ABC: Travoltas Turn to Scientology in Trying Times

Discussion in 'Jett Travolta' started by Joyful, Jan 7, 2009.

  1. Joyful Member

    ABC: Travoltas Turn to Scientology in Trying Times

    As John Travolta and his wife, Kelly Preston, prepare to say goodbye to their 16-year-old son Jett Travolta, it's likely they'll draw on support from Scientology, the religion that has seen them through tragedies in the past, as well as residents in their current hometown of Ocala, Fla.

    Authorities say the teen died of a seizure, but other questions remain.TMZ is reporting that a small family-and-close-friends-only memorial service will likely take place tomorrow at the star couple's Ocala home. It's likely to reflect the parents' Scientology faith.

    Lisa Marie Presley, a follower of the religion, defended Scientology in a blog while expressing condolences over Jett's death. "I am writing this because I have noticed that for the most part, people and the media have been very sympathetic and respectful, but there are those certain ones that want to use this horrible tragedy as an opportunity to once again, blame and-or attack Scientology."

    She called the belief that scientologists don't allow medical care "garbage" and said Travolta and his wife were on a "tireless, never ending quest to get and provide him (Jett) with the absolute best care anyone could ever ask for and need."

    Travolta was introduced to Scientology by actress Joan Prather in 1975, according to Travolta biographer Douglas Thompson.

    "I was 21 when I first heard about [Scientology]," Travolta told ABC News' "20/20" in 1998. "And someone introduced it to me and they were so certain and happy, and I wasn't used to people being certain and happy. I was used to people being insecure and unhappy. I took a course and my life has never been the same."

    He leaned heavily on his faith when his Diana Hyland, his girlfriend and co-star in "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble," was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1976. She died the following year at age 41 and Travolta turned to Scientology to cope.

    "He turned down the Richard Gere role in 'American Gigolo' and found himself more and more drawn to the Scientology movement," Thompson recently told The New York Daily News.

    In 2001, Travolta told CNN's Larry King that he used Scientology to deal with the deaths of Hyland and later, his parents.

    "Life is overwhelming. Life is not easy. Life is tough," he said. "And you need something that really works and helps you actually, not promises to help you, then fail. And that's why I've always loved Scientology, because it offers help, and it works."

    Preston, who has been married to Travolta since 1991, adopted Scientology before meeting the actor. In 2006, Rolling Stone magazine reported that Preston was introduced to the faith in 1985 by acting coach Milton Katselas.


    Travolta family friend Obie Wilchcombe, a member of the Bahamian Parliament, told "Good Morning America" of the heart-wrenching moment when John Travolta identified his son's body at the morgue.

    "They escorted him into the room where his son was and glass separated them. And he was asked to identify his son," Wilchcombe told "Good Morning America." "His words were 'That's my son.'"

    "After he said that," Wilchcombe continued, "he asked that he and his wife be left alone for a period of time, and they stayed in the room for a long period of time -- several hours in fact."


    Stephen Kent, a professor of sociology and alternative religions at the University of Alberta and an expert on Scientology, elaborated on typical proceedings.

    "Someone will give readings from [Scientology founder] L. Ron Hubbard, including possibly a eulogy. It will be difficult for Scientologists to talk about a young man's life. It's likely they'll talk more about his parents' love for him," he said. "Scientologists are flexible about whether the body or ashes must be present at the funeral. There can even just be a picture of the person. Certainly, non-Scientologists can come to the funeral."

    "A Scientology funeral is likely to emphasize the movement of the thetan from attachment to this body to attachment to another body," Kent added. "The hope is that the thetan will come back in better times, with a better body, with a better spiritual nature."

    Kent said he would expect Tom Cruise, Cruise's wife Katie Holmes and other members of Hollywood's elite Scientology contingent to attend. After the funeral, it's likely the organization will ask Travolta, his family and Jett's caretakers to undergo evaluations to banish any ill feelings about the tragedy.


    "There is a relationship between autism and seizures; as many as 40 percent of children and young adults with autism may experience seizure and adolescence is a particular time of vulnerability," said Dr. Bryan King, the director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Seattle Children's Hospital's Research Center for Health Services and Behavioral Research.

    "There are hormonal changes that could increase the risk of seizure, and certainly there are ongoing brain changes that take place during adolescence, but no one knows why the risk increases in older children."

    What little information is available on autopsy results further suggests that Jett Travolta may have been an epilepsy sufferer. If this is the case, he could have died from a massive seizure that led to a condition known as sudden unexplained death in epilepsy patients, or SUDEP.

    Dr. Orrin Devinsky, director of the New York University Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, said SUDEP "is a relatively common problem among patients with uncontrolled tonic-clonic -- a.k.a. grand mal or convulsive -- seizures. In patients who have these frequently over a 10-year period, the incidence of SUDEP may be 8 percent or higher."

    Dr. James Grisolia of the Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego, agreed that SUDEP could be a possibility, given the information at hand.

    "We'll only really know once the autopsy results are out, as well as the statement from Jett's doctor, Mark Smith," Grisolia said.

    But he added, "While the majority of adults and children with epilepsy live with their seizures well-controlled and can live up to their full human potential, there are rare, tragic cases of sudden, unexplained death in epilepsy [SUDEP] ... even well-controlled seizures sometimes break through, especially with forgetting to take medication, with excessive alcohol or sleep loss, or a serious second illness, such as a very bad flu or pneumonia."

    In a 1999 news conference about his movie "The General's Daughter," Travolta disputed assertions that TV and films encourage kids to commit violent crimes and instead linked their cause to drugs.

    "My personal thinking is that some of these murders have to do with drugs -- psychiatric drugs, street drugs," he said. "They've found a lot of common denominators are things like Prozac that are altering people's states of mind."

    Preston, Travolta's wife, also came to Cruise's defense in 2005, when he was criticized for his public attack on Brooke Shields for using psychotropic medication to ease her postpartum depression.

    In a statement to ABC News, the Church of Scientology responded to critics who claim it does not promote medical treatment.

    "Scientologists seek conventional medical treatment for medical conditions," the church said in a statement. "Scientologists use prescription drugs when physically ill and also rely on the advice and treatment of medical doctors. The Church does not involve itself in the diagnosis or classification of any medical condition."

    ABC News: Travoltas Turn to Scientology, Hometown in Trying Times

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