New documentary about Scientology


Noted documentary maker Alex Gibney has a new film coming out on the Scientology movement. It is based on the book Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief (2013) by Lawrence Wright that I reviewed favorably here. The film is being produced by HBO and will be released early next year.

The Church of Scientology is noted for many things, none of them positive: the abuse and exploitation of its members, its secrecy, its bizarre beliefs, and its willingness to expend vast amounts of resources in litigation to fight its critics to keep its practices secret.

HBO knows that it will be slapped with one lawsuit after another by the organization and seems ready for it.

“We have probably 160 lawyers [looking at the film],” says HBO Documentary Films president Sheila Nevins, who is bracing for protests as well. If the doc is finished in time, it likely will be submitted to the Sundance Film Festival in January.

But are a throng of HBO lawyers enough to combat the church’s legal arsenal? Wright’s Going Clear, which stemmed from his 2011 New Yorker profile of filmmaker and former Scientologist Paul Haggis, prompted an all-out offensive from the church. The book’s U.K. publisher, Transworld, dropped Going Clear from its lineup on the advice of its lawyers. The title, which was a National Book Award finalist in the U.S., never was published in the U.K.

Nonetheless, HBO and Gibney (UTA, Cowan DeBaets) aren’t inclined to back down, having taken on other powerful organizations in the past including the Catholic Church (Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God) and the U.S. military (Taxi to the Dark Side). And though Wright says he has received threatening letters from lawyers representing Hollywood Scientologists, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author is prevailing in the battle of wills. Thanks to HBO, his story of physical abuse and imprisonment within the church now will reach a much wider audience.

Says Nevins, “And this time, we’ll be ready.”

This is going to interesting. HBO is to be commended for taking on this litigious group.

Comments

  1. ianeymeaney says

    “The Church of Scientology is noted for many things, none of them positive: the abuse and exploitation of its members, its secrecy, its bizarre beliefs, and its willingness to expend vast amounts of resources in litigation to fight its critics to keep its practices secret.”
    And how does this differ from other religions?

  2. mithrandir says

    “The Church of Scientology is noted for many things, none of them positive: the abuse and exploitation of its members, its secrecy, its bizarre beliefs, and its willingness to expend vast amounts of resources in litigation to fight its critics to keep its practices secret.”
    And how does this differ from other religions?

    Degree and recency. No other religion in recent history has engaged in espionage against a national government in an attempt to secure special privileges for itself.

  3. Vicki says

    They don’t charge tens of thousands of dollars for a copy of the Torah, or keep the contents of the catechism secret from most Catholics. Much less turn around and tell the priests “remember that bit about one God, creator and ruler of the universe? There are actually several Gods, and Jesus is fighting the bad guys, but we suspect he’s going to lose” and then the bishops are told that Jesus is an extraterrestrial lizard.

  4. says

    It differs radically from “other religions” in its entire methodology, behavior, litigiousness, and special-ops types of actions, as well as bending LEOs to their will in unique ways. They are far more dystopian-weird-sci-fi than any other group at that scale, with only the Mormons coming close for bizarre stronghold compounds and record keeping along with a few sci-fi angles. There are many religions with too much secular and social authority and power, but not many are as insidious or pernicious, in such odd ways. Their modern cult brainwashing is not completely unique, but still pretty weird.

    The RCC could boohoo about Life of Brian all it wants. Some religions in some places can promote all sorts of violence. But the CoS is alone in their (wildly successful) corporate-style litigiousness and espionage, and their tenacity in finding and hounding individuals with whom they might only be mildly annoyed.

    All religions and religion-like belief groups have some-to-many bad aspects, but they do have qualitative differences between them, and between various groupings of their followers.

  5. forestdragon says

    I also would be deeply suspicious of any belief system founded by someone who had been heard to say that the best way to get rich was to create your own religion.

    Hopefully any lawsuits will be thrown out – IAMAL, but I believe libel only applies if what is claimed is not true.

  6. says

    It differs radically from “other religions” in its entire methodology, behavior, litigiousness, and special-ops types of actions, as well as bending LEOs to their will in unique ways.

    Are you so sure? Christianity was the original inventor of the idea of not taxing churches; the scientologists are simply followers, there. The christians also invented the idea of packing judiciaries and school boards and police departments with their people; the scientologists are playing a good game of catch-up but really it’s like 2 sharks showing eachother professional courtesy. Christians are constantly attempting to insinuate agents into the scientific community, into the text book writing community, and – speaking of litigiousness, the scientologists are less successful litigators in total than a single roman catholic diocese when it comes to avoiding subjecting their insiders to the same justice as non-members.

    I could go on but I think I’ve made my point. Scientology is L. Ron Hubbard’s riff on mormonism, which is Joseph Smith’s riff on christianity. (Which is arguably that old con man Paul of Tarsus’ riff on judaism, etc..)

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