'Secrets of Scientology': Journalist John Sweeney Revisits Scientology
The BBC's investigative TV show, Panorama, airs his new documentary
The journalist who became famous for exploding in an interview with Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis in 2007 takes another turn reporting on the inner workings of the organization through the eyes of former members. On September 28, journalist John Sweeney's "Secrets of Scientology" drew nearly 5 million viewers for the show Panorama on BBC1, making it the most popular show for the 9:00pm slot.
Sweeney had gained notoriety in 2007 when his first Panorama documentary on the subject, "Scientology & Me," contained an emotionally charged clash between the journalist and Tommy Davis, spokesman for the Church of Scientology. That segment of the show went viral on YouTube.
After the incident Sweeney acknowledge that he has lost control like "an exploding tomato" and apologized for his behavior.
Now, three years later, Sweeney re-visited the subject after Mike Rinder, who was a high-ranking leader in the group and accompanied Davis during that explosive first interview, left Scientology. Part of the new documentary focuses on Rinder's re-telling of what took place around the time of the first show as well as other inner workings of the organization.
During the interview, Rinder admitted that Sweeney had been followed - something he denied three years ago - and, in fact, he and Davis were involved. According to the Scientologist, Sweeney's activities were being regularly reported to the church's leader, David Miscavige.
The BBC sought confirmation of Rinder's statements from the Church of Scientology through their British law firm, Carter-Ruck, who rejected this new report of the 2007 events.
The documentary also features Amy Scobee, another former Scientologist and member of their elite Sea Organization, who is now speaking out about her experiences inside the organization.
When she first began to discuss her life inside the organization and criticize Miscavige, information about her private sex life, prior to her marriage, was sent to the St. Petersburg Times in Florida.
In a recent article on the BBC website, Sweeney reports that the church admitted to sending the material saying that it was not confidential and a part of an affidavit that Scobee had signed.
In the same article, he went on to say, " During our time in America for the latest Panorama, we were once again followed by people filming us, this time more openly than before.
"When we approached the people with cameras to ask them who they were with and what they were doing, they refused to answer our questions.
"That is why I was somewhat grateful to Scientology's UK lawyers at Carter-Ruck when they sent the BBC photographs of me hugging Amy Scobee at the end of a long and at times harrowing series of interviews about her experiences.
"The photographs were meant to demonstrate to my bosses at the BBC, once again, that I must be biased against the church as I was overly familiar with its critics.
"This was, oddly enough, welcome proof that the people who had been following and filming us in the States were indeed working for the Church of Scientology. As Mike Rinder had said, I was not being paranoid - I was being followed."
At this point, the documentary is not available on the BBC website or through YouTube for viewing in America.
Randy Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online and the CEO/Associate Publisher for the Northern Virginia Local Edition of Catholic Online (http://virginia.catholic.org). He is a former Archbishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Church who laid aside that ministry to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church.
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
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