Elisabeth Moss ‘would just encourage people to find out’ about Scientology

Like most fans of Elisabeth Moss, I do have trouble reconciling the actress whose performances I love versus the woman who is still a practicing Scientologist. Moss is currently promoting Shining Girls (on AppleTV+) and she sat down for a rare in-depth interview with The New Yorker. One of my pet theories is that Moss doesn’t do these kinds of interviews that often because she knows she’s going to have to dodge Scientology questions throughout. That’s exactly what happened here, in this New Yorker piece. The New Yorker points out that she’s second-generation CoS, meaning she was brought up in it and it’s all she’s ever known, and that Scientology has been the through-line throughout her career. The magazine also got her on the record about many CoS-related things. Some highlights:

Scientology affects her career: According to Scientology records that have been made public, Moss took the Hubbard Key to Life Course when she was eight and achieved the state of Clear when she was eleven. Although Moss downplays her religious affiliation publicly, she is part of a small set of second-generation Hollywood Scientologists, and her religious network has played a role in her career. Her manager since the age of ten has been Gay Ribisi, the mother of the actors Giovanni and Marissa Ribisi, a prominent Scientology family. According to a Web site that tracks “service completions” listed in Scientology magazines, in 2017 Moss did a Purification Rundown, a detox treatment that involves prolonged heat exposure and ingesting large quantities of niacin.

Why she doesn’t like answering CoS questions: “I don’t want to come off as being cagey. If you and I met, just hanging out as friends, I’m, like, an open book about it. I don’t want people to be distracted by something when they’re watching me. I want them to be seeing the character. I feel like, when actors reveal too much of their lives, I’m sometimes watching something and I’m going, Oh, I know that she just broke up with that person, or, I know that she loves to do hot yoga, or whatever it is.”

Scientology isn’t closed-off: “It’s not really a closed-off religion. It’s a place that is very open to, like, welcoming in somebody who wants to learn more about it. I think that’s the thing that is probably the most misunderstood.”

How Scientology helped her: “Communication is something that I obviously use so much, not only in my job but in my interpersonal relationships as well. That is probably one of the No. 1 basic things that I grew up learning and grew up using and use every day: the power of just being able to listen to somebody, of making somebody feel heard, of not belittling them for what they think or believe, even if you think it’s wrong….I would just encourage people to find out for themselves,” Moss said, a line she would repeat several times. “I’ve certainly been guilty of reading an article or watching something and taking that as gospel…. And obviously something like religious freedom and resistance against a theocracy is very important to me.”

On Leah Remini: In 2017, she was nominated for a Television Critics Association Award for “The Handmaid’s Tale.” At the ceremony, Leah Remini, one of Scientology’s most high-profile defectors (the Church says that she was “expelled”), won for her anti-Scientology docuseries. It was reported that Moss left the room during her speech. “I went to the bathroom,” Moss told me. “I wish it was more exciting than that.” Remini claimed that the Church forbids Moss to speak to her because Remini is an “antisocial personality.” “I have never been approached by her,” Moss said. “I have never received any request to talk to her. So there hasn’t been an opportunity for her to say that. I don’t know her that well, so it’s not like we were friends.”

[From The New Yorker]

If you’ve been brought up in a cult and you’re surrounded by people in your family and social groups who always normalize the cult and help you “stay” within the parameters of cult-thinking, I imagine it would be pretty hard to unlearn that sh-t as an adult. Still, many people are capable of deprogramming (like Remini). It often feels like Moss is digging in, like the public conversation about her belief system has just reinforced it and made her an even bigger Scientologist. And I also don’t want to act like it’s nothing if Moss did try to disentangle herself from CoS – she would likely be excommunicated from her family, her friends and several people who are part of her professional team. Anyway… yeah, I still don’t know what to say here. The New Yorker quotes Margaret Atwood as basically shrugging off Moss’s Scientology as just another wacky, stupid religion. Is that the way? I don’t know.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

71 Responses to “Elisabeth Moss ‘would just encourage people to find out’ about Scientology”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Trina says:

    1: I don’t believe her about Leah Remini. I believe she is outright lying.

