Church of Scientology plans publicity drive to quash ‘misconceptions’ about being secretive, controlling and believing in alien ancestry

The Church of Scientology is planning a publicity drive in Australia to challenge what it calls “misconceptions” among the public and the media.

The controversial religious group kicked off a PR drive with an appearance on Seven breakfast show Sunrise last week, although the interview with church spokeswoman Virginia Stewart was cut short to make way for a live cross with opposition leader Tony Abbott.

The Sunrise interview was prompted by the publication of a guide for journalists that outlined the areas where the organisation feels it has been wrongly represented in the past.

Among the criticisms levelled at Scientology in recent years are that it is secretive, controlling and believes humans are descended from aliens – all allegations that the church strongly refutes.

The Church of Scientology plans to launch a localised version of a US-made TV ad that ran around the Super Bowl, direct marketing activity to promote its videos and books, and encourage people to visit its churches to learn about Scientology for themselves.

The TV ad bears similarities to Apple’s ‘Think different’ classic from 1997, a poster on social content site Buzzfeed pointed out earlier this week.

The church is also planning to create short films to explain the thinking behind Scientology as well as producing booklets and DVDs to outline the social programs the group sponsors.

The church will not use a creative agency in Australia, and will produce much of its advertising in-house; it declined to reveal its marketing budget.

Scientology has used PR agency Wells Haslem since 2009, the year that Scientology was branded a “criminal organisation” by South Australian senator Nick Xenophon.

A year later, Scientologists turned to above-the-line advertising to improve the church’s image, using media agency Frontier Media. However, the church’s media push did not go ahead as planned.

Frontier’s media director Mark O’Brien told Mumbrella: “Several years ago The Church of Scientology engaged us on a project to develop a media plan. After completing it, they took the plan and executed it through their marketing team in the US, without paying us for it. Fair to say, we haven’t worked with them since,” he said.

The Church of Scientology said it was “surprised” by Frontier Media’s allegation, since it had not been contacted by the agency regarding payment, and had not been sent an invoice.

“Frontier Media’s plan was very good and we would highly recommend them to others, however it was decided at that time that TV advertising on major networks was not feasible and the plan was shelved,” a Scientology spokeswoman said. “We would have loved the ad campaign, but it did not go anywhere and absolutely was not used anywhere else.”

“Our ads have not appeared on the major networks since this time, which was the major part of Frontier Media’s plan. The Church of Scientology International has been running online media (internationally) for some years now without our input,” she added.

Scientology does not currently use a media agency in Australia.

Much of the focus of the church’s communications plans this year will be on its uneasy relationship with the media. Stewart is concerned that “absurdities” written about Scientology are becoming more extreme.

“The tabloids have tended to dominate the main media lines – maybe due in part to their insatiable desire to chronicle the lives of celebrities and, with reality TV coming to the fore, the absurdities which appear in print have increased,” she told Mumbrella.

The image of Scientology is regularly brought into the media spotlight by celebrity believers in the US such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and in Australia by singer Kate Ceberano and – for a time – media mogul James Packer, the Sun-Herald reported in 2002.

Women’s Day article on Scientology

Women’s magazines in Australia are often to blame for Scientology’s bad reputation, due to poor reporting, Stewart claimed.

“Pick up any women’s magazine – they are gossipy, rumour-heavy and nearly always wrong about us. They do not contact the Church for comment or to visit or tour and most of the stories simply come from some overseas ‘source’,” she said.

Social media has made matters worse for brand Scientology, Stewart added.

“The rapid 24-hours news cycle has made proper research and detailed interviews increasingly rare. Before we would be interviewed and asked for a response. Now, frequently, stories are printed without fact checking and with no response sought from the Church,” she said.

One of the criticisms made about Scientology is that the church’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, believed humans are descended from aliens –  an assertion that entered the popular consciousness through the now classic episode of South Park, ‘Trapped in the Closet’.

“As pointed out in the media guide, we don’t believe we come from aliens,” Stewart said. “This is just said to ridicule, and has only recently been added to the common misconceptions about Scientology.”

The media guide reads:

Like other religions, Scientology will not enter into a debate concerning the validity of our beliefs, however this one is easily corrected. Scientology has no religious belief that we are descended from aliens or have aliens living inside us.

Stewart said: “We believe that man is an immortal spiritual being. His experience extends well beyond a single lifetime,” referring to one of Scientology’s videos, ‘The parts of man’.

