Memo to John Waters

Washington Blade/June 1, 2007
By Kevin Naff

At the risk of prolonging this silly dust-up over my suggestion of a gay boycott of the new "Hairspray" film, a few words in response to John Waters' remarks in today's New York Daily News on the subject.

To clarify, I'm a huge Waters fan and have seen every one of his films many times and have interviewed him. I hate to be publicly at odds with someone whose career I've admired and followed since the mid-80s. But on the issue of Scientology, Waters is simply wrong.

The film stars John Travolta, the second most prominent Scientologist after Tom Cruise. My contention is simple: It is unconscionable for gays and lesbians to pay money to see the new "Hairspray" when it is well known and documented that the so-called religion operates reparative therapy programs to "cure" homosexuality. Scientology requires its members to contribute a hefty portion of their income to the "church." So by paying to see this film, gays are quite literally putting money into the pockets of those who seek to "cure" us. The situation is made worse by the fact that the original film is a gay favorite and Travolta's role an iconic one played by the legendary Divine.

In Waters' reply to my position, he fails to address those key points. Instead, he defends Travolta as a "loving, kind man" who isn't homophobic. I have never suggested anything to the contrary. I have no doubt there are decent Scientologists out there and have never suggested Travolta was hateful or unkind. That doesn't change the facts surrounding his membership in the Scientology cult or its insulting and totally unscientific claims at curing homosexuality.

The other flaw in Waters' response is that he compares Scientology to real religions. Waters says, "I'm all for gay troublemaking, but is this journalist going to police the religion of all actors? Do we boycott Nicole Kidman because she's Catholic?"

A key difference between a real religion, like Catholicism, and a cult, like Scientology, is that cults don't tolerate dissent. In the Catholic Church, there are hard-line conservatives, like Pope Benedict, as well as the far more progressive Jesuits. There's room for debate and for different interpretations of church teachings. You can attend a traditional Mass in Latin or go to an interfaith center in suburbia where the Catholics operate gay outreach ministries.

But in Scientology, the golden rule is that L. Ron Hubbard's insane teachings are infallible. There is no debate and no room for dissent. You either believe or you're considered sub-human.

The bottom line is I won't spend my money supporting super-rich celebrities who are helping to fund an organization that seeks to cure gay people. Waters knows better than to get into bed with such people. So I'll skip "Hairspray" and anxiously await his next project. Just please, John, don't hire Tom Cruise for your next film.

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