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Investigating the Church of Scientology

March 5th, 2013
10:14 AM ET

The Church of Scientology is the famous American-born religion created by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard and well-known for celebrity followers like Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

The church claims millions of members here in the United States and around the world. Scientology is famously litigious, with a phalanx of lawyers keeping an eye on journalists, writers and media companies who set out to cover the church.

But now that a number of high-profile members have left and are beginning to tell their stories, we're getting rare insight into the inner workings of the church, from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright. His new book is called, "Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief."

The Church of Scientology says, "Lawrence Wright's book is so ludicrous it belongs in a supermarket tabloid. The book is an error-filled, unsubstantiated, bigoted anti-Scientology book."

In the video above you can watch CNN's Christiane Amanpour discuss the book with Wright.

The Church of Scientology's response is available in full here

Filed under:  Latest Episode • Religion • Scientology
soundoff (105 Responses)
  1. Tom

    In the 1980's working at the SCT in Los Angeles installing air conditioning, Our team experienced weird behavior. People seemed to be in a focused point far from a point of normal. Like Robots We were even given a note to help one person to get out of the building. We were cooling a massive electronics that were installed in the building for transmission, or networking. of a radio system. Just odd if you spent some time with workers at the church.

    March 5, 2013 at 10:29 am | Reply
  2. What

    Sounds like they operate like mafia, dealing in the opium of the masses and whacking with lawsuits anyone who threatens their profits.

    March 5, 2013 at 11:09 am | Reply
  3. Patricia Royce

    Trust me, Lawrence Wright's book is not fiction, but fact. And to take this a step further....he was a bit too kind to the Church. I say trust me, because I was there. For ten years. In the higher ranks. Since I've left, many years ago, the organization continued to detoriate under the leadership of Miscavaige. Shame that the FBI has not done more...they have so much money, they continue to buy people off, as they did with the IRS ( that along with blackmail ). You are right, they are like the mafia....and will go to whatever lengths to protect their profits. It's only a matter of time before John Travolta cuts himself loose. He's a good guy.

    March 5, 2013 at 11:46 am | Reply
  4. James Freedom

    Well, I don't usually agree with CNN, but it is disheartening to see how few news sources ever report on Scientology. They are scared off by threats of lawsuits. We will see how long CNN sticks to the story, when they find they are being investigated by Private Eyes, they will back off quickly, unless they are one of the rare journalists with nothing to hide in their private lives.

    March 5, 2013 at 3:47 pm | Reply
  5. Lars Roest

    I worked for them in the early 80's at what is called the Gold Base, i.e. headquarters for the cult worldwide (see wikipedia). I saw firsthand the crazy behavior of David Misvavige, the leader. Everyone is in fear of the little runt, and that is the way he wants it. He has discovered that he can intimidate everyone and so he does. It is NOT a church. Scientology DOESN"T work! It is science fiction based mind control. It's best products are emotionally unavailable robots like Cruise and David. I agree with an earlier comment, in as much as I like the book, I feel that Lawrence is too kind to the cult. My brother who is still in, has not been able to speak to me for 23 years.

    March 5, 2013 at 4:24 pm | Reply
  6. Tomas Santana

    Despite the history of litigation that have been levied against its critics, the Church of Scientology has developed a weak spot in its defenses for which there is no easy answer: David Miscavige. As someone intimately familiar with the legal inner workings of the church, they have run into a serious roadblock when it comes to their leader. Notice that the church has NOT sued anybody for libel or slander. Why? Because the allegations against David Miscavige are true, that's why. The Church of Scientology will do everything and anything to avoid Miscavige ever entering a court of law, and therefore, no one should fear the church because they will settle if the suit involves him in any way. He knows he is guilty of many things, and I would urge anyone who wants to win against the church to name him personally as a defendant.

    March 5, 2013 at 7:41 pm | Reply
  7. Mary McConnell

    What an excellent interview. Thank you.

    March 5, 2013 at 8:46 pm | Reply
  8. bosonstark

    Scientology is incapable of reform because they believe in Source, which is everything that Hubbard said. They thrive on being brainwashed and paranoid, believing in their superiority and super powers.

    March 5, 2013 at 8:54 pm | Reply
  9. Kevin Owen

    Its all old propaganda Lawrence. You will have to come up with something new to sell any books. Thanks for the advertising.