Another criticism is that Scientology is controlling of its members, and dictates their life choices.

“Scientology is unique in that it does not require or tell anyone to ‘believe’ anything,” said Stewart. “Rather, Scientology believes every individual should think for themselves.”

Scientology has also been labelled secretive.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Stewart. “In fact, we seek freedom for the individual, we are always open and any person is welcome any time to come in and avail themselves of our courses and counselling,” she said.

Robin Hicks

This feature first appeared in the tablet edition of Encore. To download click on the links below.

 

Comments


  1. Sei Kato
    7 Feb 13
    1:20 pm

  2. It’s refreshing to see a balanced article on Scientology!

  3. Glen Paul
    7 Feb 13
    1:34 pm

  4. Hi Robin, Interesting perspective. Good on you for doing a well balanced and explanatory piece. You have taken the common sense step of presenting something that is not over weighted on the most negative viewpoint or bias – a rare insight.
    Regards, Glen.

  5. Zinnia Andrews
    7 Feb 13
    1:57 pm

  6. Fair enough. I certainly agree with Ms Stewart on the womens’ magazines. Who would believe this tripe – about Scientology, film stars or anything else. ? The articles are all wild assertions and their information gotten per them – from “a source” or a “friend of” (insert celebrity name).. With “friends” like them, the celebrities would never need enemies.

  7. Interested
    7 Feb 13
    2:05 pm

  8. An interesting read, although VERY light on for actual research evidence – not sure you can really say “Medical experts commonly say there is no test to diagnose mental disorder and that the subjectivity of psychiatry’s diagnostic method creates false epidemics of ‘bipolar’ or ‘Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder’ (ADHD), for example” without providing a reference to an article in a well-respected journal or source — seems very hearsay otherwise.

    But good on mumbo for reporting on it and hopefully it will facilitate journos to have a better contact when they are looking to hear from ‘the other side’ when writing a story.

  9. Xenu
    7 Feb 13
    2:07 pm

  10. I approve of this report. Carry-on minions.

  11. xenu's driver
    7 Feb 13
    2:08 pm

  12. Quite a softening from their founding media stance -

    (1) Spot who is attacking us.
    (2) Start investigating them promptly for felonies or worse using own professionals, not outside agencies.
    (3) Double curve our reply by saying we welcome an investigation of them.
    (4) Start feeding lurid, blood, sex, crime actual evidence on the attackers to the press.

    Don’t ever tamely submit to an investigation of us. Make it rough, rough on attackers all the way. You can get “reasonable about it” and lose. Sure we break no laws. Sure we have nothing to hide. BUT attackers are simply an anti-Scientology propaganda agency so far as we are concerned. They have proven they want no facts and will only lie no matter what they discover. So BANISH all ideas that any fair hearing is intended and start our attack with their first breath. Never wait. Never talk about us – only them. Use their blood, sex, crime to get headlines. Don’t use us. I speak from 15 years of experience in this. There has never yet been an attacker who was not reeking with crime. All we had to do was look for it and murder would come out.

    —Attacks on Scientology, “Hubbard Communications Office Policy Letter,” 25 February 1966

  13. Circling sharks
    7 Feb 13
    2:09 pm

  14. “Rather, Scientology believes every individual should think for themselves.”

    Sorry but no church anywhere preaches that. Quite the opposite in fact because thinking for oneself leads you to challenge the status quo, which is pretty much what science does as a rule. And science is the antithesis of faith.

    PR campaign indeed. More like more spin.

  15. AJ
    7 Feb 13
    2:21 pm

  16. “We believe that man is an immortal spiritual being.”

    Secretive, maybe not. Stupidly sexist? Ding ding ding!

  17. tribedo
    7 Feb 13
    2:26 pm

  18. Someone’s lying – Frontier or Scientology. I wonder who?

  19. Ed
    7 Feb 13
    2:30 pm

  20. This whole article is Scientology brain washing trick, Glen and Sei it appears to have worked on you.
    Before you know it you will be in white robes chanting to your supreme overlord:
    L Ron Hubbord

  21. pugwash
    7 Feb 13
    2:33 pm

  22. Oh please…how can they refute stuff that two of their biggest star proponents

    (Whitaker and Travolta) acted out in Battlefield Earth – a movie based on the

    writings of this cult’s leader? I know advertising and marketing is about selling ideas

    but can we all communicate in a reality based world?

