Former Scientologist speaks out about controversial religion

Posted: Updated:
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX --  She was raised in the heart of the Scientology community. But at age 21, she left the controversial church, and now is speaking out about some of the religion's unconventional practices.

Scientology actually has deep roots right here in the Valley. The religion's founder, L. Ron Hubbard,  moved to Phoenix in the1950s to pursue his ideas and write books. His home on Camelback & 44th Street sits in the shadow of Camelback Mountain, and has been restored to its original condition.

Thursday on Good Morning Arizona, Jenna Miscavige Hill spoke to Kaley O'Kelley about some of the unorthodox things she experienced growing up in the Scientology community. Jenna is the niece of Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige. She was  was raised as a Scientologist, but left the religion in 2005, at the age of 21.

In her new book, "Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape", she shares her story of life inside the upper ranks of the sect, and talks about how she got out.

Jenna was raised at the Ranch, a facility where the children of high-ranking Scientologists lived. She says that as a child, she was only allowed to see her parents once a week, for just a few hours.

"My parents were members of the clergy, and they worked seven days a week ,14 hours a day," Jenna says." Children were sort of regarded as a distraction."

Jenna reveals that as a seven year old, she was required to sign a billion year contract. "You commit yourself to a billion years of servitude, lifetime after lifetime, to the church."

For years, Scientology has been a big draw for celebrities, including Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Lisa Marie Presley. "A lot of the celebrities that are there were born into it.," she says. "But the church actually targets celebrities,  because they know that people are interested in their lives, if they speak about it, then they hope more people would become interested in it."

But celebrities often have a different experience than many others who practice Scientology. "That's what makes it so insidious," Jenna says. "The celebrity center is beautiful. They would never run across the horrors of the church like the child labor, things like that."

Jenna escaped the religion when she was 21. but she said she was threatened when she first started spilling Scientology secrets. "When we first spoke out,  we were being followed by private investigators. My parents-in-law were being hounded, basically to keep us quiet or to disconnect with us, which is how Scientology treats its defectors. They cut them off."

Jenna is now married and has two children.

Her book, "Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape", is on store shelves now.