Why did the Church of Scientology buy a channel on YouTube? Well, remember how a video of Tom Cruise babbling about Scientology cropped up on YouTube? And how the Church got the video taken down so we put it on Gawker and then another copy stayed on YouTube? Well the Church tried to fight its critics with a regular user account, but that didn't work; the organization had no more visible cred than the anonymous people accusing it of suppressing free speech. So now the Church bought themselves this fancy channel stocked with 82 videos about their religion. Most are just bland, and some are delightfully creepy, even if they lack the star power of Tom Cruise. But I'm not allowed to show them here.

One of YouTube's selling points is the ability to embed its videos on other pages. This allows free discussion of those videos, just like excerpting an image or text. But the Church turned off embedding in their clips. In fact, you can't link to just one video by clicking from the Church's official channel. You have to search for their videos.

Then you can find this creepy clip of a ceremony celebrating the Church's "International Way To Happiness Foundation." A South African dignitary thanks the Church (or more precisely, a supposedly secular wing of the Church) for starting a program in his country's prisons. An Israeli publisher thanks the Church for healing the Middle East, as does a Palestinian education official.

In another video, a narrator explains how you are a thetan, not a body or mind. Another clip introduces the auditing process. In that clip, it sounds weirdly like the therapeutic process in the psychiatric field that Scientologists like Tom Cruise have publicly denounced.

But most of the clips are innocent slideshows with a narrator gently listing beliefs that would fit with mainstream Christianity. Every clip has a cheesy grocery-store soundtrack. The net effect is to make the Church look like another dull religion or self-help class and not, as some critics label it, a murderous cult.

Either way, because the Church disabled the option to embed their videos, I can't show you the clips here but can only link to them. I've downloaded some copies, but uploading them here might violate copyright law as long as there's another copy on the Church's channel.

The Church paid for its special channel. Anyone can disable embeds, but a specially formatted user page doesn't come free. YouTube helped the Church integrate its custom menu into the channel, though of course it didn't create any of the content. Nor did YouTube endorse the Church or give it control over other users' videos, and all such accusations I saw provided no evidence.

But I'm baffled why the Church, after putting together such a friendly little propaganda channel, not only disabled all comments (a reasonable way to avoid actually diving into two-way conversation) but disabled embedding and turned its channel into a tidy menu. That guarantees that hardly anyone will stumble onto the videos. I guess the rest of the world should be glad that the Church doesn't get the Internet.

What may piss off some viewers is that the Church is advertising their channel all over YouTube. This might explain the no-embed rule; the Church is specifically targeting YouTube users, not the Internet at large, though I see no reason to specifically hide from everyone outside of the video site. But one user was creeped out by Church ads appearing on popular channels like Smosh, Awkward Pictures, and Playboy, even though any creator can ask YouTube to keep certain advertisers off its page. Guess everyone just needed the money. At least I can still show you the anti-Church videos.