When accepting her Emmy win for Outstanding Lead Actress in the drama series The Handmaid’s Tale this past weekend, Elisabeth Moss thanked her mother: “You are brave and strong and smart and you have taught me that you can be kind and a f**cking badass.” That’s not all Moss learned from her mother. Linda Moss, alongside her husband Ron Moss, brought up their daughter in the Church of Scientology. Now in her mid-thirties, Elisabeth Moss quietly remains a Scientologist.
Moss recently broke her long silence concerning her faith in a rare moment on social media. An Instagram user asked, “[D]oes it make you think twice about Scientology? Both Gilead [a totalitarian regime that takes control of America in The Handmaid’s Tale] and Scientology both believe that all outside sources (aka news) are wrong or evil…it’s just very interesting.”
Moss defended Scientology, saying, “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. The most important things to me probably. And so Gilead and THT hit me on a very personal level. Thanks for the interesting question!”
When Moss was announced as an Emmy nominee, many people took to social media to voice their concerns about her beliefs. Most notably, Yashar Ali, a writer for New York magazine and HuffPost, tweeted a thread about Moss: “Would be a travesty if Elisabeth Moss won an Emmy for Handmaid’s Tale. She’s a Scientologist…hypocritical of her to benefit from it.” Later, Ali posted, “So Elisabeth gets to get awards/praise for starring in a film that mirrors the org she continues to help—that is hypocritical.”
Moss continues to appear blissfully unaware of the ironic parallels between her dystopian role in The Handmaid’s Tale and her real life as a Scientologist. Even as Moss arrived at the Emmys with the word “Off” written on the sole of her shoe—a statement tying her character’s resistance to government with her own political views—she did not seem to realize the paradox of being a Scientologist. Even as Moss graciously, and yes, hypocritically, accepted her Emmy, she failed to accept the striking similarities between her “church” and her character.
Scientology was founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. The Handmaid’s Tale was also the creation of a science fiction writer, Margaret Atwood. Unfortunately, the similarities do not end there.
Scientologist leaders “audit” members of their church by asking the most personal questions imaginable. “This seems to be a form of blackmail, as the church keeps detailed records of the proceedings and the questions often pertain to people’s sex lives,” explains John Haltiwanger of Elite Daily. In The Handmaid’s Tale, both sex and blackmail storylines are featured. Moss’ own character Offred—a handmaid whose responsibility it is to bear children for superior and infertile couples—was blackmailed into safeguarding her surrogate pregnancy to save the life of her own daughter in the pre-Gilead era.
What’s more, according to a former member of the Church of Scientology, some members would be sent to a place called “Rehabilitation Project Force” to be re-indoctrinated. Re-indoctrination involved over twenty-four hours of hard labor and has been described as “prison camp.” In The Handmaid’s Tale, there exists a place called the Women’s Center. This is where Moss’ character Offred is stripped of her real name, free speech, worldly clothing, and additional rights. Offred and other characters are then indoctrinated with religious ideals. Prison camp, indeed.
Lastly, the Church of Scientology was allegedly the focus of a human trafficking investigation by the FBI in 2011 in which the church was accused of enslaving its members. When interviewed about depicting a scene in The Handmaid’s Tale, episode writer Kyra Snyder explained, “We looked at representing things like refugee camps and places where women are sexually trafficked.” Perhaps they needed to look no further than Moss’ own experience with Scientology to accurately depict scenes in The Handmaid’s Tale.
As Season One of the show leaves us questioning Offred’s fate—will she escape or will she be dragged further down the rabbit hole of this detestable cult?—the audience for The Handmaid’s Tale might also be wondering the same thing about Elisabeth Moss.
Image: MGM Television