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Strange PR Bedfellows: Scientology and The Nation of Islam

You may not have heard about The Church of Scientology opening a new “national affairs office” in Washington, DC’s historic Fraser Mansion last month. Small PR potatoes, right?

We would normally agree–but this week The New Republic published a fascinating story that caught our eye: It would appear that The Church and The Nation of Islam—which may well be our country’s two least favorite native religious groups—have decided to join hands in the interest of faith and public relations. It’s quite bizarre.

Some might say that Scientology is going through a bit of PR crisis right now. After Paul Haggis’s big 2011 New Yorker takedown, the church’s famous PR team seems to have slowed down a bit—they haven’t even truly responded to PT Anderson’s thinly-veiled L. Ron Hubbard film “The Master” or the inflammatory headlines that have appeared on gossip rags in the wake of the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes split.

In fact, the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey found that the number of Americans who identified as Scientologists had dropped by more than 50% in the previous seven years. While the church denies this shift, there’s little doubt that it could stand to gain a few new members.

Turns out that current Nation leader Louis Farrakhan found himself drawn to Scientology’s message about creating a purer self after speaking to a former Nation member turned Scientologist in the early aughts at the same time that church leader David Miscavige grew especially interested in attracting black Americans! According to a formerly high-ranking church defector, Miscavige thought that “the ghetto is hip. … In order to make us hip, we are going to infiltrate that sector.”

Wow.

The church held a summit near the Nation’s headquarter in Illinois in 2010, and the relationship appears to be growing. What about all the notorious fees required of new church members? Apparently, leaders have been instructed to waive them for Nation of Islam converts—and Farrakhan hopes that the two organizations can develop a “long and beautiful relationship.”

We absolutely do not know what to make of this story, but we find it completely fascinating.

PR pros: What do you think of these very, very strange bedfellows? Can they each benefit from their unexpected relationship?

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