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It’s ‘Declare your Independence of Scientology Day’ here again at the Underground Bunker

Here in the United States it’s a red-letter day, and we have an annual tradition that we’re keeping alive here at the Underground Bunker. It’s Independence Day, and as in past years, we celebrate with the stories of Scientologists who have dissolved the bands that kept them in a totalitarian organization and declared their independence of it. We’re privileged this year to start off today’s celebration with an account by former Sea Org member Peter McMahon. We hope other former church members will include their own stories of freedom in the comments section — even if you told those stories in past years. We want to hear them again! And here’s Peter….

Freedom Day. That’s what my wife and I called the day we left the Sea Org and Scientology.

We met at the Flag Land Base in Clearwater, Florida. I had been in Los Angeles working for the Advanced Organization of Los Angeles (AOLA) when I got sent to the Flag Bureau in September of 1978. The Flag Bureau was the management organization running Scientology world wide. Patricia was from South Africa and also working in the FB. She was married to a guy named Reuvain Marcus who worked for the Flag World Tour. He traveled around the world regging people for Flag Services. (Registrars, “reg” for short, have the job of convincing Scientologists to spend money on new courses.)


One day I was feeling sick so I went to the Medical Liaison Office. Patricia was there waiting as well. I asked her how Reuvein was and she replied, “I don’t know, I haven’t seen him in a couple of months. We’re separated and going to be divorced.” I really liked her. We had been working together on some management newsletters that went to all the Scientology Orgs, and the more I worked with her the more I liked her. Hearing that she was getting divorced was a decisive moment for me. I made it my mission to make Patricia laugh. I had an endless supply of jokes and funny stories to tell her and I did win her over. After her divorce we planned our wedding and married in the Sandcastle with about 20 friends. My parents and two sisters also flew down from New York to attend.

Working in the Sea Org was tough. There were endless orders and counter orders, emergencies and all-hands (when all staff have to stay up late to complete some task). And you still had to complete your work despite all the interruptions.

Being married and in love made it more bearable.

We were married in March 1981 and by early 1982 Patricia was sent to Los Angeles for training. She had been assigned as the Manager over the two Publications orgs (one in Denmark and the other in L.A.) The only problem was that once she was in L.A. they kept her.

“They” was Author Services International (ASI). I asked, “What about me? Can I be transferred to L.A. to be with my wife?” Of course not. I was told to “make it go right.” That meant I would have to recruit someone into the Sea Org and train them on my job, and then I would have to petition senior management to get permission to transfer.

I began writing letters to people and doing what I could to recruit someone, but while working sometimes through the night trying to get all my work done I didn’t have much success.

Married couples in the Sea Org get to have their own room or at least we did back then. But after Patricia was drafted into ASI, I went back to our room at the Sandcastle one night and our room was empty. All my stuff had been trucked over to the Q.I. (Quality Inn) across town. Staff berthing was a mix of motels in different parts of Clearwater. And to get to and from the Q.I. you had to catch the Church shuttle bus. If you worked past the last shuttle, which happened a lot, you slept on the floor somewhere.


[Peter and Pat, dating in 1981]

While all this was happening many long-time Sea Org staff were leaving the S.O. or being kicked out. David Miscavige was running ASI and he was taking control of Scientology. A number of top management people and Commodore’s Messengers who had been loyal to Hubbard were being busted from their posts and put on menial labor. This was still four or five years before Hubbard’s death.

Not only did I miss my wife terribly, but people who I liked working with were suddenly gone. It was pretty dismal.

At this point I was editing Advance Magazine, and AOLA in Los Angeles supervised the actual printing. There had been some problems with the print quality so I was able to fly out to L.A. to supervise the next print run, and I got to see Patricia. I dragged the trip out for almost two weeks even though printing was just a day. My seniors were unhappy, but I was just glad to spend a little time with my wife. She was not happy working at ASI but couldn’t talk about it.

My sister was getting married in Washington DC in September of 1982. My parents had arranged for Patricia’s flight from LA to DC and my flight from Clearwater. The night before I traveled I had a dream that Patricia was packing everything she owned and saying, “I’m leaving and not going back.”

When I arrived at the airport my father met me and we waited together for Patricia’s flight. She showed up from baggage claim with two huge suitcases. I could barely lift them, just like my dream.

We talked after the wedding and she told me she was not going back. I was still a true believer and didn’t even think of leaving. Maybe she could go to New York and live with my folks and I would try to transfer to New York. I knew that was ridiculous because I’d been trying to transfer to LA for the past few months.

“I’m leaving with you,” I told her. I realized that Scientology didn’t give a shit about me or my wife. This decision made us very happy. We changed our flights to New York and went to stay with my parents.

It felt so good to relax, spend time with family, and sleep in. We found part time work right away and started to get used to life outside the Sea Org.

I felt a kind of dread because I knew it was only a matter of time before someone would call or show up at our door.

It happened a week later. I got a call from my former boss trying to guilt me into returning. I did feel terrible about leaving my co-workers in the lurch. But I wasn’t going back.

Then a CMO Mission arrived. They convinced us to fly back to LA and “route out” the accepted way with sec checks and signing forms. When we arrived we were assigned a room in the Main Building of the Cedars Complex and told to report to the Galley to wash dishes. We did that for a little while, and then when we were back in the room, Patricia said, “We’re not members anymore. We don’t have to do anything we don’t want to do.” I was dumbfounded because I knew she was right. A messenger showed up at the door when we didn’t show up for morning dishwashing. The messenger said that David Miscavige was angry at us. He demanded that we get back to the galley. Patricia told the messenger that if DM wanted to talk to us about it he could come to our room in person.

Needless to say that didn’t happen. Next I was pulled into a meeting with the CMO and told that Patricia was evil and I could have my old job back if she went onto the Rehabilitation Project Force — the RPF, the Sea Org’s prison detail. I told them I loved her and that she wasn’t evil. And that I wasn’t going back on staff.

We were left alone and eventually got our sec checks and signed all the paperwork and were allowed to go back to New York. My parents were so glad we came home and didn’t get talked into rejoining. We both found work and got our own apartment.

Getting out of the Sea Org was the best thing we ever did. No Thursday stat push, no all-hands or all-nighters, good food and good sleep and control of our own lives. It was pure luxury to take time over morning coffee and read the newspaper.

After a few years we bought a house in Brooklyn and had a son. When he was in college we sold our house and moved to California. Life was good.

We celebrated every September 19th. We called it Freedom Day because that was the day of my sister’s wedding when we first decided to leave.

In 2005 Patricia was diagnosed with Stage IV Breast Cancer. She survived nine years and was able to attend our son’s graduation from college. By 2014 she had done every chemo available and went into home hospice care. She passed away January 21, 2014.

I’m forever grateful to her for how she helped us get out of Scientology and the Sea Org.

— Peter McMahon


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,165 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,768 days
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 311 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 199 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,374 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,148 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,922 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,268 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 10,834 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,502 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,762 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,802 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,514 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,040 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,129 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,269 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,589 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,564 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 920 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,222 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,328 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,731 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,603 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,185 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,690 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,934 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,043 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on July 4, 2018 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, 1995-2017 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2017), 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 | 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 non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news


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