A former top Scientologist says she was forced to spend three years performing hard labor after she was caught kissing another woman.
Nora Crest worked as a life counselor at the Los Angeles Celebrity Center, where she mentored the children of celebrity Scientologists John Travolta and Tom Cruise before she was banished for her same-sex attraction, reported the Daily Mail.
Crest was a member of the hardcore Sea Org group of dedicated members who sign “billion-year” contracts tying them to the church — to which she was introduced as a young child by her active Scientologist parents, Kathy Thomas and Constantine Panfilous Sova.
Crest, now 39 and married to another ex-Scientologist, said she never went further than kissing — but church founder L. Ron Hubbard classified homosexuality as an illness and sexual perversion that must be cured.
So she was placed into the Rehabilitation Project Force in March 2000 and required to perform hard labor 80 hours a week at a West Los Angeles facility operated by the Church of Scientology.
“It was the culture where every minute of every day, hundreds of people were watching you, judging you, making sure you didn’t step out of line,” she recalled. “We were sleeping in dorms where there were at least 33 women on bunk beds, three beds high.”
“If I put my hand on the shoulder of a woman, spoke to a woman, or anytime I was nice to a woman, I’d get a report,” Crest continued. “We had three meals a day, where you have 20 minutes to gather your food and eat it, and 30 minutes to do your hygiene.”
Crest said she suffered two herniated discs, three broken ribs and other injuries while enduring the program, which she unsuccessfully tried to escape several times.
“The only way you can leave officially is if you go up against a board of your fellow Sea Org members, who you’ve been close to for so long, and prove to them that you’re not fit enough to be in the Sea Org anymore,” she said. “You have to say you’re so pathetic that you’re not worthy of it. I had to tell them I was a degraded human being, unable to help me or anyone else, I was a terrible person and they should please kick me out.”
Church members threatened to split up her family and forbid her from speaking to her mother or sister, and she eventually decided to stay.
But Crest said she attempted suicide after she was beaten in November 2002 by more than a dozen other Scientologists for laughing with another woman.
“I then went into a utility cupboard and saw a massive bottle of industrial strength bleach and so drank a hefty cap full, around the equivalent of a quarter cup,” Crest said. “I fell backwards, my whole body was convulsing, my throat started to swell. When they found me, they got a gallon of milk and put me in a room and made me drink it. ”
She said a Scientology doctor took her to a hospital and insisted she tell authorities that she drank the bleach by accident — and that’s what she told them.
But after she was released from the hospital the church offered her a way out.
“They took me to a building and I was forced to sign a waiver that I wasn’t ever going to sue the church, say bad things, never criticize it,” Crest said. “I said it all to camera. I didn’t care, I just wanted to go home. They then drove me to Eagle Rock in LA where my mom lived. I was just so relieved to see her. But I didn’t tell my mom what really happened for five years.”
Crest said she was unprepared for life outside the church, but she met another former Scientologist a few months after leaving, and she married him in 2005.
She and her husband, Cameron, now have two sons.
Crest said she struggled for years after leaving Scientology, but she has come to see it for what it is.
“I felt like I’d literally let the whole planet down because I had left the Sea Org,” she said. “It took years for that massive guilt to lift. When I discovered the truth about Scientology, I realized the sad truth, nothing I did there had actually made a difference in the world at all. I had zero impact in the lives of anyone on the planet. It was all lies.”