By Lisa Bennett Published in the Elmira Star-Gazette, February 1988. [Elmira, NY, is SSW of Syracuse close to the PA border.]
Those who follow Scientology will recognize the common themes in this story. There is one point, however, that is different. In this case the victim. Margie Kuentz Hoffman. looked up and read the negative press, yet she still joined! Otherwise it is business as usual. First comes the rigged “personality” test designed to find fault with you so that you can be sold life improvement courses. The first courses are based on common sense and have some legitimate value. By the time you finish it you hear about other courses including those that can make you super-human, The hook gets set. Later comes the disillusionment when you find out you have been fleeced. The only worse outcome is when you don’t get to that understanding about the fraud you have been a victim of. Most people just walk away at that point. Some try and fight back as this woman did; of course Scientology was ready for her, they had all her nasty thoughts in their folders all primed for blackmail.
For Hoffman, it began in May 1975. She was studying hairdressing in Syracuse when her 22-year-old boyfriend, Wink, died in a car accident. She was devastated. “it haunted me,” she remembered. “Why did he die so young? I wanted to be happy. How come I couldn’t make myself?” Then, months after returning home to Elmira to work as a hairdresser, a customer one day told her about Scientology and Palmer’s center, just down the street from her.
“He gave me a personality questionnaire — one of those famous personality questionnaires,” Hoffman said, referring to the hundreds of forms that were tucked under windshield wipers, between front doors and into the hands of people waiting in the laundromat next to the center. She filled out the form and brought it in. palmer offered her this diagnosis: “He said I was at a low point. I had a goal. I had a strong personality. My communication level was down. I liked people, but I felt they didn’t like me. I felt I was different from most people.” It was as general as the analysis a card-reader gives for $5 at a street fair, but it clicked for Hoffman.
She spent an afternoon at the library investigating the claims she had heard about the religion, including some of its strange rules like barring members from taking aspirin. “I got out every bad article about Scientology,” she said. “I read in Reader’s Digest about L. Ron Hubbard (Scientology’s founder) putting his cigarette out on people; and in Time Magazine about how they lured you in to get all your money and all the weird rituals.” The money didn’t bother her. “I didn’t care about the money. I was single. I made a lot of money.” And she was skeptical about the more outrageous allegations. “I never saw those things happening. I decided I would continue until I saw something.” So she dug out $45 and signed up for the first Scientology course, a four-week lesson in communication. . .
When Hoffman was offered a second course, called Life Repair, the price soared to $1,750. “I said, ‘You’re kidding. Come on, Really, how much is it?'” But Scientologists do not joke about money.
So Hoffman paid. Within two years, she had spent $20,000 and was making loan payments like “a good little Scientologist.” By Scientology standards, that’s moderate. . .
But that’s the way Scientology works, Hoffman said: “First, you put your toe in and it feels OK, nice and warm. Pretty soon you’re swimming.”
[Bit by bit they chip away at your personal freedoms through “ethics” programs which are designed to invalidate you and cave you in. The purpose is to make you a compliant slave to Scientology.]
. . . What disturbed her most and what she still finds most difficult to talk about, was the “heavy, heavy discipline.” Discipline wasn’t new to Hoffman — Scientology is based on discipline and that, in part, attracted her — but it became particularly rough from 1981 to 1983. She made efforts to rebel, twice leaving the group. Then, at the urging of other leaders, she came back both times. now, she says: “I missed my chance twice.”
The main disciplinary practices took place in the “ethics room” and through “amends projects.”
. . . Complaints, doubts and missed classes could land a member in the ethics room. Or, explained Hoffman “if your graph was not constantly going up, you were in ethics.”
[When the point comes that you can’t take the poverty and abuse any longer they will try to keep you in with blackmail. The “PC” folders have all the dirt on you from auditing; Scientology has shown a willingness over and over to use them against whistle-blowers.]
Margie Kuentz Hoffman, the focus of this week’s Star-Gazette series, “a Scientologists story”, complained to police Tuesday that she had received a threatening note.
Checking into her report, Elmira City police questioned Harry Palmer, director of the Center for Creative Learning at police headquarters. They also questioned his partner, Avra Honey Smith, at the center.
Hoffman received a note Monday which threatened to expose private, embarrassing statements about her if she failed to “clean up” things she said about her experience at the center.
It read (with typographical errors): “Maybe its time the wold knowxz the kind of person you azre. Clean up the 3rd party on H or they will”. In Scientology, “Third party” refers to negative talk. Palmer commonly signed his correspondence with “H” according to several former employees.
Note: the man who ran this mission, Palmer, later founded “Avatar.” which is some sort of rip-off of Scientology. For the rest of the story go here: http://jeta.home.xs4all.nl/avatar/avatar-elmira-star-margie-hoffman.html