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


Scientology’s day care from hell: The scandal the church managed to keep hidden — until now

Written by Tony Ortega | Illustrations by Chad Essley

Ellen was driving back from an outing in San Diego with her daughter when she got the call. [“Ellen” is not her real name, but this account is exactly how she told it to us.]

It was Julian, an ethics officer at Scientology’s “org” in Los Angeles. Julian was one of the young “masters at arms” who enforce Scientology’s myriad rules and regulations. If you heard from him, it usually meant you were in some kind of trouble, Ellen knew.

“I need to see you right away,” he told her.


“No, tell me what it is now,” Ellen answered. If she was in trouble, she wanted to know right away.

“I can’t really get into it. You’re going to be getting a call from a police detective.”

Ellen frowned. Why would a Scientology ethics officer be telling her that she’d be getting a call from the police?

“Why is a detective going to call?” she asked.

“You’re probably also going to be getting a call from –,” Julian said, and then he named a woman we’re going to refer to as DayCare Mom.

“Something happened there,” Julian continued.

Ellen could do the math. She looked at her daughter, who was just seven, and she seemed all right. Ellen tried not to show how much she wanted to scream.

It had been two years since Ellen stopped sending her daughter to DayCareMom’s house, where she operated a business that catered to other Scientology families. Ellen had a bad feeling about the place then. And now her worst fears were coming true.

After she got home, she dropped off her daughter and drove to the org. She went to Julian’s office and asked him what was going on.

Julian asked her to wait as he brought in DayCare Mom. He also brought in a Scientology chaplain, and a man in a suit, who was introduced as an attorney for the the church. DayCare Mom then began speaking.

“My son was molesting the girls at the day care, for over a year. Your daughter was one of them. We’re just coming clean about it.”

Ellen sat stunned as DayCare Mom then went into a Scientology practice of giving “time, place, form, and event,” and methodically described what her son had done to each of the girls, and how many times.

“That was hard to hear,” Ellen says.

Julian then explained that DayCare Mom had revealed the crime during a sec check.


A “sec check” or “security check” is a brutal interrogation that all Scientologists must go through from time to time. The subject of a sec check is asked to hold the sensors of an E-meter — a crude electronic device which simply measures tiny fluctuations in skin galvanism, but to Scientologists the machine is a sophisticated tool which can detect if they’re lying. With their utter confidence in the E-meter’s ability to tell when they’re holding back information, Scientologists spill their guts under the tough questioning of ethics officers.

In this case, DayCare Mom had spent tens of thousands of dollars to go through something called “OT Eligibility” in preparation for starting the vaunted “Operating Thetan” Scientology levels. As Claire Headley explained to us during our survey of Scientology’s courses, Up the Bridge, a member isn’t allowed to start the OT levels (which themselves cost many thousands of dollars each) until passing “OT Preps” and “OT Eligibility,” which includes a sec check.

Scientologists can’t begin these high-level courses, Claire explained, without first going through an intense interrogation to find out if they have “evil intentions.”

During her sec check, convinced she couldn’t defeat the all-knowing E-meter, DayCare Mom had revealed the information she’d been holding back: That her teenage son was a predator, and for more than a year he had molested the girls other parents dropped off at her house.

Julian told Ellen that as soon as he heard about that confession, he told DayCare Mom that it was her responsibility to call the police. “I told her, you’re either going to report the crime or I will,” Julian claimed. But even though the crime had been reported, Ellen was told that the mothers were being asked to keep the matter within the church.

Ellen was told that if DayCare Son were charged (he was then 17 and still a juvenile), he’d be subject to psychiatric treatment and medication.

“We’re begging you not to press charges because he’ll be subject to psych evals. We want to avoid that,” the attorney said to her.


Scientologists are taught to regard psychiatry and its medications with a white-hot hate. The thought of DayCare Mom’s son on psych drugs in custody was worse, to these Scientologists, than doing nothing about a young man who had molested their daughters.

“Julian was very clever in the way he did this. He did make sure it was reported to police, but then he turned it over to the chaplain, like it was a church situation. And it was clear that he was the one making sure none of us filed charges or filed lawsuits,” she says.

