Cruise and Oprah Winfrey are both scheduled to host the star-studded concert on Dec. 11 in Oslo, and it will be carried live in more than 100 countries. But some critics are saying they're worried that Cruise and his church, Scientology, will use the event to promote the controversial religion. The choice of Cruise has erupted into controversy in Norway and neighboring Sweden after some Scientology foes appealed to the Nobel Institute, asking it to reconsider.
"They're a manipulative sect that takes over people's lives and finances," Karl-Erik Nylund, a priest from the Magdalena Kyrka church in Stockholm, told the Norwegian paper Dagbladet, according to our interpreter. "[Cruise] isn't going to be there as a missionary. But it's difficult to separate the artist Tom Cruise from Scientology Tom Cruise."
"It's very wrong to let Cruise lead the gala," Scientology foe Andreas Heldal-Lund told the Swedish paper Expressen. "[The Church of Scientology is] going to call it a validation and use it as far as they can. I've met tons of people who have had their lives devastated by Scientology and this is such an important event. I have the greatest respect for the Nobel Prize and the Nobel Institute and it's very sad that I've been forced to come out publicly with my criticism, but they've chosen Tom Cruise."
Cruise's rep didn't return The Scoop's calls for comment, but a rep for the Church of Scientology defended the religion and attacked its critics, telling Expressen "I usually say: 'Would you support an organization that works for a peaceful world and a world without drugs?' You can wonder what Andreas Heldal-Lund's goals are in his life, is it to persecute other religions? He works against an organization that definitely will improve the world and that works for human rights."
"We're obviously aware that Tom Cruise is a Scientologist but that's not why we chose him," the Director for the Nobel Institute, Geir Lundestad, told Dagbladet. "We chose him because he's a known person who is interested in the Nobel Peace Prize and we're proud that we have him." When quizzed about Scientology, Lundestad replied, "I don't really know anything special about it" - but added that he believes in freedom of speech and religion.