Scientology & Me (2007)
Scientology and Me was a television documentary broadcast 14 May 2007 as part of the BBC's Panorama series. Reporter John Sweeney visited the United States to investigate whether the Church of Scientology was becoming more mainstream. The programme gained particular controversy before and during filming due to unresolved differences on content and approach between Sweeney's production team and Scientology members, who did not want detractors or perceived enemies of the church to be interviewed or included in the documentary.
The scale of the controversy intensified when the Church of Scientology released a 40 second clip of video footage showing the segment of a screaming argument between John Sweeney and Scientologist Tommy Davis at the Psychiatry: An Industry of Death museum, regarding Sweeney's use of the word "cult" to describe the Church of Scientology. In the argument, Sweeney yelled "You were not there at the beginning of the interview! You were not there! You did not hear or record all the interview!". The interview that Sweeney is referring to is the conversation between him and critic Shawn Lonsdale. Despite the lobbying of British MPs by the Church of Scientology for the documentary to be scrapped, airing of Scientology and Me went ahead on May 14. The episode garnered the highest ratings for Panorama since September of the previous year, with a peak of 4.9 million viewers in the UK.
The documentary itself was intended to be a documentary investigating the claims of both critics of the Church of Scientology and the Church itself to see if the Church "still deserved its sinister reputation". In the introduction Sweeney outlines his documentary investigation into the reputation of the Church of Scientology, its affiliated celebrities and current activities, and begins with an edited version of a statement issued in the 1994 Los Angeles Superior Court case "Church of Scientology of California vs Gerald Armstrong", in which Judge John Breckenridge describes the Church of Scientology as "Schizophrenic, bizarre, ... paranoid[;] ... an organisation that harasses its enemies ... and abuses the trust of its members". Sweeney also notes at this part of the documentary that the decision has been derided by the Church of Scientology since the court date by their claim that the decision was made based upon circumstantial and discredited evidence.
In describing the affiliated members of Scientology, the documentary refers to Scientology members as an "all-star cast list", and imposes an interview of John Travolta, who speaks about the longevity of his career, and the subsequent demise of others being due to the influence, or lack thereof of Dianetics. As a means of beginning with Criticism of the Church or its practices, the documentary moves onto an interview in which Sweeney talks with a mother, known as "Sharon", who had been disconnected from her daughter, who had chosen to distance herself from her after taking a weekend with other Scientologists and reading several books, which she claimed had changed her life. At this time, Sweeney explains the concept of a "Disconnect" within the context of Scientology doctrine. "To the church, Sharon was a negative influence. Her daughter wrote to her cutting all ties. It's what Scientology call a 'disconnect'. They say they bring families together and a disconnect is a rare last resort and a human right."