Scientology's Scourge, Paulette Cooper, Visits with the Voice

PauletteNoho.jpg
Paulette Cooper, still keeping tabs on Scientology
Our regular readers can probably imagine why we were pretty thrilled this morning to finally meet the original badass of Scientology watchers, none other than Paulette Cooper.

She was in town to visit her sister and found time to have breakfast with us this morning at the Noho Star, not far from the Voice offices. Speaking of her sister, Suzy, Paulette says that the two of them are still trying to piece together exactly what happened when, as young children, they were rescued from a Nazi camp in Belgium, sparing them the fate of their parents, who were shipped to Auschwitz for extermination. A Belgian man rescued the girls by paying the equivalent of what today would be about $2 million to save 22 children from the camp, and to this day Paulette would like to learn his identity.

She went on, of course, to move to New York, became a magazine journalist, and published several books, including 1971's The Scandal of Scientology, the first journalistic expose of the church. She paid for that with years of incredible harassment by Scientology, which tried to frame her for crimes that had her facing 15 years in prison.

Which makes us wonder: Why the hell hasn't a movie been made about this woman's life?

In fact, she told me, she has been approached about TV shows and feature films about her experiences. A television series tells her it plans to do something about her "next year" (she's not holding her breath), and she herself passed on a movie contract (and now regrets it) because the contract's language about her "life rights" seemed fairly draconian.

Well, we figure the market for her story on the big screen will be opening up, what with the popularity of Janet Reitman's book Inside Scientology, another book from Lawrence Wright coming, and the release next year of Paul Thomas Anderson's movie The Master (yes, yes, we know the studio claims the Philip Seymour Hoffman character -- a WW2 vet who comes home damaged and then starts a 1950s faddish religion -- is not based on L. Ron Hubbard, but give us a break, we're not stupid).

PauletteAndTony2.jpg
Yeah, I was pretty rapt with attention
And there's plenty for a good screen adaptation of Paulette's life. She told us a story this morning we hadn't heard before: at one point, she says, she and her sister were hustled with the rest of the children into a line at the camp where they were staying. Nazi guards went down the line of kids, yelling out "left" or "right" at each of them to separate them into two halves. Then one group was taken away to the extermination camps. Paulette and her sister, she says, somehow both ended up in the group that was spared.

Fast forward some twenty years, and a Scientology spy who called himself Jerry Levin, after the publication of Paulette's expose of the church, worked his way into Paulette's confidence. She ended up trusting him so much, she allowed him to move into her apartment as a platonic friend. But the FBI later concluded that "Levin" masterminded the operation that lifted a piece of her stationery, got her fingerprint on it, and then wrote bomb threats to the local Scientology "org" on her stationery, managing to get Paulette indicted and facing 15 years in prison. Levin also continually tried to get her up to a narrow ledge on the roof of her building, next to a pool. She became convinced that he was trying to create the conditions for an "accident" that would kill her. But she was too paranoid to go near the ledge. Finally, Paulette was only exonerated when the FBI raided Scientology in 1977 because the church was engaged in what to this day is the most extensive infiltration of federal offices in American history. Only then were documents discovered showing that Scientology's spy wing had dreamed up elaborate plans to frame Paulette. To this day, meanwhile, Paulette is searching for the real identity of "Jerry Levin" and two women who were part of his plot to frame her with the bomb threats.

Seems like some kickass film material if you ask us.

We recently marked the 40th anniversary of the publication of Paulette's book, and it was heartening to hear that after all this time -- and the harassment, which included 19 lawsuits, which weren't concluded until 1983 -- she still pays close attention to Scientology news.

She and I compared notes about the various figures who watch Scientology, including prominent ex-church members. And she pointed out something I hadn't really considered before -- how difficult it is for ex-members to come out of Scientology and then struggle to get jobs with what might be years of service to the church in their backgrounds. How do you make that look good on a resume, she asked me?

I told her that I'd seen something of that when, for example, I'd interviewed Tory Christman (then Tory Bezazian) just a few months after her defection. It was obvious that leaving Scientology after many years was a devastating experience in itself, and it can take years for a person to recover -- as Nancy Many records so well in her self-published memoir. But except for Marc Headley, a former member who almost immediately had business success after leaving the church, I hadn't really asked ex-members to talk about what it was like to get back on their feet. As Headley and others have said to me, they are warned by Scientology officials that they would be completely unequipped to survive if they break away, having spent much of their adult lives with no real job, no bank account, and, in many cases, after cutting off all ties with all non-Scientologist friends and family.

In the comments, I'd love to hear your tale. After leaving Scientology, how hard were those initial years, and how did you get back on your feet? Who knows, someone considering leaving may see your story.

