pouw to refute.

In 2011, Sindy was featured in the blockbuster Tampa Bay Times series, “The Money Machine,” which exposed Scientology’s fundraising apparatus. She described how church members were put under extreme pressure to donate money to the International Association of Scientologists, a war chest used for the church to fight its battles in court and in the press.

“By 2009 she had secretly begun to question the emphasis on money,” write Joe Childs and Tom Tobin.

The series exposed Scientology’s unquenchable thirst for cash donations, and it also exposed Sindy Fagen to the disconnection policy. By going public in a newspaper story critical of the church, she had crossed a line that Scientology members know is a step too far.

Scientologists close to Sindy knew they had a decision to make: disconnect from her or risk being excommunicated themselves.

One woman in particular, who we are not going to name, was especially close to Sindy and had been for many years. She knew, however, that she actually had no choice — if she didn’t immediately disconnect from Sindy, her own status in the church was threatened. In tears, she called Sindy and left a voice message, saying how much she regretted that she would have to disconnect. But with Sindy going so public, she really had no alternative.

Sindy Fagen has held on to that message for two years.

She is only now allowing us to make it public because of Karin Pouw’s recent public declarations that the Church of Scientology does not force disconnection on its members.

Listen to the voice mail message, and decide for yourself.

(We left a message for the woman you will hear. She did not respond to us. We have edited the voice mail only to remove several names said by the woman.)


Here’s a transcript of the voice mail…

I wanted to call to say I love you.

I’m probably going to have to disconnect, and I’m really upset about this.

I wish there was some way that, you know, you could make your stand but not be completely disconnecting from the church because I know you believe in LRH.

I’m probably going to have to disconnect and I wanted to call and say I love you. And if there’s any way I can find around it, I will.

But, take care of yourself. You know, if there’s anything I could say to, you know, to have you change your mind…

I don’t know what’s going to happen because I don’t know what’s going on…

Anyways, I love you guys, and, you know, if you have any chance to look at this data and reconsider your position, you know, maybe there’s a way that you can, you know, your point can be made and, you know, it can be done not disconnecting from the church altogether.

OK, I love you honey, bye.

“She is only one of many who disconnected from me,” Sindy tells us.

“I did this for Lori Hodgson, Cindy Plahuta, and Meshell Little,” she adds, referring to three women who have all lost contact with their children because of the disconnection policy. “That was my whole reason for doing this and I wanted to dedicate it to them.”

In case you haven’t read it, two years ago we revealed that Tommy Davis had been secretly recorded as he put pressure in a young church member to quit his job working for a person who had been excommunicated, or risk losing contact with his family. (The young man refused, and was excommunicated himself. His family immediately cut off all ties with him. Davis has now left his job with the church and lives in Austin, Texas.)

Forced disconnection is one of Scientology’s most toxic policies, and it is helping to drive the crisis of faith that is tearing Scientology apart. Denying that it exists is not working as a public relations strategy, but disastrous PR has never deterred Scientology in the past.


SFViewLinks of Note

Yesterday, Mike Rinder posted a message he received, purportedly from a San Francisco Bay Area Scientologist, who describes a grim scene for the church in that region…

“Most of the local orgs can’t get more than twenty public to arrive for regular events or IAS briefings. We have all attended the (re)grand opening of the Ideal Orgs and, with a few exceptions, it’s the same recycled public at each (re)grand opening. There are many more Scientologists talking about yours and Tony’s blog than there are public on lines, and even those on lines public are reading the blogs, connected to the declared and ‘not in good standing,’ and are simply playing along for fear of disconnection.”

The San Francisco org has had to endure some of the most persistent protesting by Anonymous since 2008. When we visited last year, over a few hours we didn’t see a single member of the general public even go near the place. The San Jose org (Los Gatos) is what spawned the “Squirrel Busters” group that brought down so much bad publicity on the church in the last two years. If, as Rinder’s correspondent claims, Scientology is now “irrelevant in the Bay Area,” it’s a telling sign that the church is failing in a place that is traditionally so friendly to new religious movements.

Meanwhile, over at the Morton Report, Skip Press says many more celebrities have left the church than tend to get credit for it.


Posted by Tony Ortega on August 12, 2013 at 07:00

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