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Nora Crest in Toronto: Growing up in Scientology means indoctrination from birth

Nora_CrestWe had to leave the Toronto Scientology conference to deal with some changes back here in New York, but Jonny Jacobsen remained, and submitted this account of Nora Crest’s presentation on Wednesday.

Nora Crest gave a sharp, funny and at times moving account of what it is like to grow up inside Scientology. She was born in 1976, a few years after her mother had started in Scientology. Her mother was working with the Guardian’s Office in Sacramento – the old intelligence unit.

Her father, while he wasn’t officially with the GO, did help out with the Snow White Program, the vast operation to steal government documents relating to the movement. Years later, she learned that he had got a job in a government building in Sacramento, hiding out in the ladies’ toilets until after closing, so he could open a window and let the burglars in.

She asked him about it when she was older. “Do you want to be an OT?” he asked her. “Sure,” she said. “Then I can never tell you,” her father said. Her mother meanwhile, once her five-year staff contract was up, decided she had had enough and decided to back away from Scientology to raise her children.

Nora said that her grandmothers were both Christians, though from different denominations. Both insisted she attend communion. She remembers the first time, getting shoved up to the front with the other kids, given a wafer and told to eat the body of Christ; given wine and told to drink the blood of Christ.

“What?! Well at least in Scientology we don’t eat people.” She wasn’t wild about Bible study class either. “These religious things seemed so wacky and crazy.” On the other hand, she said, Scientology, seemed cooler to me as a kid. We were the ‘religion of religions’.”


Her parents divorced, and while her mother was drawing back from Scientology, her father was getting more deeply involved – to the point where he was incorporating Scientology practices into their games.

He had been doing the Scientology Training Routines, the basic exercises described here at the Bunker by Claire Headley. But her dad had her doing the Blinkless confront TR – aged just seven years old. He also seemed obsessed with knowing who she had been in her past life. “Picture that radio,” he would tell her, indicating an old device from the 1950s. “Where have you seen that before?”

“Fortunately, my mum was my sanity thing,” said Crest. Her mother drummed into her the importance of getting an education. And the fact that they did not have a lot of money turned out to be a good thing, she said: “Being poor actually saved me from a terrible Scientology education.” So she was educated in the public school system – and they were good schools.

“Then, when I was about 13, my father came down like the hammer of Thor.” When she and her sister Sara turned up to spend the holidays with him and their stepmother they were told that they would be going to Scientology school for the summer. She wasn’t happy.

This was her first taste of Scientology indoctrination, she said. “My mother never assigned me lower ethics,” which is what happened to kids in some Scientology households, “but we were put in an environment where that was happening. And then my father pimped me out to recruiters at PAC,” the Big Blue base in Los Angeles. He accompanied her while one recruiter after another pitched how great it would be to work for them.

At that time however, she was still too young to join of her own accord and knew that her mother would be dead set against it. But now she was seriously thinking about signing up with Scientology.

“I started thinking about the Sea Org a lot. Before that it was basketball, boys, TV and movies; now I was thinking about mankind and the universe.”

Now every time she was shooting the hoops on the basketball court she was wondering whether she shouldn’t really be out there saving the universe. So come the age of 18, she signed up for the Sea Org, to the delight of her father. “Mum was not happy,” she added.

“Suddenly the ethics was much harsher,” she said. She went through a variety of posts (including a spell at the Celebrity Center, which she spoke about on Tuesday). Things went sour and she tried on several times to leave and ended up on the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF), Scientology’s punishment camp.

“I grew up in Scientology but straddling the two worlds,” she said. “I would get violent when people described Scientology as a cult.” But what she now realizes is that the indoctrination of children really starts from birth.

Time was limited so we didn’t hear all the shocking details of her story inside the Sea Org. You can learn more about that over at Nora’s website, Raging Buddha.

— Jonny Jacobsen


We didn’t get a chance to include photos in our book, so we’ve posted them at a dedicated page. Reader Sookie put together a complete index and we’re hosting it here on the website. Copies of the paperback version of ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely’ are on sale at Amazon. The Kindle edition is also available, and shipping instantly.

Our upcoming appearances (and check out the interactive map to our ongoing tour)…

June 28: Clearwater, Florida (with Paulette Cooper) Clearwater Public Library, 2 pm, sponsored by Center for Inquiry-Tampa Bay and the Humanist Society of the Suncoast.

July 12: Washington DC, Center for Inquiry (with Paulette Cooper)

July 14: Hartford, MARK TWAIN HOUSE (with Tom Tomorrow)

July 17: Denver, The Secular Hub, 7 pm (with Chris Shelton)

July 20: Dallas, Times Ten Cellar, 7 pm (with Robert Wilonsky)

July 22: Houston, Fox and Hound, 11470 Westheimer Road, sponsored by Humanists of Houston

July 24: San Antonio

July 25: Austin

July 29: Paris (with Jonny Jacobsen)

August 4: London (with John Sweeney)

August 24: Boston, Boston Skeptics in the Pub, 7 pm

September 16: Arizona State University


Posted by Tony Ortega on June 25, 2015 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 cover to cover with the help of LA 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

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
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


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