Scientology Leader Gave ABC First-Ever Interview

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Sawyer: Scientology, they say, is growing by leaps and bounds, and for critics and church defectors, that is precisely the problem. This is Forrest Sawyer for "Nightline."

Koppel: Joining us live tonight is David Miscavige, whose formal title is chairman of the board of the Religious Technology Center, the organization which manages Dianetics and Scientology. Mr. Miscavige took over as the head of Scientology in 1987 following the death of the church's founder, L. Ron Hubbard. You've been sitting here very patiently for the first 15 minutes. It's your turn. We're going to take a short segment here to talk, and then we'll take a break, and then we've got the rest of the program to talk. Where would you like to pick up on what many in our audience, I suspect, have seen for the first time about the Church of Scientology?

Miscavige: Yeah, well, I think-- You know, I guess the first thing I would like to take up is the fact that the intro piece-- There's no question that there's some controversy surrounding Scientology, but if you want to look at what the real controversy is, there's been stories like this one that we saw here for the past 40 years, and yet during that time period Scientology's continued to grow. In fact, it's 25 times larger today than it was in 1980. I would just like to take up a few of the falsehoods that are in there, because I think this explains a lot why you have the controversy. I don't know that Scientology lends itself so well to the press. In this instance, we did agree that we would have your correspondents come in, and in fact, he did have unlimited access to the church. But then you get a piece like this. For instance, something that isn't mentioned in there is that every single detractor on there is part of a religious hate group called Cult Awareness Network and their sister group called American Family Foundation. Now, I don't know if you've heard of these people, but it's the same as the KKK would be with the blacks. I think if you interviewed a neo-Nazi and asked them to talk about the Jews, you would get a similar result to what you have here. The thing I find disingenuous is that it's not commented upon, and yet, in fact, your correspondent Forrest and Deanna Lee were aware of this fact. And not only that, that is the source of where they, they received these people to talk to. They didn't find them randomly--

Koppel: Well, if I may just interrupt for a moment: You realize there's a little bit of a problem in getting people to talk critically about the Scientology because, quite frankly, they're scared.

Miscavige: Oh, no, no, no, no.

Koppel: Well, I'm telling you--

Miscavige: No, no, no, no. Let me tell you--

Koppel: I'm telling you people are scared.

Miscavige: Let me explain something to you. The most disingenuous thing is that you have those people. Now, let's not give the American public the wrong impression, that these are people that randomly were pulled in from around the world and that they decided to talk against Scientology. Those people aren't scared and they've been loudly speaking in the press. You showed me a book you had before this show that has many detractors, same ones, so they're not really frightened. That's a good story--

Koppel: Actually, that wasn't a book, it was a collection of articles--

Miscavige: Let me finish.

Koppel: …that has been written about you and the church.

Miscavige: But the same people were quoted.

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