What’s really going on behind closed doors at Scientology’s Saint Hill headquarters in East Grinstead? As pressure mounts on the Mayor and Council executives following revelations of the influence Scientology is having on local politics, we took a moment to speak with those who have lived and worked at Saint Hill.
First, some history: L. Ron Hubbard purchased Saint Hill Manor in 1959 and it served as the worldwide headquarters of the Church of Scientology until he fled the country in fear of ever increasing scrutiny from the British government in 1967. Since then, it has served as Scientology’s UK headquarters and plays a significant role in its global operation. Every year, it hosts the annual gathering of the International Association of Scientologists, for which thousands of parishioners flock to the estate to hear leader David Miscavige speak.
Concerns have been raised over Scientology’s influence on East Grinstead since the 1960s. In his book ‘Bare Faced Messiah’, Russell Miller wrote “Scientology even seemed to be wearing out its welcome in East Grinstead, where the locals were complaining they were being overwhelmed”
In 1967, The East Grinstead Courier published an article in which locals called for a stop to Scientology’s expansion. It said “There was a feeling they were trying to take over – an estate agent, dentist, hairdresser, jeweller’s, finance company and a couple of doctors were all Scientology run. People didn’t like it.”
Scientology’s relationship with the local community is governed by it’s Public Relations policies, which aims to create what is known as a “Special Zone Plan”. Through it’s Office of Special Affairs, Scientology’s goal is not to help the community and local causes, but to “increase favourable image”.
By making large donations to local charities and inviting Council Members to lavish dinners and Tom Cruise film premieres, Scientology is looking to improve its reputation – not the local community. According to policy, Scientology’s goal is to “bring the government into a state of complete compliance with the goals of Scientology.” L. Ron Hubbard instructs staff to infiltrate society by getting jobs as “Secretarial staff” and building relationships with local opinion leaders.
In his policy letter called ‘The Safe Point’, Hubbard states Scientology’s “viability depends on having all areas and persons who could affect or influence the operation under PR control”. Scientology’s goal is not to help East Grinstead or it’s local causes, but to establish strong enough relationships with people that matter so that it turns a blind eye to it’s harmful and controlling activities.
This is what’s really going on behind closed doors.
Tony Ortega, journalist
I’m the former editor and chief of the Village Voice. I’ve been investigating and writing about Scientology for 28 years. Like everything in Scientology, the policies of safe pointing come from the founder L. Ron Hubbard. He laid it out and the idea was that Scientology would create safe points around it by recruiting and grooming people, specifically local officials. Scientology spends a lot of resources on this and their public relations teams are always trying to curry favour with local city and state officials by always telling them about all the good work Scientology does in order to create an ally. Why do they do that? Because if that local mayor or that local state representative only hears all these good things about Scientology, they will turn a blind eye so that what Scientology actually does, it can do with impunity. David Miscavige can financially extort his members, he can rip apart families, all the things that we’ve learned Scientology does; they can do without worrying about too much scrutiny from local officials who really should be doing the job of making sure that citizens in their community are not being treated this way. Safe pointing is very effective at convincing local Mayors and other elected officials simply to look the other way.
Rachael, former Sea Org film executive
I am an American but I went about 20 or so times to the UK while I was working for the Church of Scientology International. I saw some things that should be of concern to locals within East Grinstead. The staff who work there are part of the Sea Organization which is the highly controlled group which I had to escape from. I was tracked down and brought back and then escaped again.. it took me years to be able to leave, people were posted outside of my house to try to track me down… those same restraints are imposed upon any Sea Org member
Staff there in the UK who I worked with for over 15 years would be paid the US equivalent of $46 a week. One week, we ran out of food and they served us cubes of processed ham and shredded cheese only for a full week, all the while receiving massive donations at the Patron’s Ball. David Miscavige himself told me in England at Saint Hill that the day he puts the event on, he has it making money and that money is the most vital part of these events. The charity event and the entire weekend, the videos created, the concerts, the performances.. they are all in order to put together a vehicle for eliciting very huge donations. Scientologists are not allowed to leave that tent without making a donation and staff are put under massive pressure if they do not get a big enough donation.
If they do not make their quota then their diet can be restricted to rice and beans, they will be allowed to sleep only for a couple of hours a night for weeks and even months on end and a few staff actually told me that they were thrown into the pond as punishment. Their passports are taken from them, they are not allowed to have a cell phone, their internet access is controlled… the conditions that the staff are living under there are violations of the universal Declaration of Human Rights that is followed by the United Nations and they’re being violated every day.
Danielle, worked at Saint Hill as a child
I grew up in Scientology coming to their headquarters in East Grinstead in 1973 at age 11.
At just age 12 I was sent alone without parents to the flagship Apollo to be with L. Ron Hubbard for a year. Following being locked up in the chain locker (the room where a ship’s anchor is kept) by L. Ron Hubbard, I was sent back to the East Grinstead headquarters in England. At age 14 I was raped by a member of staff based at the headquarters. I was sent to see what they call their Ethics Officer or Master at Arms. I was informed that it was my fault that the rape had happened and I had to make amends and was not allowed to report it to the police.
At age 16 I was taken out of school by the Scientologists against my will and was told I could not take my A levels. I had to work for the organisation instead. My mother went on to have a stroke and the Scientologists turned up at the hospital before any medical intervention could happen, stating that Scientology could handle her. She then had two more mini strokes and was finally admitted to hospital but by then was paralysed down her left side for the rest of her life.
