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Leaving the SO

GuardSea Org Members will most likely never read this – although I do know several who managed to covertly access the internet while still in the Sea Org. So for the most part this is written for the family of the Sea Org Member.

Getting a family member out of the Sea Org is a daunting task. They are watched and guarded 24/7, and their letters and phone calls are monitored. So they cannot be honest with you about what life is really like in the Sea Org. They cannot use the internet or access e-mail. Their letters and calls will tell you that everything is wonderful, and they are doing fine and having great wins. And if you are even slightly critical of the Sea Org in your calls or letters, they will get in trouble, and you risk them being forced to “handle or disconnect.” You also risk their resentment if they perceive you as “anti-Scientology.”

The first and best thing you can do is give them your unconditional love and support. Write them often, tell them what is happening with the family, and send photographs. Let them know that you love them and support them unconditionally. If they decide to leave, they will know they can come to you. Make sure they always have your current address and phone number (cell and home).

As a note, do this whether you are “disconnected” or not. Remember, they may have to comply to a disconnection edict, but if you are not a Church of Scientology member, you can ignore it. Send those letters anyway. Keep them light, send news about the family. Send photos. Don’t worry that you don’t get an answer, keep sending them. What are they going to do, throw them away? If they throw your letters away or fail to deliver them, they are guilty of a Federal crime. So keep the letters flowing.

Don’t forget to send presents at Christmas and for their birthday. Again, “disconnected” or not.

If you want to be adventurous, send them a prepaid cell phone with your number programmed in. They are not supposed to have cell phones, but who knows, they may keep it and you may get a call. Or if the Church takes it you can take them to task about stealing private property.

Press for them to come for a family visit. Best to give them some added incentive – make it a family reunion or a special occasion. Press them to come for Christmas. Remember, they have to sell it to their seniors, so give them plenty of ammo. Get them to promise to come, and then hold them to it.

If you do manage to get them home, even for a short period, don’t go on an attack on the Sea Org or Scientology. Don’t ask them a lot of questions or put them on the spot. Let them relax and unwind. Let them sleep in. Take them for a walk or a hike or go to a movie or go shopping. When it seems to be appropriate, ask them non-threatening questions about what they do, what their duties are, what projects they are involved in, what they like about Sea Org life.

Let them know that they always have a home with you and are always welcome. This is a light way of saying “you can come here if you leave.”

If you feel adventurous, and if it seems appropriate, ask about anything they don’t like about Sea Org life. They may or may not open up.

Make a computer available to them with an internet connection. Put this in their bedroom, logged on. Give them private time to explore if they want.

You can always gently inform them of their rights.  For instance, California Labor Code Section 510 provides that “Eight hours of labor constitutes a day’s work.” Other states probably have similar laws. Sea Org Members work 12 to 14-hour days, sometimes more. California Labor Code Section 551 states that “Every person employed in any occupation of labor is entitled to one day’s rest therefrom in seven.” Sea Org Members if they are “upstat,” get one day off in fourteen. But in practice, they rarely get these.

California Labor Code, Section 1194 states, “Notwithstanding any agreement to work for a lesser wage, any employee receiving less than the legal minimum wage or the legal overtime compensation applicable to the employee is entitled to recover in a civil action the unpaid balance of the full amount of this minimum wage or overtime compensation, including interest thereon, reasonable attorney’s fees, and costs of suit. Sea Org Members are paid under $50.00 a week, or about 40 cents an hour.

California Labor Code Section 6400 states: “Every employer shall furnish employment and a place of employment that is safe and healthful for the employees therein.” And the California Code of Civil Procedure Section 527.8 forbids unlawful violence or threat of violence in the workplace.  Yet Sea Org members are often threatened with physical abuse, as was exposed in the recent St. Petersburg Times articles.

It is also a labor code violation not to inform an employee of these rights.

You may not realize it, but most Sea Org Members daydream at times about escaping. They will not tell you that, and they certainly won’t tell their seniors that, but they do.  They daydream about jumping walls or fences or eluding guards. But they don’t need to do anything that dramatic. Most Sea Org Members do not know that they cannot be physically held or prevented from leaving. If they walk out the front door or the front gate, no one can legally stop them. No one, in fact, can touch them legally. Otherwise they can face a kidnapping or assault charge. Security Guards at Sea Org installations know this, and so will not try to physically touch a person who is trying to leave. They will use verbal arguments and threats. But a person intent on leaving can simply keep walking. There is nothing they can legally do. Sea Org Members should know these rights as well.

