Meet the Heroes of Early Scientology Reporting -- Plus, a Visit to the Celebrity Centre - 2011-02-16
"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."