“How Scientology Made Me Honest 20After a Life of Crime” is a moving story of redemption by Scientologist Andrew Gason.
It was originally published on the website of Stand League (Scientologists Taking Action Against Discrimination).
What I want people to know about Scientology
With the misinformation that can be found out there about any religion, if there is one thing I want people to know about Scientology, it’s that it changed my life by making an honest man out of me. It transformed me from a hardcore criminal, safeguarding hundreds of secrets, to a man who had confronted my past, come clean with the police and given back thousands of hours to my community.
This is my story.
I was abandoned when I was a baby—left in a hospital to be put up for adoption by my mother who was ashamed to have conceived me by adultery. This was the start of my life.
From there, I was chosen by a loving couple who took me home and raised me as their own. Life seemed fine until one day, when I came home from school. I was made to sit and told to listen: my mother and father each burst into tears as they told me that they were getting a divorce. My mother was moving overseas, they told me, and never coming back. Dad was to look after me. I was 14 years old and I was devastated, letting it all sink in. Then this next bit came crashing in like a hammer through a glass window: “Also, you are not really our son. We adopted you.”
The beginning of the decline of my life
I couldn’t stop crying. The moment was a turning point—the beginning of the decline of my life.
From then on, I rebelled against everything and everyone. I no longer trusted any authorities, adults or family—I had no one but myself.
But soon I began relating to other kids at school who also had broken families. We became friends and started hanging out.
This led me into getting up to mischief during and after school. It started with vandalizing property for fun. Then that quickly turned into breaking and entering cars and eventually houses. It continued for months and months. I was breaking into anywhere from 20 to 200 cars a night and one to five houses a day, depending on how tired I was.
After a while that wasn’t enough. Houses turned into shops. And shops turned into shopping malls, factories and warehouses. Then those turned into banks and casinos. I ended up networking with heavily armed, underground criminal organizations on international weapons smuggling and counterfeiting passports and currency.
Living the life of a full-time criminal
By this time, I was 20 years old and living the life of a full-time criminal. I was always on the run and never able to rest or sleep for too long. One day I trusted the wrong person. And the International Police were tipped off. An armed offender police unit was sent in to secure the streets where I lived and to box me in. They found me in my house and took me to jail. But they had only enough evidence to get me on one crime—the passport fraud. This was a maximum sentence of 15 years. After some negotiations, I managed to get off on 6-month probation. (It wasn’t easy, but that’s a story for another time.)
I decided that there had to be knowledge out there on how to navigate life successfully and in an honest way
I was released on probation and had to check in once a week or be jailed instantly if I missed or was late to even one appointment. My enemies were many—rival gangs, police, people I had transgressed against. I didn’t have a family to turn to. Or an education to fall back on. I didn’t have a work history or bank account or job. Or even a driver’s license. No birth certificate, no people to vouch for me. No friends—no one. I found myself back at the point where it all began.
I needed to make a change
At that moment, I decided that life was not worth living if I was to go back to a life of crime just so I could “survive.” I realized I needed to make a change or be doomed to this lifestyle until I died: I was not going to be a beggar on the street—I was going to end it or give it one more shot.
I decided that there had to be knowledge out there on how to navigate life successfully and in an honest way. There had to be. Because there were people everywhere who were succeeding and they weren’t doing it criminally. They had businesses and houses and cars and jobs and families. So I decided to start looking for this knowledge. I started talking to people and asking them, I read books in bookstores and started learning about history.
I learned that, throughout history, people seemed to agree that if you want to change or improve, you have to improve your own viewpoint and attitude. Then the type of atmosphere you create in your environment changes. And you expose yourself to opportunities you never previously had. I soon found myself absorbing knowledge everywhere I went. Granted, I was stealing the books, but I was absorbing knowledge nonetheless.
I studied many religions and attended churches and spiritual centers to see what they knew. Some had some good knowledge but not everything I needed. I was looking for someone or something that would answer every question I had about life to my full satisfaction.
