“Anywhere abroad in association … it’s a actual rude, invasive, affectionate of abhorrent question,” Brian Culkin said.
Not in the Abbey of Scientology.
Culkin aghast aback fundraisers for the International Association of Scientologists questioned him about his coffer antithesis in the summer of 2009. But they kept pressing.
Why don’t you aloof acquaint us?
What are you hiding?
Culkin trusted his new accompany at Scientology’s Flag Land Base in Clearwater, so he gave in and told them.
The six-figure sum got the absorption of Flag’s “registrars,” the religious workers who aggregate payments for abbey casework and accost donations for Scientology causes. No amount how abundant he gave, Culkin said they pestered him about every day to accord more. He concluded up spending $330,000 on abbey casework and donations during the year he spent in Scientology.
Large groups of registrars for the IAS afresh approached him, acute him to give. Addition agent hounded him to absorb bags on counseling. One day, two abbey staffers from altered departments tugged at his accoutrements in a hallway, advancing for a donation.
Scientology said it could not verify Culkin’s story, but about alleged it “embellished.” It declared him as an apostate, addition who can’t be trusted to acquaint the accuracy about his above church.
“What I got was not what I expected,” said Culkin, 32, who is gluttonous to be repaid some of what he spent.
“I got a money-hungry band that didn’t in any way, appearance or anatomy alive up to what the basal aesthetics of Scientology puts out there.”
Like abounding who acquisition Scientology, Culkin was attractive for answers to life’s big questions.
He grew up in the Boston suburb of Braintree, an annual cycle student, a adept on the basketball court, one of the accustomed kids. On the central he acquainted like a contrarian, consistently absent to beforehand to a altered drummer.
After admission from the celebrated basic academy Thayer Academy, Culkin went to Skidmore College in New York, majoring in American studies and starring, at guard, as the school’s best arch scorer in basketball. Culkin, 6 anxiety 2, afterwards played professionally in Europe but suffered a career-ending hip abrasion that got him absorbed in the healing admiral of yoga.
Back in Boston, he and a accomplice started a mortgage and absolute acreage development business. Banking success followed.
Culkin recalls endlessly by Scientology’s Boston abbey out of concern in 2005. He larboard with a archetype of Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health by abbey architect L. Ron Hubbard. But he didn’t go aback to the abbey alike afterwards staffers there alleged him.
With his 30th altogether beneath than two years away, he grew afraid and began analytic for a altered aisle in life. In backward 2007, he awash his business and unloaded several backdrop afore the abridgement soured, cyberbanking the proceeds.
Deciding on a “total adventure,” he collection to California and spent a year at the Esalen Institute, a arresting oceanside retreat in Big Sur adherent to addition education. He brash adherence and yoga, accomplished brainwork and fabricated circadian pilgrimages to a adjacent monastery.
He alternate to Boston for a Christmas appointment in 2008, still on a “spiritual journey.” Financially defended and borderline what to do next, he was up for anything.
That’s aback Scientology “just fell into my lap,” he said.
The administrator of the Boston abbey alleged Culkin and already afresh arrive him in. This time Culkin did the “Purification Rundown,” a dieting of exercise, saunas and vitamins that, according to Scientology, removes toxins from the body.
He followed up that bounce with added anterior courses and counseling. He begin Hubbard’s annual fascinating, decidedly the founder’s continued and abundant analogue of the spirit, which was clashing annihilation he’d apparent in Christianity or Buddhism. He capital to analyze Scientology’s high airy levels.
A New York-based “Flag annual consultant” alleged Charlie Bills pushed him to buy “the L’s,” an accelerated counseling dieting accessible alone in Clearwater. The amount tag: $80,000. Culkin was afflicted by Bills’ advancing approach, and says he was able-bodied acquainted that Scientology had its problems. That absorbed him all the more.
“I thought, ‘Well, God, if they’re adage all these bad things, I appetite to amount out for myself if that’s absolutely true.’ “
Culkin had been told to barrage a Scientology van aback he accustomed at Tampa International Airport in June 2009. But two adolescent abbey staffers afraid him at accoutrements claim, took him to a car and collection against Scientology’s address in Clearwater.
Within minutes, one of them affronted about in the advanced bench and asked him to accord $35,000 to the “Super Power” building, the church’s alveolate city landmark.
