The Daily Mail has posted a narrative from Nora Crest, a 39-year-old woman who says she spent the majority of her life in the Church of Scientology and was ultimately punished with years of hard labor for kissing a woman by the notoriously homophobic church*. Before that, Crest says she was a “Word Clearer” who worked with noted members of the church like John Travolta (“He was very nice and apologized 20 times for helping him”), and Tom Cruise’s kids Connor and Isabella (“That’s when Tom and Nicole were going through a separation and we were ordered never to speak of her and she was a bad person”).
According to the Mail, while living in the “cockroach- and rat-infested accommodation block” with other members of Sea Org (“a religious order for the Scientology religion and is composed of the singularly most dedicated Scientologists”), Crest kissed her female roommate. Says Crest:
It was more than a peck. It was a very explosive moment in my mind. I didn’t know what was happening and how I was feeling, but I liked it, and we continued to kiss over the next few months, but never anything more.
We didn’t engage in sex before marriage, as we knew how strict it was. I didn’t want to get into trouble, I even got myself a boyfriend to hide what we were doing.
Crest says that her fellow Sea Org members caught on to her kissing affair, which led to an “intense interrogation” with her chief officer. She was stripped of her job and put on cleaning and construction work for three months before being sent to the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF), “a rundown building in west Los Angeles where inmates were made to believe they’d done wrong against the Church and work over 80 hours a week for only $50 a month.”
According to Crest, she was under constant surveillance, living in a dorm that held at least 33 women. She says she’d get reported whenever she showed kindness to another woman. Additionally:
You spoke only when you were spoken to. All outside communication was heavily vetted, so if my mom wrote a letter they would cross things out or I’d be interrogated asking why she said a certain thing. We got $11.25 a week and had to buy everything with that including hygiene products.
If you wanted a snack you had to buy it yourself. You’d go to the canteen and they’d charge you $1 for a coke or $2 for a protein bar. That’d leave with you hardly anything for the rest of the week.
You’re required to run all day, every day. If you need the bathroom you have to run there. Your uniform consists of black jeans, grey shirts, a belt and steel toe-capped boots, as everyone worked on construction in some form. I worked for the electrical unit, even though I had no knowledge, and was given various challenges that you had to complete in a certain time.
Crest’s lengthy narrative also includes a description of being thrown “overboard”, a ritualistic punishment in which members were thrown into bodies of water or made to stand in trash cans while people poured ice water over them, as well as the weekly serving of hamburgers and french fries for lunch on Tuesdays. Of that, Crest says, “It was like a scene from Lord of the Flies, elbowing, punching each other, ripping hamburgers from one another, screaming in each others’ faces, then running off with the food to corners of the room like rabid animals and eating it quickly.”
It goes on and on. She worked 10 to 15 hour days, she says, and at one point, a guy she was doing construction with picked her up and slammed her against the floor, breaking some of her ribs in the process. She says that another time, she was jumped by 13 people for being insolent while being interrogated after joking with another woman. After a few years, Crest attempted suicide by drinking bleach. She says:
When I was released from hospital, 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. 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.
And now she is married to a man and has two children.