War of the words: Harvard doc KOs Scientology-backed documentary

Boston Herald/July 19, 2005
By Jessica Heslam

He won actress Katie Holmes' heart and lured millions of Americans to this summer's blockbuster ``War of the Worlds,'' but not everyone is eager to jump on the Tom Cruise bandwagon.

A Harvard doctor turned down an offer from filmmakers after learning the Hollywood A-lister's religious group - the Church of Scientology - was behind it.

Founded by the Church of Scientology and psychiatrist Thomas Szasz, the Citizens' Commission on Human Rights is producing a series of documentaries on the mental health system - with a focus on human rights abuses.

The group recently contacted Dr. John Abramson for an interview. Abramson, a Harvard Medical School clinical professor, penned ``Overdosed America,'' a book that criticizes the drug industry.

But Abramson declined the offer when he learned the church's stance on psychiatric drugs. The short documentaries will be part of a Los Angeles exhibit and distributed for educational purposes. A longer documentary is also in the works.

``I have nothing against Tom Cruise. It's the absolute position against the drugs that I don't want to be associated with,'' said Abramson, who said some people can benefit from drugs.

And the Harvard doctor turned down the offer in the weeks before ``TomKate'' and a series of public rants by the Scientology-obsessed Cruise.

Cruise has blasted actress Brooke Shields for taking antidepressants to treat her post-partum depression and got into a tense beef about psychiatry on the ``Today'' show with Matt Lauer. The 41-year-old Cruise has said he overcame dyslexia through Scientology. He became a Scientologist after the release of ``Top Gun'' in 1986.

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