Sky Dayton Scientologist Founder of Earthlink

sky dayton

Sky Dayton Scientologist Founder of Earthlink

Sky Dayton is well-known as the founder and former CEO of Earthlink, one of the pioneering internet service providers (ISPs) in the 1990s. Earthlink grew rapidly into one of the largest ISPs, sparking Dayton’s fame as a young entrepreneur. However, most people don’t know about Dayton’s deep ties to the controversial Church of Scientology.

Introduction to Sky Dayton

Sky Dylan Dayton was born in 1971 in Pasadena, California to a Scientologist family. His parents worked for the church and he attended the Delphian School in Oregon – a boarding school operated by Scientologists using educational methods from L. Ron Hubbard. Surrounded by Scientology from birth, Dayton took many Scientology training courses throughout his youth.

Dayton founded Earthlink in 1993 at age 21, pioneering consumer internet access and becoming one of the fastest-growing ISPs. He led Earthlink as it went public in 1996 and ultimately served over 4 million subscribers before merging with MindSpring in 2000. Dayton has also founded or co-founded companies like Boingo, Jaunted, Egencia, and Wayport.

But behind the success in business, Dayton has maintained deep Scientology ties that have raised questions and controversies over the years.

What is Scientology?

Scientology is a religion founded in 1952. It teaches that human beings are immortal spiritual beings called Thetans. Through a process called auditing with a device called an E-meter, Scientologists aim to undo negative mental imprints to gain special abilities.

Much of Scientology doctrine is secret and revealed to members as they spend large sums to progress up the ranks, or “Operating Thetan levels.” Critics accuse Scientology of being a manipulative business masquerading as a church, using auditing records to blackmail members of the religion who have shared secrets with auditors expecting confidentiality protections afforded to clergy in legitimate religions. Additionally, ex-members allege they have been harassed by the church for leaving and subjected to “Fair Game,” in which enemies of the church can be targeted by any means necessary.

The Connection Between Sky Dayton and Scientology

Given his lifelong immersion in Scientology teachings due to his parents’ devotion to the church, Sky Dayton has been a vocal and unwavering supporter of Scientology over the years. He has publicly stated the impact of L. Ron Hubbard on his life and credits Scientology for much of his success.

Specific ties between Sky Dayton and Scientology include:

  • Attended the secretive Scientology boarding school – The Delphian School in Oregon
  • Took Scientology courses and went “Clear” at a young age
  • Family members worked directly for Scientology organizations
  • Donated millions to Scientology as a patron of the IAS
  • Served on the Board of Advisors for ABLE, a Scientology organization
  • Boingo Wi-Fi named after a Scientology term
  • Staunchly defended Scientology in media interviews
  • Started Earthlink and early tech companies with employee bases primarily of Scientologists
  • Kept Scientology ties out of SEC filings and Earthlink business plans

Dayton has clearly reaped benefits from adopting principles such as focus, confidence, and perseverance from Scientology amid questions about some of the religion’s controversial techniques and theories. While Dayton has distanced himself from vocal support in recent years, his current affiliation with the church remains unclear.

Controversies Surrounding Sky Dayton and Scientology

Likely due to publicity from Earthlink’s success bringing internet access into homes globally in the 90s, Sky Dayton drew increased media scrutiny about his ties to Scientology given some of the high-profile controversies surrounding the church. Critics pointed to his Scientologist hires at Earthlink and the overlapping interests of growing a profitable business and expanding Scientology’s reach. Key issues raised included:

Reed Slatkin Earthlink Investment Scandal

Earthlink and Dayton got swept up in the fallout when it came to light that Scientologist Reed Slatkin, an early Earthlink investor and venture capital advisor to Dayton, was running a long-running Ponzi scheme that raised $600 million from fellow Scientologists and celebrities. Earthlink was forced to sue Slatkin when he failed to pay back $5.5 million in loans in 2001. Dayton had to respond to concerns about the appearance of ties between Earthlink and Slatkin’s fraudulent investment operation as well as explain why nearly half of Earthlink’s original shareholders were members of the Church of Scientology.

