Elisabeth Moss on being a Scientologist: ‘It’s a complicated thing…’

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Elisabeth Moss is currently promoting about five different projects, including The Handmaid’s Tale, Us, and Her Smell. Which is why she sat down for a long-read interview with the Daily Beast. In this interview, Moss talks about a million different things, from feminism to reproductive rights to Mad Men and more. But this interview is getting attention because it’s the most directly Moss has ever spoken about being a Scientologist. Moss was, I believe, born into Scientology. She still considers herself a Scientologist, although I would argue that she’s not in as “deep” as someone like Tom Cruise (obvs). Here are the Scientology parts:

Whether her feminist characters are at odds with her Scientology beliefs: “Listen, it’s a complicated thing because the things that I believe in, I can only speak to my personal experience and my personal beliefs. One of the things I believe in is freedom of speech. I believe we as humans should be able to critique things. I believe in freedom of the press. I believe in people being able to speak their own opinions. I don’t ever want to take that away from anybody, because that actually is very important to me. At the same time, I should hope that people educate themselves for themselves and form their own opinion, as I have. The things that I believe in personally, for me, The Handmaid’s Tale, and the ability to do something that is artistically fulfilling but is also personally fulfilling, I’ve never had that. The Handmaid’s Tale lines up so perfectly parallel with my own beliefs in freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the things that this country was actually built on.

Whether Scientology’s flaws are any better or worse than Catholicism’s flaws: “It’s funny, there’s two things you’re never supposed to talk about at a dinner—politics or religion—and of course I’m doing The Handmaid’s Tale, which is politics and religion, so it’s a strange situation where you’re going to be asked about these topics. I choose to express myself in my work and my art. I don’t choose to express myself about it in interviews. I don’t choose to talk about not just religion, but my personal life—who I’m dating and that kind of thing. So for me, it’s so hard to unpack in a sound bite or an interview, but I will say that the things that I truly believe in are the things that I’ve mentioned, and I think that they’re very important. I think people should be allowed to talk about what they want to talk about and believe what they want to believe and you can’t take that away—and when you start to take that away, when you start to say “you can’t think that,” “you can’t believe that,” “you can’t say that,” then you get into trouble. Then you get into Gilead. So whatever happens, I’m never going to take away your right to talk about something or believe something, and you can’t take away mine.

L. Ron Hubbard’s homophobic writings & CoS’s reported anti-LGBTQ stances: “Which is not where I stand. It’s like, it’s a lot to get into and unpack that I can’t do. But that is not my bag. I am obviously a huge feminist and huge supporter of the LGBTQ community and believe so strongly—I can’t even tell you—in people being able to do what they want to do, to love who they want to love, to be the person that they want to be—whoever that is. To me, it’s a huge reason why I love doing the show. That’s all I can say. I can’t speak to what other people believe, I can’t speak to what other people’s experiences have been. That’s where I stand and the only place I can speak from is my own.

[From The Daily Beast]

Obviously, she’s talking in absolutely inane circles during a big chunk of the interview. As I’ve said before (and I’ll say again many times), I’ve made the choice to look past Moss’s Scientology and just appreciate her as an actress. She’s extremely talented. And while I think she’s “in” deeper than people realize, I also think she does question her fake-ass religion and she obviously wants to be a good ally and advocate for feminism and LGBTQ rights and all. The first answer is basically like “respect that I have a right to believe whatever crazy-ass religion I want,” and she’s right. She does have that fundamental right. And all of us get to choose whether or not her faith is a dealbreaker.

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47 Responses to “Elisabeth Moss on being a Scientologist: ‘It’s a complicated thing…’”

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  1. Incredulous says:

    Obligatory “It’s a cult not a religion” sentence here.

    • Kitten says:

      Meh. It’s tax-exempt like a religion. I think under the IRS they’re classified as a “charitable religious organization.” Pffft.

      • Betsy says:

        Nooooo. My ELCA churches have never required me to donate, they’ve never probed me for my deepest secrets with which to blackmail me, I have never been required to attend intensive classes, no one signs a billion year contract to functionally be a slave, no one has been disappeared…. disagree with religion as you like, but there is a wide gulf between Scientology and mainstream churches.

    • jules says:

      Yes it meets every definition of a cult.

  2. D says:

    Yeah it’s a dealbreaker, so is the assinine way she tries to outwit everyone into not thinking critically about her supporting a noxious cult.

