the Church of Scientology
since 1968
ALEX GIBNEY & HBOThe Prison of Propaganda

Letter to Sheila Nevins,
President, HBO Documentary Films

December 16, 2014

Sheila Nevins
President, HBO Documentary Films

Re: HBO documentary on Scientology, pure anti-Scientology propaganda

Dear Ms. Nevins:

HBO commissioned Alex to produce a “documentary” on Scientology. For two years Mr. Gibney avoided and even hid from the Church the fact that he was producing one.

To the extent that the film relies on Lawrence Wright’s anti-Scientology book for its foundation, it is based on biased and inaccurate information spread by a handful of obsessed anti-Scientology zealots with an agenda to invent lies and harm the Church of Scientology as well as the millions of Scientologists around the world.

Yet the Church is being refused the proper opportunity to respond. Not one question or allegation has been received by the Church. Every offer from the Church to provide Mr. Gibney and HBO with documentary evidence, facts, judicial rulings, and declarations regarding his sources and story has been turned down.

This is eerily similar to Rolling Stone’s ill-fated judgment in publishing its deeply flawed University of Virginia story. As Erik Wemple wrote in the Washington Post, proper journalism requires “every possible step to reach out and interview them, including e-mails, phone calls, certified letters, Fed Ex letters, UPS letters and, if all of that fails, a knock on the door. No effort short of all that qualifies as journalism.”

We have repeatedly asked HBO and Mr. Gibney to tell us the allegations so we can respond properly. Even if you believe Mr. Gibney has read all of the information provided to Lawrence Wright that Wright ignored in his book, he still is not fully informed. There are additional judicial rulings in the public record concerning your sources—rulings that go directly to their credibility and the fact that they are liars. Mr. Gibney cannot possibly be aware of them.

If you and Mr. Gibney refuse to even look at them, then you are both journalistically corrupt and bigoted. Mr. Gibney’s bias is further evident in the fact that he, like Lawrence Wright, has networked for some time via social media with this core group of anti-Scientology extremists, all of whom remain bitter for having been removed from their Church positions for malfeasance and even criminal behavior.

As an example of Alex Gibney’s bias, one of his anti-Scientology sources, Mike Rinder, is his Facebook friend. Rinder was kicked out of the Church for severe malfeasance as an external affairs officer. We later learned he was part of a trio involved in the subornation of perjury, not to mention a documented wife abuser.

So let’s get this straight:

  • HBO commissions a documentary based on a book by Lawrence Wright, who has this entire posse of anti-Scientologists that he used as sources on his Facebook page as friends.
  • The filmmaker of HBO’s documentary, Alex Gibney, not only has Mike Rinder as a Facebook friend but follows him and others of this anti-Scientology posse, the sources, on Twitter.
  • HBO is reportedly flying these and other zealots into Sundance to promote the film, and paying for their hotel and accommodations, according to rumors on the internet. Is this true?

For all intents and purposes Alex Gibney is now part of the social group of anti- Scientologists who provided the source material for Wright’s article, his book and now Gibney’s HBO film.

The Code of Ethics promulgated by the Society of Professional Journalists states that journalists (of which documentarians are part by virtue of the nature of a documentary) should:

  • Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
  • Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.

Both Lawrence Wright and Alex Gibney consider themselves journalists. They are presumably aware of their responsibilities as journalists to avoid such damaging associations and connections, and to hear both sides of the story before drawing conclusions.

Yet all requests from the Church for any information about the film or allegations being made about the Church have been ignored. The Church has repeatedly offered to meet with Mr. Gibney and HBO to present information, answer questions and provide critical perspective, but has been repeatedly turned down.

Are Mr. Gibney and HBO afraid to hear the truth?

My colleagues and I insist on meeting with HBO to present you documented evidence that discredits the sources and the story being told. I will give you information you do not have. It also is information Mr. Gibney is obliged to see and present unless he wants to openly admit that he doesn’t have a molecule of journalistic integrity.


Karin Pouw

The Church of Scientology is committed to free speech. However, free speech is not a free pass to broadcast or publish false information. We have all seen what happens when facts are not checked or those being reported on are not given a chance to respond. The Church is taking a resolute stand against such actions—both on its own behalf and for others who either cannot or will not do so.