The Church of Scientology last night launched a fresh attempt to discredit the Panorama reporter John Sweeney, following the broadcast of a prime time BBC1 programme investigating its controversial beliefs and recruiting methods.
As Panorama editor Sandy Smith took to the airwaves to defend Sweeney’s investigation following the furore around his furious YouTube outburst captured by Scientology cameras, the war of words and online propaganda intensified.
Mike Rinder, a director at Church of Scientology International, said it was considering legal action and a formal complaint to the media regulator Ofcom.
The organisation posted more retaliatory footage on the web, with a 24-page magazine criticising the BBC in general and Panorama in particular, at a specially commissioned website. It also plans to distribute thousands of copies of the magazine with its own DVD debunking the programme.
Appearing on BBC Breakfast, Mr Smith admitted that he was “disappointed” with the investigative reporter’s outburst. He said the film was a portrait of an “extraordinary organisation” which would not accept any criticism.
In the clip posted to YouTube, the reporter rails: “Now listen to me! You are quoting the second half of the interview, not the first half. You can’t assert what you’re saying.”
Mr Rinder yesterday denied claims Sweeney had been followed in Los Angeles. He claimed he had continually refused to engage with the Scientologists, flying to their “spiritual HQ” in the US but refusing to go inside the building, and arranging meetings but then not showing up.
Religion News Blog reminds you that Scientology has an official hate and harassment policy, penned by its founder, L. Ron Hubbard:
ENEMY SP Order. Fair game. May be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.
– Source: Hubbard Communication Office, Policy Letter of 18 October 1967, Issue IV
Scientology’s abuse of the legal system is also founded on L. Ron Hubbard’s approach:
The purpose of the suit is to harass and discourage rather than to win. The law can be used very easily to harass, and enough harassment on somebody who is simply on the thin edge anyway, well knowing that he is not authorized, will generally be sufficient to cause his professional decease. If possible, of course, ruin him utterly.
– Source: L. Ron Hubbard, A Manual on the Dissemination of Material, 1955 (See: The Purpose of a Lawsuit is to Harass)