By Eithne Shortall, Sunday Times 13.03.16
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A BESTSELLING book that claims to uncover the “inner workings” of the Church of
Scientology is to be published in Ireland three years after the initial plans to release it were cancelled. Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright, a Pulitzer prize-winning author and journalist, was published
in America in January 2013.
Wright said he interviewed more than 200 current and
former Scientologists as part of his research. The book was initially scheduled for simultaneous publication in America, the UK and Ireland. But British publisher Transworld cancelled the UK and Irish releases two weeks before publication. While an exact reason was not given, it was thought the cancellation was due to the risk
of legal action. Going Clear was the inspiration for Alex Gibney’s controversial
TV documentary of the same name. It was broadcast in the UK and Ireland last
September — six months after it aired in America—because of fears the Church of Scientology would sue for libel. Wright’s Going Clear is becoming available in Ireland
after being acquired by a different publisher, Silvertail Books. It will be published on
Wednesday and Irish readers can purchase it online or order it from bookshops.
Humfrey Hunter, founder of Silvertail Books, said he had some legal concerns but
believed the law provided protection for books that were in the public interest and
published in good faith. “In my opinion the same principles apply across the
board, that publication is in the public interest and I believe everything in it to be true,” he said.
“The law does afford publishers protection under those circumstances. It is an important subject because Scientology has a presence in all the countries [where we are
publishing].” Defamation laws differ between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. In Britain, the claimant must prove their reputation has been damaged. In Northern Ireland and in the republic, there is no such burden of proof. Hunter said he had previously blished books about Scientology and had faced legal challenges. “I’m not losing any sleep over it, put it that way,” he said. Going Clear began with the story of Paul Haggis ,the Oscar winning screen writer of Crash and Million Dollar Baby. Haggis
left the Church of Scientology in 2009 after the organisation made statements supporting the banning of gay marriage. Wright interviewed Haggis for The New Yorker magazine, and then expanded his project into a book.
The New York Times described Going Clear as “essential reading”, while The
Wall Street Journal called it an “utterly necessary story”. The Boston Globe said it was
“insightful” and “gripping”.
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