March 25th, 2010
11:28 PM ET

Scientology: A history of violence

Note to readers and viewers: The Anderson Cooper 360 series "Scientology: A History of Violence," which reported competing claims and denials about violence at the top of the Church of Scientology has attracted a number of complaints from senior members of the Church of Scientology (including Mr. Miscavige) and the Church of Scientology itself.

The series is now the subject of a letter of legal complaint in the United Kingdom. The complainants strongly dispute the allegations and the assertions made against them and covered in the course of the series by former members of the Church of Scientology.

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Anderson Cooper | BIO
AC360° Anchor

This week we begin a five-part investigation into allegations made by a number of former high ranking members of the Church of Scientology. The allegations are about physical abuse they say took place within the Sea Organization, the international management branch of the church.

These former members, many of whom dedicated their lives to Scientology, allege that the leader of the church, David Miscavige, has used physical violence against a number of Sea Organization members. The church adamantly denies these allegations, and back up their denials with numerous affidavits and testimonials defending Mr. Miscavige and attacking those who are speaking out.

Interestingly, the church spokesman, Tommy Davis, admits there was a history of violence in the Sea Organization, but the people he blames for it are those who are making the allegations against David Miscavige. He says they were demoted by Mr. Miscavige, and are bitter and disgruntled. Some of those making the allegations admit they did engage in violent acts, but say it was at the urging of Mr. Miscavige.

There is no real proof offered by either side, but viewers can make their own assessment. We have spent several months working on this series, and believe it is a fair look at the allegations and the counter claims made by the church.

I have already received a number of emails from church members complaining about the series, and accusing me of attacking the church, its beliefs, its membership, and its activities.

Given that the emails are all very similar in content, I assume this is some sort of organized email campaign. None of those writing the emails have seen the series, but I appreciate hearing from all concerned viewers, and I certainly understand any church member, of any religion, being concerned about the portrayal of their beliefs.

For the record, I just want to point out that this series is not about the beliefs or activities of the Church of Scientology. It is not about the religion or the vast majority of Scientologists. This series simply has to do with what some former high ranking church officials say went on within the upper management of the church, and what happened to them when they left the church.

soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. Maria Seegerer

    Dear Mr. Anderson,

    since I am a Scientologist of two decades and love Scientology as a body of great wisdom, I am sincerely grateful for your report since I am sure it helps distinguish the subject from the disgusting "culture" of violence within its management and outragious lies which damage the reputation of this religion and its well intentioned parishoners around the world. Thank you VERY much. Maria

    April 1, 2010 at 2:57 pm |
  2. Brandon

    Thank you Anderson for standing up to the attorneys and not afraid to
    ask the tough questions. I look forward to tonight's series on leaving the church. This should be an eye opener to many.

    April 1, 2010 at 1:32 pm |
  3. zenu

    Thank you. People need to know what is going on in this "church". Moar

    April 1, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
  4. Mike

    Interesting series, I just wish you would have consolidated it into one hour-long event instead of little repetitive bits of teaser footage before each commercial break leading up to ~10 minutes of focused coverage at the end of each show.

    April 1, 2010 at 12:07 pm |
  5. steven

    I lost my wife to Scientology.
    She and I started to study it, I loved what it promised. I noticed that Ron Hubbard claimed to be able to cure 75% of the physical problems known to man and said (almost every other page) that these were scientific facts. I started asking questions about where these studies were, what the sample sizes were, what kind of reliability they found. I was earnestly wanting to support the whole process. He also claimed that some of these areas needed more study, I wanted to help with the ongoing studies. So I began asking people higher and higher up in the org. Finally met with some "higher up" in Budapest, Hungary who told me, red-faced, that there were no on going studies and infact there had never been any studies at all.

    She told me that if what Hubbard said felt right to me, then it was in fact, true. I said yes, but he claimed these are scientific facts, there must be studies. I said well if he lied about all this, how am I supposed to believe any of his story? She did not have an answer for that.
    I tried to talk my wife out of continuing, she refused and the "church" came after me caling me an antagonizer, etc.
    Ultimately we were divorced.

    April 1, 2010 at 11:48 am |
  6. Chris Mole'

    That there was ANY tolerance of repeated attacks and abuse by members of the Sea Organization and Scientology leadership simply says it all. David Miscavige is the absolute leader of the church and absolutely responsible for its culture of fear and violence.