    2: Oh, a cult is open to new members? You’re kidding!

    Getting in isn’t the problem Elisabeth.

    • TOM says:

      If I ask a priest, minister, rabbi, nun about their religion, they will teach me for free. A donation is nice but not necessary.

      A cult will require money.

      • jo73c says:

        Quite a lot of those religions will expect tithes once you’re in as well.

      • whatWHAT? says:

        those religions will also not chase you down, stalk and harass you if you choose to leave.

        and if your family members choose to stay in whatever church/religion you leave, you can still talk to them, and them to you.

        and you don’t have to sign a billion-year contract if you want to work for them.

        and I don’t believe her about Remini, either.

        Sorry, lizzie, I HAVE “found out” about your cult, and that’s what it is, a cult. you enslave people, break up families, harass and stalk former members, and blackmail people into staying. get bent.

    • StellainNH says:

      She is the reason why I will never watch The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu. I refuse to support any Co$ member.

    • Christine says:

      I encourage Elizabeth Moss to look up Lisa McPherson. Please tell me about your bullshit religion.

      • BothSidesNow says:

        That is such a sad story. They murdered her and got away with it. They paid the FL judges and attorneys $30 million dollars to perused them to drop all charges AND change the cause of death from homicide to accidental.

        My gawd, they are a cult as well as mobsters in their own little pool of bribery. Right Moss, I am going to sign my soul away to the devil. Not happening.

  2. Jess says:

    Her entire family is in it so it’s highly unlikely she’ll ever leave. She’s also treated well because of the success of her career. I just feel a small amount of pity and that’s all.

    • Kay says:

      The general opinion seems to be that many current members who won’t criticize the church are worried about the intimate details the church collects during their monitoring sessions. It effectively allows the church to blackmail its members.

      But also, just the idea of losing all of your family and friends would be enough to keep members from speaking out.

      • Christine says:

        I get that, so much.

        When actors like Tom Cruise stop supporting this bullshit “religion”/tax shelter, it will fade away. That’s not going to happen until people stop showing up in theaters for his movies.

  3. C says:

    I have never enjoyed her as an actress even on Mad Men. And Margaret Atwood shrugging it off told me a lot too (who, by the way, is a good author who wrote a great speculative fiction novel but I’m skeptical of how as a result of this book and show she has been enshrined as a type of activist that she never was).

    If she’s not going to do anything about it, “no comment” would have been sufficient.

  4. Snuffles says:

    I have no comment about Moss but I wanted to recount an encounter I had with Scientology when I lived in LA.

    I had gone in for a job interview and while I was in the waiting room, I saw all of these Scientology books displayed. It weirded me out, but I brushed it off. Then when I went into the interview, they never interviewed me for the advertised job, the woman was clearly evaluating me as a potential recruit to their religion. She had this mat in front of her that was like scientific elements chart but for Scientology elements. She kept telling me what elements she saw in me. Then she was like if I got hired, I would be encouraged to take Scientology classes but it wasn’t a requirement.

    I maintained my politeness but internally I was FREAKING OUT!! I honestly was afraid they wouldn’t let me leave because she kept trying to encourage me to stay. I literally ran as soon as I exited the building and called my parents.

    • MeganC says:

      In the 1990’s I worked in an office next door to a CoS church. They wore creepy uniforms and I would constantly see them in the bank getting turned away when they tried to cash checks.

    • Miranda says:

      I went to UCLA, and during my sophomore year, one of my sorority sisters started dating this new guy after a bad breakup. He was good-looking, super nice, and very respectful, but didn’t seem very bright. Once when he came to pick her up and she wasn’t ready, I was trying to make conversation and asked about his major, and he was a little cagey about it before saying “political relations”, which is, you know, not really a thing. I thought it was weird, but he made my friend happy and I was happy for her, so I thought maybe he was nervous around me and just misspoke when he meant to say “political science”. A few weeks later, she came back from a date and mentioned off-hand that he was telling her she should take these vaguely-described “courses”, but didn’t seem to be talking about college courses. Hmm. Suspicious. I told her she should ask for more info. A few days later, she comes back from another date and says, “HE’S A F–KING SCIENTOLOGIST!” Yeah, she ended it immediately. I met a few other girls after that who’d had somewhat similar experiences, and I’ve become pretty convinced that they must actually be sending guys, non-students, to the nearby universities to recruit unsuspecting girls.

