Report: Church of Scientology Under Federal Investigation for Free Labor
The Church of Scientology is reportedly under federal investigation for human trafficking and using unpaid labor, in part due to work allegedly performed on behalf of Tom Cruise, according to the New Yorker (via Huffington Post). The charges surfaced in a profile of Oscar-winning writer-director Paul Haggis ('Crash'), who left Scientology in 2009 after 34 years following a disagreement with church officials.
Ed. Note: The reported federal investigation is of the Church of Scientology alone. Tom Cruise is not the subject of any investigation at this time, as was previously mentioned in our story based on existing reports.
For the New Yorker profile, entitled 'Paul Haggis vs. the Church of Scientology,' writer Lawrence Wright spoke to the filmmaker, several former church members and two FBI investigators, who allegedly "assured me [Wright] that the case remains open," referring to a 2009 investigation into abuse claims against the church. Reports indicate the abuse charges relate to, in part, paying church members just $50 per week to meet Cruise's demands, which included customizing a building and repairing boats and motorcycles.
In a statement, the church and Cruise denied the allegations and any knowledge of the investigation, and said the New Yorker "irresponsibly" used "discredited" sources to write a misleading article in an effort to attract attention.
The New Yorker article is peppered with claims of physical and mental abuse as well as accusations of financial impropriety against David Miscavige, a close personal friend of Cruise and the head of the church. For his part, Haggis told Wright that he resigned from the church because he disagreed with its stance on same-sex marriage (he believes banning it is discriminatory) and caught church spokesman Tommy Davis lying in a 2008 CNN interview by denying the church had a "disconnection" policy that encourages members to disassociate themselves from friends or family who do not support the church.
According to a former Scientologist interviewed by Wright, members who fail the church in some way are often sent against their will to Rehabilitation Project Force camps, described in the article as "punitive re-education camps." One former member, Bruce Hines, claims to have been confined to the camps, where he was forced to do manual labor and spiritual therapy, for more than six years.
A spokesman for the church told the New Yorker that members entered the camps voluntarily and were free to leave at any time, and AOL News reports that, according to a federal law enforcement source, investigation into the charges had "fallen short" and charges were not expected to be filed.
The claims against Miscavige allege he lives a lavish lifestyle -- including employing two private chefs, flying on chartered jets and owning a collection of expensive cars and custom made shoes -- as the leader of the church, despite federal laws that forbid the heads of tax exempt groups to profit from their organizations.
The New Yorker notes that it was Miscavige, and not Cruise directly, who ordered the workers to perform manual labor for the actor.
This is not the first time Cruise has faced criticism over his involvement with the Church of Scientology. The once-untouchable star endured a major backlash -- one that has haunted his career since -- from the medical community when he defended the church's stance on mental illness and psychiatry during a heated exchange with Matt Lauer on 'Today' in 2005.
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