The Church of Scientology is a cult whose core aim is to fight a space alien Satan that’s brainwashed the rest of us. The Church fights the world’s insanity, its celebrity followers argue, and people who tell you differently are bigots. So who’s right?
Lawrence Wright is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who has written what promises to be a great book on Scientology. Going Clear is due to be published everywhere on 17 January – except Britain. Just before Christmas, Transworld, Wright’s British publishers, pulled it, leading to questions about whether it had fallen to the Church’s reputation for going after its detractors and Britain’s libel laws.
Wright had a huge advance negotiated by über-agent Andrew Wylie, publishers around the world primed to publish on the same day, a reported print run of 150,000 in the US and a team of researchers checking every fact. He will have things to say in his book that readers – especially young people, the audience the Church seeks to recruit – may think they have a right to know. American readers will learn all, while Wright’s potential British readers will have no book to buy.
By way of explanation, Transworld’s publicity director Patsy Irwin said: “The legal advice that we received was that some of the content of the book was not robust enough for the UK market, that an edited version would not fit with our schedule and the decision was made internally not to publish.”
It seems the British Libel laws and the famously litigious Church of Scientology have come together to effectively ban the sale of a book in the United Kingdom. We do idly wonder if the publishers, Random House, consulted on Scots law to see if the book could be sold North of the Border.
Regardless libel reform in England and Wales is clearly a necessity.