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Now that Neil deGrasse Tyson is up against Leah Remini for an Emmy, will he rethink Scientology?

You might have heard yesterday that Leah Remini’s A&E series Scientology and the Aftermath has been nominated for an Emmy award. Two nominations, actually. It’s up for “Best Informational Series or Special,” and for sound editing.

It was interesting yesterday to see all of the congratulations going around for Leah Remini and Mike Rinder, and the assumptions about what kind of heartburn Scientology leader David Miscavige must have been experiencing. But we also couldn’t help wondering about Leah’s fellow nominees.

Her series will be competing against Bravo’s Inside the Actors Studio, CNN’s Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, HBO’s Vice, and, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s new National Geographic late-night talk show, StarTalk.

We couldn’t help thinking back to 2015, when deGrasse Tyson, the astronomer at the Hayden Planetarium in New York and a terrific public voice for science in a superstitious age, surprised many people by speaking up for Scientology.


Here’s an excerpt of his interview with the Daily Beast’s Marlow Stern:

Speaking of aliens, did you see HBO’s Scientology documentary Going Clear?

No. I heard about it, though. I’m familiar with it.

I’m curious what your take on Scientology is, because the intergalactic story of Xenu does encroach on your territory a bit.

So, you have people who are certain that a man in a robe transforms a cracker into the literal body of Jesus saying that what goes on in Scientology is crazy? Let’s realize this: What matters is not who says who’s crazy, what matters is we live in a free country. You can believe whatever you want, otherwise it’s not a free country—it’s something else. If we start controlling what people think and why they think it, we have case studies where that became the norm. I don’t care what the tenets are of Scientology. They don’t distract me. I don’t judge them, and I don’t criticize them….

The documentary essentially argues that Scientology shouldn’t be granted tax-exempt status as a religion.

But why aren’t they a religion? What is it that makes them a religion and others are religions? If you attend a Seder, there’s an empty chair sitting right there and the door is unlocked because Elijah might walk in. OK. These are educated people who do this. Now, some will say it’s ritual, some will say it could literally happen. But religions, if you analyze them, who is to say that one religion is rational and another isn’t? It looks like the older those thoughts have been around, the likelier it is to be declared a religion. If you’ve been around 1,000 years you’re a religion, and if you’ve been around 100 years, you’re a cult. That’s how people want to divide the kingdom. Religions have edited themselves over the years to fit the times, so I’m not going to sit here and say Scientology is an illegitimate religion and other religions are legitimate religions. They’re all based on belief systems. Look at Mormonism! There are ideas that are as space-exotic within Mormonism as there are within Scientology, and it’s more accepted because it’s a little older than Scientology is, so are we just more accepting of something that’s older?The line I’m drawing is that there are religions and belief systems, and objective truths. And if we’re going to govern a country, we need to base that governance on objective truths—not your personal belief system.

Ah yes, the useless argument over what’s a religion and what’s a cult. We’ve made it pretty clear why we don’t engage in that argument, and why we avoid the subjective term “cult.”

While we do look at, and critique, the odd tenets of Scientology and the bizarre claims of L. Ron Hubbard at this website, our main purpose is to keep a close watch on the Church of Scientology and its practices, not its beliefs.

Leah Remini has been even more vocal about that, saying repeatedly that her series is not about Scientology beliefs but about what it does, and how those actions have harmed its members and their families time and again.

Leah Remini doesn’t care about Xenu. She cares about disconnection.

We couldn’t help wondering if by now, two years after his Daily Beast interview, Neil deGrasse Tyson has had a chance to reflect on Scientology’s abuses. The movie Going Clear didn’t appear to get through to him, but has he seen Leah’s show?

We sent Neil a question through his website, explaining who we were and why we were curious about whether he’d seen Scientology and the Aftermath. We’ll let you know if he gets back to us.


Bonus items from our tipsters

Just because…



Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,811 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,568 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 1,914 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,408 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,448 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy in 1,160 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 686 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,775 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 1,915 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,235 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,210 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 566 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin in 4,868 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 975 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis for 1,377 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,250 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 831 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike in 1,336 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,580 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,689 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on July 14, 2017 at 20:00

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

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


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