Well, it was amazing finally to meet Paulette Cooper. She was as entertaining and gracious and poised as I'd come to expect. She's a legend in the field of Scientology watching, and it's good to know that she's watching us here -- so give her a shout-out!

PS: There's still one more day to vote for Scientology Story of the Year, so get over there and cast your ballot!


Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he's been writing about Scientology at several publications.

tortega@villagevoice.com | @VoiceTonyO | Facebook: Tony Ortega

Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin' Scared


SCIENTOLOGY IN THE VILLAGE VOICE

[All recent stories] | [Top 25 People Crippling Scientology] | [Commenters of the Week] [Thursday 2pm Stats!] | [Scientology vs. South Park] | [This Week Aboard the Apollo]
[Sunday Funnies]

FEATURED INVESTIGATIONS

[Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis secretly recorded discussing "disconnection"]
[Benjamin Ring, LA deputy sheriff, wants you to spend your 401K on Scientology]
[Scientologists: How many of them are there, anyway?]
[Scientology hates clean ice: The "Fair Game" operation that should turn your stomach]
[Scientology hates clean ice, part 2: Another target, and the web as weapon]
[Paulette Cooper, Scientology's original and worst nightmare: a Thanksgiving tribute]

THE TOP 25 PEOPLE CRIPPLING SCIENTOLOGY

1. L. Ron Hubbard | 2. David Miscavige | 3. Marty Rathbun | 4. Tom Cruise | 5. Joe Childs and Tom Tobin | 6. Anonymous | 7. Mark Bunker | 8. Mike Rinder | 9. Jason Beghe | 10. Lisa McPherson | 11. Nick Xenophon | 12. Tommy Davis | 13. Janet Reitman | 14. Tory Christman | 15. Andreas Heldal-Lund | 16. Marc and Claire Headley | 17. Jefferson Hawkins | 18. Amy Scobee | 19. The Squirrel Busters | 20. Trey Parker and Matt Stone | 21. Kendrick Moxon | 22. Jamie DeWolf | 23. Ken Dandar | 24. Dave Touretzky | 25. Xenu

HELD ABOARD THE FREEWINDS: TALES OF THE SEA ORG

[Valeska Paris, held against her will from 1996 to 2007 on Scientology's cruise ship]
[Ramana Dienes-Browning, marriage at 16, sexual interrogation, life in the engine room]
[Melissa Paris, Valeska's sister: forced to marry at 16]

SCIENTOLOGY VS. SOUTH PARK: INVESTIGATION AS RETALIATION

[Scientology targeted South Park's Parker and Stone in an investigation]
[More documents in the South Park probe: instructions to send in a young mole]
[Scientology responds in typical fashion] | [Lloyd Kaufman confirms the probe]
[Mark Ebner also investigated after South Park involvement]
[Mark Chauppetta, private eye, explains what Scientology operatives look for]

MARTY RATHBUN AND THE SIEGE OF SOUTH TEXAS

[Scientology has Rathbun arrested] | [Rathbun and Mark Bunker reveal surprising ties]
In Germany with Ursula Caberta: [Announcing plans] | [Press conference] | [Making news about Tom Cruise, Bill Clinton, and Tony Blair] | [Post-trip interview]
The Squirrel Busters: [Goons with cameras on their heads] | [Rathbun's open letter to neighbors] | [Ingleside on the Bay, Texas rallies to Rathbun's cause] | [Squirrel Buster's claim to be making a "documentary"] | [VIDEO: "On a Boat"] | ["Anna" sent to creep out Monique Rathbun] | [Squirrel Busters go hillbilly] | [A videographer blows the whistle on the goon squad] | [Ed Bryan, OT VIII, shows the power of Scientology's highest levels]

SCIENTOLOGY SPYING AND "FAIR GAME"

[Secret Scientology documents spell out spying operation against Marc Headley]
[Scientology's West U.S. spies list revealed] | [Scientology's enemies list: Are you on it?]
Spy operation against Washington Post writer Richard Leiby: [Part 1] | [Part 2]
[A Scientology spy comes clean: Paulien Lombard's remarkable public confession]
[Scientology advertises for writers in Freedom magazine]
[Accidental leak shows Scientology spy wing plans to "handle" the Voice]
[Lori Hodgson and Disconnection: "No one's going to take my eternity away"]

SCIENTOLOGY AND CELEBRITIES

[Hey, Scientology Celebrity, Here's Your Media Training Checksheet!]
[Tom Cruise and X Factor's Stacy Francis singing together on the Freewinds]
[X Factor's Stacy Francis: Her first husband, Michael Sandlofer, answers abuse claims]
[Tom Cruise and Baby Suri embarrassed by news item, so someone must pay]
["Tom Cruise told me to talk to a bottle"] | [Tom Cruise likes coconut cake] | [Tom Cruise has a sense of humor] | ["Tom Cruise not a kook!"] | [Paulette Cooper on Tom Cruise]
[Paul Haggis, director of Crash, issues an ultimatum, leaves the church]
[Character actor Jason Beghe defects noisily] | [Actor Michael Fairman reveals his "suppressive person" declaration] | [Michael Fairman talks to the Voice]
[Giovanni Ribisi as David Koresh: Scientology-Branch Davidian link makes sense]
[Russell Brand weds ex-Scientologists in wild ceremony] | [Skip Press on Haggis]
[Placido Domingo Jr.: Scientology's retaliation is "scary and pathetic"]
Grant Cardone, NatGeo's "Turnaround King": [Doing Scientology's dirty work?] | [Milton Katselas complained about Cardone's smear job] | [Cardone runs to Huffpo]
[Philip Boyd, Saving Grace actor, rips "the business that is Scientology"]

JANET REITMAN'S INSIDE SCIENTOLOGY

[Our review of Inside Scientology] | [An interview with Janet Reitman] | [A report from Reitman's first book tour appearance] | [At the Half-King: Reitman not afraid]
[Scientology doesn't like Inside Scientology] | [Q&A at Washington Post]
[A roundup of Reitman's print reviews, and why isn't she on television more?]

HUGH URBAN'S THE CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY

[A review of Urban's scholarly history of the church] | [An interview with Hugh Urban]

EX-SCIENTOLOGISTS SPEAK OUT

["The Money Machine": another blockbuster St. Pete Times investigation]
[Marc Headley: "Tom Cruise told me to talk to a bottle"] | [The Nancy Many interview]
[Sympathy for the Devil: Tory Christman's Story] | [Jeff Hawkins' Counterfeit Dreams]
[86 Million Thin Dimes: The Lawrence Wollersheim Saga] | [Mike Rinder on spying]

OVERSEAS NEWS

[Scientology in Israel: Arson, attempted murder, paranoia -- and a visit by the Voice!]
[Scientology dodges a bullet in Australia] | [Scientology exec Jan Eastgate arrested]
[All hell breaks loose in Israel] | [Scientology sees fundraising gold in the UK riots]
[Aussie former rugby pro Chris Guider calls David Miscavige "toxic" and "violent"]
[Stephen Cox, UK church newbie, pledges 20K pounds] | [Biggi Reichert: A German Lisa McPherson?] | [The Birmingham trove: 7,000 internal e-mails]
[Australian farmer blamed for giving Tom Cruise a bad shrimp, loses her friends, family]

ODD VIDEOS AND ODDER NEWS

[Scientology chillin' with hip hop!] | [The curious career of Scientology rapper Chill EB]
[Chill EB and me: the Voice interviews Scientology's in-house rapper]
[Scientology singalong, "We Stand Tall"] | [Captain Bill Robertson and "Galactic Patrol"]
[Scientology wins a major award!] | [Scientology wants your money: Meet Dede!]
[Birmingham in the House! The "Ideal" dance mix] | [Scientology and the Nation of Islam]
[When Scientology was hip] | [Sad: David Miscavige makes fun of his own fundraisers]
[Freedom magazine parodies The New Yorker. Hilarity ensues.]
[Scientology surf report: Anonymous parties outside the New York "org"]

THE VIEW INSIDE THE BUBBLE

[A scientologist's letter to the Voice and its readers] | [Scientology silent birth]
[Tad Reeves: Scientology might listen to this guy] | [More Tad Reeves and family]
[Scientology never forgets: A heartwarming telemarketing holiday miracle]
[Desperate Scientology fundraising caught on video]

My Voice Nation Help
80 comments
Heather Grace
Heather Grace

Just spotted this. Paulette, you're looking mighty fine and it's wonderful to see you able to talk about this part of your life story. You're a living treasure.

Anon!
Anon!

Paulette, thank you for your courage and tenacity in the face of scoundrels ($cn) whose agenda is scandalous at the very least.

Tony, for your compassionate, open minded handling of Scientology, I have the deepest respect and gratitude.

I have begun to learn in the last couple of years what it is to live with the possibility of "fair game" as I have friends and acquaintances who are ex-SO. I find it mind boggling that, in the U.S. it is entirely possible for this kind of domestic terrorism to occur.

For those who have left, you will have an eternal place in my prayers. To those on the fence or investigating $cn as a personal religious choice, LOOK at what you are being told with the eyes of a small child who asks "WHY?" and expects an answer that satisfies their curiosity.

