Elisabeth Moss’ defense of Scientology challenged by Leah Remini, new abuse allegations

The actor’s claim that Scientology isn’t a ‘dangerous cult’ is at odds with investigative reports and a new federal lawsuit, which allege systematic abuses, including mind control and forced labor

The Mercury News,. California/May 2, 2022

By Martha Ross

Leah Remini and many other former members and critics of the Church of Scientology have taken issue with long-time member Elisabeth Moss trying to brush off criticism of the organization and its “authoritarian tactics” in a new interview with the New Yorker.

Moss’ claim in a New Yorker profile that Scientology isn’t a “dangerous cult” also appears at odds with multiple investigative reports over the years about alleged abuses and a new federal lawsuit filed last week by three defectors, who say they were systematically trafficked into forced labor as children and grew up enduring inhumane and barbaric treatment, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

In talking to the New Yorker, Moss at first didn’t appear to want to say too much about Scientology because she said she didn’t want viewers to be “distracted” when they watched her performances in “Mad Men,” ”The Handmaid’s Tale” or in other TV series and films.

Moss told writer Michael Schulman: “People can obviously hold in their mind whatever they want to, and I can’t control that.” Moss then said that Scientology is “not really a closed-off religion. It’s a place that is very open to, like, welcoming in somebody who wants to learn more about it. I think that’s the thing that is probably the most misunderstood.”

When Schulman brought up the organization’s “authoritarian” tactics” and reported abuses, “which include mind control, making family members cut ties with apostates and assigning troublesome members to hard labor,” Moss responded by saying several times: “I would just encourage people to find out for themselves.”

Moss then appeared to directly dispute such reports, saying, “I’ve certainly been guilty of reading an article or watching something and taking that as gospel.” She then said: “Obviously something like religious freedom and resistance against a theocracy is very important to me.”

Moss’ comments didn’t sit well with Remini, who left Scientology in 2013 and has arguably become one of its most high-profile, outspoken critics, producing and hosting the Emmy Award-winning TV series, “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.”

Remini tweeted out a clip from an episode of her series that focuses on allegations that Scientology “has a long and cruel history of forcing women in its workforce to have abortions.” She added: “Hundreds of former Scientologists have spoken out about this.”

Among other things, Moss has become “an approachably cool pop-culture feminist icon ” for her work in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the New Yorker said. In the series, she plays a woman imprisoned by a totalitarian theocracy known as Gilead, which exerts control over women’s reproductive choices by forcing them into sexual slavery and into bearing children for elite members of the regime.

Remini emphasized Schulman’s belief that there’s a “cognitive dissonance” between Moss’ public persona and her involvement in an organization that allegedly has forced women to have abortions so that they could keep working. “If a woman in Scientology’s workforce, the Sea Organization, doesn’t have an abortion, they will be kicked out and declared a suppressive person,” Remini tweeted. “If they don’t abort, they will lose everything they’ve ever known in their life, including their family.”

Remini’s opposition to Scientology came up in the New Yorker profile because it  embroiled Moss in one of the church’s recent awkward Hollywood moments. In 2017, both Remini and Moss were nominated for awards from the Television Critics Association. At the awards ceremony, Remini won for “Scientology and the Aftermath.” It was reported that Moss left the room during her speech.

Moss told the New Yorker that she just happened to go to the bathroom when Remini’s award was announced. “I wish it was more exciting than that,” Moss said.

Remini has claimed that Scientology forbids Moss to speak to her because she’s a defector and therefore “a suppressive person,” in church parlance, who should therefore be avoided.

Moss told the New Yorker that Remini never approached her to talk about Scientology. “I have never received any request to talk to her,” Moss said. “So there hasn’t been an opportunity for her to say that. I don’t know her that well, so it’s not like we were friends.”

Whatever happened at the 2017 TCA awards, it’s been previously documented that Scientology likes having celebrity members because their success is a powerful advertisement for the organization. The 2015 HBO documentary, “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief,” also shames Tom Cruise, John Travolta and other celebrity members for turning a blind eye on the alleged abuses inflicted on rank-and-file members.

Remini over the weekend also retweeted a post from journalist Yashar Ali, who challenged Moss’ remark that “people should find out for themselves” about Scientology. Ali, who has published investigative stories on Scientology, wrote that Moss “isn’t encouraging open-mindedness. She is strictly following Scientology policy by not revealing what Scientology is about.”

Ali spotlighted five other famous Scientologists, including Cruise, Travolta and Kirstie Alley, who used similar talking points in interviews.

Ali said Scientology’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, never wanted members trying to explain too much about Scientology to the general public “because that gets in the way of Scientology’s revenue stream.” According to Ali, Scientology makes money by having people pay to go through step-by-step training to attain elite knowledge and status in the organization — a process that gets them “hooked in.”

“If people really knew what Scientology’s practices actually were, they wouldn’t join,” Ali said.

The New Yorker story said that Moss’ parents were Scientologists and that she took Hubbard’s “Key to Life Course” when she was 8 and achieved the desired state of “Clear” when she was only 11. She is “part of a small set of second-generation Hollywood Scientologists, and her religious network has played a role in her career.”

While Moss has appeared to hit back at award-winning investigative reports about Scientology over the years, Remini tweeted out news about new damning abuse allegations contained in a new federal lawsuit.

As reported by the Tampa Bay Times, which has won a Pulitzer for its reporting on Scientology, three former members allege that they were “systematically” trafficked into forced labor. They said that Scientology indoctrinated them as children and made it financially, physically and psychologically impossible for them to leave as adults.

The three plaintiffs allege six counts of forced labor and peonage in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, the Tampa Bay Times said.

One of the plaintiffs, Gawain Baxter, said he was 6 years old when he signed a contract agreeing to work for the church for 1 billion years. He said he spent his childhood doing manual labor at Scientology’s Flag Land Base in Clearwater, Florida, and getting no education beyond basic reading, writing and math.

When Baxter said he attempted to leave at age 15, by writing a letter to a superior about constant abuse and intolerable living conditions, he was sent to work on a Scientology ship in the Caribbean.

In a statement to the Times, Scientology spokesman Ben Shaw said “the allegations are both scurrilous and ridiculous and the lawsuit is both a sham and a scam.”

Baxter told the Tampa Bay Times: “The best thing I could really hope for is to try and create awareness and try to hold him accountable for, in my opinion, the inhumane and barbaric treatment that people go through, that we’ve gone through.”

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