    I strongly recommend anyone who thinks this lot is just some self-improvement

    church go and read the New Yorker article by Paul Haggis (famed film director).

  23. Bustin Jeibers
    7 Feb 13
    2:36 pm

  24. I will stick with my strong belief in flying spaghetti monsters.

  25. naked person
    7 Feb 13
    2:36 pm

  26. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zt42sD9-ero

    Check this out. Tom Cruise works at Naked Communications??

  27. hmm
    7 Feb 13
    2:43 pm

  28. Sei Kato

    Church of Scientology | Public Affairs

    source: https://whyweprotest.net/community/threads/today-tonight-on-cosreci-july-2011.91600/

  29. Mike
    7 Feb 13
    2:45 pm

  30. One day the world will become aware of religionism and consider it to be as distasteful as racism. Scientology is right to try to educate the media on what it believes in and doesn’t., and to try to put these things straight. The problem with media is its tendency to over-simplify complex matters, and this is never more so than in the reporting on religion–especially a new religious movement such as Scientology.

    The other thing journalists are guilty of is what I call living in a vacuum of nowness. They report matters as if they have never occurred before in history and to them a new religious movement must be labelled strange if they believe in something new. The truth is all religions were once new, and all of them were vilified and attacked, and sometimes their leaders and messiahs were executed, often for political reasons.

    Hence the need to correct false information about Scientology and really about the subject of religion in general. In a very materialistic society science dominates as a belief system–all is matter. In a mystical society religion dominates with the belief that their doctrine is infallible–such as the idea of Earth being the centre of the universe during the Middle Ages. Neither of these over-zealous extreme ideas are very helpful. Perhaps there is a middle ground where science and religious thought can co-exist . Many enlightened people seem to think this is a possibility.

    L.Ron Hubbard’s religious philosophy of Scientology is an effort to take a scientific approach to understand that mystical realm and bring about a more enlightened world. It is a fascinating subject for anyone wanting to make that journey, but the newspapers won’t tell you that.

  31. Mike
    7 Feb 13
    2:46 pm

  32. “Similarities”?????? That’s generous.
    It’s an outrageous theft of the classic Apple “Think Different” TVC.
    It’s shameless in its appropriation of other peoples’ creative ideas.
    They didn’t even change the script in places – just lifted it lock, stock and stinking barrel.

    I call upon L Ron Hubbard’s Xenu the intergalactic warlord who banished the Thetans from the planet Zod to whereverthef**k they ended up, to smite the Scientologists, for having no respect for intellectual property!

  33. Rob
    7 Feb 13
    3:32 pm

  34. “Rather, Scientology believes every individual should think for themselves.”

    Unless you think psychology can help.
    Want to raise your OT?
    Pay me to learn how.

  35. Jeremy
    7 Feb 13
    3:43 pm

  36. Will the disclaimer at the end of the ads read ‘written and authorised by lord xenu’

  37. Colin
    7 Feb 13
    4:05 pm

  38. Good work Robin. I’m all for increased dialogue between media and subject and it looks like you took the trouble to actually talk to the Organization in question. Cut-and-paste journalism is far too prevalent these days. Keep up the good work

  39. Peter
    7 Feb 13
    4:09 pm

  40. Mobba doesn’t lie…so an interesting conundrum

  41. Other
    7 Feb 13
    4:22 pm

  42. Scientology. LOL.

  43. Wild Oscar
    7 Feb 13
    4:30 pm

  44. @Sei Kato Brainwashing is terribly underrated. It can be loads of fun.

  45. snap dragon
    7 Feb 13
    4:53 pm

  46. Please tell us all what Scientology is about?
    what are your beliefs.

    Despite suing everyman and his dog for challenging you in the press. why dont you simply say.

    we believe in_____

    Why the secrecy?

  47. James
    7 Feb 13
    4:54 pm

  48. I have no problem with Scientology or indeed any other “Church” running a publicity campaign to improve their image. I agree that the MSM loves to air the more sensationalist claims made about Scientology. Of course having high profile celebrities as parishioners makes outrageous stories all the more likely to be aired.

    “Live Long and Prosper” and “Be excellent to each other” are my life’s Mottos. I Just wish that they, and all other institutions that spread fairy tales would get out and push, and be made to pay tax!