Culkin declined, but the staffer wouldn’t stop.
He estimated she was 16. She smothered him in compliments, but he wondered if she’d address him for not donating. He feared she ability cry if he got angry. He capital her off his back.
“I assuredly said, ‘Yeah, okay,’ ” and agreed to accord $5,000.
She accustomed him, afresh asked for his acclaim card. She acclimated her cellphone to arena up the charge, acknowledgment that she was antagonism to exhausted the church’s annual advertisement borderline — every Thursday at 2 p.m. sharp.
As the car pulled up to Scientology’s Fort Harrison Hotel, addition abbey artisan at the barrier insisted Culkin pay the $1,000 antithesis on his apartment bill. He told him it couldn’t delay — afresh because of the deadline.
An hour later, Flag agent Dave Foster apprenticed him to pay in beforehand for all-encompassing counseling programs that would booty him best of the way up Scientology’s “Bridge to Total Freedom.”
Culkin declined, but Foster never gave up. For the abutting seven months he cornered Culkin about the Flag campus or alleged him into his appointment at atomic three times a week.
Foster generally became irritable, Culkin said, aback he beneath to buy the package, which totaled about $150,000.
“I’m not ready,” Culkin told him. “Why am I a bad guy for not accomplishing that?”
You promised you would buy, Foster said.
Yes, Culkin said, “but I didn’t say I was action to do it today.”
A longtime Sea Org affiliate in his 70s, Foster generally apprenticed the albatross button: “You know, actuality I am sacrificing my action to save the planet and I charge you to appear on lath and do it with me.”
Even the church’s best awful admired abstracts — the attorneys accustomed as “auditors” — approved to choke banknote out of Culkin. He said one of them, Nina Palmer, alert apprenticed him to accomplish a $50,000 donation to the IAS, which helps advance Scientology and protects it from threats such as lawsuits and adverse governments.
It’s the adapted affair to do, she said.
Maybe someday, Culkin told her. But he hadn’t formed in a brace of years. He had to conserve his money.
“She absolutely wouldn’t aback off — 10 annual action aback and forth.”
Culkin said she fabricated both pitches anon afterwards counseling sessions in an auditing room, a amplitude Scientology describes as sacred.
“It’s the ultimate abuse of what an auditor’s declared to be accomplishing for you,” he said. “An auditor’s not absorbed in money — a absolute auditor.”
The abbey disagreed, saying: “Ministers soliciting donations from their congregations is not alone appropriate, it is a constitutionally adequate anatomy of religious activity.” The annual compared it to priests, rabbis and ministers allurement abbey associates for donations.
“I grew up in an Irish Catholic family. I was an chantry boy. I still go to Mass occasionally,” Culkin said. “But I’ve never in my action had a priest alone accompany me into his appointment and say, ‘We charge $50,000 adapted now.’ “
Other staffers who formed as IAS registrars approached Culkin wherever he went: in the cat-and-mouse allowance to accept counseling, on the sidewalk in advanced of the Fort Harrison, abreast the pool.
Culkin recalled several such instances in the church’s Oak Cove architecture overlooking Clearwater Harbor. Usually he stood in the bend of a allowance while eight, 10, sometimes 12 bodies amassed about him.
Other times they were built-in at a table, anniversary cogent him how admirable he was. One accumulation included bristles or so registrars, two “ethics” admiral and about four baronial parishioners, he said. Their pitch:
Scientology had to aggrandize but was beneath advance from the media, the psychiatric industry and adopted governments. The IAS bare $50,000 — that day.
Other bodies were refinancing their homes for the cause. Why couldn’t he?
Finally, the IAS wore him down. Culkin donated $50,000 in increments, the aftermost one in November 2009, authoritative him an IAS Patron.
“One morning I’d deathwatch up and be like, ‘This is a acceptable thing. This is a affectionate act,’ ” he said. “The abutting morning I’d deathwatch up and I’d go: ‘I can’t accept how impaired you are, Brian. You are absolutely stupid.’ “
The abbey accustomed that Culkin fabricated assorted donations while in Clearwater but said fundraisers never amidst him. “Fundraising at Flag is done in accordance with abbey action and in a admiring and able manner,” the abbey said.
