Introduction

James R. Lewis

In midsummer 2007 as I was finishing up the manuscript for this book, Tom Cruise was in the news again. It seems many Germans objected to a Scientologist playing Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, a national hero, in the upcoming film Valkyrie. As a consequence, the German government refused to allow the production company to shoot parts of the movie in certain historic buildings. (Cruise, by the way, bears a striking resemblance to Stauffenberg.) All too predictably, a number of cable news programs used this incident as yet another opportunity to heap scorn on the Church of Scientology.

During the lead-in to a cable news program I watch on a semiregular basis, it was announced that they would be including a segment on the Cruise-Germany incident that would feature a research professor from a respected university. The researcher was billed as a “Scientology expert.” This piqued my curiosity. In the early stages of the present book project, I had invited most of the relevant mainstream academicians to contribute chapters. I was thus quite surprised that I did not recognize the name of the guest expert.

When I finally saw the interview, I was even more surprised to hear this “expert” mouthing popular simplistic stereotypes about “cults,” rather than presenting reputable, scholarly information. He emphasized standard negative information about Scientology, such as the Guardian Office’s covert infiltration program (neglecting to mention that the Church eventually shut down the Guardian’s Office and disciplined the individuals responsible for illegal activities). He even went so far as to depreciate Tom Cruise’s intelligence, as if Mr. Cruise’s membership in the Church of Scientology was prima facie evidence that he was not very bright. I found this latter item

-3-

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