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The Church of Scientology is not happy about this film which claims it tortures its members

The Alex Gibey directed film went out last night on HBO in the US.

Image: PA Archive/Press Association Images

LAST NIGHT A documentary broadcast on American station HBO made allegations about torture within the Church of Scientology.

Alex Gibney, the director of ‘Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief’, interviewed a number of former members of the organisation who claimed to have been tortured and subject to hard labour.

The documentary makes claims about abuse carried out by former leader of the Church of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, and current leader, David Miscavige.

There is also a question raised in the film about the whereabouts of Miscavige’s wife, Michele Diana ‘Shelly’ Miscavige, who has not been seen in public for a significant period of time – although the LAPD have said that she is not a missing person. 

The film is based upon many of the claims made in Laurence Wright’s 2013 book, also entitled ‘Going Clear’.

The Church of Scientology has stated significant opposition to the film since its debut at Sundance Film Festival in January, issuing a lengthy statement to news site The Wrap and countering the claims in short films posted to the organisation’s website. 

In the statement issued to The Wrap, a spokesperson for Scientology responds to the documentary, saying, “Alex Gibney is proving to be exactly like the sources in his film–no accusation is too irresponsible to make. It doesn’t matter if he lacks corroboration and proof, it’s all about promoting his movie.”

Gibney’s previous credits include ‘We Steal Secrets, The Story of Wikileaks’, ‘Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room’ and ‘The Armstrong Lie’.

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The two-hour documentary aired on HBO last night after the TV station reportedly hired 160 lawyers.

Much of the focus was on the links the church has with celebrities, as well as its tax-exempt status.

The filmmakers looked at Scientology’s relationship with both John Travolta and Tom Cruise in depth. They claimed that when Travolta tried to leave the church, its leaders threatened to expose secrets about him, thus “cowering” him into silence. And, with Cruise, the doc outlines how he is controlled through his love life and with expensive gifts.

The church says the suggestions about Cruise and Travolta are “false”, “defamatory” and “deeply offensive”.

Stateside, the documentary received a lot of attention last night, with countless articles and tweets.

Actress and former member of the church, Leah Remini, reported Shelly Miscavige missing two years ago and has cited her disappearance as the reason she left scientology. Last night, she watched the documentary, tweeting:

Actress Kristen Bell said the programme was a “terrifying look at the fallibility of the human mind”.

With Sinéad O’Carroll

Read: Britain’s first Scientologist wedding took place today

Also: Anti-Scientology conference set for Dublin next week

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