Cruise, Holmes raise profile of Scientology

They’ve been everywhere. Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes sharing their love and soon, we hear, their religion.

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

This week, it was widely reported that Holmes, who was raised a Catholic, will convert to the Church of Scientology. Cruise has been an outspoken member of the church for years and credits it with helping him overcome dyslexia.

Holmes, who said “yes” early Friday to Cruise’s marriage proposal at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, has told reporters she’s “really excited” about the religion and is taking classes in Scientology.

But to say she’s converting is wrong, says Mike Klagenberg, the director of special affairs for the church in Sacramento. “There is no conversion process in Scientology,” he says.

Klagenberg says he’s both a Christian and a Scientologist.

“You don’t have to give something up to become a Scientologist,” he says. “We have people of all denominations study with us.”

All the recent publicity surrounding Cruise and Holmes has been a mixed blessing for the church, says Klagenberg. The good part is that people are inquiring about the faith. The bad part is that “there are a lot of misperceptions.”

Klagenberg says he’s especially bothered by the “Free Katie” T-shirts being sold by a Web site that describes itself as “the movement to liberate Katie, a young, gifted actress held captive by forces we may never understand.”

“This is not a cult,” he says of his faith. “That’s prejudice and all it does is promote an atmosphere of intolerance and hatred.”

Klagenberg, who has been a member since 1991, describes Scientology as an applied religious philosophy that helps believers in everyday life.

The church has long been considered controversial. Critics say it is a sect that expects huge donations from members.

But followers, including some in Hollywood, believe otherwise. John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Jenna Elfman and Lisa Marie Presley are just a few others who belong to the church.

Christian and Scientologist?

The teachings and practices of the Church of Scientology are incompatible with the teachings and practices of Christianity. One can therefore not be both a Christian and a Scientologist.

Recently, Cruise has been speaking about his religion publicly. Last month, he surprised many when he called Brooke Shields “misguided” for taking antidepressants for postpartum depression and saying she should have used vitamins.

His comments were criticized by Shields and others.

But Klagenberg agrees, saying the church is against drug use and psychiatry.

“We know there are better ways,” he says. “People need to educate themselves about the religion.”

That’s what Katie Holmes says she’s going to do.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Sacramento Bee, USA
June 18, 2005
Jennifer Garza

Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday June 18, 2005.
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