CULT LIFESTYLE

leaderNancy Cartwright, voice of Bart Simpson and a prominent member of the Church of Scientology, appeared before a legislative hearing at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield (!) to stress that her Scientology-inspired character-education program is totally secular and should be taught to schoolchildren.

The Illinois School Code requires “character education,” defined as “the teaching of respect, responsibility, fairness, [etc.]” to be taught in schools. A House Resolution filed by Rep. Daniel Burke (D-Chicago), recommended several programs and clubs that satisfy that requirement, including Cartwright’s “Good Choices” program, of which the bill specifically “encourages its use and the use of similar programs by educators, coaches, mentors, and other community service leaders.”

Cartwright freely admits “Good Choices” is based on “The Way to Happiness,” a 1980 self-helf booklet by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, which teaches important lessons like “Do Not Murder” (precept 8) and “Don’t Do Anything Illegal” (precept 9). While Hubbard’s tract is advertised as non-religious, Newsweek noted that it “uses key words and concepts taken directly from Scientology’s religious lexicon.” Cartwright is a big promoter of the booklet; through her charity, she distributed a million copies of it to the San Fernando Valley in 2007.

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CULT LIFESTYLE

Nancy Cartwright, voice of TV’s Bart Simpson, has not always been especially vocal about her membership in the always-controversial Church of Scientology. Her autobiography makes no reference to it, nor does her website. Although she’s done a few publicity events for it (one ad in the LA Weekly offered a chance to “Meet the Voice of Bart Simpson At The Scientology Center!”), she has not advocated for the Church in a big way – she didn’t preach the virtues of Xenu while doing publicity for The Simpsons Movie, nor has she tried to plug Dianetics while doing DVD audio commentary. Unlike some of the bigger Scientologist celebrities, she does not lecture Matt Lauer on psychiatry (Tom Cruise), star in movies based on books by L. Ron Hubbard (John Travolta), or leave a show when they make one too many jokes about the religion (Issac Hayes). Last year, however, she donated $10 million to Scientology – twice her annual Simpsons salary and nearly five times more than that deadbeat Tom Cruise – a story which raised a few eyebrows, but generally flew under the radar. A couple days ago, however, audio of Cartwright doing a “robo-call” for some Scientology event was uploaded to the Internet. The story has gotten a lot of attention, garnering more than 2,700 “diggs” on Digg, which is apparently a lot in Internet metrics (?).

Cartwright opens the call with “Hey, man, this is Bart Simpson!” before quickly resorting to her normal voice and saying “Just kidding… this is Nancy Cartwright!” She then announces that she is now “auditing on New OTVIII” (??) and wants to share her “many wins” with you (????). At this point, it doesn’t really seem all that different from getting a robo-call from Hollywood starlet Scarlett Johansson telling you about how cool Barack Obama is, except it’s for a religion. But Catwright lapses back into her Bart voice several times in the call, laughing and saying, “It’s going to be a blast, man!” in the same voice that used to shill for Butterfinger bars, blurring the line between Nancy Cartwright, real-life person, and Bart Simpson, fictional cartoon character. You can hear it for yourself here, assuming the YouTube of the audio hasn’t been taken down.

A lot of questions arise: does Bart want me to get my thetans checked or just Nancy? When has Bart ever advocated for anything other than eating his shorts, anyway? Legal issues aside (technically, Fox owns the voices of the characters, which came to light when Dan Castelleneta got in trouble for introducing comedian Paul Krassner on his album “Irony Lives!”), is it ethical for voice actors to use an iconic cartoon character in such a way? Should celebrities use their fame to promote their belief system? Does Cartwright ever use her Bart voice to prank call bars?

CULT LIFESTYLE

Nancy Cartwright, voice of Bart Simpson, has donated $10 million dollars – twice her annual Simpsons salary and twice what Tom Cruise has donated over the past four years – to the controversial Church of Scientology, thus ensuring herself a first-class seat on the spaceship to Blisstonia. [The Daily Dish!]