JustCallMeMary
JustCallMeMary

This is one of the best articles of the year.  Praying that Paulette's story gets made into a movie and that she and her sister are able to find information on the identity of that courageous and generous Belgian angel.

Chuck Beatty
Chuck Beatty like.author.displayName 1 Like

I left the Sea Org after almost 7 years on the RPF, "routed out", submitted to that, and since I played the game, I got my 500 bucks, got help getting a job, assistance finding a place to live, and worked for an ex Gold staffer who runs a business in Burbank.

Saved up my money for a year, and moved out of Dodge (LA) to where my sister lived, and moved in with her for 3 years.

I chose jobs working for owners who would understand the truth about how screwy Scientology was.

I worked for the Sierra Club, door to door subscription/fund-raising, did well enough to try working door to door selling newspaper subscriptions for my city's largest liberal (my choice) newspaper, in Pittsburgh.   Also, since I knew I'd be speaking out, I wanted to work for an employer that could see through the BS that Scientology would inevitably throw my way when I went public, which I did, in 2004-2006.

I think working for the media, even if in a low job, if one is planning to be a whistle-blower, is a good choice, since it gives you networking options, since media like stories like Scientology's abuse history.   Media sort of cover your back.   That was my thinking for the years I worked for the newspaper, selling subscriptions, making 25 Gs first year, 30 Gs second year, 35 Gs third year.

Then it got stressful and Jeff Hawkins mentioned on the XSO chat site that he liked the "What Color Is Your Parachute" book, and the best point in that book, is find a job you love, and go apply for it, and that's what I did.

I love talking to random people all day, and walking.   So I became a "meter reader" for the Gas company, where I get to walk and see lots of people, a complete cross section, and have a few moments to chat thousands of times with new people monthly. 

I think Jeff's advice to use the "Parachute" book is a good one, since that book's advice seems pretty good. 

I took my Scientology Sea Org career seriously, thought it would be a lifetime job, but the brain drain, the lack of making "super" people, the never ending loss of staff and parishioners quitting, the truth just catches up and you see the movement is NOT achieving what it promises and it's instead a control setup.

Everyday OUT of the Sea Org is like a vacation compared to the smothering controlling of the Sea Org. 

Tony, I've got a list of people around the US who offer jobs to ex staff and ex Sea Org who need jobs and need to restart.  

When people call who are totally desperate, I tell them there is absolutely no shame in going on welfare.  I tell them to realize that they were "religious workers" in most cases working sub-poverty wages, and welfare agencies accept this!

But people who were generally savvy enough to put up with the slave working conditions in the Sea Org and staff, generally are savvy enough and workaholics to do any job and get on in life.

Also, finally, there's the cartoon, showing a guy getting an interview for a job, having been asked "Are you a team player?"     The guy's answer:   "Team player?!   I was in a cult!"   

Chuck Beatty412-260-1170Pittsburgh

Guest
Guest like.author.displayName 1 Like

Paulette's story is one of endurance through the worst of it.  We have been e-mailing for years, since mutual acquaintances got us in touch, and it is good that she is telling her story.For too long, she did not publicize it but perhaps the time is right for the full story to be told.  

In this work, I have found that timing and the willingness of people to listen and learn is the essence of good information getting out.  And now perhaps Paulette's time.

Kathy McBride
Kathy McBride like.author.displayName 1 Like

The world is a much better place because of Paulette Cooper and there is nothing that Scientology can do to extinguish that fact.

Mat Pesch
Mat Pesch like.author.displayName 1 Like

I have a story that readers might enjoy.  My wife (Amy Scobee) and I left the Sea Org after almost 30 years.  After getting our feet on the ground a bit, we found a place we wanted to rent.We filled out the application form and paid for the financial back ground checks to be done.

I went back to the rental management office a couple days later and sat down in front of the woman who reviewed our application.  I could tell that something was wrong as she had a concerned look on her face.  She explained that the financial background check did not find anything bad.  The problem was that it didn't find anything at all for both Amy and I.  She said"You two don't exist."

I looked at her and asked "Have you ever heard of the Witness Protection Program?"

She brightened right up and said "I knew it!  My husband said that it was either drugs or the Witness Protection Program and you didn't look like drug users."

Amy and I moved in the next day.....

Tye Solaris
Tye Solaris like.author.displayName 1 Like

Thank you Paulette.Thank you Tony.

I wish I had even known about your book Paulette... in the mid 80''s it may well diverted me from the enormous financial losses and a decade of my life.

Your life became a "nightmare" because Scientology IS a nightmare.

