Tom Cruise may not be a “Top Gun” any more, but the actor has become the top cheerleader for the Church of Scientology and he recently received a medal for it.

Mr. Cruise was awarded the so-called “Freedom Medal of Valor” according to this month’s issue of International Scientology News.

Pictured with the gaudy gold medal embedded with diamonds hanging around his neck the film star that has never won an Oscar looks happy.

Photos of Tom Cruise receiving his award and subsequently being saluted by Scientology’s supreme leader David Miscavige can be seen on the Web site of Dave Touretzsky, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

The medal award ceremony though, actually took place in Great Britain two months ago.

The current headline reads, “Advancing Scientology on a Fully Epic Scale.”

And the Scientology news article goes on gushing about Tom Cruise’s “mission accomplishments” as follows:

“Spearheading LRH [L. Ron Hubbard] Purification tech into the heart of human disaster,” which is a nod to the actor’s efforts in New York City regarding controversial detoxification clinics.

“Changing the face of education at national levels,” seemingly a reference to Cruise promoting Scientology’s “study tech.”

“Eradicating the very thought of psychiatry,” Cruise shocked the public when he told one reporter that “psychiatry should be outlawed.”

The tally counted by Scientology for Tom Cruise reads rather impressively.

He has reached “250 million people” with “study tech.”

“50 million people” with his warnings about the “evil of psychiatry.”

The Hollywood star has reportedly touted the religion “across 90 nations.”

And a purported “5,000 people hear his word of Scientology – every hour,” the publication claims.

“Every minute, of every hour-someone reaches for LRH technology…simply because they know Tom Cruise is a Scientologist,” says International Scientology News.

But is that a good thing considering the troubled history of this church, which after all has been called a “cult”?

Maybe Cruise is “Tom Terrific” for Scientologists, but to many of the church’s alleged victims and critics he is more like a “cult recruiter.”

Scientology has eight Operating Thetan or OT levels and Mr. Cruise has almost made it to the top. He reportedly is now an “OT VI” and in the process of becoming an “OT VII.”

But moving up the OT levels can be quite expensive, a journey many of his religious brethren cannot easily afford.

However, within the luxurious, cocoon-like and pampered existence of celebrity Scientologists this doesn’t seem to cause much concern.

“I think it’s a privilege to call yourself a Scientologist,” Cruise told those gathered at the award ceremony.

“That’s what drives me,” he said. “I know that we have an opportunity to really help for the first time, effectively change people’s lives and I am dedicated to that. I’m absolutely, uncompromisingly dedicated to that.”

Other sources have been somewhat less sanguine in their assesment of Scientology.

Time Magazine called the organization the “Cult of Greed… a hugely profitable global racket that survives by intimidating members and critics in a Mafia-like manner.”

But Mr. Cruise apparently doesn’t care. After all he’s got his medal.

Since CultNews reported about Scientology and its “stress test” tables set up near NYC subway entrances, feedback keeps coming in from all over.

It seems like Scientology may be engaged in a nationwide holiday recruitment blitz, often focused on city shoppers and mass transit commuters.

One Christmas shopper in Chicago said, “I noticed that the Scientologists had set up…(recruitment stations) in front of Marshall Fields” department store on State St.

Someone in San Francisco tells CultNews that Scientologists have also set up shop near a subway stop in that city.

The source in Northern California says devoted members can be seen hawking L. Ron Hubbard books and working the E-meter (a lie-detector type device that Scientology claims can help “clear” the mind) right by an Old Navy Store on Market Street.

Here are some photos from San Francisco to peruse.

Aren’t cell phone cameras great?

Another response came from Boston where Scientology set up its “stress test” tables “in the middle of Cambridge’s Harvard Square subway station.”

And last month around Thanksgiving the controversial church had the same tables strewn along sidewalks in Hollywood advised one visitor to Los Angeles (a city that named a street “L. Ron Hubbard Way”).

