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McClatchy-Tribune Information Services — Unrestricted – June 30, 2008
Will Smith, who rose from Philadelphia roots to become perhaps Hollywood’s biggest box-office draw, has again been caught up in Scientology suspicions.
In March, Smith denied a magazine report that the actor and his actress wife, Jada Pinckett Smith, were following close friends Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, into becoming members of the church.
This time, questions, raised by media outlets from Britain’s Guardian to the Los Angeles Times, focus on a new private primary school the Smiths will open in September in suburban Los Angeles.
Several teachers at New Village Academy are Scientology members, and the small school, which will initially have about 40 students, will use some study methods developed by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, according to the Los Angeles Times.
But the school has no religious affiliation, its director says, and the Smiths are not Scientologists, they say.
“We are a secular school, and just like all nonreligious independent schools, faculty and staff do not promote their own religions at school or pass on the beliefs of their particular faith to children,” director Jacqueline Olivier told the Times.
Also quoted was a Carnegie-Mellon computer science professor, David S. Touretzky, who argues that Hubbard’s study technology is a way Scientology supporters try sneak some of their beliefs into schools.
The religion rumors seem to have started after the star of “Hancock,” which debuts in theaters on Wednesday, defended Cruise in Men’s Vogue in November.
“That’s my man right there,” Smith said in an article titled “Prince Becomes King.”
“We push one another to be better. We both home-school our children, and there’s a comprehension of what each of us goes through that everybody else can’t understand, that’s a really unique position that less than .0001 percent of people on Earth will ever experience.”
If “Hancock” hits the $100 million mark, it will be Smith’s 12th film to make that much — a few achieved only by Cruise and three other men, Tom Hanks, Eddie Murphy and Harrison Ford.
(Coincidentally, the Smiths’ daughter, Willow, has a starring role in “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl,” which also opens Wednesday.)
Then in March, Smith denied a Radar magazine report he and Jada were becoming Scientologists.
“You don’t have to be Jewish to be a friend of Steven Spielberg,” he told the New York Daily News. “You don’t have to be a Muslim to be a friend of Muhammad Ali. And you don’t have to be a Scientologist to be a friend of Tom Cruise.
“I am a Christian. I am a student of all religions. And I respect all people and all paths.”
The questions do seem to linger, though.
In today’s USA Today, for example, Smith said it’s “painful” to see how Cruise is treated by the media. “I’ve met very few people committed to goodness the way Tom is. We disagree on a lot of things. … But even with different faiths and different beliefs, at the end of the day, goodness is goodness.”
New Village Academy, described by its Web site as “the ultimate learning environment to cultivate our students as citizens of the world,” will open Sept. 3 in Calabasas, Calif., north of Malibu.
Its initial enrollment of about 40 students, in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade, could grow to about 100 over time, Olivier told the Times.
Tuition can go as high as $12,500 a year, though many students will get financial aid.
Yoga, karate, robotics and etiquette will be among the subjects taught there.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. To see more of The Philadelphia Inquirer, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2008, The Philadelphia Inquirer Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For reprints, email, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.
Copyright (C) 2008 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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