Morning Joe | February 04, 2013
>>> welcome back to " morning joe " 36 past the hour. joining us now staff writer for "the new yorker " and pulitzer prize winning author lawrence wright . he is out with a new book "going
clear: scientology , hollywood and the prism of belief." a provocative book and title that has generated some pretty angry responses from the scientology committee.
>> lawrence i understand when you were starting to write this book you were paid a visit by actually attorneys.
>> well they came to "the new yorker " there were four attorneys and two spokespersons for the church of scientology . this was really my opportunity to talk to the church because they wouldn't talk to me but it was that delegation plus "new yorker " fact checkers and editors and our lawyer and we sat around the entire day from like 9:00 in the morning until 6:00 in the evening and it was one of the most gruelling, interesting days i ever had as a reporter but it was my one opportunity to get them to respond to our 971 fact-checking queries.
>> how'd that go?
>> it was actually, they brought 48 binders of material to support their allegations, and it was incredibly useful to me. i think they thought they were going to drown me in information, but pouring information on a reporter is like pouring information on a fish.
>> let's back up, 200 interviews with current and former scientologists as well as other sources and what did you find overall? what is your takeaway in terms of scientology and some of the problems that you might feel exist?
>> mika, there are three tiers of scientology , republic scientologists if you walk into a church you can walk away , and then there are celebrity scientologists and those are the people that you know, and it's not so easy for them because again and again, they've been asked in public to make declarations in support of the church , you give them a lot of money and they're wedded in the public mind to scientology and a third tier which is their clergy, that's called the sea org and inside that clergy there are a number of reports of abuse and involuntary confinement. i had 12 people tell me that the leader of the church , david muscavage had beaten them.
>> the church says there is no record, no police reports, no medical reports, no photos, no documents, no evidence to support these allegations. why does nobody report this to the police?
>> it's not unusual, as the way the catholic church handed pedophile priests. they tried to keep it inside the organization. they have a tremendous distrust of what they call wog justice, any knob- scientology police agencies.
>> what is the prison of belief?
>> what i found fascinate something, there is involuntary confinement. there are people that have been locked up in these reeducation camps for years on end, but to the great extent, it's not that they're being held against their will. the fbi was investigating this when i was investigating it, and i was talking to some of my sources about what the feds were telling them and the feds were planning to have a raid. they were going to go into the sea org compound, open up the doors of this thing called the hole, where executives have been held for years on end, and say, you're free, and the former scientologists said if you did that, they would tell you it's sunshine and sea shells , we're here for our own good.
>> you talked about the celebrity scientologist. you started with paul hagus, the seeds fan with you reporting a piece about him.
>> tell that story about how paul hagis turned from the church and became not an informant but the principal of character that led to you the journey.
>> paul hag sis a two-time award winner, writer director and only one of the celebrity scientologists that ever publicly walked away, and the reason he did that was because of the anti- gay marriage proposition in california. paul has two gay daughters so when he found out they signed on that, he said you withdraw, you can't support that and the church refused to back away. at that point he began to investigate some of the allegationles of abuse, involuntary refinement, recruit recruitment into the church at young ages and he was shocked, he didn't know these things about his own church so he publicly walked away.
>> what does your reporting show is the motivation of the people at the senior levels of the church to engage in not attempts to keep people from learning more about the church but in the kind of abuse you are talking about, physical abuse and mental abuse, what's in it for them?
>> you know, this is a church that's dominated by a single individual, and that's david miss sxwrn cavage. i talked to people closer to the upper level of scientology who achieved the very high offices just below david muskavag he and they described a total universe around this single individual.
>> tom cruise , john travolta , they don't need scientology . tom cruise could come out tomorrow and say he's an atheist or become a southern baptist or catholic. nobody is going to lock tom cruise up and beat him up. first of all and so the first question is, tom cruise is pretty darned high up in the organization, so the first question is, do you think tom cruise knows of these alleged problems in scientology , and secondly, what's in it for a guy like tom cruise who has the freedom to do whatever he wants to do and chooses to stay in the church ?
>> this community?
>> i'm glad you put your finger on tom cruise because i think he has a moral responsibility. he's been the front pitchman for this organization for years. more people have heard about scientology through him than any other person. there may be some willful blindness on his part but if so, it's time for him to open his eyes because he's been selling this and i think he's got -- how could the church of scientology change? the, surrendered to the church in 1993 after the chunk launched ,400 lawsuits into it and had private investigators following agents and so on and part of the deal when the church got its tax exemption is that they would drop all that.
>> as a reporter have you asked the question and i'm certainly not, you know, doing tom cruise or scientology 's bidding here but have you ever asked the question what's in it for tom cruise ? there must be something good in it for guys like tom cruise and for a lot of the followers that become members of this church that fulfill them.
>> and by the way let me just say anybody who worked with tom cruise , said he's the most hardest working guy , polite guy, he will bend over backwards for anybody, a generous guy and when i left i was struck what everybody said behind him when he was gone what a wonderful man he was. what's in it for a guy like tom cruise . you studied scientology . what's in it for people?
>> for a lot of people going in, for the first time in their life they might be addressing personal problems that scientology says you know if you go in, what is ruining your life? what is standing in the way of your economic spiritual, emotional progress? we can help you with that and they can, often-times, they have a menu of courses, you can take some auditing and cruise credits it with helping him with dyslexia, so i'm not arguing with that. i don't argue with the beliefs of scientology . it's the behavior, and some people especially tom cruise , these sea org members often children are working, they're getting paid $50 a week and they're doing favors for tom cruise , they built an airplane hangar, hand crafted a limousine for him, these are church members and so he's being treated very well.
>> so just got a comment here from the church of scientology , i'll just read the key, just to give you a flavor of what they felt. error-filled, unsubstantiated bigoted anti- scientology book.
>> but other than that --
>> good blush for the paperback.
>> thank you, mark.
>> what's your response to that?
>> we have hey five fact checkers on it at "the new yorker " and hired two fact checkers when i was working on the book. we worked again with the church to get their responses. it was a very hostile, difficult negotiation.
>> we've got it for you right here.
>> we got to go but i'm curious, how difficult was it for to you write this book?
>> must have been tough.
>> i felt like the character, you know, in "hurt locker" who is disarming the bombs, you just don't want to cross the wires. it was a careful experience.
>> the book is "go clear: scientology , hollywood and the prison of belief." you can read an exerpt on our blog, mojo.msnbc.com. lawrence wright , thank you. congratulations on this book.
>>> business before business with ryan sullivan is next. they see