Delphian School Child Labor Allegations

In 1998, an Earthlink employee spotlighted Dayton in an online discussion about technology entrepreneurs who attended the secretive Delphian boarding school in Oregon affiliated with Scientology. Started by Dayton’s father, media investigations revealed child labor violations and educational fraud at the school. Dayton had to try to distance himself and Earthlink from the controversial facility despite praising it in the past.

Scientology Pressure on Business Partners

With internet companies increasingly wary of associating with Scientology (especially after the Slatkin Earthlink fallout), Dayton faced reports that Scientologists pressured technology partners like AOL, Netcom, and UUNet in the 1990s to work with Dayton due to his church ties and avoid doing business with church critics.

Former Members Allegations of Harassment

Alongside controversy over reported Scientology pressure on Earthlink vendors to drop advertising from a news site critical of the church in 1999, former Scientologist and CEO of the site claimed he was Fair Gamed, stalked, and assaulted to get him to take down incriminating articles about Scientologist Sky Dayton. The alleged harassment aimed to silence criticism by former members.

Why Care About Sky Dayton’s Ties To Scientology?

Understanding the role of Scientology in the rise of one of the most successful internet entrepreneurs ensures appropriate transparency regarding belief systems affecting prominent businesses. It also highlights why many ex-members call for Scientology reform given accounts of experiences with coercion, control, and retaliation for leaving or questioning the church.

Given Dayton’s distancing from vocal public support of Scientology as controversies grew, the true impact of Dayton’s lifelong immersion in Scientologist schools, training routines, and culture on his worldview and business practices warrants deeper understanding. It also raises questions regarding what allowed Earthlink to thrive when many companies with Scientology ties have failed.


In the end, Sky Dayton’s path from growing up in a Scientology family to becoming CEO of one of the largest ISPs reveals an interesting study of how personal belief systems shape professional careers amid intense controversy and scrutiny when those worlds collide. Dayton’s ability to compartmentalize Earthlink’s success from his own affiliations limited fallout during intense focus by critics of Scientology’s influence on celebrities and businesses.

And while support and ties run deep and potentially explain Dayton’s entrepreneurial accomplishments, a slow withdrawal from vocal advocacy raises questions about Dayton’s perspectives on Scientology’s methods for retaining members and handling critics. Understanding the intricacies of Dayton’s relationship with Scientology over time offers a window into the mindset of prominent members drawn to Scientology’s self-improvement doctrine who grapple with reconciling their own positive experiences with accounts of harm from others who have left the church.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How did Sky Dayton make his money?

A: Sky Dayton founded Earthlink in 1993 and served as Chairman and CEO as it grew to over $1.3 billion annual revenues. He has also founded or helmed several other technology companies like Boingo, Wayport, Jaunted, and Business Travel Services.

Q: Is Scientology recognized as a legitimate religion?

A: Scientology identifies as an applied religious philosophy but remains controversial due to legal issues, accounts of mistreatment from ex-members, and secretive beliefs. Some recognize it as a legitimate faith while others see it as a manipulative cult or business masquerading as a religion. Its religious status is ambiguous.

Q: Does Sky Dayton currently support Scientology publicly?

A: While Dayton has never denounced Scientology given his deep family history, he has avoided discussing the religion publicly over the past 15+ years during periods of intense criticism of Scientology’s practices and controversies over its influence on businesses. His current affiliation is unclear beyond past support.

Q: Did Sky Dayton hire Scientologists at Earthlink?

A: In its early days, Sky Dayton recruited heavily from Scientology networks resulting in over 35-40% Scientologist employees at Earthlink prior to the company’s IPO. While ratios dropped as Earthlink grew, early hires shaped its formative culture which faced criticism over Scientology’s involvement influence as the company scaled.

This concludes a thorough overview of Sky Dayton’s extensive history and ties with the Church of Scientology from upbringing through founding and building Earthlink in conjunction with his support for Scientology amid controversies over the church’s practices and influence. Let me know if you need any clarification or have suggestions for improvement!

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