Cruise Speilberg

Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg

Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg got more than they bargained for in a recent interview for the German magazine Spiegel. Both the actor and his director were confronted with tough questions about Scientology and its influence in Hollywood.

Cruise was asked specifically why he had a tent set up promoting his religion on the Paramount set of his new film with Spielberg titled “War of the Worlds.”

“I felt honored to have volunteer Scientology ministers on the set,” he said.

Steven Spielberg tacitly admitted it was “an information tent” promoting a “belief system,” but then claimed that “no one was compelled to frequent it.”

What’s next?

If the Oscar-winning director makes a movie with Mel Gibson will there be a tent on that set for his schismatic Catholic sect?

How far does catering to stars go when making a feature film?

The reporter then asked Cruise if he felt that it was his “job to recruit new followers for Scientology?”

“I’m a helper,” said the middle-aged actor.

But then the one-time “samurai” made the startling claim that “Scientology [has]…the only successful drug rehabilitation program in the world…called Narconon.”

The German reporter then did something akin to Hara Kiri in Hollywood he disagreed with Tom Cruise.

“That’s not correct,” he told the star.

He then went on to say that Narconon “is never mentioned among the recognized detox programs [and] independent experts warn against it because it is rooted in pseudo science.”

Pseudo science?

Narconon is based upon the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology.

The former “Top Gun” then told the reporter, “You don’t understand what I am saying. It’s a statistically proven fact that there is only one successful drug rehabilitation program in the world. Period.”

Apparently Mr. Cruise thinks that when people don’t agree with him they must not “understand.”

But the premise of the Narconon program is largely based upon something called the “purification rundown,” which has been dismissed as “not scientifically verified” nor “medically safe.” And Scientology’s claim about curing drug addicts has been censured by the British Advertising Standards Authority.

In fact, Narconon has been at the center of controversy recently within California public schools for the very reason that it promotes unproven claims. And as Mr. Cruise should know the very same type of Scientology-linked program has been sharply criticized in New York, regarding the so-called “detox clinics” the actor opened up there amidst much fanfare.

Never mind.

Mr. Cruise apparently doesn’t wish to be confused by the facts and instead dogmatically insists upon his Scientology version of reality, which incidentally includes a theology based in part upon space aliens revealed to Scientologists when they reach the “Operating Thetan Level 3″ or OT3.

There are eight “Operating Thetan” levels within Scientology.

Tom Cruise has reportedly reached at least OT6, which means he knows the space alien story called “the incident.”

Perhaps his latest film really reflects the essence of Tom Cruise’s current life, a kind of “War of the Worlds”?

On one side there is the real world of scientific fact and reality, on the other Scientology’s rather bizarre world based upon a mix of fiction and somewhat flaky philosophy concocted by a former Sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard, a man that had less than a stellar record for telling the truth.

Though Hubbard certainly never reached the stature of the author of “War of the Worlds” H.G. Wells, in Mr. Cruise’s mind he is messianic.

The star’s Hollywood crusade has included guided tours through Scientology’s “Celebrity Center” for Paramount executives. And it seems like if anyone wants to work with him in the entertainment industry they must pander to his penchant for proselytizing.

After all, no one less than Steven Spielberg has let him pitch a tent on a movie set for his controversial sect.

“Are you trying to extend Scientology’s influence in Hollywood,” the Spiegel reporter asked Cruise.

Spielberg again quickly jumped in to seemingly defend his bankable star.

“I often get asked similar questions about my Shoa Foundation,” the director said.

The reporter retorted, “Are you comparing the educational work of the Shoa Foundation [devoted to a study of the Holocaust] with what Scientology does?”

“No, I’m not,” responded Spielberg.

But then the director went on about how some people in Hollywood feel strongly about “very personal missions” and “in Tom’s case, it’s his church.”

Might that be his “Mission Impossible”?

Maybe everyone is getting a dose of religion in Hollywood these days, especially since Mel Gibson made so much money from his “Passion.”

However, the Spiegel reporter wasn’t moved and pointed out that “in Germany Scientology is not considered a religion…but rather an exploitative cult with totalitarian tendencies.”

