Elisabeth Moss says it's a "lie" that cursing is "almost a sacrament" in Scientology

The actor disputes one Scientology whistleblower's claim that the Church dictates how members speak to people

By Alison Stine

Staff Writer

Published April 29, 2022 4:48PM (EDT)

Elisabeth Moss attends the Premiere of Universal Pictures' "The Invisible Man" at TCL Chinese Theatre on February 24, 2020 in Hollywood, California. (Amy Sussman/Getty Images)
Elisabeth Moss attends the Premiere of Universal Pictures' "The Invisible Man" at TCL Chinese Theatre on February 24, 2020 in Hollywood, California. (Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

When Elisabeth Moss won her first Emmy for her performance in "The Handmaid's Tale" in 2017, she thanked her mother, watching from the audience, in her acceptance speech for teaching Moss "you can be kind and a f**king bada**." Backstage in an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Moss defended her onstage cussing (bleeped for the television audience), saying: "You guys got off easy. That was nothing."

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Cussing came up again this week in an interview Moss – who stars in the new Apple TV+ series "Shining Girls" – gave to The New Yorker. The interviewer asked her to respond to a subsequent story by The Hollywood Reporter where a "Scientology whistle-blower" categorized curse words as "almost a sacrament" in Scientology, tracing the importance of well-timed f-bombs to Scientology founder, science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, who once served in the United States Navy. (Everyone knows sailors curse, right?) Hubbard was also the son of a Navy officer. 

The Hollywood Reporter article also links cussing to the "tone-scale" in Scientology where members allegedly adjust the way they communicate with someone based on that person's perceived importance to them: "Not everyone requires swearing. Journalists and gay people, for example, are classified as "1.1" on the scale, which signifies "covert hostility." "

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Moss was born into Scientology to member parents, including a jazz musician father. Unlike some prominent former Scientology members who joined as young children with their parents but later left, notably Leah Remini, Moss has stayed with the controversial Church of Scientology throughout her adulthood. And while she says she does not want something like the religion, accused by many of abusive practices, to distract viewers, comparing Scientology to romantic dalliances or hobbies — "I know that she just broke up with that person, or, I know that she loves to do hot yoga, or whatever it is"— she also talked forcefully about the sacrament story.

"That pissed me off," Moss said, calling the story a "lie," and saying: "I didn't deserve that, and it was wrong." But a former senior executive in the Church of Scientology also quoted in The New Yorker piece, stressed the importance Scientology places on communication in general, as a "fundamental concept that is sold to new people to get them into Scientology."  

The former Church executive, Mike Rinder, said: "You can't say that's a lie. It's a great line to use, because it's one of those things that you can't really challenge."

Is cussing a part of communication for Scientology believers, one officially sanctioned or dictated? In statements, the Church has denied it. But as with many things Scientology, who f**king knows. 

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By Alison Stine

Alison Stine is a former staff writer at Salon. She is the author of the novels "Trashlands" and "Road Out of Winter," winner of the 2021 Philip K. Dick Award. A recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), she has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, and others.

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Brief Cursing Elisabeth Moss Language Religion Scientology