The University of Southern California has opened an investigation after administrators discovered the Church of Scientology may have forged a letter from a professor asking for a show exposing the religious organization’s corruption to be censored.
According to a press release from the Church of Scientology, the Rev. Cecil Murray, a longtime defender of Scientology and a USC professor, sent a letter to Disney Corporation CEO Bob Iger, demanding he censor ex-Scientologist Leah Remini’s hit A&E show, “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.”
Rev. Cecil Murray Professor of Religious Studies, University of Southern California @usccrcc #freedomofreligion https://t.co/Ye7Mx64TRb pic.twitter.com/6dvxUBldcb
— STAND League (@standleague) October 17, 2016
“By condoning the airing of this series, Disney makes itself a party to the violence resulting,” Murray allegedly wrote. “I understand that the Church of Scientology has had hundreds of threats of death, violence or vandalism incited by the show.”
He added, “That Disney would sponsor programs that incite hatred against religions from my perspective is unconscionable.”
The letter provides no details or evidence of actual violent encounters linked to Remini’s program, which has so far aired three seasons.
But according to USC officials, Murray didn’t even write the letter, which was published on USC letterhead.
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After a viewer, Robin Thompson, saw the letter, she reached out to USC, concerned administrators at the university would allow the brand to be used to defend the Church of Scientology.
Brenda Maceo, vice president of public relations and marketing for USC, responded to Thompson, writing, “We strive for accuracy and appropriateness in all of our university communications. Reverend Murray has stated that he was not the author of the letter that was addressed to Mr. Iger on a discontinued letterhead.”
“We are currently looking into the misuse of the university’s trademarks,” she noted.
The college’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture, where Murray teaches, issued its own statement, distancing itself from the contents of the allegedly forged note.
The statement said the center and Murray “have not and will not take a position on the network’s programming.”
This is not the first time the Church of Scientology has put Remini in its crosshairs. In November, she called out the religious organization — which the actor has likened to a cult — for its “insanity,” claiming church officials have continually stalked her.
“They have [private eyes] following our cameramen and our editors,” she told the New York Post. “They’re not used to that kind of thing, especially from a place calling itself a church.”