The Scientology Connection

With the spotlight on Tom and Katie, the church’s role in the relationship is common gossip fodder.

Truth be told, Mark Lisanti says he feels a little “bombarded” by the Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes romance.

“I’ve almost been broken by it,” said Lisanti, editor of the online gossip column, which maintains a massive repository of all things TomKat. “I can do five or six posts a day on it without breaking a sweat.”

One common thread among many of Lisanti’s collected tidbits: the Church of Scientology. Cruise is the world’s biggest movie star and the church’s highest-profile ambassador. Holmes, his new beau, told reporters this week she’s “really excited” about her Scientology lessons.

Celebrities and Scientology

“The Church of Scientology uses celebrity spokesmen to endorse L. Ron Hubbard’s teachings and give Scientology greater acceptability in mainstream America. As far back as 1955, Hubbard recognized the value of famous people to his fledgling, off-beat church when he inaugurated ‘Project Celebrity.’ According to Hubbard, Scientologists should target prominent individuals as their “quarry” and bring them back like trophies for Scientology. […] Celebrities are considered so important to the movement’s expansion that the church created a special office to guide their careers and ensure their ‘correct utilization’ for Scientology. The church has a special branch that ministers to prominent individuals, providing them with first-class treatment. Its headquarters, called Celebrity Centre International, is housed in a magnificent old turreted mansion on Franklin Avenue, overlooking the Hollywood Freeway.
The Selling of a Church: The Courting of Celebrities

“I have looked into it myself and I really like it and I think it’s really wonderful,” Holmes told Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush. “I feel like I’m bettering myself.”

Might a trip to Clearwater, the church’s spiritual headquarters and home to an advanced Scientology training retreat, be in the cards?

Either way, it seems the controversial church is once again getting plenty of prime-time airplay – just in time for the summer blockbuster season.

“This is a religion that has fantastic word of mouth,” Greg LaClaire, vice president of public relations for the church’s Celebrity Centre in Los Angeles, said in an e-mail to tbt*. “People are interested in this religion. They wonder what it is and why so many people are interested in it.”

While many of the church’s practices take place far from public view, the Church of Scientology makes no secret of its links to celebrity culture. Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard believed “real celebrities deserve the best in service and care, for those are the people who are sculpting the present into the future.”

Since converting in the mid 1980s, Cruise has never shied from discussing Scientology. In 2003, he popped up in Clearwater at a private dinner party attended by Tampa mayor Pam Iorio and state Sen. Tom Lee.

But Scientology has become an even more visible part of his life in recent months. According to various reports, Cruise:

– Replaced his longtime publicist, who also represented such clients as Al Pacino, Warren Beatty and Jodie Foster, with his Scientologist sister;

– Opened a Scientology-run massage tent on the War of the Worldsset;

– Criticized actress Brooke Shields for using medication to battle post-partum depression (Scientology forbids “mind-altering psychiatric drugs”);

– Asked reporters from Details magazine and Australia’s 60 Minutes to take extensive tours of a Scientology facility in Los Angeles before he’d agree to an interview.

Holmes, though, appears puppy-love smitten with Cruise. Aside from taking up his religion, she recently replaced her agent with Cruise’s, E! Online reported. And in interviews, both Holmes and Cruise hint marriage might be in the cards – this, despite the fact that the 42-year-old action hero and the 26-year-old girl next door have dated less than two months.

The frenetic timeline has raised many an eyebrow among skeptics who believe the coupling just a publicity stunt. And Scientology’s involvement has not exactly lent things an air of credibility.

Is Cruise pressing Holmes to adopt his religion, as implied by the Web site, which sells T-shirts reading “Free Katie” and “I Got Clear at” Or was Holmes already curious about Scientology, and did she meet Cruise through the church?

“In another week, it’s going to be a chicken-and-egg question anyway, now that she’s come out publicly saying she’s joining Scientology,” Lisanti said.

“Which,” he added, “is another strange move in and of itself.”

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Tampa Bay Tribune, USA
June 15, 2005
Jay Cridlin

Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday June 15, 2005.
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