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French minister details escaping Scientology as a child in social media spot

A junior minister in the French government has recently recorded a summary of how her mother became a devoted Scientologist — and of her own years inside one of its schools in Paris.

It is making a few waves across the social media, even if this is not the first time she has spoken publicly on the matter.

Sonia Backès (née Dos Santos) was appointed Secretary of State for Citizenship by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne in July last year.

When she realised that her new responsibilities included the tackling the issue of cults, she decided to talk about her childhood experience with the movement — and the damage it did to her relationship with her mother.


In the video, produced by Réel Média, Backès explains how her mother was recruited into the movement when she was in a vulnerable state following the divorce with her father. She was approached by a recruiter in the street and took the personality test.

Once her mother was recruited and had enrolled her in a Scientology school, everyone she knew was inside the movement, says Backès. The only person outside with whom she had any contact was her grandmother.

Her summary of the time she spent in the l’Ecole d’Eveil, the Scientology school in Paris, will be familiar to former members who attended similar schools in Britain and the United States.

The school had no teachers as such, but supervisors, who handed out photocopies of worksheets to be completed by the students. Once a student completed a chapter, they would be tested on it by someone who used an e-meter to make determine whether they had properly understood it. She has no problem describing the e-meter as a kind of lie detector.

Backès said she was a strong student before she entered the school, so the nearly two years she spent in there did not do her too much harm. But the same could not be said of those children had passed their entire education in such schools, she added.

At the time, she says, she did not fully understand that this kind of education was anything out of the ordinary. Her grandmother, who had a senior post in a Paris school, did from time to time try to run up red flags to her, but she was also wise enough to tread carefully so as not to antagonise her own daughter — Backès’s mother.

It was only when she returned to conventional education that she began to realise that none of it had been normal. Her real awakening came when a schoolfriend from her new school found out that she was in Scientology.

She started warning her about it and took the trouble to do the research and find material for her to read. (Backès, who is 47, points out that this was before the Internet.)

That allowed her to realise that what she had experienced was not normal — but when she tried to raise those doubts with her mother, she made it clear that that was not acceptable. Her response was to take her to England for auditing at Saint Hill (she doesn’t name it, but describes it as the European headquarters in England).

The way the questions were framed, she says, made it clear that they were trying to make out her father to be the root of all evil. She wasn’t having any of that.

She walked out and hitchhiked to London, where she phoned her father and asked her to come and fetch her. He lived in New Caledonia, one of France’s overseas territories in the southwest Pacific. Her father, she says, had known nothing about her mother’s involvement in Scientology following their divorce.

From that point on, she wanted nothing to do with her mother. It was only with the encouragement of her father that she made contact with her again a few years later. But, she says, they never managed to fully restore their relationship because of their differences over Scientology.

This is not the first time she has spoken about her childhood experience: it was covered in an interview with Le Figaro newspaper published last September, which was picked up by other news media at the time (here on France Info, for example).

The video, which runs to just over seven minutes, was produced by Réel Média, which is based near Paris. They posted it on Thursday, and it is slowly picking up momentum as it does the rounds of social media.


Here in France, we are still waiting for a case against another school alleged to have links with Scientology, the Institut Aubert, to come to trial.

The relevant dossiers, opened back in 1997 and 1998, have been repeatedly delayed for procedural reasons. The trial was meant to start in February, was again postponed — at the request of the prosecution — while they tried to get the papers in order.

But after more than 25 years in the legal machine, the chances of the case actually getting to court look increasingly fragile.

— Jonny Jacobsen

Paris-based journalist Jonny Jacobsen ran the Infinite Complacency blog covering Scientology between 2008 and 2015 and has covered trials related to the movement in France and Belgium.


Technology Cocktail

“One follows knowing assumptions of beingness with unknowing assumptions. The thief knows not why he steals. The bishop knows little of why he cherishes the bit of the True Cross. And none of them know, so invalidated has it become, that each has a basic beingness, complete. And that beingness is important to you. It is the best beingness there is. And it is important to me, how important can only be viewed through these eyes that see the magnitude of the job.” — L. Ron Hubbard, 1958



We first broke the news of the LAPD’s investigation of Scientology celebrity Danny Masterson on rape allegations in 2017, and we’ve been covering the story every step of the way since then. At this page we’ve collected our most important links as Danny faces a potential sentence of 45 years to life in prison. NOW WITH TRIAL INDEX.



THE PODCAST: How many have you heard?

