Davis was the public face of Scientology and the head of the church’s Celebrity Centre International in Los Angeles—a sort of social club for celebrity members which also runs Scientology classes and “auditing” sessions—until he mysteriously disappeared over a year ago. His responsibilities involved the care and feeding of Tom Cruise, the world’s most prominent Scientologist. The church went to extremes to please Cruise—hand-building luxurious vehicles for him, even scouting out a Scientology-approved girlfriend. This special treatment puts Cruise and other celebrity Scientologists in a kind of bubble, shielding them from the seamier truths of their oft-vindictive faith. “I was in a cult for 34 years,” Paul Haggis told Wright after his defection. “Everyone else could see it. I don’t know why I couldn’t.”

Since its founding in 1954, Scientology has weathered countless scandals, any one of which might have been enough to sink the nascent religion. It’s clear that the church has survived in part by diligently defending its image and attacking its critics. Thanks to books like Going Clear, and to increased public scrutiny, that façade is starting to crack.

The Atlantic advertorial was removed less than 12 hours after it went online, amid merciless mockery on social media. The magazine apologized—not for partnering with Scientology per se, but rather for not considering the implications of partnering with Scientology. At the end of January, the magazine issued revised guidelines for sponsor content and advertising, stipulating that “The Atlantic will refuse publication of such content that, in its own judgment, would undermine the intellectual integrity, authority, and character of our enterprise.” Point: journalism.


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Lindsay Beyerstein is a staff writer at In These Times and the lead writer at the Sidney Hillman Foundation. She blogs at Duly Noted and Clear It With Sidney.