Scientology and Me: transcript



JEREMY VINE: Hello, I'm Jeremy Vine. It's 8.30 and this is Panorama. Scientologists say they are just like any other religion.

TOMMY DAVIS: I have absolutely nothing to hide whatsoever, zero.


DAVIS: Dig and dig and dig.

SWEENEY: Okay, well give us a ??? then.

VINE: So how come you can't investigate Scientology without Scientology investigating you?

SWEENEY: Are you from the church of Scientology?

VINE: Scientology has the stars, now they demand respect.

DAVIS: Buddy, you got it, right here, right now. I'm angry, real angry!

VINE: The Church of Scientology is doing everything it can to disprove the words of a High Court judge 20 years ago who said it was ? then at least ? corrupt, sinister and dangerous. These days it's winning recognition in European courts. Tom Cruise and other celebrity supporters have given it a show biz gloss and no major disaster is complete without its volunteers turning up to help. Just don't call it a 'cult'.

SWEENEY: My mission ? to find out whether the Church of Scientology still deserves its sinister reputation. It's not formally recognised as a religion in the UK by the Charity Commission, but Hollywood stars Tom Cruise and John Travolta believe that must change. Scientology's critics say followers have been duped and the moment you start investigating the church you're in trouble. My mission is not impossible but it wont be easy.

Source: Judge Paul Breckenidge
Superior Court of California, June 1984

NAR: "Schizophrenic, bizarre, paranoid, an organisation that harasses its enemies and abuses the trust of its members" ? not my words but those of an American judge in '84. Scientology is now re-launching in the UK. Here opening a 20 million pound HQ in London and being made to feel welcome.

Chief Superintendent KEVIN HURLEY City of London Police You bring a positive good to the areas in which you work We, at the City of London Police, wish you all possible success in your new home in the City of London. Thank you.

SWEENEY: It's the church with an all star cast list.

JOHN TRAVOLTA There's no doubt about it that the people that didn't make it in Hollywood - and I mean survive - if they'd had Scientology or Dianetics they would have been here today, whether it was Elvis or Marilyn or...

SWEENEY: There's another side to Scientology that the celebrities may not see. Seven years ago this woman's daughter began to disappear from her life.

SHARON She went there, had a weekend with them, and from that minute on she was distant, she was serious, she was devious, she was talking Scientology talk. She came home with books on Scientology. She said it's changed her life, it's what she wants in life, and everything was like another daughter talking.

SWEENEY: To the church, Sharon was a negative influence. Her daughter wrote to her cutting all ties. It's what Scientology call a 'disconnect'. They say they bring families together and a disconnect is a rare last resort and a human right.

SHARON: "At present I am not interested in receiving your calls, emails or letters, and if you do send any, I will view it as harassment and I wont bother reading them so please don't waste your time."

SWEENEY: We filmed another mother who's been disconnected from her only child for nearly two years. No Christmas cards, no birthday cards, nothing. It was a heartrending interview. Three hours after we left her daughter came round asking for a reconciliation. Was this a coincidence? And the next day she begged her mother not to take part in this Panorama. Her mother feared she might harm herself if we ran the story - so we won't.

SHARON: They've broken up families, they've crushed the bond we have. They've stolen her, so it's beyond a bond, they've removed the bond. I've lost my child to Scientology. Her mind has gone to them.

SWEENEY: Meet the creator of Scientology, 50s pop science fiction writer, Lafayette Ron Hubbard ? Lron. Nobody took his tales of bug eyed space aliens seriously but then he wrote a self-help book ? Dianetics.

Scientology video

It became the bible of this new religion and Scientology grew rich, charging its followers for self-improvement courses that promised fulfilment and ultimately superhuman powers.


Q: Do you ever think that you might be quite mad?

HUBBARD: Oh yes, the one man in the world who never believes he's mad is a madman.

SWEENEY: L.Ron had to have an amazing life story. He'd been an acclaimed explorer, a nuclear physicist and a war hero, or so he said.