  49. James
    7 Feb 13
    5:00 pm

  50. Oh.. And I highly recommend “Bare Faced Messiah” L Ron’s Unauthorised Biography if you can get hold of it.

  51. James
    7 Feb 13
    7:22 pm

  52. Puzzled as to why Comment 23 is awaiting moderation, yet 24 is up? Have I offended? I don’t want to be branded as a hate speaker. (again)

  53. Lord Blaidd
    7 Feb 13
    7:29 pm

  54. The Scientologist blame everything on psychiatry including the NAZI party and Hitler and say the Holocaust was organized by them. Don’t believe me, go the LA and see for yourself. It is a Cult, no question about it. The Kingdom of Belgium has criminal cases against them. In the USA, the states of Georgia, Florida, Oklahoma and Colorado have several law suites for wrongful death and criminal charges is Georgia for lying to the Court.They are also under investigation by the FBI for human trafficking.. The Dutch Government isn’t to pleased with the as well for using their banks in the Caribbean to launder money. In Canada, the “Church” has abandon their building in Toronto, Ontario. In Provence Quebec they are facing charges for extortion. The Church in Norway is insolvent. The Church in Sweden can’t even pay it own bills and has been downgraded to the lowest level possible with millions in debt. This isn’t a religion, it’s a way for the elite of the Organization to make money.

  55. AdGrunt
    7 Feb 13
    8:54 pm

  56. I’m getting my comfy chair and popcorn.

  57. Baldy
    7 Feb 13
    9:24 pm

  58. OK so Scientology isn’t mainstream. It takes some cahoonas to be a bit alternative and I for one am no conformer when it comes to religion and my spiritual beliefs. That’s why I’ve studied the subject of Scientology, in depth, for many years now. I may not be a perfect Scientologist but I’m a Melbourne Scientologist, and I like to think I’m a well grounded one who listens to and accepts the criticisms as well as what I’ve studied.
    Like any organisation, or person for that matter, the Church of Scientology continues to evolve and learns from experience. If it has decided to throw open its doors to the media in order to dispel a few myths then that is to be commended.
    I’m grateful that at least some members of the media, including the author of this article, are starting to push aside the prejudice and “religionism” that marred the last century, and are starting to take a fresh look at alternative beliefs .

  59. Nick
    7 Feb 13
    11:38 pm

  60. Every group has a right to address what it believes are the excesses of those trying to oppress it. It does not matter if it is Scientology or a Christian minority group, or something else. If the group feels it is being unfairly hit upon, which is not unusual, then it has the right to address the wrong it perceives. Australians have been known for a fair go in the past.

    Of course there are those who will always push out one or two line dribble in the comments section after the article. But on the other hand we are a fortunate nation in that there are people still educated enough to write ten words in a row. Yes, the unintelligent will always attack a minority group. If they cannot perceive it, it cannot be there – the doctrine of the materialist which is in the majority today. That is history. Look above. Also have a look at what happened in New Guinea in today’s media – a woman burned alive in front of a crowd by an uneducated group believing she was practicing sorcery. That is how bad the uneducated can get.

    Anyway, I think it is admirable that Sunrise, and Mumbrella had the boldness to present what they did on Scientology. I also hope they do it for other religions too. All religions deserve a fair go. Good article.

  61. Richard Collins
    8 Feb 13
    3:47 am

  62. You know the real reason the news media don’t bother contacting Scientology anymore, is because they were continually stonewalled in the 1990s concerning David Miscavige and other controversial issues like Lisa McPherson and to this day that attitude has resumed under current spokesperson Karen Pouw. To his credit, Toolmmy Davis actually tried to be a representative to the media, but HE WAS UNDERMINED by David Miscavige… You need to read how CNN and Austin Cooper tried to secure an interview with him FOR 9 MONTHS! If CNN couldn’t get an interview with Miscavige(who hasn’t done an interview since 1998, television interview even earlier in 1993!) why bother any other outlet even try to? It’s not going to happen!

    Australia’s own A Current Affair tried to contact Tommy Davis for a report about him and his reported disappearance last year, but Karen Pouw continually hung up on ACA and didn’t return their calls… So they did the report anyway.

    When it comes to the media, the Cult of Scientology is like a crybaby that wants everything, but gives nothing in return if it thinks the result isn’t going to play in it’s favour.

