How the Church of Scientology tried (and failed) to suppress
Russell Miller started work on Bare-Faced Messiah in 1985, not long before L. Ron Hubbard's death. He was well aware that he would face problems. Every author who had written 'unsanctioned' books about the Church of Scientology, and many journalists as well, had been threatened with legal and sometimes physical reprisals; many had been harassed and defamed as well. He knew that the Church could go to extreme lengths to suppress critical comment - in the 1970s, New York journalist Paulette Cooper very nearly went to prison for alleged terroristic activities before the FBI found that the Church leadership was responsible for framing her.
Given this background, it's to Miller's credit that he persevered. The threats were not long in coming. When the Church learned of his project,
"[it] did its best to dissuade people who knew Hubbard from speaking to me and constantly threatened litigation. Scientology lawyers in New York and Los Angeles made it clear in frequent letters that they expected me to libel and defame L. Ron Hubbard. When I protested that in thirty years as a journalist and writer I had never been accused of libel, I was apparently investigated and a letter was written to my publishers in New York alleging that my claim was 'simply not accurate'. It was, and is."
The death of Hubbard in January 1986 reduced the Church's hand in dealing with Miller - the dead cannot be libelled or defamed (at least in the eyes of the law). Even so, it soon became apparent that the Church's 'secret police' - the Office of Special Affairs (OSA) - regarded Miller's work as being a major threat. As publication day (October 1987) moved closer, the Church's efforts to suppress the book became increasingly desperate - and vicious.
- 1986: Miller visits US to interview witnesses, several of whom are apparently 'spoken to' by the OSA. Constantly followed by private detectives and OSA agents. Receives numerous legal threats and is defamed.
- 5 August 1987: Proof copies of Bare-Faced Messiah circulated within a limited circle.
- xx Sept 1987: Female Scientologist is arrested in a reprographics shop in East Grinstead, where the Church has its UK headquarters, making seven illegal photocopies of a proof version of Bare-Faced Messiah. Lack of evidence prevents prosecution for theft of proof copy.
Copies of cult book puzzle publisher - The Times, xx Sept 1987
- 29 Sept 1987: Church of Scientology serves writ alleging breaches of copyright, confidence and Californian sealing orders, and requests injunction to prevent publication of Bare-Faced Messiah on October 26.
- 9 Oct 1987: Mr. Justice Vinelott rejects injunction request, calling it "mischievous and misconceived". Church appeals.
Public interest outweighs private duty - The Times, 15 Oct 1987
- xx Oct 1987: The Sunday Times is threatened by Scientologists over its plans to serialise extracts from Bare-Faced Messiah. Notorious Scientologist private detective Eugene 'Clam' Ingram gets into Sunday Times offices under false pretences in failed attempt to discredit Miller's sources.
Scientologists in dirty campaign to stop book - The Times, xx Oct 1987
- 22 Oct 1987: Court of Appeal rejects Church arguments, stating that public interest in publication "far outweighed any duty of confidence owed by the author to the founder".
Church appeal to ban book fails - The Times, 22 Oct 1987
- 29 Oct 1987: Bare-Faced Messiah is published.
- 1 Nov 1987: The Sunday Times begins serialising extracts from the book over three weekends. A Bristol-based private detective in the pay of the Church is exposed trying to smear Miller and link him to the CIA, and retaliates by attacking the reporter with a .357 pistol.
Cult's private detective fires at journalists - The Times, xx Nov 1987
In 1988, Miller wrote a rueful article for The Listener magazine on the bizarre experiences which he had had in writing Bare-Faced Messiah. The nadir was probably the attempt by persons unknown to frame him for an axe murder in South London. Things could only get better after that...
[Miller's Listener article] - The Listener, xx yyy 1988
Eight years later, however, it still isn't over. In this specially-written article, Russell Miller explains how things have progressed and how he sees the future of critical writing on Scientology and the future of the Church itself.