Despite a relatively small membership base, Scientology is one of the most widely discussed fringe religious groups in the world, thanks in part to its more famous adherents. And while some celebrity Scientologists aren't usually keen to discuss their beliefs outside of a church setting, several have frequently stepped up to claim their faith and to defend it against detractors. So keep reading to hear from some of the most outspoken celebrity Scientologists there are, and for stars who've walked away from the church, check out The Biggest Celebrities Who've Left Scientology.
The Handmaid's Tale star Elisabeth Moss is one of several big names in Hollywood who were raised in the religion. And while the actor isn't known for offering insight into her spiritual beliefs without prompting, she has publicly defended Scientology a few times—with both words and actions. In 2017, it was reported that Moss got up and walked out of the room when former Scientologist and vocal critic of the religion Leah Remini accepted a Television Critics Association award for her docuseries, Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.
That same year, Moss responded to an Instagram comment asking whether or not portraying a character trying to survive an oppressive society on her hit Hulu series changed the way she felt about Scientology, specifically its reported discouragement of reading outside coverage of the church. "That's actually not true at all about Scientology," Moss wrote back, as Refinery29 reported. "Religious freedom and tolerance and understanding the truth and equal rights for every race, religion and creed are extremely important to me. The most important things to me probably. And so Gilead and THT hit me on a very personal level. Thanks for the interesting question!"
In 2019, she was asked about the church's perceived anti-LGBTQ+ teachings in an interview with The Daily Beast. Though Moss stated that she wasn't prepared to "unpack" the church's stance, she clarified her own beliefs on the subject. "But that is not my bag. I am obviously a huge feminist and huge supporter of the LGBTQ community and believe so strongly—I can't even tell you—in people being able to do what they want to do, to love who they want to love, to be the person that they want to be—whoever that is," she said.
For more stars who are proud members, check out 26 Celebrities You Didn't Know Were Scientologists.
That '70s Show and Orange Is the New Black actor Laura Prepon has been a member of the church for over 20 years. The most she's ever spoken publicly about her relationship to Scientology was in 2015, when she appeared on the cover of the organization's Celebrity magazine. She covers a lot of topics specific to believers, using jargon that only other Scientologists would be able to understand at first glance. At one point (as reported by IndieWire), Prepon sang the praises of the church's "auditing" practice—a process through which an auditor leads a member through past experiences (or even lives) to help eliminate any "negative" feelings they have about them—and explained how it's helped her as a performer.
"I feel a lot of the auditing that I've had helps me to be willing to go there and be free and vulnerable and really jump into these scenes wholeheartedly," Prepon said. "There are days where it's like, okay… let's do this! And you have to drop all of your pre-conceived ideas, or mis-emotions, or being uncomfortable and just go there. It's so gratifying and fulfilling as an artist to be able to really be there in present time, creating, with no vias [a Scientology term for communication "via" a physical intermediary, such as one's mouth]. Auditing has helped so much in getting me to this place. I have more to go, and can't wait for what's to come."
You probably know him as Logan from Veronica Mars, but IRL, Jason Dohring is also a member of a prominent Scientology family, which also includes his millionaire dad, Doug Dohring.
The Dohrings are big-time into church events and promotions; for example, in 2019, they rode on the Scientology float in the Hollywood Christmas Parade. Jason starred in a promo for a virtual Scientology concert back in May and has even hosted industry workshops at the Celebrity Centre.
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Kirstie Alley, of Cheers fame, became a Scientologist in the late '70s after completing a church-run program that deals with substance use disorder. In the years since, she's only become a more ferocious defender of the organization. Another celebrity who's clashed with Remini, Alley told Howard Stern during a 2014 appearance on his show that the King of Queens star was "a bigot" for speaking out against Scientology.
"When you are generalizing, and when your goal is to malign and to say things about an entire group—there are tens of millions of Scientologists in the world—when you decide to blanket statement, 'Scientology is evil,' you are my enemy," Alley said, as reported by HuffPost.
