Friday, June 14, 2013

Best Apology Ever

The Church of Scientology is famous for threatening legal action against anyone issuing even mild criticisms of its teachings and methods. I still remember back in the days of Usenet how the alt.scientology newsgroup changed its name to alt.butthead.religion.sue.sue.sue in response to demands that the term "scientology" be dropped from the name. Up until now most mainstream news organizations have been cowed by these threats and have published very little negative coverage of the church. However, a recent flap involving the London Sun suggests the tactic's influence may be on the wane. In response to demands for an apology over a story connecting Scientology to a UFO sighting, the newspaper dutifully offered one - to the space aliens.

UK airport authorities said a Boeing 777 pilot first raised the alarm at 8.53am after spotting "two flat silver discs", followed minutes later by a Boeing 767 and an Airbus 319 which saw the same "saucer-like" shapes. The 777 crew said they looked "man-made" and "toylike".
The Sun spoke with investigators, who had considered the objects might be balloons or kites - a notion dismissed by Mr Pope, who said "none of the theories hold water".

When the newspaper published the story with a Photoshopped picture of Scientology's West Sussex property, the church sent a letter of complaint, requesting an apology. The Sun duly published it's apology yesterday:

"In an article on Saturday headlined 'Flying Saucers over British Scientology HQ', we stated 'two flat silver discs' were seen 'above the Church of Scientology HQ'. Following a letter from lawyers for the Church, we apologise to any alien life forms for linking them to Scientologists".

It's worth noting that the Church of Scientology hardly ever sues anyone. Rather, in accordance with a policy that was established by founder L. Ron Hubbard, they use the threat of legal action to manipulate people and organizations into giving in to their demands. The trouble with this approach is that everyone eventually gets wise to the fact that you're all bark and no bite. Given the response of the London Sun, it's clear that this is finally starting to happen. So I see only two real ways forward for the church. They can actually start filing lawsuits and risk losing in court, or better still they can just give the whole thing up.

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