By Rick Ross

In a recent opinion/editorial New York Times piece titled “The Cult Deficit” columnist Ross Douthat stated, “the cult phenomenon feels increasingly antique, like lava lamps and bell bottoms.” He concluded, “Spiritual gurus still flourish in our era, of course, but they are generally comforting, vapid, safe — a Joel Osteen rather than a Jim Jones, a Deepak Chopra rather than a David Koresh.”

Interestingly, Deepak Chopra was a disciple of Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who was often called a “cult leader.” Maharishi was the founder of Transcendental Meditation (TM), a group frequently included on cult lists and still quite active amidst allegations of abuse.

Douthat doesn’t seem to care much about destructive cults or the damage they do. He laments that the Branch Davidians were “mistreated and misjudged.” Apparently the columnist hasn’t bothered to do much research as he has ignored the facts reported in the press about the Davidians and as established through the congressional record, the Danforth Report and submitted through court proceedings. Suffice to say that despite anti-government conspiracy theories David Koresh was one of the most vicious cult leaders in modern history. He was a deeply disturbed man that sexually preyed upon children and stockpiled weapons for the purpose of a violent end.

Journalist Tony Ortega at Raw Story points out that “The same week the US goes to war with one, NYT’s Douthat asks, where are the cults?” Ortega recognizes that many terrorist groups today are little more than personality-driven cults, such as al-Qaeda once was under the influence of Osama bin Laden. History is strewn with examples of the destruction wrought by totalitarian cults from the Nazis led by Adolf Hitler to the family dynasty that continues to dominate and control North Korea.

Not surprisingly following up Douthat doesn’t quote Ortega’s response, but instead prefers “Reason Magazine,” a Libertarian leaning publication that essentially agrees with him. Calling a column written by Peter Suderman a “very interesting response” Dauthat again ignores the facts and reiterates his opinion, as supposedly supported by a “religious historian” and venture capitalist. Suderman doesn’t dispute Douthat’s claim that cults are in decline, but rather uses it as a hook for his own spin about the “rise of subcultures.”

However, despite all the liberal or Libertarian posturing performed by these pundits the cult phenomenon has actually expanded around the world.

Unlike the United States, other countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East have taken steps to respond to cults both through regulation and law enforcement. For example, in Japan and Germany cults have been closely monitored and in China some have been outlawed. Recently in Israel cult leader Goel Ratzon was convicted of sex crimes. Ratzon’s criminal conviction followed a lengthy government investigation and raid by law enforcement.

In addition to malevolent cult movements that have captivated nations the old familiar groups called “cults” that Douthat thinks have faded away actually are still around such as Scientology, the Unification Church, Hare Krishnas, Divine Light Mission, International Church of Christ, and Est (the Forum), although they may now use new names to avoid easy recognition.

In fact the United States has become something of a destination point and haven for groups called “cults.”

Dahn Yoga, led by Ilchee Lee, which started in South Korea, later set up shop in Arizona and now has a following across America.

Another recent arrival is the World Mission Society Church of God led by Zhang Gil-Jah, known to her devotees as “Mother God.” Not long ago Zhang opened her first church in New Jersey. Since then the group has grown rapidly across the US and Canada. Mother has even rented space in Manhattan not far from the New York Times.

Exiled “evil cult” leader Li Hongzhi, founder of Falun Gong, had to leave China, but found refuge in New York. According to researchers Li now has a flock of about !0,000 followers in North America. He claims to channel miraculous healing powers, which has allegedly led to medical neglect and death. The group has regular parades and demonstrations in NYC, Apparently Mr. Dauthat missed that.

Just as there will always be con men running schemes to take people’s money, there will always be destructive cult leaders exploiting the vulnerabilities of humanity. For con men and cult leaders it’s a business and it seems to be quite profitable. When Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard died in 1986 his estate totaled hundreds of millions of dollars. Today, Scientology reportedly has a billion dollars in cash and vast real estate holdings. When Maharishi Mahesh Yogi died he left behind a spiritual empire valued in billions. Rev. Moon, the founder of the Unification Church, likewise left behind a hefty financial legacy, which is now managed by his children. Whenever there is cash and assets someone will step in to take over. And in the United States cults can operate with relative impunity as an unregulated industry.

No one knows exactly how many cult members there are in the United States. But almost every day I learn of a new group or organization that seems to fit the core criteria, which forms the nucleus for most definitions of a destructive cult. These core criteria were established by Robert Jay Lifton back in the 1980s. Rather than focusing on what a group believes Lifton’s criteria focus on the structure, dynamics and behavior of a group.

First, the single and most salient feature of a destructive cult is that it is personality-driven and animated by a living, charismatic and totalitarian leader. It is that leader who is the defining element and driving force of the group. Whatever the leader says is right is right and whatever the leader says is wrong is wrong. He or she determines the relative morality of the group and its core identity.

Second, the group engages in a process of thought reform to break people down and then redevelop them according to a predetermined mindset, which includes a diminished ability to think critically and/or independently. This is accomplished through a synthesis of coercive persuasion and influence techniques, relentlessly focused on individuals subjected to the group process.

Finally, the third criteria, is that the group does harm. This may vary from group to group as some groups are more harmful than others. One groups may simply exploit its members financially or through free labor, while others may make much more intense demands such as sexual favors, medical neglect or even criminal acts.

Whatever the group may present as its facade, be it religion, politics, exercise, martial arts, business scheme or philosophy, it is the structure, dynamics and behavior of the group that sets it apart and aligns it with the core criteria, which forms the nucleus for a definition of a destructive cult.

For those who would attempt to diminish the power of persuasion used by cults we have only to look at the pattern of behavior within such groups. Why would people act against their own interests, but instead consistently behave in the best interest of the cult leader? Why would cult members allow their children to die due to medical neglect or surrender them for sexual abuse? The most compelling explanation for such otherwise improbable behavior is that cult victims are under undue influence and therefore unable to think for themselves independently.

The dirty little secret about cults and their bag of tricks, is that we are all vulnerable to coercive persuasion and influence techniques. And this is particularly true when we are at a vulnerable time in our lives. This might include a period of grief, financial instability, isolation or some other personal setback. It is at these times that cults can more easily and deceptively recruit people. No one intentionally joins a cult. Instead, people are tricked by cults, through deceptive recruitment practices and a gradual indoctrination process that doesn’t immediately fully disclose the group’s expectations and agenda.

If people were not vulnerable to persuasion and influence techniques there would be no advertising or political propaganda. Every person approached isn’t taken in by cult recruitment tactics, just as everyone doesn’t buy a product promoted by slick advertising. The question is not why don’t cults recruit everyone, but rather how do they recruit people and why do those people often stay to their determent.

Instead of denial and fanciful claims about the decline of cults our best response regarding such groups is education and increased awareness. Understanding the basic warning signs of a potentially unsafe group is a good start. And utilizing the Web to find information about specific groups before becoming more deeply involved is always a good idea. More information helps people make more informed choices. Ignorance may lead to devastating consequences.

As Tony Ortega concluded, “As long as the media remains in the dark about destructive cults and the way they work, we’ll continue to get bewildering statements about ISIS, and ignorant columns from the New York Times.”

An ordained Scientology minister from Santa Barbara is scheduled to speak to Cal Poly (California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA ) students tonight on campus. His sponsors are enrolled in the school’s religious studies program, but ironically the venue chosen for his presentation is “in the Science building” reports Mustang Daily.

Scientology, which believes as an article of faith that alien spaceships have visited earth and subscribes to an assortment of health remedies concocted by its founder L. Ron Hubbard (photo below conducting an experiment), is hardly “Science.”

62325053_a8e032d751.jpgHubbard, neither a scientist nor a doctor, was a pulp-fiction writer turned purported “cult leader.”

His bizarre beliefs about the human mind and health have frequently been derided as “psuedo science.”

This is why Scientology specifically chose to become a “religion,” where in addition to tax-exempt status; it could position its claims outside the realm of serious scientific scrutiny.

For example, Hubbard’s ridiculous claim that human bodies are supposedly capable of storing toxins and/or the residue of drugs indefinitely.

Respected researchers have dismissed this belief repeatedly.

A Scientology program called “Narconon” was ultimately purged from California schools, when it was learned that Scientologists were teaching such Hubbard hokum to schoolchildren.

Another example of Hubbard’s penchant for blurring the boundaries between science and religion is the Scientology ritual known as the “Purification Rundown.”

This regimen closely connected to Hubbard’s claims about toxins includes a regimen of saunas, ingesting large doses of niacin and vegetable oil to allegedly purge poisons from the body.

Tom Cruise once tried to promote this routine in New York in the guise of “detox” clinics, even encouraging city firemen exposed to chemicals at Ground Zero through 9-11 to try it.

However, the New York Fire Department’s chief medical officer told the New York Times that there is no “objective evidence” to support Hubbard’s theory that somehow people can sweat out toxins.

Moreover, an Irish professor that heads a university pharmacology department stated that the purification rundown is “not supported by scientific facts” and “not medically safe” reported the Irish Times.

Never mind.

1101910506_400.jpgScientologists believe whatever Hubbard said and/or wrote, and it is not legitimately subjected to scientific scrutiny, but rather accepted on faith.

As noted believer Isaac Hayes once said Hubbard’s pronouncements remain forever true and therefore “immutable.”

In fact, Scientologists feel so strongly about this that the words of L. Ron Hubbard have been enshrined. The church has spent millions building vaults to serve as perpetual repositories of their founder’s supposed knowledge, in New Mexico and most recently Wyoming.

Hubbard’s writings date back to the 1950s and the man himself died more than 20 years ago in 1986.

Of course since that time science has moved on, well beyond Hubbard’s quaint theories and observations.

Relatively more recent discoveries in science concerning the chemistry and synaptic connections of the brain and the role of genetics in human illness were not known and/or understood by Hubbard. Perhaps this is why so much of what passes for his “holy wisdom” now seems so hopelessly out of date and disconnected from reality.

According to Rolling Stone when Hubbard died the coroner’s report “described the father of Scientology as in a state of decrepitude: unshaven, with long, thinning whitish-red hair and unkempt fingernails and toenails. In Hubbard’s system was the anti-anxiety drug hydroxyzine (Vistaril), which several of his assistants would later attest was only one of many psychiatric and pain medications Hubbard ingested over the years.”

Perhaps Hubbard himself was disconnected from reality?

This might in part explain his claims, which appear to be more fantasy; than anything grounded on scientifically proven facts.

Cal Poly has an excellent academic reputation.

Scientology is known as a fringe “new religion,” often called a “cult.”

Perhaps the best place for a Scientology lecture isn’t in the Cal Poly Science Building, but nearer to the fiction stacks at the university library?

Postscript: Apparently at the Scientology lecture Cal Poly faculty would not allow probing questions, which raised meaningful issues about Scientology’s troubled history. They instead insisted that students submit their questions through attending professors, who then filtered and edited them as they saw fit. One person commenting about this process said, “Questions were offered to the professors who hosted the event regarding the substantive issues… For example, a direct question on the ‘Disconnection’ practice of Scientology was so watered down into a softball that asking it in the re-worded way it was phrased was the functional equivalent of filtering reality…A disservice was done…to the students of Cal Poly…at best failing to fully disclose the nature of the subject matter, and at worst exposing students to one of many deliberate recruiting methodologies of the cult.”

CultNews congratulates “Anonymous,” Scientology’s latest Internet nemesis, with the notable exception of its distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks at Scientology Web sites.

The Anonymous movement managed to turn out the largest protest through picketing ever coordinated against Scientology.

honk-if-you-oppose.jpg

On February 10th thousands of protesters marched lawfully in front of Scientology centers around the world, effectively drawing greater attention to the questionable practices and bad behavior of the controversial group.

But is must be noted that DDOS attacks are not consistent with the precepts of freedom of speech on the Internet.

Scientology’s repeated effort to thwart free speech on the Net has drawn strong criticism.

It seems that Anonymous has apparently decided to drop its DDOS attacks, which is a welcome development.

CultNews has been repeatedly subjected to DDOS attacks over the years by disgruntled cultists and others attempting to crash this Web site in an effort to suppress the free flow of information.

The Internet should remain a pivotal place for the free exchange of ideas.

Scientologists have a right to preach, teach and proselytize. And others have the right to critically respond to Scientology’s efforts, discuss its beliefs and religious practices.

In the United States Constitution the same First Amendment that protects freedom of religion also safeguards free speech.

It is neither “persecution” nor a “hate crime” to examine Scientology’s teachings and scrutinize its behavior. No religious body in America is immune from such examination and accountability, certainly not within a free democratic society.

True believers are typically subject to the same laws as everyone else.

Scientologists may believe whatever they wish, but this doesn’t somehow give them the right to do whatever they want in the name of those beliefs.

The Roman Catholic Church has been held accountable through a series of often contentious and expensive lawsuits regarding the bad behavior of some of its priests. And the church hierarchy has also endured public recrimination for some of its decisions concerning clergy abuse.

Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christian Scientists have increasingly found that the courts will not protect a parent’s religious choices, if it includes the medical neglect of minor children.

Scientology sits in the same position, neither immune nor somehow exempted from the same scrutiny through public discourse and examination.

And virtually every time Scientology or Scientologists attempt to bully people and/or make the false argument that they should somehow receive special treatment, it has only served to draw more negative attention to the controversial church and its adherents.

Witness Anonymous as yet another example of such a continuing backlash.

So congratulations Anonymous, keep up the good work, but be consistent with the values you have said Scientology has violated.

It seems some groups called “cults” may not be so mutually exclusive. And at times their members just might help each other out a little bit, at least at fund-raising events.

Apparently this was the case at a Gucci New York charity dinner hosted by Madonna, which benefited a Kabbalah Centre linked charity called “Raising Malawi.

The controversial charity was founded by Michael Berg, co-director of the Kabblah Centre.

Not only did celebrity supporters of the fringe Kabbalah group show up for the event such as Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher and potential new recruit Gwyneth Paltrow, but so did some famous Scientologists.

Scientology’s number one persona Tom Cruise showed up with wife Katie Holmes, as did Scientology friend Jennifer Lopez.

s-gucci-gala-large.jpgHave the two purported “cults” made a pact?

Madonna has gone on the record defending Tom Cruise and his Scientology antics. She once said, “If it makes Tom Cruise happy, I don’t care if he prays to turtles. And I don’t think anybody else should.”

Was this Gucci event payback for the former “Material Girl”?

While it seems that these two “new religions” have little in common doctrinally, one supposedly believes in Jewish mysticism while the other has made intergalactic space travel an article of faith, they do seem to share at least two things in common.

Recruiting celebrities and what appears to be an insatiable desire for cash.

Is Scientology getting into the Christmas spirit?

Scientology Christmas parade

Scientologists Kirstie Alley, Giovanni Ribbisi, Kelly Preston and Ericka Christensen went to the church’s Hollywood Celebrity Center to “act out” “Christmas stories” and tell “festive tales” according to a press release posted on the Internet.

Scientology’s “Drug Free Marshals” also marched in Colorado’s “Boulder Lights of December Parade,” complete with Santa hats reported Your Hub.

But what does the controversial religion really have to do with Christmas?

After all, Scientology’s founder L. Ron Hubbard didn’t teach his devoted followers to believe in Christianity. And the church that Hubbard built has its own unique set of beliefs, such as doctrines about space aliens, reincarnation and an evil outer space villain named Xenu.

In fact, Hubbard reportedly taught that Jesus and God were false beliefs and the result of a scheme hatched by Xenu to distort minds through “implanting.”

This was certainly not one of the “Christmas stories” chosen by Kirstie Alley to “act out” at the Hollywood Celebrity Center.

L. Ron HubbardAnd such “festive tales” are only told to Scientologists after they have paid for enough “religious services” to be properly prepared to hear them.

So what does Christmas mean to Scientology?

Well, it appears to be a season that is cynically manipulated by Scientology for promotional purposes.

December has become a month for Hubbard’s little elves to get dressed up in Yule time costumes, even if they don’t believe in the reason for the season.

Rather than accepting a messiah that was born in a manger 2,000 years ago, Scientologists actually revere Hubbard, who popped into the world on March 13, 1911 in Tilden, Nebraska.

According to the book “Barefaced Messiah” when Hubbard died in 1986 the new supreme leader of Scientology David Miscavige said, “L. Ron Hubbard discarded the body he had used…to facilitate his existence in this universe…The being we knew as L. Ron Hubbard still exists…He has simply moved on to his next step. LRH in fact used this lifetime and body we knew to accomplish what no man has ever accomplished — he unlocked the mysteries of life and gave us the tools so we could free ourselves and our fellow men…”

Hosanna?

Scientology pageantPerhaps the most appropriate “Christmas show” linked to Scientology is “A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant” by Les Freres Corbusier, which according to Curt Holman of Creative Loafing “uses the universal form of a young people’s holiday pageant — right down to an all-kid cast — to lampoon the cult of Scientology.”

This show, which won an Obie, currently can be seen in Atlanta, New York and Boston.

This “story of stories,” is not about Jesus, but about the sci-fi writer turned-Scientology-savior Hubbard.

And isn’t that the “Christmas story” that Scientologists should really be celebrating?

“TomKat” finally made it down the aisle with a 7-month-old baby in tow.

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes Scientology vows were sealed with a reported 3-minute-kiss, until someone yelled, “stop,” though perhaps they might have just said, “cut.”

TomKat weddingAn Italian castle near Rome was rented out for the marital production that reportedly was budgeted at about $10 million, which is easily the going price for an independent film.

The supporting cast included David and Victoria Beckham, Jennifer Lopez and husband Marc Anthony, Jim Carey and girlfriend Jenny McCarthy, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, Richard Gere and a “cameo” appearance by Brooke Shields.

Shields has apparently forgiven Cruise for bashing her on national television. Scientology’s “Top Gun” used the actress as an example of what’s wrong with taking medication for depression, apparently an ”unpardonable sin” for the star and his church.

Speaking of Scientologists, quite a few of Cruise’s religious brethren attended the nuptials, such as John Travolta

The head of Scientology’s New York City branch made the invitation list, but not Oprah Winfrey, even though she practically launched the couple on her show.

Maybe Cruise’s handlers didn’t want to remind anyone about his past performance as a “couch jumper.”

Oprah still sent a gift.

Tom Cruise chose as his “best man” Scientology’s ”top dog” David Miscavige, the man who appears to be leader for life of the controversial church, which many have called a “cult.”

Reportedly some Hollywood notables were “no shows.”

Needless to say Cruise’s former employer Sumner Redstone, the man who dumped the actor from Paramount largely for talking too much about Scientology, wasn’t there.

The wedding vows, like all things Scientology, were hatched from the head of its creator L. Ron Hubbard and seemed more like stilted dialog lifted from a corny 1950s movie than a typical marriage ceremony.

During the service the Scientology minister asked the bride: “Do you take his fortune at its prime and ebb and seek with him best fortune for us all? Do you?” The bride responded: “I do.” Then the minister said: “Good then, I am sure you will and surer yet that you’ll fare well and staunchly as a wife.” To Cruise, he said: “And when she’s older do you keep her still? Do you?” He replied: “I do.” 

What’s interesting to observe in Hubbard’s version of wedding vows is the complete absence of any reference to God. And to the bride’s parents who are staunchly conservative Roman Catholics, any mention of Jesus.

Scientologists don’t believe in the bible, God or Jesus and are taught if they reach “Operating Thetan Level Three” (OT III), about “implanting,” which is done through space alien technology. Later, reportedly at OT VIII, they learn not so flattering details about how Christianity fits within that framework. 

However, Katie Holmes parents both attended the wedding and told People Magazine that they were “very happy” to be there.

And why not?

The pre-nuptial agreement reportedly negotiated in part by the father of the 27-year-old actress provides that she will receive $3 million dollars for each year that she remains “Mrs. Cruise,” plus a California mansion. And if Katie Holmes can somehow manage to make it to her 11th anniversary, she could hit the jackpot and get half of the 44-year-old actor’s entire fortune.

The bride’s parents may also be smiling because the Scientology ceremony their daughter participated in is not recognized by their church. So some day, just like Nicole Kidman the last Mrs. Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes can get an annulment and still walk down the aisle the second time in a Roman Catholic Church.

It was reported that Andrea Bocelli sang Ave Maria at the reception. However, Bocelli later told the press that he did not attend the Scientology event, because of his Catholic faith.

Was the Italian tenor’s reported rendition of Ave Maria at the reception meant to be a peace offering to placate the bride’s family? 

Kidman and Cruise’s ex-girlfriend Penelope Cruz sent gifts.

No word from Mimi Rogers, the first Mrs. Cruise, who once complained that about their sex life.

What advice would these exes give the new Mrs. Cruise?

MSNBC says that the Katie Holmes should “forget about marriage counseling” if there are problems, because as Tom Cruise told Matt Lauer, psychology is a “Nazi science.”

L. Ron Hubbard, Cruise’s hero, wasn’t that successful at marriage either. He was divorced too, but unlike the actor was also accused of bigamy.

Hubbard’s first wife said she had trouble leaving him and claimed the former Sci-fi writer subdued her with a “hammerlock, causing strangulation and thus preventing any outcry” and later ran away with their baby daughter.

Let’s hope that Tom Cruise isn’t planning to follow his hero’s example if things get tough.

Hubbard’s third wife, if one questionable union is counted, Mary Sue Hubbard did time in federal prison over a Scientology-related criminal conspiracy. 

Hopefully Katie Holmes will never experience such harsh housing. 

Things don’t seem to look that promising though. When all the festivities were done in Italy the groom, his bride and “best man” reportedly flew away together.

Cruise looks tallerNot exactly romantic, but maybe it is somehow spiritually fulfilling to bring the head of your church along to begin married life.

And news reports have noted that the height difference between Cruise and Holmes may be an issue for the actor, who is at least two inches shorter than his latest spouse. Apparently he was concerned enough to stage a wedding photo, which makes him look taller.

Tom Cruise is supposedly set to begin shooting a new movie with Robert Redford in January.

Katie Holmes has no reported career plans, other than of course being Mrs. Tom Cruise, which pays rather well.

Many have said that this much publicized romance and marriage is little more than a scheme to help the middle-aged actor’s career and give his public image a boost.

