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


Phil and Willie Jones versus Scientology: The real story of how the billboard came to be

On Thursday, we published an account by Derek Bloch describing part of his experience in 2015 filming a television series about Scientology ‘disconnection’ that has yet to receive an airdate. When he saw what Derek had written, Phil Jones contacted us, asking to post his own experience with the unaired ‘Disconnection’ series and how it eventually led to the famous billboards that Phil and Willie crowdfunded in Los Angeles and Florida. As we said last time, for a short period we too became involved in that television production, serving as a consultant for Sirens Media for about a month as the series lineup was being finalized. We hope that the series does get an airdate at some point, but in the meantime we believe Phil’s account deserves to be heard.

“You’re not welcome here.”

Those were the words the security guard spat out at us when Willie and I stood outside Scientology’s Celebrity Centre in Los Angeles when we tried to see our son Mike. We hadn’t seen him in a few years.


For most of the previous 25 years Willie and I lived in Florida, staying pretty close to Scientology’s Flag Land Base in Clearwater. We’d been under the radar for most of the last 5 years before being “outed.” (Under the radar means that in your head you’re out of Scientology but pretend to be in so that you don’t lose family and friends.)

When it was demanded that we disconnect from some friends who had left Scientology we refused to do so and in turn suffered Scientology’s enforced disconnection. Overnight we lost family, friends, and all business contacts we had in the area.

For us the thing that was most important to us was the kids. Having nothing left in Florida we moved out west to be closer to where the kids were stationed in Scientology so that we could try to contact them.

Phone calls, visits, many more phone calls, and nothing. We couldn’t even get a message to the kids. Scientology blocked us at every point. We were at a loss as what to do.

Then, out of the blue a good friend (another ex-Scientologist) referred us to a TV show being filmed and we thought our story might be of interest to them. Even though the whole idea of it terrified us we went ahead and contacted them. We didn’t know what else to do.

After a lengthy and emotional interview they took us on for one of their episodes. At first we just lay the groundwork on camera and what our story was up to at that point. But then we took it to the streets. We were going to head into the belly of the beast with cameras in tow.

Arriving at a Scientology property with a film crew is not something Scientology likes or tolerates. We knew at this point that if Scientology didn’t know about the show before this that they certainly would now. And we’d set ourselves up to be exposed to Scientology’s Fair Game practice. But for us we balanced this against losing our kids. What worse could they do to us than take our kids?

After a few small efforts at contact I had the idea of posting a “Missing” poster around Scientology’s Celebrity Center, which was the last place we knew our son Mike was located. To us he was missing. We hadn’t seen or heard from him in several years.


Again, cameras in tow, we walked around Celebrity Center handing out our Missing posters and putting them up on telephone poles. It was amazing how receptive people were who were not Scientologists. There was genuine care and concern. But those few Scientologists on the street we approached? Cold and heartless.

Someone who we’d given a poster to had posted it in the laundry room in their apartment building. Another person saw it, took a photo on their phone and posted it online. It went viral.

Still. No contact from the kids.

We tried to get a letter to them. One letter we took to Celebrity Centre but the security guard refused to take it in his hand. The other letter we took to Author Services (ASI), L. Ron Hubbard’s literary agency, where our daughter works. I tried knocking on the door but the only person I saw was a Scientology security guard just inside the door. When he saw me he quickly darted behind a large plant that was inside the lobby. Hiding. Crazy.

LAPD arrived at ASI, obviously called by Scientology. But they told us we had every right to be there.

We were just about to give up at Author Services when I saw Markus Wuethrich, who was a senior executive at ASI, getting out of a car and heading for the side door. I knew him personally so I called out his name and ran towards him. He looked a bit shocked with me running towards him, cameras behind me, along with several uniformed police. Fortunately he didn’t move until I got close enough to hand him the letter and say, “Please give this to Emily.” Incredibly, he took it and then went inside the building.

Still. nothing. No word from the kids.

We were worried about our son Mike. He has a physical issue (that I won’t go into here) which I knew Scientology would not allow him to see a doctor about.

Our next step was to see if we could have the police do a welfare check on our son. Even if we couldn’t see him we at least needed to see if he was OK.

Again, cameras in tow, we went down to the LAPD. They set up a check for us and told us to meet their officers back at Celebrity Centre. We headed back over there as fast as we could.

(A side note here. When we were talking to one of the officers in private at the station I had mentioned something to him that I had not said to anyone prior to that, nor after. Some time later in one of the statements Scientology put out about us they mentioned this thing. There was no other way for them to know this without having gotten it from the LAPD.)

Anyway, we met the two officers at Celebrity Centre. They told us to wait and then they went to talk to members of Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs (OSA) and the security guards. After a bit they came back and said they had talked to Mike on the phone and he said he was OK. I told the officer that he needs to see him. It could have been anyone on the phone or he might have had others standing next to him influencing him in what to say.

The police went back. When they returned they said Mike was not on the property and that they finally convinced Scientology to give them an address of where Mike was. The police told us to wait while they went to find him.

We waited. And waited. My phone rang. It was one of the police. He sounded irritated. Scientology had given them a fake address. Damn!

I talked to the officer for a bit. He asked about Mike’s wife and her family. I gave them all the information I had. They hung up. They called back. They said they had tracked down Mike’s father in law, who was in the hospital. These guys were rock stars. They were on their way. We waited again. It seemed like forever.

When the police got to the hospital our son Mike was there. They said he had several Scientology security personnel with him. The officer told him that if he wanted to leave he’d have a team of police to escort him if he wanted it. Mike said no.

We had written a letter for Mike which the officer handed to him and told him to read it. He waited while Mike read the letter. Then he handed Mike his phone and told him “talk to your dad.” The officer had dialed it for him. Mike took the phone.

Willie and I were waiting. Standing outside Celebrity Centre, we didn’t know what was happening at the time. Cameras were all at the ready. Scientology security was hovering.

My phone rang. I answered it and for the first time in several years I heard our son’s voice. I said, “Mike, I love you.” I really thought this might be it. We might get our kids back. Then, he answered, “I never want to speak to you again,” and hung up.

I was done. Inside I just died.

I don’t remember what I said in response to the questions others were asking me at that moment. I just cried. My head down, I slowly headed back to the car. I had nothing left. I had no more to give.

As I walked I glanced up and over to where one of the Scientology security guards was standing. He was laughing. There was an evil smirk on his face and he was laughing at us. For trying to see our kids? Fuck!

Something stirred in me. I lifted my head. I turned to him. I told him, “You think we’re done? You think this is it? Let me tell you what’s next. It. Is. Going to be… BIGGER!” I then walked away.

I didn’t know it then but we went on to do the billboard and somehow managed to get international press on our story.

All of this is recorded. The whole bit. Every brutal minute of every harsh and agonizing emotional detail. We held back nothing. This bit written here is just a part of it. The only reason I want this to air is for everyone to see how Scientology treats people. See the looks on their faces. See the words and actions they take to inflict pain on others. Maybe then. Just maybe, there will be outrage enough.

— Phil Jones


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,828 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,585 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 1,931 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,425 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,465 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy in 1,177 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 703 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,792 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 1,932 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,252 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,227 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 583 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin in 4,885 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 992 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis for 1,394 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,267 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 848 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike in 1,353 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,597 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,706 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on July 31, 2017 at 07:00

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. 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

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | 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 | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | 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