BERLIN, Jan. 30, 2002

Cruise is one several big-name stars devoted to Scientology. (PARAMOUNT)

(Reuters) Actor Tom Cruise, an outspoken adherent of the Church of Scientology, has lobbied the U.S. ambassador to fight for the group's rights in Germany, where it is not recognized, diplomats said on Wednesday.

Embassy officials said Cruise had met Ambassador Dan Coats, a former U.S. senator, in Berlin for more than an hour last week during which he made a passionate appeal for his support for improving the organization's status in Germany.

Germany refuses to recognize Scientology as a church, saying it masquerades as a religion to make money. Scientologists are barred from government jobs in some parts of the country.

The government placed Scientology under official scrutiny in 1997, provoking an outcry among supporters in the United States, including several celebrities. They say Germany's refusal to recognize Scientology undermines their human rights.

In the January issue of the U.S.-based magazine Vanity Fair, Cruise credited his 13-year devotion to Scientology with helping him deal with adversities from dyslexia to his estrangement from his late father to persistent rumors that he is gay.

Cruise's spokeswoman, Pat Kingsley, has denied that Scientology played a part in his split from actress Nicole Kidman last year.

Cruise was in Germany on a promotional tour for his latest film "Vanilla Sky" with his lover and co-star Penelope Cruz.

After meeting Coats at the U.S. embassy in central Berlin, Cruise, 39, spent nearly an hour signing autographs and talking to a star-struck embassy staff, who described him as unusually friendly and patient.

Coats later attended a special screening of "Vanilla Sky."

The embassy spokesman declined to comment on Cruise's meeting with the ambassador.

The California-based Church of Scientology was founded on the teachings of the late American science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. Its members include several high-profile Hollywood film stars, including John Travolta and Cruise, who embraced it in 1990 through his first wife, Mimi Rogers.

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