Cruise's private Scientology sessions

MSNBC/January 31, 2002
By Jeannette Walls with Ashley Pearson

Tom Cruise has been working overtime on behalf of the Church of Scientology. On Wednesday, it made headlines overseas that the "Vanilla Sky" actor, a devout Scientologist, had met with Dan Coats, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, to lobby the case for the rights of the church in Germany. A top church official, however, tells The Scoop that Cruise has been privately meeting with top politicians on behalf of the church for the last few years.

Kurt Weiland, a director of the church, says that among the U.S. officials who have met with Cruise to discuss the Church of Scientology's plight are Attorney General John Ashcroft and Sen. Jesse Helms, the Republican from North Carolina who is also senior member of Foreign Relations Committee.

Weiland says that there were "private meetings and correspondence" between Cruise and both Helms and Ashcroft "a few years ago." When asked if those meetings and letters resulted in anything, Weiland said, "Yes. Efforts were made by them to let the German government know that . . . . they were missing the mark."

The issue has been a cause celebre in the church for years. John Travolta, also a Scientologist, reportedly discussed the plight of the church in Germany with Bill Clinton when he was playing the then-president in the movie "Primary Colors." And in 1996, a group of Hollywood heavyweights wrote a letter to then-German Chancellor Helmut Kohl about the country's treatment of Scientology.

The German government refuses to recognize Scientology as a religion, saying it's mostly a money-making scheme, and forbids Scientologists from holding some government jobs. Weiland says that the plight of Scientologists in Germany came to Cruise's attention in 1996 when a German group called for a boycott of his film "Mission Impossible." "[Cruise] said, if these guys, if these extremists in Germany, can do this to me, I only shudder as to what happens to the individual Scientologists in Germany."

Cruises' spokeswoman didn't return calls for comment, and neither Helms nor Ashcroft could be reached for comment by press time.

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