10 Nov 2010

Tom Cruise practiced Scientology indoctrination techniques on isolated, vulnerable teenager

The Village Voice - New York November 4, 2009

'Tom Cruise Told Me to Talk to a Bottle': Life at Scientology's Secret Headquarters

The author of a new book on Scientology reveals to the Village Voice details of his experience being "audited" by Tom Cruise, who asked him to talk to a book, a bottle, and an ashtray for hours at a time in order to perfect his "upper indoctrination."

By Tony Ortega | Village Voice

Marc Headley's remarkable account of his 15 years as an employee at Scientology's formerly secret international headquarters east of Los Angeles, Blown for Good, officially goes on sale Thursday. He sent the Voice a review copy, and then in a telephone interview provided additional details that aren't in the 383-page book, which will be available for sale at his website, blownforgood.com.

In 1990, not long after he was assigned to the sprawling Scientology compound at Gilman Hot Springs, near Hemet, California, Headley was told that he would be excused from his normal duties so that Tom Cruise -- fresh off his most recent success, the movie Days of Thunder -- could practice auditing on him.

Headley writes that he was selected for two reasons: although he'd already spent several years at Scientology schools and working for the church, he had participated in little auditing, and had completed few of the courses that Scientologists pursue as they travel "up the bridge" to a higher status. Also, because he was still only a teenager, Headley was thought to be a minimal security risk.

"[Cruise] was going to do his auditor training and he needed someone to audit and this person had to be low on the bridge. That was me," he writes. Cruise had arrived at the base with his then-girlfriend, Nicole Kidman (they were married later that year), and Headley writes about what a thrill it was when Cruise took him on an impromptu ride on his motorcycle.

In the book, however, Headley doesn't go into any real detail about what transpired during the three weeks that he spent with Cruise as the actor went through his training, using Headley as a guinea pig. What actually happened?

Headley says that Cruise took him through something called the "Upper Indoctrination Training Routines," or "Upper Indoc TRs," in the abbreviation-filled jargon of Scientologists.

And what did those entail?

"You do a lot of things with a book and a bottle," Headley says. "It's known as the book-and-bottle routine." Cruise, he says, would instruct Headley to speak to a book, telling it to stand up, or to sit down, or otherwise to move somewhere.

"You do the same with the bottle. You talk to it. You do it with an ashtray too," he says. "You tell the ashtray, 'Sit in that chair.' Then you actually go over and put the ashtray on the chair. Then you tell the ashtray, 'Thank you.' Then you do the same thing with the bottle, and the book. And you do this for hours and hours."

Let us get this straight. Tom Cruise, who had already starred in Risky Business and Top Gun and Born on the Fourth of July and Days of Thunder, the man who, at the time, was 28 years old and perhaps the biggest movie star in the world, spent hours and hours of each day, for three straight weeks, instructing Headley to speak to inanimate objects, requesting that they get up and move on their own, and when they didn't, told Headley to move them anyway, and then thank them?

"For hours and hours," Headley says.

In God's name, why?

"It was to get your intention over to the bottle."

Your what?

"It was supposed to rehabilitate your ability to control things. And to be controlled," he says.

And there was more. It involved doorknobs.

"Tom would ask me to find a place in the room that I could easily communicate to. I was supposed to look around the room, and then tell him the place I had picked out. I might say, 'the doorknob.' And he'd tell me to over there and touch it. And then he'd say, 'OK. Now do it again with another place.'"

Headley says that after a couple of weeks, he did begin to wonder about trying to make objects move by talking to them. But this was Tom Cruise, and not someone you would question.

That was part of why Headley had been chosen. He was young and green, and had few contacts outside the base.

"It couldn't be someone who might run off the next day and tell the National Enquirer that Tom Cruise was telling me to talk to a bottle for the last three weeks," he says.

As Headley points out, this kind of instruction is quite common in Scientology, and you can even find the routines spelled out in places on the Internet.

