Is “Tolerance” in Hollywood a Myth? Ask a Scientologist

Imagine you’re Hollywood.

You’re not like everyone else. You’re passionate about your causes—about injustice and the relentless pace of climate change.

You consider yourself tolerant. Liberal. Progressive even.

You oppose anti-Semitism in all its forms. You know our country was founded on principles of tolerance and freedom of thought, and you live those principles.

Or do you?

Hollywood sign
Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/

Ask a Scientologist. You know, there are many in your ranks—more than you think.

Ask a Scientologist if they experience bigotry.

Heck, you know they do.

You know your very own A&E ran a hate show for years targeting Scientologists, many of whom are at the top of their professions. But never mind, hate makes great entertainment, right? And never mind, of course, that none of the scandal purveyed by the show was about anything factual.

We know that that A&E show, hosted by a faded comedy actress named Leah Remini, paid people to come up with hateful stories about Scientology. Remini herself publicly admitted she didn’t vet them, calling them “her people.”

But that’s what “reality” shows do, right? Pay people for sensational stories? Make stuff up?

Sure. But go ahead and have a sensational story about being stuck on an island, not damaging fictions about an international religion—lies that hurt real people, too.

Where’s your passion for social justice now?

That show was finally cancelled after ratings tanked, advertisers pulled out, and its hate speech inspired a murder. Corporations don’t much care for sponsoring hate. But someone at A&E must have decided the last show of the last season would make a great Emmy Awards “special,” though it’s not a special.

They just can’t kill the beast, can they?

Woman holding a sign
Photo by Kirstin Adams-Bimson/

Here’s the truth about Hollywood and religious tolerance: it’s limited to certain religions. And the cool Asian ones. But not these newer American ones.

Because Remini didn’t stop at Scientology, she went after Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. Six hundred documented threats and hate crimes and a murder of an Australian Scientologist later, the show had worked its magic.

Myths die hard. You know, our country has a myth of its exceptionalism. But if you read Untold History of the United States, you will realize that we are one bloodthirsty bunch… even while we “hold up” the highest ideals.

Americans are in denial about their history. Is Hollywood in denial about its selective sense of justice?

Where is the sense of outrage about vilifying other beliefs for the almighty Nielsen ratings?

Must we await some Émile Zola to appear (“J’accuse!”) to break the spell as he did for the Jew-baiting Affaire Dreyfus, to bring us today to our senses about pervasive religious bigotry?

Look, it’s very simple: you don’t tell Polish jokes anymore, you don’t perform in blackface, and you don’t pass around hateful lies about religions that are doing good each day throughout the world.

Can we agree to reserve our hatred for, say, black widow spiders? Personally I think they have their uses, but that’s at least a hatred I would understand.

Respect people. Live the tolerance you preach. Learn brotherly love.

Scientologists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will thank you.

Above all, you will know that you’ve set an injustice right.

And what could be cooler than that?

T. Riggs Eckelberry
When I was growing up, we lived everywhere, and to this day I can number my friends from school on one hand. I have served as a commercial ship captain, wine importer, film production manager, and above all, technologist. Today, I’m the CEO of a public company that licenses a unique technology for treating water. I believe that technology has the potential to save the world, but also to undermine our rights and our independence. The many people working in the spiritual arena are the vital counter-balance, and I’m proud to be one of these, with my wife, Sigrid.