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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South's Greatest Moms Contest 2018

We're looking for the greatest, most authentic and sincere, southern moms. Taking nominations November 1st!

South's Greatest Photographers 2018

We're looking for the greatest, most creative photographers. If that is you, or you know of any, don't hesitate to nominate!
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Events Calendar

  • Designer's Showcase: Dressed for the Season

    Nov 12, 2018
    11:00 AM - 3:00 PM @ Kaminski House Museum

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    4:00 PM - 5:00 PM @ Tybee Island Marine Science Center

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  • Bonaventure Cemetery: After Hours Stories Eternal

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    3:00 PM - 5:00 PM @ Tybee Post Theater

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    6:00 PM - 8:00 PM @ Ellis Square

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Scenes of the South

Beaujolais Nouveau Day 2018

Savannah's 39 Rue De Jean celebrated Beaujolais Nouveau Day, the official end of this year’s growing season. Harvest is complete and vintners—especially in France—are ready to celebrate the completion of the harvest. Beaujolais Nouveau is a red wine that is annually released on the third Thursday in November. Nouveau wine undergoes a very short fermentation process, and yields an extremely fresh and fruity wine.

A Chefs Collaborative

This five course dinner held at Pacci Italian Kitchen and Bar allowed guests to taste exceptional flavors steeped in tradition. Included were the culinary skills of Chef Adam Barnett of The Katharine Brasserie & Bar, Winston-Salem, NC, Chef Robert Hoffman of Angeline’s Charlotte, NC, Chef Daniel Gorman of The Henley Nashville, TN, Chef Sebastien Rondier of Brabo, Alexandria, VA, and Chef Lauren Teague of PACCI Italian Kitchen + Bar.

East and West BBQ

A whole hog BBQ showcase, from two of the south’s most legendary Pitmasters, Pat Martin and Sam Jones. Hosted by Alida Hotel this event was a fabulous juxtaposition between Eastern North Carolina style BBQ and Western Tennessee style. Made possible by the Savannah Food and Wine Festival.

Savannah Food & Wine Fest

Hundreds came to experience Southern charm and hospitality, Savannah Style. The South's best culinary happenings - one exceptional week in Savannah. Iconic and historic coastal venues provided the perfect backdrop for gourmet and fun. South magazine captured the experience at the VIP tent.

Big Wig Boat Bash

Savannah's Riverboat, The Georgia Queen set sail to host the final fundraiser for the 2018 class of Big Wigs, together raising over $100,000 for the Susan G. Komen Coastal Georgia Foundation. This evening included heavy hors d’oeuvres, beverages, a silent auction, music and dancing and a contest to crown the Biggest BigWig! Contest categories included: The Biggest Wig, The Pink Ribbon Award and Best Pink Personality.

Boo Bash

This spooktacular evening included hors d’oeuvres, “spirits,” music and dancing, a Halloween costume contest with cash prizes, Halloween-themed entertainment, a 50/50 raffle, live auction and talent contest. Contest categories included: Dancing, Singing, Rapping, Stand-up Comedy and Lip Syncing.

Masquerade at the Mansion

Plenty of patrons donned masks and beads for an unforgettable Mardi Gras at the Mansion. There unique entertainment, food, and decor including magic fire, beignets, king cake and a photo booth, plus music and dancing, libations, late-night treats, and lots of surprises.

DineSouth After Party

This year's DineSouth ended in a blast. Dozens headed over to Barrellhouse, who hosted the after party. They enjoyed great drinks and live music by Individually Twisted.

DineSouth 2018

This year's DineSouth sponsored by Fulfillment.com was the greatest yet! South magazine has once again put on a night filled with fantastic food and entertainment. Guests enjoyed delicious food & drinks in the city while getting the opportunity to meet and mingle with the best chefs in the South. The entertainment was amazing with American Idol winner Candice Glover, unique band Velvet Caravan and the acoustic sounds of Annie Allman. The event supported the local Salvation Army.

Grand Opening of 201 Seafood

Mixing the traditional tastes of the south with the local flair of the city, 201 Seafood and Tapas Lounge showcases Savannah's culinary community and their grand opening now gives us full access to some of the best seafood in the Coastal Empire.