Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fascinating story of survival by apostate Scientologist

  • Print

TO most of us, Scientology is the peculiar religion that counts movie star Tom Cruise among its adherents.

Jenna Hill knows it as the church that robbed her of her childhood and tore her family asunder.

The apostate Scientologist tells her fascinating story of survival in Beyond Belief, a long memoir that captivates the reader from cover to cover.

Hill is the San Diego-based niece of Scientology leader David Miscavige. Her parents were also high-ranking executives in the church for 15 years until leaving it in 2000.

When she was just seven years old in 1991 she signed a billion-year contract to serve the church in its elite Sea Org.

Yes, that's right: a billion years. Sea Org members are expected to serve for as long as they can in their current lives, and resume service in subsequent ones.

Hill says she "felt no hesitation" in signing the contract. Her age was practically irrelevant, she explains, because Scientology holds that every person is an ancient soul (or "thetan") "capable of the same responsibilities" at any age.

That reasoning justified putting children through physical labour at the Sea Org Cadets camp where she lived during what should have been her school years.

The daily routine at the California camp, called "the Ranch," included an early morning wake-up call, a military-style "muster" or assembly, a few hours of labour (carrying old railway ties, for example), some secular schooling in the afternoon without teachers, and Scientology indoctrination in the evening.

From wake-up call to the end of evening sessions, it was a 14-hour day with no time for the sort of play or recreation a normal child would enjoy.

Her parents, Ron and Elizabeth Miscavige, lived several kilometres away and saw her for only a few hours every weekend.


Hill left the Ranch in her middle teens to work and study Scientology at the church's "Flag Land Base" in Florida, where she was routinely interrogated, bullied and reprimanded.

Any deviation from church policy or doctrine was committed at risk of being reported to the bosses and subjected to a "security check," essentially a session of badgering that would end only when she admitted to some sin (or "overt" in church terms) against Scientology.

Needless to say, she learned to keep her thoughts to herself and be careful in the presence of other Sea Org members.

The church flew her back to California when her parents exited, and gave her the option of leaving to live with them.

She refused, largely because she felt too committed to Scientology -- "brainwashed," she admits now -- to leave it.

Another factor in her decision was that she was 16 at the time, and leaving the church would have also meant enrolling in school. She knew her education wasn't up to snuff.

Hill finally reached her breaking point when the church tried to prevent her marriage to Dallas, a fellow Sea Org member, and then tried to keep them apart after they married.

She tried to "route out" of the Sea Org on good terms with the church, but those efforts were met with hostility and harassment.

It was only after leaving Scientology that she learned of some of its wackier beliefs, such as the story of a galactic overlord dumping aliens into Earth volcanoes millions of years ago.

She co-founded a website for ex-Scientologists in 2008.

Beyond Belief comes soon after U.S. Pulitzer Prize-winner Lawrence Wright's Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief was published to much fanfare south of the border. Due to Canada's more plaintiff-friendly libel laws, Going Clear isn't available in Canadian bookstores.

Hill's book is not only a good substitute, it's a terrific tome in its own right. Interesting, informative and accessible, this insider's story is well worth the price.


Winnipeg writer Mike Stimpson is an apostate Roman Catholic.


Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape
By Jenna Miscavige Hill with Lisa Pulitzer
William Morrow, 404 pages, $19

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 2, 2013 J9

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Selinger addresses stadium lawsuit

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Young goslings are growing up quickly near Cresent Lake in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba- See Bryksa 30 Day goose project- Day 11- May 15, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A squirrel enjoys the morning sunshine next to the duck pond in Assiniboine Park Wednesday– June 27, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


Are you concerned about the number of homicides so far this year?

View Results

Ads by Google