A Portland, Oregon resident says that in that city Scientologists have been using “tweenies” (pre-teens) to hand out flyers in the bus mall during rush hour.

“I just think it’s wrong to use these young children to promote something that they probably don’t even really have a full understanding of,” she told CultNews.

One NYC commuter has officially complained to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) about Scientologists obstructing public places.

The complaint read as follows:

“The Scientologist cult has been setting up ‘Stress Test’ tables in the Shuttle passage going from the 42nd St. and Lexington Ave. Station. They aggressively harass passengers walking along the corridor to take their ‘Stress Test’ in an effort to recruit them…their tables block the free flow of pedestrian traffic in the passage.”

An MTA official responded, “We regret if you experienced difficulty while using our subway system. New York City Transit and the Transit Bureau of the New York City Police Department are also continuing to work together in an effort to prohibit panhandling in the subway system. The Transit Bureau is vigilant in thwarting illegal activity and enforcing subway rules…soliciting for charities is not legal on our trains and in our stations.”

The concerned New Yorker later surmised, “I am guessing that they are putting the pressure on now [because]…people who are feeling emotionally down or weak at this time of year [present]…a greater chance of recruitment.”

Another reader told CultNews that Scientology is also working Horton Plaza in downtown San Diego.

“My husband was accosted by them last week, offering a ‘Stress Test,’” she said.

Here is what her husband recalled.

“As I’m starting to walk through Horton Plaza to get back to work I look up to see these two grinning zombie like idiots, one girl, one guy, taking a couple of steps toward me.”

“‘Excuse me sir would you like to take a free stress test?’ said guy zombie idiot.”

“I stop, look at them (they looked genuinely concerned) then looked over to where they were gesturing and saw a card table, some folding chairs and pamphlets.”

“‘It’ll only take a few minutes,’ said the girl zombie idiot.”

“Then something went *ding* in my dull mind–Dianetics? I asked.”

“‘Yes it is,’ said the guy zombie idiot.”

“‘Oh f–k me,’ I half-way yelled ‘bunch of f—ing freaks,’ and started to walk away.”

“‘It’s changed millions of lives sir,’ said girl zombie idiot a bit defensively.”

“I took another two or three steps, stopped [and] turn to face them, ‘So has heroin and it’s nothing to be proud of.’ I think I hurt the zombie idiots feelings.”

Hardly the holiday spirit, but maybe that’s what happens when you bug busy people in San Diego.

This December Scientologists also pitched a big yellow tent in Jacksonville, Florida for the purpose of tutoring visitors on the “fundamentals” of their faith near a popular plaza. The traveling missionary show’s next stop is Miami reports The Daily Record.

It appears Christmas may signal a time for faithful Scientologists to make some sort of holiday push in memory of their messiah L. Ron Hubbard.

Even Tom Cruise got into the spirit apparently targeting his recruitment efforts. And the former Top Gun is aiming high.

Mr. Cruise sent a Christmas card that reportedly promotes Scientology to international soccer star David Beckham and his wife Victoria, once known as “Posh Spice” reported The London Mirror.

The actor told the power couple he had made a donation to his church on their behalf.

There has been speculation that Cruise’s recent friendship with the Beckhams is somehow linked to the hope that he can scoop them up for Scientology.

Oh well, some Scientologists may shiver in the cold this Winter pitching “stress tests,” while other more pampered celebrity members get off with a Christmas card mailing.

But for those who want a little holiday fun at Scientology’s expense, pick up the CD of the hit spoof that mocks the controversial church and its celebrity members now playing in LA titled “A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant.”

And for those who would like to read the very special sacred story of Scientology that explains the foundation of its beliefs see this website.

Scientologists like Tom Cruise typically pay to learn about this story, but because of the Internet it can be a free Christmas gift.

Ho, ho, ho, and a happy L. Ron Hubbard holiday to all!

Scientology must be getting pretty desperate for recruits. The organization that boasts celebrity supporters such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta has literally gone underground in an apparent effort to dig up new members.

