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Lawrence Wright: "Scientology Is Heading for a Reckoning"

Last night, like many of you, we watched Lawrence Wright’s appearance on Anderson Cooper 360, which not only featured a rapid-fire interview of Wright by the CNN host, but also some looks back at Cooper’s 2010 show on Scientology. That four-part series explored accusations about church leader David Miscavige and violence that were first revealed in the St. Petersburg Times. In other words, the nostalgia value was high.

But if Wright was in rare form on CNN, he was even better in person. Also last night, Wright and his New Yorker editor Daniel Zalewski put on a great show at 92YTribeca in front of about 100 folks who had come in from the bitter cold.

And the words that Wright used to finish that show are still ringing in our ears. Scientology, he said, is heading for a reckoning.

Lawrence_Wright_CNNAs in his book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief, Wright was extraordinarily fair to Scientology. He and Zalewski spent a good amount of time trying to explain to the audience why people are drawn into the church and what benefits they get from it. (As Michael Kinsley put it in his New York Times review of the book, “That crunching sound you hear is Lawrence Wright bending over backward to be fair to Scientology.”)

Inevitably, the talk turned to Scientology’s celebrities. A member of the audience submitted a written question, asking if the church was still trying to recruit new famous names into the fold. Wright said he assumed they were, but that it was getting tougher with Scientology enduring so much bad publicity.

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In fact, he pointed out, Scientology was in big trouble. And sooner or later, he added, its celebrities were going to have to do something about it. With Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Kirstie Alley and the rest remaining silent about so many allegations of abuse in the church, Scientology will be doomed unless its celebrities can take some responsibility to deal honestly with those allegations and create some real reforms.

Well, we couldn’t help grinning like a cheshire cat. Because, if you’re one of our many readers who have been with us a while, you’ll remember one of the most-read things that has ever come out of the underground bunker — our Open Letter to Tom Cruise.

We wrote it after watching Debbie Cook’s devastating testimony in San Antonio last February, and we not only detailed her charges of abuse in the church, but also other horrendous accusations coming out of places like Australia. And here was our windup…

Here’s what you must begin to deal with, Tom: you are the public face for an organization that is becoming known for confining and torturing its own executives, that is employing children of public school age in ways that would make a nineteenth-century foreman blush. You are the symbol for an organization that beats confessions of homosexuality out of high-ranking members. That asks children to work around the clock without a chance to get real schooling. That does all this with claims that it is somehow helping the planet.

Tom, you’re in a bad position here. All of these things, they’re being done at the behest of your best friend, the man who runs Scientology, and who appears obsessed with making you a kind of unofficial second pope. Increasingly, you will be seen as a tacit partner in these practices.

But there’s an alternative. I want to hear what you know about how Debbie Cook was treated, about how children are serving in the Sea Org, about how women in the Sea Org are coerced into abortions so they can keep working 100-hour weeks without the distraction of pregnancy and childbirth.

Let’s talk, man. I want to know what you know, and how you’re going to do something about Scientology going off the rails. It’s time you spoke out.

We’re still waiting to hear from Tom. Maybe Larry will have better luck.

 
FACT-CHECKING KARIN POUW The church, for its part, has come out with both barrels blazing at Wright’s book, creating a website that refutes Going Clear, chapter by chapter. Under the name of its spokeswoman, Karin Pouw, the church also submitted to Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast an op-ed charging Wright with all sorts of malfeasance.

The Beast’s Caitlin Dickson looked into Pouw’s accusations, checked with Wright, and came up with a very entertaining piece that answers much of the church’s temper tantrum about the book.

If you’ve read Wright’s book, you know that the sheer amount of damaging information about L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology is astounding in its volume and depth. We’ve also read, in its entirety, the church’s website that attempts to call the book into question.

Like all Scientology PR ploys, it’s a massively unwise gambit. When you read, for example, an entire webpage at the site blasting Wright for citing the wrong code for a Hubbard policy letter, it becomes even more obvious that the church has nothing actually worthwhile to say about the continent of facts that Wright’s book has amassed.

And after talking with Wright last night, we can report that he’s pretty calm about the whole thing. He’s on his way to DC for an appearance tonight. we’d love to hear from readers who happen to go.

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Posted by Tony Ortega on January 24, 2013 at 09:25

 

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