| July 11
July 11 The Church of Scientology, the religion
whose followers include actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta,
plans to start a religious broadcasting center to promote its
teachings over TV, radio and the Internet.
The center, located near the church's West Coast
headquarters in Hollywood, would occupy the nearly five-acre
studio property the church bought last year from Los Angeles
public TV station KCET for $42 million. The station would
elevate the public profile of a religion that has mostly relied
on pamphlets and books by its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, to
proselytize for new members.
"The church plans to establish a central media hub for our
growing world network of churches and to move into the
production of religious television and radio broadcasting," said
Karin Pouw, a spokeswoman for Church of Scientology
International, in an email.
She said there is no timetable for when operations would
Scientology TV could be similar to Pat Robertson's Christian
Broadcasting Network or the Trinity Broadcast Network. Trinity
creates Christian programming at a production center in Irving,
Texas, and airs it on TV stations and cable channels, said Rick
Ross, whose non-profit Rick A. Ross Institute in Trenton, New
Jersey, maintains an online archive of data on cults and
"Hollywood is a major hub for creative talent and some of
them are Scientologists," said Ross. "They'd have a lot of
talented folks who could produce shows and stars like Tom Cruise
who would appear on them."
Elayne Rapping, a pop-culture expert and professor of
American studies at the University of Buffalo, told Reuters she
is not surprised by the church's move.
"Having their own TV is a good idea since they can spin
things their way," she said. "They are after good PR which they
can control to offset the bad publicity surrounding them in
Former members of the 60-year-old church accuse it of being
a cult and have alleged that it abuses members and separates
parents from children, among other things. The church denies
The celebrity of controversial members like Cruise and
Travolta is a double-edged sword for the church, Rapping said.
Cruise is one of the world's biggest movie stars, but his
divorce from actress Katie Holmes has fueled speculation that
the couple disagreed on raising their 6-year-old daughter, Suri,
as a Scientologist and sparked a flurry of news coverage about
John Travolta was recently sued for libel by a Los Angeles
man who wrote a book about his alleged homosexual encounters
with the "Saturday Night Fever" and "Pulp Fiction" star.
The Hollywood studio would complement the church's existing
production facility, Golden Era Productions, near Hemet,
California, which produces DVDs and "other audiovisual materials
that comprise a large part of the Church's religious and
educational materials," Pouw said.
Scientologists are likely to buy time on local TV stations
to air shows as other religions do, said Bill Carroll,
vice-president of Katz Television Group, which advises TV
stations on programming.
They could create their own cable channel, he said, but
could also get a license from the Federal Communications
Commission to operate a broadcast channel by adhering to FCC
rules on children's programming, news and other regulations.
The church took physical control of the broadcast center,
located on Sunset Boulevard near Hollywood, in April when KCET
employees moved TV station operations to a rented facility.
(Editing by Mary Milliken and Prudence Crowther)