Ms. Myers is fascinated by celebrities and their impact on culture. Whether it's politics, sexuality, or religion, stars influence society.
Five Celebrity Scientologists Who Are Diehards
- Tom Cruise
- John Travolta
- Kirstie Alley
- Priscilla Presley
- Juliette Lewis
While many celebrities have been rumored to be Scientologists, there's no question these five stars are the real deal. Each one is a devoted, long-time member of the church and a fierce defender of its practices. When he conceived the religion decades ago, L. Ron Hubbard's goal was to attract up-and-coming actors to the faith who, in turn, would inspire other young people to join.
In recent years, however, big-names such as Leah Remini, Paul Haggis, and Lisa Marie Presley have ditched the religion while others have grown more reluctant to discuss their much-maligned faith. While the five remaining diehards still reside in the public eye, they're all over 40, hardly the young heartthrobs Scientology needs to stay fresh, relevant, and appealing to potential new recruits.
The Church of Scientology and Negative Press
Scientology has received a lot of attention recently—most of it negative. Some have called it a dangerous cult, requiring its members to disconnect from friends and family who obstruct its mission. They cite Tom Cruise as an example of this practice, claiming he no longer sees his daughter, Suri, because ex-wife, Kate Holmes, got deemed an SP (suppressive person) by the church.
Others claim it's a scam, fleecing its members for classes, materials, and auditing sessions. Auditing, the practice of hooking up members to a device called an E-meter so they can rid themselves of negative thoughts, costs thousands of dollars to reach the desired state of "clear." Still others assert it's a fraud, not a religion at all. They argue Scientology sought status as a religion only to get tax-exempt status from the IRS.
Scientology and Science Fiction
Lawrence Wright's Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief tells how the religion sprouted from its founder's imagination. L. Ron Hubbard, the prolific science fiction writer, devised a convoluted tale about Xenu, a galactic overlord, who faced problems of overpopulation on the planets he controlled. The fantastical story includes frozen bodies dumped into volcanoes, implanted false realities, and alien spirits called Body Thetans. While it all sounds quite outlandish to an outsider, it begs the question: What is it about the religion that causes celebrity Scientologists to defend it so passionately, swear by its practices, and credit it for their success.
It's something that has helped me incredibly in my life. I've been a Scientologist for over 30 years. Without it, I wouldn't be where I am. So it's a beautiful religion. I'm incredibly proud.
— Tom Cruise on Scientology
1. Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise is the public face of Scientology, good buddy to its leader, David Miscavige, and recipient of lavish gifts and preferential treatment bestowed on its celebrity members. In Going Clear, Lawrence Wright makes it abundantly clear why Cruise stays in the religion, even though his involvement led to high-profile divorces from Nicole Kidman and Katie Holmes as well as estrangement from daughter, Suri. Among celebrity Scientologists, Cruise is a king among kings with low-level members taking care of his every need (for little or no compensation): detailing his cars and motorcycles, preparing his meals, and, most importantly, stroking his ego. Higher-level members were even charged with finding him a suitable girlfriend!
Unlike other religions that exalt the virtues of humility (blessed the meek, for they shall inherit the earth)—Scientology lets celebrities enjoy their overabundance of fame and wealth without guilt. While Tom Cruise has received lots of kudos for his acting, it doesn't compare to the attention he receives from within Scientology, where he has achieved godlike status. Having reached the rank of Operating Thetan or OT, members believe he possesses superhuman powers such as the ability to move objects with his mind, leave his body at will, and communicate telepathically.
Cruise credits Scientology for his career success. He claims it helped him overcome dyslexia as an adult after struggling to read as a kid. He says its teachings have helped him immensely as an actor, giving him the confidence and courage that the profession demands. He says the religion gave him the guts to take risks such as doing his own movie stunts and learning to drive race cars and fly planes.
This Scientology-produced video wasn't meant to be seen by the public. Cruise was ridiculed for his arrogance.
2. John Travolta
While Tom Cruise is known for his intensity on and off-screen, his fellow Scientologist, John Travolta, is a study in contrast—gentle and laid back. But both actors share a similar devotion to their church, its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, and its mission to spread Scientology's message throughout the world. In the 1970's, a young Travolta shot to fame when starring in the sitcom, Welcome Back Kotter, and the blockbuster movie, Saturday Night Fever. He became the religion's first superstar spokesman, crediting it for helping him conquer his fears and finding success as an actor.
Travolta is such a dedicated Scientologist he even starred in 2000's Battlefield Earth based on L. Ron Hubbard's book of the same name. In addition to his acting duties, he co-produced the film, throwing millions of his own money into it. It was an enormous flop, earning seven Razzies, including Worst Movie of the Year and Worst Actor for Travolta. Critics called the film a recruitment tool for Scientology because Travolta promoted it by signing copies of Hubbard's book but not granting media interviews.
