Going Clear

March 30, 2015 5:25 PM

One of the great unsolved mysteries of my life is: “Who was the utter tosspot who gave my name to the Church of Scientology?”

I was sixteen-turning-seventeen at the end of my last year of high school in Western Australia, and I got a phone call at home. According to their records, I had purchased a copy of Dianetics, and did I want to take some of my time to maybe get together and talk to them about it?

Even in 1992 this seemed like a particularly silly idea. I didn't really know much about the organisation, but I had walked past the Scientology centre in Perth any number of times. There were rumours of cultish brainwashing. Also, my brother owned a few of the Battlefield Earth books and he told me they were kind of shit.

So I told them a polite “thanks but no thanks”, then went to school and interrogated all of the members of my nerdy, Dungeons-and-Dragons-playing social circle to find out who had let curiosity get the better of them enough to buy a book in my name. I had my suspicions, but none of them fessed up.

From then on, contact from Scientology became a regular, but not overwhelmingly regular thing. Every few months I would get a letter here, a phone call there. On one memorable occasion they invited me to their Summer barbecue. I would politely ask them to stop contacting me. They would assure me I was missing out on something really great, then let me go until next time.

In my first year of University I found a copy of Dianetics in the UWA library. Somebody had neatly printed “This is bullshit” on the first page of the first chapter. I didn't make it much further into the book than that myself.

Not long after, I discovered the Internet.

Reports these days will attribute the Internet’s awareness of, and activism against Scientology to Anonymous, but that’s just good marketing on anon’s part. Operation Clambake published the now-infamous Xenu documents all the way back in 1996, a direct consequence of the attention drawn to the organisation in 1995 by the death of Lisa McPherson, and the Church’s clumsy attempt to remove the alt.religion.scientology Usenet newsgroup.

As a Law student at the time, the leaked OT-III documents were one of my favourite legal Catch-22s. In order to make a copyright claim to suppress the documents’ publication, the Church of Scientology had to attest legally they were legitimate, and thus verify the Xenu thing was real.

So after a few years of occasional but annoying contact, I wrote a two page letter explaining in detail what I had discovered while investigating their religion, and why there wasn’t even the slightest chance I would show up to their barbecue even if they did have really tasty sausages. This being the early 90s I printed the letter out, put it in an envelope, put a stamp on it and walked down to the shops to put it in a mailbox.

And that was the last contact I had with Scientology.

Previously: “That’s the complaints department.”

Next: Simplicity isn't simple