From Devotees to Defectors: Celebrities and Their Scientology Journeys
By Sarah Norman | July 10, 2023
Discover the intriguing world of celebrities who have been associated with or embraced Scientology. Over the years, the Church of Scientology has attracted numerous well-known figures, thanks to "Project Celebrity" initiated by founder L. Ron Hubbard in the 1950s. This program offered incentives to Scientologists who successfully recruited prominent Hollywood stars.
Moreover, the controversial religion operates exclusive Celebrity Centers, designed to accommodate individuals with influence and a shared vision for a brighter future. Join us as we delve into this captivating gallery and explore the connections between Scientology and renowned personalities. Keep reading to unveil the intriguing stories behind these celebrity affiliations.
Tom Cruise, one of the biggest box office draws of the modern era, has gained recognition not only for his incredible talent but also for his deep devotion to the Church of Scientology. His affiliation with the controversial religious movement began during his first marriage to Mimi Rogers, who introduced him to its teachings and practices. Since then, Cruise has become one of Scientology's most prominent members, unafraid to express his unwavering support and beliefs.
Throughout his career, he has consistently credited Scientology for helping him overcome personal challenges and enhancing his life. Cruise's devotion to Scientology is evident in his public statements, as he openly advocates for its principles and actively promotes its programs and initiatives.
Juliette Lewis, the actress and musician, has had a notable connection to the Church of Scientology. Born into a Scientology family, with her father, Geoffrey Lewis, also being a Scientologist, Lewis was raised within the religion. In 2010, she openly declared herself as a practicing Scientologist in an interview with Vanity Fair. Lewis credited Scientology's Narconon program for helping her overcome a drug addiction she faced during her early adult years. However, by 2021, Lewis began distancing herself from Scientology, stating in interviews with The New York Times and The Washington Post that she now identifies as a spiritualist rather than a Scientologist. This shift in her beliefs and self-identification indicates a personal evolution and a departure from her previous association with the Church of Scientology.
Leah Remini had a significant connection to Scientology throughout her life. She first became involved with the organization at the age of nine when her family joined. However, after spending decades as a devoted Scientologist, Remini made the difficult decision to leave the church in 2013. Following her departure, she embarked on a mission to shed light on what she perceived as the alleged wrongdoings and harmful practices within Scientology.
In 2015, she published her memoir, Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology, in which she candidly shared her personal experiences and criticisms of the church. Remini's efforts to expose Scientology continued through her involvement as the host and executive producer of the Emmy Award-winning A&E series, Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath. The show, which aired from 2016 to 2019, featured interviews with former Scientologists and aimed to shed light on the organization's practices and their impact on individuals. Remini's courage in speaking out against Scientology has sparked public discourse and further raised awareness about the controversial aspects surrounding the church.
John Travolta has maintained a long-standing connection to the Church of Scientology. In 1975, during the filming of The Devil's Rain in Durango, Mexico, Travolta was introduced to the book Dianetics, which led to his conversion to Scientology. Since then, he has remained a committed and dedicated member of the church.
Travolta's association with Scientology has been an integral part of his life, and he has publicly credited the teachings and practices of the religion for positively impacting his personal and professional endeavors. Despite the controversies surrounding Scientology, Travolta has consistently expressed his unwavering support and belief in its principles, stating:
As a Scientologist, I have the technology to handle life's problems and I have used this to help others in life as well... I would say Scientology put me into the big time.
Elisabeth Moss, known for her roles in Mad Men and The Handmaid's Tale, has been associated with the Church of Scientology since her early teenage years. While Moss has not frequently discussed her connection to the organization in public interviews, she has credited Scientology for enhancing her communication skills during her upbringing. Moss has encouraged individuals to explore and learn about Scientology firsthand if they have inquiries or curiosity regarding the group. Her stance indicates that she values personal exploration and decision-making when it comes to matters concerning Scientology. Moss's affiliation with the church has sparked interest and discussions, though she has generally maintained a private approach to her relationship with Scientology.
Danny Masterson, widely recognized for his role in the popular television series That '70s Show, has been connected to the Church of Scientology from a young age. Alongside his brother, actor Christopher Masterson, Danny was raised within the framework of the Scientology belief system. He's quoted as saying on the church's website:
Each service in Scientology is something I have added to my tool box of data for living.