Despite the controversy, Travolta stays steadfast in his loyalty to the church, claiming it helped him immensely after his son died. He said about Scientology in a recent interview, “It's a beautiful thing for me and I've saved lives with it. Saved my own life several times. Through the loss of my son (Jett), it helped me every step of the way for two years solid."
In this video, John Travolta says Scientology is a target of criticism because it works.
3. Kirstie Alley
Kirstie Alley is the celebrity Scientologist who's the fiercest and feistiest champion of the church. Like many who come into the fold, she entered at a low point in her life when battling a cocaine addiction. It was 1979 when she attended Narconon, a program that uses techniques developed by L. Ron Hubbard to free people of their dependence on drugs. She credits Narconon and the church with freeing her from cocaine and letting her focus on becoming an actress. She says, "To tell you the honest-to-God truth: without Scientology, I would be dead. So, I can personally highly recommend it."
Unlike other celebrities who quietly defend the church, Alley doesn't hesitate to go on the attack when she thinks her religion is getting maligned. When actress, Leah Remini, left the religion and wrote a book critical of it, Alley blasted her as a “a repulsive bigot.” Alley has also spoken out against the religious bigotry she believes her church faces in countries such as Germany, where they consider Scientology a cult, a money-making venture, and a threat to democracy.
Alley puts her money where her mouth is, donating $5 million to the church in 2007. She also spent $1.5 million to buy a waterfront mansion in Clearwater, Florida, the spiritual home of Scientology. In a recent interview, she spoke about reaching one of the church's highest levels, OT-7, explaining that she's now free of all any aberrant behaviors that can cause distress.
4. Priscilla Presley
Priscilla Presley, the actress and former wife of Elvis, got recruited into Scientology in the late 1970's by her friend, John Travolta. She has remained steadfast to the religion ever since, bringing her daughter, Lisa Marie, into the fold. Presley has become an outspoken champion of her religion, especially its hard-line stance against psychiatry.
Presley has actively supported the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, an organization founded by the Church of Scientology and dedicated to exposing the harmful effects of psychiatry. It has its own museum on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood with exhibits showing the “horrors” of psychiatry including psychoactive drugs, electroshock therapy, and straight jackets. Their mission is to expose psychiatry as an “industry driven by profit” with no regard for human rights.
Although Lisa Marie has left the church, Priscilla remains a faithful and active member. Ironically, Scientology tried to recruit Elvis into the church but failed miserably. After visiting the Celebrity Centre, he reached this conclusion, “There's no way I'll ever get involved with that son-of-a-bitchin' group. All they want is my money."
5. Juliette Lewis
Juliette Lewis, an actress best known for her role in Cape Fear, is a second generation celebrity Scientologist. Her late father, the actor Geoffrey Lewis, was a long-time member of the church. As a teen, Juliette started using marijuana and moved on to cocaine. She credits her religion with helping her lead a drug-free life today, saying, “Scientology keeps me rooted and grounded—it's been an amazing force in my life.”
Like Tom Cruise, she has spoken out against greedy pharmaceutical companies, claiming they control the mainstream media. This is why Scientology never gets a fair shake in the press, Lewis contends. She agrees with her religion's hard line stance against Big Pharma, arguing it hooks people on drugs by prescribing Ritalin for kids with ADHD and anti-depressants for mothers with postpartum depression.
I Highly Recommend This Book to Understand Scientology and Its Relationship With Celebrities
Questions & Answers
Question: Why has Tom Cruise stuck with Scientology even though it's hurt his career?
Answer: While Tom Cruise certainly doesn't have the box office power he once did, it's hard to know how much of his decline is due to his affiliation with Scientology. There are other key factors to consider as well, mostly his age, as younger, sexier hunks have taken his place in the hearts of the movie-going public. Instead of transitioning to supporting parts or character roles, Cruise has insisted on remaining the leading man well into his 50's, mostly in action films--doing dangerous stunts, wooing the ladies, and carrying the film.
He doesn't work with high-caliber directors like he once did (Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese), but it's impossible to know if Scientology is the reason for this or something else. It was widely reported at the time that Spielberg was unhappy with the way Cruise conducted himself while doing publicity for their movie, “Minority Report.” While promoting that film, Cruise made his infamous appearance on “Oprah,” jumping on her sofa, and declaring his undying loving for Katie Holmes after dating only a few weeks. Spielberg believed his outrageous antics distracted from the movie, and who can argue with that!
While Cruise may be disappointed that his star has dimmed in Hollywood, he gets more than enough acclaim, attention, and accolades in the Scientology universe. While some members have left the religion because they oppose the ruthlessness of David Miscavige, Cruise has probably stayed because of his close relationship with the church's leader. The two men are reportedly best buddies who spend a lot of time together. In his book, “Going Clear,” Lawrence Wright details the outrageous things Miscavige has ordered Scientology members to do through the decades to keep Cruise happy: cleaning his homes, repairing his motorcycles, running his errands, babysitting his children, and even helping him with his courtships. Believe me, he has it good and I see no reason why he'd want to leave!
© 2016 McKenna Meyers