      • Colby says:

        Go Bruins! UCLA grad here too 🙂

      • tealily says:

        Wow, that’s shady af!

      • Another Anna says:

        We learned about this in a sociology class I took in college! Sounds exactly like Flirty Fishing, a technique that remembers of The Children of God used to recruit new people. You use the happy feeling of potential romance to get them in the door, pretty much like any other abuser.

    • Stan says:

      Would you be willing to say the company name? Was it ABC Mouse/ Age of Learning? They are owned by the Dohring family (actor Jason Dohring’s family). They are BIG into Scientology and have given tens of millions of dollars to Scientology.

      • Snuffles says:

        I don’t remember. I only remember I was applying for entertainment industry jobs at the time.

      • ANON says:

        Woah! Did not know Logan Echolls is a Scientologist and son of a millionaire Scientologist. Yuck.

      • DeadNotSleeping says:

        I didn’t know that about ABCMouse and that makes me legitimately sad. I had an ABCMouse subscription for a couple of years when my kids were early elementary.

  5. Jaded says:

    Many of us have found out about Co$ Elizabeth and we don’t like what we found out. It’s nothing more than a pyramid scheme that bilks people out of tens of thousands of dollars and treats them like slave labour. They force abortions. They send “squirrels” out to harass and threaten those who chose to leave Scientology. They fawn over stars but treat the lay people like sh*t. Maybe you’d like to tell us where David Miscavige’s wife is.

    • ANON says:

      Yuppp. All this and more, Jaded. Slave labor is literally right. I have met survivors of CO$–it is unconscionable that anyone would speak in public support of this cult. That “cult of civility” language she’s using is disgusting.

      But go on and try to bothsides Scientology, Elisabeth.

    • whatWHAT? says:


  6. olliesmom says:

    What is this niacin ritual?! So weird.

  7. Yo says:

    Isn’t this the chik from handmaid’s tale? If not my apologies but if so very glad that I avoided that nastiness like the plague it’s probably propaganda on their part yuck. Anyway I’ll be sure to avoid anything she is in. If she needs Scientology to break and she can’t be that great, hard pass. thanks for letting me know she’s part of that monster cult

    • Bettyrose says:

      That’s her. She was wonderful as Peggy in Mad Men, which translated to her suddenly being the only choice for feminist roles, and that’s what bugs me about her. There’s too much of her. Creepy parts for strong women are the EM show rather than being a rich and diverse genre. I’ve stopped watching anything with her in it. I don’t need to see New Zealanders portrayed by Moss. I don’t need to see one of my all time favorite authors portrayed by Moss. And I have other reasons for passing on the Handmaid’s Tale.

      • 809Matriarch says:

        Me too. I didn’t enjoy her in Mad Men. She was one of my least favorite characters.

      • Merricat says:

        Agreed on all points, Bettyrose.

      • Granger says:

        I loved her in Mad Men, but I cannot stand her in Handmaid’s. She’s so one dimensional — there are these constant close-ups of her face but I get NOTHING from it.

      • ANON says:

        @Granger, hard agree! I can’t stand Handmaid’s Tale. You can’t just give us an EM close-up all the time and think you’re doing something deep. Ditto, sadistic scenes of violence against women. Ugh.

      • Nicegirl says:

        Can’t watch her either

  8. Yo says:

    And how journalists can have time with her without asking her where David Muscabb wife is? Shows that even the press is complicit. We should be doing more to find Shirley.

  9. Emma says:

    She is such a good actress . . . but I am stunned she doesn’t understand the issues with Scientology, or probably just doesn’t want to admit to them. I also loved John Travolta and Tom Cruise when I was younger but it’s true I can’t look at them the same way knowing they are on the top of basically a pyramid scheme disguised as a church . . .

  10. Colby says:

    How funny! I *also* think people should find out more about Scientology.

    And then they will run away screaming.