If it is true that the mayor of East grinstead has accepted a £50,000 donation from Scientology I say shame on you if any of these donations over the years have gone to any children’s charities that makes it even worse
Samuel, trafficked to work at Saint Hill
In 2005 when I was 13 years old I was taken from Switzerland and moved to England to start to work for the Church of Scientology. This story of abuse and neglect happened to me while I was working for the Continental Liaison office for the Church of Scientology in Saint Hill, East Grinstead from 2008 until 2012. I’d been suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts for a number of years while working there and finally in 2012 I told my seniors about it. Instead of trying to help me, show compassion or send me to a medical expert, they swiftly put me on a routing out form to be removed from their property so that I do not cause a public relations scandal that newspapers could pick up.
While I was on this routing out form I was made to do physical labor as punishment and I had to do hours of false confessions or as they call a ‘security check’. I was sent back to my country of origin as not to be a problem for Saint Hill management any longer.
Karen, former top executive
I lived for two years at 6 Saint Hill Green. I was a devout Scientologist, I believed in it all and progressively rose up the ranks. One day I was sent out on a mission because three people had killed themselves within a space of four months and Scientology management were aghast. In one case, the victim was found hanging from a tree not far from Saint Hill.
Why didn’t anyone hear about this? Scientology has a whole unit called the Office of Special Affairs (OSA) and their entire job is to bury anything that might harm their reputation and to pump up and engage, befriend and pamper local law enforcement local politicians. It’s all designed to make themselves look good.. but in reality, gruesome things happen behind that wall of security, and the people of East Grinstead don’t have a clue of what is really going on behind closed doors.
Pete Griffiths, former staff member
I was at Saint Hill in the late 1980s and early 1990s. When I first went there I was sent to do some training on a thing called the OEC course, which is short for Organization Executive Course.. I had only joined staff about two weeks before and I’d been promised that I would be paid about £200 a week.
I was at Saint Hill for 6 months with my pregnant wife and we were paid absolutely nothing for weeks on end. One week we were sent I think £20 and we just went out and bought a pizza and stuffed ourselves because we were actually starving. I borrowed money from Barclay’s Bank and eventually sold our house just to keep us going.
There is a basement area beneath the Great Hall, where there was a huge pile of rotten mouldy books. As punishment, I was once told to basically move them from one side of the space to the other – it was like the old ‘digging a hole and filling it in again’. I was told I was a “robot” – I couldn’t do anything without being told what to do.
When we finally left it was like escaping.. we had to escape to get away from these people. On the surface they seem fine and they’re all nice and smiles and friendly, but when you scratch the surface you’re dealing with a sinister cult and it is absolutely diabolical.
Dave, former parishioner
I think what people need to understand about Scientology is that you’ve already signed something at the start of each course to say that if you go insane, you don’t want psychiatrists to look after you, and you’ll do the introspection rundown instead. They’ll lock you up in a room and not talk to you and they’ll just feed you until you ‘snap out’ of your psychosis.. So when it came to me leaving, there was no way that I could just say ‘right I’m off!’ because I’d get overpowered eventually with a lot of people and I’d be thrown into a room and I’d be trapped there. I was actually scared for my life. It was the only time I’ve ever felt really trapped in my life.
While I was there, somebody had run off from the auditing area at Saint Hill.. she’d gone back home, but she lived locally and half an hour later they’d been and fetched her. So I was thinking they’re just going to follow me and try and get me back. It was quite scary.
Neville, locked in the boiler room
I got into Scientology when I was 7 years old and I served on the ship in the 1960s and 1970s under L. Ron Hubbard. In that time I saw him order a four-year-old child being put into the chain locker. I also have seen adults being put in there and people being thrown overboard, including people who couldn’t swim. I was locked up in a basement in Scotland because I wanted to leave due to a medical condition but they told me it could only be treated by Scientology processing. I managed to get out, I got the police to came in and release me and I went down to South and saw a doctor.
Another time, I was locked up in the boiler room of Saint Hill Manor. The boiler was pumping out carbon monoxide and I was told I could not leave until I’d written up a list of alleged crimes I committed. I had to make up a fictitious list in order to leave, which they subsequently tried to use against me.
Martin Padfield, security executive
Abuses in Scientology are very real and continue on to this day as I’ve witnessed myself many many times. I was involved with Scientology for 28 years and some of those, between 1984 and around about 1994, I was at Saint Hill. I was once sent to the international headquarters of Scientology in California where I was the victim of human trafficking; I was put onto their punishment program which they call the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF). My passport was taken away, I had no money and no access to the outside world for about a year.
I was then sent back to the UK back to Saint Hill and continued on the same program in much the same conditions, doing extreme manual labor for 12 to 14 hours a day… At one production meeting, I had a very large glass ashtray thrown at my head for ‘saying the wrong thing’. If you have somebody within your family or circle of friends who is in any way critical of Scientology, it’s expected that you disconnect from them and cease all contact. It breaks up families. I was also witness to a number of times when women who got pregnant were put under a lot of pressure to get abortions and a friend of mine, who was a senior executive at Saint Hill once relayed to me in great detail how he was beaten up personally by David Miscavige. It was a fairly common practice for those who fell on the wrong side of him.
In Scientology, power of choice is something its members sacrifice the moment they walk through the door. Its extremist belief system continues to foster a culture of fear and it provides an environment where abusers can thrive when they are afforded ‘ethics protection’.
No organisation should exist where its members are raped, disconnected from family or forced to terminate their pregnancies. This is just a handful of personal stories from Scientology’s Saint Hill base in East Grinstead, but the truth of the matter is this happens at every level. and every city in which Scientology operates.
Countless stories exist of how Scientology destroys lives, tears families apart and takes advantage of the old and the vulnerable.. and through its policy of safe-pointing, its goal is to assert control over local officials and influence decision makers so that they can get away with whatever they want.
This is the reality of what happens behind closed doors and begs the question… how can East Grinstead Town Council turn a blind eye to this?