    March 6, 2013 at 2:15 am | Reply
    • V_Mathison

      A nice example of a rote response that Scientology has its brainwashed followers repost over and over again. "All lies – nothing to see here – please pay no attention and keep giving us your money without question. Thank you."
      Too bad for Scientology that few people are falling for that scam any more.

      March 6, 2013 at 11:46 pm | Reply
    • Benjamin Cisco

      The truth that Mr. Wright published is hurting cult members who just don't want to wake up and come to present time. $cientology is being exposed here, there and everywhere thanks to good reporting by CNN and authors who dare to expose those things that others are afraid to discuss. Thank you CNN. Thank you Mr. Wright. Thank you ex-members who tell their experiences.

      March 8, 2013 at 10:09 am | Reply
    • Pete Litzenburger

      Calm down. Take a good look around you. Find an OT that fits Hubbard's description. Can't find one? Look for a clear, then. Can't find one? Don't clear out your desk or tell anyone your plan. Just leave.

      March 9, 2013 at 9:35 am | Reply
  10. M.A.P. (Mothers against poo)

    People laugh at the stories but there is really nothing funny about it. They are fascists who controll and destroy peoples lives and families. They have been caught numerous times all over the world making people work long hours for no pay and people have to give up all their money to the church. Of course this does not happen overnight, they slowly get into your head until they feel it is safe to cut you off from your family/friends and suck you dry. All in the name of cash.

    March 6, 2013 at 4:09 am | Reply
  11. M.A.P. (Mothers against poo)

    David Miscavige should be locked in a jail cell and never allowed out. He is truly phsychotic.

    March 6, 2013 at 4:12 am | Reply
    • Tomas Santana

      He is a rich psychotic. There is evidence that he has embezzled over 50 million in church funds and even if he is forced out he will leave a very rich man. The question that Scientologists have to ask themselves is: Is there ANYTHING that David Miscavige could possibly do wrong that would make you doubt or question him? Sadly, the answer for many of them is "no". Hitler and Stalin were similar; the people loved them because they could not believe they could be so evil. He is a total dictator and considers Scientology to be HIS church and that he deserves all of the money he gets. Unfortunately, his followers are blind. I actually heard one follower saying Miscavige was greater than Martin Luther King–that's how deluded they are.

      March 6, 2013 at 9:48 pm | Reply
  12. deElizabethan

    Thank you Amanpour and CNN for having this video available. Lawrence Wright is a true gentleman and is fair with the cult. As a former member I know what he writes is true inside the organization. Also all the people he talked with only want the truth be told about this horrendous con game going on in the name of religion. Thank you Mr. Wright for continuing to tell the truth and caring about people and humanity.

    March 6, 2013 at 7:59 pm | Reply
  13. Anonymous

    As a former fiance to a mid-level Scientologist, this book speaks total truth. The "church" will continue to deny everything stated in it, but Wright does a great job showing both sides, footnotes & references to his claims. Any normal person that has ever visited one of their places knows- there are few people there other than the "volunteers" (whom are paid $50 a week and work 40+hrs). They go to the streets to drag people in & give them free food, beverages and show them their propaganda. After that, they call you a scientologist. They claim to be the fastest growing religion with over 20million followers. In the US, the number has shrunk from 50k to about 30k... And no one seems to notice that the same people are at all the events. They show us video of events in CA, London, Germany, etc- THE SAME PEOPLE ARE IN THE AUDIENCE (most of whom I have met in NYC)... I have been to the NYC Church numerous times with my former fiance. He has since broken up with me bc people in the church have told him I am situated too low on their "tone scale" and am not doing anything to change it. Im sorry, but any group that will do this is not one I want to be associated with. The fact is, you will not always be happy. You will face criticism. There will be issues in your life to deal with. They feel you should avoid all of this. You should be happy all the time and if you aren't, it's your fault, so work on it. I can go on for days about this, but most importantly- the reason people wont leave or wont be convinced to leave. In the church, everything is self-taught. You read everything, no one can tell you how to feel or how to interpret something- they sure as hell guide you, thought. The courses make you think like Hubbard & basically turn you into him if you go high enough through the levels. If something isnt getting fixed, it's your fault bc you're not learning it correctly. If you still have issues or get a cold, it's your problem & you can fix it. For instance- if you get the flu, it's because you don't understand something or have someone causing you to be supressed. So it's up to you to fix it. Through paying them more money and doing more work on yourself. If you get cancer, it's not because you have a cell mutation or have been smoking for years, etc- it's because you are being supressed or your mind has a blockage from childhood that you need to "clear"... Similarly, when you understand something or something in your life improves, you attribute it to your wins in the church. So when someone you care about has gone far enough in with this cult, you cant convince them to leave, They need to see it themselves. They learned everything and had wins on their own. They did it all, the church only guided them. By figuring things out on your own, it holds more value- it makes you feel special. So when a loved one tries to get you out, they are attacking you and your work, not the church. It's so frustrating & after a while, that relationship you had deminishes & in my case, I am sad I lost my fiance. We still talk, he still tries to get me to go to the church to get the "help I need" and improve my life, but I refuse. It is a dangerous cult that I will not be associated with, so the sadness in losing my relationship is accompanied by relief of not having to attend courses or services to appease my loved one.


