Why is Hollywood Still Turning a Blind Eye to Scientology?

The church’s abuse has been known for decades. It’s time to speak out.

Cameron C.
Make it Personal

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Elisabeth Moss in AMC’s ‘Mad Men’

Peggy Olsen is one of my favorite characters in television history. Elisabeth Moss’ performance masterfully captures the arc of a young woman coming out of her shell and taking control over her own life. I found myself connecting to Peggy Olsen just as much as to Don Draper, and she was one of the many reasons I fell in love with the show.

I was obsessed with Mad Men. I read every script I could get my hands on to improve my own writing, to learn from the show’s grandiose competence — both behind and in front of the camera — that left me awestruck after every episode. But after a discovery I made, this appreciation and inspiration deflated and drifted away.

The discovery was that Elisabeth Moss is a Scientologist.

Well-Documented Craziness

The past decade has been pivotal in the efforts to speak out against social, racial and economic injustice. Hollywood has had its fair share of blame, whether for giving child-rapist Roman Polanski a standing ovation, booing Michael Moore for speaking out against the Iraq War, or the continued support of Woody Allen after he was accused of molesting his 7-year old adopted daughter. Since then, many in Hollywood have apologized for turning a blind eye to these injustices and some have expressed regret for working with Allen.

So, why isn’t anyone expressing regret for their enabling of Scientology?

You’ve probably seen the wild interview with Tom Cruise where he rants about the benefits of Scientology. He claims only Scientologists can help victims of car accidents, that only Scientologists can rehabilitate criminals, unite cultures and bring world peace.

Laura Prepon and Danny Masterson, both Scientologists

Just recently, That 70’s Show actor Danny Masterson has been charged with three counts of rape, going back to 2001. The Church of Scientology attempted to help Masterson cover up his crimes by harassing the victims, even going as far as to allegedly kill one of their dogs in an attempt to silence her.

The Church of Scientology labels all of its enemies ‘SP’s, or Suppressive Persons. The church’s official glossary defines an SP as ‘a person who possesses a distinct set of characteristics and mental attitudes that cause him to suppress other people in his vicinity. This is the person whose behavior is calculated to be disastrous.’

The ambiguity of this definition is intentional: it helps them justify their ‘attack the attacker’ policy, going after anyone who publicly criticizes the church.

When Mike Rinder left Scientology after twenty five years of membership, he was labeled an SP. The same goes for many people who leave the church. Members within the church are not allowed to have any contact with SPs, which means that Mike Rinder’s escape from the iron grasp of Scientology has made him unable to have contact with his two adult children.

Rinder cohosts the A&E show Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, in which he recounts instances of the church stalking him. They:

Rinder was at a doctor’s appointment when he was ambushed by a group of Scientology operatives, one of which was his ex-wife.

These types of bizarre behavior are happening all over the country, and it’s painful to see actors we hold in high regard choosing to actively or passively support the church.

It’s equally maddening to witness the silence of others in the industry who are not speaking out against this. When I rewatch episodes of Mad Men, it’s hard for me to not think about how everyone on set is willfully turning a blind eye to what Elisabeth Moss is a part of.

Photo by Ahmet Yalçınkaya on Unsplash

Hollywood’s History of Complicity

One of the first big stories about injustice in the 2010s was about the decades of allegations of sexual harassment from film producer Harvey Weinstein. These allegations were an open secret.

Courtney Love warned young actors about Harvey Weinstein back in 2005, and even stated she was banned by the Creative Arts Agency for doing so.

Seth MacFarlane made a joke about women having to pretend to be attracted to Weinstein during the 2013 Oscars. Everyone knew what he was talking about, but they wouldn’t do anything about it for another four years.

A recent movement about assistant pay has spawned in the wake of #MeToo. Hollywood assistant pay was averaging $12–15 per hour, with work weeks up to sixty hours long. Many assistants took second jobs to afford rent. Many were forced to do things outside of their contracts or face being fired.

Collaborative movements have spread throughout the industry to stop inequality and harassment. But there’s a fundamental and structural issue still rearing its ugly head. Scientology’s abuse is still an open secret, one that Hollywood doesn’t want to talk about yet.

Why not? Because it endangers capital.

There’s an abuse of power between those who have it, abusing it against those who don’t. In the face of these injustices, people still remain quiet in favor of their careers and money and are only speaking out when public pressure becomes too loud to ignore — much like what we’re seeing with the NFL’s pivoting on protesting in the wake of the recent Black Lives Matter protests. These corporations only supported BLM once it became the popular position to take.

