Jenna Miscavige Hill is a former Scientologist who, after leaving the Church of Scientology in 2005, has become an outspoken critic of the organization and its practices. She is the daughter of Ron Miscavige, Jr. and the niece of current church leader David Miscavige.
Born in 1984, Jenna was a third-generation Scientologist. One day her parents spontaneously decided to leave their comfortable, middle-class life in New Hampshire and dedicate themselves to the church. They joined an organization of committed Scientologists called the Sea Org in California.
It’s around this time that the family bond was shattered, as Jenna was sent to a remote labour camp for kids called the Ranch in Riverside County. Small children were expected to renovate the property, making rock walls, digging trenches and dragging heavy materials, too big for their little hands and arms. The children were expected to run, not walk, while putting in 40 plus hours of work a week. Some nights they only got two hours of sleep.
Jenna broke her knee, but supervisors ignored her pleas for help. The kids’ education, called “Chinese School,” was based on Scientology propaganda. Evenings were filled with mandatory staring contests and something called “bull baiting” that was supposed to teach emotional control.
Children were encouraged to tattletale, and harsh punishments were abundant. Meanwhile, from the time she was 12 to 16 Jenna saw her mother once, for 30 minutes, and her father for only a couple of hours. Her parents were also kept apart while they rose inside the executive offices of the church.
Life as a teenager inside the Sea Org started to lose its lustre. Jenna began acting out against the public beratings and mind-control tactics and finally left, but the church did not make it easy for her. They tried unsuccessfully to turn her husband against her, and asked that she sign a bond that forbade her from speaking publicly about her experiences in the church. She refused, obviously.
Her memoir, Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape, is an eye-opening account. She takes a lot of responsibility for her actions, while laying heavy blows to the church, its practices and her uncle, leader David Miscavage.
Below is an interview she gave to Nightline. The Church of Scientology tried intimidation tactics to stop this segment from airing, harassing both Jenna’s parents and her husband’s family. She has since started a website called Ex-Scientology Kids that provides a forum for former members to interact and share their experiences.
On a side note, I once wrote a tweet to Kirstie Alley critical of the church’s human right’s practices. She responded by criticizing me, and within a 24 hour period my Twitter and blog accounts were routinely hacked, someone was trying to access my social networks. I couldn’t help but wonder, was it Scientology?