Tom Cruise and other famous names seen as 'useless' by some Scientologists, journalist claims

Tony Ortega has claimed that some regular Scientologists see celebrity members as 'ornaments'

Celebrity members of the Scientologists such as Tom Cruise are seen by some members of controversial religion Scientology as 'useless', according to a new film.

Talking at a press conference to promote documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, journalist Ortega spoke of his encounters with former Scientologists. He spoke to the ex-members of the church as part of the filmmaking process.

"Sea Org [the "most dedicated" Scientologist order] members in particular think of celebrities as useless - they don’t have a lot of respect for them," Ortega, who has a daily blog about the religion, said.

"In fact, when Cruise got that medal and [David] Miscavige [leader of the church] stood up and called him 'the best Scientologist I know', I've talked to several former Sea Org members that were in that audience that night who said it was like a slap in the face. Because these people work 17 hours a day, they completely give up any relationship with outside family - they are hardcore.

He added: "They think of the celebrities as ornaments. They don't take them very seriously. So when Miscavige started taking celebrities more seriously, that was actually controversial inside the church."

The film focuses on the church's ties to Hollywood.

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John Travolta and Tom Cruise (front, fourth and fifth from left) applaud David Miscavige

The famous have a responsibility to the regular members, says director Alex Gibney, who made Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, which explored allegations of abuse of children within the Catholic church.

"You're given an enormous amount of wealth as a movie star," he said. "and with that comes a certain amount of responsibility, particularly when people are joining an organisation because of you."

The film is due for release in the United States on 16 May.

Cruise and the Church of Scientology have both been reached for comment.