Russell Miller
Author, "Bare Faced Messiah"
It is all lies. None of it is true. None of that is true.

SWEENEY: So the whole religion is based on the word of a lie in your view?

MILLER: The whole religion is based on the word of a congenital liar and a brilliant confidence trickster.

SWEENEY: An American judge in '84 said Scientology mirrored Hubbard's schizophrenic and paranoid personality. The church rejects this and all negative judgements and criticism is based on discredited evidence. In 1986 L.Ron died and a new leader took power. David Miscavige, best man at Tom Cruise's Scientology wedding last year, now heads an organisation worth hundreds of millions.

DAVID MISCAVIGE Leader, Church of Scientology Scientology, the word means study of light, study of knowledge, and that's what it is, it takes up all areas of light itself, things that are integral and maxims that are related to life in very existence.

SWEENEY: A lifetime in science Scientology can begin on the high street with the offer of a stress test. And here to East Grinstead in Sussex, Scientology's UK hub, councillors or auditors learn to read your emotional state with what they call an E-meter, designed by L.Ron. He claimed he could use it to show humans weren't the only ones to feel pain. The E-meter is like a crude lie detector. As you divulge your life's secrets to the auditor the needle betrays your negative thoughts. The church claims years of auditing and study can take followers to a state of grace called 'Clear'. But critics say followers risk having intimate details of their lives used against them if they cross the church. I was invited to East Grinstead to meet senior scientologist Tommy Davies. We were shown videos and tried to reach an agreement on access. He didn't want us to interview attackers or anonymous critics or use the word 'cult.' We couldn't reach agreement. But.... we'd meet again. We knew we'd be in for a bumpy ride.

MILLER: First of all you're going to be followed. Unquestionably they'll follow you everywhere you go. They'll dig into your background, they'll try and dig up some dirt about you, they'll try and find out if there are any scandals in your background and they'll certainly make them public, and they will keep the closest possible tabs on what you're doing.

SWEENEY: This film doesn't offer the final word on Scientology but it shows what happens when you challenge their view of themselves? Clearwater, Florida, not too much stress on show here. This is what they call their Mecca where 9,000 of the world's top scientologists live, train and spread the word. Mike Henderson and Donna Shannon say they spent a million dollars in church fees and donations over 40 years. They joined the staff but left because they felt Scientology's road to enlightenment was going nowhere. Now regarded as heretics they fear for their future. Enemies of the church, wrote L.Ron, could be injured, tricked, sued, lied to or destroyed. He called this "fair game."

MICHAEL HENDERSON Ten years ago if you'd have asked me if I would ever be on camera with the BBC talking about Scientology in anything but glowing terms, I would have said you're crazy...

DONNA SHANNON: You're crazy.

MIKE: ... you're insane. I would never do that. At the time I was a loyal scientologist but also I was aware that critics and enemies of Scientology are harassed unmercifully. There's policies that they follow to the letter that you're to destroy the person if possible.

SWEENEY: Most of Mike's family are still inside Scientology. None of them speak to him or his dying father. They've been ?disconnected'.

MIKE: I didn't speak to him all the time I was in Scientology, and after I left the church I re-established ties with him, and it's difficult to describe how a man of 76 years, his proudest accomplishment in life is his six children... (emotional) and they wont speak to him.

SWEENEY: One of Scientology's proposed conditions for us was "don't use the word cult." What did Donna think?

DONNA SHANNON It is a cult if you actually understand what a cult is, look it up in the dictionary. All the things fit.

SWEENEY: After a long day with the heretics we head back to our hotel. It's midnight but we've got company. Scientology says 'fair game' attacks have been abandoned for decades, but Tommy Davis is waiting.

Oh hi.

TOMMY DAVIS: I have nothing to shake hands with you on.


TOMMY DAVIS Church of Scientology find it considerably obnoxious what you've done. The time that I took, came over there, spent two days with you straight, offered time and coordination and you come here and what do you spend your time with? Offer for you to see the facilities....

