News & Politics

Is Tom Cruise Worthy of a Simon Wiesenthal Award? Also: Scientology’s Building Spree

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Jewish Journal writer Danielle Berrin recently took on a subject that has Scientology watchers chattering.

On May 5, L.A.’s famous anti-Nazi organization, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, will bestow on Tom Cruise its 2011 Humanitarian Award.

As Berrin points out, Cruise isn’t exactly known for rescuing orphan children or parachuting into disaster zones. But as she documents very well, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its Museum of Tolerance is just fine with bestowing humanitarian status on Hollywood celebrities who are, at least, generous with their cash. She writes:

Every year the center hosts a swanky dinner in Beverly Hills for titans of the industry, the centerpiece of which is the bestowal of the Humanitarian Award–the museum’s highest honor–upon individuals who ostensibly promote human welfare, but perhaps more importantly, can get their friends to write big checks to the museum.

Cruise, however, is proving a controversial choice, since he’s long been the poster boy for Scientology.

Berrin notes that Cruise’s critics are howling about his being named a humanitarian when, just a couple of months ago, Lawrence Wright’s lengthy New Yorker profile of director Paul Haggis revealed that the FBI has been looking into “human trafficking” claims about Scientology’s poor treatment of children and low-paid workers.

Berrin found that the Center’s board didn’t seem too concerned about Tom’s involvement in Scientology. One trustee told her Cruise shouldn’t be held responsibility for the actions of an entire religion. Another said Cruise was a major giver to the Center and had been for two decades. A third trustee admitted she didn’t know anything about Scientology (ugh).

Perhaps most importantly, Berrin found that the Simon Wiesenthal Center trustees seemed almost proud of how much controversy their choice was kicking up. And with the FBI investigation into Scientology maybe not really turning out to be going anywhere, it’s hard to imagine the SWC caving over it.

In other Scientology News, The Daily’s Hunter Walker has another good dispatch, this one about Scientology’s ongoing real estate buying spree.

News broke this week that KCET, L.A.’s former PBS station which is transforming itself into some kind of college TV station (or something) is selling its historic studios to Scientology.

Walker points out the paradox that at the same time Scientology seems to be vanishing in the numbers of actual, active members (recent, documented estimates range as low as 25,000 in the United States), the church has been on a mad buying spree, and plans to open 60 new facilities around the world.

Walker does the math, and calculates that Scientology already has purchased about 484 square feet of real estate for every active Scientologist in the country.

Now that is some strange financial planning.

Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he’s been writing about Scientology at several publications. Among his other stories about L. Ron Hubbard’s organization:

The Larry Wollersheim Saga — Scientology Finally Pays For Its Fraud
The Tory Bezazian (Christman) Story — How the Internet Saved A Scientologist From Herself
The Jason Beghe Defection — A Scientology Celebrity Goes Rogue
The Robert Cipriano Case — A Hellacious Example of Fair Game
The Paul Haggis Ultimatum — The ‘Crash’ Director Tells Scientology to Shove It
The Marc Headley Escape — ‘Tom Cruise Told Me to Talk to a Bottle’
The Aaron Saxton Accusation — Australia turns up the heat on Scientology
The Jefferson Hawkins Stipulation — Scientology’s former PR genius comes clean
The Daniel Montalvo Double-Cross — Scientology lures a young defector into a trap
A Church Myth Debunked — Scientology and Proposition 8
Daniel Montalvo Strikes Back — Scientology Hit with Stunning Child-Labor Lawsuits
When Scientologists Attack — The Marty Rathbun Intimidation
A Scientologist Excommunicated — The Michael Fairman SP Declaration

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