  11. Valentina says:

    I feel incredibly conflicted about this, but if she just completely refused to talk about Scientology I would be more sympathetic than I am now because I find any attempts to lure people into COS absolutely repulsive.

    That being said, if I were born into a cult, brainwashed from birth, and knew that leaving might mean total isolation from my whole family… I genuinely don’t think I could do it unless I had kids that I was trying to get out. So in that way, I do get her reluctance to leave, and plus I think COS really shields and gaslights their celebrity members.

    • Colby says:

      Not only her family – since she was born in, probably all her friends are in as well. Plus, the “church” tends to make it their business to surround their stars with assistants, nannies, etc who are also in. She would most likely lose almost every person in her life.

      But also, since everyone in her life is in, that worldview is reinforced every day, so she thinks everything is fine and probably has zero desire to leave.

    • Stan says:

      The talk over at Tony Ortega’s website is that she disconnected from her father, so don’t feel sorry for having to leave her family. She choose to disconnect from her dad because he wasn’t being a good enough Scientologist.

  12. Rapunzel says:

    I too encourage people to learn more about Scientology…. by reading and watching Going Clear, by reading Tobny Ortega’s website, by watching Leah Remini’s show, etc. Then you will learn how deranged Scientology is.

    Btw, I used to use Going Clear to talk about Cults in my Freshman Comp courses. One semester I had a student go on the Scientology website for research and she sent away for a informational video. It was disturbing. But even more so, is they started sending her recruitment emails. She had to change email addresses, she got so many.

    • Jaded says:

      You should also read “Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape” by Jenna Miscavige, David’s niece. It’s horrifying.

      • Rapunzel says:

        Jaded- read that! And Leah’s book. And a couple others I can’t recall right now. I had a whole library to share with my students for research.

    • equality says:

      I actually found their website weirdly confusing but also somewhat amusing. They embrace the “allness of all”?

  13. thaisajs says:

    In the US, people are allowed religious freedom (at least for now — thanks Supreme Court), so if she wants to be part of some wackadoodle religion, that’s up to her. The more people find out about Scientology from legitimate, factual news sources…well, they should make up their own minds.

    • Josephine says:

      To me a large part of the problem stems from the fact that these cults take advantage of the “religious” tag for huge tax exemptions and to commit atrocities under the guise of religious freedom. I personally don’t think it can be called a religion when it’s a pay-to-play scheme.

      • Rapunzel says:

        And Scientology only gained Tax Exempt status as a “church” because it literally harassed the IRS into granting it. They wouldn’t at first, but COS had it’s members file thousands of lawsuits personally against 100s of individual IRS agents. The IRS capitulated to their demand for exemption only to make the lawsuits go away for their poor, harassed, agents.

        It’s extremely easy to gain tax exempt status too. See John Oliver turing his show into the Church of Our Lady of the Perpetual Exemption. It’s hilarious. But shows that Scientology must have been very much not a church to have to browbeat the IRS into exempting them. The IRS isn’t exactly strict with their exemptions.

      • BothSidesNow says:

        @ Rapunzel, the NFL is also non exempt, though some portions are. The NHL and PAGA Tour is exempt as well. I don’t know why these billion dollar agencies are awarded so many tax breaks. Or why Amazon is allowed any form of tax breaks either. It’s these corporations and the owners that should automatically pay a specific tax percentage each year or have it automatically deducted from their income. They should be treated as everyone else but these thieves would find a loophole somewhere.

  14. AmelieOriginal says:

    I didn’t know she was raised in it so I understand more her reluctance to talk about it. I think she might leave if she had her own kids? It seems like a lot of actors (apart from Tom Cruise and John Travolta) leave the cult once they have kids or they realize the cult is destroying their family relationships. I don’t like that she’s in it but I’m guessing all her close family and friends are in it. I can’t fault her for not wanting to be shunned. I hope she manages to break free with her family and they all someday see the light. Leah Remini was lucky her mom also left with her.

    • Stan says:

      It’s not necessarily true they leave when they have kids. They have Scientology schools so kids can be raised with Scientology doctrine. Jason Dohring, Michael Pena, Kirstie Alley, Erika Christensen, Danny Masterson, etc. are raising their kids to be Scientologists.