In March 2017, three women came forward and accused Masterson of sexually assaulting them. These allegations led to an investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department. Masterson, through his agent, denied the accusations. Shortly after, another woman also made similar rape claims. Then, in August 2019, four women filed a lawsuit against Masterson and the Church of Scientology. The lawsuit alleged stalking and harassment, which stemmed from their rape allegations. The plaintiffs claimed that the Church of Scientology launched aggressive campaigns against them after they left the church. On May 31, Masterson was convicted of two out of the three counts of forcible rape. The jury was unable to reach an unanimous decision on the third charge. Masterson has been remanded without bail until his sentencing.
Katie Holmes had a notable connection to the Church of Scientology through her marriage to Tom Cruise, one of the prominent figures within the organization. In 2012, Holmes filed for divorce from Cruise, which gained significant media attention. Reports surfaced suggesting that Holmes took measures to leave Cruise and the Church of Scientology discreetly, such as using burner cellphones and laptops, in order to protect herself and their daughter, Suri, without alerting Cruise or anyone else within the organization beforehand. While the extent of Holmes' personal involvement in Scientology during her marriage remains unclear, her association with Cruise and their high-profile divorce suggests that she was likely embedded to some extent within the church.
Kirstie Alley has had a longstanding connection to the Church of Scientology since she joined in 1979. During her lifetime she openly discussed her personal journey with addiction, stating that prior to becoming a Scientologist, she struggled with a cocaine addiction. Alley credited her recovery from addiction to Narconon, a drug treatment program affiliated with Scientology.
Over the years, she has progressed within the church and reached significant levels of spiritual advancement, attaining OT VII (Operating Thetan Level 7) by 2007 and New OT VIII by 2018. As a devoted member of the Church of Scientology, Alley made a personal decision not to reprise her role as Rebecca Howe on the television show Frasier, despite not being asked to do so. This decision was reportedly influenced by the fact that the series revolved around the field of medical psychiatry, which contrasts with the beliefs and practices of Scientology.
Laura Prepon, the That '70s Show and Orange Is The New Black actress, became a member of the Church of Scientology in 1999. However, in 2021, she publicly announced that she had not been practicing Scientology since 2016 and that it was no longer a part of her life. In 2021, she told People Magazine:
I’m no longer practicing Scientology. I’ve always been very open-minded, even since I was a child. I was raised Catholic and Jewish. I’ve prayed in churches, meditated in temples. I’ve studied Chinese meridian theory. … [Scientology] no longer part of my life.
Giovanni Ribisi has had a long-standing connection to the Church of Scientology. Raised in a Scientologist family alongside his sister, Marissa, who was once married to musician Beck, a formerly prominent Scientologist, Ribisi has been involved with the organization from a young age. In December 2005, he even took part in the gala opening of Scientology's "Psychiatry: An Industry of Death" Museum.
Ribisi has openly acknowledged his lifelong affiliation with Scientology, stating in a 2016 interview that he has been a Scientologist for as long as he can remember. His statement reflects a deep-rooted commitment to the church, indicating that Scientology has played a significant role in shaping his beliefs and values throughout his life.
Jenna Elfman, a well-known actress, has had a notable connection to the Church of Scientology. She achieved the State of Clear, an important milestone within Scientology, by 2001, indicating a significant level of spiritual progress. By 2020, Elfman had reached the OT VII level, demonstrating a continued commitment to advancing within the church's teachings. While speaking about misconceptions of Scientology with People Magazine, Elfman said:
I use it every single day of my life and [Scientology] keeps me energized and vivacious and happy. I like literally have so much going on. Why am I going to go: ‘You know, let me put some negativity in my life. Let me go see who’s being a bigot.’ Why would I search for bigotry in this world when it’s the one thing that’s been this huge help in my life to keep me sane and to raise great kids?
Kelly Preston, a talented actress, had a strong connection to the Church of Scientology. She became a member in the 1980s, introduced to the church through her acting coach, Milton Katselas. In 1991, Preston married fellow actor John Travolta, who is also a devoted Scientologist. Throughout her life, Preston remained dedicated to her beliefs within the church. Tragically, she passed away in 2020 at the age of 57 at her home in Clearwater, Florida, after battling breast cancer for two years. Preston's commitment to Scientology was an integral part of her life, and her passing marked the loss of a valued member within the church community.