  63. Richard Collins
    8 Feb 13
    4:06 am

  64. For the record Tommy Davis is the ONLY spokesperson in the history of the Church of Scientology to publicly admit on camera, that the OT3 documents contain the Xenu narrative(although he clarified that he thought the handwritten document was not 100% accurately reported to the media) which he had actually previously denied on television twice(to the BBC and to CNN) , and refused to answer when Martin Bashir confronted him with it.

    Now where is he? Supposedly living somewhere in Texas and no longer even a member of the Sea Org anymore….

  65. Bob
    8 Feb 13
    9:53 am

  66. Transparency would be a lot more effective than any ad campaign.

  67. Adam Hunt
    8 Feb 13
    10:19 am

  68. There are many brands of God for sale & Scientology is no better or worse than any of them.

    Whatever flavoured brand of God you’re selling, there are 4 common corporate guidelines throughout:

    1: Subjugation of women.

    2. Hatred of gays.

    3. Abuse of children.

    4. Appropriation of funds from the faithful.

    Caveat emptor.

  69. Alex
    8 Feb 13
    10:57 am

  70. Holy crap! Anyone else notice Nick Xenophon is against Scientology, and the evil Lord Xenu was behind people coming to earth in the first place?

    Nick Xenophon is LORD XENU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He doesn’t want us to know the truth.

  71. Baldy
    8 Feb 13
    12:26 pm

  72. Lol Sen Xenuphon! OK that’s a bit funny I guess.
    Look, as a Melbournian, a copy writer, a father, a commuter, a soccer fan etc…who also just happens to be a Scientologist, I do tire of being pre-judged simply because of the books I’ve read.
    I think we all need reminding occasionally to judge what’s in front of us, not the label they wear or the colour of their skin. I have less in common with an American Scientologist than I do with the Afghan Muslim sat to my left as I type this, or the Russian geek sat behind me. I’m proud to be a Scientologist and proud to be a member my local Church. But that’s not all there is to me or my life.
    Just sayin!

  73. FriendOfTruth
    9 Feb 13
    1:38 am

  74. Learn for yourself. Read reliable news reports, and read the stories of people who have been on the inside. http://www.XENU.net is the place to go to learn the TRUTH about Scientology.

    http://www.XENU.net

  75. Baldy
    10 Feb 13
    3:30 pm

  76. Learn for yourself. Read reliable news reports,
    http://www.triplem.com.au/sydn.....ientology/
    Read the stories of people who have been on the inside;
    http://www.scientology.org/vid.....ogist.html
    The place to go to learn the TRUTH about Scientology is
    http://www.scientology.org/wha.....ology.html
    Better still, go meet one eyeball to eyeball.

  77. Vorian
    11 Feb 13
    8:16 pm

  78. “Scientology has no religious belief that we are descended from aliens or have aliens living inside us.”

    Note the careful language disguising that straw-man argument – the actual claim isn’t the things the scientologist is denying, and their actual beliefs are even wackier.

    http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/OTIII/

    They may wish to suppress history, but scientology has authenticated, in court, documents describing their belief in alien presence on earth and subsequent consequences.

  79. James
    15 Feb 13
    9:50 pm

  80. At Least a Catholic, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Wikkan or Atheist will admit to their faith or lack thereof and has a readily available doctrine for us to peruse. The commenter who mentioned transparency is right IMO.

  81. James
    16 Feb 13
    9:07 pm

  82. In conversation, Hubbard (a failed SF writer) and Isaac Asimov (probably the best of the breed) posited the formation of a modern ‘scientific’ religion. Asimov lost interest but Hubbard seeing he couldn’t cut it as a writer (and if you want a laugh read any of his risible tracts) took it to the next step by registering “The Church of Scientology”
    so that he never again paid any income or state taxes because ipso facto, all churches enjoy protection against taxation.

    It was nothing more than a charade designed to insulate Hubbard from any Governmental intervention.

  83. Evidence
    20 Feb 13
    9:23 am

  84. They believe in aliens? Do they have proof about their beliefs?

    Or is it even more make believe than mainstream religion?

  85. James
    25 Feb 13
    8:37 pm

  86. @Evidence More make believe than Mainstream Religion?! Why is belief in Aliens any more ludicrous than belief in an Invisible God that works in mysterious ways? My namesake commenter prior to you nailed it. Tax Avoidance!

  87. Evidence
    26 Feb 13
    9:30 am

  88. @James

    Too right, that was a slip by me.