Celebrities You Didn’t Know Were in Controversial Religions

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Celebrities You Didn’t Know Were in Controversial Religions

From childhoods spent in cults to adults who’ve distanced themselves from a scandal-ridden church.
Religion is far from the most common thing for celebrities to speak about when they’re promoting their movies, TV shows, or music, but in some cases, stars have opened up about their religious pasts and presents. Sometimes, this is to share how their faith has helped them in hard times or in their career. Sometimes, it’s to reveal harrowing situations from their childhood and the way they were raised. The 14 celebrities below have all been involved in religions that could be considered controversial, whether that’s because their church has been questioned for the way it’s run or because they were part of a literal cult.
Of course, not all of these situations are equal, so take it from the celebrities themselves. Read on to see what these famous members and former members have had to say about their religions and beliefs.
RELATED: The Biggest Celebrities Who’ve Left Scientology.

A fashion statement, indeed!


Actor Rose McGowan grew up as part of Children of God, which is considered a cult. Her parents moved to Italy and lived as part of an Italian chapter of the organization, and McGowan was born in the country and spent her early years there. The group involved communal living and polygamous relationships. McGowan told People in 2011 that she fled with her dad, his “other wife,” and siblings when they found out that adults were being encouraged to abuse children. “I was not molested because my dad was strong enough to realize that this hippie love had gone south,” she said.
When they were children, actors Joaquin and River Phoenix and their family were also members of Children of God and traveled throughout South America and the Caribbean during their time in the cult. “I think my parents thought they’d found a community that shared their ideals,” Joaquin told Playboy in 2014 (via Entertainment Tonight). “Cults rarely advertise themselves as such. It’s usually someone saying, ‘We’re like-minded people. This is a community,’ but I think the moment my parents realized there was something more to it, they got out.”
Glenn Close was born into a wealthy family in Connecticut, but when she was seven years old, her parents joined the group Moral Re-Armament. Close and her siblings lived at the MRA headquarters in Switzerland for two years, while her father was working as a surgeon in Congo, including for dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.
“You basically weren’t allowed to do anything, or you were made to feel guilty about any unnatural desire,” Close told The Hollywood Reporter in 2014. Close moved back to the U.S. when she was 15 and severed ties with the group entirely in her early 20s. “If you talk to anybody who was in a group that basically dictates how you’re supposed to live and what you’re supposed to say and how you’re supposed to feel, from the time you’re seven till the time you’re 22, it has a profound impact on you.”
Andrew Keegan, who appeared in teen movies like 10 Things I Hate About You and Camp Nowhere, started his own religious group called Full Circle in 2014. In 2015, Vulture wrote, the “actual theology of the group is tough to pin down, but it seems to loosely follow Hinduism” and “Sunday services begin with intention-setting, followed by a group-chanted ‘We love you’ to each congregant, not just Andrew. Everyone holds hands.” In 2017, Keegan posted on Instagram that Full Circle was ending, but it does still exist in some form. The Full Circle Facebook page now describes it as a “spiritual and artistic environment within which people may develop their potential as reflective beings and connect with other members of the Los Angeles community” that hosts film screenings, yoga sessions, art shows, and more.
Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney has been involved with an organization called The Church of the Master Angels. CMA claims that members have been cured through the faith of everything from anxiety to HIV. The Daily Beast reported that participants can pay up to $10,000 for courses. Maroney has been photographed wearing a CMA necklace but defended herself against being in “a cult” in an August 2021 interview with Elle. She also said she hadn’t been to a CMA workshop since the start of the pandemic. “I’ve always believed in God and more than just myself. But I’m not religious; I am not in a cult,” Maroney said.
Chris Pratt is one of many celebrities who are or have been connected to the Hillsong Church, which is facing multiple scandals, including financial impropriety and accusations of abuse by pastors. The Christian megachurch was founded in Australia and now has churches all around the world. According to Refinery29, Pratt later became a member of Zoe Church, which was modeled on Hillsong.
The Guardians of the Galaxy star made headlines for his religious affiliation in 2019 when actor Elliot Page tweeted that Pratt was part of an “infamously anti-LGBTQ” church, as reported by Variety. Pratt responded in an Instagram post, “It has recently been suggested that I belong to a church which ‘hates a certain group of people’ and is ‘infamously anti-LGBTQ.’ Nothing could be further from the truth. I go to a church that opens their doors to absolutely everyone.”

Married couple Justin and Hailey Bieber have also both been associated with Hillsong, Zoe Church, and another similar church called Churchome. In January 2021, Jezebel reported that in response to an article claiming Justin studied to be a pastor at Hillsong, he made a denial on his Instagram Story, writing, “AND BTW HILLSONG IS NOT MY CHURCH.. FOR CLARITY I AM A PART OF CHURCHOME.” Previously, GQ reported that the singer was baptized in an NBA player’s bathtub by now-disgraced former Hillsong pastor Carl Lentz.
As for Hailey, she told Elle in 2o20 of getting involved with Hillsong, “It started to feel like my own little community of people who were also young and following God and just immersed in a church community.”

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