[1] Marc Headley [2] Claire Headley [3] Jeffrey Augustine [4] Bruce Hines [5] Sunny Pereira [6] Pete Griffiths [7] Geoff Levin [8] Patty Moher [9] Marc Headley [10] Jefferson Hawkins [11] Michelle ‘Emma’ Ryan [12] Paulette Cooper [13] Jesse Prince [14] Mark Bunker [15] Jon Atack [16] Mirriam Francis [17] Bruce Hines on MSH

— SPECIAL: The best TV show on Scientology you never got to see

[1] Phil Jones [2] Derek Bloch [3] Carol Nyburg [4] Katrina Reyes [5] Jamie DeWolf

— The first Danny Masterson trial and beyond

[18] Trial special with Chris Shelton [19] Trial week one [20] Marc Headley on the spy in the hallway [21] Trial week two [22] Trial week three [23] Trial week four [24] Leah Remini on LAPD Corruption [25] Mike Rinder 2022 Thanksgiving Special [26] Jane Doe 4 (Tricia Vessey), Part One [27] Jane Doe 4 (Tricia Vessey), Part Two [28] Claire Headley on the trial [29] Tory Christman [30] Bruce Hines on spying [31] Karen de la Carriere [32] Ron Miscavige on Shelly Miscavige [33] Karen de la Carriere on the L’s [34] Mark Bunker on Miscavige hiding [35] Mark Plummer [36] Mark Ebner [37] Karen Pressley [38] Steve Cannane [39] Fredrick Brennan [40] Clarissa Adams [41] Louise Shekter [42] John Sweeney


Source Code

“I call to your attention something that every motorist has noted and no motorist had quite understood: that when he failed to drive his car it went to pieces. Have you ever noticed that? You park it in the garage the battery goes down, the tires go flat. Maybe it was up on blocks, maybe the battery was taken over to the service station and put on continuous charge and all of this was done. That’s some small prevention of the situation. But then three months later you put the battery back in, you take it down off the blocks and oil smoke goes out the rear end, won’t steer. That’s an oddity. The only reason it stayed there at all is because Earth is going around and it was being changed in space, at least to some degree. If it were not being changed in space at all, it would not be there; it would cease to persist. Now this is a great oddity. I don’t call upon your superstition in this regard, I merely call upon you to observe in its crude form something else.” — L. Ron Hubbard, June 4, 1955



Avast, Ye Mateys

“Did you see in the news where Nelson (Smersh) Rockefeller was asked NOT to visit Venezuela? One smart country. Nelson’s National Health Foundation money finances Smersh. He also runs Stockades in NY where youth who MIGHT become delinquent are sent. (They really are called stockades). His oil companies also exploit Venezuela and drain off her natural resources. He’s touring Latin America with 26 top advisors (psychiatrists) at Nixon’s request to ‘find out what they want”. He stopped a whole 8 hours in one country. He has now found they don’t want Rockefeller. We have a personal note to one Central American Country’s No. 2 man. The area is too hot politically just now. We avoid such areas as political heat brings in the KGB of Russia, CIA of US and the British Intelligence and they file false reports with each other. Makes anyone in the area subject to hammering.” — The Commodore, June 4, 1969


Overheard in the FreeZone

“I have the impression that the Church of Scientology auditing skills are way inferior to the Freezone ones. Church of Scientology Scientologists act like weird brainwashed zombies in my opinion. I’ve noticed that a lot of Church of Scientology zombies are theetie wheeties.”


Past is Prologue

2001: Keith Henson was released from a Canadian jail this week. He had been arrested for allegedly entering Canada without disclosing a conviction in California for interfering with a religion, Scientology. Now Magazine published an article on Keith prior to his release. “It’s an unshaven and frazzled-looking Keith Henson who shuffles into the converted jail cell used as a hearing room Thursday morning at the Metro West Detention Centre. He’s in broad-rims, jail-issue orange jumpsuit and blue canvas runners that he’s wearing like flip-flops because they’re too small for his feet. A flap of grey hair is swooshed over a bald spot on the top of his head. He looks like he should be out in a backyard somewhere pruning roses, but it turns out that Henson is on the lam, wanted for failing to show for a sentencing hearing in his native California back on May 16. He was convicted on a charge of ‘making threats to interfere with freedom to enjoy a constitutional privilege’ i.e., the right of Scientologists to practise their religion. A misdemeanour. The foot-high stack of documents sitting in a file in front of Irene Dicaire, the senior lawyer with Immigration who will be making the case against Henson’s release, doesn’t paint a flattering portrait of the activist. ‘There’s a certain psychological profile that emerges,’ Dicaire says. ‘As far as we understand, Mr. Henson is an explosives expert who has threatened to target sites involving the Church of Scientology. ‘It’s not known at this time,’ Dicaire adds ominously, ‘if this may involve any Canadian targets.’ There may be information coming on that later, but the cop at 52 Division with the supposedly incriminating evidence is on vacation and won’t be back until Monday. It’s all sounding a little fishy to Henson’s lawyer, Joel Sandaluk. If the threat were serious enough, presumably, the police would have acted on it by now. His client hasn’t been charged with anything, yet now Dicaire is asking the adjudicator to detain Henson on evidence that hasn’t been presented and is not properly before the board. ‘This is all very vaporous,’ says Sandaluk. He’s trying his best not to sound too dismissive about the ‘bomb threats’ – musings on the Internet about the ease with which an ICBM could be aimed at Scientology – that Henson’s alleged to have made. ‘This alleged threat is so completely grandiose as to require a complete suspension of disbelief,’ Sandaluk says. He makes a persuasive argument. But it’s an open-and-shut case. Henson is wanted in the U.S. And while even the adjudicator in this case agrees he may not be a threat to the public, she rules that Henson poses a flight risk. Release denied.”


