The Church of Scientology has made it known that it's not happy about "Going Clear," Alex Gibney's new documentary about the organization that premiered on HBO March 16. Their Twitter page, @FreedomEthics, is plastered with images of letters reproaching the director for not answering their attempts at correspondence, and its handle "Freedom Media Ethics" even uses Gibney's photo as its avatar.
Although critical tweets against the director and his film are frequent -- there were 16 in less than 24 hours on Wednesday -- one in particular posted Wednesday afternoon could be seen as rising to the level of a threat.
— Freedom Media Ethics (@FreedomEthics) March 25, 2015
When International Business Times called the Los Angeles office phone number listed on the "about" page of their online magazine Freedom to comment on the tweet, we were sent to voice mail. "Freedom" is described on the site as the "voice of the Church of Scientology."
Based in part on Lawrence Wright’s 2013 book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief, "Going Clear" profiles former members who are critical of Scientology. Mark “Marty” Rathbun, former senior executive of the Church of Scientology who has been critical of the organization since he quit in 2004 and who participated in "Going Clear," told IBTimes in a separate story in January that "[A]merica's most accomplished modern documentarian has now weighed in raises the stakes against Scientology continuing to carry on business as usual.” He alleges that in the past year, he has been ambushed by current Scientology members and filmed the incidents.
In a Q&A that took place after a screening of "Going Clear" in New York City on Monday, Gibney discussed the repercussions of having taken on Scientology critically as the subject of his film. He said that he and his lawyer receive a steady stream of letters -- "My lawyer gets sometimes one, sometimes two a day" -- and that the whistleblowers in his film have gotten worse.
"I know that some of them have received physical threats, I know some of them have received threats that their homes and financial stability would be taken away. I know they're followed by private investigators," said Gibney. "It's been brutal for them."
[Updated Thursday, 11:20 a.m]
In response to this story, Karin Pouw, a spokesperson for the Church of Scientology, emailed the following statement: “You are misrepresenting the tweet. It quotes from a review of the documentary and simply means that Gibney was so bent to be bigoted that he is likely to remain bent on being a bigot."
Pouw also requested that IBTimes "correct" the story, and wrote that the post was "perpetuating false information." The original tweet puts into quotation words that don't appear in either the video or "review" that follows the link. IBTimes' further requests from Pouw for the review in question went unanswered.