Thank you to all who come here to tell their 'truths' and 'histories'.

Soupy
Soupy

Paulette Cooper is still disliked by Scientologists inside and outside organized Scientology. Marty Rathbun still won't admit that L. Ron Hubbard was behind her being attacked, and her life almost destroyed. There are still Scientologists, inside and outside organized Scientology, who think Paulette Cooper is an "SP," who got what she deserved, or "pulled it in," etc., but of course, "LRH didn't know anything about it," etc. The sickness continues.

California
California

Soupy has made a good point. This ambivalence by individuals leaving/thrown out of  any "High Demand Group" is not unique to Scientology but it seems to be more intense for Scientologists who leave/thrown out, than for almost all other groups.

The Scientology ex'es are all over the place:  Tech/LRH are good but DM is bad; auditing works but nothing else in Scientology does; Dianetics works but nothing else does; Scientology is a criminal endeavor and anybody near it is harmed by it; low-level people are fine but the executives and other higher staff are not; Free-Zoners, New Scientologists, Independent Scientologists, etc., are the way to go; it is a hateful ideology and we are much better for leaving. And some people go through most of the above processes for years after leaving/being thrown out.

What Marty and Mike are doing is common .... they are just more high profile than most.

mirele
mirele like.author.displayName 1 Like

This. The unanswered questions from the death of Lisa McPherson and the story of the decades-long harassment of Paulette Cooper deserve answers from those two high-level defectors Rinder and Rathbun.

Peter McMahon
Peter McMahon like.author.displayName 1 Like

Tony, when my wife and I left the Sea Org in 1982 I didn't know I was leaving yet. 

My wife had been transferred in early '82 to Author Services in L.A. and worked for Miscavige. I was still at Flag and was told that if I wanted to transfer to L.A. to be with my wife I would have to find and recruit a replacement, train him or her on my work in marketing and magazines and then I could maybe transfer.  After about 8 months of this long distance relationship with no success on getting a replacement, my parents paid for us both to fly to Washington D.C. to attend my sisters wedding. I got there first (short flight from Tampa) and when my wife arrived she was carrying every possession she could carry. She hated working for Miscavige and she had seen things that showed her how corrupt Scientology management had become. When she told me she wasn't going back I had to think about it. I couldn't "blow" and betray the group.... but then again they had transferred my wife without telling me and without helping me transfer.  In fact they didn't tell her either. She was told she was going to L.A. for training. Then once she was there, ASI drafted her. She had no choice in it.We found work right away through a temp agency and were already earning money when the mission to recover us showed up at my parents door. They were surprised to find out we had hit the ground running.  We did fly back to L.A. with the mission because I was still a true believer and wanted to "route out" the right way.  That was an ordeal in its own right but a month later we were back in NY and we both found full-time jobs.

One of the difficult things for me was writing up my resumé.  All of my graphic design work was done for Scientology magazines and marketing.  I decided I wasn't going to use Scientology in the resumé.  Instead of saying that I worked on Advance Magazine in Scientology I wrote that I designed and layed out magazines for Advance Publications -- not realizing that there was a huge company out there with that name (this was pre-internet).

I built a portfolio with layouts from my Scientology work that didn't look too cultish. And I got work. Eventually working for some great companies in NYC. 

One thing that helped was having a high tolerance for insanely long days and heavy workloads. After working 18 hour days on a regular basis in the Sea Org, I was unfazed by  "overtime".

Paulette's book was the first of two books I found in a library after being out. Robert Kaufman's book was the other one. We had been warned so many times about not reading anything negative or entheta about Scientology ... these books helped me get some perspective. 

Peter McMahon

TonyOrtega
TonyOrtega

Thank you, Peter for that detailed response. Quite a story.

TonyOrtega
TonyOrtega

Mark Miglio, Scientologist, speaks:

We build character. We enhance skills and abilities, These are things of value for any employer.  They should have learned quite a few helpful things while in the Sea O. or as a Scientologist, even though they missed out on the best parts that the rest of us have experienced. These losers are now writing memoirs, but what would they be writing about if it wasn't for us. We gave them a life.

Myriam Breitman
Myriam Breitman like.author.displayName 1 Like

It's like saying that Holocaust survivors who write memoirs about their experiences during the war should be thankful to the nazis for putting them in concentration camps.

JustCallMeMary
JustCallMeMary like.author.displayName 1 Like

Words from the real loser, someone who never made it on the EPF of  the Sea Org , who never worked on staff either. Who cannot even participate in any of the auditing other scientologists get because he was a "psych case", an illegal PC, who propitiates by volunteering to post baloney like that for 'amends', believing one day he can join the ranks of the typical scientologist.  He does not even qualify to say  " We"

Stat
Stat

If numerous "Clears" and "OT's" (including OT VIII's), left disaffected over the years,turned to Buddhism or what have you....