In a 2016 interview with The Guardian Michael Peña opened up about his involvement with Scientology, stating that he joined the church in 2000. According to Peña, Scientology played a significant role in improving his life by providing him with the necessary tools for personal growth. He specifically mentioned the Study Tech program within Scientology, which he credited with helping him become a more confident reader. He said:
I wasn’t an alcoholic, but I was doing it too much... [Study Tech] made me a better actor because I felt like it helped my understanding of scripts.
He continued, discussing the criticism surrounding Scientology:
I don’t read that stuff... Imagine we’re friends, you and me. Buddies. And there’s a tabloid story about you. There’s no way I’m going to read some f****** tabloid story about you.
Jason Lee, a former skateboarder and actor known for his role in My Name Is Earl, had a notable connection to the Church of Scientology. He had been actively practicing Scientology since the 1990s, and his ex-wife Carmen Llywelyn even stated that the religion played a significant role in their separation. However, in a 2016 interview with a local newspaper in Denton, Texas, where Lee and his family had relocated, he openly disclosed that he was no longer a practicing Scientologist. When asked if he was moving to the area to open a church he stated:
Being that we don’t practice Scientology, and that we aren’t particularly interested in opening religious centers in general, we have no plans to open a Scientology center.
Beck has had a complex and evolving connection to the Church of Scientology. Initially, his association with Scientology was influenced by his father's involvement in the church. In the early 2000s, Beck married Marissa Ribisi, the twin sister of actor Giovanni Ribisi, who is an active Scientologist. During this time, Beck publicly identified as a Scientologist, aligning himself with the religion.
However, after his divorce from Ribisi approximately four years ago, Beck distanced himself from Scientology and clarified that he does not have any connection or affiliation with it. This statement contradicted his earlier claims and indicated a change in his personal beliefs and disassociation from the church. It is unclear whether Beck's involvement with Scientology was primarily due to his marital relationship or if he genuinely embraced the religion but later decided to part ways.
Erika Christensen has a strong connection to the Church of Scientology. Her parents became involved with Scientology in their 20s while living in Seattle, and they raised Christensen within the framework of the religion. Being brought up in a Scientology household, it became an integral part of her upbringing and identity. While specific details about her personal involvement or level of commitment within the church are not widely available, her parents' affiliation suggests a significant influence on her beliefs and values. Christensen's connection to Scientology, rooted in her familial upbringing, adds another dimension to her personal and spiritual journey.
Scientology helps me in acting to focus on communication. It's almost a safety precaution when you're an actor, because some people can be traumatized by characters, and I don't have to worry about that. It's a study [that helps] see people as spiritual beings. And in Hollywood, that's more stable than being a hunk of meat.
Isaac Hayes, one of our grooviest and most soulful singers and actors, had a notable connection to the Church of Scientology. He took his first Scientology course in 1993 and subsequently provided endorsement blurbs for several Scientology books over the years. In 1996, Hayes began hosting The Isaac Hayes and Friends Radio Show in New York City, where he became a client of vegan raw food chef Elijah Joy and his company, Organic Soul Inc.
Furthermore, Hayes appeared in the Scientology film Orientation. In 1998, Hayes, along with other prominent Scientologist entertainers such as Anne Archer, Chick Corea, and Haywood Nelson, attended the 30th anniversary celebration of Freedom Magazine, the Church of Scientology's investigative news journal, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The event aimed to honor eleven activists.
In 2001, Hayes collaborated with fellow Scientologist musician Doug E. Fresh on a Scientology-inspired album titled "The Joy Of Creating – The Golden Era Musicians And Friends Play L. Ron Hubbard." Hayes' involvement with Scientology was evident through his public support, participation in events, and creative endeavors inspired by the teachings of the church.
Ethan Suplee, an actor known for his roles on My Name Is Earl and in the films of Kevin Smith, has had a connection to the Church of Scientology. Suplee's involvement in Scientology was indirectly linked through his marriage to Brandy Lewis, the sister of actress Juliette Lewis, who herself has been associated with Scientology. During the time Suplee was part of the cast of My Name Is Earl, a show that had several individuals involved with Scientology, there were reports indicating his membership in the organization. However, Suplee has maintained a low profile about his religious beliefs and has not publicly discussed the extent of his involvement or whether he remains a Scientologist today.
