BBC Panorama journalist John Sweeney travels to Los Angeles to investigate the highly secretive Church of Scientology and to determine whether the church was becoming more mainstream.
Sweeney rather inevitably finds it incredibly difficult to investigate the church and instead finds himself being investigated himself. He was subjected to constant surveillance by representatives of the church who would follow him wherever he went, harassment and intimidation. At one point he returned to his hotel room to find that his possessions had been disturbed. His family and friends back in London had been harassed by members of the UK branch of Scientology for the duration of filming.
Sweeney also found himself in conflict with senior members of the church who were determined that the Panorama team would not feature interviews with anybody critical of the organisation, particularly former members. At one point Sweeney really loses his cool with senior Scientology official Tommy Davis, a clip that has since become famous online and for which he has since apologised to viewers.
When you have finished watching this first feature you may want to check out the 2010 follow up The Secrets of Scientology which features interviews with several people who have managed to leave the church, including most notably a man named Mike Rinder who was assigned the task of following Sweeney during the filming of the first documentary and confirms to Sweeney that he had followed him for the duration of his stay in the United States.
John Sweeney authored the 2013 book The Church of Fear: Inside The Weird World of Scientology, published by Silvertail Books and available in paperback, kindle, and audiobook editions. In the book he tells the full story of his experiences reporting on the Church for the first time.