The ugly public divorce of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes has relit the flames of controversy about the Church of Scientology. It was rumored for years that Cruise’s earlier marriage to Nicole Kidman was also wrecked by his obsession with Scientology. Of course, this is nothing new with that bizarre movement. For decades the organization founded by Science Fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard (1911–1986), has encountered severe criticism and opposition from ex-members, mental health professionals, cult watchers, and the media. As far back as the 1950s, Hubbard’s strange mental health theories were condemned by the mainstreams of the psychiatric and psychological communities. For that reason, among others, Hubbard and his successors have waged a never ending war to discredit any mental health system other than their own.
But with this latest crisis in the life of its most famous member and recent defections of some the church’s highest ranking officers, one has to wonder if we are witnessing the final chapter in the Scientology saga. The church depends heavily on the sales of its strange counseling services (called “auditing”) and Hubbard’s hundreds of books to maintain its solvency. It is also dependent on its cadre of well-known celebrity members who have been indulged with many privileges not available to the average member at its Celebrity Centre resort in Hollywood. Those faithful Hollywood adherents include John Travolta (whose is also facing a major crisis in his personal life), Kelly Preston (Travolta’s wife), Kirstie Alley, Priscilla Presley, Lisa Marie Presley, Greta Van Susteren, Jenna Elfman, Anne Archer, and many others. Most of these show business stars probably have never experienced, or are even aware of, any of the abuses foisted on the rank and file staff of the Church of Scientology and its affiliated groups.
The continued bad press Scientology has received recently along with accusations of abuse by a growing number of ex-members and staff members may hail the final days of one of the worst cults ever conceived. We can only pray it is so.