If numerous dedicated staffers (including RTC top execs) blew and wrote books or poston line about their negative experiences....

If you are still a Scientologist and reading this....

Don't you have questions? Ask. Please.No one can take your freedom from you.

Only you can do that and it's still a hard work

Peace.

Stat
Stat like.author.displayName 1 Like

Thank you Tony, Paulette and all the wonderful people who commented so far!

If Tom Cruise or John Travolta ever leave the cult, they should spend the rest of their livesproviding Paulette with a monthly donation check for what she had to go through just for speaking her mind, in order to help them and others to leave the cult.

Tony, what you are doing is a public service and perhaps the most important social activityyou will ever do. Please, don't give up, no matter what. Thank you!

I could have a successful career as a police officer.I could have a questionable career as a rock musician.Instead, I choose a career as a Scientology Auditor.

I really thought making Clears and saving a planet is a lot more important.

I was wrong.

There are no Clears, OT's and Scientology will never clear this planet.It's all a big lie. (Anyone, prove me wrong, please.)

And it is not just a funny, innocent prank, kind of lie.

It's a vicious con, the mother of them all - Scientology.

Bad News: Scientology will never go away.

Good News: It will become an official academic subject:"Scientology and other cults".  I hope they will teach it in schools too.

Love to all!

Banchukita
Banchukita

Paulette has been my hero since I first read "Scandal of Scientology" in 1978.  THANK YOU Paulette!

Natalie
Natalie like.author.displayName 1 Like

Tony,

For me the hardest part about leaving Scientology two years ago was leaving certain friends behind. When I left, the Church of Scientology did their typical disconnection tour, contacting friends and family through facebook, or in person.  Some went along with it but some didn't.  Some have since reconnected because they realized that I'm not the evil "suppressive person" that the church makes me out to be.

What hurt the most was seeing my 11 year old son in tears because his two best friends could no longer play with him.  Apparently three boys getting together and playing Xbox was a threat to the eternal freedom of their parents.  The thing is, he got over it.  He made new friends who aren't under the control of an organization that dictates who they can and can't play with.

For a group that screams about religious bigotry and intolerance, they sure do foster an atmosphere of intolerance and division.  

My livelihood was not tied into any Scientology enterprise, unlike many who live in L.A. or Florida.  This made my transition out much easier than many.  At the worst I had to find a new dentist and a new chiropractor.

I always had a life outside of the church, so friends were not in short supply when I lost my friends in the church.  Not surprisingly I made way more friends after leaving Scientology.  When you are in the church, there is so much control exerted over how you spend your time, your money and who you spend it with.  

I love that I can get sick and not have to report myself to ethics, or lament over WHY I'm sick.  I simply get some rest, see a doctor if I need to and get better.  I love that I can be who I am warts and all and not have to hear, "Your behavior is unbecoming of an OT".  I love that I'm free to read, discuss, or learn anything I desire.

The most important lesson I have learned since leaving Scientology is that the only power or influence the Church of Scientology has over you, is what you grant them.  Leaving is easy, it's staying that is hard and takes effort.

Stat
Stat

Thank you for sharing, Natalie! Same happened to my son, except he was 16. He still is sad about it at times, but some of his old friends are starting to commit grave sins by secretly talking with him and yes, playing Xbox/PlayStation again. Common sense and fun are hard things to "handle". Love.

skippress
skippress

Paulette, your story sounds perfect for Lifetime Movie Network. I wonder if anyone every approached you for that? I might know someone...

Barbara Snow
Barbara Snow like.author.displayName 1 Like

Oh no... not Lifetime!   Better than that. 

mjm
mjm

HBO perhaps?

skippress
skippress

On the contrary, it makes the most sense, Hollywood-wise. It would have better ratings than "Amish Grace" of 2010 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A... - which was the highest-rated ever for that network. It is also somewhat similar in theme. With "The Master" coming out, no one will be that keen on doing another feature. Since Paulette's story is "period" when it takes place and is a "woman in jeopardy" in format, the logical place for it would be a network movie, or LMT. If it were on the latter, it would be the highest-rated in that network's history.

skippress
skippress like.author.displayName 1 Like

When I left Celebrity Centre staff in 1977, I almost immediately got on a game show (Knockout on NBC) and won enough money to pay off my entire "freeloader debt" - Hubbard's cynical way of sucking the blood out of people who left staff, making them pay for courses and auditing they received while working in the Sea Org 70 to 80 hours a week with minimal pay and lousy room and board. I learned word processing and worked for law firms for a while before the game show, and after winning on the game show took off a year and started my writing career, selling a script to a national radio show and starting a magazine. I made a living doing what I'm still doing now, which freaked out my friends who were still on staff. When the "Snow White" jailbirds got out of prison, I taught some of them word processing so they could make a living. I still did not at that time know the true extent of evil of $cientology, such was the level of Hubbard's deception. The interesting thing is that I've seen many other creatives do well after leaving (like the extremely talented Mark Headley). It's like, if $cientology doesn't kill you, you can survive anything.