Random Howdy

“They do what’s called in Scientology ‘off-loading’ which is when some elderly staff member can no longer perform on the most basic level they throw their meager belongings into a garbage bag and drive them what they consider to be a safe distance from the org and they stop and open the door and tell them to get out. And I’m not joking.”



Full Court Press: What we’re watching at the Underground Bunker

Criminal prosecutions:
Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Found guilty on two counts on May 31, remanded to custody.
‘Lafayette Ronald Hubbard’ (a/k/a Justin Craig), aggravated assault, plus drug charges: Grand jury indictments include charges from an assault while in custody. Trial scheduled for August 15.
Rizza Islam, Medi-Cal fraud: Trial scheduled for June 26 in Los Angeles
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud.

Civil litigation:
Baxter, Baxter, and Paris v. Scientology, alleging labor trafficking: Forced to arbitration. Plaintiffs asking permission for interlocutory appeal.
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: Appellate court removes requirement of arbitration on January 19, case remanded back to Superior Court. Stay in place at least through June 28.
Author Steve Cannane defamation trial: New trial ordered after appeals court overturned prior ruling.
Chiropractors Steve Peyroux and Brent Detelich, stem cell fraud: Lawsuit filed by the FTC and state of Georgia in August, now in discovery phase.



After the success of their double-Emmy-winning, three-season A&E series ‘Scientology and the Aftermath,’ Leah Remini and Mike Rinder continue the conversation on their podcast, ‘Scientology: Fair Game.’ We’ve created a landing page where you can hear all of the episodes so far.


An episode-by-episode guide to Leah Remini’s three-season, double-Emmy winning series that changed everything for Scientology watching. Originally aired from 2016 to 2019 on the A&E network, and now on Netflix.


Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Other links: SCIENTOLOGY BLACK OPS: Tom Cruise and dirty tricks. Scientology’s Ideal Orgs, from one end of the planet to the other. Scientology’s sneaky front groups, spreading the good news about L. Ron Hubbard while pretending to benefit society. Scientology Lit: Books reviewed or excerpted in a weekly series. How many have you read?


[ONE year ago] The Insider speaks: Scientology’s recent crises, now in a podcast with Chris Shelton
[TWO years ago] Scientology veterans fend off attack in vicious new Clone Wars offensive
[THREE years ago] Which of the Masterson brothers profited from their Scientology stepdad’s Ponzi scheme?
[FOUR years ago] Why is the YMCA helping spread Scientology to kids?
[FIVE years ago] Why don’t Scientologists go to authorities about the abuses they have seen or experienced?
[SIX years ago] Around the globe, Scientology relies on guys like this to promote L. Ron Hubbard to your kids
[SEVEN years ago] That time Muhammad Ali got blindsided by the Church of Scientology
[EIGHT years ago] Scientology’s plan to take over the planet: All Ideal Orgs ‘Saint Hill size’ by 2016!
[NINE years ago] OY VEY: Scientology invokes Jewish Law to answer lawsuit by attorney Vance Woodward
[TEN years ago] Claire Headley Helps Us Get Back in the Good Graces of Scientology


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley (1952-2019) did not see his daughter Stephanie in his final 5,667 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 3,050 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 3,555 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 3,105 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 2,095 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,986 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 5,290 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 3,161 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 2,266 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,713 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 4,055 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,621 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 8,540 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,707 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 4,289 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 4,550 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,586 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 3,302 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,866 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 1,181 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 2,356 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,907 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 4,038 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 4,376 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 9,231 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 4,350 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,706 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 7,009 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 3,115 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 3,513 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 3,389 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,972 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 3,467 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,721 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,830 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on June 4, 2023 at 07:00

E-mail tips to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We also post 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 new book with Paulette Cooper, Battlefield Scientology: Exposing L. Ron Hubbard’s dangerous ‘religion’ is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. Our book about Paulette, 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, 1995-2022 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2022), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Other links: BLOGGING DIANETICS: Reading Scientology’s founding text cover to cover | 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 | Shelly Miscavige, 15 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

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates, or join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

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 | Battling Babe-Hounds: Ross Jeffries v. R. Don Steele


Tony Ortega at The Daily Beast


Tony Ortega at Rolling Stone


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