Theroux's Scientology movie won't be screened in Ireland

Theroux's Scientology movie won't be screened in Ireland September 26, 2016

Back in October 2015, Louis Theroux’s film, My Scientology Movie, was shown at the London Film Festival back in October 2015, where it received extensive praise from critics and audiences. 
The Telegraph critic Tim Robey wrote:

It’s no hard-hitting exposé, but Louis Theroux’s attempt to get under Scientology’s skin is a giddy, Pythonesque delight.

He added:

Half the film consists of cameras pointing at other cameras, like an absurdist gunfight at dawn, with neither side willing to holster.

Given the critical acclaim it received in London and at other film festivals across Europe and North America, the film should have been released in cinemas immediately, but the Scientologists raised objections, and the movie got bogged down in legal wranglings.
However, according to this report, it is now scheduled to be released in the UK October 7.
Irish audiences, though, won’t get to see it in cinemas because distributors there are frightened that it may be in breach of the country’s laws that protect religion.

The main stumbling block seems to be Ireland’s blasphemy laws and in particular the The Defamation Act of 2009. According to that piece of legislation, any “publication or utterance of blasphemous matter” against any religion is an offence and carries a fine of €25,000.
The Act does allow for a defence of work that has “genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value”, which this documentary most likely will have. However it looks like there aren’t any distributors willing to take a chance on the film for fear that they could be found to be in breach of the legislation.
Alex Gibney’s 2015 Scientology documentary, Going Clear had similar problems and did not secure an Irish theatrical release.
Graham Spurling, Managing Director of Spurling Group Movies and Cinema (Ireland) has confirmed on Twitter that the film will not get an Irish release and has suggested that the blasphemy law may be to blame though he cannot speak for the distributors.

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  • Jobrag

    How can saying Scientology is a load of old rubbish be blasphemy? From my confirmation classes I remember that blasphemy was taking the lords name in vain, see also The Life of Brian, does Scientology actually have a god.

  • “any ‘publication or utterance of blasphemous matter’ against any religion is an offence.”
    Oh? Let me play… yes, I see Jews publishing against Amalekites and Cananites, I see Christians publishing against Jews, and I see Muslims publishing against Christians and Jews. Each one in their central text, not in any distorted extremist literature. Where can I collect my prize?
    Oh… religion is exempt from accountability, again? Ah.

  • gedediah

    The power of blasphemy law is that no one can be sure what constitutes a breach so everyone lives in fear of saying the wrong thing. The perfect totalitarian system! The Irish need to get rid of that law.

  • Theroux sadly lost several years’ ago the sense of humour and absurdity which made his earlier documentaries worth watching. Now, I find him rather pointless if I may be honest. By the way, will he soon be making a film criticising or laughing at Islam? I think not. Titter.

  • Daz

    Trevor Blake
    Or, if you’re fond of puns, here’s one that’s only possible in French:
    To a Catholic, the Pope is a pêcheur (fisherman), whilst to a protestant, he’s a pécheur (a sinner).
    Each, of course, is blaspheming from the other’s viewpoint.

  • I was once in an Irish pub (for the first–and last–time) sipping a Babycham (with a glacé cherry in it) and puffing on a cheroot, when suddenly everybody sprang to their feet and stood gazing into space. Astonished and somewhat perturbed, I soon realised that the Irish National Anthem was being played (to be honest I was unaware the Irish actually had one). I of course remained seated, and continued swigging my Babycham, much to the consternation of my fellow drinkers. Since I am regarded by most as attractive, I managed to avoid having my face kicked in. Thus the Irish.

  • Newspaniard

    Would Irish television have the necessary “courage”? How about Northern Irish TV, blasting across the border?

  • Daz

    “How about Northern Irish TV, blasting across the border?”

    I’ve always assumed that those in the Republic who live near the border are able to receive TV signals from NI. And it wouldn’t surprise me if some of the east coast can pick up signals from Wales.
    As to the idea that NI stations might intentionally turn up the power to “blast it over the border,” as it were; speaking as someone who had a relative in the vicinity of an IRA bomb attack, I’m not exactly sure I’d welcome the kind of international incident and bad feeling such shenanigans might well produce.
    Plus, it would exactly surprise me if the programme isn’t shown in NI either.

  • chrsbol

    I think this story relates to cinema release.
    If and when it does get aired on t.v. it would be freely available on freesat as the astra sat.28.2e has a footprint that will reach across Northern Ireland and Eire. So there wouldn’t be a need of a terrestial signal. That’s my take on it but I could be wrong.
    I’m a big fan of his documentaries and how he appears to be non judgmental.

