Billion year contracts, physical labour, false imprisonment, and a mission to Clear the Planet. Welcome to the Sea Org.
In the 1960s, the Church of Scientology was in dire straits. Having been placed under investigation by numerous government agencies and the world’s media, L Ron Hubbard decided to take his top followers out on the high seas, forming what was initially called the Sea Project. This would eventually become the Sea Org, based on a number of ships travelling through international waters to avoid the authorities. Hubbard appointed himself the “Commodore” and structured the Org along US Naval lines.
It was during the early days of the Sea Org that L Ron Hubbard created the Operating Thetan Level 3 (OT3) material, while at sea off the coast of Las Palmas. Over time, the Sea Org would come to be largely based on land, based in “Advanced Orgs” at which the highest Scientology levels are given and which are staffed exclusively by the Sea Org. The Church of Scientology’s one remaining ship, the Freewinds, is the only place where OT8, the highest level attainable in Scientology at the present time, may be delivered. Earlier this year it became a source of controversy when workers discovered blue asbestos in the ship’s ventilation system.
The Sea Org forms the elite layer of the Church of Scientology; as described by former Scientologist Jesse Prince:
The Sea Organization is the actual nexus that controls the scientology empire. Sea Organization personnel are authorized to take over and control scientology organizations and to demote personnel, move bank accounts and run the corporation as if the SO personnel were employees or representatives of that corporation but they are not.
Scientologists joining the Sea Org sign a contract for one billion years, promising to serve the Org in this life and the next. This commitment is reflected in a harshly authoritarian form of internal discipline, and the absolute regulation of the lives of those who join. The Sea Org has a mission to Clear the Planet, and individual concerns are secondary.
The Rehabilitation Project Force
The Rehabilitation Project Force began during the original ship-based Sea Org as a system of punishment for those who were not pulling their weight or had otherwise offended Hubbard in some way. One such “offence” was a five year old child who was unable to write her name. Hubbard had her imprisoned in the ship’s chain locker.
In today’s Sea Org, a Scientologist may be sent to the RPF for a number of reasons, including association with critics of Scientology, failing to be productive in set tasks, or making Scientology look bad in public. While there, RPFers wear black arm bands at all times and may be forced to run laps for the simplest of misbehaviours. Food is basic, and the day consists of eight hours or more of physical labour combined with hours of Scientology study and even less than the already-pitiful Sea Org wage. While intended to be temporary, an RPF assignment may take years to complete, living in the worst conditions and carrying out the hardest work. While the Church of Scientology describes it as being similar to a “boot camp,” many ex-members see it as more comparable to re-education gulags.
Gerry Armstrong, a former high-ranking Scientologist, described the RPF bluntly:
35. As the Bosun, I acquired knowledge of RPF policies, punishments and other practices. I was required to detain people against their will, prevent them from leaving, keep them under guard, force them to perform hard labor as punishment without pay, subject them to invasive and coercive interrogations, and force them to sign lists of their “crimes” extracted from their auditing files. I was required to forcibly separate RPF members from spouses and children, cut them off from information in the outside world, and enforce the idea that they were “criminals.” The RPF was a degrading experience that violated people’s civil rights and human dignity.
Since its inception, the Sea Org has been plagued with allegations of child abuse. A penal system for children in the Sea Org to parallel the Rehabilitation Project Force was created, named simply the Childen’s RPF. In it, children would be subjected to the same punishment and abuse dealt to adults in the regular RPF.
The following is taken from the story of an ex-Scientologist and her time as a child on the Estates Project Force (EPF, similar to the RPF):
They were so excited, and I still to this day don’t know why. But the second you jump through that hole, you’re waist deep…. in Shit. I’m not being figuritve, I’m being literal. In the Pit, a sewage pipe had busted, and filled the locality with sewage. ‘cleaning the pit’ meant cleaning the broken pipes of this section. Now, as I was standing there, doing my sweeping, there was no sound but my fellows talking as they cleaned. Then came the scream. When one of them got out, she had what I can only consider a wound around her eye. The superiors did not take her to the hospital, no, that would bring up questions. instead, she went to the sci-doctor they had on the base, who cleared her to work the next day! And she did, with a puffy, infected looking eye. The other children simply hit the showers, and none of us questioned why children were stuck cleaning up broken pipes in sewage so high that you had to wash for 45 mins. We never worried about the injured girl, we had been told not to. We never thought anything was wrong.
