Hollywood and Scientology: John Travolta leading the charge

John Travolta at Wild HogsAngry Scientologists are trying to get a BBC documentary about their faith scrapped amid claims of “gross bias” by presenter John Sweeney. The Panorama programme, to be shown tonight, investigates whether the Church of Scientology has moved away from its past as a brainwashing cult.

But furious church members – including actor John Travolta – say the programme should be ditched because Mr Sweeney showed he was biased by losing his temper and shouting at a top scientologist. After the man accused him of giving “an easy interview” to a critic of the religion, Mr Sweeney screamed: “You were not there at the beginning of the interview.

“You were not there. You did not hear or record all the interview.”

Scientologists have sent 100,000 copies of film of the incident to MPs, civil servants and business leaders, as well as posting it on the YouTube website. Travolta has also written to BBC executives, accusing Mr Sweeney of “personal prejudices, bigotry and animosity”. But the broadcaster insisted last night that the programme would go ahead.

A BBC source said Mr Sweeney, who has apologised for his rant, had become distressed after following Scientologists for days and watching harrowing footage of people being tortured as part of an exhibition by the church attacking psychiatry.

The source added: “It was a very intense time. He was completely in the wrong and should never have lost his rag – but he’s only human.”

Mr Sweeney said: “I am hugely embarrassed. I let the side down and the BBC down and I am ashamed but I felt I was being brainwashed. “If people see the full clip, I think they will have more sympathy with me.”

The BBC has reprimanded Mr Sweeney but is not taking disciplinary action after deciding he did not breach any guidelines. Producers plan to include his outburst in the documentary. Panorama has also posted its own footage on YouTube, showing a leading American Scientologist threatening Mr Sweeney.

Tom Davis – a friend of fellow follower Tom Cruise and son of actress Anne Archer – says he cannot be responsible for his actions if Mr Sweeney keeps referring to the religion as a “sinister cult”.

He says: “For you to repeatedly refer to my faith in these terms is so derogatory, so offensive and so bigoted and the reason you keep repeating it is because you want a reaction like you are getting now.”

Mr Sweeney has complained of becoming a victim of intimidation while making the programme. He says he was followed and his wedding was gatecrashed. Panorama spent six months investigating the religion – which claims humans are descended from a race of aliens called thetans – and interviewed several people who said they had cut off their families after becoming Scientologists.

The documentary also exposes apparent links between Scientology leaders and City of London police officers.

Chief Superintendent Ken Stewart is shown praising the controversial organisation, which supplied hospitality worth £11,000 to the force. Policemen attended scientology dinners and the premiere of Cruise’s film Mission Impossible 3

read more | (picture from dailymail.co.uk)

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3 Responses

  1. The entire Panorama epsiode is on Youtube. Before Sweeney’s rant, the Scientologists take him through an exhibit where they show footage of torture in WWII concentration camps, and attempt to blame the entire holocaust on psychology.

  2. That is John Sweeney’s verions of the events. I have been at the museum and taken people through it and I have never seen anyone react like that from taking the tour. It really had nothing to do with Sweeney blowing up. During the tour, Sweeney, who had been repeatedly using various slurs to depict Scientologists, was challenged as to whether he even knew what “brainwashing” consisted of (he had been hurling that insult for several days). He was shown a reference which explained that brainwashing is done with physical torture and thus was a criminal act. Tommy Davis told him in no uncertain terms that to continue to make that accusation was false and was defamatory. Tommy told Sweeney that when he interviewed a Shaun Lonsdale in Clearwater, who had made this same type of allegation, Sweeney should have challenged him (like he had been doing with every Scientologist he spoke to). Tommy knew what had taken place in the Lonsdale interview beccause it had been filmed by Scientologists for their own documentary (at least the second half) and it showed that Sweeney was trading jokes with Lonsdale about both having criminal convictions (Sweeney for criminal libel and Lonsdale for sex offenses and drugs). It was at this point that Sweeney lost it. He was upset that he had been caught coddling a detractor while being tough as nails with every Scientologist he encountered and thus was being unfair and biased. This is well documented in the documentary “Panorama Exposed” which the Church produced and distributed just before Sweeney’s show was aired. You can get a copy or watch it online by going to http://www.bbcpanorama-exposed.org.

  3. BBC is so used to presenting their own slant to badly researched “investigations” that they were caught completely off guard by someone turning the tables on them. I say it’s about time someone did it. I’m pretty sick of having them foist off their so-called exposes on us. What I really want to know why they twist the facts the way they do. What’s in it for them? And who’s fitting the bill?

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