If a person blows the Sea Organization, the Sea Org will contact them and try to get them to “route out properly.” You, and they, should know what this means. The person “routing out properly” will undergo weeks or months of Security Checking. They will meanwhile be on manual labor, under Security watch. The Security Check is deemed complete when the person has confessed to enough crimes or transgressions to satisfy the Church, which is to say, when they have enough “dirt” on the person so they know they can blackmail them into silence should they ever decide to expose what they know. They are then allowed to “route out.” This involves signing voluminous waivers and gag orders, waiving any and all rights the person has to ever sue, and threatening the person with massive fines if they should ever speak out. The person receives no copies of these agreements. They are legally questionable – their main purpose is to intimidate. When all the forms are signed, the person is offloaded from the Sea Organization with $500.00 “severance pay.” The Sea Org makes no attempt to help the person relocate or find a job. They are dumped, quite literally, on the street. That is “routing out properly.” It only benefits the Church, there is no benefit to the individual at all.

If the person has managed to escape the Sea Org, or wants to stay out permanently after a family visit, discourage them from returning to “route out properly.” They will gain nothing from it.

These are some of the actions I would recommend to get a family member out of the Sea Org. If you have specific questions, leave them as comments on this page. And if you have suggestions or tips of successful actions, please share them here as well.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. Pete Sagi permalink
    September 11, 2009 6:17 am

    By way of preventing future harassment of the blown sea ogre, if possible, convince the sea org that the sea ogre was in a car wreck and is either dead or a quadraplegic, which ever is easier to “prove”. They don’t want someone in a wheelchair who needs constant attention, guaranteed.

    By way of getting leave approved for the sea ogre, a good story could be a family member dropping dead and leaving a considerable sum for the sea ogre, with some sort of plausible story about how the ogre has to personally fly out to straighten out the details. If they think that the ogre will be back with half a million buck they can get their hands on, he will be turned loose in an instant, perhaps flying back with a handler. The handler will have to be separated from the family sea ogre, but that is another topic, use your imagination.


  2. Margaret permalink
    October 29, 2009 7:46 pm

    A little personal story. I was on staff in the 1980s when I was a teenager. I joined when I was 19 — left college, the whole bit. Being “on staff” (a 2.5 year or a 5 year contract) is sort of “Sea Org lite” — you are on your own as far as housing and food, but basically you get no pay and have to make Staff and Scientology your whole life. You have to find another source of income, and usually end up working for another staff member or a minimum wage job somewhere. But the Church always has to come first.

    Anyway, long story short, if I had a parent who was “openly antagonistic” to my involvement in Scientology, I would have been forced to ultimately disconnect. Instead, my parents simply “didn’t say anything bad” about Scientology and made it known that if I wanted to return to college or needed a place to live, that they were there for me. They didn’t treat me like a child and even sold me one of their cars while I was on staff.

    In the end, after my 2.5 year contract ended, I decided not to sign a new one (despite heavy pressure from the Org to sign another one for 5 yrs), going back to live with my parents and finishing college. If I didn’t know that my parents were there for me, I do wonder if I would have left staff. If I thought that I would be heading into an antagonistic or invalidative environment (with my parents), I’m not sure that I would have left. It is possible I would have stayed on staff or joined the Sea Org.

  3. Robin permalink
    November 24, 2009 5:43 pm

    It’s a nice attempt, but get your facts straight. Every SO member I have ever dealt with in the last 10 years has an email address AND a cell phone.

    Also I am not sure that the California Labor Codes apply to Church workers who are seen as “volunteers”, including members of the clergy, and other ecclesiastical staff. This is a gray area however, it’s hard to find clear cut California policy.

    Anyway, the other stuff you say is true, keep CONNECTED and provide a safe haven for these folks so they know they have a safety net to fall into.

    • fishdaddy permalink*
      November 24, 2009 7:22 pm

      Robin, I was in the Sea Org for 35 years and at the Int Base for 15. I can tell you that there were maybe a dozen staff out of 400 or so who were allowed to have cell phones for post use, and they were forbidden to use them for personal calls. As to e-mail addresses, same thing – a handful allowed to use e-mail for post. Any personal e-mails have to go through Security just as a personal letter does.