You can check out any time you like…
In theory, members of the Sea Org may leave at any time. However, if they do so, they are given a “Freeloader’s Bill,” charging them for any auditing, courses or other Scientology training taken while in the Sea Org. As this forms a core part of life in the Sea Org, this can run into thousands of dollars, far out of the range of a Sea Org member on the average salary of just $24 a week.
In addition to this, files are kept recording any information given by a Sea Org member during auditing. As auditing works on a similar basis to counselling, it may reveal personal information which the auditee would not want to make public. The Sea Org, and Scientology as a whole, retain these records for blackmail purposes.
One of the crimes which may make a Scientologist a Suppressive Person is to leave the Sea Org without permission. Once declared an SP, all other Scientologists must cut off all contact (disconnect), including spouses, parents and children, leaving the ex-member alone in a world they have been taught to see as hostile.
Scientologists in the Sea Org are not permitted to have children. If a Sea Org member falls pregnant, they are therefore pressured into having an abortion. The alternative is often to be kicked out of Scientology altogether, left with no money, no friends (disconnection once again), and little support.
Astra Woodcraft, a former Scientologist raised in the cult, described the abortion policy:
42. Approximately 1½ years before I left, a new rule came out stating that if you got pregnant, you had to either get an abortion, which was heavily pushed, or leave. The rule had previously been that if you got pregnant, you had to get an abortion or be sent to a small and failing lower organization where you had to fend for yourself and your baby. I had to handle any staff that disagreed with this new rule. I myself disagreed with it because I wanted children and was told I would be able to have them when I was first recruited. However, I never said anything for fear of getting into trouble.
I got to the point of being suicidal because I was so unhappy, but I never said anything because I would have gotten into big trouble and been looked down upon.
46. It took a lot less time for me to leave because they didn’t want any of the other staff to know I was pregnant, so they were trying to get me out quick. A staff member from the Religious Technology Center (The Sea Org’s highest organization) came up to me one day while I was in the process of routing out and asked me what I was doing. I told him that I was pregnant and leaving and he said to me “Oh, too late for an abortion?” I personally knew of three other girls who got pregnant and were convinced to get abortions.
One was my sister-in-law who was 16 weeks pregnant when she was convinced to abort her child although she was strongly against it. My mother told my sister and I that it was good that she got an abortion.
(A note on the abortion issue: pro-choice means exactly that. Scientology steals that choice from women.)
Life and work
Scientologists in the Sea Org routinely live in sub-standard conditions. Food is basic, often nothing but rice and beans for days at a time, while accomodation is typically shared between several people per room. Typically Sea Org members will work seven days a week with only a few hours not taken up by Scientology study, work, or brief breaks for sleep and food.
In Scientology belief, sickness is believed to be the product of connection to a “Suppressive Person” or misbehaviour by the Scientologist themselves. Members of the Sea Org are therefore encouraged to apply Scientology “tech”, go through auditing, and go through other procedures rather than seek medical treatment.
Families may be deployed to different areas, or even different continents, at will. This is part of the reason the Sea Org discourages marriage and families, as they could distract the Scientologist from their work. There is even less communication among families with some members in the Sea Org and others not.
For further information on the Sea Org, please visit the following sites:
* Info from Operation Clambake, including a number of policy documents relating to the Sea Org
* Info from Ex Scientology Kids.com
* The infamous billion-year contract
* Internal documents from the Church of Scientology leaked to Wikileaks.org, many related to the Sea Org, including the creation order for the infamous Rehabilitation Project Force
* Ex-Sea Org.com
* Tax Exempt Child Abuse – crimes against children in Scientology, including the Sea Org.
On 14th June, Anonymous will be holding the fifth consecutive monthly protest against the Cult of Scientology, this one focusing on the Sea Org. For information please visit wirah.com
And, to give some balance, here’s the Church of Scientology’s perspective on the Sea Org:
– THE SEA ORGANIZATION THE RELIGIOUS ORDER OF SCIENTOLOGY from whatisscientology.org
– What is the Sea Organization? from ScientologyToday.org.
Note: as the above links go to Scientology sites they have been deliberately broken; change [dot] to .