On Sunday, HBO premiered Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, Alex Gibney’s damning documentary profiling the history and recent schisms within the Church of Scientology. The film, an adaptation of Lawrence Wright’s 2013 book of the same name, relies on the accounts of several former high-ranking church members to provide an in-depth look at the modern religion, how it arose (particularly in Hollywood), and gives detailed allegations of abuse at the hands Scientology’s current leader, David Miscavige. The film specifically makes shocking claims about the church’s treatment and manipulation of its two most famous members: Jon Travolta and Tom Cruise.
To veteran Scientology watchers, the two-hour-long documentary didn’t really reveal anything all that new. Fantastically creation story famously featuring galactic warlord xenu? Check. Allegations against Hubbard’s claims? Check. Tales of fanatically-driven misdeeds by followers? Yep! Claims of Miscaviage’s abuse of power? You betcha.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t other shockingly scandalous stories about Scientology. In fact, there’s plenty. Here are four more shocking true stories about Scientology that weren’t in Going Clear.
L. Ron Hubbard’s Possible Gay Son & His Mysterious Death
One of Scientology’s harshest critics in the last few years has been former member and Oscar-winning screenwriter/director Paul Haggis (Crash, Million Dollar Baby) and a big part of Haggis’ beef with the church is over its attitude towards homosexuality (two of Haggis’ daughters are gay). Dianetics refers to homosexuals as being “quite ill,” so it’s kind of surprising/ironic that Hubbard would have a gay son…and maybe not so shocking that he died from an apparent suicide. Geoffrey Quentin McCaully Hubbard, who went by Quentin, was at one point Hubbard’s planned successor. Several former members have claimed that Quentin was gay and even tried to commit suicide once before, possibly because of his father’s attitude about his sexuality. In 1976, Quentin was found unconscious in Las Vegas, in a parked car with a garden hose running from the tail pipe to the window. He never woke up and died in the hospital two weeks later. The cause of death is still debated to this day with some theorizing that he was murdered and current church material fails to even mention him.
David Miscavige’s “Missing” Wife
David Miscavige comes off as a warlord in Going Clear. Former members describe him in the documentary as a tyrant and bully who seized control of the church after Hubbard’s death in 1986 and uses everything from blackmail to physical intimidation to retain power. Curiously, Going Clear doesn’t even mention Miscavige’s wife, Shelly, who has not been seen publicly since 2006. It’s believed Shelly Miscavige has been exiled to a secluded facility near Lake Arrowhead in Southern California, along with other Scientology members, as a form of punishment. Former Scientologist and King of Queens actress Leah Remini publicly voiced her concern for Shelly when she wasn’t present at Tom Cruise’s wedding to Katie Holmes in 2006, for which David Miscavige served as best man. Remini eventually left the church and even filed a missing persons report for Shelly with the Los Angeles Police department. After a brief investigation the LAPD closed the case and stated that the report had been "ruled as unfounded."
Deaths At The Church’s Drug Treatment Facilities
Founded in the 1960s, Narconon International is a non-profit organization that runs a series of drug treatment facilities throughout the world. It’s owned by the Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE), which is an umbrella group controlled by the church and used to secularly promote Scientology. Narconon follows L. Ron Hubbard’s teachings, which advocate the use of sauna, exercise and high doses of certain vitamins to treat drug and alcohol addiction, though many addiction and medical experts refute Narconon’s techniques. Patients claim they've checked themselves into Narconon clinics believing they were entering a traditional addiction treatment program, only to discover many of the established methods of treating addiction were not offered. Several deaths have occurred at various Narconon locations over the years and in 2012 a facility in Oklahoma was the site of multiple patient deaths within a few months, which sparked a series of lawsuits and media reports.
Scientologists Bankrupted & Purchased the Cult Awareness Network
The Church of Scientology doesn’t play nice when it comes to critics. Under the church’s famed “Fair Game” doctrine, a whole host of methods can be used against those who speak out against the church, no matter who they are. It’s something Going Clear explores extensively, detailing campaigns by the church against the IRS, journalists, and former members. But one target of “Fair Game” not recounted in the film is the Cult Awareness Network (CAN). Founded in 1978 in response to the Jonestown massacre, CAN was a non-profit aimed to raise awareness of cults and “destructive religious groups” while offering support to family members of those trapped in cults. CAN was also critical of Scientology, with its leaders giving scathing quotes to the media and classifying the church as a cult. In the mid 1990s, Scientology responded with a campaign against CAN, which culminated in a lawsuit eventually forcing the group to declare bankruptcy. What followed was most shocking: Scientology members purchased CAN’s name, logo, and hotline to form the New Cult Awareness Network, which was way more friendly towards Scientology. The entire debacle was the subject of a 60 minutes segment in 1997.
Dave Odegard is the Senior Editor at Enstars. You can follow him on Twitter.