Scientology: The Ex Files
Sunday December 2 at 10 pm ET & Saturday December 8 at 10 pm ET on CBC News Network
Behind Scientology's high celebrity profile lies an organization on its knees. In this powerful documentary and jaw-dropping investigation, a band of former elite members emerge from the secretive religion to allege extreme cruelty, slave labour and financial greed.
"It may have a philosophy that's religious, but it's strictly business", says former scientologist Joe Reaiche. Joining at the age of 19, Joe advanced quickly through the mysterious levels of learning at the heart of Scientology. At each level he was asked for a fee, which would eventually amount to approximately $235,000. When Joe voiced his doubts about the church, he was expelled, and all communication with his wife and children cut off.
"Only a mad man says he isn't mad", grins L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the church of Scientology, in some rare archive footage. At the time, Hubbard was in trouble with authorities all over the world, and he had fled to the high seas with his band of devoted followers. According to Hana, an early member of the Church, conditions on-board were "abominable", and punishments for breaking the church's strict rules were extreme: "people were thrown overboard - hands and feet bound and blindfolded".
Hubbard's culture of unwavering obedience and extreme discipline survived his own passing in 1986. Joe describes how a "religious retreat", he was sent to for sloppy work, was nothing less than a "slave camp". "Members who are failing or incapable of performing well can be given the voluntary opportunity for a period of reflection, rehabilitation, redemption", defends Tommy Davis. Of Joe's separation from his family, Tommy is less glib: "any church has a right to not welcome in its ranks those who mean the church harm."
There's a growing number of ex-members who the church now views in this suspicious manner, many of whom claim to be dogged by private investigators. "My lawsuit covers human trafficking, labour law violations and forced abortions", says Claire. She joined the church's 'Sea Org' at just 16 years old, earning $22 a week and sleeping in a chair. When she fell pregnant with her husband Mark, the church told her: "'They're going to ask you 'do you want an abortion. You're to say yes'". Claire is one of forty women who've made this allegation, which the church vehemently denies.