People (Australia), Wed 05 May 1993, p17

Cult Lures Aussie Stars

Kate Ceberano and Nicole Kidman join Scientology, the fastest-growing religion in the world - and one of the weirdest

Showbiz types find religion - in a church founded by sci-fi writer

by Terry Bourke

Two showbiz babies are the latest celebrity recruits to the strange Scientology sect. And one is the centre of anger among Elvis Presley fans.

The innocent babies know nothing of the controversial cult which will rule their lives - but their parents do. Partners Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, and Lisa Marie Presley and Danny Keough, have initiated their kids into the cult. They'll join a world of wealthy showbiz devotees, including:

As the adopted daughter of Tom and Nicole, Isabella Jane Cruise is a budding Scientologist before she can pronounce it.

Before she was born, already earmarked as the first Cruise kid, arrangements were made with her natural mother - a struggling Miami mum of two - to follow strict Scientology edicts during delivery.

The church shuns painkillers and there's a strict "no noise" rule - no matter how agonising the labour. The cult claims if silence isn't observed, the infant's mind can be damaged forever.

Scientologists say babies make mental recordings of conception and birth and disturbances lead to emotional problems.

Benjamin Keough, six-month-old son of Elvis's daughter Lisa Marie, 24, and guitar-twanging Danny, 27, will grow up adhering to the strange sect's agenda.

Rules require the parents to:

The Church of Scientology was founded in 1954 by pulp sci-fi author L. Ron Hubbard, who attracted a string of high profile and rich followers willing to donate cash to the cult.

His strange teachings involved space travel, aliens and an unnerving need to punish "suppressives" who attack the cult.

In 1977, when 150 FBI agents raided the Scientology offices in Washington and Los Angeles they hauled away lockpicks, pistols, ammunition, knockout drops and wire-tapping equipment.

Top-ranking Scientologists, including Hubbard's wife, were jailed in the early '80s for infiltrating, burgling and wire-tapping more than 100 private and government agencies to block investigations into the religion.

The foreword to The Bare-faced Messiah, Russell Miller's "expose" on Scientology, reads as follows:

"In 1954, science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard founded the controversial Church of Scientology. It attracted six million members, made him a millionaire - and could, he claimed, cure all ill, physical or psychological. He alone could save the world.

"In 1967, pursued by the CIA, the FBI and outraged governments, he set sail with his private navy and lived at sea for a decade, served by nymphet messengers in hotpants who dressed and undressed him and were trained like robots to relay his orders in his tone of voice.

"He tried to take over several countries and at least one continent; described in detail two visits to heaven; plotted to infiltrate the FBI and CIA, and vanished completely in 1980 ..."

Hubbard eventually resurfaced, only to make his third and final visit to the hereafter in January, 1986.

After his death, the sect not only survived but thrived - swelling worldwide membership to eight million, including 10,000 Australians.

Our best-known Scientologist is singer Kate Ceberano, one of few famous names to go public about their involvement.

She says of Scientology: "It is my road map to life - my tools.

"Sure, I'm aware of how controversial the church can be. It's controversial because it's successful, and openly so.

"It attacks things other people don't attack, bodies which are so-called legit and have so-called acceptance in the community: like drug companies."

Last year Kate sang for a Scientology seminar of around 7000 in the US. During her stay Tom and Nicole threw her a big-name showbiz bash.

"They're a gorgeous couple and we're very close friends," said Kate.

Kate's introduction into the sect came through the involvement of her mother-manager Cherie, who met Kate's Hawaiian-Filipino father while studying the religion in Hawaii.

Tom Cruise is said to have been influenced by mate John Travolta's membership. But Travolta once wanted to leave the cult until Hollywood honchos changed his mind.

Cruise, introduced to Scientology by former wife Mimi Rogers, uses it as "learning technology" to overcome career and personal hurdles.

Hubbard's guidelines, he says, enable him "to learn what I want to learn, so I'm not dependent on what others tell me."

Tom suggests people read the literature and make up their own minds. "I can't tell people what to think or not to think."

Demi Moore "dabbles" in the sect through her friendship with Travolta's wife Kelly Preston. But Demi's action-hero husband Bruce Willis won't have a bar of the group.

"Bruce doesn't believe in specialised religions of any description," said a friend. "He distrusts the hocus-pocus of Scientology ... and boy, is Bruce wary of giving money to the church!"

The friend said the financial aspect of the church continually draws flak in Tinseltown: "Members are expected to give freely to the coffers. Ever since Hubbard got the church going, people in the movie world have questioned its monetary motives.

"It's almost demanded that you transfer some of your wealth to the church - just read Hubbard's book Dianetics," he says.

Locally, the sect's method of street recruiting in Melbourne and Sydney draws public fire.

Critics blast the way people are approached for a "survey" - and frequently find themselves undergoing an "aptitude test" at a Scientology centre just around the corner.

Candidates might be told they have "a special power of the mind, a unique understanding of life, a gift of logic"- and they'd benefit from some training classes. All of which cost big bucks.

The Presley Clash

Money and memories form the basis of many fans' anger at Lisa Marie Presley's latest moves to satisfy the sect.

Under church orders, she'll ban all traces of Elvis from his grandson Benjamin's life. Critical fans claim Scientologists are poised to clean out more than memories of the great entertainer - his estate is said to be worth in excess of $450m.

But Priscilla Presley and daughter Lisa Marie deny this: "I have never heard of anything so absurd," says The King's widow.

Lisa Marie was told by Scientology leaders early in her pregnancy to ban Elvis from her head and home to give the baby a normal upbringing.

The devout Lisa Marie obediently packed up all The King's photos, records and mementos and sent them back to Graceland, where Elvis expired in 1977.

Now there are no pictures, posters or inklings of Elvis in the Keough home - and fans are fuming!

Cathy Ferguson, 44, from Florida and president of the Presleyites and Campaign for Elvis Days, is shocked at Lisa Marie's decision: "She has a duty to tell Benjamin about the love and joy his grandfather brought to millions. The boy will learn sooner or later in his own way."

Cathy's had emotional letters from "shocked and disgusted" Elvis fans blasting Lisa Marie and Priscilla for succumbing to the cult's demands.

"I've received mail from Europe and Asia - and more than 100 letters from Australia," she says.

"The fans are really savage about Scientologists trying to destroy Elvis's legacy."

In London, Elvis Appreciation Society secretary Katie Vanstone, 46, reacted angrily: "How could anyone dream of bringing up a child without the sound of Elvis - let alone his own flesh and blood?"

It was Priscilla who, 14 years ago, introduced the then 10-year-old Lisa Marie to Scientology - and she has subscribed to it since.

But Lisa Marie, pictured below with husband Danny and Benjamin, readily credits the sect with turning her life around.

"If I didn't have Scientology I'd be dead by now," she claims. "It's a way out. It works. It gets results."

Presley staff at Gracelands believe there's another reason to shut Elvis out of Benjamin's life. They reckon Danny Keough clams up whenever Elvis is mentioned - because he wants to be the only rock star in the family!