Mimi Faust's Mother, Olaiya Odufunke: Her Life in Scientology's Secret Service
Monday night, Mimi Faust revealed on VH1's Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta that she had been abandoned at 13 by a mother who chose Scientology over her own children. By Tuesday morning, we had identified Mimi's mother, Olaiya Odufunke, who died in 2003.
And now, we have a photograph of Olaiya (on the left, above, with Joyce Earl, another Scientology employee) that was given to us by someone who worked with her and can now tell us what kind of work the woman did that was more important than holding on to Mimi.
Olaiya (who also apparently went by "Gloria") was a member of Scientology's "Sea Organization" or Sea Org, the hardcore elite of employees who sign billion-year contracts and promise to work for the church lifetime after lifetime.
In other words, Olaiya worked in what many consider Scientology's secret service.
All Sea Org members -- whether they're in OSA or not -- work long hours for little pay. We've talked to former members who worked 100-hour weeks, grabbing only a few hours of sleep a night as they were pushed to extreme limits while living with no privacy and often on meager provisions.
In that kind of work environment, there's little time for anything outside Scientology work -- no television, no reading of non-Scientology materials, no days off. And that's why we hear about Sea Org parents essentially abandoning their kids -- they simply have no time for them.
That's the situation Mimi Faust was in as a 13-year-old. On Monday night's show, she said that she was asked to "sign a contract" and work for the church, but refused. (Children of Scientologists are pressured to join the Sea Org and sign its contract at a very young age.) At the time, her mother Olaiya was based at Scientology's administrative headquarters in Los Angeles, a former hospital painted blue that is known as PAC Base, for Pacific Area Command.
But later in her life, from 2000 to 2003, Olaiya was with OSA in Clearwater, Florida.
"Her last post in Clearwater was the Clearance in Charge," says Kirsi Ojamo, a former OSA employee who worked with Olaiya in Florida. "She would look into the quals of prospective parishioners and say OK or not for services."
Kirsi left Scientology in 2007. She's from Finland and today lives in France. And she not only worked with Olaiya in Clearwater, she had the same job: clearing church members for services. (She sent me the photo of Olaiya and Joyce Earl. I then confirmed their identities with their former boss, Mike Rinder, who ran OSA during these years.)
I asked Kirsi to describe the job that she and Olaiya were doing.
Scientology is a very security-conscious organization. Not only is the church constantly on the lookout for outsiders trying to infiltrate it, it also constantly interrogates its own members to sniff out anyone who might be tempted to speak to the press or to law enforcement. Also, it wants to know when a member has secrets which might compromise them. If they're hiding something, they are not allowed to get access to the church's counseling, called "auditing."
It was Kirsi and Olaiya's job to get those secrets from church members coming to Clearwater -- Scientology's spiritual mecca.
"Let me assure you first that there was no priest-penitent privileged information. I would have access to anything I felt I needed from the PC or OT folder which was not technically confidential and above my level of processing," Kirsi says. "The case supervisor would supply reports she felt [contained] relevant security data and submit the PC folder for my review."
In other words, anything that a Scientologist had revealed in previous supposedly confidential counseling sessions -- whether they were a lower level "Pre-Clear" or higher level "Operating Thetan" -- was fair game for OSA.
"I would look into ethics folder data, and if I felt a sec check was needed, it got done before accepting for services," she says. (A "sec check" -- short for "security check" -- is an intense interrogation done while a subject is holding the sensors of an e-meter, which Scientologists believe can detect when they're holding back secrets.)
I asked Kirsi what sorts of things would disqualify a Scientologist from getting the services he had come to Florida for.
"Tax evasion is one. A criminal history -- 'Type B,' in that lingo. Evidence of a family member or relative attacking the church. Yes, it didn't matter if you were flying in from Iceland for your OT levels," she says, meaning that how far you'd come didn't matter -- you had to get past Kirsi and Olaiya's tough screening process.
Like other Sea Org members working at Flag, Olaiya was bused in from a nearby apartment complex, the Hacienda Gardens. Typically, workers there have little privacy and share space with multiple roommates.