But Headley's book also provides stunning material that has rarely been collected in one place, even with the Internet's deep resources on L. Ron Hubbard's strange creation. Headley's account as a whole provides a damning account of life working for Scientology leader David Miscavige at the secretive desert base, where young people who sign billion-year contracts work 100-hour weeks for little or no pay with the ever-present threat that they may be pulled into hellish disciplinary drills, or separated permanently from friends and family members for the slightest perceived infraction.

In 2005, after 15 years working at the base, Headley found himself accused of embezzling money (he'd actually been selling old Scientology equipment on eBay in an approved scheme to raise money for a new base project), and was told he was about to be declared a "suppressive person." He knew he'd probably be sent to the dreaded "Rehabilitation Project Force" in Los Angeles, a kind of prison program that was known to physically debilitate church members through harsh labor and extreme deprivation. He knew also that he'd be separated permanently from his wife of 13 years (she was also a Scientologist at the base) as well as the rest of his family in a notorious policy Hubbard had termed "disconnection."

Before he was scheduled to be interrogated, Headley made a break for it, ditching the base in a dramatic chase with security guards that ended with Headley taking a spill on a motorcycle. An ensuing shouting match with Scientology guards drew the attention of Riverside County sheriff's deputies, who helped Headley get away.

Headley managed to get himself to Kansas City, where his father lived. But then came the real challenge: His wife, Claire, got word to him that she also wanted to defect so that they could be reunited. Would they be able to pull it off now that she was being watched day and night? Her attempt to escape provides a thrilling final chapter to the book, which, while showing some of the rough edges of a self-published tale, is well-paced and an entertaining read.

While he was at Gold Base, as the compound is known, Headley worked many different jobs that generally had to do with manufacturing audio and video products for Scientologists. He also was involved in setting up large stage productions that Miscavige used for celebrating church members but also to shake them down. ("The big events were really about getting people to donate money," Headley says.) And he also was involved in installing audio and video equipment at various Scientology facilities.

Headley provides a vivid picture of what it was like to manufacture thousands of copies of old L. Ron Hubbard speeches on cassette tapes, for example, with equipment that had a tendency to break down and with the fear of reprisals from Miscavige if quotas weren't met.

The diminutive church leader, who wrested control of Scientology after Hubbard died in 1986, spends most of the book screaming at hapless Gold Base workers who rarely seem able to please him. In one incident, Headley writes, when he pointed out, with a touch of sarcasm, that production quotas would be simple to meet with the tens of millions of dollars Miscavige planned to lavish on a new manufacturing facility, the Scientology leader became enraged and assaulted Headley with a rain of blows. Tempted to lay into the much shorter man, Headley was held back by other employees.

Headley's claim that he was beaten echoes the numerous allegations by other former Scientologists in a St. Petersburg Times special investigative report, published earlier this year, which provided compelling evidence that Miscavige is known in Scientology for physically assaulting his employees. (The church has denied that the beatings took place and routinely accuses any former members of lying.)

But we noticed something else interesting about Headley's tales regarding the manufacture of items for Scientologists. On numerous occasions, Headley writes about the fabrication of "e-meters," the small devices that are supposed to work something like lie detectors. Scientologist auditors use them in counseling sessions, but they're also used during interrogations -- called "sec checks" -- during which church workers suspected of wrongdoing are pressured to confess their "crimes."

Headley mentions that the devices cost the church about $40 to make, but were then sold for about $3,000 each. What really caught our attention was Headley's assertion that Miscavige demanded that enough of a new line of e-meters be manufactured so that every member in the world could purchase two of them. (Headley says each working Scientologist is supposed to have a backup unit in case the other fails.)

In order to have that many, Miscavige demanded that 30,000 be built, Headley writes.

We asked Headley, doesn't that imply that there are only 15,000 Scientologists in the world?

"The actual number is more like 10,000. You had to make more than that because various orgs [facilities] needed to have extra on hand," he says. "That figure can be cross-checked so many ways."