Devotees of the controversial church, which has been called a “cult,” set up shop working shifts with their E-meters shilling “stress tests” to passer-byes in New York’s Grand Central Station.

A concerned passenger also told CultNews that Scientologists could be seen doing the same around access points to the PATH trains, which links New Jersey residents to Manhattan.

Scientology’s “stress test” often utilizes an “E-meter.” This contraption involves holding metal cans connected to a box with a moving needle that supposedly measures the mind, or at least that what Scientologists believe as an article of faith.

The founder of Scientology L. Ron Hubbard reportedly claimed that the E-meter could register mental aberrations or “engrams” caused by traumas.

Counseling or “auditing” sessions within Scientology use the E-meter to help knock out those nasty engrams.

Hubbard once reportedly claimed this process could cure blindness and even improve a person’s intelligence and appearance.

Maybe that’s what makes Tom Cruise so smart and gave John Travolta his good looks?

However, it doesn’t seem to be working so well for Kirstie Alley lately. The star of the new show “Fat Actress” now weighs in at over 200.

For more details about Scientology and its wares see Time Magazine’s Scientology the Cult of Greed.”

But now back to the Scientologists working NYC subways for fresh recruits.

A concerned passenger told CultNews that the MTA transit authority was contacted to find out if it’s legal for these religious recruiters to go underground in Manhattan.

It turns out that Scientology may be breaking some rules.

“We regret if you experienced difficulty while using our subway system,” MTA responded. “Please be aware that the Transit Bureau of the New York City Police Department is vigilant in thwarting illegal activity in the subway system, and maintains an extensive police presence with officers patrolling our facilities at all times, both in uniform and undercover,” the official advised.

MTA also said, “Supervision in the Transit Bureau has been alerted to the conditions you reported at the 42nd Street-Grand Central Station, and will take steps to deploy their officers accordingly. In addition, personnel in our Division of Station Operations will monitor the location in question and any illegal activity observed will be reported immediately to field supervision.”

But why is Scientology so desperate that its devotees are working underground?

Can it be that its aging stars are no longer the draw they once were?

Maybe Madonna and her Kabbalah Centre “cult,” which includes Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Ashton Kutcher and other younger stars, has effectively bumped the old Hollywood “cult” favorite.

Perhaps the subways may soon replace Scientology’s “Celebrity Centers” and the tabloids as the most common venue to learn about the controversial church.

“Lord of the Rings” star Orlando Bloom participated in a “religious ceremony” in England this month, which demonstrated the teen idol’s commitment to Soka Gakkai International (SGI) reported Teen Hollywood.com.

But has Bloom become the latest celebrity cult casualty?

All religions have their heroes and embarrassments. Whereas the Dalai Lama of Tibet is seen as the bright positive light of his faith, SGI’s leader Daisaku Ikeda may be the bad boy of Buddhism.

SGI certainly is a controversial Buddhist sect with a troubled history and it has been called a “cult.” Ikeda its absolute ruler is a business tycoon and the power behind a Japanese political party called New Komeito.

Orlando Bloom and 60 other SGI devotees attended an hour-long religious service. At the end the actor best known for his role of Legolas in the Rings trilogy received a Gohonzon; a religious scroll that SGI devotees seem to believe is somehow imbued with supernatural powers.

Pop icon Tina Turner and Patrick Duffy star of the soap “Dallas” are other noted celebrity members.

SGI is known for its chanting. Members believe they can chant for almost anything, such as more money, a new car or whatever they want.

SGI leader Ikeda has been called “a grasping power-monger.” And New Komeito and SGI are feared by many Japanese.

One former high-ranking member publicly accused Ikeda of rape in 1996.

A Web site was launched by former members “to inform the world about the reality of Soka Gakkai, its anti-social activities and infringements on human rights, and to provide assistance to those who have suffered or are currently suffering from the distress associated with membership in Soka Gakkai.”

Sounds like something Orlando Bloom and his handlers should be looking into?

