Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Man Overboard: To Leave Scientology, Don Jason Had to Jump Off a Ship

"Don Jason was a Scientology officer who wanted out. Instead, he says he was held against his will, locked on a ship in the Caribbean."

[..] It always bothered him, and Jason resolved that he never would submit to the program. When the order came that he do the RPF aboard the Freewinds, he said he wanted off the ship.
No, the guards said. Do the program.

"So you're holding me against my will?"

Jason tried to walk off the ship with parishioners going on a shore excursion. The Freewinds guards stepped in his way. He tried a second time, but they blocked him again.

For three days he protested by refusing to work, but that only got him more restrictions. He needed a new approach.


Jason decided to act like a good soldier, the picture of compliance. Behaving got him better work assignments and more freedom to move about the ship.

He ruled out jumping overboard. The 40-foot drop was too dangerous, and the dock walls too high, with no ladders.

The thick, 30-foot cables that moor the ship to the dock seemed his best chance. He thought through the variables.

He would have to move quickly down the cable; the guards would hurry to the dock to head him off. Timing was important. Too many people on the dock and he would create a scene. Then again, he wanted at least a few witnesses.

When the ship docked each day, he watched the cables go taut and slack with the tide. A drooping cable would leave him short of the dock. He would have to time his descent so when he reached bottom, the cable would be taut. He would have to get around the metal plate that kept rats from climbing to the ship.

He scavenged for materials to build a device that would help him quickly get down the cable.

He fashioned something like a rolling pin. Starting with a wooden dowel the thickness of a clothing rod, he sawed off a 16-inch piece. Around it he fit a 7-inch length of PVC pipe. To keep the PVC from moving side to side, he sunk drywall screws into the dowel on either end of the PVC.

For two weeks he observed and thought things through. He would have to hold his body high in case he needed to bring up his legs and slow his descent. He ate lunch on the bow every day so that when the time came, the guards wouldn't think twice about him being there.

Three months before, Jason had a title, an office and authority over hundreds of staff in Clearwater. Now his church was treating him like a prisoner.

"I'm thinking, You know what? Once I pull a stunt like this, I'll never get off this ship on my own terms. So I'm committed. Once I start this, I have to be prepared to take it all the way.

"I'm going to do whatever I have to to get off that ship, which includes fist-fighting people, yelling my head off, whatever it takes. I'm not going back on that ship. Period.''

NOV. 21, 1996

He had been on the ship six weeks when he made his move. Jason can't remember if they docked in Freeport or Nassau, just that the town had a decent-sized airport

Don Jason's route out of Scientology
Times staff In Print: Tuesday, November 3, 2009

1 August 1996: Working at Scientology's Flag Service Organization in Clearwater, Don Jason is told that the church is going to discipline him for something he felt was unfair. He leaves the next day without permission and drives on I-4 to Daytona Beach. He takes back roads north to Fernandina Beach and spends the night at a motel.

2 The next day: He continues north through Savannah. He assumes the church will look for him in his native Milwaukee, so he randomly chooses to settle in Atlanta.

3 After six weeks: He gets second thoughts about how he left. He returns to Clearwater to follow the church's approved "routing out'' process.

4 October 1996: Jason flies to the Bahamas to board Scientology's cruise ship, the Freewinds, where he becomes a virtual prisoner.

5 Six weeks later: Jason escapes over the bow of the Freewinds and makes it to the airport. He buys a ticket to Milwaukee, with a layover in Atlanta. A Scientology official buys the seat next to Jason on the leg to Atlanta. The layover: Marty Rathbun, a top Scientology executive, intercepts Jason at the Atlanta airport. Rathbun tries to persuade him to return to Clearwater and follow proper procedure to leave the church. Jason refuses, and Rathbun flies with him to Milwaukee.

6 In Milwaukee: Jason's mother and a sister pick him up at the airport. The next day, he comes to Rathbun's hotel and signs confessions to his "crimes."

7 Twelve years later: Jason works in Chicago as an operations manager for a building supply company.
[Last modified: Nov 02, 2009 10:56 PM]

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