      SO Members who deal with public, such as Reges and Ethics Officers, would of course have e-mail addresses and cell phones for their post, so this is probably where you get the idea that “every” Sea Org Member has these things – they do not.

      As to the application of California Labor Laws, this is being sorted out in court.

    • Joanne Abruzzese permalink
      January 11, 2011 4:30 pm

      California Labor Law and all other state law does apply to churches and non-profits. Basically if you are employed by the organization and you do other things for that organization outside of your work hours and are not exempt, then you must pay overtime. Rule of thumb, if it looks like work and smells like work, it is work. I work for a non-profit and are very aware of this rule. Also, my church has had to deal with this. This has been sorted out in court.
      Also, my daughter is in, she does have her cell phone and email, however, she is restricted in the use of it. I get texts from her, but usually at 12 AM to 1 AM.

  4. Petey Cougar permalink
    March 24, 2010 6:55 am

    I’ve only just stumbled on this website and am catching up on past posts. What I read just horrifies me. Things were bad enough in 1982 when I left Int, but they have become beyond nightmare.

    I read your advice on leaving the SO. Some SO members go home to a different country, therefore passports and airfares (and cash) are necessities given levels of SO “pay”. Maybe families should make sure they can get an airfare together quickly (and tell their SO family member so) and encourage the SO member to hang on to their passport and keep it current. My family must have read this post as they did exactly what you recommend in 1982 (without the computers) but they also said that whenever I needed it, an airfare would be available for me. They didn’t refer to leaving so an SO member could take that offer to include a vacation. Maybe the family could even take out a credit card for the SO member and give it to them for emergencies.

    This is a great site, and I’ll keep reading. I also want to say I’m knocked out by the quality of the writing.

    • Editor permalink*
      March 24, 2010 4:56 pm

      If the person is not from the US and does not have their passport, I believe they can go to their country’s embassy and report it as lost or stolen (or that it’s being held by a religious cult!) and arrange to get a new one.

  5. Petey Cougar permalink
    March 27, 2010 5:03 am

    That’s true, but it takes days/weeks (I’ve done it while in Scn) and meantime a person has to live. Better just to make sure your passport’s safe and with you all the time. The embassy or consulate checks you out to make sure you’re not on some sort of scam and that takes time, unless you have powerful friends.

  6. truey permalink
    April 11, 2010 6:10 pm

    My son was SO for 6 months and routed out. It was no big deal except they kept his computer and never returned it.

  7. February 11, 2011 3:38 pm

    Is there a need for a safe haven? Are there people out there with literally nowhere to go besides the church? I would gladly host a stranger if it means they can leave scientology.

    • VHall permalink
      April 2, 2013 8:39 pm

      This is a good point. I’d like to see a group start a safe house in Hemet that could provide escort, bus tickets, pre-paid cell phones, and references for temporary jobs.

    • October 2, 2014 7:27 am

      i was in the sea org i just left a month ago i was at CLO africa in JOhannesburg south africa that is where i was recruited i blew from the sea org, and i went to my country zi
      mbabwe but the people in the sea org are looking for me

  8. March 29, 2011 10:23 pm

    I also have just found this site, thank you for the information. I have close friends who are there. I have always taken the approach to not express my concern about SO to listen when I am told how amazing everything is. To witness that glazed look in the eyes. I continue to send them letters, birthday cards, christmas gifts and hoping the know there is something beyond SO. I have stayed a long time without news, thank you for this site it lets me know this is normal. I often thought they didn’t care, or never got my letters/gifts.

  9. Jaco van Antwerpen permalink
    April 2, 2011 8:58 pm

    I also have just found this site, thank you for the information…My mom joined SO at the age of 57. About 6 years ago. My stepfather is in scientology most of his life. That was how poor mom ended up becoming a SO in South Africa (Johannesburg).

    After 2 years and many hours of hard labour (14-16 hours/day) my mom became sick. Hormone issues normal to a 60 year old female. According to the SO she was out-ethics and so-called PTS. There were no funds for doctors and medicines. Only cheap vitamins provided by the church. She was still forced to work 16 and even more hours a day. I never saw my mom in a worse state. Eventually she managed to run away. The so-called excuse we used was that I was willing to pay for Doctors appointments and medications. So they approved my mom’s request for a day’s leave. The never saw her again. Lucky for her, me and my sister gave her full support and she is doing fine again away from that evil place…

    My mom had a high level post in the SO. I do want to sit with her one day and record all of the things that happened in her time. She did told me there were a lot of scary things going on behind the close doors….

