In the thirteen years since losing my son Kyle, I’ve never been able to understand the unfeeling behavior of Kyle’s biological father, Tom Brennan. His lack of caring—along with his seeming lack of emotion—went far beyond the boundaries of normalcy. The core of one’s humanity, in my opinion, is not difficult to define: It includes the ability to reason, to decipher between right and wrong, compassion toward others, and of course emotion and the ability to express it.
In the first few days following Kyle’s death, Tom Brennan’s indifference—his detached state of being—was obvious to family members. His inhumanity was “chilling and unnerving.”
Life does not prepare you to lose a child, it’s a blow that brings you to your knees and leaves you with lifelong bruises. It’s a heartache like no other.
During those first months after losing Kyle, I could not wrap my head around how or why Tom Brennan behaved so coldly toward him. I knew that Brennan was with Kyle when he died. Tom Brennan first told Kyle’s Virginia family that he’d arrived home the night of February 16, 2007—at his Clearwater, Florida, apartment where Kyle was staying—at 10:30 p.m. He later changed his time of arrival to 11:15. Brennan’s 911 call for help did not go out until 12:10 a.m. How can a parent be so disconnected from their child—and from their own humanity—to not call immediately for help? And what was happening in Brennan’s apartment between 10:30 p.m. and 12:10 a.m.?
I am no closer to finding answers to these questions than I was eleven years ago. On the police recording of Brennan’s 911 call his voice is flat, without emotion. Ken Dandar, a lawyer representing the Estate of Kyle Brennan, described it as “a voice of depravity.” Dandar told me that “Brennan was cold, unemotional, not what you’d expect to hear from a parent who’s calling to say their child is dead. It sounded like Brennan was ordering a pizza.”
In my darkest days after Kyle’s passing, I was extremely troubled, haunted by innumerable questions. I couldn’t grasp how the horrific tragedy in Clearwater had unfolded. I couldn’t understand Brennan’s behavior. Broken, overwhelmed with grief, I searched for a counselor who could help me understand. How does someone lose their humanity? Why were Brennan and his fellow Scientologists—the people around Kyle on his final days—so cold and unfeeling?
Not knowing anything about the Church of Scientology, I looked online and found the phone number of cult expert Rick Alan Ross. Private consultant, lecturer, and cult-intervention specialist, Ross began working as an anti-cult activist in 1982. Since then he’s worked with the FBI and has been qualified and accepted as an expert court witness in eleven different U.S. states. He’s also worked with the governments of Israel and China. (For more information see http://www.culteducation.com, the website of the Cult Education Institute founded by Ross in 1996.)
Over the phone, I asked Ross why Scientologists behaved the way they did. Why was Brennan so unfeeling? Before answering he asked how long Tom Brennan had been involved with the Church of Scientology. (The answer was at least eight years.) Ross then explained that, after being involved for so long, Brennan’s main concern in life would be the Church. As a devoted follower, Brennan put Scientology first in his life. Everything else was secondary, including his only son’s well-being.
Compassionate yet blunt, Ross told me—and I now understood for the first time—that Kyle would have been unwanted, a problem source for his father because of his medication and connection to psychiatry. Ross explained, too, why Kyle’s death meant so very little to his father. From a Scientology point-of-view, it meant merely that Kyle had “dropped his body.” He could pick up another one soon.
The Church of Scientology’s dictatorial control over its adherents is not just deeply disturbing—it’s also immoral and dangerous. Brainwashed by their religion, Scientologists seem to lose concept of the boundary separating right from wrong. They’ve been told by the Church’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, that in the pursuance of a “just cause”—Scientology, of course—it’s perfectly acceptable to step across that boundary at will. They’ve been taught that the collective, the organization—the Church of Scientology—comes first. It comes before them, before their families, and sometimes even before the lives of their children.
Copyright © 2020 by Victoria L. Britton