Suzanne Working was a public member of Scientology who was unwise enough to take a cruise on the cult’s crime ship, Freewinds. The result was that she got their full treatment of heavy-handed sales pitches and extortion. As always, the cult has no shame when it comes to shaking down their members. The following was taken from the St. Petersburg Times story from November, 2011,
The St. Petersburg Times’ investigative series “The Money Machine” has shown how the Church of Scientology relentlessly hounds its parishioners for money, using intimidation and even deception against those it professes to serve.
Church defectors told how religious workers in Clearwater schemed and scrambled to bring in cash. Weary former parishioners recalled how church staffers harangued them to buy $3,000 sets of scripture.
But Scientology’s fundraising reached another dimension in the 2000s as the church pursued two key initiatives — expand its influence and build gleaming new churches around the world.
Dozens of former church members, speaking out for the first time, said fundraisers resorted to extreme tactics:
• Block the exits. In Minneapolis, church staffers followed a woman and her husband to the restrooms to make sure they didn’t leave a fundraising event. On the Scientology cruise ship Freewinds, staffers stood side by side and locked arms to block the stairway leading back to the guest rooms.
In Santa Barbara, Calif., Scientology workers arranged meeting rooms so anybody leaving would have to walk conspicuously past the speaker’s podium.
“You don’t want multiple avenues of escape,” said Linda McCarthy, former executive director of the Santa Barbara church. . .
In December 2000, Suzanne Working paid $2,500 to attend a 10-day conference aboard the Freewinds. One day, she was summoned out of a seminar and led to a small room.
Ted Bragin closed the door. He insisted she give to the IAS. Her eternal life hung in the balance, Working later married a Scientologist, staying in the church through 2009. She enjoyed some of the counseling and the fellowship but dreaded the constant demands for money.
Working and her husband tried to sneak out of “briefings” at the church that touted Scientology’s influence on society and boasted of victories against the evils of psychiatry. The briefings inevitably turned into hours long fundraising sessions for the IAS and Ideal Orgs campaigns.
She recalled an Ideal Orgs fundraiser at the Minneapolis Convention Center in 2007. About 100 people attended. Up front, a staffer kept track of amounts on an easel as the audience cheered each donation.
After 10 p.m., Working and her husband stood up to go home to their two young sons.
They were followed into the restrooms by church ethics officers, who are charged with enforcing good behavior among Scientologists. One told Working: “You absolutely can’t leave.”
When the couple returned to the fundraiser, staffers secured the room.
“They pushed tables in front of the door to keep us from leaving,” Working said. “I’m not kidding.”
In nine years in Scientology, Working, 40, racked up $70,000 in church-related debt.
“I would borrow from one card to cover payments for another and it wasn’t working,” she said. “I was extremely stressed out.”
Her fellow Scientologists kept saying life would get better if she donated more. Working said her life improved after she drastically cut expenses and walked away from the church.
“I specifically remember him saying basically the soul of my mom could end up stuck in a piece of furniture in the future and I needed to do something about it,” Working said.
He pressed for a large donation. No way, she told him. She made $22,000 a year selling flooring. She had already put the cost of the cruise on her credit cards.
She was 29 years old, far from her home in Minneapolis, a Scientologist for only five months. Bragin was a church registrar, an important staffer with years of experience making sales.
When she stood up to leave, he moved toward the door, leaving her no easy way out.
“Even though you’re not manhandled, there’s a psychological restraint,” she said.
Bragin kept her for 90 minutes, praising her as a “big being” while also making her feel selfish for refusing to give. She reluctantly agreed to donate $10,000, but said she needed to run it past her husband back home. They’d been married for two years.
Bragin told her not to tell her husband. A non-Scientologist wouldn’t understand the importance of the donation.
Working kept her husband in the dark and put the $10,000 on plastic. “I had no business doing that,” she said. The marriage later ended, though not because of the donation. She never told him about it.
For more of the story go here: http://www.tampabay.com/specials/2009/reports/project/#part1
For more fun here is the son of the great L. Ron Hubbard telling the truth about his father.