  • L.Long

    Show me a country with blasphemy laws and I’ll show you a country with some really pathetic gawds.

  • barriejohn

    By the way, will he soon be making a film criticising or laughing at Islam?
    Already done; though, as @chrsbol says, he doesn’t audibly sneer. It’s just a question of “Give ’em enough rope…”

  • Vanity Unfair

    The relevant legislation is probably:
    The Defamation Act 2009, Number 31 of 2009 (That is a citation and has nothing to do with the Borg.)
    S 36: Publication or utterance of blasphemous matter.
    36.—(1) A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding E25,000.
    (2) For the purposes of this section, a person publishes or utters blasphemous matter if—
    (a) he or she publishes or utters matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion,thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion, and
    (b) he or she intends, by the publication or utterance of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.
    (3) It shall be a defence to proceedings for an offence under this section for the defendant to prove that a reasonable person would find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value in the matter to which the offence relates.
    (4) In this section “religion” does not include an organisation or cult—
    (a) the principal object of which is the making of profit, or
    (b) that employs oppressive psychological manipulation—
    (i) of its followers, or
    (ii) for the purpose of gaining new followers.

    I welcome correction and clarification from Irish legal experts.
    The matter has to be “grossly abusive or insulting.” That is a stiff test in English law. I expect it is too in Irish law. The modifier “grossly” would be taken as applying to each adjective.
    Is Scientology a religion, other than for tax purposes? It does not appear on the Public Register of Charities:
    Charities Act 2009 Number 6 of 2009 S3
    3.— (1) For the purposes of this Act each of the following shall, subject to subsection (2), be a charitable purpose:
    …..(c) the advancement of religion;

    There is no official list of religions as far as I can see: and a good thing too, in most cases. Incidentally, the same prohibition as (4) above is also in the Charities Act.
    The publication has to cause actual “outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion” and that must have been intentional on the part of the publisher or utterer in regard to the passages of which complaint is made. This is where the scientologists wheel out Disgusted of (whatever is the Irish equivalent of) Tunbridge Wells.
    Truth is not listed as a defence for this section but in S 16:
    16.—(1) It shall be a defence (to be known and in this Act referred to as the “defence of truth”) to a defamation action for the defendant to prove that the statement in respect of which the action was brought is true in all material respects.
    This refers to the whole Act. I would also submit that truth is a part of “scientific, or academic value” in that without truth there is no value. I am sure that the producers of the film will have the documentary evidence to back up any claims they have made.
    There have been several books and films exposing the “oppressive psychological manipulation” used by scientologists to control their followers. It would have been helpful to have had the disability extended to (iii) for the purpose of harassing critics.
    The European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003, Number 20 of 2003, gave the ECHR a standing in Irish law so the freedom of speech protection offered therein under Article 10 could also be argued.
    In English courts the cost of defending defamation actions is appallingly high and England is often the forum chosen for such actions because of this. Defendants being unable to fund their defence often capitulate. Perhaps Ireland might take over this shameful title. All in all the producers should have little trouble in proving their case but being able to afford to do so is always a problem.

  • Club Secretary

    @Jobrag says:
    Mon 26 Sep at 1:10 pm
    …….. does Scientology actually have a god.
    They believe in a creator, the genocidal alien overlord Xenu

  • Brian Jordan

    Section 4 would seem to rule out Scientology on all counts. Allegedly.

  • AgentCormac

    Apologies for going totally OT, folks, but I couldn’t help being in awe of the following BBC News article.
    Here we are, all squabbling amongst our insignificant selves about where we all came from and how we all came to be here, while NASA is quietly getting on with proving that all the basic elements for life could also be found on Jupiter’s moon, Europa. Which is, apparently, spewing huge plumes of water into space even as you read this. Indeed, Europa’s vast subsurface ocean of liquid water is apparently ‘one of the most likely places to find microbial life beyond Earth’. Perhaps god was good enough to put an Adam, an Eve and a serpent on Europa too.
    Significantly, the NASA team members say that they ‘do not claim to have proven the existence of plumes, but rather to have contributed evidence that such activity may be present.’
    Compare that statement, my friends, with the arrogant, self-assured claims of absolutely certainty issued daily by clergy the world over that they know, without any proof or evidence whatsoever, that they have all the answers.
    I know who I would rather listen to.

  • Daz

    Well, of course:


  • Cali Ron

    Club Secretary : Xenu seems like a ripoff of Lovecraft ‘s Cthulhu. Hubbard was a mediocre Sci first writer at best and even worse at creating religions.