LOS ANGELES (Christian Examiner) – Scientologists have grown weary of negative portrayals of their religion – from the documentary Going Clear to a new book written by leader David Miscavige's own father – so the cult and its leaders have revamped the church's media strategy.
In a news release May 31, the church's leaders announced it had "totally reinvented and restored" its motion picture and television studio platforms so they could focus on "delivering the message of help – unadulterated and pure – everywhere."
"Yes, Scientology is in the news—that's certainly proof that the religion is so interesting. But now Scientology Media Productions IS the media," the statement reads.
Scientology's revamped media production arm is housed in a five-acre complex near the famed intersection of Sunset and Hollywood boulevards. The site is complete with sound stages, creative studios, visual effects production areas, audio and digital film editing suites, as well as space for dubbing the messages in other languages, the statement said.
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Miscavige, whose tyrannical style of leadership was recently exposed by his father, told more than 10,000 followers at the grand opening of the church's new media studio or "global media center" that the studio will focus on telling the Scientology story.
The studio, he said, will serve as "our uncorrupted communication line to the billions," Miscavige said, according to the news release. "Because as the saying goes, if you don't write your own story, someone else will. So, yes, we're now going to be writing our story like no other religion in history. And it's all going to happen right here from Scientology Media Productions (SMP)."
SMP will provide broadcast programing, as well as online content and digital magazines.
"So, you ask what this day is all about," Miscavige said. "It's a history L. Ron Hubbard himself laid into Scientology – to share what wisdom we possess, to help others to help themselves. And, what goes with the territory: to ignore the catcalls from those who claim that Man cannot be understood, cannot be helped. But, we know different. We know Man can be helped. And even more than that, we know how to do it."
(NOTE: Traditional Christians reference God with the capitalized personal pronoun "He," or with the name "God." Scientologists in the news release referred to "Man," capitalized, as the creature to be understood, rather than the Creator).
Miscavige described how Scientologists will use the time young adults spend on the phone daily (searching topics on social media) to explore the deeper challenges of life through Scientology.
"SMP will harness the power of every social media outlet imaginable to provide those answers," Miscavige told the crowd at the opening of the studio.
"So for the 95 percent of the world's population that listens to the radio every day, and the average viewer who spends some 40 hours glued to a TV every week, the obvious answer was: our own radio station, our own TV channel, and our own broadcasting facilities."
But the content on the channel may not exclusively reference Scientology. According to Miscavige, information about "all faiths" may appear on the channel. That presumably would include the Scientologists' take on Christianity.
Several city leaders praised the opening of the media center, including Kevin James, a former mayoral candidate who now leads the Los Angeles City Film and Television Office. He called the Scientology studio a "city partner."
"With this new studio that we're celebrating today, I'd say we're taking our partnership to a whole new level," James said. His association with the project may mean work is steered in the direction of the new facility.
The remodeled studio, once home to Los Angeles's KCET Television, was also the same studio where movies like Kidnapped and Invasion of the Body Snatchers were either filmed or produced. The news release also claimed it was the same studio that invited science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard to write scripts for the movie serial, The Secret of Treasure Island.
Hubbard later crafted a story of alien worlds, immortal humans, and spirits (thetans) inhabiting physical bodies. It also included the idea of reincarnation. Together the ideas produce a religion more akin to the ancient Christian heresy of Gnosticism and pagan Zoroastrianism than anything else. Hubbard called it Scientology – a combination of religion and science fiction.
Miscavige, together with the near-messianic figure of actor Tom Cruise, believe Scientology is truth. Cruise frequently stumps for the church on worldwide tours and attends the openings of new churches, like the one in Spain in 2004.
"Consider all we have to offer by way of real answers, actual Truth and unconditional Help. At which point, the question becomes: How do we bring those answers to everyone, in every language of Earth?" Miscavige asked. For the leader, broadcasting the message of Scientology to everyone on its own terms is the answer.
The Church of Scientology announced its plans to renovate the aging facility last year and has reportedly put $50 million into the project. Cruise, among other Hollywood stars, are planning to use the facility to make future films – some of which will tout the teachings of Scientology.
Sinar Parman, an Indonesian who was inside the church for about 30 years as a chef to L. Ron Hubbard and David Miscavige (and, on occasion, Cruise), said in 2015 that the new facility is Scientology's version of a news network or a 24-hour programming outlet.
"CNN covers anything and everything; it's their version of CNN, but who wants to watch that stuff?" Parman, who left the cult in 2001, asked.
The new studio complex is located just 12 miles from Cruise's home in West Hollywood, and will, Scientology leaders hope, eventually rival Paramount and Universal in size. Previous media productions were developed at the church's "Gold Base" in the California desert, 60 miles from Los Angeles.
That location is also the site described by Miscavige's father, where those who transgress the will of the cult leader spend time in "the hole" as punishment.