      And as I said above, she has chosen to disconnect from her musician father because he had a fight with super-Scientologist Chick Corea. One had to go and it wasn’t going to be Chick.

      • Fiona Fan says:

        @Stan I know both her father Ron, and the late Chick Corea but didn’t know about their fight.

        I do always give her a pass for being a Scientologist because Ron, her father, has spoken so highly of her and is so proud of her. He seems to separate her from being a Scientologist, since she was born into it, so I have been doing the same.

        Chick was always so nice to me and while I had respected him as a musician, I could never separate him from Scientology. He replaced his entire team with Scientologists who were incompetent, but by the time that happened Chick was Chick so it didn’t affect him that negatively career-wise. He had Scientology booths at his concerts but dialed that back when it got negative public reaction. He forced his band members and everyone around him to be Scientologists (or else), unless you were famous enough to go against him. My first time meeting him, one of my clients was so afraid that I’d be drafted. I always joke that I’m offended that no one tried to recruit me. I once lived in an apartment was behind one of their Centers and there was a young woman who did street outreach. She was an attractive woman who would strike up a conversation with passerbys, inviting them to their events. Most people thought she was asking them out on a date until they saw what it was. I only lived there for 2 or 3 years and by the time I left, that young woman looked so much older, nothing like the attractive young woman l saw. It was like the light left her face. I think of her every time I read about Scientology. She approached men and women, including my now-husband, but never me. My husband is the one who told me that her opening line was if he’d like to see a movie with her.

  15. HeyKay says:

    I know “enough” about Scientology to say Hard.Pass. and also Hell No!

    Any group that works to keep people from their friends and family because they are not members of said group, can get lost.

    I have a few relatives who are very, very into a church that encourages them to spend time with other church members and to refuse to visit/contact anyone else.
    Piss right off!
    One cousin refused to attend the funeral service of her own Mother because it was not held at “her home church” WTH?

  16. emmi says:

    Most people don’t fight a system that works for them. It seems to be working for her. Like it’s working for Cruise. I don’t love her as an actress, there is something in her perfomances that just doesn’t appeal to me, even back in the West Wing Days. Her character had an arrogance that was so off-putting and I thought it was just the character. But on Mad Men there was something equally unappealing and I stopped watching during season 1 (not the only reason). Handmaid’s Tale … I haven’t been able to tackle that yet, honestly.

    Cults are such a foreign concept to me. I found “Religion” as a subject in school slightly crazy even back in my elementary school days (in Germany). The more I found out, the less I wanted anything to do with it, except on paper it can be endlessly fascinating and horrifying. I have NO idea how people go to church on Sundays and live their lives according to these made up teachings.

    • Maida says:

      Well said! Says everything that Scientology is a “church” that has special “celebrity centers” to cater to the big names.

  17. 809Matriarch says:

    Me too. I didn’t enjoy her in Mad Men. She was one of my least favorite characters.

  18. Deanne says:

    She’s bald faced lying about the Leah Remini thing. Scientologists lie constantly. They tell the “ acceptable truth” because if they told the real truth, everyone would be appalled. If you ask a Christian, Muslim, Jewish person or Hindu about their religion and what they believe, they can tell you n a few minutes. Scientology wants you to pay to find out . All Scientologists follow the same BS “ find out for yourself”, “ read a Scientology book” script. The way entertainment reporters and most journalists let these cultist celebrities lie and never ask them any hard questions is nauseating.

    • Nick G says:

      There was a tweet a few days ago where someone had a mashup of all the big stars in COS being asked about it, and it was like they had a script. ” I think everyone should find out for themselves”.
      Word for word, like a cult. It suddenly reminded me of my MAGA neighbour who likes to tell me, “I think you should find out for yourself, do your own research.” Hmmmmm.

      • Stan says:

        Yes, Yashar Ali had that. He is a journalist who has written extensively on Scientology.

      • Josephine says:

        the truly ignorant will always pretend to know something that you need to “research for yourself.” It’s a way of feeling better about their own ignorance and inability to understand basic concepts. It’s a tactic that republicans have used well. tapping into and falsely bolstering people’s insecurities is a long-standing tactic of cults.