George W. Bush | Ellen DeGeneres | Variety

Ellen DeGeneres was recently criticized for hanging out with former president George W. Bush at a Dallas Cowboys game. DeGeneres responded to the backlash claiming “I’m friends with George Bush … In fact, I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have. We’re all different and I think we’ve forgotten that that’s OK that we’re all different.”

She claimed that it’s because she is kind that she was able to look past her differences with Bush. But looking past minor differences isn’t what allows DeGeneres to cozy up with people who spent their two presidential terms trying to reduce LGBTQ rights, of which DeGeneres has been a loud advocate for. The reason they can be friends is class solidarity.

“It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it.” — George Carlin

Now, there’s a few things to tackle about the Church of Scientology, legally speaking:

Scientology is recognized as a religion and a church. People in America have the freedom of religion, so holding someone’s religion against them raises plenty of ethical questions and implications. A government intervening into an officially recognized religion and church can be unconstitutional.

However, being a religion does not permit organizations to operate outside the law, which the Church of Scientology has done.

In the ‘70s, the church was responsible for the criminal conspiracy Snow White, where they attempted to expunge all the unfavorable records of the church’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard. The conspiracy included breaking into and stealing from 136 government agencies, foreign embassies and consulates.

Eleven highly placed church executives — including founder L. Ron Hubbard’s wife, Sue Hubbard — plead guilty and were convicted in federal court of burglary, obstruction of justice and theft of government documents, in the case United States vs. Sue Hubbard et al.

Being a church or a cult doesn’t exempt you from government intervention if you are holding people against their will and breaking laws. The Church of Scientology conducts routine beatings of its members, has billion-year contracts, and runs re-education camps involving slave labor. They’ve also forced separation of communication between family members under a process called ‘disconnection,’ and have kidnapped members who attempted to escape.

Remini even alleges renowned Scientologist Tom Cruise participates in these beatings and that the LAPD is heavily tied with the Church of Scientology, preventing adequate investigations into the church’s actions. Remini filed a missing person’s report with the LAPD for Shelly Miscaviage, leader David Miscaviage’s wife, who has not been publicly seen since August of 2007.

Detective Gus Villanueva of the LAPD responded with, “The LAPD has classified the report as unfounded, indicating that Shelly is not missing.”

A close personal aide to Shelly Miscaviage filed a lawsuit against the church, citing false imprisonment, slander, libel, human trafficking and negligence.

The aide also claimed to have ‘witnessed a dark-colored tinted vehicle pull up to the main building’ at Scientology’s Gold Base, at which point ‘unidentified men dragged Shelly, who was crying and visibly distraught, out of the building and put her in the car.’

Silence is compliance

Why do we still ignore this? Why are we still excited to see the next Tom Cruise movie? Why do we praise Elisabeth Moss’ performance in The Invisible Man even though she belongs to a cult that has re-education camps?

Why do the producers in Hollywood ignore this? Is class solidarity and the power of money too strong to overcome until public outcry becomes too loud to ignore? Are they scared to be labeled SPs?

If we extend the logic used to criticize the police on a systemic level by the Black Lives Matter protests, the Church of Scientology is no different. Tom Cruise and Elisabeth Moss are culpable for not speaking out against the injustices of their own church, just as the police are culpable for not speaking out against their fellow officers abusing power.

Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning | Birmingham Live

That silence and that compliance transcends through the television screen. I cannot in good faith look at Mad Men the same way anymore. Watching Minority Report and the Mission Impossible franchise makes me feel sick knowing what’s ignored in the name of money, career advancement and class solidarity.

The tone-deaf videos of celebrities singing John Lennon’s Imagine and a PSA of them ‘taking responsibility’ for systemic racism feel extra hollow when you remember how silent they are on Scientology’s influence over their industry.

Making these changes does take time. It takes the actions of many brave people, much like what opened the floodgates to the #MeToo movement. It’s a good sign that we as a society are taking measures to minimize these injustices, but the frustration comes when there’s still lots of work to be done and Hollywood is dragging its feet.

As a lover of film and television, it’s painful to find out that so many directors and actors I’ve held in high regard are members of a cult. Celebrities like Elisabeth Moss, John Travolta, Michael Peña, Tom Cruise, Nancy Cartwright, Laura Prepon, Danny Masterson, Jenna Elfman, Juliette Lewis, Giovanni Ribisi, Anne Archer, Ethan Suplee, and more.

It’s deflating, as someone who engages in filmmaking and screenwriting, to know the magical place I looked up to as a child is riddled with corruption and hypocrisy.

What makes it even worse is knowing it doesn’t have to be this way.

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