Call me: Parents plea for Scientologist family members to break silence
There are over 9,000 billboards in Los Angeles, but this one stands out. Instead of advertising plastic surgery or DUI attorneys, this display was purchased to reunite families torn apart by Scientology.
Phil and Willie Jones are ex-Scientologists who joined the church in their late teens. They estimate that they gave over $150,000 to the controversial church, but they also gave even more: their children. Their son and daughter, Michael and Emily Jones, are members of the Sea Org – a billion-year commitment according to the religion, requiring 100 hour work weeks and a wage of 10 cents an hour, according to Raw Story.
When Phil and Willie left the church, their children began the practice of “disconnecting,” which is when a Scientologist goes completely without contact with someone who has left the church.
“If they’re told to disconnect, they have to or they lose everything that’s important to them,” Phil Jones said to The Washington Post.
The Joneses say it has been three or four years since they’ve seen their children and two since they’ve last spoken. But as members of the Sea Org, it had been even longer since they had been allowed to spend time together.
“In 20 years, our kids were never allowed to leave for Christmas or visit us,” Phil said to the Post.
Their sign is in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, right by Dodger Stadium. In order to raise funds for it, the Joneses created a GoFundMe page with a goal of raising $24,000 in order to keep the sign up until August.
The Church released a response to the billboard in a statement to the Post.
“The billboard in Echo Park is simply the latest in a series of publicity stunts by Phil and Willie Jones to stalk and harass their adult offspring, Mike and Emily Jones, who are in their 30s and 40s,” the statement said. “For the past several weeks Phil and Willie Jones have been working with a reality TV producer staging stunts intended to harass their adult children, despite their children telling them directly to back off and stop.
“Clearly, there is no fact checking with billboards. It is shameful that two people desperate for publicity would hook up with a reality TV producer to shamelessly exploit and harass their two adult children for money. It is equally despicable that these individuals would use a private family matter to promote anti-religious hate and bigotry and harm their kids.”
Although the Joneses confirmed that they were documenting the process, they did not confirm or deny these allegations.
Despite the rebuttal from the Church, the Joneses have no plan on lessening their efforts.
“We love you guys so much and miss you so much,” Willie Jones said.