SWEENEY: Okay, the man in black is the Scientology cameraman.

NAR: Are you sure you're getting good sound? Shall I hold that? (taking microphone) From my perspective, you and you and the church of Scientology have been spying on the BBC. You have been spying on our hotel. We didn't tell you where we were staying, so you've been spying on us. And I find that, if I may say so, a little bit creepy. Here's your microphone.

DAVIS: Thanks.

SWEENEY: Scientology would prefer people to focus on their good works. Whenever disaster strikes, from the Virginia Tech massacre to 7/7 in London, Scientology sends their volunteers in to offer 'touch assists', healing hands for victims and emergency workers.

Scientology video

In America and the UK there are anti-drug programmes such as Narcinon, using a regime of exercise, saunas and vitamin B the church claims it has a 75% success rate. In Britain the Scientology advert claiming it had salvaged a quarter of a million people from drugs was rejected by the advertising watchdog, although it accepted that the church had helped many addicts. It upheld the complaint from the Church of England whose spokesman made no apology for using the word 'cult' in reacting to the news.

"Scientology makes claims for their dangerous cult which they can neither prove not substantiate. Drug users who are trying to kick their habit are perfect prey for cults like Scientology."

Arun Arora
Director of Communications for the Diocese of Birmingham, 26th March 2003

SWEENEY: Scientology's response? To try to damage the man's reputation.

Scientology video

SWEENEY: In Florida I went to the opening of a new Scientology church, one of 1500 new centres they say they've opened worldwide in the last year. People here clearly find something in Scientology that works for them. But when Panorama turns up, someone's been voting against us.

WOMAN: All I've heard about English people is they're very polite and nice but unfortunately that's not what I've heard about you and it makes us all sad.

SWEENEY: Sad? It's not only sad it's libellous! Who is this person who is saying these terrible things about me?

Oh hi Tommy, hello. Hi, hello. How are you? I was just wondering where you are and there you are. Fantastic. How did you know we were here?

TOMMY DAVIS: I actually didn't because we had the opening here so I was coming to that.

SWEENEY: Very good.

TOMMY: ... I was coming to that.

SWEENEY: But then I used the word 'cult.'

Some people say it's a sinister cult. Now L.Ron Hubbard, some people say that he's a fantasist and a liar...

TOMMY: You know, I just want to go back to this... I want to just go back to this... you see... I would just like to... and I hope somebody is shooting this. Okay, good.

SWEENEY: Well actually, to be fair there's one camera from the BBC, there's one camera from your....

TOMMY: (aggressively) Now you listen to me for a second.

SWEENEY: People say it's a cult.

TOMMY: You have no right whatsoever to say what... and what isn't a religion. The constitution of the United States of America guarantees one's right to practice and believe freely in this country, and the definition of religion is very clear and it's not defined by John Sweeney, and for you to repeatedly refer to my faith in those terms is so derogatory, so offensive and so bigoted, and the reason you keep repeating is because you wanted to get a reaction like you're getting right now. Well buddy - you got it! Right here, right now, I'm angry, real angry!

SWEENEY: Very good.

TOMMY: So we're done, because if you use that term one more time....

SWEENEY: We're not done. We're not done.

TOMMY:.... to describe my religion.

SWEENEY: We're not done because....

TOMMY: I can't be responsible for my actions.

SWEENEY: Now... now my friend, it is your turn to listen to...

TOMMY: So done, goodbye.

SWEENEY: No, it's your turn to listen to me. (to a retreating Tommy) If people say to me that they think what you claim to be a religion is in fact a cult, I have a right to report that. I've got a right to report that, Tommy.

In America and some other countries it is classed as a religion. In Britain the Charity Commission has refused recognition because the courses Scientology charges for don't amount to worship and couldn't be proved to work for the public good.