    April 1, 2010 at 11:41 am |
  7. Solange Reyes

    I'm worried about the “Holy War” in the media which attacks the leaders of different religions without analyzing the real intent of these attacks or their origins. These accusations are accepting ridiculous allegations, childish and unfounded allegations regardless of the parishioners. Last week was the Pope, now is Mr Miscavige, who will be next week? The Dalai Lama?
    It must be appreciated; instead of attacking religions for sensationalism, support them.
    A journalist has to be objective and you always have been one of the best.
    Why listen to those who are not following the precepts of their beliefs rather than supporting those who meet them?
    Why attack the religions instead of knowledge and understanding them.

    We live in a world of differences. Yet, we are interdependent. Nowhere is learning to live with difference more important than religion.

    Too often, religion is misused as an instrument for injustice, betraying and hate, the very ideals and teachings that lie at the soul of each of the world's great traditions. At the same time, religious and spiritual traditions conduct the lives of billions in wise and wonderful ways. The ideal scenario is when these diverse communities work in harmony for the common good, there is hope that the world can be transformed.

    April 1, 2010 at 11:07 am |
  8. AL

    Anderson Cooper has the heart of E.R. Murrow ! Any church itself may not be bad – but current leadership is not the church – the people are the church. We need more hard-hitting reporting like this. It's time to take the soft PC gloves off – especially when so many wolves are masquerading in sheepskin !

    April 1, 2010 at 9:24 am |
  9. Yolanda

    This story is quite compelling about what seems to be a discreet religion. There is not much that is commonly known about Scientology. However, violence would not be something expected as an associated quality for the religion.
    Did I miss something about the accuser's ex-wives? Are they still apart of the church?

    April 1, 2010 at 1:47 am |
  10. Ernie Unholz

    Hi Anderson,
    I have been a practicing pastor since 1985 graduation from Seminary. I have practiced across denominational lines and while I am not a Scientologist, I can tell you that when the spokesman and attorney said of those victimized by abuse that their decision not to report was "on them" was stunning. It takes my breath away when church people who talk about the high standard of being the followers of God can so easily abandon those under threat by those representing the very institution called to stand up for the unempowered. If abuse is discovered in the church, it is the church that must be accountable for failing to protect the flock, not the ones victimized by such failure.

    March 31, 2010 at 11:02 pm |
  11. JoeArizona

    Anderson, kudos to you and CNN for doing this story–it says a lot about your integrity and commitment to journalistic principles. Hopefully you won't be labeled a 'Suppressive Person' by Scientology, but you might, and I'm glad to see that didn't deter you. Religions should not be 'sacred cows' when they are doing wrong by their members, and this includes not only Catholicism and Islam, but also Scientology.

    March 31, 2010 at 9:09 pm |
  12. James

    The title of your report is labeling and completely misleading – Scientology: A history of violence. Scientology is not a religion of violence and does not preach violence. Get your facts straight.

    March 31, 2010 at 7:28 pm |
  13. Eddie

    Finally! I had read the articles and watched the videos from the St. Petersburg Times last year... I couldn't believe it didn't get more coverage.

    March 31, 2010 at 3:44 pm |
  14. Barbara

    Unfortunately, every group, no matter how large or small, is going to have good and bad. this applies to any church, religion, company, or even family.

    Hearing the stories and learning the truth can only help us all grow.

    Thanks for all you do.

    March 31, 2010 at 1:56 pm |
  15. Seeker

    I feel for it's members who only wish to do good and help others and do not attack their beliefs. I personally find can put no stock into a religion started by a Sci-fi writer who's quoted as to starting the religion for mere profit. We all need to realize that we don't need an organized religion to tell us to be good people. We need to be more inquisitive in our search for answers. The COS has a long, dark past that they try very hard to keep quiet. Even though we may be good people we should not allows ourselves to support and be part of faulty organizations and hold them responsible. $cientology needs to open all its doors to the public. There is a reason the keep their sacred texts under lock and key.

    I wish to see it's members flourish, but the organization and its leaders need an overhaul.

    March 31, 2010 at 1:50 pm |
  16. William

    Anderson, maybe you should follow up on the "money trail" of Scientology. It cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to go up the so called "bridge", yet their staff members and Sea Org staff make little to nothing. Who is making all the big bucks? David Miscavish?

    March 31, 2010 at 12:49 pm |
  17. Gary

    I am always amazed that when someone is accused of something and they deny it, they are not willing to take or demand a lie-detector test.

    March 31, 2010 at 9:57 am |
  18. Tyrone

    The questions I have are as follows:

    1. Why are people that dedicated so many years of service in the organization are now viewed as people that were booted out of the organization because of their inability to perform their jobs within the organization? "I would think that someone that have worked for ten years or more displayed some type of excellence and value to the leaders of that organization during such a long period of time". Dont Understand

    2. I take it that the ex-wives are currently active in the organization and as one lady said "I slept with my husband for almost twenty years", why will a person stay with a liar for that long? She seem to be a fairly intellient person. Dont Understand

    March 31, 2010 at 2:26 am |
  19. Ronald

    I've been a Scientologist for 20 years. I've been independent from the Church for the last ten. My personal experiences back up what Marty and the others claim. But I appreciate your efforts to present both sides in a balanced way.

