Tom Cruise claims to have been dyslexic before he was saved by Scientology.
Let's hope that he can read the fine print in a new agreement the religious organization is demanding its members sign.
The contract - called the "Agreement and General Release Regarding Spiritual Assistance" - makes it clear that the signee does not believe in psychiatry and does not want to be treated for any kind of psychiatric ailment should one befall him.
Instead, once the paper is signed, the agreement calls for the Church of Scientology to step in if there's ever a problem. The result would be total isolation and constant surveillance.
The question is: Will the stars upon whom Scientology has depended to carry its message - including Cruise, John Travolta and Kelly Preston, Lisa Marie Presley and her mother, Priscilla - sign a new agreement that could potentially hand over their rights and personal freedom to the church?
The wording of the agreement is shocking, to say the least. If a member of the church becomes what we might call "mentally incompetent," he automatically agrees to be placed in the care of Scientology counselors, potentially barring family, friends or anyone else from interceding, including doctors and psychiatrists.
The new agreement seems to stem from a long-simmering wrongful-death lawsuit brought by the estate of Lisa McPherson against the Church of Scientology.
It alleges that McPherson died in 1995 after being held against her will by the church for 17 days. When she died, it is claimed, her body was covered with cockroach bites and McPherson was dehydrated.
By having members sign the contact agreeing to be isolated from family and medical professionals, the church apparently believes it would be immune to such lawsuits. The lawsuit, which has suffered several postponements, may come to trial in 2004.
Outspoken critics of Scientology - such as Carnegie Mellon professor Dave Touretzky, who uncovered the new agreement - claim the form is designed to protect the church from further litigation.
But will Cruise, Travolta, and others agree to the same wording that non-celebrity followers must in allowing themselves to endure something called the "Introspection Rundown?"
Calls to their spokespeople didn't help very much. Travolta and the Presleys' publicist referred my question back to the Church of Scientology. Cruise's office didn't have an answer.
An assistant in the Scientology office did tell me that she was a member of the church and had signed many different contracts.
The Spiritual Assistance agreement reads in part: "I understand that the Introspection Rundown is an intensive, rigorous Religious Service that includes being isolated from all sources of potential spiritual upset, including but not limited to family members, friends or others with whom I might normally interact."
"As part of the Introspection Rundown, I specifically consent to Church members being with me 24 hours a day at the direction of my Case Supervisor, in accordance with the tenets and custom of the Scientology religion. The Case Supervisor will determine the time period in which I will remain isolated, according to the beliefs and practices of the Scientology religion."
"I further specifically acknowledge that the duration of any such isolation is uncertain, determined only by my spiritual condition, but that such duration will be completely at the discretion of the Case Supervisor. I also specifically consent to the presence of Church members around the clock for whatever length of time is necessary to perform the Introspection Rundown's processes and to achieve the spiritual results of the Introspection Rundown."
(Any isolation, of course, would be preferable to watching Travolta in "Look Who's Talking.")
What does this all mean?
Linda Hight, spokeswoman for Scientology, told me last night that the contract is self-explanatory.
"I'm sure you know the English language," she said, "and you know what it means."
She described psychiatry as "barbaric, harmful, and fraudulent."
"The contract is drawn up," Hight added, "for those who wish [to use it]."