That afternoon we head back to Clearwater, Scientology town, to meet filmmaker Shawn Lonsdale. He's one man against L.Ron's crowd.

SHAWN LONSDALE: I was trying to capture the alien scene of Scientology or Scientologists passing back and forth across the street...

SWEENEY: He spent weeks filming scientologists for a slot on his local cable TV Network. He called his show: "Cult Watch."

Why did you pick on them? Aren't you a little bit crazy to do this?

Cult Watch
It was the biggest... it was the 500lb guerrilla in the room that nobody wanted to talk about. Here in Clearwater everybody talks about it in their living rooms, and jokes about 'em in the bars and in the little cafés but nobody really knows.. has any idea what it's really about. So I was like... this has to be shown.

SWEENEY: He says Scientology - fair game to him. Shawn freely admits that he was for a time a male prostitute and has two spent convictions for soliciting sex with adult men. Then this, warning posters raking up his past all around town, and that wasn't all.

SHAWN: I was followed by private investigators, I was followed by several vehicles which I was later able to track back to Scientology owned vehicles.

SWEENEY: So there's a car here and somebody has stopped. That's Tommy Davis.

TOMMY: Good afternoon. You must be Shawn.

SHAWN: Mr Davis I assume.

TOMMY: Yes, that's correct.

SHAWN Nice to meet you.

TOMMY: Good for you. Yeah, I just wanted to make sure that we were on record, you know, as far as this gentleman here who you're with, I don't know how upfront he's been with you, he tends to be pretty public about it, but um.. ah... in 1999 he was arrested for trespassing, exposure of sexual organs, unnatural and lascivious acts, possession of cannabis, possession of drug paraphernalia. Now of course what he does...

SHAWN: Now would Scientology be able to help me with any of these problems I supposedly have?

TOMMY: Now what he does is he does speak about this openly and of course...

SWEENEY: By the way, he's not an animal, you can answer that question, can you?

TOMMY: No, I just want to make sure that we've documented this and then I'll be happy to speak about...

SWEENEY: Well hold on a second, well actually Tommy....

TOMMY: No, I'm just going to finish...

SWEENEY: Well no....

TOMMY: I'm making no comment on...

SWEENEY: Oh, well wait a second Tommy. I'm interviewing... I'm interviewing... I'm interviewing the man. The only time we talk to a critic of Scientology you, within hours, come up and say that's an extortionist, that's a sexual pervert. It's as if you are terrified of anyone criticising your organisation.

SHAWN: How many other churches do that ?

SWEENEY: It's as if there's something that you've got to hide.

TOMMY: I am not terrified of anything and you know what, I have absolutely nothing to hide whatsoever - zero.

SWEENEY: Really?

TOMMY: Dig and dig and dig....

SWEENEY: Okay, well give us some access. Come on, let's have some access. Let's go to these places.

TOMMY: To a hostile reporter who has no intention of giving a balanced report by evidence of the fact that you give more weight and importance and now more hours of time to people critical of the church than you give to anyone else.

SWEENEY: That's rubbish, that's total rubbish.

SHAWN: The fact that one of the.....

SWEENEY: Somehow I can't imagine the Church of England behaving like this.

We wanted to talk to scientologists about their beliefs, and Tommy invited us to the church's celebrity centre in Hollywood. Tommy had lined up a host of celebrities to tell us what it's helped them achieve. We met Tommy's mum, actress Ann Archer, the victim of the bunny boiler in Fatal Attraction.

[Clip from film]
Fatal Attraction
Dir: Adrian Lyne, Paramount Pictures

SWEENEY: Why are you a scientologist?

In the church for over 30 years she said Scientology had improved her life, given her a wonderful marriage and was a highly ethical organisation.

Next up - Natural Born Killer star Juliette Lewis.

[Clip from film] Natural Born Killers Dir: Oliver Stone. Warner Brothers NAR: She said Scientology helped her connect with people in a way she found valuable as an actress. Leah Remini, from the hit US show King of Queens, she said Scientology had given her the tools to maintain a happy, healthy life. [Clip from film]
King of Queens
Cbs Broadcasting

SWEENEY: Kirstie Alley from Cheers..

