The Scientology Money Project

Did Church of Scientology Spokesperson Karin Pouw Just Call USC’s Dr. Cecil Murray a Liar?

L to R: An unnamed clergyman, Dr. Cecil Murray, Rev. Shane Harris, Bishop Craig Worsham at Scientology’s San Fernando Valley Ideal Org. Photo by the Church of Scientology.

USC’s acclaimed Annenberg Media Center published an article yesterday in which it denied that Dr. Cecil Murray authored two letters which strongly denounced Leah Remini’s Emmy-winning A&E program Scientology and the Aftermath. In these letters attributed to Murray, he calls for Disney to cancel Remini’s show.

When we first saw these letters we were shocked to see a USC academic calling for blatant censorship of a television program.

Dr. Murray is a USC Fellow and heads the eponymously named Dr. Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement at USC. It seemed incomprehensible to us that USC would Dr. Murray to use USC’s name to attack Leah Remini’s show and call for its cancellation.

This controversy began when Scientology’s hateful, defamatory, and propagandist STAND League website published the two purported letters from Dr. Murray to Disney CEO Bob Iger. The letters were on USC letterhead:

The Scientology Money Project spoke to Ron Mackovich of USC Public Relations and asked him about Murray’s letters. He never gave us the courtesy of a reply. We also reached out to USC’s General Counsel and received no reply.

Robin Athlyn Thompson, an impressive social media and brand expert, got through to USC by contacting the University’s brand manager. Thompson informed USC that the Church of Scientology was using USC’s brand to push its agenda. USC’s Brenda Maceo immediately replied to Thompson:

Dear Ms. Thompson,
I want to personally acknowledge your letter to President Austin, which she has read and shared with me. She has asked me to respond on her behalf.

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.

Thank you for sharing your concern with us.

Brenda Maceo
Vice President of Public Relations and Marketing
University of Southern California

Scientology’s STAND League website immediately removed the USC letterhead from the Murray letters and substituted them with letterhead from the First AME Church in Los Angeles.

However, it became clear that the Church of Scientology was not backing down. Indeed, Scientology emphatically insists that Murray wrote the letters. The USC Annenberg article states:

The Church of Scientology spokesperson, Karin Pouw, contradicted the statement from USC representatives in an email and wrote, “Rev. Murray confirmed to us his original letter to Disney.”

Pouw noted that a version of the letter on the First AME Church of Los Angeles letterhead, a church Murray was a pastor for 27 years, is available on the website of a Scientologist advocacy group called Scientologist Take Action Against Discrimination.

“To avoid any misinterpretation, intentional or otherwise, that could be used to detract from his message, Rev. Murray’s office sent a new copy of his letter to Bob Iger on his own personal letterhead,” Pouw said.

Sweas said that the letter Pouw refers to remains on the website without Murray’s authorization.

What we seem to have here is Scientology spokesperson Karin Pouw publicly calling USC’s Dr. Cecil Murray a liar.

Dr. Cecil “Chip” Murray is caught out in the middle here. He apparently told USC that he did not write the letters condemning Scientology and the Aftermath. The Church of Scientology is sticking by its story and insisting he wrote the letters.

The Church of Scientology plays for keeps and is not giving Dr. Murray any face-saving way out of this situation.

Scientology’s willingness to throw Dr. Murray under the bus in its incessant, slanderous, and hateful attacks against Leah Remini, her guests, and A&E and Disney executives show that Scientology will stop at nothing — even harming the good name and good works of Dr. Cecil Murray — in its mad quest to silence Leah Remini and all the voices on Aftermath.

We urge Disney and A&E to continue their support of Leah Remini and her guests.

Update: If Dr. Murray actually mailed the letters to Disney CEO Bob Iger, then the original letters are in Mr. Iger’s possession. It would be interesting to see the original letters if they were, in fact, mailed to Mr. Iger and are in his possession.

We do not find the Murray letters on Scientology’s website credible. Specifically, this implied threat of retaliation does not seem like anything Dr. Murray would write to Mr. Iger:

There is no evidence anywhere that the Church of Scientology ever stood beside the Black community during “some very dark times.” This cringeworthy statement, along with a threat of retaliation, sounds like something cooked up by Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs.

6 replies »

  1. So will Dr. Murray suffer any repercussions from scientology for denying he wrote it? Will this ever be resolved and explained??

  2. Ann, Dr. Murray’s real concern is whether he suffers repercussions from USC. This matter will likely be escalated and made into a formal investigation.

  3. Jeff, you may already know this, but since you’re covering this story, you might want to check into the fact that, even though the USC letterhead was removed from the first Murray letter, both letters on Stand League’s website still contain “Cecil Murray Center for Religion & Community Engagement” in the signature lines, which I believe still connects an entity of USC to these letters. USC might be interested to know that, since they apparently were able to get there letterhead removed from the first letter (even if it was an old one).

    Based on what I could find, it doesn’t appear as though there is technically a “Cecil Murray Center for Religion & Community Engagement” (there is no “Religion” in the official entity). It seems to be officially called “The Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement” that is housed in the “USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture” (USC CRCC). Either Murray or a Scientology operative who wrote the letter on Murray’s behalf (if the latter, that might make sense why the name of the center is inaccurate in the letters) appear to have combined the two names to include the word “Religion”. Apparently, the USC CRCC (an official USC entity) “provides administrative, fiscal and communication leadership to the Murray Center’s program and activities.”

    They seem to be very much connected and USC CRCC could put an end to this, one way or the other, if they wish.

  4. Another telltale sign an academic didn’t write this letter is its language. For instance, the sentence, “This is Leah Remini Aftermath reality series,” is a sentence fragment. Second, that’s not the show’s name. Third, the show’s name is styled wrong (in the letter, it’s both underlined and italicized). Fourth, the letter claims Remini’s show targets “many other denominations” even though it’s discussed only two (Scientology and the JWs).

    I could go on, but won’t. There’s also the matter (as commenter Mick Roberts points out) of the letter writer not knowing the correct name of his own institution. In sum, the presentation is poor, if not amateurish, and the verbage is hyperbolic. This makes sense if CoS propagandists composed it, but it’s not representative of a USC academic.

  5. Thank you for your comments PsiCop. Dr. Murray has an earned Ph.D. from Claremont School of Theology (1964) and served in the US Air Force as flight crew. He also pastored First AME and grew it from 300 to 27,000 members over the course of his 27 year pastorate. A man of this caliber and intellect does not write in the amateurish language of OSA’s illiterate high school drop outs and hoodlums.

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