Find the nearest E-meter and take a seat, because you’ll definitely need to be audited after listening to this week’s shocking (and frequently spooky) DirtCast episode all about Scientology.
First, Madeleine and I chat with famed Scientology reporter Tony Ortega, who broke the news last week that That ’70s Show’s Danny Masterson, a current member of the church, has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women. In addition to the allegations against Masterson, Ortega discusses the church’s history of standing behind their most famous members (see: Tom Cruise and John Travolta), Shelly Miscavige’s current whereabouts (and her alleged new role in the church), and how one of Scientology’s dirty little secrets is that worldwide membership has dropped to wildly low numbers.
“They’ve always lied about it, they’ve always said millions and they’ve never had millions,” Ortega told us. “Fortunately we’ve had some top officials come out who had access to enrollment documents. And according to them, the greatest extent of Scientology was about the year 1990. They had about 100,000 people around the world.” Now, Ortega says, their numbers are fewer than 20,000.
Next, we get a closer look at the inner workings of the church while talking to former Scientologist (and Sea Org member) Chris Shelton, who was a member of the church for 25 years. He discusses the church’s cult-like intimidation practices, the most disturbing things he witnessed while a member, and explains with great detail why it was difficult for him—and so many others—to get out.
“They call it ‘dedicated,’ ‘hard-working,’ ‘duty,’ but it’s just ridiculous,” Shelton said of his time in the Sea Org. “They take it to such an extreme. We were getting four or five hours of sleep a night for extended periods of time. There’s no days off—best case scenario is one day off every two weeks, and hardly anybody is getting that much time off. You’re working 8:30, 9 o’clock in the morning, until midnight, 1 am, all day, every day. It’s kind of hard to get across because there really isn’t anything quite like the Sea Org. It’s its own kind of crazy.”
Our show is produced by Levi Sharpe with editorial oversight by Kate Dries. Mandana Mofidi is our Executive Director of Audio. Our theme music is by Stuart Wood. This episode was mixed by Brad Fisher. Listen to our politics podcast, Big Time Dicks, here.