Inside Elisabeth Moss' History With Scientology

Elisabeth Moss is one of the most acclaimed and adored actresses of her generation. Moss first received wide attention in The West Wing, and then went on to play Peggy Olson in Mad Men and star as June in The Handmaids Tale, winning an Emmy for Best Actress in a Drama Series for her work in the latter. She also appeared in films like Us, Her Smell, and The Invisible Man. It would seem Moss has hardly made a misstep, choosing roles that are not only critically acclaimed, but commercially successful and popular with fans.

If there's one thing that Moss has attracted a bit of skepticism for, however, it's her relationship with Scientology. Scientology is a highly controversial... thing. Some claim it's a business; some believe it's a religion; while others, like the government of France, consider it to be a cult. The group has attracted controversy for decades over alleged involvement in harm and death done to Scientology members. A number of celebrities have come forward as practitioners of Scientology, including John Travolta, Tom Cruise, and Kirstie Alley.

Unlike these other celebrities, however, Moss was actually born into the practice.

Elisabeth Moss was raised as a Scientologist

Elisabeth Moss was born in 1982 to Linda and Ron Moss, two Scientologists who are reportedly fairly high up in the church. Although she rarely talks about Scientology publicly, ELLE Australia reported that believes it helped her become who she is today. Moss reportedly finished her first Scientology course at just 8 years old, and has since appeared on the cover of Celebrity magazine, Scientology's periodical that can apparently only be obtained by devout followers. Moss has only referenced her belief in it a handful of times. On Today in 2017 (via ELLE), Moss said, "I'm always happy to have a personal conversation with somebody off the record," but explained that she also doesn't feel the need to defend her beliefs to people.

The actress did give a rare defense of her church on Instagram in 2017 upon her Emmy nomination for Best Actress for her work in The Handmaid's Tale. A fan asked if The Handmaid's Tale and its fictional world of Gilead made her think twice about Scientology because "both Gilead and Scientology both believe that all outside sources (aka news) are wrong or evil." Moss responded, "That's actually not true at all about Scientology. Religious freedom and tolerance and understanding the truth and equal rights for every race, religion, and creed are extremely important to me. The most important things to me probably. And so Gilead and THT hit me on a very personal level. Thanks for the interesting question!"

Does Scientology put Elisabeth Moss at odds with Hollywood?

Elisabeth Moss' apprehension toward discussing Scientology does set her apart from other Hollywood adherents like John Travolta or Tom Cruise, but her reluctance has also probably helped her reputation in the non-Scientology wing of Hollywood. One fellow actress that Moss does find herself at odds with is Leah Remini, who famously exited the group and has been outspoken since. When Remini accepted an Emmy for her docu-series Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath in 2017, Moss stood up and left the room, per Metro U.K.

The same year, Remini spoke about Moss specifically (via ELLE Australia), saying, "Elisabeth Moss believes that she can't talk to me... because I've spoken out against Scientology... And knowing that, I wouldn't put her in the awkward position." She explained that the two aren't really feuding, but with a caveat: "I don't hold anything against Elisabeth Moss other than she's continuing to support a group that is abuse and destroying families... That's for her to learn — just as I needed to learn it."

Moss' adherence to Scientology is also believed to have been part of the reason for her divorce from SNL alum Fred Armisen. The marriage only lasted about eight months, with Us Weekly (via Daily Mail) reporting, "Her religion was as important to her as their marriage, if not more," which proved a stumbling block when Armisen "could not get with it."

A look back at Elisabeth Moss' controversial speeches at awards show

Because of Elisabeth Moss' award-winning performances, she frequently gets a platform to speak when accepting awards. While she is reluctant to name Scientology or even talk about religion in vague terms very often, that hasn't stopped her from attracting controversy when she speaks. Winning at the Golden Globes in 2018, she dedicated her award to The Handmaid's Tale author Margaret Atwood.

Moss said (via ELLE Australia), "This is for you and all the women before you and after you who were brave enough to speak out against intolerance and injustice and to fight for equality and freedom in this world." Many on Twitter called out what they perceived as hypocrisy by noting that the Church of Scientology doesn't seem to adhere to those values.

Her most controversial speech, however, was at the 2017 Emmys, where Moss said the F-word while thanking her mother. While this would normally be a small but acceptable award show faux-pas, The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Scientology experts who claim swearing is "almost a sacrament in the church."

An ex-Scientologist and former friend of Moss claimed to THR, "Scientologists are urged to communicate with 'average people,' and to do so effectively you have to 'go down the tone scale,'" i.e., swear a lot to prove you are just like them. As usual, don't expect Moss to confirm, deny, or even mention this.