When the New York Times recently reported that a French court had found that Scientology was a fraud, it dutifully cited Scientology's own claim that the church has 10 million members worldwide. But the Associate Press this week reported that a survey of Americans and their religious affiliations suggested that this country only has about 25,000 active Scientologists.

Years ago, we watched church president Heber Jentzsch (whose title is largely ceremonial) admit under oath in a court deposition that when Scientology claimed millions of members, it was referring to all of the people who had ever bought a manual or taken a class in the organization's entire history (the church was founded in Los Angeles in 1954).

Headley says there was another method that confirmed his estimate. At especially important events -- like the time Tom Cruise was awarded a "Medal of Valor" in 2004, or at New Year's Eve celebrations -- about 4,000 Scientologists could be counted on to show up at a venue like the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Every other "org" around the world, watching the event on a video feed, would report their own attendance figures. "You added it all up, at every big event, it would always add up to about 10,000. It would never fall to 2,000 or go up to 20,000. It was always about 10,000," Headley says.

As for that Medal of Valor event, Headley provides some fascinating background on the notorious 9-minute video which was created for it featuring Tom Cruise talking about his powers as a Scientologist. The video was leaked to the Internet in January, 2008 and Scientology's attempt to suppress it gave rise to the Anonymous movement, which has been such a thorn in the church's side ever since.

Headley was present as plans were made for the Cruise celebration video. The first version featured various Scientology celebrities talking about how much they loved Cruise. It was a "puff piece" and Miscavige hated it, Headley writes.

"The next batch of interviews done was of non-Scientologists who knew Tom. Everyone from Steven Spielberg to Will Smith was interviewed...Now we had all of these people talking about how Tom Cruise was a really nice guy. Being a nice guy does not get you an IAS Freedom Medal award." Miscavige hated this version too, and there were only a few weeks left before the event.

"David Miscavige ended up dictating the entire Tom Cruise video project. Dave's idea was that no one could talk about Tom Cruise better than Tom Cruise himself."

Headley says that everything -- from the segments used, to how they were arranged, to the choice of the music, and the smallest details of the edit -- were all the result of Miscavige's obsessive tinkering.

"Dave Miscavige later said that his Tom Cruise video was one of the most important videos that had ever been produced. He had no idea how true that was," Headley writes, referring to the flood of negative publicity the church has endured since the video was leaked last year.

Headley's book also provides a much richer telling of the now-infamous "Bohemian Rhapsody" incident that the St. Petersburg Times series revealed, and which illustrates Miscavige's harsh notions of church management. Unhappy with a variety of matters involving staffing and, more specifically, with problems at a music studio, Miscavige, Headley writes, happily hit on a way to show his employees that he meant business: he had chairs arranged in a large circle for about 70 executives in a large room. Then he explained that they would begin playing a game of "musical chairs," and he chose Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" for it. Each round, one chair would be taken away, and one person would find themselves without a seat. The last person remaining would stay at the base and would help Miscavige fill the positions vacated by the others -- because everyone else would be shipped out, that night, to the worst, most remote Scientology postings on the globe.

Headley vividly describes the desperate flailing, the wailing, the tears, as grown men and women fought over chairs to keep themselves from being shipped that night to places far away with the likelihood that they would never see their spouses or children ever again. When it was over, and people were openly weeping, they waited to be transported -- and then learned that Miscavige was sending no one anywhere.

"Turns out it was going to cost a fortune to fly all these people all over the place and the logistics were not finalized as to how to ship everybody off to the different continents. Dave had called down late during the night and said that he was not willing to waste one single cent of Scientology's money," Headley writes.

Perhaps the best service that Headley provides with Blown for Good is giving non-Scientologists the sense of what it's really like to work, day in and day out, in such a strange organization, from the lowliest laborer mucking out excrement in a Gold Base pond (Headley says shit was coming out of his ears and pores for days) to what kind of luxuries the celebrities and high-ranking members enjoy. (Even when he was in charge of entire departments, Headley himself was never really a privileged member. After his marriage, he and his wife were lucky that they had to share their two bedroom Scientology apartment with only six other base workers.)