    • whatWHAT? says:

      for me, too.

      it’s not complicated. you’re part of a cult that separates families, uses slave labor, bilks members, commits fraud and denies all of it.

      cancelled. as good of a show that Handmaid’s Tale might be, I won’t watch/buy anything where a $cibot is the main character/owner/beneficiary.

      • Candidly says:

        Super good point! When I think about the harm they cause, there’s no way I can turn stay ambivalent.

      • Danger says:

        Has anyone considered that she is a fairly intelligent person who might possibly not believe in all that Scientology BS but she can’t say anything against it because she would lose all contact with her friends and family? Not everyone is Leah Remini.

      • whatWHAT? says:

        “Has anyone considered that she is a fairly intelligent person who might possibly not believe in all that Scientology BS but she can’t say anything against it because she would lose all contact with her friends and family?”

        I’m sure the friends and family of the enslaved and imprisoned members, and those enslaved/imprisoned members themselves, absolutely weep for her.

    • SM says:

      I agree with this line of thinking. Even more I call bullshit on this crappy non response. The projects the actors do not necessarily reflect their personal beliefs and still can feel fulfilling. And interesting how she talks about freedom if speech but never actually discusses the issues at hand, like what scientology cult stands for and her relationship with it. She just recycles the cliches. I am sick of all those right wing populists who argue that their racist, sexist views and white supremacy ideas are just that, an opinion protected under the freedom of speech. Egh. No. When it comes down to discriminating, alienating or even harming other people then it is not just your right equal to all other believes and opinions. And this is what this cult stands for. So no. She is doing the same thing here. Just no.

  3. H says:

    Wow. She’s one of those Scientologists who won’t look deeper into the flaws of her own religion. Scientology disconnects families and uses slave labor. The end. I won’t watch anything she’s in.

  4. Kym says:

    You’re safe here, Elisabeth. Blink twice if you need our help.

  5. ShazBot says:

    I think she sounds like a lot of people who try to reconcile their personal thoughts and beliefs with those beliefs and actions of a religious organization they are a part of.
    I asked a friend of mine how she can still be a Catholic when so much of what she fights for is considered sin in Catholicism, and she honestly said it’s hard to reconcile ‘Catholocism’ with her church and her community – those things mean so much to her life, and somehow feel apart from the wider Catholic world. And I think that’s how a lot of people try to get through these complicated questions they constantly ask themselves.

    • whatWHAT? says:

      I often refer to myself as a “recovering Catholic”.

      I have my own relationship with G-D, but I won’t support the church or be a member until they purge the rapist pedophile priests and do a LOT of reparation work.

      • Tezz says:

        Omg WhatWhat me too! I refer to myself as a recovering Catholic. I was sexually abused by my priest as a child and eventhough my parents eventually learned the truth we still attended church. They even asked me to baptize my kids when I had them – no thanks! It took me a long time to process everything, I do believe in God now and feel Ive reconciled my spiritual relationship but I cannot bring myself to support the Catholic church.

      • whatWHAT? says:

        oh, Tezz, I am so sorry for what happened to you.

        I am glad you were able to heal.

        I always had issues with the church (their stance on birth control, women as priests, etc) but when I learned about the abuse, that was it for me. DONE.

      • ShazBot says:

        Tezz, I’m so sorry for what you experienced, I’m glad for all you’ve accomplished!

        I think spirituality and religion are two very different things, and that people can have a relationship with ‘God’ in whatever form that takes, but still question religion for what it is – just another way to control the masses and have people to do their bidding.
        We’re all just a cog in someone’s wheel – whose wheel are you in, are they benefiting from you, and who are they hurting?

    • Kitten says:

      I completely agree with you.

  6. ShockandAwwww says:

    It is a “complicated” thing because she knows the only reason she has a career is because she was willing to play ball, and because the consequences of leaving a cult, especially this one, literally include physical harm.

  7. Case says:

    I don’t know. I’m personally not a fan of any organized religion, but try very hard not to judge people on their religion, because not all people are as devout as the crazies that first come to mind. She’s talking a lot but not actually saying much here — and she has every right to keep that side of her personal life to herself. At least she’s not pushing it on other people. She might not be as “in it” as others if she was merely born into it and is afraid to leave. She clearly has a lot of independent thoughts that are at odds with Scientology, just as many Christians do, etc.

    But I don’t feel one way or the other about her and really haven’t seen her in much, so maybe my opinion isn’t that important on this subject, lol.

    • Valerie says:

      Only thing is, Scientology isn’t a religion, it’s a cult. And I don’t mean that in an “all religion is a cult” way, I mean, it is literally a cult.