    March 7, 2013 at 8:04 am | Reply
    • Tom

      I'm reading the book, it's incredible to think educated upper middle class people fall for this nonsense but as humans we are basically weak and frightened and looking for the best way to get through it all. Anonymous, good for you to get away from it. I'm sorry for your loss of your fiance. Stay strong and don't go back. They are soul sucking freaks who worship selfish indulgence and the ego. and they have an insane tyrant sociopath as a leader. It's just no good.

      March 9, 2013 at 8:24 am | Reply
  14. Hugh

    I'm about as interested in the "church" of scientology's repose as I would be to a convicted pedophiles response

    March 7, 2013 at 3:59 pm | Reply
    • LAM

      That's kind of like stopping to watch a train wreck while announcing that stopping to watch a train wreck is something you have no interest in. Brilliant.

      March 10, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Reply
      • LAM

        Oops. My bad, I misread your post (owing to your spelling response, repose). Lol. Onward and Upward.

        March 10, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
  15. joyousconnections

    Some years ago I felt an uneasiness as I joined an MLM company based in California. Unfortunately, I didn't listen to my instincts and instead barrelled ahead. The result, an obsene loss of money and the discovery that I had joined a branch of the Scientology movement. Of course, it was vehemently denied but the truth has since come to light as does eveything eventually. I have moved out and onward, following a grander purpose for which I was put here to do. I follow my bliss. No longer do I ignore the voice inside that says, 'Not that road, take this one.' Each of us has a choice to follow our passion. I chose to leave the shadows of Scientology before the anchor dropped. The truth cannot run and hide.

    March 8, 2013 at 8:36 pm | Reply
  16. Kevin Atak

    Mr. Wright, you are brilliant and a saint. The objective way you conducted the interview leaves almost no room for criticism. You are a good man for willing to do this. Your book will inspire broken souls that have been abused.

    March 8, 2013 at 8:57 pm | Reply
  17. Proudly South African

    Other brilliant books to read: "Bare-faced Messiah" by Russell Miller and "The scandal is Scientology" by Paulette Cooper. Real eye-openers, and a must read by everyone. I found L. Ron Hubbard's ties to the likes of Aleister Crowley and Jack Parsons particularly intriguing. Hubbard was a proper nut job, alleged to have said that if you want to make a million dollars, start your own religion. Frightening how he conned so many people into this cult.

    March 9, 2013 at 3:40 am | Reply
  18. Proudly South African

    What to give Scientologists if they offer you a "Free personality test". This is the core "belief" of $cientology:

    March 9, 2013 at 3:54 am | Reply
  19. vps

    Hi! I really love this blog. Tell me please – from where do you have information for ths blog?

    March 14, 2013 at 11:35 am | Reply
  20. Proudly South African

    The Internet, which sadly many Scientologists are barred from using.

    Start with All the answers you want are there. Tons of useful information.

    March 20, 2013 at 11:18 am | Reply
  21. FBC

    Bagging the church of scientology is a cheap shot, I challenge you morally inadequate journalists to match the literary genius of L RON fund your own new religion.

    June 15, 2013 at 5:59 am | Reply
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