Former Scientologist and current critic of the church, Jenna Miscavige Hill, has released a new tell-all book in February alleging the church-run school in San Jacinto, Calif. was nothing more than a child labor camp.
A spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology claims the revelations in her book are false.
Miscavige Hill claims the Castille Canyon Ranch, which housed a boarding school for children of the senior clergy from 1990 to 2000, was in deplorable condition. The estranged neice of church leader, David Miscavige, claims she was forced to work there as a child in her book, “Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape.”
Miscavige Hill, 29, left the church in 2005. She claims that for six years she did back-breaking work along with other children of elite Sea Org members. She says they worked 14 hours a day, seven days a week in the desert sun, digging irrigation ditches or dragging rocks to build walls.
“The conditions we worked under would have been tough for a grown man, and yet any complaints, backflashing (Scientology term for talking back), any kind of questioning was instantly met with disciplinary action,” she said.
The Ranch was "like a military boot camp, with grueling drills, endless musters, exhaustive inspections, and arduous physical labor that no child should have to do," the book reads, according to the AFP.
“The Church has long respected the family unit while accommodating and helping those raising children,” Karin Pouw, spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology International, told AFP.
“The Church does not engage in any activities that mistreat, neglect or force children to engage in manual labor. The Church follows all laws with respect to children,” she said, calling Miscavige-Hill’s behavior of “apostate.”
Just a month earlier, another ex-Scientologist Lawrence Wright released his own book, Going Clear, describing the Church as “so ludicrous it belongs in a supermarket tabloid.”
Celebrity members of the church like Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Greta Van Susteren, or Elizabeth Moss have reportedly never seen the dark side of the organization. “There was never a risk that they would get exposed to child labor or something similar that the Church didn’t want them to see,” said Miscavige-Hill.
In an open letter last year, screenwriter Paul Haggis (“Crash,” “Million Dollar Baby”) criticized the chruch’s alleged “disconnection” policy, which bans church members from communicating with people who have left and are considered “antagonistic” to the church.
Pouw denied the practice of shunning. “Those who decide a religious order isn’t for them are free to move on with their lives, as Ms. Hill did. Every religion has its detractors; there is no faith that can satisfy everyone’s spiritual needs,” she said.
“Revisionist histories are typical of apostate behavior and tabloid tales should always be taken with an enormous grain of salt," she added.
Miscavige-Hill warned Katie Holmes of the church in 2012. “My experience in growing up in Scientology is that it is both mentally and at times physically abusive,” she said. “As a mother myself, I offer my support to Katie and wish for her all of the strength she will need to do what is best for her and her daughter.”