    Good luck to anyone having relatives or friends in the SO. Give them your support and let them know you are there for them if they want to leave the SO…

  10. Andrea Haslam permalink
    April 6, 2011 11:46 am

    My 19yr old niece and her 17 yr old fiancé are ‘taking a break’ from sea org. They moved back to scientology family homes and say they are taking more courses and planning to go back to org next year. Her mother is staff member and auditor. They are still in touch with all their scientology friends and family and still seem to be in the cult. They still do not ever mention Scientology to family who are not members. What is going on in their lives? Is it possible to take a break from the whole billion year deal? We still feel excluded and that we are not being told whole story just like when they were org members! My niece is not pregnant so could it be that the church can no longer afford to keep teenagers in small orgs in full board? Was this a cost cutting exercise or are they out ethics for something or could they be re-deployed to another org? My nephew was sent to LA from same org last year we hardly ever hear from him now.

  11. Anni Doré formerly Anna Magnusson permalink
    July 28, 2011 8:16 pm

    I found a way out for myself,my husband and my two small children,in the early 80s.
    LOVE is the answer,from your families and amoungst yourselves.
    My first message as a Human Being who escaped……

  12. Alissa permalink
    July 4, 2012 6:07 pm

    I got involved with Scn almost 20 years ago thru a family friend. I was only a teen at the time so was easily sucked in. Within a year I was working for the local church and before I knew it, I had been recruited to the SO.

    Against my family’s wishes I sold everything I had and left on a plane for California 24 hours later.
    The rest of my memories are a blur of laboriously long days, eating beans, rice, scrubbing bathrooms, running from A to B, days filled with intense studying, security checks on the meter, no allowed contact with my Non Scn family and friends, hours spent on planes travelling city to city on recruitment missions, … It literally does feel like a psychotic break at times even now, trying to allow myself to see the world in a new way. I was only involved for two years, but in that time I experienced a level of fear, brainwashing and isolation that I will NEVER forget.
    It’s been burned into my brain and the scar is there.
    I no longer trust any religion, I doubt myself spiritually, I doubt myself when I need medical attention or medicine.
    I really am so very glad to know I’m not crazy and there are others like me.

    Then….there is also that part of me that wonders is sites like this are traps and setup by current Scn to catch those of us talking about our experiences and come find us to hush us.
    I cannot tell you how much I am still gripped by this paranoia of being watched or tracked. It’s hard to explain to other people who haven’t experienced this type of cultish life.
    I still get a barrage of flyers and booklets every month in the mail, including my ” freeloaders debt”. At times they still call me.
    I wonder during hard times, especially financially speaking, if I was programmed or brainwashed into thinking without Scn, I would fail…. How can I be rid of these things / thoughts years later?

    Scn petrified me in so many ways.

    • Hailey permalink
      August 22, 2014 3:50 am

      Your experience minus the recruitment missions sounds really familiar to me and I routed off of the EPF a couple of days ago and I don’t have anyone to talk to that can relate to me. Hope you are doing well now

  13. Quorn permalink
    July 9, 2012 7:48 pm

    Can Scientology be associated with Islam, where there is a cultish mentality and harsh punishments for challenging or questioning or getting an outside viewpoint? The treatment of “other” such as apostates or those who don’t conform to the doctrines seem similar to these totalitarianisms.

  14. Ashura J. permalink
    July 30, 2012 5:05 am


    That the family of non-scio’s have to treat them with kid gloves speaks to the very problem with CoS even calling themselves a religion. It’s a perversion of religion. Making someone sign massive amounts of paperwork and intimidation and routing out is just wicked. It’s actually pretty crazy and paranoid (I mean no offense by this, just the gut reaction to reading your words).

  15. jen d. permalink
    February 5, 2014 6:25 am

    My bf of four and a half years has just recently been recruited into the sea org. I was devastated when he left and it is still hard each day knowing the kinds of things that are going on in there. Right now he is in RPF. He called me to let me know that he is “okay” and how life was and how he has to adjust. I am not a scientologist, but i still supported any of his decisions just so I can still communicate with him. I know I have to say positive things to him when he calls but what do I say to him. Ive tried to reach out to others but I have still had no response. This whole situation is driving me crazy and I could really use insite on how to deal with this situation. THANK YOU!


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