Elisabeth Moss has shot down the suggestion that her religion, Scientology, resembles the repressive state of Gilead in The Handmaid’s Tale.
Moss has been a Scientologist since childhood, after being raised by parents who practised the controversial faith. She rarely speaks about her beliefs publicly, but was prompted to defend Scientology after a fan questioned her on social media.
The actor had posted a photo on Instagram in which she thanked fans for attending an event promoting the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale. In the comments, Instagram user @moelybanks asked whether starring in the hit dystopian drama had made Moss “think twice about Scientology”.
“Both Gilead and Scientology both believe that all outside sources (aka news) are wrong or evil… it’s just very interesting,” they wrote.
In response, Moss said that “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,” she continued. “The most important things to me probably.”
Moss said that it was because of these beliefs that “Gilead and THT hit me on a very personal level. Thanks for the interesting question!”
Moss stars in the TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, based on the Margaret Atwood novel of the same name. As Gabriel Bell notes in a report for Salon, her character (Offred/June) has horrific experiences while living in Gilead, a state organised around harsh religious doctrine, anti-LGTBQ sentiment, and male dominance.
Rumours of a rigid culture of fear and suppression, meanwhile, have long swirled around the Church of Scientology. The religion has been accused of homophobia thanks to the writings of its founder, L Ron Hubbard, and it has been claimed that Church leaders attempt to brainwash and control the lives of some worshippers.
The Church is also notorious for retaliating against people who speak out publicly against Scientology – whether they are former members of the Church or journalists who have investigated the religion. Hubbard, who died in 1986, introduced a formal policy called “attack the attacker”, resulting in multiple lawsuits against those who criticise Scientology in the press. Many critics of the religion also say that they have been subjected to threats and harassment in their private lives.
It appears to be this anti-media sentiment that @moelybanks was referring to in their Instagram question to Moss. However, it is not particularly surprising that Moss was unwilling to go into much detail in her response, given that the actor has previously refused to answer questions about her faith.
“It is weird for me to be put in the position where I am like, ‘No, I can’t. I don’t really want to talk about this,’” Moss told the Guardian in 2015. She said that while she understood “the curiosity… you have a right to your privacy.”
Earlier this month, the actor and producer Leah Remini – an ex-Scientologist and once a good friend of Moss’ – claimed that there is a philosophy within the faith that dictates what members can say about it.
“There’s a thing in Scientology called ‘acceptable truth’,” said Remini. “It means you only say what’s acceptable to the public.”
Read Stylist’s exclusive interview with Elisabeth Moss here.
Images: Rex Features / Hulu / Channel 4