declared 'suppressive' and cut off from his wife and their four children
July 29, 2015
EXCLUSIVE: 'I have four children who are Hollywood stars - but they are dead mentally to me, it's like they don't exist.' Father of Walking Dead and That '70s Show stars accuses Scientology religion of 'brainwashing' his kids
* Joe Reaiche was one of the highest-ranking Scientologists - and had been a member of its clergy - but questioned its claim of telekenisis
* The father of four was declared 'suppressive' and cut off from his wife and their four children more than a decade ago
Carole worked 60 or 70 hour weeks for $30 a week
* All four children are Hollywood successes, with roles including The Walking Dead, That '70s Show, Malcolm in the Middle and Last Man Standing
* But Reaiche, a former Australian rugby player with the Sydney Roosters, tells Daily Mail Online: 'They're good kids but they're mentally dead to me.'
* He is one of a tiny number of former members of Sea Org to speak publicly and says: 'It's a very deep and sordid abyss.'
When Joe Reaichie sees his four children on television he feels a surge of pride, like any father would.
Little wonder perhaps; all four are on their way to the top in Hollywood, with roles in shows including The Walking Dead, That '80s Show, and Still Standing.
But unlike other proud parents, he cannot pick up the phone or send his three sons or his daughter a text - because they have been told by their church not to contact him.
Reaiche and his children find themselves on opposite sides of an unbridgeable gulf, thanks to him quitting the church of Scientology and being declared a 'suppressive person'.
Reaiche was a member of Sea Org, the 'clergy' of the controversial faith - and today becomes one of only a handful of those who have been at such high echelons of Scientology to speak out.
He describes how he was supposed to believe that it was possible to move objects simply through the power of the mind, and how questioning the tenets of the faith led to being dragged in front of a self-styled court, isolated from his family and eventually frozen out of all contact with them.
His account sheds new light on the church's practices and its treatment of those who choose to leave - as well as the unswerving loyalty it demands from its followers.
A former Australian sporting hero, he climbed the ranks of Scientology, marrying one of its members, raising her two children as his own and having two more with her.
All four are now successful in Hollywood. The eldest two Danny, 39, and Christopher, 35, were in the hit series, That '70s Show alongside Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis. His youngest son Jordan, 29, stars in Last Man Standing with Tim Allen while daughter Alanna, 27, is in the television sensation The Walking Dead.
But all connection to them came to an end as his doubts about the faith crystallized - he now calls it 'deception' - and he was effectively thrown out of the church.
Reaiche, 57, acknowledges that he misses his children - but there is nothing he can do: they have, he says, been 'brainwashed' into believing that he is a threat to their faith.
Today, almost exactly a decade on, he says simply: 'Don't get me wrong. Sure, it's a loss not having your children you raised, but now, in my mind, it's like they died.
'They're dead mentally because I can't speak to them. Not that I don't love my kids but what do you do?'
Reaiche's journey from being at the top of Scientology to being completely cut off from his family began with his recruitment into the 'church' - which played on his vulnerability as a 19-year-old questioning the future of his brilliant sporting career.
Born in Australia to Lebanese parents, he forged a career as a professional athlete playing for the renowned Sydney Roosters, one of Australia's oldest and most successful rugby league sides.
But in 1978, aged 19, he tore a muscle in his groin and just couldn't shift the injury. One day, waiting for a bus after practice, a young girl tapped him on the shoulder and asked if he'd like to take a survey.
He agreed, which led to him being invited to take a personality test in the Church of Scientology which was just round the corner.
They're dead mentally because I can't speak to them. Not that I don't love my kids but what do you do?
He recalled: 'At the end of her "evaluation" she asked, "Is there something bothering you?" Well everyone's got something bothering them. I told her about my groin muscle and how it was affecting my football [rugby league] career. I told her who I played for and she said, "Just wait a moment."
'The next thing she came back with about five members of Sea Org. Turns out they were fanatical supporters of the team and I was a big fish to them. I was their Tom Cruise.'
Perhaps flattery played a part but mostly Joe bought into the promise that the teachings and methods of Scientology could turn him into some sort of superhuman – a super-athlete.
'Basically the upper levels of spiritual training were designed for you to be fully operational without a body in the sense that you could control kinetics through thought. That sounds f***ing crazy saying it in 2015 but at that time it seemed almost too unreal for it to be unreal. You wouldn't think that anyone behind this organization would be deceiving you.
'There was no Internet, no blogging, no cell phones. If someone told you something there was no way to verify it or look it up.'
Joe was intrigued and before long he was hooked. As competitive off the field as on, he rose through the ranks at an unprecedented speed. From joining at the age of 20 he became a fully qualified counselor and Operating Thetan (OT) 7 – at the time the highest rank within the Sea Org – by the age of 23.
In 1983 he traveled to the States to finish his upper levels training in New York and the religion's base in Clearwater, Florida.