Stat
Stat like.author.displayName 1 Like

"It's like, if $cientology doesn't kill you, you can survive anything."

So true, Skip. Thank you.

Tye Solaris
Tye Solaris

The number of Scientology induced suicides must be horrific!

Kimberly580
Kimberly580 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Paulette is such an inspiration! I definitely think a film about her life as well as her amazing & sometimes traumatic life experiences would be great! I hope we see this happen!

parvent
parvent

I knew a woman who was on staff at the Guardians Office then later had the opportunity to go public if she would work as a nude dancer in Hollywood.  She did.She got audited by the IRS. But Roland Fink was right there to help her.

Deanblair06
Deanblair06

Thanks for the article.  Paulette looks beautiful.  She has led an extraordinary life.  I would love to watch a movie about Paulette's life including the covert operations by the C of $.  It would be of interest to many people.  Not only ex-Scientologists.  That she and her sister were saved from the extermination camps is similar to Shindler's List.

Xenu
Xenu

Most non-SO staff can't survive without a second income, so many write CSWs ("Completed Staff Work") requesting permission to moonlight, or to take a leave from staff to work elsewhere and pay off their debts.  This can make the transition much easier.  So can getting out early, since it's not such a big deal to have an empty resume if you're young.

It's much harder otherwise.  Were I in that position, I'd seriously consider getting financial aid and going back to school.

Hy Levy
Hy Levy like.author.displayName 1 Like

Tony,

In response to your question as to how difficult it was to re-establish myself after I left the Sea Org, worrying about what to put on a resume was the least of my problems.

In 1985, before I joined the Sea Org, I was a well respected computer programmer (that's what we called ourselves in the "early days"). After nearly 25 years in the Sea Org (I left in 2009), the entire technology had completely changed. In 1985 there was no commercial use of the internet, maybe some universities and governmental applications existed. So at first I didn't even try to get back in that field.

So...who could I go to who would hire me (as more than unskilled labor)? I was told when I routed out, even though I had followed all the procedures to the letter and was in "good standing" with the Church (at that time), that I could not contact public that I knew from when I worked at the FSO as it would be "bad PR". So what did this leave me with? Family? They didn't really have any "job openings" for me. Earlier business contacts? From  25 years ago? Are you kidding? Well, in fact that IS where I looked.

As a staff member we were not allowed to use the internet so I really had no idea what its power was like...but I learned fast. I registered at LinkedIn and looked for a guy I remembered well who I had worked for in the early 80's. Last I knew he lived in Virginia and I was in New Jersey now, but what the heck...it was worth a shot.

Well unbelievable as it may sound, I did find him on LinkedIn and with a picture that matched so I knew it was him. Amazingly enough he now ALSO lived in New Jersey. Well when I worked for him in the 80's I was developing software and he was my boss. He had shifted careers and was now writing very technical training curricculums for training security personnel (like TSA) on how to use the detection equipment his company manufactured.

Well, because he knew me and thought well of me, he got me an interview with his boss for an opening as an instructor teaching the courses he was writing. Well, I'll make a long story short. I had no experience as a teacher, and try as I did, I couldn't really get it down the way that was expected. For the first time in my life I was "let go" (fired) from a job due to failure to perform.

OK, so I tried a couple of other things (where a formal resume was not required), but none of them really took off (tutoring, public insurance adjusting). Finally, at the suggestion of a family member, I decided to take a crack at getting back into the software development field. I knew nothing about the internet (had only recently learned how to use it at all), couldn't even tell you what HTML stood for (Hyper Text Markup Language - the language used to describe how screens on the internet are laid out). A friend of mine pointed me to the right on-line videotutorials that I should look at and I trained myself from scratch.

I did a small job for this friend (for almost no money, but to get the experience) and then he suggested I look in Craig's List. Bingo! Found a contract. People who advertise on Craig's List do not generally hire based on a resume, but I wrote one anyway and simply said I had been out of the field for many years and had now returned to it. It wouldn't work to lie, but I didn't see any point in blurting out that I worked for Scientology for all those years.

