Posted: Nov 20, 2012 8:28 AM by Janine Reyes
Updated: Nov 20, 2012 9:16 AM
CORPUS CHRISTI - Tom Cruise, Lisa Marie Presley, Kirstie Alley, and John Travolta are all celebrities who practice Scientology. It's a belief system surrounded by secrecy and criticism. One of its former leaders now lives in Ingleside on the Bay and many former members have gone to him seeking help to leave Scientology.
"Scientology, the organization has become a cult, by every definition of the word," said Marty Rathbun in an interview at his home.
We stopped by while he was hosting a visit from some other former members.
Marc Headley and his wife grew up in the Church of Scientology. "It's absolutely without question. It's a cult," Headley told us, "There is no doubt in my mind that is what it is."
Many former members of the Church of Scientology agree, the organization they spent years, even decades in is an abusive cult designed to take money from its members.
Rathbun joined at the age of 21, attracted by the beliefs created by L. Ron Hubbard in 1952.
He spent 27 years in the Church of Scientology, eventually becoming Inspector General of the Religious Technology Center at the International Headquarters.
"I was the number one Scientology Auditor in the world. I was John Travolta's auditor. I was Tom Cruise's Auditor. I was Lisa Marie Presley's auditor. I was Issac Hayes' auditor," Rathbun said, "I was the auditor for all the top execs in Scientology. I was the top guy on the use of the methodologies of Scientology."
He left in 2004, after escaping the compound located in San Jacinto, California. It's a 500-acre site, surrounded by barbed wire fences.
Now, Rathbun calls the quiet community of Ingleside on the Bay home. "I came here to be as far away from the two main headquarters of the cult, Clearwater, Florida and Los Angeles," he told us.
When we met with Rathbun, he was catching up with former members and friends Marc and Claire Headley. The three are connected through their experiences with Scientology.
The Headley's parents were heavily involved in the church at a very young age, even leaving high school to work at the International Headquarters.
Marc worked in the production facility for 15 years, when a run-in with the leader David Miscavage convinced him he had to leave.
"He punched me several times and pushed me up into a bookcase," Marc described.
But leaving isn't so easy. Marc, Claire and Marty all say the barbed fence that surrounds the facility is there to keep members in, and escaping is not easy. There are security cameras surrounding the compound; even a doctor's appointment, they say, requires an escort.
Marc tells us he stashed his motorcycle near his home and drove past security in 2004, but he quickly had Scientology security on his tail. "They were screaming and screaming 'Turn around, come back,' he described, "I just ignored them."
Marc tells us they ran him off the road and eventually passers-by called police.
"When you leave without authorization it's called a blow. So, I've blown the property and I called the police to help me, so that I could escape in to the nearest town," Marc described.
His escape is detailed in his book, 'Blown for Good.' Weeks later, on January 24th, 2004, his wife Claire, followed in a daring escape. Otherwise, she says she'd never see her husband of 13 years again.
She scheduled an appointment to get contact lenses at Walmart and after ditching her escort, she says she made it to the Riverside bus station where she used her church-issued phone to call Marc.
She was hoping to meet him in Missouri, but she only made it to Las Vegas before Church of Scientology members tracked her down, ready to bring her back.
"I knew when I started on this route, that if I was unsuccessful, I would be under lock and key for years," Claire said. Escapees, they say, are sent to a hard labor camp for up to 10 years.
It was at the Las Vegas bus station that she took a stand. She refused to go back to the compound. "I sat on my purse in the middle of the bus station and just bided my time," Claire said. She feared if she left the building, Scientology members would drag her back by force. She made sure to stay in public view and made a run for her departing bus.
Claire and her husband had to start their lives from scratch, no money, no education, no credit, and virtually no family. When they left, all their family members in Scientology cut them off.
Claire's mom tried staying in contact, but that communication abruptly ended. Marc says when he saw his mother at a family reunion, she refused to even acknowledge him. "She told her family that she couldn't speak to us and they asked her why and she said, 'If I speak to them, it will threaten the future of all mankind's eternity,'" Marc said.
Eight years later, Claire and Marc have two boys. They say when they worked for the Church of Scientology, employees were not allowed to have children.
They now work to help others who escape Scientology start new lives.
Do you have a tip, information about a breaking news story, or a story idea for 6 Investigates? Contact the KRIS 6 News Desk at 361-884-6666 or send us an email.
Look at photos and videos and share them!
| Desktop Weather
Current forecast, hurricane info, and much more!
|KRISTV.COM Mobile Website
Get KRISTV.com on your mobile or PDA!
|KRISTV.COM Mobile Apps
Get our mobile apps on your mobile or PDA!
See the latest winning numbers!
|6 News Team
Read about your favorite KRIS-TV personalities!
|FCC Online Public File
FCC Public File of Records, Reports, and more