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The Secrets of Scientology

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The Secrets of Scientology
John Sweeney with Mark Rathbun and Mike Rinder.jpg
BBC journalist John Sweeney, with former high-ranking Scientology officials Mark Rathbun and Mike Rinder
Created byPanorama · John Sweeney
Presented byJohn Sweeney
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Running time60 minutes
Original networkBBC One
Original release28 September 2010 (2010-09-28)
External links

The Secrets of Scientology is a documentary which was broadcast on 28 September 2010 as part of the BBC's Panorama documentary strand. Presented by John Sweeney, it is a follow-up of his 2007 investigation into the Church of Scientology and features interviews with former high-ranking members of the organisation.


Reporter John Sweeney presented the hour-long programme, which was a follow-up to his 2007 documentary Scientology and Me in which he travelled to Los Angeles to investigate Scientology.[1]


In The Secrets of Scientology, Sweeney interviews several individuals connected with the organisation and investigates allegations by former Scientology followers that the church sought to divide their families, something the church denies.[2]

Among those interviewed include Mike Rinder a former long-term member of the organisation and one of its officials who was assigned to "handle" Sweeney during his 2007 programme.[3] Rinder, who left the Church soon after the previous documentary, confirms Sweeney's suspicions that he was followed by the organisation during the making of that programme.[3] He tells the reporter; "You were being followed [...] It would have come under my purview, no doubt whatsoever."[2] Rinder, a member of the church since the age of six, talks about how he was subjected to "disconnection", a process by which his family cut him out of their lives.[1]

Another Church of Scientology official interviewed during the programme is Amy Scobee, who joined the Church at the age of 14 and was a member of its Sea Org which runs the organisation's day-to-day operations.[1][3] Scobee tells Sweeney of how details of her sex life before she was married were leaked to a newspaper after she left Scientology in 2005 and criticised the Church.[3][4]

As with the 2007 documentary, Sweeney and his team were once again followed by people filming them during their visit to the United States, although on this occasion, their filming was much less covert.[3] However, those filming refused to answer Sweeney's questions when he approached them and asked about their identity and purpose. On his return to the United Kingdom the BBC received photographs of Sweeney in a farewell embrace with Amy Scobee from Carter-Ruck, the Church's UK lawyers, something which Sweeney welcomed as proof that those following him were working on behalf of the Church.[1][3]


The Secrets of Scientology was a ratings success for Panorama and the BBC in its initial broadcast; with MediaTel Newsline reporting, "The Panorama special, which saw reporter John Sweeney get an insider's view of the organisation, attracted more than five million peak viewers and a 20.3% average audience share during the all-important 9pm to 10pm slot."[5] The documentary performed better than simultaneous programming for 71 Degrees North.[6][7] It was the most popular programme broadcast in the 9pm hour.[8]

Anti-documentary activity by Scientology

As with John Sweeney's previous documentary, the Church of Scientology continued to enforce its 'fair game' policy of harassing and documenting anyone who may be critical of the organisation, although much less covertly than in Scientology And Me. Shortly after The Secrets of Scientology premiered, the Church created their own documentary regarding Sweeney and Mike Rinder's activities called 'Panorama: Desperate Lies', not only listing off further alleged violations of BBC and Ofcom Broadcast Codes in both of Sweeney's programs, but also making numerous allegations about Church detractors featured in the documentary.


In a review of The Secrets of Scientology, Metro commented, "Thankfully, there was exemplary investigative journalism on show, with the BBC man unbowed by closed avenues of inquiry or alleged surveillance."[4] highlighted the documentary as its "Pick of the night" in television.[9] The Independent selected the film as its recommendation for "Pick of the day";[10] it was also recommended by The Daily Telegraph,[11] Bristol Evening Post,[12] and Wales on Sunday.[13] David Chater of The Times called Mike Rinder a "whistleblower", commenting, "Mike Rinder, erstwhile spokesman for the Church of Scientology and the former head of its Office of Special Affairs, has turned whistleblower and describes the operation against Sweeney last time round."[14] Fiona Mayhem of Watch With Mothers assessed the documentary as, "a bit of a disappointing effort which could have been made more entertaining ... or more informative, by exploring more what it is about the tenets of the cult that former members still hold so dear. Still, for those with no prior knowledge of the religion, this was a decent starter pack."[15] Paddy Sherman of the Liverpool Echo called the documentary an "in-depth look at the workings of the church".[16] The Guardian referred to it as "a very disturbing video documentary [made] for the BBC programme Panorama".[17] In an analysis of the documentary for Catholic Online, associate editor Randy Sly noted the programme's ratings success in the UK, and commented, "People in England seemingly can't get enough when it comes to revelations about Scientology."[3]


  1. ^ a b c d "John Sweeney revisits the Church of Scientology". BBC Panorama. BBC. 26 September 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2010.
  2. ^ a b Plunkett, John (28 September 2010). "John Sweeney takes on Church of Scientology in new film". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 September 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Sly, Randy (5 October 2010). "'Secrets of Scientology': Journalist John Sweeney Revisits Scientology". Catholic Online. Archived from the original on 9 October 2010. Retrieved 6 October 2010.
  4. ^ a b Bazley, Lewis (28 September 2010). "The Secrets of Scientology are frightening and numerous". Metro. Retrieved 28 September 2010.
  5. ^ Jaques, Liz (29 September 2010). "TV Overnights: BBC One secures a peak-run during prime time". MediaTel Newsline. MediaTel Group. Retrieved 29 September 2010.
  6. ^ Laughlin, Andrew (29 September 2010). "BBC's Scientology doc attracts 4.8m". Digital Spy. Digital Spy Limited. Retrieved 29 September 2010.
  7. ^ Linden, Shaun (29 September 2010). "Tuesday Ratings: Scientology lights up BBC One". ATV News. ATV Network. Archived from the original on 2 October 2010.
  8. ^ Deans, Jason (29 September 2010). "John Sweeney's Church of Scientology rematch draws almost 5m – Panorama journalist's follow-up to his 2007 BBC1 documentary is the most popular show in the 9pm hour". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 September 2010.
  9. ^ "At the end of the day". 28 September 2010. Retrieved 29 September 2010.
  10. ^ Gilbert, Gerard (25 September 2010). "Pick of the day". The Independent. Independent News & Media Ltd.
  11. ^ O'Donovan, Gerard (25 September 2010). "What to watch: The Secrets of Scientology". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph PLC.
  12. ^ "The Secrets of Scientology". Bristol Evening Post. Northcliffe Newspapers Group Ltd. 25 September 2010.
  13. ^ "Tuesday's TV: The Secrets of Scientology". Wales on Sunday. Western Mail & Echo Ltd. 26 September 2010.
  14. ^ Chater, David (28 September 2010). "Viewing Guide: The Secrets of Scientology". The Times. Times Newspapers Limited. pp. 56, 57.
  15. ^ Mayhem, Fiona (29 September 2010). "Panorama: The Secrets of Scientology". Watch With Mothers. Epic Win Media. Archived from the original on 2 October 2010. Retrieved 29 September 2010.
  16. ^ Sherman, Paddy (2 October 2010). "Have your say on next week's TV". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 3 October 2010.
  17. ^ "Video: The Secrets of Scientology". The Guardian. 29 September 2010.

External links