      • Mumbles says:

        Yes. The sexual abuse that occurred by Catholic priests and nuns is shameful. But Catholicism, for all its faults, is not a cult (regardless of what fundamentalist Christians say). You can leave by your own volition.

      • Beenthere says:

        Sort of off, but on the subject…I had a roommate that was a Scientologist. Yes it’s a cult. I just want to say I was surprised Kelly Preston spoke about Jett’s autism. Scientologists believe if they audit you far enough back, i.e. A previous life, they can change things such as being homosexual. So it surprised me that they would admit that he had a medical issue dealing with the brain that they couldn’t just Fix with auditing

    • whatWHAT? says:

      if she’s giving a third of her salary to the cult, as their rules require, then she is financially supporting a group that separates families and uses slave labor. and one that is not afraid to “disappear” people if they get too troublesome.

      so, yeah, I’ll judge her for her “religion”.

    • Valerie says:

      @Mumbles, since I can’t reply to your comment directly: Want to add that Wiki even defines it as “a body of religious beliefs and practices”; in contrast, Christianity and other actual religions are just called religions!

  8. alyssa calloway says:

    It’s not the “faith” that bothers me the most even though Hubbard was a complete bigot. It’s the blatant human rights violations and the way they tear families apart when someone defects or doesn’t fall in line. Being labeled a suppressive person basically ruins your life. You should be able to leave without consequence. Everything is about profit and power, and even though that’s the way some other churches have gone, that’s not what it’s supposed to be like.

    Moss isn’t out there specifically endorsing these things, but she’s still a public figure who is a known member of the church. Idk if she’s stuck there and can’t walk away like a lot of people or if she’s really devoted. She is, however, one of the least outspoken, or as you say “deep” members among the celebrities I’ve seen. All that said I still watch her in shows from time to time even though it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

  9. Lynne says:

    Legitimizing the cult with a tax exempt status bothers me. A lot.

  10. MarcelMarcel says:

    I guess it’s not a deal breaker for me because she doesn’t promote Scientology in her interviews (unlike Tom Cruise). If she was born into it than the disconnection policy means she would lose her entire family in the process of leaving.

    My teenage boyfriend grew up as Jenovah Witness and wasn’t allowed to talk to a childhood friend because of a similar policy. It was really distressing for him and (presumably) his friend. I don’t know if he still practices that religion. Witnessing that really
    opened my eyes to the mind control tactics. What was more disturbing was that another JW claimed disfellowship wasn’t a thing even as I saw it unfold.

    I fundamentally disagree with Scientology and it’s a damaging cult. It’s just impossible for me to know how I cope if I was born into a cult.

    I do respect why it’s a deal breaker for other people.

  11. InsertNameHere says:

    Scientology is dangerous and bat doo-doo nutballs, but I have to wonder if asking her in a public forum to explain herself and religion might put her or people she cares about in harm’s way. On the other hand, we absolutely do have to question (and stop) this heinous organization and their leadership…so…hopefully in the near future we’ll see her pull a Katie or a Leah and get the hell out? Hopefully?

  12. Wilma says:

    With scientologists who have a lot of family in the cult I always find it hard to gauge the situation. With Tom Cruise we know how he got in and we know that he could have gotten out easily (before entrenching two of his children). I don’t know the situation with Moss, are her parents ride or die for scientology for instance? Considering some of her stances on issues other than religion she seems to be capable of critical thinking. You would expect that she knows the deal with scientology. Is she a true believer?

    • Goldie says:

      I feel like Moss is sort of downplaying her involvement in the cult in this interview, but from previous interviews of hers, I do get the impression that she’s a true believer. Not Tom Cruise level, but a believer.

      • Wilma says:

        She does seem to have a programmed message about freedom of religion whenever she is asked about this that reeks of indoctrination.

  13. Slowsnow says:

    I dunno. I think she seems to not want to harm someone else’s beliefs, not hers. Her parents maybe? Who knows.
    She is one hell of an actress so I also try to forget the whole cult thing with her.

  14. sommolierlady says:

    She sure knows how to not answer a question. She should be a politician.

  15. Canber says:

    No, it’s not. It enslaves people. Get out.

  16. Eribra says:

    I think it sounds like she’s walking a tight rope of saying that she doesn’t agree with scientology while trying to not be labeled suppressive. She was raised there, she would lose all of her family

  17. Pulplove says:

    To me, it’s a complete no-go. As a Scientologist, she is a puppet not on her own strings, I can’t take anything she says at face value.
    I avoid watching her in anything really b/c of her affiliation to Scientology.

