The idea that a religion founded on 1950s science fiction fantasies and a cosmic self-help manifesto has attracted over 8 million followers, several of them high-profile, A-list celebrities, is difficult for outsiders to comprehend. However, those are Scientology’s statistics. L. Ron Hubbard founded Scientology in 1953, and the first official Church of Scientology was incorporated in Camden, New Jersey.
Hubbard’s best selling self-help manifesto “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health,” which consists of ideas spun and repackaged from earlier and less successful science fiction writings, was the template for the new religion. L. Ron Hubbard, always a master in the dark arts of marketing and promotion, simply rebranded “Dianetics” into a 20th century religion. Since its inception, Scientology has been a lightning rod of controversy and speculation. Needless to say, words like “cult” and “sect” were bandied about from the onset, and the secrecy surrounding Scientology, and its siege mentality against the rest of the world, only magnified its Skull and Bones-like mythology. In 1969, L. Ron Hubbard established Scientology’s Celebrity Centre International, a spiritual retreat in Hollywood designed for artists, politicians, sports figures, and leaders of industry. Part of Scientology’s business model in the early years was to hunt A-list celebrities like Walt Disney, Orson Welles, and Greta Garbo. In a 1973 letter Hubbard is said to have written the following: “Celebrities are very Special people. They have communication lines that others do not have.”
By 1986, at the time of L. Ron Hubbard’s death, Scientology had become the trendy “It” religion amongst Hollywood celebrities. Although the length and expense of becoming a scientologist varies per person, achieving the state of “clear” with an auditor is rumoured to cost over $100,000, and achieving the current highest level of “Operating Thetan” is an additional $300,000. And if the price tag wasn’t enough to turn you away, celebrity scandals and whistleblowers have damaged the Scientology brand, providing controversy, scrutiny, and tabloid intrigue; all negative aspects of fame that L. Ron Hubbard failed to factor into the mix when he started hunting for A-listers. Hollywood, as they say, can be a cruel mistress.
6. Johnny Lewis, Net Worth: Unknown
Actor Johnny Lewis was best known for his role as Kip “Half-Sack” Epps in “Sons of Anarchy,” the motorcycle gangland drama, as well the one-time love interest of pop singer Katy Perry, before arrests, jail time, and court-ordered rehab plastered his name across the tabloids. Johnny Lewis’s parents are both long time Scientologists and his father, Michael Lewis, is said to have achieved one of the highest levels of Scientology. He also co-wrote a movie with the founder of the discovery of Dianetics in the 1980s. Like his parents, Johnny embraced the celebrity religion. He was said to be highly involved in the drug rehabilitation center Narconon, which has attracted some controversy with its treatment methods which include using mould, lice, extended hours in a sauna and attempting to make objects levitate (yes), as well as it’s previous reluctance to mention any affiliation with Scientology. Johnny’s mother, Divona Lewis, was mentioned on the Scientology website to have successfully used Narconon principals to keep him off drugs, though it was removed when Johnny found himself in a rehabilitation center for drug addiction. With three arrests that year, Johnny Lewis’s downward spiral reached its final chapter less than a week out of prison when he went on what appeared to be a drug-induced rampage and killed his 81 year old landlady, beat her cat to death, and fell off a roof to his death. Although eyewitnesses claim he was on drugs, the autopsy report shows no drugs were in his system, and that he had nail marks on both sides of his neck, and showed signs of partial strangulation.
5. Leah Remini, Net Worth: $20 million
Actress and TV star Leah Remini, known for her role as Kevin James’s wife on the hit show “The King of Queens,” defected from the Church of Scientology in 2013. Remini was raised in a family of Scientologists and active in the church for over thirty-years. In fact, Remini didn’t just defect; she caused the tabloids to explode. Remini left the church because of the unexplained disappearance of Shelly Miscavige. Who is Mrs. Miscavige? None other than the wife of David Miscavige -the leader of the Church of Scientology since 1986. Asking too many questions is frowned upon in the Church of Scientology. The more Remini questioned Shelly Miscavige’s whereabouts, the more she was stonewalled, shunned, and given the run-around by members of higher rank. When Remini finally defected, she filled out a missing persons report with the L.A.P.D. While the report was eventually ruled as unfounded, there’s still a great deal of mystery surrounding the location of Shelly Miscavige. Reports suggest Mrs. Miscavige is at one of the church’s secret compounds (Trementina, Rimforest), but that’s done nothing to dispel rumors that due to some infraction she’s been temporarily banished from the church, which, according to defectors, results in years of auditing, reprogramming, interrogation, and menial labor, all of which are used to elicit repentance and submission.
