Going Clear Director Alex Gibney Talked Scientology During His Reddit AMA: Here Are His Best Answers

Alex Gibney. Photo: Gary Gershoff/Getty Images

To promote his latest film, Steve Jobs: Man in the Machine, Alex Gibney participated in a Reddit AMA on Tuesday. Although the conversation was pegged to Jobs, many of the questions focused on Gibney’s jaw-dropping Scientology exposé Going Clear, and what has happened since the movie’s release. Gibney told Redditors about the fallout from the project, talked at length about the IRS and Scientology’s contentious tax-exemption status, and teased that he has much more in store for L. Ron Hubbard’s brainchild. Read highlights from the crowdsourced interview below:

Is there a follow-up planned for Going Clear?

There is much more to be done on Scientology. … Yes, I would like to do a sequel. We have a lot of material.

What roadblocks did he run into with Going Clear and Jobs?

The hardest part is finding the story. The biggest roadblock to me in making both films was the unwillingness of so many to engage. Neither organization really wants their stories told by anyone but themselves. Miscavige and Cruise refused to talk and Scientology refused to send any written materials we asked for. Laurene Jobs prevented people from talking and Apple said it didn’t have the “resources” to help me. What are they all afraid of? If both organizations are so great, why don’t they open their doors and answer all questions?

What he thinks it’ll take for the IRS to revise Scientology’s tax-exempt status:

Pressure the congresspeople on the relevant committees. The IRS is embarrassed, I know that. But they need to be embarrassed even more. The fact the we subsidize the human rights abuses of Scientology is sick joke.

Does he think Scientology will continue to have tax-exempt status?

I fear that the IRS doesn’t have the courage to take on Scientology. I think they should lose their exemption because they are really a money-making organization disguised as a religion and because the church has an appalling human rights record. Why should we subsidize that? I wrote a piece about this in the LA Times.

Should any religion have tax exemption?

I don’t think it should be about the religion; it should be about whether there is a legitimate charitable activity. IRS doesn’t define what a religion is but IRS is also clearly too cavalier about whether “churches” contribute something beyond enriching individuals or making money. But the wise man on this is John Oliver. See his piece on starting a religion.

Did he face any intimidation for Going Clear, like the BBC’s John Sweeney?

I have corresponded with John. I didn’t face that kind of in-person intimidation. But then, I focused on dissenters from the church and only reached out to the church late in the process. After the church learned about the project, I faced lots of legal intimidation and threats, and delegations of unidentified people were sent to NY to confront me. And lots of online vilification. But the people who have really suffered are the witnesses in the film.

What about any retribution?

They have tried to make my life uncomfortable through online harassment and occasional in-person confrontations. But it’s what they are doing to the subjects of the film that is really terrible. Those who appeared have reported harassment by PIs, economic and physical threats and lots of on-line vilification.

What would he have asked Tom Cruise had an interview been granted?

I would have asked them both about specific aspects of the story. For example, I would have asked Cruise detailed questions about the Nazanin Boniadi episode. I also would have asked him how it is that he can defend the allegations of human rights abuses that have been confirmed by so many. Re: Miscavige, I would have asked him detailed questions about the battle against the IRS and also about the hole and the Cruise wiretap and so much much more. I find it instructive that Miscavige won’t permit anyone to ask him questions.

Why he thinks other TV journalists let Cruise and his ilk off the hook:

Sadly, I think that most TV “journalists” — if you can call hosts or anchors that — want the access more than the truth. Access pays the bills; truth rarely does.

You can scope out the rest of the AMA here.

The Best Answers From Alex Gibney’s Reddit AMA