David Duchovny recalls strange Scientology recruiting effort, slams its tax-exempt status

Duchovny agrees that he ‘dodged a pretty big psychological and financial bullet’ by staying away from the controversial organization that counts Tom Cruise and other celebrities as members

The Mercury News/August 27, 2021

By Martha Ross

It’s not surprising that the Church of Scientology once tried to recruit David Duchovny into its ranks, but the actor says in a new interview that the controversial organization’s efforts “didn’t go well.”

Duchovny’s interview with the Daily Beast comes as he’s back in the limelight for his cameo role in “The Chair,” the Netflix dark-comedy series about academia. The 61-year-old actor plays a version of his once-aspiring English doctorate self, but it was his re-creation of a famous “The X-Files” scene that set Twitter abuzz. Duchovny is introduced into the Netflix series when he, like his FBI agent character, Fox Mulder, had done, climbed out of a swimming pool wearing a small red Speedo.

It was during the height of Duchovny’s “X-Files” fame in the late 1990s and early 2000s that he said he had his strange encounters with Scientology. The church is well known for wanting celebrities such as Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Elisabeth Moss to be its public faces, but there’s probably symmetry in the fact Duchovny’s “X-Files” had its own cult-like following and otherworldly mythology — not unlike Scientology, as critics say.

Scientology, moreover, had a friendly connection to Duchovny, as the actor recounts in the new interview with writer Marlow Stern. Duchovny’s close childhood friend, “Chicago P.D.” actor Jason Beghe, was an avid member of the church.

As Duchovny explained to the Daily Beast, he checked out Scientology when he  attended Beghe’s wedding at Scientology’s Celebrity Centre in Los Angeles in 2000. He said he tried one of Scientology’s famed auditing sessions.

“I did squeeze the cans and I did a session on the E-meter, and I realized immediately, because they’re asking very personal questions, that they were gathering information that I didn’t want to give out to a stranger,” Duchovny said. “So, the session didn’t go well. I didn’t play by the rules, and I never went back.”

Even before the session, Duchovny had concerns about Scientology, mostly because he saw how Beghe’s involvement in the organization had changed him.

“Jason and I drifted apart during that time, because Scientology hangs with their own when they’re doing it,” Duchovny said. “We’d see each other from time to time, and I noticed that his vocabulary was different. The way he described the world and his experiences, particularly his psychological experiences, was cult-ish and had changed completely. Either I didn’t have the balls to slap him and snap him out of it, or he said it was working for him, or … maybe I failed him as a friend during those years?”

Beghe left Scientology in 2007 and became an outspoken critic. Among other things, Beghe described in a 2008 video that his friendship with Duchovny was adversely affected by his involvement in the church. He said Duchovny was labeled an “SP,” or suppressive person, a term the church uses to describe someone it perceives as an adversary.

After he left the church, Beghe said he immediately renewed his friendship with Duchovny. During a visit to Duchovny’s house, he said he told him about Scientology’s belief in a galactic overlord named Xenu.  “I couldn’t get a third of the way through the story, and we had our faces on the floor,” Beghe said. “We were laughing so hard.”

With the Daily Beast, Duchovny was careful to say that Beghe, “to his credit,” never tried to actively recruit him.

“He only ‘recruited’ me in the sense of saying, “This is great, and I think you should try it,’ not anything harder than that,” Duchovny said.

Duchovny also responded to a concern expressed by Beghe and other former members who say the church expects members to spend thousands of dollars or more on auditing and on other church education programs.

Beghe called it “a con” and said he had probably sunk about $1 million into the church during his 13 years he was a member.

Duchovny agreed with writer Stern that he “dodged a pretty big psychological and financial bullet” by staying away from Scientology. He also agreed that “they drain people dry.”

“They really do,” Duchovny said. “And that’s another thing — the tax code. I don’t really understand it. It’s a ‘religion,’ but who figured that out?”

Duchovny is referring to the controversy over Scientology having tax-exempt status.

“There are other religions that are tax-exempt that have a lot of wealthy people in them as well, so it’s really a question of taxes and religions, but it’s also a question of: How do you define yourself as a religion?” Duchovny said. “Why can’t I be my own religion of one and stop paying taxes? I think that’s what Jeff Bezos is up to!”

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