Explainer: Scientology’s Sea Organization

Don’t let the nautical name throw you: Most members of the Church of Scientology’s Sea Organization – reserved for the … Continued

Don’t let the nautical name throw you: Most members of the Church of Scientology’s Sea Organization – reserved for the “singularly most dedicated” of the religious order – live on land. They do, however, wear maritime-style uniforms and have ranks, according to Scientology.org.

Another fun fact: Initiates to Sea Org, as it’s called, are required to sign a symbolic “one-billion-year pledge” to serve the religion. Many people outside the church view the pledge as a basic, if not exploitative, employment contract. Sea Org workers are allotted a weekly allowance of between $24 and $50, according to Sea Org’s Wikipedia page.

Formed in 1967 by the Scientology founder and science-fiction author L. Ron Hubbard, Sea Org initially consisted of a fleet of ships in the ocean reserved for educating the top-tier members of the church.

Only nine years after its formation, the church sold the ships and set up shop at various stations on land, a decision at least partially driven by the formation of families, which the church considers distractions from Sea Org. In the 1980s the fleet was reduced to a single ship called Freewinds that trolled the Caribbean carrying out “advanced research operations” (in addition to serving as a venue for Tom Cruise’s birthday party). Then, in 2008, Freewinds was sealed off for asbestos contamination.

The church’s less-than-transparent explanation of what goes on in Sea Org has been filled in with accounts from former Scientology members and newspaper reports describing forced abortions, child brainwashing, and a military-like lifestyle.

Follow Gregory Thomas on Twitter: @gregrthomas

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  • mhorns_1

    Read “Space” by James Mitchner and you will be treated to a well-thought-out description of what a sham hides under this bogus religion.

  • EuroAm

    Lincoln was right…some of the people can be fooled all of the time…

  • codyoliver23

    Love how people from other religions come on here to bash Scientology and call it a cult and their members crazy. While i will agree with you on how completely ludicrous the “religion” is, it however is no more far fetched than a woman taking dietary advice from a talking snake that causes the rest of humanity from that moment forward to be born into a world with original sin and be condemned to hell before you even take a breath but somehow god loves us all? All of this happening while “god” apparently sits up stairs and watches and knows everything that has happened, that is happening, or that is going to happen. All religions are cults. Religion is here for those that are too weak to cope with reality and need the euphoric sense of false security thinking that someday they will have eternal life in paradise to help them keep their minds off the fact that their lives are not near as important or fulfilling as they would like.

  • codyoliver23

    Learn to read. If i said all religions were cults and pointless, why would I in turn follow the Muslim faith? Need to work on your responses when you completely contradict my point while trying to belittle me. If i’m a ‘loser” by your standards, than they didn’t even let you in the race kid. Haha

  • abcd4

    I think more people tend to have issues with scientology, less for their actual beliefs, but more so for the financial requirements to learn the teachings of their church as well as their practices against those who have left the church.

  • monkfish21

    I think it’s because it arose from a bar bet between science fiction writers. And while that’s not been absolutely proven, there are records written L. Ron Hubbard stating he could found a religon as a way to make a lot of money. That part is indisputable.

  • Samson151

    I understand Tom is asking for a refund because his Thetans failed to warn him about the divorce…

  • lostinthemiddle

    Sea Org. is slavery alive and well in the US. This tiny post does nothing to reveal the true horrors of this group.

  • Va029

    Wackos ruined Clearwater Beach, Fla.

  • hyperion

    Another reason is that Scientologists actively seek to impose their religious limitations on others. Where Jews (such as myself) and Muslims do not eat pork, we don’t actively attempt to prevent or discourage others from doing so. Scientology, by contrast, actively attempts to lobby against the use of psychiatric medications, going so far as to try to sponsor laws that make it difficult for parents to leave their kids’ Ritalin prescription with the school nurse to dispense in the afternoon, and putting out publications (often through thinly disguised front groups like CCHR) to try to convince people to stop taking their medications.

    There have been incidents where Scientologists or their family members have died from seizures (since most anticonvulsants are also used as psychiatric medication) or who have experienced violent psychotic episodes as a result of stopping medication that they needed to be taking.

    And most disturbingly, Scientology’s focus on psychiatry seems to be deliberately aimed at attracting mentally unstable individuals who are far more vulnerable and more easily preyed upon by cult leaders.

  • edbyronadams

    At least the Genesis story hearkens to the fundamental dilemma of humankind. We developed our big brains and the way to knowledge through some troubling propensities toward hierarchy and xenophobia. That is a form of original sin or as they call it in my religion, fundamental darkness.

  • nightjoe

    Scientology is just confused interpretation from other religions mixed with fantastic planet. A fool and their money are soon parted.

  • felstar

    Which is true science or religion? Which religion is true if science is not? The way they conflict either all are true or none are true. All religions cannot be true in the same reality.

    However there is no reason that there has to be only one reality. There may be multiple realities in what science has come to refer to as the multiverse.

    Different outcomes branch off into different universes or realities. There is no reason that realities need to be either completely separate from each other or completely the same. Rather there may be a kind of co-mingling where by realities intersect at many places and part at others.

    At church, realities divulge allowing each religion to be true for its believers. Conversely non-believers are not affected by the religions of others having their own realities to insulate them from vengeful gods not theirs.

    Science, by its nature, must exist in many if not all realities. It is not changeable or dependent on belief. It sets the ground rules that differing realities must adhere to. This brings the obvious question as to the validity of miracles. Can miracles happen without breaking the rules of science?

