"We want them to continue to support a resolution that basically condemns the religious discrimination going in Germany, and get some changes there," the 31-year-old actress told us this morning as she paid courtesy calls on Capitol Hill. For the past four years a member of the Church of Scientology which German law classifies as a business, not a religion Bell testifies tomorrow before the House International Relations Committee.
Bell, who was born in Great Britain to an Iranian mother and an English father, said she was exposed to a variety of religious experiences before joining the church founded in the 1950s by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard (and not categorized a bona fide religion by the Internal Revenue Service until 1993). "My Persian grandparents were Muslim, but I was also raised with Catholicism and Baptist summer camp," said the actress, who as a small girl moved to Southern California's San Fernando Valley after her parents broke up. "I had a lot of friends and fellow actors who were Scientologists," she continued, "and the more I got to know these people, the more I saw how they were really ethical and honest, very successful, that they had great relationships and marriages, and I wanted to know more about it. So I took a couple of courses and they changed my life, the way I looked at everything from my relationships to the problems I was having in my auditions."
Bell said she and her Scientology instructor traced her audition troubles to a searing memory of her life as a fourth-grader, when several teachers gave her a test and she performed badly. "You're a spiritual being and Scientology is a religion that deals with you as a spiritual being." Asked if it's helpful to her career that other church members are in show biz, notably Ann Archer, Tom Cruise and John Travolta, Bell answered: "You certainly help each other as friends."
Meanwhile, she never forgets her Persian heritage. "I may be a Valley Girl, but I also come from a very traditional family. I speak Farsi, and I guess you could say culturally it's similar to being from an Italian family. . . . My grandfather was a treasurer to the Shah. His name was Reza Gharagozlou. Boy, am I glad my mom married a guy named Bell!"