Before long, IAS staffers drew their anew minted Patron into the affairs game, alert bringing him forth while they apprenticed for donations from added Flag parishioners. They billed him as a young, accustomed guy advanced accurately in Scientology.
He’s a Patron. You can be one, too.
It formed so well, one baronial agent nicknamed him “Golden Boy.”
Toward the end of 2009, the staff’s fixation on fundraising affronted Culkin off.
He alleged Charlie Bills, the abbey adviser who had active him up for Flag counseling.
Culkin told him: “Dude, you beatific me bottomward to this abode and all bodies appetite from me is money.”
He said Bills accustomed the botheration but was bent with him for giving in and not extenuative his money for counseling.
Culkin began to apprehension that Scientologists accustomed the connected money burden as a aberration of their church, a all-important angry never aboveboard criticized.
One day over coffee, he confided to a Scientologist acquaintance who had developed up in the church: “I’m in a allowance with 12 people, they’re aggravating to get money from me and I’m adage no — and no one’s listening.” He didn’t apperceive how to handle it.
“You accept to angle your arena and acquaint them no,” the acquaintance told him.
Her acknowledgment stuns him now.
Parishioners should feel supported, Culkin said, “not aggravating to action bodies back.”
One night in backward January 2010, three IAS staffers sat bottomward with Culkin at the Fort Harrison’s poolside restaurant.
This was alone weeks afterwards he became a $50,000 man — an IAS Patron. At the time, Flag’s IAS registrars had promised to stop allurement him for money until he alternate to Boston and acclimatized into a new career.
Now, with no apologies, they were breaking their word. They apprenticed him to become a “Patron With Honors” and accord addition $50,000.
Culkin told them no.
They appropriate he accord them the money and appear with them on an accessible cruise to Russia. He could advice accost Russian Scientologists and get a cut of the proceeds. He would accomplish his $50,000 aback and afresh some.
Again Culkin declined.
They capital him to go on date that black at the annual Flag “graduation,” area aggregation got certificates for commutual programs. They would advertise his new “Patron With Honors” cachet and he could insolate in the acclaim of adolescent Scientologists.
No way, Culkin said.
He had to, they told him. They had already told their admiral he would do it. They amidst him, begging.
“They were accepting a absolute accident in advanced of me,” Culkin said. “They were like, ‘Brian, you don’t accept … If you don’t go on stage, we are in austere trouble.’ They were, like, hyperventilating.”
Some had become his friends; he acquainted apologetic for them.
Finally they asked Culkin to aloof go on date and they would amount it out later. Culkin agreed. He alike said he would advice them out in Russia. But he fabricated it clear: There was no way he was giving them addition $50,000.
He grudgingly army the date in the Fort Harrison amphitheater and was appear as a new “Patron With Honors.” Addition handed him a boutonniere of flowers. Hundreds of Scientologists clapped and gave a brawny cheer.
“I absolved off the date and about instantly thetly they had this paperwork accessible for me to assurance that said I had agreed to accomplishing this,” Culkin said. “It was a allurement and about-face basically.”
That night and for the abutting three days, several staffers apprenticed him endlessly for the $50,000.
He said a top IAS fundraiser, Charmaine Roger, alleged him into an appointment and pushed for the name of his banking adviser so he could wire the money to the church. Culkin told her no.
A arresting Scientology fundraiser, Steve Besio, played the acceptable cop, Culkin said. Accord the money, he advised, and it would all assignment out.
Culkin said he acquainted stalked.
The abbey disputes this account, adage the fundraisers complex accept no bond of the incident. It stated: “IAS fundraisers are agog but consistently affable and admiring and absolutely compassionate of ‘no.’ “
Angry at the abbey but still a fan of Scientology as a philosophy, Culkin said his absorption afraid by a thread. He had accustomed the abbey a year of his action and hundreds of bags of dollars.
“I was attractive for article to accord me some achievement again, to acquisition a acumen to break and feel like I hadn’t fabricated this huge mistake.”
He told the agents he bare to acknowledgment home to accumulate the $50,000. Maybe he would accompany them in Russia.
“Culkin acutely did not feel too abundant burden as he never fabricated the donation,” the abbey said.
The burden was the aftermost straw, Culkin said.
In February 2010, he went home to Boston and never came back.
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