    When Joshua got extended daylight for battle it did not have to be because the earth stopped in its orbit. The earth cannot stop in its orbit. However there are sources of light not inconsistent with science. There could have been a supernova or a black hole digesting a planet in a nearby solar system. A comet or series of comets could have entered the atmosphere lighting up the sky in their death throes. An alien space ship with an active fusion drive could have been visiting.

    There are any numbers of sources of light for 3 days. The people of that time period were not well versed in science that had not yet been discovered. They may have thought that the earth or the sun stopped in the sky,regardless of the real source of light.

    Therefore miracles could have occurred without breaking any rules of science. Some miracles just involve an unli

  • Nosy_Parker

    Maybe a tinfoil hat will protect your poor little brain from the blazing sun.

  • amithereyet

    Skeezentologist Hubbard went to sea for one reason alone: to run his money scam/slave trade outside of any legal jurisdictions.

  • amithereyet

    What does any of this have to do with the fact that L. Ron Hubbard was a sociopathic liar, scam artist, drug addict, and bigamist?

  • ceodata

    What amazes me is all the bigoted people using the opportunity to bash Catholicism and other Christian religions, instead of commenting on Scientology itself. Some of these anti-Christian people are considered top commenters, which I do not understand.

    It’s not Scientology’s “crazy” beliefs that upset people. Who cares if they believe in Xenu? Scientology’s litigiousness and the way it treats former members are what bothers people. The campaigns against psychiatry are another thing.

    I know of many ex-Catholics, and they are not persecuted by the Catholic Church. Stop bashing Christians for “crazy” beliefs about the Resurrection and other things. Judge them for how they treat people. While the Catholic Church has many abuses to atone for, it has also done a lot of good throughout its existence (ditto for other Christian churches and Judaism).

  • ceodata

    In my 2:38 comment, I should have stated that it’s only SOME people on here who are bashing Christianity – most commenters have actually said something relevant about Scientology instead.

    I am still surprised by the number of celebrities who embrace Scientology. Their membership in Scientology does not seem to have benefited their careers.

  • tidelandermdva

    Right. only the practicing Catholics are persecuted by the Catholic Church. Of course, that is, other than the rest of us whom the Catholic Church tries to use the power of the state to force us to do or not do what the Church wants. No one would have any problem if the Catholic Church stuck to only gullt-tripping believers to get them to do what the Church wants. However, the guilt-tripping is not working. Nearly all Catholics practiced birth control. Catholics are just as likely to get abortions as the general population. The Nuns dare to think that they are human beings made in God’s image and thus worthy to serve at mass as they did when Saul/Paul condemned the practice, and spend too much time and energy according to the bishops serving the poor instead of denouncing birth control. So the Catholic Church, realizing that that guilt-tripping is not working, is busy trying to get the state to enforce the rules on everybody that Catholics are ignoring.

  • tidelandermdva

    Scientology is using its famous secrecy and control to hide its dirty little secret — OK, one of its many dirty little secrets: It is failing to make converts. Therefore, almost all Scientologists are old converts, and almost all new members are the children of Scientologists. Just as my sister-in-law left the Catholic Church for the Methodist Church when it was time for her daughter to start Sunday school because she did not want her daughter exposed to the negative messages the Catholic Church gives about women, it is very likely that fear of her daughter getting sucked into Scientology motivated Katie to make the break and is the reason why she is seeking sole custody. Unless there is some very dark secret about Tom that no one knows and I do not beleive, there is no evidence Tom himself is anything but a doting father. Therefore, the desire for sole custody may well relate more to a fear of Scientology brainwashing than a personal problem with Tom as a father. As a husband may well be a different story. Tom took Katie when she was a virtual child and treated her that way. I suspect that “controlling” is a vast understatement.

  • ceodata

    No, the Catholic Church just does not want to be forced to pay for something it does not believe in. Stop saying it is trying to prevent everyone from using artificial birth control, when it is only asking to not be forced to pay for it. How is it currently (or any time recently) been trying to ban birth control?

    I worked for two different Catholic high schools. I was aware that some of my colleagues used artificial birth control. This was not paid for by insurance. My colleagues complained about a lot of things, but THAT was not one of them. They knew what they signed on for when they came to work at a Catholic school.

    Let’s just make Muslim or Jewish organizations serve free pork products in their cafeterias, because some employees want to eat pork.

  • ceodata

    @codyoliver23: Do you really think that all Christian denominations take the story of Adam and Eve to be a factual, historical event? Did you know that the Catholic Church and many Protestant denominations accept evolution and a very old (billions of years) Earth and universe? Were YOU taught that the Adam and Eve story was “historical”?

  • edismae

    You might want to check out an old book by a former Scientologist who was around while Hubbard was living: L. Ron Hubbard:

  • Captains2012

    correction: absentee father ….count the days …..

  • virginialawyer

    Since when did Wikipedia become a reputable source? Now THAT is some lazy journalism.


    Stop lying. It is not the Catholic CHURCH – it is BUSINESSES owned by the Catholic Church. Businesses that have to obey the law of the land.

    Unlike the Catholic Church, which shielded baby rapists from the law of the land for decades.

  • haffmer

    the sooner this woman gets herself and her child out from under this guy filled with the wrong stuff the better she and her child will be…


    Allegedly Tom Cruise USED people provided by the Sea Org under these billion-year contracts to maintain his fleet of high-performance cars.

  • PhilyJimi

    There are 2 types of Scientology, one for the celebs and another for regular people. Scientology markets it’s self via the celebs.