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With Scientology’s ‘disconnection’ policy finally hitting the mainstream, here’s more to consider

Cindy_Plahuta_KaraIt’s gratifying to see the Daily News and the Daily Mail pick up on Joe Childs’ epic story about Scientology’s ‘disconnection’ policy that rips families apart — and has for decades.

In our own humble way, we’ve been trying for years to make the public understand how disconnection is one of the most toxic practices of this bullying organization. It’s a coldly calculating way that “leverage” is used to force church members into submission — by threatening to rip apart their families if they don’t comply.

In Joe’s story, he told in dramatic fashion how Sara Goldberg was presented with a stark choice — either accept the pressure coming from Scientology officials and cut off all ties from her son, who had been expelled from the church, or, if she didn’t comply, lose all contact with her daughter, who remains a Scientologist. It was the kind of impossible choice faced by other Scientologists every day. We have talked to or know about literally hundreds of people who have lost all interaction with their parents, or their children, or their siblings. It’s the way that Scientology enforces discipline, and as Joe illustrated so well, it’s never a “personal choice,” as the church claims. It’s forced on families, often with stunning cruelty.

Now, with the Goldbergs getting so much attention, we hope there’s some appetite for readers to revisit the many cases of disconnection we’ve documented over the years. Here are some links. We hope you find them useful.

— In his Tampa Bay Times story, Joe described a kind of ‘star chamber’ tribunal which put incredible pressure on Sara Goldberg to make her choice about staying loyal to her church or to her family. Three years ago, a similar meeting was captured in a secret audio recording which we made public at the Village Voice. In that case, a young man named Shane Clark was told by then-spokesman Tommy Davis that he had to stop working for Marc Headley, an outspoken former church member, or he would lose all contact with his family. The audio recording is a rare opportunity to hear what it’s like for a Scientologist to face the high-pressure tactics of the church behind closed doors.

— When Scientologists disconnect, they sometimes do it in written messages. We obtained two “disconnection letters” from Cindy Plahuta of Colorado. She told us that when she first had doubts about Scientology, she admitted it to her daughter Kara Landry (that’s them in the photo above, on Kara’s wedding day). Kara reacted by turning her own mother in to the church’s “ethics” officers and then disconnecting from her. Cindy and her husband were also spurned by friends, and we posted their letters.


— Claire and Marc Headley have each lost all contact with family members through disconnection. They left Scientology in 2005, later sued the church and lost, and Marc wrote a gripping book about their experiences, Blown for Good. We’ve spent a lot of time talking with Claire about the specifics of Scientology’s many “levels,” and in particular, she went through the L. Ron Hubbard documentation that is used by the church to enforce disconnection and split up families, and then did it again in even more detail.

— In July 2012, Karen de la Carriere’s son Alex Jentszch died at only 27. But it took her several days to learn about his death even though she lived only a few miles away. Why? Because a few years earlier, he had been forced to disconnect from her because she dared to say publicly that Alex’s father, Heber Jentzsch, had spent years in Scientology’s bizarre office-prison, “The Hole.” Scientology even tried to enforce Alex’s disconnection from his mother after Alex’s death, telling her that no memorial for him would be held, and then, after embarrassing media reports forced the church to hold a memorial, didn’t invite her. So she held her own.

— We were fortunate to learn about the remarkable Derek Bloch, a talented young man whose parents got him into Scientology and who joined the Sea Org at only 17, but then got kicked out a year later after he admitted that he was gay. Frustrated and confused, he found it therapeutic to share his concerns about Scientology at a web forum, carefully using a pseudonym because he didn’t want to harm his parents or their status in the church. But Scientology’s spy organization, the Office of Special Affairs, determined his identity from the web postings, and then confronted his parents, who then disconnected from him entirely. Derek was one of the lucky ones: he found love and acceptance from other members of his extended family, and even moved to a different state in order to take advantage of their support. He still has no contact with his parents.

— In a story that shows to what bizarre lengths Scientology will go to enforce disconnection, the church was so determined to keep Valeska Paris separated from her own mother, it kept her on its private cruise ship, the Freewinds, as a sort of indentured servant for eleven years. Our lengthy interview with Valeska was the most-read Scientology story we ever did at the Voice.

