Tight Lip Enforcement on Paranoid Cult Loosening
Joe Nocera’s story “Scientology’s chilling effect,” Oregonlive, 25 February 2015
Recently there has been a lot of media attention about an upcoming HBO documentary that shines a light on Scientology by profiling former members and looking at the way the cult operates. For something like Scientology, that is as secretive as it is, this show is promising to turn a lot of heads and will hopefully expose us to what it really means to be a Scientologist.
This article explores just how much the Church of Scientology used to be able to strong-arm free journalism and how far the Church’s grasp could reach. It tells the story of how a young journalist seeking to uncover the powerful control that the Church held was subsequently harassed, followed, and sued in order to stop the publication of his article. The suit ended up costing millions of dollars to defend and the journalist eventually won the case but this story is just the tip of the iceberg in showing how far the Church is willing to go. The Church of Scientology was able to go up against the US government in court and won.
The Scientologists won a case against the Internal Revenue Services (IRS), this win allowed the Church to be granted non-profit status. The Church did not win in the conventional way though; it did so by filing thousands of suits against the IRS and even its individual employees. They hired private investigators to dig up dirt on the employees and also had the investigators perform intensive surveillance operations on them as well. As you can see the Church does not take criticism lightly and will intimidate anything or anyone that stands in its way.
The story of the journalist and the case against the IRS was from back in the early 1990s and now in 2015 is when we are just starting to see real glimpses of what it is like to be on the inside. For a cult to maintain its mysteries as well as Scientology did is impressive, but its ability to control the press through intimidation and fear is not something that should be allowed.
Luckily we see the controlling grip of this ‘manipulationist sect’ being loosened against its opponents, with journalists relatively no longer in fear of being sued or followed for their right to free speech. As more and more information comes out pertaining to Scientologists, it will be interesting to see how they react and respond to an intensified and glaring spotlight.