This isn't just fear of what the church will do to them because they just left, it is the reaction to living for years under the constant threats, explicit and implicit, from the Church of Scientology. After a while, it just becomes normal to live in fear.
Once Scientology has convinced a person that "Scientology has all the answers" and that "Scientology is the only road to 'Total Freedom'", the church spends the rest of the time threatening to deny the Scientologist that "only road out". This threat hangs over the head of every Scientologist. This is the basis of the church's power and control.
(It really is ironic that the Church of Scientology's power comes from the threat to take away that which it never had the power to give in the first place.)
As a Scientologist, you must follow all of the church's rules, requirements, demands and dictates or you will be denied Scientology services. In the "Introduction to Scientology Ethics" book there is a list of "High Crimes" for which a Scientologist will be declared a "Suppressive Person", and kicked out. If you carefully review that list of High Crimes, you will quickly realize that many of these "crimes" are so very, very vague, that anyone could be found guilty of violating them.
And, indeed, many Scientologists are accused and found guilty under these High Crimes when they have done nothing that normal society would consider wrong.
Usually, a Scientologist is "declared suppressive" as a result of something Hubbard made up called a "Committee of Evidence" (or "CommEv"). A CommEv is an amazing bit of Hubbard-created injustice:
- The "Convening Authority" who calls for the CommEv is the same person who wants you found guilty.
- The Convening Authority gets to choose whoever he or she wants for the "members" of the CommEv who will sit in judgement of you. Anyone.
- The Convening Authority writes the charges and the Scientologist is, pretty much, presumed guilty unless he or she can produce convincing evidence of innocence on every point.
- There are no rules of evidence -- anything can be used as "evidence" against the accused and it is up to the committee members to accept or reject evidence on whatever basis they choose. No one is required to verify that the "evidence" is actually valid.
- The accused may not have a lawyer or any other assistance in defending him or herself.
- There is no stipulation that the accused can see the evidence or the accusers and challenge them.
- The accused is not required to be present during testimony against him or her and, in fact, is often deliberately excluded. These days, the entire CommEv is often held without the accused even being present.
But there is more. According to Hubbard, someone "declared suppressive" may be "deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed". The laws, morals and ethics of normal society no longer protect the declared person from all manner of attacks from other Scientologists.
If one desires to "work oneself back into good standing", the road is long and degrading and the chances of being declared again are pretty high.
Under Scientology "Ethics", all Scientologists are required to spy on all other Scientologists and report any "incorrect" behavior. If another Scientologist they know is found to be "suppressive", it is likely that they, too, will be punished for "not reporting the crimes". Therefore, many Scientologists do spy and do report on other Scientologists.
Even in the supposedly "confidential" auditing sessions, Scientologists are not safe from the spying eyes of the church. Everything they say is written down and often recorded, to be reviewed by others. At any time, the Scientologist could be ordered to a "Security Check" or "SecCheck" where everything they say will be reported to the "Ethics Officer" for evaluation and, perhaps, punishment. There are few Scientologists who have not felt the dread upon hearing the phrase "Report to Ethics".
As you can see, if a Scientologist lives in almost constant fear, they have every reason to feel that way.
And don't doubt for an instant that the church fully understands the power that it holds over all Scientologists. Scientologists believe that Scientology is the only way to rise to the higher levels of existence and if they are kicked out of the church, they will be doomed to horrible suffering and degradation forever. With this threat of expulsion and disconnection, the Church of Scientology can and does demand more and more. More money, more time, more participation, more obedience. For those who believe the church controls their future salvation forever, there is no choice but to comply.
Luckily, the news that the Church of Scientology's power has been broken is filtering in to the believers. The fear is easing and, with it, the church's power to force obedience is fading. The church doesn't know what to do about it. Without this constant fear, they no longer have the same absolute control over their Scientologists. Oh, dear!