Then I came across the Church of Scientology
I came across the Church of Scientology and they had courses covering virtually every life skill, which was exactly what I was looking for. Taking a personality test to discover where my strengths and weaknesses were, the results showed that my weakest point was in the area of integrity. A course was offered to me teaching me the skill to restore my integrity and self-worth—the Personal Values & Integrity Course. It sounded like exactly what I needed. And I wasn’t going to pass up any opportunities as I was on my last journey for change.
I progressed through the course which explained that in order to gain relief from the pressures I was feeling from the transgressions and secrets I was carrying around I needed to unburden myself: I needed to get the crimes or wrongdoings out of my head and onto paper. Trying it with a small crime, it did feel good.
When I got to the bigger crimes, it was much harder to get them out, but I had nothing to lose; it was either all in and do it properly and see if it works or go half in and waste my own and everyone else’s time. So I went all in. I put down 975 crimes and transgressions. Once they all came out, and through the sweat, the tears and laughter that I experienced, I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders. In realizing all the bad that I had done, I restored my ability to care about others. This opened up the door to real change. As a criminal, the one thing you learn to block out is your ability to care.
Starting to map out a future
I knew I needed to finish my course and start mapping out a future. One of the staff members at the Church of Scientology asked me if any of these crimes were still outstanding or unresolved legally. I said yes—many. They explained that the honest route would be to clean up my record in the eyes of the law. I had to think long and hard and I had to confront that if I was to walk into a police station and hand over and confess to a list of 975 crimes, I would likely end up in prison for the rest of my life.
But I had learned on the course that the only way to put an end to a demon you are running from is to face it head-on. I knew this to be true through my life experiences, too. So I made the decision to go to the police station and turn myself in. I asked one of the staff of the Church to come with me as I needed as much moral support as I could get.
Coming clean with the law
We went to the station and I turned in the document detailing my hundreds of crimes. A senior sergeant then interviewed me. He was shocked to know I was there to come clean and that I was on a correction course of my own volition thanks to Scientology. There needed to be a lot of background case file checks on all the crimes and locations, and he needed to put these all together to determine what to do next.
He said he needed two weeks.
So for two weeks, I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, and was waiting for the police to bust down my door. I decided to help out at the Church to try and keep my mind busy. When the two weeks were up, I called them to face the dragon head-on. They had moved all my files to a local police station that had been dealing with these cases for the last few years.
When I contacted them, they had not received any files and when I called back the original station, they said they had sent them and that they no longer had jurisdiction over this case. I went back and forth for a week like a ping-pong ball until both stations refused to take my calls and told me to stop calling. Another week passed. Still no response.
Community service: Taking a proactive approach
So on the recommendation of the Church, I decided to do my own community service as a means to make up for the damage in some way. I rang the police one more time and told them I was going to do my own community service. They said that would be fine, just to keep a record of my hours and where I volunteered.
For the next 12 months, I got trained by the Church in criminal rehabilitation, drug rehabilitation, literacy, human rights, and drug prevention. I went out into the community and worked with over 50 different groups and I volunteered to help them deliver programs, worked with youth one-on-one and ran workshops and seminars up and down the country.
I clocked up to 2,000 volunteer hours over 12 months.
You did an amazing job: Good luck
The Church encouraged me to contact the police once more. So I went to the station and confronted my fear again. I presented the 2,000 volunteer hours with full details and was confronted with a pause and silence while the document was being read. The officer looked at me and said that I had done an amazing job—all the way from the first time I walked in to now, and that he was so impressed. He then handwrote a letter on New Zealand police letterhead and signed and stamped it. It said I was free to move on—that they would not be pressing charges. He gave me the document and wished me good luck for my future.
Since that time, I have built my own nonprofit organization. I teach kids how to start a business with little to no money, how to trade any product, buy and sell, how to pay tax, open a bank account, how to budget and allocate funds. I help give them the ability to create an income so they never need to resort to crime for money.
And all of this was because of Scientology. Because of the knowledge it gave me, because of its workability, and because of the guidance and support of the Church during the toughest time of my life.
Without Scientology, I would have been in jail or dead by now.
Instead, I am living life to the fullest and helping others do the same.