  19. tealily says:

    I’m sure she did go the bathroom to avoid listening to Remini’s speech.

  20. Merricat says:

    Any club that includes Kirstie Alley is not a club I would be interested in.

  21. Stan says:

    It is Scientology doctrine for members to tell people to read a book or find out for themselves. This is a standard answer and it’s the answer she has been trained to give. Scientology believes their doctrine is secret and can only be obtained by taking classes and through auditing. (All of which costs money.) In fact, they are taught that if they talk about Scientology, they could die for giving up the secrets.

  22. Zoe79 says:

    Celebrity scientologists are shielded from the reality of what happens within the organization to everyday members. I knew people who were members and saw it cost them their money, family and friends. Truly scary stuff.

    • Stan says:

      This is partially true. Celebrity Scientologist are not necessarily shielded from knowing the horrors of Scientology. In fact, Moss admits in the article to having read or seen the criticism. However, she knows that because she is a celebrity, she will not have to obey many of the rules. Celebrities are so important to Scientology that they are allowed to do and believe what they want (to a certain extent). Danny Masterson, for examp!e, was allowed to (allegedly) rape women without having to worry about punishment within the church. Remini, however, got in trouble because she publicly called out the hierarchy of the church and that is not ever allowed.

  23. Ann h says:

    ” I don’t want people to be distracted by something when they’re watching me. I want them to be seeing the character. I feel like, when actors reveal too much of their lives, I’m sometimes watching something and I’m going, Oh, I know that she just broke up with that person, or, I know that she loves to do hot yoga, or whatever it is.”…. I can respect that. I’m not an Aniston fan anyway, but Jen should take note. I can’t watch her in a movie or drama without all her commercials running through my head. I can’t grab the remote fast enough so I have to endure a few seconds of her shill. So being the queen of QVC and tabloid queen doesn’t help when trying to watch her in the Morning Show, etc. That applies to other famous actors as well.

    • C says:

      Well, her speaking out like this about Scientology has done the absolute opposite for me, because I never enjoyed her before and most certainly will never watch her without thinking of this again.

      Knowing that someone does hot yoga or is in and out of a relationship or does commercials is far easier for me to separate from their roles than Moss’s espousal and bland defense of this horrible system.

  24. The Recluse says:

    If you haven’t, watch Leah Remini’s series exposing Scientology. Right now it’s on Netflix.
    The IRS needs to yank about it’s tax exempt church status. They aren’t a church. They’re a destructive cult and a pyramid scheme.

  25. Ms. says:

    My problem is not with Scientologists. Its with Scientology.

    As such, I don’t judge her for being a Scientologist, even though I hate it. Cult brainwashing is real. I’ve seen Leah Remini’s entire show and heard most of her podcast, she has a lot of sympathy for active Scientologists due to how deeply and effectively they apply cult tactics. We don’t know what she knows, how much money she has been forced to hand over and the psychological impact it has had on her, if any of her family would defect with her, or if she has any insight into the evil $*** Scientology gets into. I see her as a victim. Most of them are, even those who benefit from their occasional protection. (I make an exception for Tom Cruise. He knows too much to be ignorant and chooses to benefit anyway.)

  26. JFerber says:

    I like her as an actress, but not as a Scientology representative.

  27. AnneL says:

    Part of a creepy cult AND an overrated actress. She has this flat, still-faced affect in everything she does. I cannot understand why her performances are so celebrated. She’s robotic. She was so lucky to get on Mad Men because that show had a way of elevating less than stellar performers, like January Jones. But at least JJ isn’t a Scientologist (as far as I know…..)

  28. joadie says:

    The workings of cults/religion is a complex issue, the causes, the motivations, growing up in one etc.

    I believe Moss is a victim too, she is indoctrinated since the birth.

    However it is not a pass to promote something so destructive. It shouldn’t be tolerated. Cults are not some silly religions or minor issues. People literally die because of them, they suffer abuse and they lose their loved ones because of ostracism.

    People should be made more aware about scientology, jehovah’s witnesses, mormonism and other fundamentalist evangelical high control groups. Being ignorant is part of the problem.