He recalled: 'I was fairly gullible at the time but I had enough faith to want to give it a shot.'
He returned to Australia briefly before moving to the States permanently in 1984 because his football career was over.
It was then that he reconnected with Carole Masterson, a Scientologist whom he had briefly met in his first trip to the States. She had been married then and had two young sons, Danny and Christopher. On Joe's return she was divorced and the two quickly became romantically involved.
They married in 1984 and took the joint decision to join the church's clergy or Sea Org.
Joe said: 'It was a big decision only because we were going to be trained as Class 12 auditors which was the highest pinnacle of counselor training to correspond with the highest level of spiritual attainment. There's the class side and then there's the PCs or 'pre-clears' who are labeled OT 1 up to 7. Now there's an OT 8 but there wasn't back then.'
'Going clear' is the highest level of spirituality and the goal of all church members. The teachings state that the only path to this is through numerous courses and audits – which cost ten of thousands of dollars.
Joe estimates that during his time in the church he spent more than $400,000 on courses or 'services' and this, he said, is a relatively modest sum compared to many.
He said: 'To me it was all about improvement. I was captain of a football team, I was an ace athlete, I was a champion…I didn't need to be a part of a group. I wasn't a drug addict or depressed, I was fit as a fiddle and a pretty happy-go-lucky guy.
'But when you're an athlete you're all about helping the team by being the best you can be. When you're with Scientology and you become part of their 'team' you're no longer yourself. There's no more you. There's only L Ron Hubbard and the word is ultimate.
'You lose critical thought and you become Hubbard thought. That's where you lose your identity and you don't know that until you've been extracted because you've basically entrusted your eternity to an individual.'
On joining Sea Org both Joe and Carole signed the obligatory contracts vowing allegiance for 'a billion years.'
'You're basically signing your soul away,' he said. 'And it goes from bad to worse at that point.'
Joe and Carole moved into their berth in Sea Org's Clearwater headquarters with sons Danny, then nine, and Christopher, five. Within a year Carole had given birth to their first born, Jordan.
'This was before they banned Sea Org members from having children. That happened later.'
But it didn't take long for Joe to feel discontent within Sea Org. He explained: 'You're not supposed to have any debt going into Sea Org and I had $5000 or $10,000 but they said, 'Don't worry about that. You'll make money and pay it back.' But that's the furthest thing form the truth.'
Instead, he insisted, Sea Org was tantamount to 'slave labor' as he and Carole worked 60 or 70 hour weeks for $30 a week.
Key to the Kingdom: The Church of Scientology has completely taken over the city of Clearwater, owning half a billion's worth of real estate. It is the biggest concentration of Scientologists in the world
1. The Oak Cove Scientology Center. Lower level services including 'auditing' and 'case cracking'. Real estate value: $4,483,100
2. The Fort Harrison Housing for visiting Scientology members with 220 rooms and suites, the Crystal Ballroom, Flag Auditorium and Convention Center. Real estate value: $13,137,700
3. The Sandcastle Home of the Flag Advanced Org. Real estate value: $5,896,600
4. The Osceola Inn Accommodation for visiting Scientologists with 76 rooms and suites. Real estate value: $6,000,000
5. The Coachman Five stories of Standard Tech course rooms and the largest Scientology library in the world. Real estate value: $3,700,000
6. Super Powers Building Scientology HQ and the home of advanced Church courses. Real estate value: Over $30,000,000
7. Former Clearwater Bank Building New Church administration offices and staff dining. Real estate value: $2,038,400
8. Station Square Exclusive 146-unit condominium with pool. Real estate value: $20,000,000
9. Parking area Three-level parking and bus garage for Scientology coaches. Real estate value: $3,500,000
10. Clearwater Academy Exclusive school for Sea Org members' children. Real estate value: $5,000,000
11. Further Church Real Estate One of more than 50 buildings own by the Scientology Church in Clearwater. Real estate value: $50,000,000 plus
Then there were the punishments. Joe was fortunate not to receive any, nor did Carole, but they both witnessed the workings of the RPF - the Rehabilitation Project Force.
Joe recalled: 'I saw things. People in their boiler room outfits with a black band on their left arm and they have to run from station to station, they can't talk, they can't eat with the rest of the members.
'They're basically ridiculed and abused. It's horrible but that's what happens. Once you're in it you just say you've got to avoid it.
'But having the debt thing was a perfect out for me. I told Carole that if she wanted to stay she could but she wanted to leave too.'
The couple left in 1986 and became lay members of the community. They went to California where the kids began auditioning for roles. Both Carole and Joe would take them to auditions; Joe remembers being an involved and loving stepfather to the two older boys.
When Joe got a job in New York the family moved to Garden City in Long Island. In 1988, Alanna was born.
Throughout this time both Carole and Joe were taking course after course on the Church of Scientology's insistence that it was necessary and shelling out tens of thousands of dollars each year.
