Why It's Not OK To Support Celebs Who Defend Scientology

Ravishly gets retrospective: A top read of 2014, dusted off from the archives.

Joining the ranks of Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Elisabeth Moss and other A-list stars, Juliette Lewis has come out swinging against those who deign to attack her religion of Scientology. In a new Daily Beast interview, she says, not mincing her words:

"I’ll get all conspiratorial on you, and I’m just going to throw this out: The mainstream media is funded by pharmaceutical companies, so when you have the biggest movie star in the world at the time—Tom Cruise—coming out against anti-depressants and Ritalin and just saying, 'Hey, why don’t you put a warning label on there?' The thing about Scientology is it is anti-drug in that you’re seeking relationship or communication tools—simple basics on how to live better. So, when Tom came out about that, I’ve never seen someone get torn down so hard, and they still brutalize him with Scientology pieces to this day. It’s a religious philosophy and self-help movement. And you’ll never see a truthful word written about it in mainstream media."

Yes, that's right, the only reason the mainstream media could take aim at Scientology is because it's collectively being spoon-fed by Big Pharma. No other reason could possibly exist. None at all.

This defensive statement, which conveniently glosses over the fact that Cruise rather viciously and dangerously ripped into all psychiatry as bogus, is par for the course for celebs who belong to the religion. (And trust me, though a member of the media, I would sooner throw a drink in Big Pharma's face than get in bed with it.) And frankly, these kinds of statements should not be stood for.

Do people have the right to belong to whatever religion they please? Of course. Do they have a right to defend said religion? Yep.

But Scientology is not just any religion. It's an actively abusive organization that blatantly uses celebrities to further its unethical practices.

First, let's quickly establish why Scientology is so heavily scrutinized to begin with. Among many charges, it's been reported that the church's current leader (and Tom Cruise BFF), David Miscavige, is physically and emotionally abusive. He's been accused by ex-members of punching, choking, and shoving his staff, and of shipping off transgressors to secret detention facilities. Some speculate that he even shipped off his own wife; she disappeared under a cloud of secrecy in 2007, and has never been heard from since.

The church's elite Sea Org group also involves children dropping out of school to join a boot camp that commits to a billion (yes billion) years of church service. In addition to participating in brutal physical labor, ex-members have described conditions of social isolation, sleep deprivation and a lack of proper medical care.

Plus, the church's founder, L. Ron Hubbard, was outright crazy; he once perpetuated a massive sting against the government to purge unfavorable records and tried to summon a "moon child" while a member of an actual cult.

These claims are not unfounded, but rather come from abundant testimony by high-level church defectors and the records of Hubbard himself. The insane/amazing book Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief, an even-handed but damning investigation by a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, is a great place to dig in to these and other details.

Having established that at the very least the church is ethically dubious, let's look at one of its key tenets: actively using celebrities as an endorsement tool.

The church's ego-feeding "Celebrity Centre" was expressly started by Hubbard as a way to lure high-profile people into the church, so the masses would be inspired to join, too. Going Clear details a missive from a church publication that outlined "desirable" celeb recruits and told members:

"If you want one of these celebrities as your game, write us at once so the notable will be yours to hunt without interference. If you bring one of them home you will get a small plaque as your reward."

Once recruited, big-name celebs are coddled and pampered so they stay and publicly praise the church. The book details, for instance, special luxe church accommodations, blinged-out motorcycles, and extravagant feasts provided to Tom Cruise for free—often as a result of other members' unpaid labor.

Obviously, it's possible to be a healthy, happy, productive Scientologist, celebrity or otherwise. But because stars are used by the church as a marketing ploy, and because this adds glamorous sheen to actively abusive practices, it is the right of the public and the media to push back. In fact, it's necessary.

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