When my son, Kyle Brennan, first stepped into his psychiatrist’s office in Charlottesville, Virginia, in January of 2006, he could not have imagined that his life would end only thirteen months later as an enemy of the Church of Scientology.
Kyle was declared dead from a gunshot wound just past midnight on February 17, 2007, in the Clearwater, Florida, apartment of his Scientologist father, Tom Brennan. Scientology-owned buildings dominate the Clearwater cityscape, and Brennan’s Cleveland Street apartment was located within spitting distance of Scientology central. It sat across the street from the Coachman Building—a Scientology training center—and just one block from the Fort Harrison Hotel, the religion’s worldwide headquarters.
That fateful night the EMTs discovered Kyle’s lifeless body in what Tom Brennan claimed was his bedroom, not Kyle’s. Alongside Kyle’s body was a Taurus .357 Magnum revolver. He’d been shot in the head. And that head—my twenty-year-old son’s handsome head, now shattered—they found callously stuffed inside a laundry basket.
They ruled his death a suicide, but because of criminally mismanaged police procedures, it’s impossible to say what weapon was used, or—most importantly—who pulled the trigger. The bullet that killed my son was never recovered. There was no blood on the Taurus: no fingerprints either. Forensic Investigator Jennifer McCabe performed a gunshot residue (or GSR) test on Kyle’s hands, but the Clearwater police blocked it from being processed. They subsequently lied, saying that a GSR test had never been done.
How had Kyle gone from being a well-dressed, forward-looking, college-attending American kid, to passing away in Clearwater, Florida—an enemy of the Church of Scientology—in only thirteen months?
The first step—innocuous as it sounds to the average person unfamiliar with Scientology—was seeing a psychiatrist.
Kyle’s psychiatrist, Dr. Stephen McNamara, diagnosed him with mild depression and social anxiety, conditions not uncommon among college students. McNamara prescribed for Kyle the anti-depressant Lexapro.
And that’s the second step—which may surprise some readers—taking a clinically tested, prescribed psychiatric medication.
One of the major tenets of Scientology is that psychiatry and psychiatric medications are evil: they’re forbidden. Scientology’s hatred of psychiatry is extreme and vicious. Scientologists believe, for example, that there’s an epidemic of psychiatrists raping their patients. According to BBC reporter John Sweeney, “Scientologists believe that psychiatry is Nazi pseudoscience. They believe that the Holocaust was planned and carried out by psychiatrists.”[i]
From Scientology’s point of view, Kyle’s Lexapro use made him an SP—a “Suppressive Person”—someone to be reviled and avoided. To Scientologists, SPs are not merely ideological “enemies of the Church,” their very being is capable of contaminating a Scientologist, causing him to make errors, have accidents, and even become sick.
As a practicing Scientologist, Tom Brennan could not have a relationship with his son if Kyle was violating Scientology’s anti-psychiatry tenet. So, when Kyle arrived in Clearwater to visit his father on February 8, 2007, Brennan was faced with a troubling situation—he had an SP staying in his apartment. Brennan no doubt immediately reported his dilemma to his Scientology superiors, including, of course, his Scientology “auditor” (or spiritual advisor), Denise Miscavige Gentile—twin sister of the organization’s controversial leader, David Miscavige.
One week later, on February 15, the Church of Scientology’s Flag Service Organization (or FSO) issued an order to Tom Brennan to “handle” his son. (Located in Clearwater’s Fort Harrison Hotel, FSO is a high-level Scientology division, its spiritual center.)
“Handling,” a well-known Scientology term, means taking care of a situation, removing a trouble source. “Handling,” according to Scientology’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, can include a wide range of actions. Enemies of the Church—like Kyle—“May be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist. . . . May be tricked, sued or lied to, or destroyed.”[ii] Hubbard—in “The Code of Honor,” Scientology’s ethics code—writes: “Never fear to hurt another in a just cause [i.e. Scientology].”[iii] As witnessed by what happened to my son, “handling” is not as innocent as it sounds.
If a Scientologist fails at “handling” an SP, he is then required to “disconnect”—that is, permanently break off all communication.
These Scientology policies—according to Lance Marcor, a former high-level Scientologist—“placed Thomas Brennan up against a wall. He had to handle his son or face the consequences, which would cut him off from Flag, his wife Wendy, his employers and friends, Denise [Miscavige Gentile] and Gerald Gentile, all dedicated Scientologists, and end his high celebrity status of being audited by David Miscavige’s sister.”[iv] Additionally, Brennan’s failure to handle Kyle could result in Brennan becoming a Potential Trouble Source (or PTS), a person who is connected to and being adversely affected by a Suppressive Person.
Potential Trouble Source, Suppressive Person, Handling, Disconnection—It’s obvious that Scientology is an extremely troubling and potentially dangerous philosophy. Any serious study of its beliefs and practices reveals a dark portrait of an authoritarian organization with psychopathic underpinnings. What other religious organization, for example, would demand that its members throw away a child, “disconnect” from a family member in need?
What measures would an extremely dedicated Scientologist take to “handle” his own child? We can prove that Tom Brennan lied, repeatedly, and that he committed perjury (he lied under oath), how far did he go in order to receive eternal salvation from the Church of Scientology?
“If Kyle was being considered as an Enemy/SP,” stated former Scientologist Lance Marcor, “Tom may have taken matters into his own hands . . . and possibly expedited the disconnection by having ‘a hand’ in his [Kyle’s] demise. . . .” Murder is certainly not out of the question, “since,” noted Marcor, “Tom Brennan stated in his answer filed in this case[v] that his son died as a result of suicide or homicide” (emphasis added).
Thanks to the antics of celebrity Scientologists, the public has come to think of the Church of Scientology as a benign organization that’s unfortunately attracted an oddball collection of unhinged followers. The point-of-view from the other side of the equation, however—how Scientology looks at the rest of the world—is altogether different.
“We’re not playing some minor game in Scientology,” wrote founder L. Ron Hubbard (in a policy letter called “Keep Scientology Working”). “It isn’t cute or something to do for lack of something better. The whole agonized future of this planet, every Man, Woman and Child on it and your own destiny for the next endless trillions of years depend on what you do here and now with and in Scientology. This is a deadly serious activity.”[vi] Deadly, indeed. How many people have perished thanks to the soulless teachings of the Church of Scientology?