Many of us here at Idol Chatter have been transfixed by the downward trajectory of Tom Cruises’ career since the Oprah couch jumping incident which coincided with his being more out about Scientology. But celebrity and Scientology have gone hand in hand for many years now and many household names are Scientologists–John Travolta, Nancy Cartwright (The voice of Bart Simpson), Jason Lee, and Jenna Elfman–another connection we are curious about. So when actor Jason Beghe publicly parted ways with the group a few months ago, the first celebrity to do so openly, Idol Chatter contacted him to talk about his departure from the organization.
You see, before there was Tom Cruise, there was Jason Beghe.
Reportedly once dubbed the “poster boy for Scientology” by the church’s leader David Miscavige, the film and television actor (“G.I. Jane,” “Monkey Shines,” “Melrose Place,” “CSI,” “Everwood”) sped through the levels of Scientology training to be met with special treatment, including a private sauna, and the opportunity to do voice over-work in promotional videos and sit on the board of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, Scientology’s mental health-abuse watchdog organization. But in March, Beghe, 48, repudiated his nearly 13-year association with the group in a series of videos posted to YouTube, calling it “a rip off” and “destructive.”
Beghe was no less outspoken with Idol Chatter: “In my humble opinion, Scientology is not a religion. It’s a dangerous religious cult: a cruel, sadistic business practice. Just because the IRS gave it tax exempt status does not make it a religion. Ninety percent of ex-Scientologists–and there are millions out there–do not consider it a religion.”
Beghe, a one-time OT V (Operating Thetan) and Class Five Auditor (which means he could audit “Clears”–people who are free of their “reactive” mind, undermining painful and unconscious memories), claims that Scientology is trying to establish itself by imitating The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), a group which encountered similar accusations of being a cult. “I have it on pretty good authority that one of the major strategies that [Scientology] is trying is to draw comparisons to Mormonism,” he says. “If L. Ron Hubbard is Joseph Smith, then David Miscavige is Brigham Young.”
Beghe, who was introduced to Scientology by his then-friend Bodhi Elfman (actress Jenna Elfman’s husband), acknowledges that Scientology is very attractive to artists because it promises success and certainty. “Even the most successful artists are extremely insecure about their careers. Everybody is your best friend over there, they just love you to death.”
As the career of Tom Cruise suggests, the certainty that Scientology confers isn’t necessarily the best thing for creativity, which might be better served by ambiguity. But it isn’t just artistic expression that Scientology ruins, says Beghe, but followers’ financial and mental health. Beghe himself estimates that he spent nearly $1 million on courses and auditing sessions during his 12 years with the church. The costs to his mental health, he says, were even more devastating.
It is Beghe’s opinion that mind control is “the primary tool the church uses to solicit devotion from its members,” keeping members on The Bridge–the ever-more-expensive auditing process for attaining the highest Operating Thetan level (OT VIII), to put it simply–and that “the further you go up in Scientology, the more enslaved you are.”
Frustrated by a lack of progress even though he had been declared Clear twice, and not getting satisfactory answers to his questions about contradictory information, Beghe became unhappy and disillusioned. He was told to take more courses and given new auditors.
“All my life I’ve been a very happy guy,” he says. “Until I got into Scientology, I didn’t know what depression was. The last ten years, I was absolutely miserable.”
At the time of this interview, Beghe had not been declared a “Suppressive Person,” the term Scientology uses for an enemy of the church. “It’s hard to declare me an SP,” Beghe surmises, “because I made it all the way up the Bridge and everyone knows that. It’s bad PR.”
“Most people are afraid of speaking out against the church because of the personal stuff that the church has recorded. I don’t have anything that interesting,” says the actor, who has publically petitioned the church for his files and attempted to speak with New York Scientology officials in late May. “Anyway, it’s bigger than my personal life. I’m speaking out because what’s happening is wrong.”
Beghe is “so thankful” that he woke up to what he calls the “con” of Scientology and is not anxious to jump into a new religious relationship, so to speak. “If you dated a person for 12 years and you’re still realizing how messed up it was, there’s a case to be made that it’s not necessarily the right thing to jump into another relationship.”
Read more of Beghe’s comments about Scientology in The Village Voice and at Fox News.com.