The Italian wedding was “branded” a “Scientology stunt.” And it was revealed that the couple had actually already “officialized” their marriage before departing for Italy while still in Los Angeles.

But can a $10 million dollar wedding somehow make Tom Cruise a hot Hollywood star again?

Despite the price tag for the production it’s unlikely to count at the box office. 

Tom Cruise may actually be morphing into something of a celebrity oddity much like Michael Jackson, another superstar that began his descent into pop culture irrelevance with a reportedly contrived Scientology marriage.

Follow-up: According to repeated media reports Katie Holmes is so unhappy with her honeymoon that she wants another one. Reportedly the bride and groom were accompanied on their honeymoon by Scientology leader and Cruise’s “best man” David Miscavige. But a spokesperson for the chairman of the controversial religion told the press, “This is so stupid. I don’t know how many times I have to say it: It is absolutely, 100 percent not true. Mr. Miscavige was not there.”

Scientology may not fare too well as fodder for the popular cable show “Nip/Tuck.”

'brainwashed' 'Matt'?The successful dramatic series about two plastic surgeons in Florida has included Scientology as a recurring story line lately.

TV squad quipped, “I’m sure Ryan Murphy and Co. have put together a story that will be both shocking and informative.

Murphy the show’s creator rather cryptically once said, “You read so much in the press about certain famous people who are Scientologists, but the media pushes it aside as a joke. And clearly it’s not a joke for millions of people. I’m not for it. I’m not against it. I was just curious as to what it is, what they believe in, and how it changes life and how it destroys life,” reported the Los Angeles Times.

Some pundits speculated that Murphy might mean that the show would go soft or “politically correct” on the so-called “new religious movement (NRM).”

But maybe not.

Most recently ”Matt” (played by John Hensley) has been sucked into the seemingly sinister church, often called a “cult,” by a featured player named “Kimber.”

The two were seen literally sweating it out together.

But instead of a hot sex scene, the couple was doing what Scientologists call the “purification rundown,’ a religious ritual that includes stints in a sauna combined with swallowing down large doses of niacin and some cooking oil.

This bizarre treatment supposedly rids the body of ”toxins,” which Scientologists believe is stored in body tissue indefinitely without their ”cure.”

Matt’s doctor dad Sean (Dylan Walsh) probably wouldn’t prescribe this remedy for his son to purge drugs. Scientology founder and former pulp fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard concocted this remedy.

concerned Dr. dadIn the last episode it seems Sean actually thought so little of Scientology, he hired a “deprogrammer” to save his “brainwashed” boy.

However, Matt managed to escape and later his Scientology friends helped him to pack up and move on.

What’s next?

Will Matt declare his mom and dad “Suppressive Persons” (SPs) and then ”disconnect” from his parental units altogether through another Scientology religious ritual?

Meanwhile Brooke Shields, the actress once bashed for using anti-depressants by Scientology hero Tom Cruise, has been cast as a psychiatrist in the show. Psychiatrists seem to be the equivalent of “Satan’s minions” to Scientologists.

Stay tuned.

It seems like Murphy is stirring a mean pot for his plot line.

Tomorrow night is the next installment.

Does Scientology have a “cure” for homosexuality, or does the controversial church just beard (disguise) its gay celebrities through arranged marriages?

Scientologist John Travolta married fellow Scientologist Kelly Preston in what seemed like convenient timing, just after the National Enquirer ran a story about an alleged two-year homosexual affair between the actor and a male porn star.

The subsequent Travolta/Preston union produced two offspring and paved the way for the actor to continue a lucrative career as a leading man.

The National Inquirer later ran a retraction and Travolta’s alleged lover recanted, after the star’s lawyer reportedly applied some pressure.

Another Scientologist Lisa Marie Presley was quickly wed to Michael Jackson after allegations surfaced that he was a pedophile that preyed upon little boys. A source told CultNews that a Scientology minister participated and/or officiated when the couple was married at a secluded spot (other sources say it was a local judge).

But this marriage didn’t last and now the former “King of Pop” is living in self-imposed exile as a single in the Arab emirate of Bahrain.

Was it some Scientology agenda or really romance that led to the Presley/Jackson nuptials?

Could it be that Elvis’s daughter was wowed by Jackson’s dance moves or overwhelmed by his sexual charisma?

Now it looks like the National Enquirer might have the last word and/or the latest evidence regarding the sexual preference of John Travolta reports Canada.com.

Travolta in drag as TurnbladWhile doing his first film turn in drag as mama Edna Turnblad for the movie “Hairspray” in Canada, Travolta was caught on camera kissing a man, but not in costume.

