“Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief”
by Lawrence Wright; Alfred A. Knopf; 430 pages; $28.95. Perhaps the best way to weigh the credibility of the sensational allegations against the Church of Scientology in Lawrence Wright’s new book isn’t to consider his impressive credentials: He’s a Pulitzer Prize winner. He’s author of the definitive book on the rise of al-Qaeda (“The Looming Tower”). He’s a well-regarded New Yorker staff writer. He’s a journalist with a reputation for meticulous research. (According to a recent New York Times profile, when a research-assistant applicant told Wright, “I think one of my faults is that I don’t know when to stop researching.” Wright responded, “I don’t think that’s a fault.”) No, the most telling fact is the Church of Scientology’s response to “Going Clear” — “Mr. Wright’s book is so ludicrous it belongs in a supermarket tabloid. The claims are nothing more than a stale rehash of allegations disproven long ago.” Even the most casual observer of Wright’s reporting would be shocked to see his work compared to the National Enquirer. Wright’s book alleges that the religion has held members against their will, forced them into brutal working conditions, catered to the outrageous whims of its celebrity members, subjected members to physical abuse and — in enforcing a strict doctrine of obedience to the church — forced married couples to divorce and family members to break off all contact. Oh, and then there’s L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology’s founder, exposed in “Going Clear” as a fabulist whose claims of miracle cures grew from his fertile imagination. After more than 400 pages of carefully presenting information of a religion and its misdeeds, Wright puts it this way, Scientology has used “the protections of the First Amendment to falsify history, to propagate forgeries and, and to cover up human-rights abuses.” In its over-the-top response to the book, the Church of Scientology has made Wright’s point.
UPDATE: Church of Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw emailed Sunday evening, " I ask that you let your readers have the benefit of the full response by the Church and decide for themselves by linking to this white paper in your review." Not a problem. Here it is.