Church of Scientology Details Error in Lawrence Wright’s Book

Volker Hartmann/Getty

The Church of Scientology has received numerous calls asking what we think about Lawrence Wright’s book, “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief.” The answer is we believe it is blatantly bigoted. It is also filled with inaccuracies and misstatements of fact. Case in point: both its Canadian and UK publishers have chosen not to publish the book because of reported legal concerns.

Mr. Wright refused our assistance, offered in 15 letters, to ensure his book was factually accurate. His fact checking consisted of about a dozen esoteric and obtuse questions, six of which concerned the brand of cigarettes L. Ron Hubbard smoked. Then there is his reliance on sources who have proven time and again to be untruthful. One admitted on network television to lying to the media, and in newspapers to suborning perjury; another was asked on network television, “If you lied before how do we know you’re telling the truth now?”

The Church was provided no advance copy, despite five requests to Mr. Wright and his publisher Knopf to do so. We were, however, able to read certain passages from the website. Here is what we found:

—The date of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes wedding is off by an entire year (page 303).

—The date of David Miscavige's marriage is off by more than two years (page 176).

—Mr. Wright claims that L. Ron Hubbard and the Church wrote Mr. Hubbard’s parents out of Mr. Hubbard’s biography (page 23). The 16-volume biographical encyclopedia of Mr. Hubbard’s life published by the Church shows otherwise, with references to and photographs of Mr. Hubbard’s parents and Mr. Hubbard’s own words about them throughout.

—Mr. Wright wrote that Mr. Hubbard spent only 10 days in China during two brief trips to the orient to visit his parents (pages 23-24). There is documented evidence that he spent months during multiple trips including a ships manifest.

—Mr. Wright says he interviewed something like 200 Scientologists—past and current (page 370), When the Church checked the list, only about a dozen are current Scientologists, none of whom were interviewed for the book; they were interviewed for Mr. Wright’s New Yorker article. Not one current Scientologist was interviewed for the book.

—Mr. Wright lists 22 people he claims he interviewed regarding a series of incidents. The first one on the list, John Aczel has issued a sworn affidavit that he has never spoken with Mr. Wright, corresponded with him or provided him any information to him whatsoever.

—Mr. Wright includes a claim in the book (page 281) that a “Scientologist who was a bank teller says he was told to comply with a robbery in order to pay off his debt to the church; the robbers took $4,000.” Mr. Wright attributes this film-noir fantasy to Garry Scarff, who was never a Scientologist. Mr. Wright fails to mention that Mr. Scarff admitted under oath that he is a self-admitted inveterate liar. In fact, in the late 1970s/early 1980s, Mr. Scarff ingratiated himself with the now-defunct Cult Awareness Network with his tragic account of how his father and his young son were lost at the 1978 Jonestown massacre in Guyana. CAN promoted his story to raise funds and to gain media exposure. In 1988, Mr. Scarff's tale was revealed to be a fabrication. (See He later admitted this was false, he had no family at Jonestown and never had a son. Mr. Wright does not share this fact with his readers. Nor does he say who did the robbery, when and who was involved. He also never asked the Church about this.

—Mr. Wright also doesn’t inform his readers about the sources in the book. Space allows us to provide just three examples:

● Marty Rathbun, one of the main sources for both the New Yorker article and the book, admitted both on ABC and on NBC that he lied to the media about the same allegations he is making in the book; he admitted in the St. Petersburg Times he suborned perjury; a respected Florida judge filed evidence in federal court of Mr. Rathbun’s most recent instance of perjury. How can Mr. Wright claim Mr. Rathbun is a credible source? If this was not enough, the Church has video footage of his slamming a car door repeatedly into a reporter. He was arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct in New Orleans. He paints himself as the former head of legal affairs, but he is not a lawyer. He was basically the head of administration for legal affairs. He was removed from any position of authority for malfeasance a decade ago.

Get The Beast In Your Inbox!

Daily Digest

Start and finish your day with the top stories from The Daily Beast.

Cheat Sheet

A speedy, smart summary of all the news you need to know (and nothing you don't).

By clicking “Subscribe,” you agree to have read the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy
Thank You!
You are now subscribed to the Daily Digest and Cheat Sheet. We will not share your email with anyone for any reason.

● Mike Rinder is on record stating the same allegations he now is asserting were “rubbish” and when questioned on network television asking “If you lied before how do we know you’re telling the truth now?” to which Rinder responded, “You don’t.” He walked out on his wife and his family six years ago. When his ex-wife, brother and daughter came to see him some years later, he physically attacked his former wife resulting in severe nerve damage to her arm and a dislocated shoulder that required surgery to repair. There are EMT, doctor reports and photographic evidence of this. He was removed from the Church for malfeasance.

● Marc Headley, the primary source of the tabloid story that alleges the Church gave auditions to help Tom Cruise in his search for a wife, has changed this fabrication three times: one version appears in his self-published book and two other versions which are different from both the first version and each other, were made in media interviews. Not exactly the most reliable source. Mr. Headley was recently compelled by a federal court to pay the Church $40,000 to cover its legal costs in defending against a frivolous lawsuit filed by Mr. Headley and his wife.

The point is if Mr. Wright got these things—and more—wrong on the little that we have been able to see, what else is wrong—or more accurately, what—if anything did he get right? And if he used sources who have admitted to lying to the media, suborning perjury and have changing their story three times, how can one rely on any of his sources?

Mr. Wright may have won a Pulitzer for his last book, The Looming Tower – Al Qaeda’s Road to 9/11, but in this one he didn’t seem to get anything right.

Millions of Scientologists around the world embrace the Scientology religion. Their generous support and participation in the Church’s activities and humanitarian programs are enabling the church to enjoy its greatest period of expansion: opening new Scientology Churches in more than 30 major metropolitan areas and cultural centers.

Mr. Wright could have found out the true story of Scientology and its Founder, by simply logging onto the website,