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Church of Scientology battles HBO documentary

It already has started, but look for the Church of Scientology to further ramp up its negative campaign against the upcoming HBO documentary, “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief,” that strongly criticizes the celebrity-centric religion founded by L. Ron Hubbard that includes Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kirstie Alley among its devoted members.

The film, directed by Oscar winner Alex Gibney, is based on Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright’s 2013 bestseller of the same name. Among the former members of the church who are showcased in the film is actor Jason Beghe of “Chicago P.D.,” who is among those telling unflattering tales about Scientology. He is joined by other ex-Scientologists Marty Rathbun (once the church’s No. 2 guy), ex-church spokesman Mike Rinder, Travolta aide Spanky Taylor and Oscar-winning “Crash” writer-director Paul Haggis.

While the church has vehemently denied virtually all of the claims in the film — including references to “The Hole,” the prison-like facility where wayward members were sent for re-indoctrination — it is expected that this coming week will witness even more Church of Scientology pronouncements and paid advertising to attack the film.

“Going Clear,” shown in theaters in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, debuts at 7 p.m. Sunday on HBO.