Apr. 22, 2008: Watch the full interview
American TV actor and former Scientologist Jason Beghe has labelled the controversial religion “destructive” and a “rip-off” in a video interview posted on YouTube, writes Veronica Schmidt.
The 48-year-old is the first celebrity to speak out against the religion, telling how his 12 years with the church have damaged him.
“My experience personally, and what I’ve observed for myself, is that Scientology is destructive and a rip-off,” said Beghe, who has acted on Cane, CSI and Veronica Mars.
“It’s very, very dangerous for your spiritual, psychological and mental, emotional health and evolution. I think it stunts your evolution.”
The actor, who estimates he gave the church $1 million (?500,000) over 12 years, has also given an interview to New York publication The Village Voice, explaining the church’s relationship with Hollywood heavyweights.
Beghe claims Scientology’s fascination with celebrities is not just a PR exercise but that the late founder L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer, had made it clear he wanted celebrities recruited to the church.
If a member could recruit a celebrity, Beghe said, they were rewarded by having the contents of their “ethics file” – the record of misdeeds admitted during “auditing” or spiritual counselling – cleared.
The church, which has dedicated Scientology Celebrity Centres, counts Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kelly Preston and Kirstie Alley among its members.
Beghe has also revealed how he became frustrated with the religion after requirements for training continually shifted and an increasing amount of money was required to continue in the church.
The interview is the latest in a series of blows for the American-based church. In January, an embarrassing video clip of Cruise discussing Scientology was leaked onto YouTube.
The clip was followed by a further video in March of Cruise celebrating his birthday with members of the church.
The church insists it brings its members “spiritual enlightenment” and it has helped the world progress towards “the eradication of its ills”, including drugs, crime, violence and intolerance.
The three-minute-long video, posted by the prolific Scientology critic Mark Bunker for XenuTV on Monday, is to be followed by a longer interview this weekend.
Beghe insists he does not have an axe to grind and has spoken out to help others who have become involved in a religion he now believes to be at best unhelpful and at worst damaging.
“I don’t have an agenda. Right now I’m trying to help,” he said.