This programme is the second in the “Dangerous Persuasions” series which deals with Scientology. The first was, “My Eternal Contract“. Broadcast in 2013, this was a dramatisation of Nancy Many’s 2009 memoir “My Billion-Year Contract“, a book in which she describes her 27-year involvement with the Church of Scientology.
This programme treats the experience of Mark “Marty” Rathburn in very much the same style – it begins with his recruitment (which he presents as motivated by a desire to learn how to help his mentally ill brother). It then covers his rise to the position of right-hand man to the present ‘leader’ of the Church, David Miscavige – and his fall from grace (he is attacked by Miscavige, and then effectively imprisoned in a Scientology compound) . Finally it presents his dramatic escape on a motorcycle, by accelerating through a security gate as it is closed after a car.
Subsequently, Rathburn has been the subject of extraordinary persecution by members of the Church of Scientology. One of the more blatant episodes is documented in the programme “Scientologists at War“which was broadcast in 2013. This persecution is presently the subject of a court case, in which Church of Scientology has argued that this behaviour is an expression of religious belief protected by the first amendment to the US constitution.
Rathburn remains a controversial figure among ex-Scientologists and critics of the Church. This programme is based upon his narrative – which is fine as far as it goes. The problem is that so much is left out.
Critics of Rathburn would argue that his account excludes the questionable things he did as David Miscavige’s ‘enforcer’ – for example, his part in events following the death of Lisa McPherson. Those more sympathetic would argue that Rathburn has redeemed himself – that he has now put Scientology behind him, experienced worse treatment than he himself handed out and revealed much damaging information about the activities of the Church (most recently during interviews in the excellent documentary “Going Clear“).
One thing is certain. This programme does not present the whole truth about Marty Rathburn’s career in Scientology He is a far more complex character than can be portrayed in 45 minutes of tabloid television.