Scientology’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, once defined the religion as being in service of ‘a civilisation without insanity, without criminals and without war, where the able can prosper and honest beings can have rights, and where man is free to rise to greater heights’.
Almost 60 years since its foundation, though, Scientology has become a uniquely contentious phenomenon – with many questioning its status as a religion, cult or business, and with a reputation for fiercely defensive, litigious and coercive reactions to criticism. One of the first to feel the Church’s wrath was Paulette Cooper – whose 1971 book, The Scandal of Scientology, saw her become the target of an elaborate plot which set out to destroy her credibility, frame her and land her with a 15 year prison sentence. Codenamed ‘Miss Lovely’ by Church operatives, Cooper is now the subject of investigative journalist Tony Ortega’s book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely.
Ortega is a long-time chronicler of Scientology, and one of its leading scrutineers. Featured in Alex Gibney’s HBO documentary Going Clear, he’s the executive editor of TheLipTV and former editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. He visits Melbourne – where the world’s first inquiry into Scientology was held in 1963, and Scientology was first banned in 1965 – for a chat with Steve Cannane, who’s currently writing a book on Scientology’s history in Australia.
Tony Ortega is the executive editor of TheLipTV. From 2007 to 2012, he was editor in chief of The Village Voice, and he's been investigating and writing about Scientology since 1995, when he was a reporter for the Phoenix New Times. He also wrote for or edited weekly newspapers in Los Angeles, Kansas City, and Fort Lauderdale. Originally from Los Angeles, he lives in New York and maintains a breaking news website about Scientology news, The Underground Bunker. He is also featured in Going Clear, Alex Gibney's documentary about Scientology, which first aired on HBO in March.
Steve Cannane is a senior reporter and occasional presenter for Lateline. He also shares hosting duties of The Drum. Steve has worked as a reporter, producer and presenter for ABC TV and radio. He was the founding presenter of Triple J's current affairs program Hack. In 2006 he won a Walkley Award for Broadcast Interviewing. In 2008 Steve presented The Hack Half Hour on ABC2 and in 2009 he fronted the ABC documentary series Whatever - The Science of Teenage. Steve’s book, First Tests: Great Australian Cricketers and the Backyards That Made Them was published in 2009. You can follow him on Twitter at: @SteveCannane