  18. Cay says:

    A few points here.

    She seems to acknowledge LRH and Scientology’s stance on homosexuality. That’s something most Scientologists won’t do in a public setting. Maybe she doesn’t acknowledge it, but she doesn’t deny it.

    She says she believes in free speech, but she left the room when Leah Remini won her Television Critics Awards award for “Aftermath.” She didn’t think she needed to listen to Remini have “freedom of speech.”

    She states: “So whatever happens, I’m never going to take away your right to talk about something or believe something, and you can’t take away mine.” This is equivalent to saying everyone is allowed their own opinions. Yes, but opinions are not facts. Facts are facts. Believing that Scientology does not hurt people and families is not based on fact. It’s a scary slope when opinion and facts are used interchangeably.

    • Goldie says:

      I noticed the homosexuality part too. I remember she was asked about Scientology’s anti-lgbt stance in a previous interview, and she got really defensive and vehemently denied that there was anything homophobic about her church.
      I dunno. I’d like to believe that she’s seen the light, but the cynic in me thinks that she’s just gotten better at deflecting these questions.

  19. adastraperaspera says:

    There is no “in deep or not so deep” in the cult of Scientology. It’s in or out, period, and she is clearly in. Meaning she endorses their abusive policies. She has money now, so she could call Leah Remini and get herself out. When she does, I’ll take her seriously. But not until then. I know this from my partner’s personal experience–her good friend from high school was lured into the cult back in the late 1980s, through a professional mentor. This person used the Scientology network to gain fame in the industry, and all these years later we still receive direct mail pieces from Scientology, begging for us to join. It’s sad and frightening that someone with her brains and talent was sucked into something so corrupt and downright preposterous. And no, it isn’t like Catholicism or other mainstream denominations, because you can walk in and out of the door of those churches freely!

  20. Ali says:

    Isn’t she a second generation Scientologist? My intuition with absolutely no basis in facts, etc is that she doesn’t want to lose her family by coming out publicly against Scientology. Her work consistently deals with feminism, LBGTQ+, etc. Or maybe I’m just trying to convince myself she isn’t a psycho…

    • Jenn says:

      Absolutely. I’m pretty sure she’s a victim of the cult and is painfully aware of it. A lot of her work is very… suggestive of that. Ugh, that’s dismal.

  21. Morrissey says:

    I don’t even believe she’s a gifted actress, and in The Handmaid’s Tale she’s mostly just doing the *smile through gritted teeth with tears in the eyes to show how strong and resilient June is even though she’s clearly in pain*. Meh. It peeves me big time that she is playing the heroine of this story. Especially since there are other, better, actresses out there.

    Still going to watch this though. But not her other projects.

  22. A says:

    Hmmm. I agree that Scientology is a cult, but I don’t think that it’s so easy to say that other religions are religions not cults. The definition of a cult isn’t merely confined to them extorting money from its followers (although, if that were the case, then there’s a large portion of American Evangelicalism that would classify as a cult too). There’s other criteria there that a group would need to fulfill in order to be called a cult. While most religions don’t fulfill all of those criteria, they certainly fit the bill for some of them I would say. There are plenty of religious or subsets of religions that isolate their followers, that separate families, force people into indentured servitude or slavery, use blackmail to keep people in line, extort money unlawfully, etc. I don’t say this out of any particular animosity for religion btw, I say this because it’s just the reality.

    Anyway, she’s just talking out of her a$$ here. I’ll accept that it’s a complicated thing for her, personally. I don’t doubt that she fancies herself as something of a cafeteria Scientologist as it were. But she’s talking like someone who’s trying to appease both sides of the line here, and she’s coming off worse for it.

  23. Mash says:

    again with the gatekeeping cancel culture….. any Catholics/protestants on here…. should someone spend the entire interview checking you on your attendance or support of an institution that has been racist, child-abusing, destroying ethnic cultures for CENTURIES…. no right?

    so why are we doing this to her, she seems to be a productive member of society and not hurting anyone, who and what she chooses to believe in is her right and I will still be watching handmaidens …. also i only find issue with her statement this country was founded on…. this country was founded by eugenic racist principles and genocidal philosophy and that’s facts.

    But on a counter note—you as a viewer or fan have every right to personally cancel her if you feel like supporting her work or her as an actress goes against you personal belief and way of life.