    March 31, 2010 at 12:42 am |
  20. Alex

    Dear Anderson Cooper,

    Thanks for telling a story that is hard to tell due to the current managements history of aggressive legal actions and manipulation. I am an independent Scientologist and like the philosophy but do not like how the organization is ran. I have been a public Scientologist for over 30 years and I believe these whistleblowers.
    How could someone dedicate 20-30 years of their life and leave because of the abuses and then all lie about it to "hurt" the "pope" of Scientology. Preposterous!!
    Thanks Anderson, I know you can feel the hostility from the ex-wives. Keep up the good work and watch your back.

    March 31, 2010 at 12:27 am |
  21. John

    Please show the history and making of scientology, along with quotes by its founder regarding religion. Please also mention the clause that encourages members to lash out at anyone who thinks their organization if corrupt.

    Please, please follow through with this report and you will be the hero to many.

    March 30, 2010 at 11:59 pm |
  22. dt

    Anderson — where were the interviews with current, active Scientologists and Sea Org Members? I’m sure the Church offered them to you.

    You promised fair and unbiased reporting.

    Where is it?

    March 30, 2010 at 8:54 pm |
  23. Jill

    I admire these former scientologist to come out and speak. They are very brave! My brother in law has been in scientology for over 30 years. We've met with deprogramers over the years, but we were frightened of the consequences.
    Thank you for this taking them on!

    March 30, 2010 at 8:30 pm |
  24. Jan

    Why are you focusing on these few, disgruntled individuals when the real story is all the rest of us? I've been a Scientologist since I was 19 and I am now 56. I have it so well that others might well think I'm living a charmed life but in truth, it's simply using the knowledge I've gained from Scientology. And there are thousands of other people like me and my family. To really present an unbiased view, I challenge you to give equal air time to the views of the other 99.99% of us involved in Scientology.

    March 30, 2010 at 7:18 pm |
  25. Jon

    I am a former staff member of the Church of Scientology. I was employed by the Church for a total of 17 years dating back to 1975.

    As such, I found my employment with the Church to be a purposeful activity focusing on the unselfish help of others. I gained life skills as a staff member that I could not imagine finding elsewhere.

    I also gained true lifelong friendships that I will cherish forever.

    I am hoping to provide a Scientology staff experience that you may have missed while talking to failed former staff members of the Church.

    I sincerely hope your reporting is as unbiased you say it will be.

    March 26, 2010 at 9:24 am |
  26. Pauline

    Hi Anderson ,
    I think it's such a shame that people will actually comment on something that they have not even watched that shows that they actually have something to hide. I look forward to watching the series.

    March 26, 2010 at 8:32 am |
  27. GH Adams

    Dear Mr. Cooper, Thank you for your courage and for directing your impeccable journalistic excellence toward this subject. You are doing society a large service by providing this investigation into both sides to the many allegations that have surfaced about rampant abuse by Scientology leader David Miscavige.

    The Organization of Scientology is run much like a business. I've seen numerous accounts of persons within the ranks and membership who feel the practice is unrecognizable since taken over, some going so far as to say it has been hijacked. Many of the innocent members still within the corporation are impressed by the flashy fancy church building spree.

    I'm looking forward to your series and admire you for taking this on. The management of Scientology is infamous for aggressively attacking any critic and people with disagreements. You assessment that the mail you are getting from them is a campaign is correct - they engage staff to stay after hours and pump mail out with prewritten campaign lines, indignation and so forth.

    Thank you again. With great respect.

    March 26, 2010 at 5:10 am |
  28. Ignazio Tidu

    I can confirm the abuses as mentioned in my own life in the sea org history. Don't back off Mr. Cooper you're on the right trail!

    March 26, 2010 at 4:08 am |
  29. john warnes

    Scientology has helped many individuals through its auditing and training. The problem is Scientologists are taught that they are the only ones who can help mankind and anyone who is 'open minded' about that is either useless or an enemy and subject to serious abuse by the 'church'. Scientologists, who are some of the most well intentioned people on the planet, when put in a position of power will go to any length to further the goal of a Scientology world. I was in such a position in the 70's and regret the actions I took. Individuals become expendable in the goal of expansion of Scientology. I know some of those speaking out and admire them as the 'church' will be brutal and spare no expense to destroy these perceived enemies. It is very sad that Scientology technology that could benefit many people is mixed up with an organization and leaders that are on the ultimate ego trip, justifying criminal activity because they are 'chosen' to save the planet. John Warnes

    March 26, 2010 at 2:16 am |
  30. MO

    Personally I don't understand this. These former "high ranking members" are former for a reason. If your a senior executive of a corperation and you fail at your job you get fired or removed or demoted in favor of someone better suited for the challange or task. Which being in that position defaults you form any creditable opinion. These former "high ranking executives" are a bunch of cry babies. Regardless of their views they are losers and don't deserve the air time.

