Scientology has a long history of trying to suppress material written about it that it doesn’t like. Several times they’ve taken legal action to try and stop websites revealing their teachings – particularly those which, to outsiders, might look a bit odd. (I won’t quote them, but just type “Xenu” into a search engine, then sit back and marvel.)
With books, their usual tactic is to get their solicitors to send out letters alleging defamation; I had one myself a few years ago. If bookshops receive such a letter, most of them chicken out immediately. They lose very little by not stocking a book – except their honour.
I was lucky. Knowing Scientology’s reputation for litigiousness, when I wrote my second book on new religions eight years ago I had long discussions with a senior Scientologist. Eventually it seemed as if we’d reached an agreement: if I didn’t tell the Xenu story, they wouldn’t sue me for saying several other things they didn’t like. We shook hands on what I thought was a deal – a gentlemen’s agreement – in a tea shop somewhere in Covent Garden.
But as Samuel Goldwyn said, a verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. As the book was at the printers a long letter arrived from top libel lawyers Peter Carter-Ruck & Partners, accusing me of several counts of defamation in the previously-agreed chapter. Fortunately my publishers had a good lawyer; we made a few changes and went ahead and published, and never heard a word from Scientology or their lawyers again.
John Duignan’s new book is an insider’s look at Scientology from a former high ranking member. He’s garnering a lot of attention, much of it kicked up, of course, by the legal threats from Scientology who are having it barred from sale in the UK just as they did with the Tom Cruise bio from Andrew Morton early in the year.
On Oct. 31, Irish publisher Merlin released “The Complex,” in which John Duignan, identified as “a former high-ranking member” of the church in Britain, describes his “dramatic escape” from its “elite para-military group,” the Sea Organization. Five days later, Cruise dropped by Amazon’s Seattle headquarters to glad-hand staffers and host a sneak peek at his new movie, “Valkyrie.”
A few days later, Amazon’s British Web site stopped selling “The Complex,” explaining to customers that someone mentioned in the book had alleged it defamed him with “false claims.”
“U.K. law gives us no choice but to remove the title from our catalogue,” Amazon said in a statement.
“I believe Tom Cruise influenced them,” Duignan tells us.
I look forward to reading this book which would make a perfect stocking-stuffer, especially for someone barred from buying it in the UK — or Tom Cruise.
Anonymous Takes Action