LAST CALL: Tom Cruise finds pushing religion is risky business

Tom Cruise turned lobbyist? The Church of Scientology scored some star-power PR when long-time member Cruise sidetracked from a European publicity tour to tout the benefits of L. Ron Hubbard's religious teachings to the US consulate in Germany in late January.

Tom Cruise turned lobbyist? The Church of Scientology scored some star-power PR when long-time member Cruise sidetracked from a European publicity tour to tout the benefits of L. Ron Hubbard's religious teachings to the US consulate in Germany in late January.

Cruise took time off from new flame Penelope Cruz and his Vanilla Sky promotional junket to meet with US ambassador Dan Coats in Berlin to push the diplomat to support Scientologists' rights in Deutschland.

And it wasn't easy. While Scientologists are benevolently regarded as the celebrity church of choice in the US, the German government has taken a strong anti-Hubbard stance, refusing to recognize the group as a religious organization (sometimes dubbing it a "cult") and barring members from certain government jobs.

After the hour-long meeting, Cruise reportedly courted the embassy staff by signing autographs and shaking hands.

But the Top Gunner's religious mission may be plagued by impossible goals since he's preaching to a man with serious convictions of his own. Coats is formerly a conservative Republican senator from Indiana, who was the 1998 Distinguished Christian Statesman of the Year.

"We should never lose sight of a higher calling that transcends politics and all human endeavors,

he said in a release detailing the honor. "That higher calling is a commitment to serve God and to share the good news of the Gospel."

For Scientologists, whose faith is based on science fiction novels and the myth of a wicked outer-space overlord named Xenu, that sounds like bad news.

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