Scientology, one of the most secretive and controversial cults in the world, is known in part thanks to the Hollywood mega-star, Tom Cruise. Since its founding in 1953 by the American science fiction author Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, the movement has gained millions of followers worldwide, with 40,000 adherents in France, according to its leaders. Scientologists believe in reincarnation and the existence of a higher power, and they follow a number of unusual methods to progress up to what is referred to as the “Bridge to Total Freedom.” But the institution is also riddled by scandal and regularly makes headlines when former members go public with stories of abuse in Scientology. Critics of the cult include Lucas Legall, who joined the organization at the age of 10, and Mike Rinder, a former Scientology spokesperson in the United States who was victimized by harassment tactics.
Core members of the organization, defined by some countries as a recognized religion and by others as a dangerous sect, have been convicted of engaging in organized fraud; others have faced criminal charges. How does the organization manage to recruit and retain adherents? What exactly do followers believe? Who is L Ron Hubbard, the cult’s founder? How did the Church of Scientology become a recognized religion in the United States? How did it influence the outcome of a court trial in France? And what are its plans for its future in France? A tell-all investigation into the secrets of Scientology.