NEW YORK (Reuters) - A video of actor Tom Cruise touting himself and fellow Scientologists as "authorities on the mind" has appeared on the Internet, coinciding with a new biography that examines his role in the movement.
The origin of the footage, which the Church of Scientology said was a video shown at a 2004 International Association of Scientologists meeting, was not clear. It popped up on several Web sites and some took it down after copyright claims by the church.
Cruise, shown wearing a black turtleneck sweater and speaking while the musical theme to his hit movie "Mission: Impossible" played in the background, said he was dedicated to changing people's lives.
"It's a privilege to call yourself a Scientologist and it's something that you have to earn," he said.
"We're the authorities on getting people off drugs. We're the authorities on the mind. We're the authorities on improving conditions," he says. "We can rehabilitate criminals. Way to happiness. We can bring peace and unite cultures."
In the video, which could be seen on www.gawker.com, Cruise explained what made Scientologists different from others.
"Being a Scientologist, when you drive past an accident it's not like anyone else. As you drive past you know you have to do something about it because you know you're the only one who can help," the Oscar-nominated actor said.
Cruise is one of the best-known Scientologists. The movement has a following among some Hollywood celebrities but is condemned as a cult in some quarters, including by the German government.
Cruise's ties to Scientology, and his outspoken adherence to its rejection of psychiatry, have frequently drawn attention. In June 2005 he publicly attacked actress Brooke Shields for revealing that she had taken medication as treatment for postpartum depression.
In a subsequent appearance on NBC's "Today" show, Cruise called psychiatry a "pseudo science" and told interviewer Matt Lauer: "You don't know the history of psychiatry. I do."
The Church of Scientology said in a statement that the video was Cruise's acceptance speech after he was awarded the religion's "Freedom Medal." It was shown to 5,000 church parishioners and guests.
"While the video can be seen in any Church of Scientology, what has appeared on the Internet is a pirated and edited version of a 3-hour event," the church said.
The Internet site Gawker.com said the video had "been passed around privately by reporters and writers investigating Cruise's ties to Scientology," which was founded more than 50 years ago in Los Angeles by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard.
On Tuesday, in a 15-page statement posted on the NBC "Today" show Web site, the church disputed claims made in the book "Tom Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography" by British author Andrew Morton.
"Insinuations that Mr. Cruise is second-in-command of the Church are not only false, they are ludicrous," the statement said. "He is neither 2nd or 100th. Mr Cruise is a Scientology parishioner and holds no official or unofficial position."
Cruise's lawyer, Bert Fields, has described material in the book to Reuters as "outrageous, sick stuff" and said that it "is actionable," although he declined to comment on legal issues.
He slammed what he called a "sick comparison of (Cruise's) child to 'Rosemary's Baby"' as a "grotesque lie." Morton wrote that some Scientologists wondered if Cruise's wife, actress Katie Holmes, "had been impregnated with Hubbard's frozen sperm."
But Morton, also author of a 1992 book on Britain's Princess Diana, told Reuters on Tuesday that Cruise was "a very important figure inside the church, it's nonsense for them to say he's just a parishioner."
According to www.scientology.org, Scientology "is the study and handling of the spirit in relationship to itself, others and all of life. The religion comprises a body of knowledge extending from certain fundamental truths." Those truths include man being an immortal, spiritual being whose experience "extends well beyond a single lifetime."
Additional reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by David Storey