The Church of Scientology, is it the worlds newest major religion or the worlds largest cult? In a strictly legal sense, it is classified as a religion in many countries but as a private organisation in others. To most members of the public, and to many former members, it is considered a dangerous cult.
This mysterious organisation was created in 1954 by a prolific science fiction author who once family proclaimed that the easiest way to become super rich is to start a religion. The Church of Scientology remains highly secretive and has capitalised on the recruitment of several prominent Hollywood celebrities to build astonishing wealth including numerous prime real estate assets in Los Angeles, according to businessinsider.com it is a $1.2bn business.
In recent years there have been numerous great documentaries which have sought to reveal some of the Church’s inner secrets, making use of accounts by former members or by infiltrating the church to capture hidden camera footage. Some of the best documentaries are detailed below, all are currently available to watch here on DocumentaryVine.com.
A superb 2015 HBO documentary based on the 2013 book Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief. The film explores various false claims made by the church, looks into various stories made by former members, and looks at the relationship that various A-list Hollywood stars have with the church. The film won three Emmy awards.
The film is split into three distinct segments, the first looks at how former Scientologists were recruited into the church, another scrutinizes the history of the church and its founder Ron L. Hubbard, and the final segment examines allegations of abuse of members and inappropriate behaviour of senior officials. The church launched an assault on the producers before the film was broadcast, embarking on a campaign of harassment and taking out full page ads in major newspapers. Watch here.
BBC Panorama reporter John Sweeney travels to Los Angeles to investigate the growing appeal of the Church of Scientology. He subsequently found out that investigating the church as very difficult and they reciprocate by investigating Sweeney himself, subjecting him to constant surveillance, harassment, and intimidation tactics. At one point he returns to his hotel room to find that his possessions had been disturbed. The episode reaches its climax with an epic shouting match between Sweeney and senior Scientologist Tommy Davis. Watch here.
John Sweeney followed up his notorious 2007 documentary, he interviews several people who had managed to escape the church. Most notable to appear is a man named Mike Rinder who was actually one of the men who was assigned the task of following Sweeney whilst he filmed the first feature. Rinder confirms to Sweeney that he was followed throughout the duration of the filming of his first documentary. Former members also talk of the personal consequences they have suffered for their decision to leave the church. Watch here.
An old UK TV expose, of year unknown. Reporter Ali Braund managed to infiltrate a UK branch of Scientology in the town of Poole and film with hidden cameras, he managed to obtain footage of ‘auditing’ and the personality tests that new recruits undertake. Anonymous former Scientology members provide some additional insight into the inner-workings of the Church. Also featuring in the film are some victims who had handed over thousands of pounds to the church, including one man named Gary Fry who lost £21000 of his savings. Watch here.
An Australian documentary which attempts to gain insight into the inner-workings of the Church of Scientology by interviewing numerous men and women from the USA and Australia who were members of an elite unit inside the organisation but have since broken the 1 billion year contract. The former members explain how they were recruited and then put under extreme pressure to work towards the goals of the church. Shocking revelations include stories of forced abortions and severe punishments in Scientology slave camps. Watch here.
A 2015 Channel 5 documentary featuring first hand from various women who have joined and then left cults, including one who had left the Jehovah’s Witnesses and another who had left Scientology. Sam Domingo spent 20 years as a Scientologist but later became disillusioned due to harsh living conditions, being forced to have an abortion after falling pregnant, and severe punishments for not conforming to the church rules. Watch here.