Mimi Rogers, an actress, has had a significant connection to the Church of Scientology. Her father became interested in Dianetics, the foundational text of Scientology, in 1952 and went on to become a prominent Mission Holder within the church. Rogers herself reportedly became a highly trained "auditor," a role involved in the practice of Dianetics, within the church. Prior to her acting career, she co-founded the Enhancement Center, a "field auditing" practice, with her first husband, Jim Rogers. Notably, Rogers served as Sonny Bono's "auditor" for Dianetics, and Tom Cruise was also a client before being directed to a Celebrity Center within the church. However, Rogers has since left the Church of Scientology and has been referred to as a former member. Media reports have suggested that she holds an unfavorable view of the church's controversial leader, David Miscavige, indicating a significant shift in her stance and relationship with Scientology.
Neil Gaiman, the acclaimed author known for works like Good Omens and American Gods, has had a connection to the Church of Scientology through his upbringing. While there is no evidence to suggest that Gaiman himself actively practiced Scientology, he grew up in a household that was deeply involved with the organization. His father served as the British spokesperson for Scientology, indicating a close association with the church. Reports have suggested that Gaiman's ex-wife and sisters are also members of the church, although this has not been confirmed. Despite his familial ties to Scientology, Gaiman has openly denied being a Scientologist, making it clear that he does not personally practice the religion. It appears that Gaiman was raised in an environment surrounded by Scientology, but his personal beliefs and affiliations are distinct from the church.
Nancy Cartwright, widely recognized as the voice of Bart Simpson, has had a notable and long-standing connection to the Church of Scientology. She became a member of the church in 1991 and has been an active and committed Scientologist for decades. In 2007, Cartwright received Scientology's prestigious Patron Laureate Award in recognition of her substantial financial contribution of $10,000,000 to the church, which was nearly twice her annual salary at the time.
Despite being associated with Scientology, Cartwright has been relatively private about her beliefs and involvement. When asked about the organization in response to the publication of the book Going Clear, she expressed uncertainty and dismissed any criticism as prejudice.
William S. Burroughs
William S. Burroughs, a renowned writer and countercultural figure, had a significant but complex connection to the Church of Scientology. He became a member of the church in the 1960s, relatively early in its history, not long after L. Ron Hubbard published Dianetics. However, Burroughs' initial fascination with Scientology eventually waned, leading to a sense of disillusionment.
In 1971, he published a book titled Ali's Smile: Naked Scientology, which openly criticized the church. In both the book and his public comments, Burroughs accused Scientology of utilizing authoritarian tactics to control its members and drew parallels between the church and the secretive operations of the CIA. These critical views reflected his personal experiences and observations, highlighting a significant shift in his perception of Scientology from initial engagement to subsequent skepticism.
Chick Corea, a highly influential jazz musician, had a deep connection to the Church of Scientology. After reading the written works of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, Corea joined the church in 1968. Over the years, he became one of the organization's most prominent and dedicated members, rising through the ranks and actively participating in its activities.
In 1972, Corea married Gayle Moran, and their relationship was closely associated with their involvement in Scientology, particularly during the church's relocation to Clearwater, Florida. By 1977, Corea held a significant position within the church and was recognized at its prominent summit. Corea leveraged his celebrity status within Scientology to further various aspects of his life, including the influence of the religion on his musical works.
In 2004, he released an album titled "To The Stars," which was heavily inspired by Hubbard's book of the same name, a revered text within Scientology.
Doug E. Fresh
Doug E. Fresh, a renowned rapper and beatboxer, had a notable connection to the Church of Scientology. He became a member of the church in 2001, influenced by his former girlfriend, Tarsha Nicole Jones, who was a radio personality. Fresh's involvement in Scientology led him to reach the state of Clear in 2006, a significant achievement within the religion. He even expressed his affiliation with the church through his music, writing a song that explicitly discussed his experience as a Scientologist. While speaking about his connection to Scientology he stated:
People don’t know enough about it, so they come up with all types of bad things about it. The media has beaten it down and they never came in and checked it out.
