Eleven years after she claimed she was imprisoned on a Scientology cruise ship, a woman, together with two others, is suing the church.
Back in 2011, ABC News reported that Australian resident Valeska Paris had been “imprisoned” onboard a cruise ship called the Freewinds for 12 years to which she had been sent, at the age of 18, by Scientology leader “captain” David Miscavige. The move was aimed at preventing her mother from taking her away from what many regard as a cult.
This happened after her father, Albert Jaquier, had committed suicide. A self-made millionaire, his last days were spent in poverty, and in a diary he kept, he blamed Scientology for fleecing him out of his fortune.
In the wake of her ex-husband’s suicide, her mother was insistent that Swiss-born Paris, above, leave Scientology, which she joined when she was just 14. She signed a contract binding her to the church for a billion years!
News has now surfaced that the church and Miscavige is facing a lawsuit from three defectors who allege they were trafficked as children and forced into “dangerous” labor on the Sea Org ships. One of the plaintiffs is Paris, and the other two are Gawain Baxter, his wife Laura.
The lawsuit, filed in Tampa, Florida, said that Gawain Baxter’s parents placed him in a Sea Org nursery when he was as young as two months old. He was forced to sign a contract when he was six, when he went on to live in a Cadet Org dormitory with up to a hundred other children.
The lawsuit alleged that:
Children over six years old are considered to be and are frequently told that they are adults and that they should act and expect to be treated as adults. They are not even called children; rather they must be referred to as ‘Cadets.’
The lawsuit also claims that the three plaintiffs were “systematically trafficked through indoctrination and other methods.”
Baxter claims that between the age of six and 14, he was not allowed to attend any accredited public or private school. Instead, schooling was limited to basic reading, writing, and math in a classroom with thirty other children
From the age of 10, Baxter was forced to spend an hour or two daily in Scientology indoctrination courses. He recounted how, when he was 14, he was forced to perform 12 hours worth of labor, renovating and cleaning properties, causing him to become “sleep-deprived” and having “inadequate time to eat.”
He was also “verbally abused by his adult supervisors.”
Meanwhile, Paris alleges that she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by a Sea Org supervisor. She was also forced into child labor, as when she was younger, she was tasked to do landscaping and care for newborns who were born to other Church of Scientology members.
When Paris was 17, her mother left the church and she was placed on board as a punishment.
Baxter’s wife, Laura, claims she had endured similar abuse.
In 2011, writing for Slate, Brian Palmer explained the goings-on aboard The Freewinds. Fun and games were certainly not part of the voyages it made:
Scientologists board the ship to progress in their spiritual studies, and their activities are tightly scheduled. Most days, they are in lecture halls or counseling sessions from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m., with one-hour breaks for lunch and dinner.
Playing hooky to bum around the pool is not an option. Supervisors take roll call at the beginning of each session, and tardy students are sent to ethics officers. The Freewinds’ biggest draw is that it is the only place where an adherent can complete the coursework to achieve Operating Thetan Level VIII, the highest degree of spiritual achievement currently available in Scientology.
Wiki says that, according to Scientology founder, Ron L. Hubbard, the Sea Org’s mission is “an exploration into both time and space.”
Wiki also points out that Sea Org has been described as a paramilitary organization and as a private naval force, having operated several vessels in its past and displaying a maritime tradition.
Some ex-members and scholars have described the Sea Org as a totalitarian organization marked by intensive surveillance and a lack of freedom. The Sea Org has also been compared to a monastic organization.
A video posted by the Church of Scientology says that a journey on the Freewinds— an “ultra high-tech 10,000-ton ship”—is both a religious retreat for Scientologists and a symbol of hope for all as it sails the seas to carry out its humanitarian missions in countries throughout the world.
Paris left the vessel when she was sent to the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF) in Sydney. Scientologists describe the RPF as a voluntary religious retreat. Defectors describe it as a punitive re-education camp.
In his book The Complex: An Insider Exposes the Covert World of the Church of Scientology, ex-Scientologist John Duignan describes RPF members living in a rat-infested basement, engaging in degrading jobs for years at a stretch, while denied visits with spouses or children.
Paris told ABC News that she would like to see the head of the Church of Scientology, the man who she says sent her to the Freewinds, put on trial.
I was basically hauled in and told that my mum had attacked the church and that I needed to disconnect from her because was suppressive …
It’s not right for someone to be running the church and basically take advantage of a church and hiding behind religion to live like a king and abuse people around him. That man doesn’t like anyone, he’s a psychopath.
The Church of Scientology denies their leader David Miscavige sent Ms. Paris to the Freewinds. When asked if this allegation was put to Mr. Miscavige, the Church failed to respond.