Madonna was supposedly “furious” with the press for critically scrutinizing her beloved Kabbalah Centre reported Entertainment News Network.

“What I would really like is for people to do their research,” the singer said. Apparently she is confident that the more people learn about the controversial organization the better they will like it.

But has the 1980s diva followed her advice?

Madonna’s mentors Philip, Karen, Yehuda and Michael Berg are building mansions in Beverly Hills and their pricey little palaces are titled to the nonprofit Kabbalah Centre, which is a religious tax-exempted charity.

“Study and understand,” the diva recently pontificated to the press and “have a completely different view.”

Well the “view” of the Berg family’s fancy new addresses on the 400 block of South Almont Drive in Beverly Hills is impressive.

Each so-called “McMansion” being erected for the Kabbalah Centre’s royal family is worth more than $2 million dollars.

CultNews followed Madonna’s advice and did some “research” so everyone could have a look.

Photo tour of the “McMansions”

Here is a photo of the house still under construction for Papa and Mama Berg.

And these are two cute little multi-million dollar cottages being provided for the baby Bergs.

A reliable source says that Michael Berg’s house is already occupied, but his brother Yehuda’s home is still being completed.

Some months ago it was reported by London Online that Madonna expressed concern about the Kabbalah Centre’s finances. That is, how the spent money on programs.

Well didn’t the once savvy businesswoman do any “research”?

Fox News reported the Kabbalah Centre “Spirituality for Kids Foundation had well over $3 million in net assets…[according to its 2002 IRS filing], but spent only around $600,000 of the money. About $373,000 was used for salaries. Another $133,000 was for office expenses.”

Madonna is a big supporter of this program, funded in part from the sales of her children’s books. She also donated “$22 million for a Kabbalah school in New York” reported the Village Voice.

Maybe the pop diva thinks that building mansions for the Bergs in Beverly Hills is somehow one of the Kabbalah Centre’s “spiritual” or “educational” efforts?

Are the Berg boys the “kids” Madonna wants to help?

The middle-aged pop star posited this question to the press, would they “be less irritated if [she] was studying existentialism”?

It appears that the Bergs are busy studying materialism.

And who better to mentor them than the former “Material Girl” herself.

Today the Albany Times-Union reported about the last gasp of NXIVM’s injunction dreams to purge criticism of the group from the Internet.

Self-proclaimed “Prefect” nurse Nancy Salzman, top disciple of so-called “Vanguard” NXIVM creator Keith Raniere, released a prepared statement to the press.

“We’re obviously disappointed with the court’s decision, which we believe is a blow to the sanctity of copyright protection. We believe there are fundamental property rights issues at stake, and we intend to continue to pursue vigorously all possible causes of action against the defendants.”

“A blow to the sanctity of copyright protection”?

That’s not what the Second Circuit Court of Appeals said in Manhattan when it ruled.

“Defendants writings are undoubtedly transformative secondary uses intended as a form of criticism. All the alleged harm arises from the biting criticism of this fair use, not from a usurpation of the market by…defendants.’ Accordingly, we affirm the denial of the preliminary injunction on the copyright infringement claim because plaintiffs are not likely to succeed on the merits,” the court decision stated.

Interestingly, the court ruling also included a substantial smash against NXIVM’s effort to essentially gag its students through a confidentiality agreement. The court said that “even a finding of bad faith [i.e. violation of that agreement] by defendants would not automatically preclude that their use was fair use.”

And as the Albany Times-Union reported today NXIVM’s appeal to overturn that definitive ruling at the Supreme Court was answered with silence, allowing the previous court ruling to stand as definitive.

NXIVM’s “Prefect” says she will now “pursue vigorously all possible causes of action.”

But what cause is left in NXIVM’s crusade against public criticism?

A motion for summary judgement to dismiss the entire NXIVM lawsuit is now pending before the same Albany federal court that first rejected its injunction request.

The judge in Albany may find himself in agreement with his Manhattan judicial colleagues, who found that the controversial organization’s “causes of action” were “without merit.”