“I told them there was no way in hell I was going to allow that.”

After that meeting, Ellen did hear from the police detective, who called her last out of all the parents involved. Ellen’s daughter had been at the day care the least, and hadn’t been victimized as much as some of the others.


The problem, the detective told her, was that none of the other parents wanted to press charges.

Ellen called each of them, and they told her it was against Scientology rules to prosecute a fellow Scientologist — not without permission from the “International Justice Chief,” a man named Mike Ellis who members almost never saw or heard from.

“The mothers were concerned that if they pressed charges, they would lose their own OT levels,” Ellen says.

What she means is that when the mothers, like DayCare Mom, also reached their “OT Eligibility” in order to go into the high-level courses, they would also be interrogated, and if they had sued or prosecuted a fellow Scientologist, they’d lose the right to spend tens of thousands of dollars per level to reach the top of Scientology’s spiritual attainment.

Ellen was infuriated. She said they didn’t need anyone’s permission to press charges. But the other mothers didn’t budge.

Each of them, and Ellen, had been instructed by Julian how to talk to the police detective to convince him that DayCare Son should not be prosecuted.

But Ellen didn’t go along with it. She not only helped the detective with his investigation, she personally rounded up the four other mothers and took them to meet with a prosecutor at the district attorney’s office.

“I actually got the other mothers to the DA’s office, and got the kids interviewed by the police detective, using the doll. But the mothers decided to let the church handle it,” she says.

With the limited cooperation they received, the DA’s office charged the young man with a crime that only resulted in a sentence of probation.

“I at least wanted him on the sex offender’s list, but we didn’t even get that,” Ellen says.

Ellen was so disgusted with how the affair had been handled, she decided to leave Scientology, after having grown up in a rather prominent church family. Once she did, her parents, who remained in the church, cut off all contact with her as they followed the Scientology policy of “disconnection.”

Ellen shared with us a lengthy document she wrote to her father, explaining her reasons for leaving Scientology. In the document, she tells her father that not only had DayCare Son escaped the punishment he really deserved, but that Scientology’s way of handling the manner had involved the young man spending time in the homes of his victims, doing a “liability formula.”

When Scientologists are considered to have committed a transgression of some kind, they can be assigned a “lower condition” to reflect their lack of status. “Liability” is one of the least severe lower conditions, and making up for it requires an involved program of contrition, including asking permission of others to rejoin the non-liable population. DayCare Son had reportedly spent time in the homes of his victims so he could accomplish this program, Ellen told her father.

When she found out about it, Ellen says she was shocked. “I thought sure the church was going to declare them all,” Ellen says, referring to Scientology’s practice of excommunicating members by “declaring” them “suppressive persons.”

“But the mom is still in the church, and so is the kid. They let them do the conditions to make up for the crime, and they’ve even let him babysit. That’s when I never went back,” Ellen says with disgust.

But there’s more to the story.

One of Ellen’s friends had also recently left the church. And at one point, Ellen was asked by her friend why she left the organization.

The friend was livid after learning about the incident, saying that publicizing it could cause Scientology major pain and might even “bring the church down.” The friend knew a major Scientology celebrity who had been having some doubts, and who became irate upon learning what had happened at the day care. The two of them got busy gathering information about the case. Each of them told Ellen that if she went public, they would pay for her to have an attorney and any other expenses she incurred.

The friend, meanwhile, has pressed reporters, trying to get them to do this story.

But the friend was told repeatedly that the detective wasn’t talking about the case when he was called by reporters, and there were no court documents because the perpetrator had been a juvenile at the time.

While Ellen was willing to talk, she didn’t want to be named, and the other parents weren’t interested in talking.

Scientology wanted it kept quiet and wanted it kept in-house, and they were successful.

Several years later, the friend and the Scientology celebrity are still fuming that the church was able to keep a lid on the incident, and that DayCare Mom and her son are still active members.

