Scientology. There, I’ve said it. Are we safe so far, or do we need to call the lawyers? I must tread carefully here. You will have read about John Duignan’s The Complex: an Insider Exposes the Covert World of the Church of Scientology, bravely published by Dublin-based Merlin Press. The title was briefly listed on various websites, but has now all but disappeared.
One could spend the rest of one’s life reading about scientology on the Net. Let me direct you to one site. It’s not a scientology site, but brace yourself nevertheless. Glosslip.com (‘celebrity gossip from our lips to yours’) claims that in early November ‘Celebrity-Scientologist-in-Chief’ Tom Cruise (forgive me, Tom – and I like some of your films), met with Amazon executives. It asks: ‘Is it mere coincidence that after that meeting we are seeing this book, which was serialised in the UK’s Sun last week, now being pulled from Amazon UK?’ An interesting question.
This whole story is partly about libel law and how it differs on either side of the Atlantic. Essentially, as I understand it, UK law is much tougher on the defendant. In the UK, the onus is on the defendant to prove that the material published is true, which can sometimes be very difficult to do. The claimant only has to prove it’s defamatory which is relatively easy. The book has been pulled from Amazon.co.uk, but is still available from Amazon.com. A spokesman at Amazon.co.uk said: "Amazon.co.uk believes strongly in free speech and it is our policy to make available to our customers the broadest possible selection of books and other expressive materials containing a wide variety of views and opinions. Unfortunately, we have had to withdraw The Complex by John Duignan in the UK because we received a specific allegation that a passage in the book is defamatory regarding an individual named in the book. In circumstances such as these, UK law gives us no choice but to remove the title from our catalogue. The title is still available for sale from Amazon. com."
Does any of this matter? Well, the UK charity The Family Survival Trust says it receives many calls from parents who are upset about their children’s involvement with scientology. The trouble is, the children in question are adults. And here’s the difficulty. If those adults decide to become more and more involved with scientology, and if they say: “Look, I’m fine, I’m happy, this is my decision”, their parents and friends may not like it, but there is not a lot they can do about it. But it’s worth asking the question, how did the people who join scientology – and become further involved with it – come to make those decisions, an area of enquiry which can bring the lawyers running, I feel, so I’ll leave it there.
In the meantime, the title can be bought easily from Irish online sellers Eason.ie and Hughes & Hughes, and is also, curiously, at the time of writing, available from Foyles and Blackwell in the UK.