[Clip from film]
Paramount Pictures

SWEENEY: She told us that Scientology had given her an important set of life skills ? and more. Their answers were interesting and countered the negative voices we'd heard from, but you wont be hearing them. Why not? Here's why.

There are people out there who say it is a cult...

Last week the Scientology celebrity said they wanted out. Their lawyers wrote letters saying I had ambushed them and asked offensive questions. Legal action was threatened under California's privacy laws. Scientology has spent millions of dollars in copyright actions to stop ex-believers from publishing its most secret scriptures on the internet.

Panorama's illustration, 1987

They reveal L.Ron's core belief that we're all inhabited with the ghostly remains of dead aliens called Thetans, exiled to planet Earth and then killed by an intergalactic warlord. This is how Panorama illustrated L.Ron's words back in 1987.

"Xenu decided to take radical measures to overcome the population problem. Beings were captured on other planets and flown to locations near ten volcanoes or more on Earth. H bombs were dropped on the volcanoes destroying the bodies of the beings who, as Thetans, attached themselves to one another as clusters."

SWEENEY: Scientology now flatly denies the Xenu story but it's been so widely reported it seemed wrong not to ask them about it, particularly as many of the most senior scientologists all operating Thetans.

(Kirstie Allie interview) Xenu, an intergalactic warlord, banished souls from.. alien souls, banished them to earth and then blew them up.

Kirstie Allie, operating Thetan level 7, said it wasn't true.

(Juliette Lewis interview) An evil galactic warlord who blew up bits of aliens...?

Juliette Lewis giggled and denied it.

(Leah Remini interview) The galactic warlord who 75 million years ago sort of put people's... aliens.

TOMMY: John I already answered this.. let us know what you're talking about, it's like loony. It's weird.. makes you look weird.

SWEENEY: It was a long day and we were filmed continuously. The team needed a break.

We're just having a kind of.. an editorial conference in the loo because it's the only place where we can go to escape from the.....

I can hear them.

TOMMY: Are you guys doing okay in there?

SWEENEY; Yeah, we're just um....

TOMMY: All three of you in the bathroom together?

SWEENEY: Yeah, well the point is, Tommy....

TOMMY: Is that okay?

SWEENEY: It's... it's fine, it's...

TOMMY: Is this like BBC policy or something?

SWEENEY: It's a BBC requirement Tommy.

Interviews over, we were ready to wrap. But not Tommy.

TOMMY: You sit in this room across from these esteemed women, these dignified women....

SWEENEY: You don't understand the nature of journalism, with respect, Tommy.

TOMMY: No, no, no, no, I don't understand the nature of you as a person!

SWEENEY: Very good. Thank you.

TOMMY: Is the thing that I meant because you have no objectivity whatsoever.

SWEENEY: Thank you.

TOMMY: Zero. Because Shawn Lonsdale, a convicted sexual pervert is your pal that you're chauffeuring around Clearwater....

SWEENEY: It's not your... it's not your...

TOMMY: You're making this film with no objectivity from a bigoted, slanted, pre-conceived, already determined idea of exactly how it's going to go, because you decided what Scientology was the day... long before you ever even called to....

SWEENEY: We'll have to agree to disagree and we'll meet again....

Has Scientology changed? Other journalists have reported being followed at times like this. This man was asking about me at the front desk of our hotel. Then he turned up for breakfast... and the next day, and then we found him in the hotel garage. I went for a drive....

I think we're being followed? When in doubt, this is what you do. (swings car in a roundabout) Here's my prediction, either two cars, the Sedona or the Range Rover will track along this road... Of course I may be completely paranoid.

Oh there it is.

Okay, there we are.