In 2003, Kirsi says, Olaiya was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She was sent to City of Hope in LA for treatment. "Unfortunately, she perished after eight months in their care. I held a service for her in Clearwater, and I also met Mimi there when she came to pick up some of her mom's belongings."
I asked Kirsi if Olaiya had spoken about her children. She said that Olaiya did talk about them, particularly Mimi, and "it was obvious she loved her," Kirsi says.
"That was my impression, that she was not indifferent about her family to be sure."
We've contacted Mimi's representatives, and hope to be speaking to her soon.
UPDATE: It turns out Olaiya was a longtime member of OSA, and not just at the end of her life. We just heard from Simi Valley, a veteran Scientologist who recently defected and declared her independence from the church.
Here's what she told us about Olaiya:
I knew her when she and I were both working at OSA US (based in LA) in 1988-89. At the time she was using the name "Olaiya Olayinka" and was posted in the Treasury Division.
Olaiya was tough as nails and totally serious about her job in the Sea Org. I recall one time she was sitting at lunch talking about someone who had irked her and she said, "I KR'ed her ass," meaning "I wrote a knowledge report on her."
A lot of the OSA staff walked around with a chip on their shoulder and were really bitchy at each other, so her remark was typical of the mood they were usually in.
Back to the Future: The Running Program!
Yesterday, Jim Edwards at the Business Insider had a fun look at one of Scientology's more notorious punishments: "the running program."
Also known in Scientology jargon as the "Cause Resurgence Rundown," the running program was a common punishment meted out to Sea Org members that had them running around a pole -- or in this case, a palm tree, in desert heat -- for twelve hours a day...
As Amy Scobee pointed out in our story yesterday about another Sea Org nightmare, "The Hole," even people who were unfit to run couldn't escape the punishment of the running program: "I observed someone getting pushed around the running track in a wheelchair (while the rest of the Int execs were running, as a punishment)."
That desert running track around a palm tree has been covered over with grass for years now, but we wanted to remind readers that the running program is apparently still dear to Scientology leader David Miscavige's heart. In fact, proposed designs for the church's giant Super Power Building -- which we first revealed in January -- show that the notion of running around a pole for hours at a time will become a futuristic, and massive, part of much of the building's upper floors!
In development since 1998, the Super Power Building across the street from the Fort Harrison Hotel in Scientology's mecca -- Clearwater, Florida -- is a $100 million boondoggle which will maybe finally open later this year. It promises to deliver "super power" to high level, wealthy Scientologists who have nowhere to go after reaching OT 8, the church's tops in spiritual enlightenment. You've no doubt seen some of the images of devices that have been designed for these wealthy patrons, which look like something out of the starship Enterprise...
That particular image -- from the Super Power Building's spacey fifth floor "Perceptics" installations -- leaked out years ago. (Drudge went nuts over this image recently when the Daily Mail posted it. I tried to get word to him that it was at least four years old, and that we had so many more images of Super Power that no one else has ever published. But I never can seem to get through to the guy.)
What surprised us when we got our hands on the rest of the building's plans in January was what we found one flight up, on the sixth floor...
We know that image is dark, but that seems to be the point. A giant circular indoor space will apparently have only one source of light -- an illuminated pole. Around it, Scientologists will run and run and run in a cavernous room.
This architectural drawing of the sixth floor shows just how much of it will be taken up by the massive new running room...
What surprises us is that the running program, in this case, is made to look somewhat glamorous -- when it's traditionally been used as one of the Sea Org's more sadistic punishments.
Are wealthy Scientologists really going to pay tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege of being abused in a 12-hour daily ritual of running around a lighted column? (In our comments, John P. suggests that the running track may be for punishing staffers, and Miscavige wants it indoors to keep it from being photographed.)
UPDATE: In answer to a question raised by John P. in the comments. Here's the schematic for the Super Power Building's seventh floor, showing that it surrounds the running dome, which itself is the top of the building. (Miscavige's set of offices is on the upper left in this drawing, which is actually the southwest corner of the building.)
On the next page: Our regular Friday feature, Scientology on the High Seas...