By Matt Williams
Virtually anyone who follows pop culture will remember when Tom Cruise jumped on the couch during The Oprah Winfrey Show and proclaimed his love for Katie Holmes. It has been parodied many times due to Cruise’s bizarre behavior that day and during subsequent sightings and interviews. It is no secret that Cruise is a member of the Church of Scientology; but like me, many did not completely understand the religion.
HBO recently started airing the documentary, “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.” It is based on a book that covers common ground. “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief” was written by Lawrence Wright and published in 2013 while the film counterpart was released in early 2015.
The film covers everything from the beginnings of Scientology to the recent age led by chairman David Miscavige. It features interviews with several high profile former members that have decided to break their silence and speak out against the wrongdoings that they have witnessed and experienced first hand.
L. Ron Hubbard, the founder, first began his career as a pulp fiction sci-fi writer during the Great Depression. He began writing “Dianetics” in 1950, a book based on his own personal version of modern psychology. In the following years, he elaborated on “Dianetics” with follow-up books. In 1953, he formed the Church of Scientology, mainly to achieve a tax exempt status, but also to develop a following based on his studies. Hubbard did not legally achieve the tax exempt status and was being investigated by the IRS. He decided to flee the United States by means of sea. He purchased a ship and formed the “Sea Organization” using dedicated members of the church and took them overseas to spread the word of Scientology. After being banned from many European countries, Hubbard eventually made his way back to the United States. He passed away in the U.S. on January 24, 1986.
Following his death, Miscavige seized control and took Scientology in the direction that he saw fit. Scientology finally achieved its tax exempt status in 1993 after a large number of scientologists sued the IRS.
Miscavige is said to have used illegal tactics to silence those who speak out against the church. These people are, as Hubbard named them, “Fair Game.” He has reportedly beaten and tortured people, blackmailed church members, had former members stalked and even has been said to have a member of the church clean a restroom floor with his tongue. The church has also reportedly developed their own “black site,” where members are held and tortured for months at a time.
One thing that seems to be a common denominator in making members want to leave the church is that they are forced to disconnect with friends or family due to that person being deemed a Suppressive Person, or SP. There are many things that could label one as an SP, such as speaking out against actions of the church, not fully willing to submit oneself to the church, or being homosexual.
Members of the church must be “audited” on a regular basis. During the auditing process, a person is hooked up to an E-meter (one third of a lie detector) and while telling the auditor things that they have done, or things that make them angry, all supposedly to help them rid their body of invisible beings that are invading space in their body with the ultimate goal to be deemed “clear.” There are many reports that the church uses the information that has been gathered during the auditing process to blackmail the members into staying with the church or simply to silence them.
The documentary is definitely a must-see. It uncovers the side of a religion that has taken hold of many Americans and others worldwide to which they literally become a slave. To see the film, check your local listings and watch it on HBO or hbo.com.