A Piece of Blue Sky
|Publisher||Lyle Stuart Books, Carol Publishing Group|
|August 19, 1990|
A Piece of Blue Sky: Scientology, Dianetics and L. Ron Hubbard Exposed, published in 1990, is an examination from a critical perspective by British former Scientologist Jon Atack of the history of L. Ron Hubbard (1911–1986) and the development of Dianetics and the Church of Scientology. The title originates from a quote of Hubbard's from 1950, when he was reported as saying that he wanted to sell potential church members a "piece of blue sky."
The church's publishing arm, New Era Publications International, tried to prevent the book's publication, arguing that it infringed on its copyright of Hubbard's works. A court in Manhattan ruled against publication, but the decision was overturned on appeal.
Atack joined the sect at the age of nineteen in 1974, and was based largely in the church's British headquarters at Saint Hill Manor, near East Grinstead. During his training, he said he progressed to Scientology's Operating Thetan level 5, completing 24 of the 27 levels of therapy or education. He left the church in 1983 in disillusionment with the new leadership of David Miscavige, who took over in the early 1980s. He writes that he saw the new management as tough and ruthless, and objected particularly to the 15-fold increase in training fees. He also objected to being told not to have relationships with so-called "Suppressive Persons," people the church had declared enemies and who should not be communicated with; one such person was one of Atack's friends.
Atack left the sect as a result, and is now at the centre of what J. Gordon Melton calls an anti-Scientology network in the UK. He is also the author of a booklet, "The Total Freedom Trap: Scientology, Dianetics And L. Ron Hubbard" (1992).
The book's 37 chapters are arranged into nine parts, plus introductory material, a preface by Russell Miller, author of Bare-faced Messiah, a bibliography, reference summary and index. Part 1 describes Atack's personal experience in the church. Parts 2–8 are a chronological history of L. Ron Hubbard, Dianetics and Scientology, researched from paper sources and interviews. Part 9 draws conclusions about the belief system of Scientology and its founder.
Scientology's publishing arm, New Era Publications, attempted to prevent publication by arguing that the manuscript's inclusion of material by Hubbard infringed on their copyright of Hubbard's work, and would harm sales of the original texts. The court ruled that the manuscript might discourage people from buying Hubbard's books by convincing them he was a swindler, and that copyright law protects rather than forbids this kind of criticism. Before the outcome of the case was known, the publisher prepared two versions of the book: one with and one without Hubbard's quoted material. After publication, Scientologists picketed Atack's East Grinstead home for six days and spread defamatory leaflets around his neighbourhood.
In April 1995, a court in England found Atack guilty of libel against Margaret Hodkin, the headmistress of Scientology's Greenfields School in England, and issued an injunction forbidding publication of an offending paragraph. The decision was upheld by the High Court in London in May 1995. The case led Amazon.com to remove the book from its listings in February 1999, but it reversed its decision a few months later after customers complained.
Marco Frenschkowski, writing in the Marburg Journal of Religion in 1999, describes A Piece of Blue Sky as "the most thorough general history of Hubbard and Scientology, very bitter, but always well-researched." It has been used as a source by several academic papers. The Tampa Tribune-Times said that Atack's provision of extensive detail and source notes for each claim sometimes gets in the way of the story, but prevents the book from being just another bitter diatribe against Scientology.
- A Piece of Blue Sky, p. iii: "It was 1950, in the early, heady days of Dianetics, soon after L. Ron Hubbard opened the doors of his first organization to the clamoring crowd. Up until then, Hubbard was known only to readers of pulp fiction, but now he had an instant best-seller with a book that promised to solve every problem of the human mind, and the cash was pouring in. Hubbard found it easy to create schemes to part his new following from their money. One of the first tasks was to arrange "grades" of membership, offering supposedly greater rewards, at increasingly higher prices. Over thirty years later, an associate wryly remembered Hubbard turning to him and confiding, no doubt with a smile, "Let's sell these people a piece of blue sky."
- "Publisher Victorious on Hubbard Biography", The New York Times, May 27, 1990.
- A Piece of Blue Sky, p. 34.
- Shinkle, Kevin. "The religion that sells the sky," The Tampa Tribune-Times, October 20, 1991.
- A Piece of Blue Sky, p. 35ff.
- Melton, J. Gordon. "Birth of a Religion," in James R. Lewis (ed). Scientology. Oxford University Press, 2009, footnote 32, p. 33. Also see Mikael Rothstein. "His name was Xenu ... he used renegades. Aspects of Scientology's founding myth", in Lewis, 2009, p. 369, which refers to Atack as a "decades-long zealous campaigner against Scientology."
- Harris, Daniel (July 2, 1989). "Scientology's best seller". New York Post. p. 39.
- Hurowitz, Richard (1997). "Surviving Copyright Infringement: Fair Use of Protected Works in "Biopics"". Columbia-VLA Journal of Law & the Arts (Columbia University School of Law) 22 (2): 247–268. ISSN 1544-4848.
- Palmer, Richard (April 3, 1994). "Cult Accused of Intimidation". The Sunday Times.; "Victims who are 'fair game'". Evening Argus (Brighton (UK)). April 12, 1994. pp. 2–3.
- Bracchi, Paul (June 10, 1994). "The Missing Word". Evening Argus (Brighton, UK). pp. 1, 4–5..
- Court Injunction, Hodkin v. Atack, May 18, 1995, 1993 H. No.2412.
- "Amazon.com Backs Off Book Ban", Associated Press, May 21, 1999.
- Frenschkowski, Marco. "L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology", Marburg Journal of Religion, Volume 4, issue 1, July 1999, p. 7.
- For examples, see Kent, Stephen A. "Scientology: Is this a Religion?", Marburg Journal of Religion, Volume 4, issue 1, July 1999; Kent, Stephen A. "The Globalization of Scientology: Influence, Control and Opposition in Transnational Markets", Religion, Volume 29, issue 2, pp. 147–169; West, Louis Jolyon. "Psychiatry and Scientology," American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting, Washington D.C., May 6, 1992.