Scientologists are attempting to block the spread of a video clip in which Tom Cruise zealously espouses his faith in the church.
"If you're on board, you're on board, just like the rest of us," he tells those of wavering faith. We are the authorities on getting people off drugs, we can rehabilitate criminals and unite cultures," he says.
Mr Cruise's emotional testimonial is accompanied by a guitar riff playing the theme from Mission: Impossible. Cruise, a Scientologist for 20 years, has recently emerged as one of the controversial church's most outspoken proselytisers. Some suggest that the actor, 45, has been elevated to one of the highest echelons of the secretive church, cryptically known as OT-VII.
In recent years his missionary zeal has become apparent as he put up Scientology tents on movie sets, criticised Brooke Shields for using antidepressants while promoting the church's own drug-treatment programmes, and denounced the supposed evils of psychiatry. In the video, which was recorded in 2005, he emerges as an overly enthusiastic in-house proselytiser for the church.
Apparently meant for Scientologists' eyes only, the video is a nine-minute testimonial in which Cruise, wearing a black polo neck, encourages Scientologists to practise their faith relentlessly. From time to time he erupts in bursts of hand-slapping and demented laughter. The video was made after he accepted the Freedom Medal of Valor award at an International Association of Scientologists. Infamously litigious, the Church of Scientology has been busy firing off lawsuits alleging breach of copyright wherever the video pops up, notably on YouTube and Google Video. Unfazed by potential legal issues, a number of gossip websites are busy re-posting the controversial video as soon as it disappears.
On Gawker.com, Nick Denton wrote: "It's newsworthy, and we will not be removing it."
Cruise's remarks have been feeding a media frenzy for commentators and bloggers. In his remarks, Cruise describes his own involvement with the religion and lays down the duty of its members: "I think it's a privilege to call yourself a Scientologist, and it's something that you have to earn because a Scientologist has the ability to create new and better realities and improve conditions. Being a Scientologist, when you drive past an accident... you know you have to do something about it because you know you're the only one who can help," he says.
There is no secret about Cruise's devotion to Scientology and he and his wife, Katie Holmes, 29, reportedly signed a contract to guarantee their children be raised as Scientologists.
Cruise is known for his publicity stunts, including an infamous appearance on Oprah Winfrey's show in which he jumped up on a couch. Some commentators have drawn comparisons between the video's full-throated display of faith in Scientology and his infamous Oprah episode, suggesting that he had lost his Midas touch for the movie studios.
His latest movie, Lions for Lambs, was deemed "dead on arrival" by The New York Times. The video has also popped up just as Andrew Morton's unauthorised biography of Cruise – which the church has attacked – is published in the US.
So far, the church is having little success in keeping the video off the internet, and as soon as it is taken down it pops up somewhere else. Not unlike the movie and music industries, the Church of Scientology is constantly battling with websites to prevent unauthorised distribution of its intellectual property.