The Church of Scientology has a history of not turning the other cheek. Back in 1991, after Time published a highly critical cover story titled “The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power,” the Church responded with a million-dollar PR campaign and a massive lawsuit against Time Warner, while also being accused of harassing journalists who worked on the story.
So perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that the Church would respond aggressively to Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, Alex Gibney’s documentary exposé that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Based on Lawrence Wright’s book Going Clear, the film features interviews with former members of the controversial organization who describe widespread abuse and intimidation from the upper echelons of the Church’s power structure.
The Church of Scientology took out advertisements in The New York Times on Jan. 16 comparing the documentary to Rolling Stone‘s discredited story about campus rape—and now the Church is expanding its efforts online. A special report has been published on the Church’s Freedom website, and a new Twitter account, Freedom Media Ethics, is “taking a resolute stand against the broadcasting and publishing of false information.”
The Church claims Gibney only spoke to disgruntled former members—who they attempt to discredit one by one on the new site—and failed to allow itself to respond to the allegations in the film.
Gibney told an audience at Sundance, where the documentary was well received, that he had 160 lawyers vet the film before it screened.