‘Going Clear’ Director Says Ex-Scientologists Received Physical Threats for Appearing in HBO Documentary

Alex Gibney tells TheWrap former churchgoers have been threatened with violence and economic ruin after participating in the film

In the wake of HBO’s explosive Scientology documentary “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief,” which premiered Sunday on HBO, director Alex Gibney said former church members featured in the film have been threatened by the institution.

“Most of the real vitriol is for the people who were in the film,” Gibney told TheWrap in an interview this week. “They’ve received threats of physical harm, threats of having their homes taken away, threats of being forced into bankruptcy. They’re being followed by private eyes and surveilled.”

Prominent ex-congregates including Marty Rathbun, publicist Sylvia “Spanky” Taylor, Tom De Voct and director Paul Haggis were all interviewed for the film, which is critical of the religion’s practices. Since the documentary premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival, Gibney said some of the film’s subjects have become targets.

The documentary made headlines earlier this year thanks to its investigation of two of Scientology’s most visible members, actors John Travolta and Tom Cruise, who joined the church in 1975 and the late 1980s respectively.

It also dusts up the previously reported dissolution of Tom Cruise’s marriage to Nicole Kidman, allegedly spearheaded by the church as Kidman was viewed as a “suppressive person,” which Gibney addressed in New York Magazine.

TheWrap’s Sundance review of  “Going Clear” noted slave labor conditions for former members performing service and carrying out tasks handed down by leadership, on top of heavy financial obligations and cutting ties to those outside of the religion founded by author L. Ron Hubbard.

Rathburn’s wife Monique received pornography at her workplace “so that co-workers would think she’s some sort of wild, reckless individual,” Gibney said.

Veteran Hollywood publicist Spanky Taylor, who runs an agency that screens fan mail for A-List clients such as  Johnny Depp, shares a particularly harrowing story in the film about escaping a church building in Los Angeles while clutching her infant child. She claimed the organization wouldn’t let her leave of her own free will.

“I will tell you that the threats that have been visited on her have been particularly brutal,” Gibney said of the response to Taylor’s claim.

“A major thing the church got by on for many years was intimidating people into silence, based on their threats of litigation and brutish psychological games,” Gibney said.

A spokesperson for the Church of Scientology responded to Gibney’s remarks to TheWrap. Here is the statement in its entirety:

Alex Gibney is proving to be exactly like the sources in his film–no accusation is too irresponsible to make. It doesn’t matter if he lacks corroboration and proof, it’s all about promoting his movie.

Each and every one of the allegations in your questions is absolutely false and rejected. Alex Gibney is getting desperate and is now resorting to ludicrous, made-up claims. The Wrap should ask him for his proof.

First, there has not been one physical or financial threat of harm from the Church to anyone. These are more lies from the same admitted liars who Gibney glorifies in his film.

Second, I have in my hands court records where Monique Rathbun stated under oath that she has no idea who sent those items to her at her office. She also conceded she had no evidence and had made the allegations against the Church without specific or direct evidence. In other words, court records contradict the accusation Alex Gibney made, which is exactly what he did during the entire making of this film – ignore facts and court records. There are countless more examples if you are interested.

Finally, as for Spanky Taylor the Church has not made one threat against her. Again that is made-up garbage.

What the Church has done is issued the truth on these individuals to counter-act their lies. You can see them here:


Because Alex Gibney ran from any facts that got in the way of his preconceived story line and ignored all our efforts to communicate (over 40 letters and 25 people who requested to meet with Mr. Gibney), we have compiled the unvarnished truth in the form of video footage, court documents, publicly available records and testimonials by pertinent individuals and parishioners worldwide who do represent Scientology, and were intentionally ignored by Mr. Gibney and HBO. All of it 100% accurate. Alex Gibney spins this as “smears.” We call it the truth he ignored. These you can see at http://www.freedommag.org/hbo/

You also should definitely provide readers with this link and you are welcome to use any of the material. I particularly call your attention to: http://www.freedommag.org/hbo/videos/exterminating-gibneys-propaganda.html

Rather than print the usual “denies the allegation” you should circle back with Gibney and ask him for proof. And ask him to explain why he would make such an accusation when Monique Rathbun’s testimony contradicts it.

If you ever want to know about Scientology, look at our website at www.Scientology.org. The information is right there. We are busy trying to help people. We spend every waking minute working to get people off drugs and assist them to lead healthier, happier more productive lives.

TheWrap shared the Church of Scientology’s statement with Gibney on Sunday and he responded: “The church claims it is innocent of all misdeeds. How credible does that sound?”

Though the church has been vocal about its objections to the documentary, Gibney said he’s felt an outpouring of support from blogs and social media users on the Internet, who have have joined his criticism of the Church of Scientology.

“The church would attack the film in its kind of ham-fisted way and people all across the Internet were rising up to say, ‘Bullshit…’ Whether it be Uproxx chronicling the church’s propaganda videos and ranking them in order of comedic content or what have you,  what it shows is that the days of everybody running in fear from Scientology are over,” said Gibney.

The Church of Scientology currently has about 50,000 members, according to the film.

“Going Clear” is available on HBO Go and On Demand.