What was it like to grow up inside Sea Org, the Church of Scientology's most elite body?
In her memoir Beyond Belief, excerpted exclusively below, Jenna Miscavige Hill describes her experiences at the Ranch, a San Jacinto, Calif., boarding school for children of Scientology execs. The niece of church head David Miscavige, she was raised away from her parents, then worked within Sea Org until leaving Scientology in 2005.
Now living near San Diego, married to Dallas Hill and mom to their children Archie, 3, and Winnie, 10 months, she's telling her story, she says, to increase awareness about Scientology: "I realize every day how lucky I am to have gotten out." (When asked to comment on the book's portrayal of its members, the church stated they had not read the book but that "any allegations of neglect are blatantly false.")
Jenna's parents, Ron and Blythe Miscavige, high-ranking members of Sea Org, sent both Jenna and her older brother Justin to the Ranch. There, at age 7, in accordance with Scientologists' belief that they are "Thetans," or immortal spirits, Jenna signed a billion-year contract.
I tried to write my name in my best cursive, the way I'd been learning. I had goose bumps. Just like that, I committed my soul to a billion years of servitude to the Church of Scientology.
Sea Org was run like the Navy: Members wore uniforms and managed all aspects of the church. Married members couldn't have kids; those who already did sent them to be raised communally.
A Sea Org member was required to be on duty for at least 14 hours a day, seven days a week, with a break for an hour of 'family time.' I was too young to understand that seeing your parents only one hour a day was highly unusual.