3 former Scientology workers sue, saying they were trafficked as children
Gawain Baxter was 6 years old when he signed a contract agreeing to work for the Church of Scientology for 1 billion years.
He said he spent his childhood doing manual labor at Scientology’s Flag Land Base in Clearwater, and getting no education beyond basic reading, writing and math.
At 15, Baxter attempted to leave by writing a letter to a superior about constant abuse and intolerable living conditions. Instead, he said, church officials sent him to Scientology’s Freewinds ship in the Caribbean, where he worked for little or no wages for 14 years.
Through its highly regimented Sea Org workforce, Scientology officials systematically trafficked Baxter, 39, and others by indoctrinating them as children and making it financially, physically and psychologically impossible for them to leave as adults, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in Tampa federal court against Scientology leader David Miscavige and five church entities.
The 90-page complaint was filed on behalf of Baxter, his wife, Laura Baxter, and Valeska Paris, who all were raised in Scientology and worked on the Freewinds, where they said the church confiscated their passports and identification documents. They allege six counts of forced labor and peonage in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.
“The culture of the church is defined by Miscavige,” Gawain Baxter said in an interview. “The best thing I could really hope for is to try and create awareness and try to hold him…