Meet the Heroes of Early Scientology Reporting -- Plus, a Visit to the Celebrity Centre - 2011-02-16
These early reporters were facing enormous risks in investigating Scientology.
"Back then, covering Scientology was not for the faint of heart," Sappell said. "The stakes were huge in the late 1980s-bigger, I think, than today. At the time, the IRS was investigating Hubbard (who was in hiding) for allegedly skimming church money through a maze of corporate fronts. Meanwhile, a number of high-ranking defectors had filed lawsuits against the organization. All this came while Scientology was continuing its fevered battle with the U.S. government for tax-exempt status, which would allow members to write off the huge sums they were paying for church courses and services." The church lost its tax-exempt status in 1967, and regained it in a deal made with the IRS in 1993.
"During the course of our series," Sappell wrote in an email, "multiple private investigators rooted around in our past. I was falsely accused of aggravated assault (the alleged victim, it turned out, gave the LAPD a bogus name and address.) My dog-like the pets of others who'd drawn the ire of church leaders-was poisoned on the day that my partner and I wrote a front-page obituary of Hubbard that sharply contradicted the church's biography of their founder and the many claims he'd made about himself. That same morning, a blustery Boston attorney for the church had called us and shouted: 'If you want a f***ing war, you just got one!' That was a bit unnerving since we thought we already were in one."