Brow Beat

The Makers of Going Clear on the Evolution and the Future of Scientology

Going Clear e-meter
An e-meter in Going Clear.

Courtesy of HBO

Check out all Slate’s interviews from the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

One of the most compelling and controversial films to premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival was Going Clear, the new documentary from Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Taxi to the Dark Side) and Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Lawrence Wright, the author of the book of the same name. The documentary airs on HBO this Sunday at 8 p.m. Eastern.

We sat down with Wright and Gibney in Park City to ask them about the challenges of making a documentary about Scientology and how the church developed its many connections to Hollywood. In this longer segment from the interview, we asked them about the ways the church differs (and does not) from the other religions they’ve studied, its evolution under charismatic leader David Miscavige, and whether the church’s days are numbered in the age of the Internet.

We reached out to the Church of Scientology about Gibney and Wright’s allegations. A representative asked us to link to their full response to the documentary on their website, and also had this to say about the content of this interview:

The allegations in the interview are false and denied.  Gibney and Wright are bigots and have drunk the proverbial Kool Aid of their apostate sources.

The Church treats all information revealed by parishioners during their spiritual counseling as sacrosanct. If any of Gibney’s sources are claiming that they disclosed or threatened to disclose this information, it is no wonder they were expelled from the Church a decade or so ago.

The claims about the treatment of members of the Church’s religious order, the Sea Organization, are false and have been found in federal court to be meritless.  One of Alex Gibney’s sources tried to bring a federal civil lawsuit concerning these same allegations. The case was dismissed as factually groundless with the plaintiff ordered to pay the Church $42,000 in legal costs. A unanimous appeals court decision ruled in favor of the Church nearly three years ago. Thus, Wright and Gibney are bringing up allegations long since dismissed by the courts.  This is “sour grapes” from this small band of misfits that Gibney gives a platform to.

Mr. Miscavige has been successfully leading the Scientology religion for more than a quarter of a century during which the Scientology religion has expanded faster in the last 10 years than in its previous 50 years combined. Scientology parishioners worldwide hold him in the highest esteem for what he is doing for the religion.