Dangerously Clear


Published:

Former Scientologist shares her saga of leaving the church after coming out.

Looking back on the more than two decades she spent devoting an ever-increasing portion of her life — and her income — to the Church of Scientology, Michelle LeClair experiences a broad range of emotions.

Embarrassment that she was duped into following what she now calls a cult. Worry for those still caught in the web. Relief that she is finally free.

“It feels like another life, someone else’s story,” said LeClair, whose memoir, “Perfectly Clear: Escaping Scientology and Fighting for the Woman I Love,” was released in September and details her time in the church and the aftermath she had to deal with when she left.

LeClair was the poster girl for Scientology, a successful businesswoman who rose through the ranks after joining as a teenager and often served as a spokeswoman. She estimates she donated about $5 million to the church.

Now she’s one of a growing number of ex-Scientologists who are sharing their story — along with the likes of actress Leah Remini — even as the church fights back. 
And the church fights dirty.

The Church of Scientology was founded in 1953 by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, and some of its roots might have been planted in Savannah. Hubbard lived in Savannah in 1948, volunteering as a counselor in hospitals and mental wards. “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health,” the book upon which the Church of Scientology was founded, started circulating in 1949 and was officially released in 1950. 

The church uses its far-reaching tentacles through its companies to recruit new members, especially preying on the young and naive, critics say. LeClair’s mother became involved with the church after working for one of those companies and later recruited her 19-year-old daughter for a job — and eventually to join the church. 

New members’ initial auditing sessions are not unlike a therapy session or self-improvement course, and LeClair said she came away from those early sessions feeling great and eager for more. 

But rising through the various levels of Scientology — first to attain “clear” status, then to ascend through the Operating Thetan or “OT” levels — requires a seemingly endless stream of auditing and church coursework, all of which is quite costly. Donating to the church gives a Scientologist even more influence, and LeClair rose to L11 status and donated an estimated $5 million during her 20-plus years in the church. 

Even when she questioned something in Hubbard’s teachings or a church policy, LeClair was conditioned to see it as a flaw within herself, not Scientology. 
“It’s human nature to have a really difficult time saying I’ve changed my mind or something has changed my mind,” she says. “It’s OK to change. It’s OK to wake up one day and say this is not right for me.”

After years of repressing her own sexuality through the church’s “auditing” sessions, which in LeClair’s case wound up acting as a form of gay conversion therapy, she challenged the church’s stance on homosexuality (which it claims to have struck down decades ago, but others insist it still enforces) after falling in love with record producer Tena Clark.
She choose love, and the church didn’t take it well.

“I knew the rules, but I recklessly talked myself into believing that, because I was a top donor, contributing millions to the church, my relationship with a woman would be tolerated, or at least ignored,” LeClair wrote in the opening chapter of her book. “I couldn’t have been more mistaken.” 

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Greatest Chefs 2019

Chefs are invisible artists. They keep us salivating, our minds fixated on the last time we ate at our favorite restaurant, and when the next time we plan on going. Nominate your favorite chef now!

Greatest Pets 2019

Man's Best Friend can be South's Greatest Pet with the right amount of love. Enter your pet and get those votes! Limited to southeast Georgia and the Lowcountry. Voting begins June 10 and ends July 1.
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Events Calendar

  • FYZICAL® Savannah Celebrates Anniversary with Open House on June 26

    Jun 26, 2019
    5:00 AM - 6:30 PM @ FYZICAL Savannah

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    8:30 AM - 3:00 PM @ Blandford Elementary School

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  • "The Prints of Dame Laura Knight" Exhibition at Telfair Museums

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  • "Keita Takahashi: Zooming Out" Exhibition at Telfair Musuems

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  • French Moderns: Monet to Matisse, 1850-1950

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    All Day @ Consumer Museum of Art and Garden

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Scenes of the South

JCB MudRun 2019

Participants hit the ground running at this year's JCB Mud Fest, climbing through tough obstacles in either the 5k or the 5 mile run. At the end of the race was a long slide where, upon finishing, contestants found themselves in the Party Pit. Winners from various age groups were presented with trophies, and all the proceeds from the JCB Mud Fest benefited the Lady Bamford Center for Early Childhood Development.

Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum's 200th Anniversary!

This past Wednesday, May 22, we celebrated with Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum for for the 200th anniversary of the SS Savannah's historic trans-Atlantic crossing — the WORLD'S FIRST oceanic voyage under steam! On this year's Maritime Day, Ships of the Sea celebrated the Savannah's 200th anniversary with a commemorative ceremony provided by the PROPELLER CLUB, where Robert Morris unveiled two eight-foot paintings. The evening also included an amazing performance by the Parris Island MARINE BAND, complimentary hors d'oeuvres and celebratory beverages!

Brews For A Cause at Top Deck

This past Tuesday, May 21 we celebrated another successful Brews for a Cause at Top Deck Bar! We joined up with Southern Eagle and a great group of like minded people to benefit Two Hundred Club of the Coastal Empire in their efforts to provide financial assistance to the surviving families of local law enforcement officers and firefighters who lose their lives in the line of duty. It was another memorable night in the South filled with great people and even greater crafted beer! This month's Featured Craft Beer: Island Coastal Lager Sponsors: Island Coastal Lager, Two Hundred Club of the Coastal Empire, Southern Eagle, South Magazine

Brews for a Cause at Churchill's

This Thursday, Churchill's was pack as we celebrated another successful Brews for a Cause at Churchill's! We joined Southern Eagle and The Coastal Heritage Society. Southern Eagle provided great craft beer, Sista Rae Rae performed live, and the silent auction was a huge success. All the proceeds from the silent auction — including a diamond necklace from International Diamond — benefitted the Coastal Heritage Society.

Nine Line Foundation Dinner

On Friday, May 17, Nine Line hosted their Foundation Dinner that included special guests WWE Superstars Mark Calaway aka The Undertaker, Dustin Rhodes aka Goldust, John “Tig” Tiegen, hero of Benghazi portrayed in the movie “13 Hours,” Chad Prather, comedian and social media celebrity, and Graham Allen, social media celebrity. Guests mingled with the superstars and bid on auction items to raise money for the foundation. Matt Lyda put on a stellar performance as the MC of the event and kept the crowd entertained and bidding.

6th Annual Nine Line Run for the Wounded

The Nine Line Foundation and Nine Line Apparel celebrate Armed Forces Day for their 6th Annual 5K/10K Run for the Wounded in Savannah, Georgia. Proceeds from the race go directly towards their newest initiative: building a transitional community, a Veterans Village, for homeless veterans right here in Savannah, Georgia. With both 5K and 10K options available, this twilight run turned out to be another great success.

Nine Line Foundation Dinner

On Friday, May 17, Nine Line hosted their Foundation Dinner that included special guests WWE Superstars Mark Calaway Aka: the Undertaker, Dustin Rhodes aka: Goldust, John Tiegen "Tig" hero of Benghazi portrayed in the movie "13 Hours", Chad Prather, Comedian and Social Media Celebrity, and Graham Allen, Social Media Celebrity. Guests mingled with the superstars and bid on auction items to raise money for the foundation. Matt Lyda put on a stellar performance as the MC of the event and kept the crowd entertained and bidding.

SCAD40 Block Party

SCAD celebrated their 40th anniversary with a grand block party. Fellow alumni reconnected with university faculty and staff. ShopSCAD had live artist demonstrations, live music at the Gryphon, keepsakes and SCAD40 merchandise to purchase at the Art’s Café, SCAD food trucks with tasty treats and much more.

Kessler Collection’s Armstrong-Kessler Mansion Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Local hotelier Richard Kessler and his company The Kessler Collection officially cut the ribbon on his newly restored home in Savannah, the Armstrong-Kessler Mansion. This iconic home celebrates its 100th birthday this year, and his been meticulously restored to its former grandeur as one of the foremost examples of Italian Renaissance architecture and design in America. Congratulations to Richard Kessler and The Kessler Collection!

The Clyde

The Clyde Venue is Savannah’s newest, most modern, wedding venue located in the Historic Landmark District. The space has been completely renovated, and a work in progress for more than a year. The venue is 5,200 square feet and includes a grande room, large marble bar, catering prep area, and restrooms. It’s located at 223 Martin Luther King Boulevard.