(Sweeney approaches the vehicle now stopped at lights)

SWEENEY: (through closed window) Hi, hello. Hi, my name's John Sweeney from the BBC. Are you from the church of Scientology? (no response) Hello. Hello. (knocking on window) I was just wondering about your curious driving behaviour. Why have you been following us? Can you tell me why you've been following us.

(Occupants, keeping heads down and faces hidden, driving swiftly off at change of lights)

SWEENEY: We counted several strangers we suspect of spying on us while we made this film. Rick Ross is America's best known cult buster. He helps advise disconnected families.

Cult Investigator
That's what Scientology would call a kind of noisy investigation. They want you to know that they're following you. They want you to be afraid, to be very afraid of them, to be intimidated. And the idea of following you all around is to create that kind of fear that they're watching you and it'll affect your reporting.

SWEENEY: What have they got on you?

ROSS: A 196 page PDF document exists on me on the internet. They've traced back my childhood all the way to the age of 8. I got counselling, I got in trouble as a youth, all of it is in Scientology's PDF files. I mean that's part of what it's all about. If you criticise them, expect them to literally go through your garbage.

SWEENEY: Scientology has another target. I'm invited to their exhibition 'Psychiatry- an Industry of Death'. Some may sympathise with their concerns about mood-altering drugs, but the church wants nothing short of the global obliteration of psychiatry. They say it's a Nazi pseudo science with blood on its hands.

Church of Scientology
Psychiatry is a so-called science behind the holocaust and euthanasia and it's psychiatrist set-up, the whole euthanasia campaign in the concentration camps, they went into the concentration camp and they set it and they decided who was going to be killed.

SWEENEY: I find Scientology's hijacking of the holocaust sickening. After 90 minutes I feel as though they're taking control of my mind and I can't bear another second of it. Then Tommy Davis launches into me yet again for the uncritical way he believes I interviewed Shawn Lonsdale back in Clearwater and I lose it big time.

TOMMY: You should have said to him: "What evidence, Shawn Lonsdale, do you have that people have been tortured. You didn't do that.

SWEENEY: Well no, hold a second....

TOMMY: .... the point I'm getting to....

SWEENEY: No, no, no, stop there Tommy.

TOMMY: (shouting aggressively) No, I'm not stopping here! You listen to me for a second. You're accusing members of my religion and engaging in brainwashing....

SWEENEY: (shouts louder) No Tommy, you stop now....

TOMMY: (still shouting) Brainwashing is a crime.

SWEENEY: (out-shouts) No, listen to me... you were not there at the beginning of that interview! You were not there....

TOMMY: ... (subdued but persistent) brainwashing is a crime....

SWEENEY: (battles on, superior in volume exercise) You did not hear or record all the interview.... do you understand?

TOMMY: Brainwashing is a crime against humanity...

SWEENEY: Do you understand? Do you understand... (continues shouting)

I apologise there and I apologise now. It was wrong and I'd let my team down. I lost my voice but not my mind.

Now, do you listen to me?

Back home anti-scientologists picket their old home in London's West End.

DEMONSTRATOR: It's a scam. Never give any money to Scientology...

SWEENEY: They claim we staged this event ourselves and that it led to a terrorist threat against Scientology. Then they put it in a movie they've made about us. It's Scientology's version of events.

Scientology video
This time the consequences of Panorama's staged event went far beyond fabricated news footage for a television programme. That same day the church received anonymous terrorist threats sent from an internet café a few hundred yards away. A police investigation is underway.

SWEENEY: For the record, there is no truth whatsoever in these allegations.

Scientology video


This type of negative publicity can generate animosity and anger and threats.

SWEENEY: The church insists its fair game policy of attacking critics is in the past. So Scientology, those of its disciples who find it useful, good luck to them. We don't doubt their sincerity, but its leaders have their work cut out if they want to be hosting Songs of Praise any time soon.

VINE: John Sweeney on the trail of the Scientologists? or is it the other way around? Their campaign to be officially recognised as a religion in the UK goes on.

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