Church of Scientology combats Alex Gibney documentary with online campaign

The Church of Scientology, the subject of a scathing new film from Enron and Wikileaks documentarian Alex Gibney, has intensified its campaign to combat what it calls ‘false information’ in the documentary.

A special report published on the Scientology website Freedom seeks to discredit Gibney’s film Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, which premiered at Sundance this week. A new Twitter account, Freedom Media Ethics, has been set up to promote the site.

Sundance 2015 review: Going Clear – Scientology film preaches to converted

4 / 5 stars

Alex Gibney’s documentary about L Ron Hubbard’s religion – reportedly vetted by 160 lawyers – makes for entertaining and dismaying viewing, but new revelations are a little thin on the ground, writes Brian Moylan

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In the film, based on Lawrence’s Wright’s muckraking book of the same name, Gibney talks to defectors from the church, including Crash director Paul Haggis. He explores the history of the religion from its founder L Ron Hubbard through to current leader David Miscavige, who is accused during the film of intimidating, beating and imprisoning insubordinate followers; high-profile followers like Tom Cruise also have their involvement raked over.

The Church is now distancing itself from the ex-members who feature in Gibney’s film. “Wright and Gibney cherry-picked expelled, discredited former Scientologists who would help them advance their propaganda,” the website reads. “The one-sided result is as dishonest as Gibney’s sources.”

They lambast Gibney’s choice of Haggis as a contributor, saying Haggis hadn’t been involved in the religion for decades leading up to his departure from it, and that “all he did was read falsehoods on a blog by anti-Scientology zealot Marty Rathbun”. A long article on the site is devoted to individually discrediting Gibney’s sources. The Church claims it tried to get in touch with Gibney and HBO regarding his sources, but they were rebuffed; Gibney meanwhile has said that the Church resisted his invitation for comment.

On Twitter meanwhile, the Church is trying to drum up a viral campaign against the film, comparing it to Rolling Stone’s article about rape at the University of Virginia, which was shown to have discrepancies and inaccuracies. It links to a New York Times advertisement it took out earlier in the month entitled “Is Alex Gibney’s Upcoming HBO ‘Documentary’ a Rolling Stone/UVA Redux?”

Going Clear will screen on US network HBO later in the year.