CLAIM: Scientology Threatening Documentary Participants with Blackmail and Violence

Michel Euler/The Associated Press
Michel Euler/The Associated Press

The director of a new exposé on Scientology claims that former church members who participated in his documentary have been threatened with violence and blackmail by church officials.

Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney, whose new film Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief premiered Sunday night on HBO, told theWrap that in addition to physical harm, Scientology officials have threatened the film’s participants with economic ruin, and have even had some of them followed.

“Most of the real vitriol is for the people who were in the film,” Gibney told theWrap. “They’ve received threats of physical harm, threats of having their homes taken away, threats of being forced into bankruptcy. They’re being followed by private eyes and surveilled.”

The documentary, based on the bestselling 2013 book of the same name by Lawrence Wright, alleges that abuse within the church runs deep. One former church member, Spanky Taylor, details in the film how she was forced to escape from a Scientology facility in the middle of the night, with her infant child in tow. She alleges in the film that the church would not physically allow her to leave. Taylor now runs a successful Hollywood fan-mail agency.

“I will tell you that the threats that have been visited on her have been particularly brutal,” Gibney said of Taylor.

Monique Rathbun, wife of former church member Marty Rathbun, allegedly had pornography sent to her workplace so that her co-workers would think she was a “wild, reckless individual,” Gibney explained.

However, that seems like nothing compared to the documentary’s charges against the church with regard to actor John Travolta. Going Clear alleges that the church keeps a “black PR package” containing confessions the actor made during his auditing sessions, and uses it to prevent Travolta from leaving Scientology. According to the film, Travolta requested that his auditing sessions not be recorded, but the church allegedly disregarded his wishes. According to Buzzfeed, the film also outs Travolta as gay.

Other allegations detailed in the film relate to punishments handed out by the church, including “The Hole,” where members were allegedly beaten. Other punishments allegedly included games of musical chairs set to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” in which losers of the games were expelled by the church and excommunicated by church-going family members.

Scientology has fired back at Gibney and the makers of Going Clear, claiming that the film’s producers did not gather their input or schedule interviews with church members while filming.

In response to Gibney’s interview with theWrap, the church issued a lengthy rebuttal:

Alex Gibney is proving to be exactly like the sources in his film–no accusation is too irresponsible to make. It doesn’t matter if he lacks corroboration and proof, it’s all about promoting his movie.

Each and every one of the allegations in your questions is absolutely false and rejected. Alex Gibney is getting desperate and is now resorting to ludicrous, made-up claims. The Wrap should ask him for his proof.

First, there has not been one physical or financial threat of harm from the Church to anyone. These are more lies from the same admitted liars who Gibney glorifies in his film.

Second, I have in my hands court records where Monique Rathbun stated under oath that she has no idea who sent those items to her at her office. She also conceded she had no evidence and had made the allegations against the Church without specific or direct evidence. In other words, court records contradict the accusation Alex Gibney made, which is exactly what he did during the entire making of this film – ignore facts and court records. There are countless more examples if you are interested.

Finally, as for Spanky Taylor the Church has not made one threat against her. Again that is made-up garbage.

What the Church has done is issued the truth on these individuals to counter-act their lies. You can see them here:

Because Alex Gibney ran from any facts that got in the way of his preconceived story line and ignored all our efforts to communicate (over 40 letters and 25 people who requested to meet with Mr. Gibney), we have compiled the unvarnished truth in the form of video footage, court documents, publicly available records and testimonials by pertinent individuals and parishioners worldwide who do represent Scientology, and were intentionally ignored by Mr. Gibney and HBO. All of it 100% accurate. Alex Gibney spins this as “smears.” We call it the truth he ignored. These you can see at

You also should definitely provide readers with this link and you are welcome to use any of the material. I particularly call your attention to:

Rather than print the usual “denies the allegation” you should circle back with Gibney and ask him for proof. And ask him to explain why he would make such an accusation when Monique Rathbun’s testimony contradicts it.

If you ever want to know about Scientology, look at our website at The information is right there. We are busy trying to help people. We spend every waking minute working to get people off drugs and assist them to lead healthier, happier more productive lives.”

In January, the church issued a full-page advertisement in the New York Times and other outlets blasting HBO for “not confirming facts central to its film.”

HBO responded with a statement of its own:

“HBO has an extensive history of producing award-winning documentary films,” the network said. “It is customary in the documentary filmmaking process to request on-camera interviews from individuals that participated in events discussed in the film. This film identifies those who were approached.”

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, is available now on HBO Go and HBO On Demand.


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