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date: 16 June 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Since L. Ron Hubbard founded the Church of Scientology in 1954, this controversial new religion has had a checkered relationship with the media. In early 2008, the changed nature of media coverage due to the Internet caused the viral propagation of two films (initially via YouTube). The first was actor and prominent Scientologist Tom Cruise discussing his beliefs, and the second was the first salvo by the anti-Scientology protest group Anonymous, which asserted that it would “expel the Church from the Internet.” This article first describes Scientology's teachings, organizational structure, and coverage in the media throughout its history. It then considers landmark media pieces in the United States, focusing on the work of crusading journalists Joe Childs and Thomas C. Tobin of the St. Petersburg Times: the three-part expose “The Truth Rundown” (June 2009); “Strength in Their Numbers” on Scientology defectors telling their stories (August 2009); and “Man Overboard,” which told of Don Jason's escape from Scientology after doing forced labor on the ship Freewinds, on which he was illegally detained (November 2009).

Keywords: L. Ron Hubbard, Church of Scientology, media, United States, Tom Cruise, Anonymous, Joe Childs, Thomas C. Tobin, Don Jason, Internet

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