Nightline Swings at Scientology, Misses


What do you expect when a program as mainstream as Nightline tries to take on a moving story like the new, growing opposition to Scientology? Certainly not something this weak.

Stumbling in the footsteps of a recent terrific story by John Cook at Radar, Nightline tried to tell the story of Jenna Miscavige Hill last night. Why is her story important? She’s niece to the tiny leader of Scientology, David Miscavige, so her defection, and subsequent allegations about how her family was split up in the church’s notorious policy of “disconnection,” should pack a punch to L. Ron Hubbard’s sect.

Unfortunately, Nightline, like most mainstream outlets, gets really squeamish when talk turns to religious belief, so the ABC program managed to leave out the part that Scientology is a money-making scam that doesn’t tell its own believers until they’ve paid hundreds of thousands of dollars that the point of all their classes and lie-detector machines is to remove space-alien souls from the human body.

Didn’t have time for that detail, I guess.

Instead, viewers unfamiliar with Hubbardism would be forgiven if they came away from the program thinking Scientology was just a quirky religion that inspires folks to become so dedicated, they tend to pay less attention to their own kids. Like poor little Jenna, who had to haul around rocks when she was only 7 years old.

Somehow, Hill’s story in particular, told so well by Cook, was drained of all impact in Nightline’s frightened telling. Hell, Terry Moran looked like he was about to soil his pants as he talked about trying to get a response from Scientology itself.

As a longtime Scientologist who managed to escape the cabal told me after watching the show: Scientology won this round.

Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting the Village Voice and our advertisers.