DayCare Son is now in his mid 20s. When we called him last week, he told us he didn’t know what we were talking about when we told him we were going to write a story about the day care incident. We explained that we had no interest in naming him, and were more concerned with how the Church of Scientology had handled the matter. But he continued to say he didn’t understand what we were referring to. We thanked him and ended the call.

Ellen, meanwhile, says that despite the backing she received from the Scientology celebrity, she felt unsure about making the story well known. “It’s a delicate thing,” she told us. “My daughter is a teenager now, and she doesn’t really remember it.”

She received another round of encouragement from her friend to do this story, and then reluctantly agreed to talk about it.

“Unfortunately, this story is all too typical. It is not, by far, the only instance of sexual abuse of children in Scientology that has not previously seen the light of day,” says former Scientology spokesman, Mike Rinder, who knows Ellen well and is familiar with the underlying facts in the case. “While Julian played on the fear of psychiatry, this isn’t always a factor in these cases. But there are two fears that are always overriding concerns: 1. The terror of negative press and bad PR that such circumstances would generate and 2. The hatred and fear instilled into all Scientologists of ‘wog justice.’

“The only reason these people are not declared is the fear the church has that it might somehow prompt the perpetrators to come clean and spill the beans about how it was covered up by the church. After all, if there is any application of Scientology ‘SP and disconnection tech’ that would ever be applicable, it is for a child sex abuser. Scientology routinely offers up the example of an abusive spouse to justify application of SP/disconnection tech. The implied message is that even a moron would understand that you should disconnect from such a person and they should be made known to warn others. Yet, here we are, another example where the SP Declare and Disconnection policy should be used and it is ignored. Meanwhile, Scientology forced Ellen’s parents to disconnect from her because the crime of no longer choosing to call yourself a Scientologist is so much worse than molesting children.”


Links of note

An interesting story hit the WPTV Channel 5 website at midnight last night. It’s about a Boynton Beach alternative medicine doctor, Brian Sheen, who has filed a civil rights complaint with the state of Florida, alleging that his civil rights have been denied by the Church of Scientology.

Sheen says that his daughter, a Scientologist, has “disconnected” from him because he’s been declared a suppressive person by the church. In a website he put up about the matter, he indicated that he himself left Scientology some 35 years ago, and had tried to do so in a manner that left him in good standing with the church. But recently he received a letter from the church telling him his only way of contacting his daughter was through the International Justice Chief, Mike Ellis.

We’ve emailed Sheen to see if we can get more information on this story, which at this point is short on details. We’d like to see the letter he received, as well as his complaint. According to the story at WPTV, Sheen made his civil rights complaint to the state, which one of our legal experts points out means it may have been submitted to an office run by Attorney General Pam Bondi, which is a little ironic.


Bonus photos from our tipsters

Actual caption, Mace-Kingsley Family Center in Clearwater: “Look how much fun these kids are having between sessions!!!!”


Actual caption, Tamari Keith, field auditor: “Field Auditing across America!!! Vermont bound!” And we can’t help thinking of Denise Brennan boasting that the last of Scientology’s orgs and missions and field auditors had been chased out of Vermont and New Hampshire. We sure miss her.


One of our best tipsters sent us this earlier today, while we were out. It shows Nation of Islam members doing Book One (non-Emeter) auditing in Chicago. Poor Scientology, can’t fill a room these days like NOI can.



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)…

July 12: Washington DC, Hill Center DC-Drummond Hall, Center for Inquiry, 2 pm (with Paulette Cooper)

July 14: Hartford, MARK TWAIN HOUSE, 7 pm (with Tom Tomorrow)

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

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

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

July 24: San Antonio, Folc Restaurant/Park Social, 6 pm

July 25: Austin

July 29: Paris, Le Bistrot Landais, 19:00 (with Jonny Jacobsen)

August 4: London, Conway Hall, (with John Sweeney)

August 24: Boston, Boston Skeptics in the Pub, 7 pm (with Gregg Housh)

Sept 15: Arizona State University

Sept 23: Cleveland

Sept 24: Minneapolis

Sept 27: Portland

Sept 28: Seattle

Sept 29: Vancouver, BC


Posted by Tony Ortega on July 10, 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


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email