She received a cease and desist order.
Laguna Beach resident Susan Elliott said she's among those whose efforts to combat alleged abuses in the Church of Scientology have been met with spy tactics and harassment at her doorstep.
“I've been followed a million times,” said Elliott, 56, who is a computer programmer by trade but was wary to state where her business is located, out of fear that Scientologists would conduct operations there.
Elliott confirmed that she was spied on by Paulien Lombard
, a former Scientologist featured in a recent OC Weekly cover story
. In fact, she first confirmed the spying in a comment posted on in the online version of the story, where readers may recall how Lombard described sitting outside of Elliott's home for hours.
Lombard later apologized to Elliott.
“We invited her in and had tea, and sat in the living room and talked for an hour or so, and I was just amazed that she would do that — that she would come to us,” Elliott said.
Elliott said she has no ties to Scientology, but began research the church when Tom Cruise began to speak out publicly about the group.
“I've always been interested in these high-control groups and how it happens to people,” she said.
Elliott eventually met some folks online through the Operation Clambake online message board, which is dedicated to discussing all things Scientology.
She became sympathetic toward those whose families she said have been ripped apart by the church.
“I'm a mom, and just the worst part to me is, I have two good friends that I've met through this process — one of them in England — she's got a daughter that she hasn't seen in over 20 years,” Elliott said. “Whenever I think I'm gonna move on, I think about them.”
Both friends' daughters are in the church's elite Sea Org, which requires members to sign billion-year contracts in order to join.
According to Elliott, her other friend signed a release for her daughter to join the Sea Org when she was 17 years old. Now in her 30s, the woman has been allowed to visit her mother just once, and she was bombarded with phone calls from the church that she needed to return because there was an emergency, according to Elliott.
The two mothers have visited Elliott, who regularly protests the church in Los Angeles, and at its international headquarters in Hemet.
Once, when she picked up her English friend from the airport, they drove directly to Los Angeles and asked if the woman could see her daughter, now in her 40s.
“And they said, 'you know what the situation is' and just basically said no,” Elliott said.
When they went to the police, they were told that the woman's daughter, accompanied by other Scientologists, had already been there. According to Elliott, the police told the woman's mother that her daughter did not want to see her.
Elliott said when she protests at the Hollywood Boulevard location, some Scientologists are friendly, but most scowl at her.
“Two different ones came up to me and said, 'oh my God, what is wrong with your teeth, you should get those fixed,” Elliott said. “I actually have pretty decent teeth.”
Elliott guesses that her teeth became fodder for the taunting when she was having a root canal done, during the same time Lombard was watching her home.
She said the taunts didn't stop there.
According to Elliott, someone posted on a Scientology message board information about her home address and the real estate she and her husband own, as well as her volunteer work about her kid's school.
Elliott said Scientologists do extensive background checks on church critics, even recording the license plates of those who protest at various locations. They will look for things like bankruptcies and drunk driving arrests, and post them online, she said.
“So what they found on my is that I had done volunteering at my kid's school and they posted it,” she said.
Eventually, the church served her with a cease and desist letter, linking her to Anonymous, an onlinthat for the past few years has hit the streets to protest the church around the world, often wearing Guy Fawkes masks. Members of the leaderless movement have hacked high-profile Internet sites, and the Church of Scientology says the group has issued threats against them.
Karin Pouw, a spokesperson for the church, denied Elliott's claims. In an email, she wrote:
“She has no knowledge of what goes on in the Sea Organization or in the greater Scientology religion. She foments anti-religious hatred and actually worsens the familial situations into which she intrudes. One of her sojourns to our Church in Los Angeles, for example, was in the company of a woman making false claims about her adult daughter's status as a member of the Sea Organization. The daughter, who is in her 40s, went to the police station to assure them that the hysteria Ms. Elliot was trying to generate was untrue.
Ms. Elliot marches with members of Anonymous. The headlines are filled with stories of arrests and convictions of members of this hate group. Thus, I am not surprised that some may claim that their license numbers are taken down. That is not our concern.”
Elliott said she does not consider herself a part of Anonymous, but has protested alongside them and posted on the same message boards.
For her efforts, she said she's been followed home, once from a protest in Hemet.
“We noticed this black truck behind us,” Elliott said. “It was one of the first times and it was actually pretty mind-boggling. We did lose this guy in the black truck, and miles later he started following us again.”
Why does she still protest?
“I just want to see people not be abused, hurt,” Elliott said. “If my two friends' daughters could just go home on the weekend, or actually all of the Sea Org, I'd be more than happy to go on and do something else.”