Why I Fled Scientology.
Sydney Morning Herald
April 13, 2008
AN AUSTRALIAN man who was a former high-ranking member of the Church of Scientology is calling for the religion to be "totally dismantled" because of the human rights abuses he says it inflicts on its followers.
David Graham has gone public after years of keeping quiet when he feared retribution from the church.
He says members are encouraged to cut ties with non-Scientologists. And they are threatened with being ostracised from members, including family and friends, if they try to leave the church - an act known as "disconnection".
He supports the actions of an internet-based group called Anonymous that has launched a wave of global protests against the church.
It wants the church's tax-exempt status rescinded, alleging it is a cult rather than a religion.
Anonymous undertook a worldwide picketing of the church yesterday, calling it Operation Reconnect. Local members protested outside the church's Australian headquarters in Sydney's Castlereagh Street.
But Australian Scientology leaders have accused Anonymous of harassment, violence and terror tactics, claiming they have become victims of religious persecution.
Mr Graham, 71, lives in NSW. Even though he left the church almost 20 years ago, he still does not want his location revealed, fearing harassment from the religion.
He joined the church in Sydney in 1976. He rose through the ranks and became a full-time employee before being sent to work for the church in the United States, where he joined Sea Org, Scientology's elite inner core.
Sea Org members must sign a billion-year contract to the church (because they believe in an afterlife this condition is taken very seriously).
They live and work full-time in Scientology compounds and are responsible for running the church.
In 1990, after becoming disillusioned, Mr Graham fled the Los Angeles Scientology base to return to Australia. He was declared a "Suppressive Person" - an enemy of Scientology. No member can have contact with him.
"I enjoyed a lot of my time in Scientology, and I think at its lower levels some of the auditing [counselling] can be very useful," he said. "But at the upper levels a lot of the teachings are useless.
"I think it needs to be totally dismantled to help save the people in it. It is not run like a religion. It's more like a cult. My concerns are about the constraints it puts on an individual and the denial of human rights. It is run by fear."
Well-known Australian Scientologists include singer Kate Ceberano, James Packer and former St George rugby league player Pat Jarvis.
In the 2006 census, 2513 Australians listed Scientology as their religion. The church believes it has 250,000 followers in Australia.
Vicki Dunstan, a trustee of the church in Sydney, said Anonymous was like a "terror group".
"They have sent death threats to Scientologists and we have had bricks through our windows," she said. "We have become victims of religious hatred. The early Christians were persecuted by being thrown to the lions. We are thrown to the media and have these allegations thrown at us that are completely untrue."
Ms Dunstan denied there was a policy of disconnection.
"I think for some who leave the church it can be a bit like a divorce. People feel very bitter," she said.
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