The church of Scientology has always been a subject of fascination for the wider world, but this week, the scrutiny has stepped up considerably.
It’s all down to a new documentary, Going Clear, which makes some massive (and quite damning) revelations about the religion, its leadership, and its members.
The documentary has been a huge talking point since it aired on US network HBO on Sunday, and here’s why.
Going Clear is an exposé of the mysterious Church of Scientology, based on the book of the same name by journalist Lawrence Wright. It was directed by Alex Gibney, a multi-Oscar nominated documentary filmmaker.
In case you are unfamiliar with the church, here’s a quick rundown of the basic beliefs and practices:
Members undergo ‘auditing’ which aims to free them from painful events and memories of their past;
Members must pay the church for ‘training and processing’ to advance to higher levels of spiritual development.
In Scientology lingo, ‘going clear’ means being freed of all pain and unwanted emotions through auditing.
Who’s speaking out?
All the sources for the documentary are pretty legit.
Interviewees include Oscar-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis (above), who left the church in 2009; Mike Rinder, Scientology’s former second-in-command; and Sylvia ‘Spanky’ Taylor, who was actor John Travolta’s liaison within the church.
Oh yes. Truth bombs are dropped.
The documentary puts forward some serious allegations against the church’s leader, David Miscavige (above), who appears to be a paranoid and power-hungry fellow.
Several ex-members also claim that torture and slave labour were rampant within the church, with some so-called ‘suppressive’ Scientologists forced to live in horrific conditions.
Any dirt on Scientology’s most famous members, John Travolta and Tom Cruise?
Um, loads. There are some revelations about Tom Cruise’s relationship with Nicole Kidman, as well as hints that the church has binders full of information on Travolta ready to leak to the press if he jumps ship.
It’s not all completely new, but we doubt they’re delighted with it being aired out again, this time with confirmation from ex-Scientology members.
How does the Church of Scientology feel about it?
Heh. Obviously, they’re not happy. A Scientology-run Twitter account, Freedom Media Ethics, has attempted a clumsy campaign against the documentary and its subjects:
While it’s true that the documentary didn’t dominate the TV ratings on Sunday night, it did pull in around 1.7 million viewers.
Former Scientologists, like actress Leah Remini, have thanked the filmmakers for giving the church’s victims a voice.
And what are the viewers saying?
Well, it’s not nearly the snorefest that Scientology would have you believe - it’s fascinating, shocking, and damn scary at times. Catch it if you can.