Wednesday 17 January 2018

'Do not go near them...it will destroy you' - Ex Scientology worker issues warning over church

Ex-worker says involvement with the church left him 'with nothing', writes Conor Feehan

Zeni Bundo outside the Church of Scientology community centre in Firhouse, Dublin Photo: Mark Condren
Zeni Bundo outside the Church of Scientology community centre in Firhouse, Dublin Photo: Mark Condren
Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

A man who became involved with the Scientology movement in Dublin has issued a warning to those thinking of joining to stay away, claiming: "You end up with nothing."

Zeni Bundo, who was a member of the new Scientology European Headquarters in Firhouse, warned: "Do not go near them. You will destroy your family and yourself."

In an exclusive interview, the 31-year-old said he worked at the centre. He described the Firhouse base as a place where the goal is expensive health programmes as well as employing staff at below the minimum wage.

Zeni, who has left the Scientology group, said he was told to take a massive number of tablets as part of a 'purification' regime which cost him €1,800 to undergo. He is seeking legal advice regarding his employment, and will assist authorities in employment and revenue sectors.

In a statement, Scientology moved to clarify that all of the centre's staff are in fact "religious volunteers".

Zeni came from Albania 10 years ago and has lived and worked all over Ireland.

In September last year, a friend of his who had been involved with Scientology introduced him to the group, which was about to open its flagship HQ in south Dublin.

"I thought I could maybe get a job there, and that was the aim. It looked really modern and new and I thought it could be a good place to work," said Zeni.

His girlfriend became involved and he said the Scientologists flew her to LA for a month for training - it made him think that it was a professional organisation.

"Then one of the guys in there said I needed to do a programme, and there was others too who were saying it would purify me. I didn't believe them, but then there was more people saying it, and at that stage I started to think maybe I would become a better person. In the end, I agreed to do it," he added.

"When I look back, I see I was being pushed into it, being told I had problems and they could cure them."

He said he received a large box of tablets, mainly labelled as vitamins, which he was to take daily. "You have to take them for a month, many, many tablets every day, and do five hours in a sauna every day too.

"I started getting headaches but they would not let me take Panadol or anything. I would like to get the tablets tested and see what is in them," he said.

As well as doing the 'purification programme', Zeni said he was given a job working in the café and restaurant.

"They were paying me cash in hand, which I was not happy about. I have been in the country 10 years and want to work properly and officially and pay tax and make sure all my papers are in order. I asked them many times about organising tax but they kept putting it off."

When approached for comment, the Church of Scientology categorically denied any breach of employment law.

In a separate statement, Scientology Ireland said that in order to qualify as a volunteer, an applicant must be a "devout member" of the church."Each volunteer makes a religious pledge to actively forward the work of the church out of a deep personal commitment to Scientology," they said.

"All of our churches around the world comply with the law in each jurisdiction in which they reside, and the Church of Scientology & Community Centre of Dublin is no exception."

They added: "The centre is entirely a non-profit religious organisation. Its only purpose, and the only purpose of Scientologists who volunteer their time on staff, is to help people."

Zeni said that at the end of his 'purification' course, he felt no better than at the start of it.

"But I could not admit to that. If I told them I was the same, they would recommend another course called 'survivor rundown' and charge me more money.

"This is how they survive. They brainwash you and take your money," he said.

"My girlfriend was there at the same time as me. She still is there but we have split now. Scientology separates you from your family and your friends. You end up with nothing," he said.

He left in November as his 'purification' came to an end. Zeni said he was told to sign a document saying he would not speak out against Scientology.

"They do this to frighten you, but it is worth nothing. I have a voice. I have seen what I have seen and now I am speaking out, and my message to everyone else in there is to do the same."

Looking back, Zeni said the aim of Scientology is to "target rich people and bulls*** them".

"It starts with free courses to get you in and happy with Scientology, and then it is a course for €1,800, but the aim is to get €25,000 from you. I saw people spend €45,000 on courses," he said.

The Irish Independent accompanied Zeni to the Scientology centre as he tried to get a copy of his employment contract but he was told he would have to apply in writing and wait up to 30 days for it.

They said they could not give it to him under the Data Protection Act.

The staff member would not answer questions on Zeni's employment, but provided an email address to contact instead.

A spokeswoman for Scientology then replied to our questions by saying Zeni's accusations were false. "The so-called allegation is also false, mischievous and dishonest. The Church of Scientology categorically denies any breach of employment law," said Diana Stahl.

Irish Independent

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