It became a strain on Joe's relationship with the church and on the marriage. A failed business venture that ended up costing him thousands placed even more pressure on the already strained union and, in 1995, Carole and Joe divorced.
By then, Joe admitted, he was 'just done' with Scientology. He said: 'You begin to lose the faith and you start to see that you're buying the idea of being a supreme being but that's not being delivered.
'And you can't see anyone for whom it is being delivered. They said they could deliver telekinesis and I started to question can they really deliver the product?
'It's like I went to buy a Ferrari for $180,000 and you deliver a Mazda or a Toyota, then you've ripped me off. You've deceived me.'
Determined to stay on terms with his ex-wife and children, he avoided confrontation with the church - until in 2004, when Carole asked for his help with their son. Jordan wasn't doing well with his studies in Scientology or at school.
He said: 'I helped my son but I applied the technology and techniques in my own way and he changed – after spending tens of thousands of dollars with no change, I spoke with him and he changed. That to me was a good thing. He was my son. I wanted to help him.'
But in the eyes of the church Joe had traduced Hubbard's teachings and technologies. The reason they knew this was because his ex-wife Carole photocopied the material he had given their son and reported Joe to the church.
He said: 'The whole church is built on encouraging its members to snitch on each other. If you have a problem you don't say it, you write a report on that person. Well imagine how many reports I had without knowing it.'
He explained: 'When the church wants to order you around or control you they basically demand that you come to Clearwater or New York in 24 hours or you're going to be subject to a Court of Ethics which is basically like a board of investigation.'
In October 2004 Joe was summoned but couldn't come as he was in Atlanta on business. It wasn't until January 2005 that he ended up in front of a Court of Ethics in Clearwater, Florida.
He said: 'The next step is a Committee of Evidence which is like a Grand Jury and for me it was pretty much a kangaroo court with regard to the accusations. I knew it was going to be a hatchet job.
'I was accused of helping my son, sorting him out using my methodology. So I was accused of altering the trademarks and symbols of Scientology.
'They accused me of "altering technology" which is a suppressive act.'
Joe's case was heard across four sittings held between 11pm and 1.30am. Then he waited for the verdict. And he waited. It took the court six months to reach a conclusion.
He said: 'On June 9th or 10th June I got a phone call saying they would overnight their recommendations to me. They never did. I didn't get them for another three days.'
Joe now believes this was a stalling tactic allowing the church to inform his family and friends of his status as a suppressive person.
He recalled: 'When I finally got the report I opened it and it accused me of all my crimes and said I was a suppressive person and the only person I could be in communication with is the International Justice Chief in California.
Daily Mail Online asked the Church of Scientology to respond to Joe Reaiche's description of his life in and out of the faith.
A spokeswoman said: 'Mr. Reaiche’s expulsion from the religion occurred a decade ago.
'He has had ample opportunities to resolve his personal relationships, but has instead used his one-time association with the Church to generate publicity.'
Agents for his children declined to comment.
'I immediately called my kids who were in Glendale, California, with their mother, no answer. I called probably 20 times, no answer. I called all my friends; no answer.
'Did I cry? Of course I did because I realized what had happened. But what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and so I buckled down and got on with my life because I was never going to do what the church wanted me to do.'
He continued: 'I'm sure my kids were encouraged to feel there is hope for their dad but his only hope to be salvaged is to follow the procedures of the church. That's the brainwashing technique.
'Basically I was never going to do what they wanted me to do which was to do basic training all over again which would be an $80,0000 ordeal to brainwash me all over again until I comply.'
Joe is remarkably composed as he speaks about what must have been a huge trauma in his life.
He said: 'You have to understand. I love my children but it's done. It's over. I'm not going to violate my personal honor and integrity.
'If I contacted them I'll tell you what their response is going to be – that' I'm wrong, I'm bad or evil and the only solution for me is to follow the church. That's what they're ingrained to believe.'
He added: 'They're good kids but they're ill informed and they're brainwashed.'
Today Joe can only watch the events of his children's life from afar. Often they fill him with pride, sometimes with dismay. Recently he learned that his daughter, Alanna had been linked to Tom Cruise's son, Connor.
He said: 'That's the worst person she could possibly be involved with if she's to stand any chance of getting out of the church.'
Similarly some months ago his son Danny issued a diatribe against psychiatry saying, 'You will not find a Scientologist who does not f***ing hate psychiatrists.'
Joe can only dismiss such statements as 'ill informed and ill educated.'
He said: 'I love my kids. Maybe I'll bump into them one day. They're probably going to be shocked. But I'm just going to say, "I love you. I hope you do well. I'll miss you for the rest of my life. I'll always be your dad."
'Because I can't hoodwink them, I can't kidnap them and I can't convince them because they're brainwashed.
'I'm not groveling. That's what they want you do to – to come back, acquiesce, follow the rules.
'And the worst thing is Scientology won't go away until it loses its charity status or its tax-exempt status. Until then what it does to families is absolute evil that's allowed to persist.'
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