Scientology and Me - Reactions


On 10 May 2007, four days before the documentary's first networked airing, video footage filmed by the Church of Scientology was released on YouTube and DVD showing Sweeney's outburst towards Scientology representative Tommy Davis. The Church of Scientology also presented the BBC with a set of 154 breaches of BBC guidelines which they claimed Sweeney and his team broke, though Sandy Smith, the programme's producer, responded that "he head of current affairs, George Entwistle, has viewed all footage complained of and, with the exception of the point when Sweeney shouts, he found nothing that stood outside BBC guidelines". The BBC responded to the clip by releasing on its website the video Sweeney shot to give some context to the argument before the documentary was aired. Since a description of Sweeney losing his temper was included in TV guide listings for the documentary, the BBC already knew about Sweeney's outburst before the YouTube clip was uploaded.

Scientologists also later complained of bigotry towards the Church in comments made by Sweeney during interviews with Scientology members. Sweeney's outburst toward Tommy Davis prompted John Travolta to lobby British MPs in an attempt to stop the documentary from being aired. Both Sweeney and Sandy Smith apologised for his (Sweeney's) behaviour. Sweeney stated that it was a by-product of the "hijacking of the Holocaust" by the Scientology exhibition Psychiatry: An Industry of Death – which was where the outburst occurred – as well as attempts to control his mind. Sweeney said of the incident: "I apologised almost immediately, Tommy carried on as if nothing had happened but meanwhile Scientology had rushed off copies of me losing it to my boss, my boss's boss and my boss's boss's boss, the Director-General of the BBC." Later, he added: "I look like an exploding tomato and shout like a jet engine and every time I see it, it makes me cringe." At the time the Church of Scientology posted its own material regarding the matter on the Internet, one of its spokesmen denied Sweeney's statement regarding a quick apology.

Sweeney said of fair gaming: "While making our BBC Panorama film "Scientology and Me" I have been shouted at, spied on, had my hotel invaded at midnight, denounced as a "bigot" by star Scientologists and been chased round the streets of Los Angeles by sinister strangers.". Sweeney also claimed that his family and neighbours had been harassed by unidentified strangers back in the UK, including an intruder at his wedding who fled when confronted.

Former high-ranking Scientologist and spokesperson Mike Rinder claimed David Miscavige was unhappy with the church's handling of the documentary, and punished Rinder by exiling him to the United Kingdom to dig ditches. As a result, he left the church in 2007. In 2009, he has subsequently spoken out against the church, and now said he lied to Sweeney during the interviewing to defend the church.

On 28 September 2010 Rinder and Amy Scobee were featured on The Secrets of Scientology, a follow-up to the 2007 broadcast. Rinder revealed that Sweeney was correct, Scientology was following Sweeney's activities for the 2007 report.

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