    March 26, 2010 at 2:10 am |
  31. Diana

    Mr Anderson,
    As a Scientologist who has my own stories to tell, only recently did I become aware of the the bigger picture of what is actually happening at the top echelon of my church. I want this made known, because until it is the abuses and violations of the basic creed and principles of Scientology will continue to be violated. I hope that you will only address the violations and not the religious beliefs. I do not agree with how my church has been being run from the top for the past 20 years, but my religious beliefs have never changed.

    March 26, 2010 at 1:50 am |
  32. twistedpuppet

    Don't cave to scientology's pressure. Go forward with this story. The more people are willing to talk about scientology and do news reports on, the less power scientology has. Keep it up! I can't wait to see the first report on Monday!

    March 26, 2010 at 1:22 am |
  33. Nancy B

    Fantastic! The precursor report here was enlightening in itself. Will be watching all next week! The more we learn about Scientology, particularly regarding its management, the scarier it is. For those interested in knowing more, simply search the internet and wikipedia. See those celebrity member lists, and learn the "church's" basic teachings. You will be amazed!

    March 26, 2010 at 1:01 am |
  34. Sam

    Anderson Cooper,
    I don't usually watch your shows, but after I heard about your new series about Scientology, I am impressed and I am looking forward to your investigation of this cult. However, expect the Church of Scientology to come after you. It will come either in law suits, organized e-mail campaigns (like the one you have stated), and you might have your history pulled up and dug through.

    I do believe you should also talk about "Anonymous" as well, as it is the major group that is protesting against Scientology.

    March 26, 2010 at 12:15 am |
  35. Paula, Colorado

    Hi. It's great to see your writing this afternoon. The report on the Church sounds fascinating.
    I'm a Catholic and view Scientology more as a philosophy than a religion. Such abuse can happen in any social/spiritual structure, though. It seems to be more prevalent when the social focus steers away from the spiritual.
    I'm looking forward to your series!

    March 25, 2010 at 4:46 pm |
  36. PhillSeg

    Glad to know you are seeing right through the scripted "e-mail campaign". Scientology is so aggressive and predictable that its easy to see their true nature. I hope this series holds no punches.

    March 25, 2010 at 4:45 pm |
  37. Lilibeth

    Hi Anderson, there are a number of celebrities who are Scientologists. I wonder if they've heard about the alleged physical violence. Also, I understand this all happened years ago, so why didn't the accusers speak out sooner?

    Edmonds Washington

    March 25, 2010 at 12:50 pm |
  38. Miranda

    Good it's about time there was an accurate and informative news program about Scientology.

    March 25, 2010 at 12:48 pm |
  39. Dora N.

    I applaud your courage to do this investigation. Surely you must be aware of the amount of money and energy the church will spend in trying to suppress this story and also to discredit you.

    Although always impressed by you in the past, your bravery in going against this mafia-type organization has increased your credibility.

    I look forward to watching.

    March 25, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
  40. Chi

    mmm you are doing a tough task. Is it true that many Hollywood mega stars have Scientology membership?

    March 25, 2010 at 12:29 pm |
  41. Hector Anderson

    So... regardless of who commited these violent acts, NOBODY in Scientology called the police? ...nobody?

    Even if the ex-members are lying and they commited all the crimes, something is deffinately wrong at the top of Scientology

    March 25, 2010 at 12:22 pm |
  42. Jennifer - Michigan

    Hi there, Looking forward to your reports next week. It sure seems like something was going on there....with all the flak coming back. Take care, have a great day.

    March 25, 2010 at 12:02 pm |
  43. Tom

    Dear Sirs,

    I am an Independent Scientologist, who very much appreciates your efforts in exposing the fraud, waste and abuse at the top of this Church's hierarchy. And while there may be "blow-back" from exposing this truth, ultimately we will all be better off for learning and dealing with the truth.

    I personally know several of the people you have interviewed. I admire their courage, and your veracity in bringing this story to light.

    March 25, 2010 at 11:50 am |
  44. Sean

    If they are organizing and scared of an in depth look at possible corruption within their organazation, maybe there really is something to the story.

    March 25, 2010 at 10:55 am |