He later told Essence about his first entree into the religion:
I found it fascinating. It changed how I thought. I’ve learned how to look at things and not judge them but respect them and use it in a way that people understand that I respect them, show them love and respect their reality.
Lisa Marie Presley
Lisa Marie Presley, the singer and daughter of Elvis Presley, had a significant connection to the Church of Scientology. In October 1997, Presley, along with her friend and fellow Scientologist Isaac Hayes, opened the Literacy, Education, and Ability Program (LEAP). This program, which aimed to improve literacy skills, was operated by Applied Scholastics, an organization affiliated with Scientology. However, Presley's relationship with Scientology eventually became strained.
By 2008, she began experiencing growing discontent with the organization. The turning point came in 1993 when Presley turned 25 and became eligible to receive her inheritance from her father's estate. At that time, Scientology's interest in her reportedly intensified, leading to a significant shift in their interactions. Ultimately, Presley made the decision to leave Scientology in 2014. Her departure marked a significant change in her connection to the church, fueled by her evolving dissatisfaction with the organization's involvement in her life and inheritance. She later recalled:
At 25, after I got the inheritance, they started grooming me to be this person who would go out and get everyone else in.
Paul Haggis, a prominent filmmaker, had a significant connection to the Church of Scientology for 35 years before leaving in October 2009. His departure was triggered by the San Diego branch of the Church publicly supporting Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriage in California. Haggis, who strongly disagreed with this stance, reached out to Tommy Davis, the Church's spokesperson, requesting a denouncement of these statements.
When Davis chose not to respond, Haggis expressed his disapproval, emphasizing that silence implies consent. He raised additional concerns, including Scientology's policy of disconnection and the unauthorized release of personal information about former members. Haggis' departure, along with that of actor Jason Beghe, created significant PR challenges for Scientology, as the organization heavily relies on Hollywood figures for both revenue and promotion. The defections of Haggis and Beghe became a turning point in bringing public attention to the Church's practices and policies.
In 2007, it was widely reported that Jeffrey Tambor was a member of the Church of Scientology. However, in February 2008, Tambor addressed these reports and expressed concern about "internet rumors" regarding his alleged involvement with Scientology. He clarified that while he had taken some Scientology classes and studied the religion for a period of time, he no longer considered himself a Scientologist. He wrote in his memoir that he:
Was totally willing to accept Scientology — if it would fix me.
Tambor later cut ties with the church after he was pressured to leave his second wife.
Sonny Bono, the late entertainer and politician, had a notable connection to the Church of Scientology. He became interested in Scientology and pursued Scientology courses, partly influenced by Mimi Rogers. However, despite his involvement, Bono consistently identified as a Roman Catholic on all official documents, campaign materials, and websites.
His wife, Mary Bono, also took Scientology courses. Following Sonny Bono's passing, Mary Bono stated that he had attempted to distance himself from the Church of Scientology at one point but encountered difficulties in doing so. However, the Church of Scientology denied any estrangement and refuted claims of a breakaway. The specifics of Sonny Bono's relationship with Scientology remain complex, with varying accounts and perspectives on the extent of his involvement and his attempts to distance himself from the organization.
Jason Beghe, an actor known for his roles in films like G.I. Jane and popular programs like Chicago P.D., had a notable connection to the Church of Scientology. He began taking Scientology courses in 1994 but made the decision to leave the church in 2008. In publicly speaking out about his departure, Beghe described Scientology as being "very, very dangerous" to one's spiritual, psychological, mental, emotional health, and evolution. It is worth noting that in 1999, Beghe participated in promoting a "What is Scientology?" exhibition as part of a Church of Scientology television advertising campaign in the United Kingdom.
He estimated that he had contributed around $1 million to the Church of Scientology over a span of 12 years. Beghe's departure from the church and his candid critique shed light on his personal experiences within Scientology and his subsequent decision to distance himself from the organization.
Christopher Masterson, an actor who you likely know as the older brother on Malcolm in the Middle, was raised in the church alongside his older brother Danny Masterson, who is a more prominent and outspoken member of Scientology. Additionally, his younger half-sister, Alanna Masterson, is also involved with the church. However, Christopher has not been as vocal or public about his connection to Scientology compared to his brother. He has maintained a relatively low profile regarding his religious beliefs and has chosen not to publicly discuss or emphasize his affiliation with the church.