Instead, it appears this smooch was spontaneous and not per any contract agreement.

In photographs published by the National Enquirer, Travolta is seen planting a wet one on an unidentified young man while balancing tiptoe on the stair of his private jet.

Is this only a lighthearted gesture bestowed by the 52-year-old star upon his special friends or further grist for the rumor mill about his sexuality?

One source told CultNews that Mrs. Travolta was seated aboard the aircraft when this happened, which if true might raise some interesting questions about the nature of the couple’s marital arrangement.

The official word from the Travolta camp is that he is not gay. 

A friend of the star said, “John is furious about these new gay claims. It’s ridiculous ” he’s answered this over and over and he denies being gay” reports The Bosh.

But should Mr. Travolta be quite so “furious” given his latest career move to embrace a comedic character popular amongst the gay community?

CultNews previously questioned if a man rumored to be a closeted homosexual was right for a role made popular by openly gay actors.

Maybe the diehard 30-year Scientologist is more concerned about how his idol, the late L. Ron Hubbard founder of Scientology, might have perceived his penchant for kissing men? 

Hubbard once stated that gays “should be taken from¦society as rapidly as possible” because “no social order will survive which does not remove these people from its midst” reported Rolling Stone.

Travolta/Preston a special arrangement?One former gay Scientologist even claimed that John Travolta was the proof that he was offered that “Scientology processing and courses would ‘handle’ [his] own homosexuality.” He paid the church a bundle for the process, but later sued when it didn’t work. 

Maybe it’s not about a “cure,” but rather a cover, which the church provides for its generous and/or important gay members?

Mrs. Travolta must know for sure, but it seems unlikely that she would spill, even if the rumors were true.

Meanwhile neither John Travolta’s fading star status or his marriage is likely to suffer because of the generous affection he doles out to his chosen male companions.

Postscript: Travolta’s lawyer Martin Singer subsequently made the following statement: “As a manner of customary greeting and saying farewell, Mr Travolta kisses both women and men whom he considers to be extremely close friends. People who are close to Mr Travolta are aware of his customary, non-romantic gesture.”

Is Scientology responsible for making Tom Cruise into “someone who effectuates creative suicide” as Viacom President Sumner Redstone told the Wall Street Journal?

Tom Cruise 'suicide'?The billionaire media mogul explained ”His recent conduct has not been acceptable to Paramount.”

And then Redstone did the unthinkable, he effectively dumped the “world’s greatest movie star.”

Now the former “Top Gun” is hoping some “hedge fund” will back his production company and Hollywood is buzzing with questions.

How could a star so high fall so far and this quickly?

Wasn’t it just a couple years ago that Tom Cruise could do no wrong?

Could the often-secretive Church of Scientology be part of the answer?

A writer for the Huffington Post claims that “anti-Scientology religious bigotry” was somehow responsible for the star’s demise.

But was it “bigotry” over Scientology or a reaction to Cruise’s increasingly bizarre behavior linked to the church that led to his downfall?

It’s been a heady ride for Tom Cruise from “Risky Business” to “Mission Impossible.” But has the star risen to such a height that his demands and hubris overreached the limit. And was his judgement somehow impaired?

Cruise arguably became both vindictive and punitive.

His often quoted rant about Brooke Shields taking anti-depression medication and an apparent absence of humor regarding a hilarious South Park send-up paved the way for the public to perceive the once popular star quite differently.

Instead of the carefully crafted image his former publicist Pat Kingsley helped to construct and burnish over the years when she represented the actor, cracks began to show in his famous facade.

Here's Tommy!The smile that once made Cruise a romantic leading man, appeared more like the demented grin of Jack Nicholson playing a madman.

What happened?

As CultNews reported previously strange behavior could be a byproduct of Scientology. 

Sitcom star Jeanna Elfman also appeared to be getting stranger as she moved up the ladder of Scientology’s spiritual training levels. Both Elfman and Cruise had been working on “Operating Thetan Level 7″ (OT-7). Scientology has eight OT levels to ascend.

Rich stars like John Travolta (an OT-7), Cruise and Elfman have no problem paying for the expensive courses and “auditing” that enables them to reach this higher plateau within the organization that Time Magazine once called a “The Cult of Greed.”

But does continued Scientology training cause mental and/or emotional disturbances?

One example might be the case of Lisa McPherson, a dedicated long-term Scientologist that experienced a mental meltdown before dying under the care of Scientology.

Shortly before her untimely death at 36 the Scientologist who began taking courses at 23 told her spiritual caregivers in Clearwater, Florida “I am L. Ron Hubbard…I created time 3 billion years ago.”