Maybe someone should have told him that in Hollywood superstars have “totalitarian tendencies” and that their cachet can make almost anything palatable, even a so-called “exploitive cult.”

That is, as long as their box office grosses hold up.

On that basis both Spielberg and Cruise must focus on their mission to make “War of the Worlds” more successful than their last effort together “Minority Report.”

The A&E reality series Growing Up Gotti, featuring Victoria Gotti the daughter of deceased Mafia boss John Gotti and his three grandsons may have a cult following, but not quite the kind that’s good for ratings.

On last night’s show the “Mafia princess” introduced viewers to her “friend” Debra Pearl, a therapist brought in to provide “professional help” on the segment, but what those watching didn’t know is that Ms. Pearl’s form of therapy has been called “cult” “headgames.”

Debra Pearl is a twenty-five year devotee of so-called “Social Therapy,” a controversial group process created by self-described “Marxist/Leninist revolutionary” Fred Newman.

According to Newman his therapy is about “two workers, revolutionary therapist and slave/patient, [and their] struggle together to make a revolution through their practice.” The goal is “helping the slave reach the point of insurrection” and “to make proletarian truth and freedom where there is now bourgeois truth and slavery.”

However, Mr. Newman seems a bit “bourgeois” himself, with his four-story townhouse in Greenwich Village that just might be worth more than the Gotti mansion and he reportedly summers in the Hamptons.

Doesn’t the daughter of a Mafia boss seem like an unlikely pal for the follower of an avowed revolutionary that once said, “I don’t like the institution of the family in any of its forms”?

Maybe Mama Gotti better watch out whom she lets into her house?

Not only did Ms. Pearl offer “therapy,” but also signs were conspicuously shown inside and outside her office that essentially advertised “Social Therapy” and the “East Side Institute.”

Was this a reality show or an infomercial for a guru group?

Another long-time Newman devotee has been stirring things up for her “friend” too.

Lenora Fulani, once friendly with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has become something of a political pariah and potential liability for the re-election of Mayor Mike.

This month former NYC Mayor Ed Koch advised Mayor Blumberg to dump Fulani, who has a penchant for anti-Semitic remarks like her guru Fred Newman reported Newsday.

Newman says, “The Jew, the dirty Jew, once the ultimate victim of capitalism’s soul, fascism, would become a victimizer on behalf of capitalism; a self-righteous dehumanizer and murderer of people of color; a racist bigot.”

Maybe Koch should stop by Victoria Gotti’s Long Island home and offer some advice about her “friend”?

The moral of this story seems to be “with friends like these who needs enemies.”

Scientology critics have given $1,000 to an anti-cult organization in the name of Tom Cruise and sent the actor a certificate denoting this and citing the criteria for a destructive cult, which they apparently think, applies to his religion.

The certificate and corresponding letter of explanation were just posted on the Web site Holy Smoke.

This effort represents some belated blowback regarding Cruise’s seemingly cynical effort directed towards journalists who perhaps had less than glowing things to say about his church.

The former “Top Gun” previously sent out cards notifying reporters that he had made donations in their name to Scientology and he enclosed a plaque listing the “12 rules” of the controversial organization, once called the “Cult of Greed” by Time Magazine.

The recent contribution given in Cruise’s name and the corresponding certificate is a reciprocating gesture. And his detractors labeled the actor’s previous mailing to journalists “intrusive and presumptuous.”

Apparently mocking him the Scientology critics said, “We’ve read of your recent donations to charity on behalf of others and felt you would appreciate our effort.”

Tom Cruise has become something of a middle aged poster boy for Scientology, known for constantly promoting the churches programs and its founder L. Ron Hubbard.

However, a thousand-dollar donation is really a pittance when compared to the millions the star has spent on and/or gifted to Scientology, about 10% of his net worth to date according to the London Express.

And the certificate isn’t much either when compared to the so-called “Freedom Medal of Valor” cast in gold and encrusted with diamonds presented to the actor by Scientology’s leader David Miscavige, followed by a stiff staged salute.

But after all, isn’t it the thought that counts?

Note: The anti-cult organization later refused to accept the donation made on behalf of Tom Cruise. A board member stated that the organization felt “uncomfortable accepting a donation in the name of somebody who obviously would not approve.” Scientology probably didn’t feel “uncomfortable” about accepting money from Tom Cruise under similar circumstances.

