Fearful that their children have been "brainwashed" by Scientology, two Hollywood parents erected billboards begging their children to call their parents. The $8,000 crowd-funded sign is near Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium.
It bears the simple message "To my loved one in Scientology... call me" with faces of hundreds of individuals that have been lost to Scientology's practice of "disconnection" from non-Scientologists.
Phil and Willie Jones are both ex-Scientologists and like most who leave the church, they've been ostracized by their loved ones, including three children, who are still members of the church. According to an interview by the Hollywood Reporter, it has been three or four years since they have seen their children and over two since they've talked to them.
Mrs. Jones says that they were drawn into Scientology as teenagers by "hypnotism," "brainwashing," and "mental conditioning." Mr. Jones says that they have given as much as $150,000 of their income to Scientology, but most end up giving more. His eldest child is higher up in the leadership of Scientology and likely has a cell phone but they still haven't heard from her.
"My son and daughter joined the Sea Organization, which is the full commitment," Mr. Jones said. "That’s where you sign a billion-year contract... you work 100 hours a week for 10 cents an hour. It’s just brutal."
Their youngest son Michael had dreams of being a guitar player but Scientology put him working in the "Celebrity Centre" instead. "They convinced him the music industry is insane and that he could only play guitar once the planet was 'clear,'" his parents explained.
They were asked why they don't just break into the compound and get their children back but the Joneses explained that most are so "brainwashed" that they actually want to be there enduring the harsh treatment. "Because they are so conditioned mentally, they will not want to go. A couple years ago, the FBI was going to try to do a raid on the Scientology base down in Hemet, Calif. There were people locked in what they call 'the hole.' It’s a prison with bars and locked doors, about 100 or 200 people locked in there. They’d eat leftover food and sleep on the floor with ants. It was really a horrible thing. But the FBI were warned not to go in. Every single person will say, 'No, I want to be here. I’m here of my own choice.'"
The couple reports that many who leave Scientology say that they did so because they "saw something on the news" or "read something on the internet," which is why they are opting for the billboard approach. They're hoping the sign and media attention around it helps convince trapped Scientologists to do further research and seek help getting out. "Those stories being out there are probably the No. 1 thing that helps them get out," the couple explained.