Carmen Llywelyn was married to Jason Lee from 1995-2001. They dated for about a year before tying the knot in a ceremony officiated by Bodhi Elfman, a Scientologist buddy of Jason. Soon enough, she was pulled into the cult. Carmen previously spoke out about how Jason allegedly abused her during their marriage. She now lives in Atlanta with her partner and their twin children. She keeps a very low profile but is still haunted by her cult experience. Her Instagram page indicates that she’s struggling to deprogram herself after more than a decade away from the cult.
Carmen wrote a very lengthy essay for Gawker. I’m only including a few excerpts due to space considerations, but you can read the whole essay here. Carmen talks about the cult seduction process and how she was eventually declared a Suppressive Person. The disconnection process she describes sounds so cruel. Carmen read an anti-Scientology book, and she told her manager (also a CO$ member) about it. Within a few days, she received a paragraph-long dismissal letter from Jason. Her talent agency dropped her from its rolls. She lost her career, and her marriage was over. Her story reveals how things grew even worse:
I was a Scientologist for eight years. Although I identified as one I didn’t really understand what actually being a Scientologist fully entailed until after a couple of years of being heavily indoctrinated. The reality of Scientology is deceptively hidden and cleverly disguised. When I look at Scientology today, I have to forgive myself for not seeing through the manipulation sooner. I’ve spent the last 13 years keeping Scientology out of my life. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve realized that the religion is built on a foundation of violence. I’m proud to add my voice to the many who, despite fear of retribution and humiliation, have come forward to tell of our experiences.
When I first started Scientology, I figured I’d likely have to do something pretty bad in the religion’s eyes to earn the Suppressive Person label. Something horrible like killing someone or printing fake money, I don’t know, something truly criminal. I wouldn’t have ever dreamed that I would one day earn this distinction because I read a book (A Piece of Blue Sky, by former Scientologist Jon Atack, which forever changed my life) that opposed the church’s beliefs. Most people know the only view you’ll see of any Scientologist once they disconnect from you will be their backs. Before I was disconnected with him, I still got along with Jason as long as I agreed with his and the church’s demands. But when I revealed over the telephone to my talent manager, Gay Ribisi, that I’d read an anti-Scientology book, it started the chain of events that led to me being disconnected with everyone I had known.
Suddenly, my entire life got stolen out from under me. My entire support structure shattered. Nothing that I knew was ever the same. I lost Gay, Jason, and every friend and source of love I knew besides my family in Georgia, 3,000 miles away. I was completely on my own and not one of them cared. What I didn’t expect to happen was that Gay would get my agent at United Talent Agency to drop me. Or at least that’s what she told me in her disconnection letter I received two days after our phone call. So I had no way of even getting work. I was supposed to start over.
I always joke that for people to understand what ex-Scientologists go through, they’d have to take a class on it. One thing they would learn about is something called “Fair Game” — a practice Scientology uses to target its enemies. This is what happened to me after I divorced Jason and was disconnected from Scientology.
Scientology has a sophisticated intelligence agency known as the Office of Special Affairs, which is essentially a complex system dedicated to ruining the lives of those it sees as enemies in any way possible. Those who work for the OSA do not follow the law. I didn’t believe any of this was real until I left and started to research it in the attempt to figure out the strange things that were happening to me and my family — like how and why my former best friend suddenly knew about everything about my personal life, and why she felt compelled to involve herself in it.
There was more. Vicious rumors were being spread about things I had said only while in session, which I was made to believe were private. Some rumors I knew could only come from certain people, like Jason. I got followed all the time. People in public would loudly discuss a conversation I had just had in private, word for word. Similar things occurred on social media.
No one imagines themselves as so fragile to ever let something as sinister as a cult take control of their minds. I didn’t think anyone would ever tell me how to think and when to think it. We all believe we’re above such things and only stupid people could fall for that.
Carmen puts the whole Celebrity Centre on blast, which is one of Scientology’s methods to lure members. L. Ron Hubbard organized his cult this way from the very beginning. He wanted to use celebs to recruit the general public, who would all believe they would become successful entertainers too.
I’m glad Carmen is speaking out, especially when she discusses how easy it is to be swindled by the cult. Lots of people don’t understand how anyone would fall for the Xenu stories. But that information isn’t revealed to members until much further down the line than the love-bombing period. Paul Haggis wrote about how he remained blind for most of his CO$ tenure. At a certain point, members have wasted so much time and money that it’s hard to admit falling for L. Ron Hubbard’s science-fiction nonsense. Even Tom Cruise grew ragey when he learned the Xenu story, but he got pulled back into the cult too. There are no easy solutions to the CO$ problem, but the Going Clear documentary has helped open the public’s eyes. I hope ex-members like Carmen keep talking.
It will happen It already has I've gained momentum from the bad intentions of all your bitching I didn't want this- but its your system Or rather a religion that doesn't welcome individual thought The artists I knew who acted like that got made examples of And the high pressure salesman tactics don't do you any favors Which makes you pander mostly to paper chasers Still trying to figure out what money's got to do spirituality I definitely don't buy that mentality And I won't let go until you learn some humility And respect for every human Allowing everyone the same rights to exist You don't decide who is subhuman and who isn't You are not divine My life is mine and you don't define me I am finally still Knowing I was built for this Heart and hands in tandem Words come in for a landing With reckless abandon I'm still standing.
Photos courtesy of Carmen Llywelyn & Getty