A wrongful death suit filed by the young woman’s family ended after seven years of litigation when Scientology paid them off rather than go to trial.

Another claimed casualty of the controversial church was Lawrence Wollersheim, who said that Scientology’s influence drove him into a mental disorder and to the brink of suicide. 

Scientology eventually paid Wollersheim an $8.6 million dollar settlement.

Lisa McPherson 1959-1995What could this organization some have labeled a “Sci-fi cult” do to send its adherents into orbit?

According to the testimony of one former long-term member in a personal injury court case there are church drills and courses that “brainwash them.”

Tom Cruise “brainwashed”?

Perhaps ”brainwashing” explains how a super star at the top of his game plunged into “creative suicide” through a series of personal and public meltdowns. 

Pat Kingsley must be shaking her head pondering how her once cooperative client went through such a series of hapless blunders, which ultimately led to an end result that Viacom chief Redstone said “costs the company revenue.” 

According to Joe Keldani, a Scientologist trained by that organization’s elite “Guardians Office,” something strange happened at the highest levels of Scientology during his watch.

Keldani claimed that ”the first few hundred OT 8 got ill and had to be recalled for repair.”

Does Tom Cruise need to be recalled?

Sumner Redstone seems to think so, but he is not willing to pay the “repair” bill.

Now seems like a good time to sum up the net results of the “war of words” between television cartoon show South Park, Scientology and Tom Cruise.

Cruise the loserWho won and who lost?

South Park recently picked up a Peabody Award and received an Emmy nomination specifically for the controversial episode that mocked the ”world’s biggest movie star” and Scientology, which is probably the most litigious organization called a “cult” on the planet.

Not only did South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone ridicule Cruise and get away with it, they also accurately exposed Scientology’s bizarre doctrines. This included a discourse about a belief in space aliens, something that the general public otherwise wouldn’t know, considering the way that Scientology zealously guards its secrets.

'Trapped in the Closet'The cartoon episode “Trapped in the Closet” was carefully crafted to be legally ”bullet proof” as a parody, so from the start Cruise and his church didn’t have the basis for any serious claim of slander.

That’s why the actor allegedly relied instead upon his star power to cancel a repeat of the controversial episode, which was set to launch South Park’s current season.

Apparently, Scientology’s “Top Gun” took his best shot through Viacom, the parent company of both Paramount, which produced Mission Impossible and Comedy Central that airs South Park.

However, this strategy backfired, only garnering more attention and publicity for the show while Cruise came across as a bully. South Park’s ratings soared and arguably this confrontation paved the way for both the Peabody Award and Emmy nomination that followed.

“Trapped in the Closet” remains the biggest hit as measured by the viewing audience that South Park has ever recorded for a singe show.

Good-bye ChefScientologist Isaac Hayes, who quit South Park over the Scientology episode hasn’t fared very well either. Like Cruise he didn’t gain public sympathy through his protest and also lost his job.

Subsequently Parker and Stone got the last word regarding Hayes departure through a good-bye “Return of Chef” episode that portrayed the former 1970s star as little more than a “brainwashed” puppet.

Tom Cruise also appears to have lost ground.

The actor who hasn’t had a genuine unqualified hit since Jerry McGuire and is now perceived by much of the public as a “weirdo.” His Mission Impossible series is all but dead, with the latest installment doing less than expected at the box office.

Don’t look for a “Mission Impossible Four.”

In fact, some Hollywood pundits say it may be difficult for the middle-aged actor to star in a major film project budgeted at the same size as MP-3 in the future.

The public seems tired of Tom Cruise, other than as a focus of gossip about his relationship with Katie Holmes and their unseen baby girl Suri.

And Scientology seems to have become something of a running joke, seen more like a wacky “Hollywood cult,” rather than a serious religion.

Whatever Tom Cruise and his church hoped to accomplish through the star’s media blitz promoting Scientology solutions to life’s problems, both he and his faith failed to convey any meaningful positive message that the public responded to, but don’t expect them to admit that.

Trey Parker warned about getting “that Tom Cruise stink on you” in a recent interview, but there is nothing like the sweet smell of success.

'Cult heroes' Parker and StoneAnd South Park has never been more popular, while its creators have burnished their ”cult hero” status through the face-off with the star, along with some official mainstream recognition that perhaps was long overdue.

The moral to this story is never take on a weekly comedy show like South Park in a “war of words,” because the show will get the last word and also last laugh.

Demonstrating this pointedly will be the long awaited repeat tonight of ”Trapped in the Closet.”