Parents buy Echo Park billboard to reach children in Church of Scientology

Wednesday, April 6, 2016
Family buys Echo Park billboard to reach children in Church of Scientology
A family purchased a billboard in Echo Park in an attempt to reach their children who are members of the Church of Scientology.

LOS ANGELES -- A mom and dad with two adult children in the Church of Scientology paid for a giant billboard posted in Echo Park in an effort to reach out to their son and daughter.

After decades, Willie and Phil Jones left the church and haven't spoken to their daughter Emily or their son Mike in two years.

They've been disconnected, which is what Scientologists call their choice to cut off communication with people outside the church. Mike and Emily Jones are Scientologists. Emily Jones works for the upper management of the church, her parents said.

"We know what the conditioning is and what goes on there. It is a form of hypnosis. We've experienced it, we went through it. We were in that mindset for years," Phil Jones said.

Willie and Phil Jones decided to reach out to their children through a billboard after they raised enough money to keep it on display for one month.

The billboard was posted on busy Glendale Boulevard and it's estimated that 1 million people will see it.

It reads, "To my loved one in Scientology...Call me."

The parents said they decided to post the billboard after conventional methods for reaching their children failed.

"Calling every week, showing up at the doorstep of the church, and we've been flat out told that we're not welcomed," Willie Jones said.

The family said two billboard companies backed out and believed the church is to blame. But the third billboard company was receptive.

"I told them what had happened, that we got shut down twice and I told them it was about Scientology," Phil Jones said. "One of the first things they said is, 'We believe in the First Amendment and freedom of speech.'"

The parents said they don't know if their children will ever see the billboard, but they said it makes a strong statement that many families can relate to.

"We started to get donations and stories from so many people. It's just amazing how many people are affected by Scientology disconnection," Phil Jones said. "So we made the billboard a little bit more general, so it's a message from all of those people."

Willie and Phil Jones don't regret leaving the church after decades, but they only wish their family was still intact.

"We were kind of lucky to get out, but unlucky that we ended up losing our family. Not just our kids, my brother, my sister, nieces, nephews, friends, we lost it all," Phil Jones said.

ABC7 reached out to the Church of Scientology for comment, and they released the following statement:

    "It is shameful that two people desperate for publicity would hook up with a reality TV producer to shamelessly exploit their two adult children over their choice of faith. It is equally despicable that these individuals would use a private family matter to promote anti-religious hate and bigotry."

Willie and Phil Jones said they were not working with a reality TV producer, but a documentary filmmaker.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony and a press conference was planned near the location of the billboard on Wednesday.