CounterCOG.com, a domain name once devoted to archiving critical information about the so-called “Children of God” now known as “The Family,” seems to have been co-opted by cult apologists.

It appears this shift of purpose took place about two years ago during March of 2003, but only recently came to the attention of CultNews.

According to records held within the “Way Back Machine,” an Internet database with “40 billion Web pages” archived from 1996 to just a few months ago, some time after February of 2003 and beginning in March 2003 the domain name went from a resource of critical information about COG to an entry point for apology.

The site then announced; “Negative sentiments are typically implied when the concepts ‘cult’ and ‘sect’ are employed in popular discourse.” And that the new page would “seek to promote religious tolerance and…not carry implicit negative stereotypes.”

“Negative stereotypes” apparently means posting personal testimonies, research, news stories and/or court documents that note the destructive nature of groups that have been called “cults.”

Entering www.countercog.com now takes visitors to “Academic Research 2K,” which uses “politically correct” euphemisms to describe destructive cults such as “minority religion” and/or “new religious movement” (NRM).

The Web page features links to The Family Web site, once the focus of criticism at CounterCOG.com and other purported “cult” sites such as Rev. Moon’s Unification Church and the Church of Scientology.

These Internet destinations are listed under the heading “Information on Religious Movements.”

Links to additional resources often called “cult apologists,” such as CESNUR run by Massimo Introvigne of Italy, the “Religious Freedom Page” originally launched by a now deceased professor Jeffrey Hadden and a Canadian database known as “Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance,” which is essentially the brainchild of Bruce Robinson a former chemical company employee and self-professed agnostic.

These pages come under the heading of “scholarly works.”

Professor Hadden was an academic once quite friendly with Rev. Moon and recommended by Scientology as a “religious resource.”

But Mr. Robinson admits “that few if any of our authors have theological degrees. We feel that a formal theological degree would be counter-productive” and that “theological training is not needed for our work.”

Well, so much for the “scholarly” standing of works at his site.

Mr. Introvigne, like his former colleague Professor Hadden, has been criticized for working closely with groups called “cults”

In fact, Scientology may be the common thread that runs through the current so-called “counter-COG” Web page.

Because rather than testimonies from those exploited by COG, a controversial group often called a “sex cult,” visitors will instead see links to friends of Scientology along with one link specifically to that organization’s own database.

This makeover is reminiscent of the radical shift of purpose that took place when the Cult Awareness Network was reportedly taken over by Scientology in 1996.

A Scientologist bought CAN’s name, files and even its phone number. Now when you call the “new CAN” the phone is likely to be answered by a Scientologist.

Peter Vincent of Chicago, Illinois bought the domain name “countercog.com.”

Mr. Vincent was contacted by CultNews for comment, but did not respond.

Note: For genuine counter COG information see the following Web sites:

Ex-Family.org

Moving On.org

The Magic Green Shirt

For the first time a judgment has been awarded to the paying client of a cult intervention professional.

A judgment in the amount of $2,000.00 plus court costs was awarded against Patrick L. Ryan, a Philadelphia “Thought Reform Consultant” closely associated with the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA), formerly known as the American Family Foundation.

The title “thought reform consultant” is used to describe professionals once called “exit counselors,” a term that historically replaced the most common title given to cult intervention specialists, which is “cult deprogrammer.”

CultNews previously reported that a producer from “Judge Judy” inquired about featuring the then pending litigation on the popular show, but the plaintiff was not interested in making a private matter public, though eventually she did appear within the confines of a courtroom in downtown Philadelphia.

The proceeding that finally took place in February was originally scheduled for December, but was postponed because Ryan was initially a “no show.”

The court ruled specifically regarding the matter of Mr. Ryan refunding a $2,250.00 deposit, which was paid to the plaintiff for work she said was never done.

According to the summary submitted to the court “each time the discussion of cost for the counseling was brought up [Ryan]…couldn’t even give…a clear idea of how long it would take or how much it would cost.” He eventually told his former client that the bill for his services might run “upwards of $10,000.00.”

At this point she decided to terminate their working relationship.

“I felt he just wanted to drag things out so that he could squeeze more and more out of us,” she said.