— How can you talk about Scientology and disconnection without thinking of Lori Hodgson? We’ve been reporting her story for years as she tries to get back in contact with her adult son and daughter, who cut off all ties from her after she became upset at the way her son was recruited into Scientology’s Sea Org against her wishes. Among the stories we’ve done about Lori, we were most affected by her dramatic day at a hospital, and two visits (first visit, and second) to Austin to surprise her son.

— Another mother who won’t give up on her adult son, Meshell Little first made an impression on us two years ago. She’s still writing to her son, Jeremy Powers, hoping some day he’ll think twice about disconnecting from his own mother on instructions from Scientology.

— Because Mike Rinder is so well known for his media appearances, his blog, and for his activism as a former top spokesman of Scientology, it’s easy to forget that his split from the church was deeply personal, as well. Not only did his defection cause him to lose his previous family, but his former wife and his daughter have demonized him on television and on the web, clearly as part of Scientology’s twisted strategy to try and smear him. Despite that, the former top church official never complains about the harassment, preferring to put the emphasis on what difficulties others have faced. And he has a new family now that is thriving. But we know few people who speak more strongly about loathing disconnection. For a detailed overview of his background and views, we recommend a series of videos and story at our website.

— Scientology’s ‘celebrities’ aren’t immune. When Leah Remini ditched Scientology last year, she knew enough about disconnection to make sure that her entire family left with her. Others haven’t been so lucky. Paul Haggis told Lawrence Wright how his wife was told to disconnect from her own parents at one point. And three years ago, we wrote about how Placido Domingo Jr. was told to cut off ties from his ex-wife, Samantha Domingo, once the church learned that she had visited Marty Rathbun, an outspoken former church official. Placido told us that when he refused, he found himself being smeared on anonymous websites with information he had divulged in church counseling sessions he had been assured would be kept confidential.

— In one of the most hypocritical acts we’ve run across, Scientology’s Australian spokeswoman, Virginia Stewart, went on television to deny that Scientology practiced disconnection. She was reacting to our Placido Domingo Jr. story, and she denied that disconnection existed. But then we found out that Stewart herself had disconnected from her own father, and hadn’t spoken to him for more than 22 years.

— After Leah Remini’s defection, Scientology put out one of its disingenuous statements about disconnection, claiming that it wasn’t forced on members. So we asked our readers to tell us about their disconnection experience. The stories we received were stunning.

— Scientology’s denials after Remini’s departure also motivated Sindy Fagen to give us one of the most chilling examples of a Scientology disconnection farewell, a voicemail made by one of her friends after Sindy agreed to talk to the Tampa Bay Times for its landmark 2011 series on the church’s fundraising efforts. Hear for yourself what disconnection sounds like when you hear Sindy’s friend tell her goodbye.

And there are so many more. Disconnection is real. And it is used cynically by Scientology to keep its members inside a bubble. When will the larger public understand that this is at the heart of what Scientology is, and not some goofy set of outer-space beliefs that a few celebrities ascribe to?

And now, back to our regular weekly feature, Sunday Funnies.

Hey, San Diego’s a party!


Ooh, this one’s gotta get ’em to sign that billion-year contract!


We’re looking forward to some accounts of this weekend’s festivities. Send ’em in, tipsters!


“Hey, grandma, I’m ready for college. What happened to that money you put away for me?”


The use of the word ‘humanitarian’ might throw you if you didn’t know that in Scientology it just means writing a big-ass check.


We have no words.


Marcus is an actor!


Oh, now this is a party. And here Mike Rinder had us thinking things in Joburg weren’t rocking.


Speaking of a party, it’s on at the Shrine this Saturday!

lrh b-day countdown

Thanks again to our great tipsters!


Karen de la Carrier has a cognition about Scientology and psychiatry

Another fun video from Karen…



Posted by Tony Ortega on March 16, 2014 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.

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS (We read Scientology’s founding text) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25

UP THE BRIDGE (Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43

GETTING OUR ETHICS IN (Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING (Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer


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