"Scientology may be spreading"

CNN Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees/October 31, 2007


Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes are certainly famous for the roles they played as actors. Also famous for something else, their religion. Both of them are members of the Church of Scientology. The church is controversial, some people call it a cult. But despite the secrets it keeps and all the questions, Scientology may be spreading and maybe to some very unlikely places. CNN's Gary Tuchman shows us where and how.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At this church in Tampa, Florida, a Pentecostal congregation is celebrating the Lord in a lively style. But the pastor here does something out of the ordinary for church.

Have other preachers criticized you.

REVEREND CHARLES KENNEDY, GLORIOUS CHURCH OF GOD IN JESUS CHRIST: Much, much, much, much, much. Much, much, much.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Reporter: I guess you're saying much.

KENNEDY: Much, much, much, much, much, much, much.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Reverend Charles Kennedy sometimes uses a book that is not the Good Book.

KENNEDY: It will fit anybody if they would just take the time to read it.

TUCHMAN: Reporter: the book is called "The Way to Happiness." It's written by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Church of Scientology.

(on camera): Do you think what he says contradicts the religion of Jesus Christ?

KENNEDY: Sometimes, yes, sometimes, no.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The happiness or unhappiness of others you could name is important to you. Without too much trouble, using this book, you can help them survive and lead happier lives.

TUCHMAN: Reverend Kennedy says the book and many Scientology programs help solve real life problems for people at inner city churches like his.

KENNEDY: One thing I took out of Scientology was an excellent spirit.

TUCHMAN: Reverend Kennedy's Glorious Church of God in Christ even operates an after school program for children using educational ideas derived from Scientology. The pastor's daughter is an instructor.

JIMIRRA KENNEDY, REVEREND KENNEDY'S DAUGHTER: We say this all the time, and I don't know if my father said it, Pentecostal Scientologists. That is what we are.

TUCHMAN: Pentecostal Scientologists? That's not a term you'll hear every day. Scientologists provide free materials to Reverend Kennedy's church and others across the country.

(on camera): The international spiritual headquarters of the Church of Scientology are in this old hotel in nearby Clearwater, Florida. We wanted to ask the church top brass if they hope to recruit new members with these types of relationships. But church officials are often quite skittish about going on camera and this story is no exception.

(voice-over): So the church won't comment. But Rick Ross, who carefully tracks what he calls the cult of Scientology, did.

RICK ROSS, SCIENTOLOGY EXPERT: Their hope, that is the Scientologists', is that through these programs people will become more interested in L. Ron Hubbard and what else Mr. Hubbard had to offer and this will lead them eventually to Scientology.

TUCHMAN: Scientology draws extra attention because of its celebrity members and its unusual precepts. Believers recognize a supreme being, do not worship God, very difference from Christianity. The handful of churches that we found using Scientology techniques say they don't sacrifice their own religious ideas.

REV. JAMES MCLAUGHLIN, WAYMAN CHAPEL AME CHURCH: Getting people off drugs, I would say, a 70 to 80 percent success rate.

TUCHMAN: Reverend Jerry McLaughlin preaches at the Wayman Chapel AME Church in Houston. He uses one of L. Ron Hubbard's programs to help drug addicts.


MCLAUGHLIN: I am looking for the solutions. And the people that I help, they don't ask me who L. Ron Hubbard is. Do you know what they ask me? Do you know what they say? Thank God.

ROSS: L. Ron Hubbard was a science fiction writer. Some of these programs seem like fiction science to me.

TUCHMAN: These churches stress the Lord keeps top billing. But L. Ron Hubbard now gets an honorable mention.

(END VIDEOTAPE) O'BRIEN: Almost seems completely contradictory. And there they are holding that little book which you happen to have. What's in that book? Is there something controversial in there?

TUCHMAN (on camera): This is the book. This is "The Way to Happiness, a Common Sense Guide to Better Living." And you might think it's controversial but it's common sense. Maybe that's why it's called that. But you read it and it says, get care when you are ill, keep your body clean, preserve your teeth. Sounds like common sense.

O'BRIEN: I'm in with all that.

TUCHMAN: But then some of is kind of laughably obvious. It says the way to happiness doesn't include murdering your friends, your family or yourself being murdered. And I feel strongly about this, don't you?

O'BRIEN: I completely concur.

TUCHMAN: I concur with that.

O'BRIEN: Myself being murdered is not the way to happiness.

TUCHMAN: What the Scientologists are saying is this is good advice to you. But what critics say they get you in and then you can't get out.

O'BRIEN: So it's just the very beginning, the tip of the iceberg kind of thing.

TUCHMAN: That's what the critics say.

O'BRIEN: Interesting. Gary Tuchman, thanks. Always nice to see you in person.

TUCHMAN: Thank you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Word of mouth of course plays a very big part in spreading Scientology. Here's a little raw data for you. On its Web site, the church says more than half of all Scientologists were introduced to the religion by a friend or a relative. About 20 percent learned about it by reading L. Ron Hubbard's "Dianetics" or another scientology book. Eighteen percent took a personality test. Others were primarily introduced by ads and seminars.

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