— -- “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief", the new HBO documentary based on Lawrence Wright’s book about the Church of Scientology, is the latest salvo aimed at the religion founded decades ago by the science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard.
The film’s director, Alex Gibney, worked the red carpet at the film festival.
“I think what was so impressive to me about the film was telling these stories of these individuals that we profiled, is about how smart, how savvy they were -- and yet they got inside of a belief system ... that when they look back, they said, ‘How did I get there?,” Gibney said.
The film accuses the church of operating something called “the hole,” a pair of double-wide trailers located in the church’s international base in the California desert and into which church officials would allegedly be placed for perceived misbehavior.
Several years ago, former Scientology official Debbie Cook told ABC News that she had spent time in the hole. She also made that allegation in court testimony.
“When I was there, it had bars on the window and security guards posted at the one door for entering and exiting -- and this is where a number of Scientology executives from management level were held for varying lengths of time,” she told ABC News.
Asked whether the occupants of the hole were able to leave, she replied: “No, you cannot.”
The church sent ABC News a letter saying "'the hole' does not exist" and calling Cook’s account “inaccurate and misleading.”
Scientology officials dismissed Cook as a bitter apostate and that’s the way they also describe the sources for “Going Clear.”
In a statement, officials described those sources as “the usual collection of obsessive, disgruntled former church members kicked out as long as 30 years ago for malfeasance, who have a documented history of making up lies about the Church for money.”
Scientology has also gone after Gibney. The church ran a full-page ad in the New York Times in which it compared the documentary to the infamous Rolling Stone article about campus rape at the University of Virginia. Rolling Stone later acknowledged that the article was deeply flawed.
Despite protests from the church, HBO said it plans to air the film on March 16.
Here is the church’s full statement: "The Church of Scientology has not seen the film, but from what we do know, it is bigoted and filled with bald faced lies from discredited sources. The accusations made in the film are entirely false and alleged without ever asking the Church. They are a publicity stunt by Gibney. As we stated in our NY Times ad, Alex Gibney’s film is Rolling Stone/UVA redux. Mr. Gibney repeatedly refused to give the Church any of the allegations he intended to air. Contrary to his assertions, he did not ask to interview multiple Church representatives. We have irrefutable evidence that Gibney’s sources have admitted perjury, suborning perjury, lying to the media and being called liars by network correspondents. One is paid $175/hour to testify against the Church in lawsuits http://www.freedommag.org/hbo/white-papers/mike-rinder.html; others have brought and lost lawsuits alleging the same things they are now alleging in the film. Claims contained in the film were brought and dismissed by a federal court in a lawsuit and the plaintiff – a Gibney source – was sanctioned $42,000 for legal fees. Another of his sources brought an equally preposterous lawsuit for a BILLION dollars that was dismissed six times by a court, with the judge commenting it was incomprehensible. To use a quote from Yogi Bera, this film is Déjà vu all over again. The Church is committed to free speech. However, free speech is not a free pass to broadcast or publish false information. Our complete statement, along with correspondence and documented facts, are at freedommag.org/hbo. Follow us on Twitter at @FreedomEthics and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/freedommediaethics/"