Well that was the beginning of my "new career". I now make a modest, but more than  adequate income building websites. I'm pretty good at it if I do say so myself (everything changed in terms of how applications run since 1985, but the basics never changed).

So, that's my story. So if anyone tells you that if you leave the Church you will not be able to get a job....well...it's all up to you. The freedom to do what you want also makes it possible to succeed without the shackles that formerly kept you tied down and hampered you.

Hy LevyIndependent Scientologist

JustCallMeMary
JustCallMeMary

What happened? You didn't feel like hustling people anymore, to buy things they can't afford?   I would think there is a plethora of sales jobs for a veteran shark like yourself.( Whew! I feel better now getting that off my chest)

Hy Levy
Hy Levy like.author.displayName 1 Like

JustCallMeMary,

I understand your bitterness. Maybe it's possible people can change...or don't you think so? In any case, take the time to review my videos in the recent St. Pete Times "Money Machine" article and possibly you may find some answers to your questions....unless you work for OSA...in which case don't bother.

JustCallMeMary
JustCallMeMary

I am not bitter, lol. And I do believe that people can change. I see it every day. I hope to see you change as well. I saw your videos at the St Petersburg Times. While I appreciate you exposing what when on for all those years, you stated with a big grin that you loved your job there and for me, well, your joy spoke volumes. Your interview showed far more pride than regret and I figured that with all that considered, selling would seem to be the logical choice for someone such as yourself.

I would estimate that 90% of the Sea Org members who leave do so with little transferable social and work skills beyond blue collar labor. You have the know-how and experience to sell  snow to an Eskimo if you wanted to. You certainly did a snow job on many people and their finances over the years while you were lovin it. 

So you left with transferable skills but you choose not to use them, despite there being far more jobs available in sales than in computer design. I was surprised to read you make it seem so easy for people leaving  to get a job when you have not walked a mile in their shoes inside or outside of Scientology.

That OSA line is right out of Marty's blog...welcome to the real world where people are entitled to have opinions and share them and listen to others and not be labeled OSA at the drop of a hat.

Radio Paul
Radio Paul

So, what you are saying is Scientology teaches people how to FAIL in the outside world. As I see it, they strip you of life skills as well as meaningful trade skills. When you leave you have to work harder than before to make. But I must say that you and people like you impress me with your tenacity. You had it in you all along to make your way. Thank you for your voice.  

TonyOrtega
TonyOrtega

Hy, drop me a line some time. Would love to follow up with you on what you told the SP Times. tortega@villagevoice.com

TonyOrtega
TonyOrtega like.author.displayName 1 Like

Hy! Thank you very much for sharing that story with us. And for participating in the incredible "Money Machine" series at the St. Pete Times. Your contribution to it was remarkable.

Jgg
Jgg

  In the internet age, I would think you could find this hero who saved 22 children.

Jgg
Jgg

  Actually, I did meet someone who escaped Co$; her post-Co$ life consisted of joining pyramid schemes, and she had many ex-Co$ friends who joined her, but never made any money.  Very sad indeed.

Barbara Snow
Barbara Snow

I've noticed that many of the people who are attracted to Scientology are also attracted to pyramid schemes. 

Anonamazing
Anonamazing

I remember, about 10 years into my 16-year "career" at a local org, seeing a copy of Paulette's book that someone had delivered anonymously to the front desk--it had been unceremoniously dumped in the trash area.  I was on MEST work, so happened across it.  I was terrified of it, of course, since I was already in "lowers."  I wish I'd taken it home then.  Funny how deep the programming goes, such that if a Scilon even sees something like that, it loosens the bowels, causes panic, creates terror.  In any event, the impact on my own career of the time I spent/wasted with the cult may not be incalculable, but it's significant.  I'd say I'm taking home around half what I would have, had I not fallen for the con.  Incidentally, once I began to escape, I'd already routed off full-time, and was working part-time.  My full-time work was with a scilon private company--they terminated me once they discovered I was no longer in The Club, having made up some other excuses.  It was a decent severance, though, so I didn't file anything.  It was clearly a pre-emptive "disconnection."  At the same time, my wife "disconnected" from me, and tried very hard to get the kids to do so as well.  It worked on one of them, but not the other.  PS, Tony, it's funny how not-funny the Sunday funnies are.

XENU
XENU

The amazing part to me is that you were terrified of a book. But that what Scientology does to people, fills them with fear and then prays on it. 

Gina Smith
Gina Smith

Agreed that Paulette's story needs a wider audience and I would also love to hear the story of the man who saved those 22 children.

Artoo45
Artoo45

That's what a hero looks like. You rock Ms. Cooper!

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