4. David Miscavige, Net Worth: $50 Million
If scandals amongst Scientology’s members wasn’t enough, Leah Remini’s defection and the missing persons report she filed concerning Mrs. Miscavige sent conspiracy theories into overdrive. David and Shelly were married in 1982. After L. Ron Hubbard’s death in 1986, David Miscavige became the Chairman of the Board of the Church of Scientology. Shelly has held an esteemed position in the executive office of the church since David became leader. According to an article in Vanity Fair, David Miscavige is “known to have a hair-trigger temper that produced fits of verbal and physical violence.” Claire Headley, an ex-Scientologist, said, “The law in Scientology is: The closer to David Miscavige you get, the harder you’re going to fall.” Rumor has it Shelly made executive decisions without consulting David, and that those decisions led to her excommunication. The church’s silence and clandestine behavior have fueled nothing but controversy since Mrs. Miscavige vanished in 2007. Scientology members claim Shelly has been reassigned to another position, a secret project in one of the church’s hidden and heavily guarded bases, and therefore simply no longer in the public sector. At the same time, being that the church is known for its cult-like and conspiratorial undertakings, all sorts of stories have surfaced.
3. Paul Haggis, Net Worth: $80 Million
Paul Haggis, who is best known for writing the screenplay for “Million Dollar Baby” and writing and directing the film “Crash,” winner of the 2004 Best Picture award, had been in the Scientology organization for 35-years before resigning in 2008. Haggis wanted the church to renounce “Proposition 8,” a piece of legislature stating that California should only sanction marriage “between a man and a woman,” but the church refused. Haggis is quoted in a letter to Tommy Davis, chief spokesman for the Church of Scientology, as saying, “You and I both know there has been a hidden anti-gay sentiment in the church for a long time. I have been shocked on too many occasions to hear Scientologists make derogatory remarks about gay people, and then quote L.R.H. in their defense.” Supposedly, Haggis forwarded the resignation letter to many of his Scientologist friends, and it wasn’t long before the church’s defectors were contacting him with stories of brainwashing, physical abuse, and human rights violations, much of it at the hands of David Miscavige.
2. John Travolta, Net Worth: $165 million
John Travolta is one of Scientology’s tentpole celebrities, and he’s been involved in the church since his introduction to “Dianetics” in 1975. In 2008, Travolta publically credited the church for giving him the strength to cope with his son’s unexpected death. Travolta’s son, Jett, died from a seizure associated with autism, and reporters didn’t fail to point out the irony that Scientology doesn’t believe in mental illness. In 2012, Travolta became the subject of a prostitution scandal, when several male massage therapists claimed the actor offered them cash for sexual favors. The allegations proved to be false, but rumors quickly circulated that the Church of Scientology had long been blackmailing Travolta with knowledge of his homosexuality.
1. Tom Cruise, Net Worth: $250 million
Tom Cruise is one of Hollywood’s highest-paid actors. Fourteen of his films have made over $100 million domestically, and 20 films have grossed over $200 million worldwide. Cruise has been an advocate of Scientology since the 1990s, when his first wife, Mimi Rogers, introduced him to the religion. Over the years, Cruise has promoted Scientology’s programs and lobbied officials for its cause, and for all his hard work and devotion (not to mention celebrity status) David Miscavige awarded Cruise Scientology’s “Freedom Medal of Valor” award in 2004. However, as L. Ron Hubbard stated in 1973, “celebrities have communication lines that others do not have,” and often times this is more of a curse than a reward. The damage Tom Cruise caused Scientology began in 2004, when he said: “I think psychiatry should be outlawed.” This statement quickly turned into a public fiasco when Cruise criticized Brooke Shields for using the drug Paxil, and then proceeded to engage in a heated (and image-damaging) debate with Matt Lauer on NBC’s Today about psychiatry, pseudoscience, mental illness, and postpartum depression. It’s a fact: Scientology doesn’t believe in psychiatry; in making inflammatory statements about psychiatry, Cruise did nothing more than act as a messenger for his church. However, it’s a Catch 22. If Tom Cruise’s public image is damaged, then so is Scientology’s image. Scientology’s coup de grace scandal came in 2012, when Katie Holmes, Cruise’s wife of six years, filed for divorce. Cruise finally admitted, in 2013, what the rest of the world already knew, that Katie Holmes divorced him to protect their daughter, Suri, from Scientology. There was little that even a religion known for its secrecy, spin control, and siege-mentality could do redirect the negative publicity.