Chances are, John Travolta is one of the first celebrity Scientologists you were ever aware of. He started practicing in the mid-'70s and has frequently addressed his beliefs in the following years. In 2015, he told The Tampa Bay Times that Scientology helped him through the death of his son, Jett, and that he had no interest in seeing the critical HBO documentary on the religion, Going Clear, which has just come out.
"Why would I even approach a negative perspective?" Travolta said. "That would be a crime to me, personally, to do that."
And for more on Travolta's Scientology movie that tanked, check out The 20 Worst Movies Starring Oscar-Winning Actors.
Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson, is a major Scientology donor. In 2015, she was also asked about HBO's bombshell documentary and the book that inspired it.
"It was such a lie," she told the AP. "That book and that movie, I don't even know what to tell you. It's called prejudice. And it's called…it's irresponsible reporting. Anybody wants to find out about it, you should find out for yourself. It's called integrity. And…look at me. Look at who I am, seriously. Look at what it is that I am doing. You can't knock me for what it is that I am doing. I am helping."
In 2019, Cartwright confirmed to BuzzFeed that she founded and helped bankroll an anti-psychiatry drugs PR campaign, called Know More About Drugs, after billboards started to appear in Los Angeles. Though Scientology has railed against the field of psychiatry, pushing what experts have called "a science fiction quest" to make it obsolete, Cartwright told the outlet, "As far as religion goes, it's not pertinent to [the campaign."
Certainly the most famous Scientologist in the world, Tom Cruise seems to take his role as an ambassador for the religion very seriously. He's addressed it in several appearances, including that infamous Today interview in which he called Matt Lauer "glib" for questioning him about Scientology's efforts to rid the world of psychiatry.
More recently, however, he's kept his comments focused on praising the organization, not snapping back at critics.
"It's something that has helped me incredibly in my life; I've been a Scientologist for over 30 years," the actor said, speaking to ITV News in 2016. "It's something, you know, without it, I wouldn't be where I am. So it's a beautiful religion. I'm incredibly proud."
Statements like those made to mainstream press are a far cry from what you hear in another much-talked about Cruise clip, a snippet of a promotional Scientology video that was leaked to YouTube in 2008.
"Being a Scientologist, when you drive past an accident, it's not like anyone else," Cruise says in the clip. "As you drive past, you know you have to do something about it. Because you know you're the only one that can really help."
For another take on Cruise's latest news-making move, check out Leah Remini Says This Was the Real Reason for Tom Cruise's COVID Rant.
Fear the Walking Dead star Jenna Elfman is another long-time member who's used her platform to speak about her beliefs.
"What Scientology has helped me with is just to help me understand the human mind more so I can understand myself and understand my fellows and actually enjoy life," she said during a 2019 FOX5 appearance. "And I think it's the ratio of pain to pleasure. So if you have a therapy that gets rid of the pain so you can be really, truly yourself and get pleasure out of living this crazy life that we're all in…I think it's really helped me so much, I really love it."
She also brushed off Scientology criticism speaking to Us Weekly in 2020, saying, "The controversy is boring. It's nothing to me. I know what I know, and how much [Scientology] helps me."
Talking to The Guardian in 2016, Ant-Man actor Michael Peña opened up about how entering the organization's Purification Rundown program to help cut down on his drinking led to him becoming a full-fledged Scientologist.
"And then there was the next thing, and the next thing," he said. "For me, it isn't religion like a belief; it's practical things you do."
When asked why he avoids reading negative press about the controversial group, he offered a metaphor: "Imagine we're friends, you and me. Buddies," he said to the interviewer. "And there's a tabloid story about you. There's no way I'm going to read some ******* tabloid story about you. Especially when I know it's misinformed."
For stars who are marking a milestone in 2021, check out 50 Celebrities Who Are Turning 50 This Year.