But getting her deposit back from the thought reform consultant proved to be difficult.

“I asked him if he would send the money back and he said ‘yes,’” she told the court.

However, Ryan never did send her money back and he allegedly “changed his story” every time the plaintiff called.

When his day in court finally came in February Patrick Ryan did not appear personally though counsel represented him. The plaintiff appeared pro se on her own behalf.

Interestingly, despite this seeming imbalance at court the plaintiff prevailed. It seems the judge didn’t believe Ryan’s story and ordered him to pay back all but $250.00 of the deposit plus court costs.

But Mr. Ryan still has not paid back his former client and instead filed an appeal of the judge’s decision late last month.

CultNews contacted Patrick Ryan for comment, but has received no response.

And it seems Mr. Ryan has no meaningful accountability through his professional affiliations.

Ryan belongs to a group of thought reform consultants, which essentially operates under the auspices of the ICSA. Each member of the group supposedly subscribes to “Ethical Standards,” which are sold at the ICSA Web site and posted at the Web page of fellow Thought Reform Consultant Carol Giambalvo.

As CultNews previously reported Ms. Giambalvo recommended Patrick Ryan to the client that later sued him, but then said it was “none of [her] business” when problems arose.

Patrick Ryan apparently violated the very ethical standards he helped to write, which state that “a subscribing consultant recognizes the importance of clear understandings on financial matters with clients. Arrangements for payments are settled at the beginning of the consultation relationship. Each consultant will provide a written and dated schedule of fees to potential clients.”

However, one reason cited by the judge for the subsequent decision against Mr. Ryan was that the thought reform consultant had no “written and dated schedule of fees” nor any formal written agreement whatsoever. And per the complaint by the plaintiff there were no “clear understandings on financial matters.”

After the judgement was ordered against Patrick Ryan CultNews once again contacted Ms. Giambalvo and also Michael D. Langone the Executive Director of the ICSA and that organization’s President Alan W. Scheflin, a Professor of Law at Santa Clara University in California.

They were asked to comment regarding the court’s decision and if they foresaw any consequences through a disciplinary action to be meted out concerning the matter.

There was no response.

But according to the standards penned by Patrick Ryan and his colleague Ms. Giambalvo “when information is possessed that raises doubt as to the ethical behavior of professional colleagues…the member should take action to attempt to rectify such a condition.”

This provision would seem to directly contradict Ms. Giambalvo’s statement that Mr. Ryan’s behavior is somehow “none of [her] business.”

And doesn’t a court judgement against Ryan in favor of his former client raise “doubts as to [his] ethical behavior”?

Shouldn’t Ms. Giambalvo “attempt to rectify” this by getting Mr. Ryan to pay back the money he owes his former client as ordered by the court?

It must be noted that according to the published guidelines a subscribing consultant “voluntarily agrees to abide by a set of ethical standards.”

And it seems that enforcement is likewise not only voluntary, but also apparently arbitrary.

This raises the troubling question of how Ms. Giambalvo and Mr. Ryan, both connected professionally and also organizationally through the ICSA, can be expected to essentially police themselves and/or each other?

Patrick Ryan is the ICSA Webmaster, a member of its Cultic Studies Review Editorial Board and a regular workshop and panel presenter. He also helps to organize and facilitate the organization’s conferences.

Carol Giambalvo is an ICSA board member, director of its recovery programs and often serves as a referral source through that organization for other thought reform consultants.

The Ethical Standards authored by Mr. Ryan, Ms. Giambalvo and others cautions against “dual relationships” with clients, but perhaps this pair should consider their dual relationships through the ICSA?

Is there a conflict of interest here?

Not since the days of the first cult deprogrammer Ted Patrick during the 1970s has any cult intervention professional been sued by a his or her paying client, let alone lost in such an action, resulting in a recorded judgment.

Patrick L. Ryan now has the dubious distinction of being the first.

Note: The judgment against Patrick L. Ryan was recorded at the Philadelphia Municipal Court First Judicial District of Pennsylvania (Claim number SC-04-09-23-6469)

Update: Ryan appealed the judgment. See “‘Cult deprogrammer’ Patrick L. Ryan loses in court again