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First look at Louis Theroux’s BBC film on Scientology: ‘Stairway to Heaven’

Louis_Theroux_thumbFilming was still going on just a few weeks ago on the Louis Theroux BBC feature about Scientology, so we don’t expect it to be in theaters for some time yet. But now we do have a glimpse, at least, of what BBC Films says its movie is going to be about.

In an online catalog, a complete two-page spread is devoted to Theroux and his documentary, which now has a title: Stairway to Heaven: Louis Theroux and the Church of Scientology.

While the media has been focusing on Alex Gibney’s HBO-produced documentary about Scientology, Going Clear, which is premiering this month at the Sundance Film Festival, we pointed out that Theroux and the BBC were also working to make a feature-length movie and seemed to be talking to some of the same subjects. But now that the two works are getting closer to release, we’re beginning to see how different they might be.

Gibney’s film is partly based on Lawrence Wright’s 2013 book Going Clear which was extremely harsh about Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and put a sharp focus on allegations of abuse that the church subjects members to. Gibney’s team is being pretty tight-lipped with the description of its film — “Going Clear intimately profiles eight former members of the Church of Scientology, shining a light on how they attract true believers and the things they do in the name of religion.” But HBO has already signaled that its film will be a devastating takedown of the church, and HBO Documentary Films president Sheila Nevins told the Hollywood Reporter the network has 160 lawyers ready to deal with what they expect to be a harsh Scientology legal offensive.

Theroux joked on Twitter that his film only has two attorneys on its side. And now, we get a small hint as to what his movie might be like.



Here’s what the fine print says…

Louis Theroux’s first theatrical feature documentary from the Oscar winning producer of Searching for Sugar Man and Man on Wire

One of the world’s newest and most mysterious religions, that numbers Tom Cruise among its followers… A scientific-seeming “technology” which, if properly followed, is said to make the able more able… A step-by-step path to spiritual freedom and personal growth, and just possibly super powers…

On the face of it, who wouldn’t be intrigued — even seduced — by this grand rhetoric?

For more than 10 years, Louis Theroux has been in the grip of a personal fascination with Scientology. Now, living in Los Angeles in the heart of the world’s largest population of Scientologists, he has decided to immerse himself in what he regards as “the Holy Grail of Stories.”

WRITERS John Dower, Louis Theroux
PRESENTER Louis Theroux
PRODUCER Simon Chinn
EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS Christine Langan, Joe Oppenheimer, Charlotte Moore, Mark Reynolds

If you know Theroux’s body of work, the film’s description fits his past efforts. He’s very good at going into a subculture and learning its ways on its own terms, and making people so comfortable on camera that they end up looking fairly ridiculous without much apparent effort from Theroux. Is that what his approach will be here?

We’ve covered Scientology’s “technology” in depth over the years, and have found it to be more about indocrination, interrogation, and control than “making the able more able.” The description of Stairway to Heaven wants us to believe that Theoroux seems to take seriously the notion that Scientology really has something to it — or is that just the come-on? We’re very curious to find out.


Clark_Carr4Scientology’s Clark Carr wins a round against the NAFC

Narconon International president Clark Carr has won his request to have his class action lawsuit against the National Association of Forensic Counselors remanded back to Los Angeles Superior Court after the NAFC had removed it to federal court.

If you remember, the NAFC is suing the Church of Scientology and 81 other defendants, including Carr, for misusing its logos and trademarks in a conspiracy to make Scientology’s drug rehab network, Narconon, appear more legitimate than it is. The NAFC filed that lawsuit in Oklahoma, where Narconon has its flagship facility, Narconon Arrowhead. Carr’s group, Narconon International, is a Scientology entity which oversees Narconons around the world.

Carr filed a class action lawsuit against the NAFC in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging that the NAFC was really selling fradulent drug counselor certifications that were worthless in California. He didn’t, however, mention that he was being sued in Oklahoma by the NAFC at the time. The NAFC has characterized Carr’s suit as typical Scientology legal trickery and not a serious complaint as it moved to have Carr’s suit removed to federal court while also moving to have it dismissed. But federal Judge John F. Walter agreed with Carr that he wasn’t alleging damages that were large enough to justify the move to federal court. So he’s remanded the case back to where it started. He did not, however, grant Carr’s request for attorney’s fees.

We asked attorney Scott Pilutik for his thoughts on Judge Walter’s order…

What happened here is that NAFC tried to “remove” the case to federal court, and doing so requires federal subject matter jurisdiction, in this case diversity jurisdiction. Diversity jurisdiction requires not only that the plaintiff and defendant reside in different states, but that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. Carr successfully argued that the amount in controversy fell far short of that; only when you aggregate the claims of potential class members do you reach $75,000, and there’s case law holding that the claims of class members can’t be aggregated to reach that amount in controversy threshold.

NAFC made a second attempt at removal, this time citing the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), which provides for federal subject matter jurisdiction where a class action proposes 100+ class members; at least some of the class members have different citizenship from the defendant; and where the aggregated claims of the proposed class members exceed $5m.

The court rejected this second attempt not because the NAFC failed to demonstrate the aforementioned three prongs, but because its second attempt constituted a second improper bite at the apple. In order to file a second removal notice, the facts or pleadings must have changed in the interim. NAFC argued that the second notice should be construed as an *amendment* of the first, not a second attempt, but the court rejected that argument, noting that if it was an amendment it was untimely.

The court declined to address the merits of the dismissal argument because absent subject matter jurisdiction it had no basis to do so. Carr’s suit may be ludicrous, but it’ll be up to the Los Angeles Superior Court to find as much.

Here’s the judge’s order…


Carr v. NAFC: Order granting remand


Karen de la Carriere on Scientology’s ‘Freeloader Bill’

Karen explains what awaits Scientology’s Sea Org workers when they (inevitably) decide to leave their lives of semi-slavery.




23 days until Alex Gibney’s film Going Clear: Scientology & the Prison of Belief opens at the Sundance Film Festival at 2:30 pm on Sunday, January 25 in Park City, Utah

10 days until our special Underground Bunker announcement at noon on January 12

Posted by Tony Ortega on January 2, 2015 at 07:00

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Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS (We read Scientology’s founding text) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25

UP THE BRIDGE (Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48

GETTING OUR ETHICS IN (Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING (Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ


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