Rod Keller is on the case again this week, looking into Scientology’s many front groups and their activities…
Scientology usually has its front groups hide their connection to the church in order to gain acceptance. But sometimes they’re invited through the front door with full knowledge of their actual role. That is the case at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, which has been showing a video from the Scientology front group United for Human Rights since its opening in 2014.
The Center was built on land donated by the Coca-Cola Company, and sits between that company’s World of Coca-Cola museum and the Georgia Aquarium in downtown Atlanta. Civil rights leaders Evelyn G. Lowery, Juanita Abernathy, and Congressman John Lewis were instrumental in establishing the center, which has on display personal papers from the Morehouse College Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. collection, including drafts of Letter from Birmingham Jail and many others.
A separate exhibit space in the museum is named “Spark of Conviction: The Global Human Rights Movement,” which is a collaboration between five human rights organizations: Human Rights First, Amnesty International USA, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, and Minority Rights Group International.
Scientology issued a press release in November promoting its contribution to the exhibit – a video titled “What Are Human Rights,” which is intended to “help accomplish the Center’s purpose of creating a space where visitors may explore and be empowered by the fundamental rights shared by all humanity.” Over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend, Scientologists shared a link to the press release repeatedly on social media.
The press release was news to the Center for Civil and Human Rights. “That press release was not issued by the Center, and we have no affiliation with Scientology or United for Human Rights,” museum spokeswoman Kristie Raymer tells us. “When permissions were sought to use the video in our Human Rights exhibit we discovered that it was created by the group Youth for Human Rights. Upon further review that group was determined to be associated with Scientology. The Center for Civil Rights did not pay for the creation or use of the video and in no way aligns with Scientology.” Raymer says she is aware of allegations of human rights abuses by Scientology, but the Center has no official position on them.
Jill Savitt was the curator for the Spark of Conviction coalition, and selected the video along with all of the other exhibits. Her memory differs somewhat, but she was aware that the video was produced by Scientology. “That press release is from November? The rights to the video were obtained in 2012 and 2013,” when the exhibits were being designed. “We always knew United for Human Rights was part of Scientology. I have used the video in human rights presentations at schools because it is so great at explaining the history of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
The video was edited down because she was looking for a three or four minute video, and the original is almost ten. “We used the recap of the history at the end. The Church of Scientology has a sub-organization called United for Human Rights, that really is maybe owned or affiliated with them but the video stands on its own. The video is quite good and has been used by a lot of organizations, and United for Human Rights has organized a coalition of organizations and we just took the video on its merits. It passed through our committee of experts on human rights as a fair and unbiased history of human rights.”
Savitt sees no contradiction concerning allegations of human rights abuses by Scientology. “We assessed the video entirely on its merits. The production is presented without any attribution, or maybe at the very end it might say United for Human Rights. I told our curatorial team if we had made our own video it would have looked a lot like that. There’s no proselytizing, and in terms of curricular materials aimed at kids, that video in particular is excellent. I’m not sure we could have done as good a job as they did, and they didn’t charge us anything.”
The video is played on a wall in an exhibit hall that features painted portraits of human rights heroes such as Dr. King, Eleanor Roosevelt and Ghandi. There is also a rogue’s gallery of human rights abusers, such as Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler and former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. The Scientology slogan “What Are Human Rights?” appears on the wall over the video screen.
— Rod Keller
If you were like us, you’ve been obsessively checking ahead on the A&E network’s online calendar, trying to keep an eye on what turned out to be a pretty unusual airing schedule for Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.
Initially, A&E announced that it was going to be an 8-episode series. But then, its first Tuesday night episode turned out to be the most watched series premiere for the network in two years. A&E had an unexpected hit on its hands, and that sent the network scrambling. We started hearing that the production team was rushing to put together a special additional episode, and the network also started showing short sneak peek segments on Monday nights. The special — a “Reddit AMA” episode featuring Paulette Cooper — aired on Dec. 19.
Eventually, the seventh regular episode, “Enemies of the Church,” was scheduled to air on January 10, and the network began calling it the “season finale” — even though yet another Reddit AMA special was scheduled for the following week, January 17.
And what about the originally scheduled eighth episode? When we checked the A&E website several weeks ago, it appeared to be scheduled for January 24, and was named “The Apostate.” A description of the episode indicated that it would focus on Leah Remini herself.
And so, last Tuesday night, as the second Reddit AMA special episode aired, we fully expected that it would not be the last of the series — even though Leah Remini herself, in the show, talked about it like it was the end of season one.
Well, we’ve now learned that last week’s special episode was, indeed, the end of season one, and the originally scheduled eighth episode, “The Apostate,” no longer shows up on A&E’s schedule.
That second Reddit AMA special was the end of the season.
“To be continued,” were the final words on the screen when it ended. But so far, we still haven’t heard anything definitive about whether there’s going to be a season two of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.
Our fingers are crossed.
Bonus items from our tipsters
Actual caption: “Donor donates $30,000 to Rev [Alfreddie] Johnson favorite charity just to see him dance.”
Official photos from New Zealand came in pretty late last night, so we thought we’d put them here as well…
Oh my, they’re really claiming “thousands”….
But here’s the overhead shot, let’s get an accurate count…
John Travolta’s co-star weighs in
June will be here before you know it
HowdyCon 2017: Denver, June 23-25. Go here to start making your plans.
[Thank you, Observer.]
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Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.
The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)
Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts
Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ
Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield