California Parents Use Billboard to Try to Reach Estranged Scientologist Children
Willie and Phil Jones left the Church of Scientology but their children remain.
— -- Phil and Willie Jones have placed a desperate plea to their two estranged children on a three-story high, 50-foot wide billboard in Los Angeles.
The couple's two children, Emily and Michael, are members of the Church of Scientology. The couple say they have not seen their children in two years after leaving the church themselves after four decades.
“We tried everything. We tried phoning,” Phil Jones told ABC News’ Matt Gutman in an interview Wednesday. “We didn't know what else to do so we figured we better make some statement.” The billboard was posted on Glendale Boulevard, a busy road in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. It reads in bold letters, “call me.”
Both Phil and Willie Jones say they don’t expect their two adult children -- ages 38 and 42 -- to actually call. They claim the church disconnected them.
Disconnection is a Scientology term for ending communication with those who are antagonistic to the Church. The Church denies that members are forced to disconnect and says the choice to disconnect is voluntary.
“I don't know if the billboard is going to do anything but it's another step,” Willie Jones said. “These are our kids. We want them in our lives.”
“They won’t allow us on the property,” Phil Jones said of their attempts to reach Emily and Michael at the church. “The security people come up and they say, ‘You’re not welcome here.’”
Both Emily and Michael work within the church, according to their parents. Emily got married last year, but her parents say they do not know exactly when.
“When I did finally get a phone call from Michael, he didn’t want to have anything to do with us,” Phil Jones told Gutman. “He said, ‘I never want to talk to you again.’”
The Joneses say they are just trying to reunite their family.
“Our whole message is not about their beliefs,” Phil Jones said. “It's just about reconnecting families and ending the disconnection, which is an abuse of families, we believe.”
The Church of Scientology told ABC News in a statement that Phil and Willie Jones are teaming up with a reality show producer to "shamelessly exploit their children."
“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," the statement read. "It is equally despicable that these individuals would use a private family matter to promote anti-religious hate and bigotry.”
The couple told ABC News they are producing a documentary about their journey. The producer working with the couple declined to divulge the exact nature of the project.