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HBO moves back ‘Going Clear’ to March 29 and TV’s most coveted spot: Sunday night

GoingClearCoverIn a move that signals how much HBO thinks of Alex Gibney’s new documentary ‘Going Clear’ after its Sundance Film Festival premiere, the network has moved its airing from March 16 to March 29.

HBO is under heavy pressure from the Church of Scientology, which has tried to spoil the film’s arrival with full-page newspaper ads, attacks on the credibility of its sources at one of Scientology’s websites, a Twitter campaign that’s drawn derision, and even caustic letters to critics who have reviewed the film.

But we’re told that’s not why HBO has moved the airing back. The network is so fully behind the documentary, it has made the schedule change so ‘Going Clear’ can get the most coveted spot on television: Sunday night in prime time.

The documentary will air from 8 to 10 pm.

“That’s Game of Thrones time,” our source pointed out to us when we learned about the change.

Here’s the first trailer…



Thanks to the commenter who transcribed the clip…

Paul Haggis: …someone had told me there’s this cult and it could make anything possible in your life…
Hana Whitfield: …I was deeply convinced that we were going to save the world…
Jason Beghe: It was a transcendent experience.
Mike Rinder: You feel euphoric.
Spanky Taylor: Everything you do for endless trillions of years depends on what you do within Scientology.
Haggis: They sell it all in the beginning as something quite logical.
Beghe: You take on a matrix of thought that is not your own.
Whitfield: It’s so strong that it sticks you like glue.
Tom DeVocht: ….very controlled, very suggestible…
Haggis: You don’t see it happening to you… you justify so much.
Rinder: There is no logical explanation other than faith.

We’re still working out details for a watching party here in New York. We’ll let you know when we find a venue.


Luis_Rocio_Garcia3DAY TWO: Crucial hearing in Scientology federal fraud lawsuit wraps up this morning

If you were following along with our coverage yesterday, you know that Judge James D. Whittemore was not happy that an evidentiary hearing went long and had to be continued into a second day this morning.

At stake is Scientology’s motion asking that Whittemore force Luis and Rocio Garcia into the church’s own arbitration scheme. The Garcias argue that Scientology’s arbitration scheme is a sham, and that’s put the focus on the church’s internal “justice” policies.

Yesterday, Judge Whittemore appeared to be impatient with both sides as much of the day seemed wasted on testimony that was only marginally relevant. Scientology attorney Wally Pope, for example, questioned Luis Garcia about his past as a Scientologist as if his former loyalty to the organization was an issue.

Much of the day was taken up by the testimony of Scientology’s “International Justice Chief,” Mike Ellis, who wasn’t actually in the courtroom. (His inability to travel from Los Angeles for the hearing became something of an issue.) Instead, video portions of a deposition of Ellis were shown, first by Scientology and then as cross-examination by the Garcia team.

Today, the remainder of the Ellis cross-examination will be played in the courtroom, and then Scientology should finish up its case with video testimony from attorney Sherman Lenske, and live testimony from Allan Cartwright.

Then it will be the Garcias’ turn, and they plan to question former church members Haydn James, Christie Collbran, and Mike Rinder.

And all of that has to get done by the lunch break.

Our man Mark Bunker will be in the courtroom again this morning. He did a great job yesterday reporting the action, and we look forward to his dispatch today. As soon as we hear from him, we’ll add to this post.

UPDATE: Mark Bunker tells us it was another day of testimony before an unhappy judge today at the Tampa federal courthouse. Neither side seemed to impress Judge James D. Whittemore, who will now take an indefinite amount of time to produce a decision on Scientology’s motion to compel.

Bunker says the hearing resumed this morning with the final minutes of testimony by video of the deposition of Mike Ellis. Then Pope proposed putting on video of attorney Sherman Lenske from his deposition.

Luis Garcia’s attorney, Ted Babbitt, objected, saying that Lenske was only testifying to his role in creating the “enrollment agreement” that Scientologists must sign, and which mentions arbitration. Babbitt said they weren’t contesting that, and playing the video was irrelevant. Pope insisted that Lenske was necessary to impeach Mike Rinder’s testimony, scheduled for later.

Judge Whittemore didn’t appear happy that Pope insisted, and after Lenske’s video had played, he said, “I have to say that testimony was completely irrelevant and I’m not going to consider it.”

“Almost all of the testimony today he was very frustrated with,” Bunker says.

Scientology then put on Allan Cartwright, legal affairs officer of the Church of Scientology International. At one point, he was asked about sending out a letter to a man whose request for a refund had been rejected five months earlier. Then, six days after Whittemore had made his order asking Scientology for evidence that it had done arbitrations, the man was suddenly offered an arbitration.

Cartwright then spoke up: Actually, it was five days, not six days.

That made Whittemore very curious — how did he know?

“Cartwright couldn’t give a very good answer, but later Pope gave an explanation that Cartwright had sat in on Ellis’s deposition. But it was odd that Cartwright himself couldn’t come up with an explanation,” Bunker says.

Another interesting moment during Cartwright’s testimony: At some point he was talking about the inherent fairness of “committees of evidence” or “comm evs” in Scientology lingo (the church’s version of a sort of court martial). Whittemore asked him, comm evs or arbitrations? And Cartwright said, “both.” Whittemore asked him how many arbitrations he’d overseen, and Cartwright had to admit, none.

After Cartwright was done, Whittemore again said there was nothing in his testimony that answered his concerns.

Babbitt finally had the chance to offer the Garcias’ case and he called former church member Haydn James. He then quickly led James through testimony about what it was like to be declared a suppressive person and suffer disconnection as an excommunicated member becomes a kind of shunned nonperson in the church. The testimony was intended to show how an arbitrating panel of members in good standing could never deal fairly with an “SP.”

But Whittemore said he was not going to put any importance on testimony that was opinion on policies. If he had to consider things like how Scientology treated an SP, he was getting into First Amendment matters that was prohibited.

Christie Collbran then testified to how she had been declared an SP, had lost connection with her parents, and that they hadn’t ever seen her young son because of it. Again, it was to show the severity of Scientology’s policies, but again Whittemore said it was irrelevant to what he had to decide.

At that point, Babbitt didn’t even call Mike Rinder. They then went to closing arguments.

“Neither side seemed to do a solid job of answering the judge’s questions,” Bunker tells us.

Whittemore pointed out that Pope couldn’t point to any documentation showing how an arbitration in Scientology would proceed. There was no evidence that there has ever been an actual arbitration, and no evidence of how an arbitration would proceed from Hubbard’s 1963 policy about “ethics.”

Babbitt came on strong in his closing, but he was going to rely a lot on the unfairness of expecting a SP to be able to get a fair hearing, and the judge just said no, we’re not dealing with that.

In his final comments by the judge, he said that the plaintiffs say they can’t get a fair hearing if they are forced into Scientology’s brand of arbitration. It’s a compelling argument, but the court was concerned that looking into that took it into First Amendment waters.

“He said it was a very difficult decision either way. He said he doesn’t want any more briefs from either side, and he didn’t know how long it would take for him to write his decision.”

And that’s where it is.


Bonus photos from our tipsters

Actual caption from Scientology Las Vegas: “Mary has been on staff for over 40 years, come join her!”


Chill EB in Atlanta — if only we could be there!


Scientologists are using social media more than ever. Drop us a line if you spot them posting images to Instagram or Facebook!


Posted by Tony Ortega on February 19, 2015 at 05:00

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Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of LA 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

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