Scientology's got a hold on you: Five believers you might not expect

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The dark empire of Church of Scientology, well known for its extensive real-estate holdings, expanded its reach in Denver yesterday by throwing down $8.5 million in cash money on a new facility to house its secretive minions. Believed by its adherents to be the one true path to enlightenment and by pretty much everyone else to be a crazy pyramid scheme, the organization and its practices have an undeniably sinister-seeming quality about them that can't help but make you a little nervous. On the other hand, if Doug E. Fresh is in on it, maybe you can't go too far wrong.

Of course, it's no surprise that somebody like, say, Tom Cruise is a Scientologist, because that guy is just sort of creepy. But not everyone who follows the path is so vaguely menacing. Thus, though we run the real risk of litigation by mentioning the Church at all, here are a few self-proclaimed Scientologists who give us pause:

5. Doug E. Fresh Also known as "The Human Beat Box," Doug E. Fresh made his name sampling the theme from Inspector Gadget in a hip-hop song and went on to become the esteemed spokesman for the Hip Hop Public Health Education Center in Harlem. Apparently, Fresh got turned on to Scientology nearly a decade ago by his then-girlfriend (making him, by his own account, the first hip-hip artist to convert), who'd been turned on to it by Isaac Hayes. The girlfriend dropped out of the Church. Fresh did not. "I found it fascinating," he's said.

4. Isaac Hayes It's no big secret that Isaac Hayes was a Scientologist -- he famously left South Park as Chef after the "Trapped in the Closet" episode that took on the religion -- but given that he also once wrote the awesome theme to Shaft, it's just sort of weird. Also, that South Park episode is where it gets ominous: There has been much speculation that Hayes was pressured into leaving the show by his Scientology "monitors," who might have even just quit for him after he suffered a stroke.

3. Jason Lee His religion on My Name Is Earl might have been an adorably naive sense of karmic duty, but in real life, his religion is the science of science. And not only is Lee involved, but he's heavily involved; for one thing, he's on the board of directors for the "Citizens Commission on Human Rights," which sounds nice until you realize it's a Scientology-backed organization "dedicated to investigating and exposing psychiatric violations of human rights." Oh, did you not know that Scientology has a weird preoccupation with the evils of psychiatry? You do now. Then again, that's not really any weirder than the Catholic Church's preoccupation with the evils of birth control. What is weirder than that, however, is Lee's ex-wife's interview with the National Enquirer, in which she notes that if she sees a Scientologist, "I cross the street."

2. Beck Beck kept his lifelong Scientology on the DL until he came out with it about five years ago; evidently, he's second-generation. "It really helped my father," he said at the time. Sure, he's a weirdo, and weirdness seems like a Scientological (can you call it that?) by-product, but Beck has also been the very pillar of ironic detachment since he combined dog-food stalls and beefcake pantyhose way back in the time of chimpanzees. All we're saying is, it seems weird that Beck buys into a religion at all, let alone one as cult-like as Scientology. Then again, maybe it makes sense.

1. Charles Manson Before starting his own cult and committing multiple murders, Manson dabbled in Scientology during his second stint in prison. But after 150 hours of "auditing," in which a Church member attempts to help you relive the "amnesia" of your past and help you discover your "true self," Manson was reportedly so desperate to get away from his "auditor" that he asked the warden to put him in solitary confinement. Evidently, Scientology was just too freaky for him.

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