From the fear of meetings with "COB" (David Miscavige's nickname among Scientologists, standing for "Chairman of the Board") to how everyone was trained to eat a meal in only a few minutes (or often went without meals, and usually went without sleep), you get a palpable sense of working for Scientology, or what it was like just trying to be understood: Even in a book written for the general public, Headley can't seem to keep from falling occasionally into an alphabet soup of maddening Hubbard acronyms and jargon.

To illustrate what a foreign language Scientologists speak, he provides this example, spoken by his supervisor soon after he first becomes a church employee: "The ED ordered that I go over to the PAC and see the Dissem Secs from ASHO and AO and get the WUS and EUS T&P BMO lists that we use each week for our SBC promo. I should be back here at the HGB by dinner. If the FBO or Treas Sec ask where I went, can you tell them that I am on a GI cycle for the stats."

What's it mean? Not much. Not anything worth translating, anyway. Headley says it took him years to begin figuring that out, that the nonsense language, the overdetermined hierarchy, the talking to bottles and ashtrays, the constant threat that he'd be separated forever from his wife or his parents -- that none of it added up.

Headley gives credit to a couple of different sources for finally beginning to help him begin doubting his near slavery at Gold Base. Secretly listening on a Walkman while he worked to John & Ken, a comedy duo at Los Angeles radio station KFI, helped him begin to raise questions about life at the base. And even more importantly, he says, he was affected by watching Conan O'Brien, who always seemed to poke fun at Scientology celebrities in a way that was shocking to a Scientologist who always heard them spoken of in hushed tones of awe.

Once Headley was finally able to escape, he found that he didn't become homeless or a drug addict, as he was programmed to believe by his Scientology handlers. Instead, he used the skills he'd learned at the base to open his own multimedia business in Los Angeles. It's thriving, he says, and he and Claire now have two small boys, something they could not have done as long as the two of them had continued working at the compound.

In January, Headley filed a lawsuit against Scientology, claiming that the church had violated labor law by paying him very little or nothing at all during many years at the base. His attorney is Barry Van Sickle, and they've fended off numerous attempts by Scientology to have the lawsuit dismissed. A federal trial is scheduled in the lawsuit for November, 2010.

In the five years since he left the Gilman Hot Springs, Headley has heard that conditions for the workers there have only worsened. "People are now being escorted by security on their bathroom breaks. Think about that. On their bathroom breaks," he says.

Headley says he gets regular reports on conditions throughout the Scientology organization from many sources.

"There are so many disaffected people in Scientology. So many disaffected Sea Org members, and they want to see everything come out," he says.

He points to the book as an example. The cover design? It's by a former Scientologist who designed many of the church's most iconic publications. And the editing? It was done by a former Scientologist who edited many of the church's most important books. "It's funny," he says with a laugh, when he points that out about his book.

Miscavige, he predicts, won't appreciate the humor. But he will get the message.

Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of the Village Voice. Since 1995, he's been writing about Scientology at several different publications. Among his other stories about L. Ron Hubbard's organization..

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  1. Katie Holmes: Scientology cult will not get my Suri

    Actress vows to save her daughter from Scientology

    By GORDON SMART, Showbiz Editor, PETE SAMSON, US Editor, and CAROLINE GRANT in Iceland, The Sun UK July 1, 2012

    TOM Cruise’s wife Katie Holmes is divorcing the star to save daughter Suri from Scientology, it was revealed last night.

    Katie, 33, is fighting for sole custody of Suri, six, so SHE — and not Cruise, a follower of the cult faith — controls the child’s religion and education.

    A pal said she was “terrified” Suri would soon have to begin Scientology schooling.

    Katie reached breaking point with hubby Cruise because she felt “suffocated” living with his mum and sister.

    The constant presence of the Hollywood superstar’s family triggered rows between the celebrity couple.

    And it is one of the main reasons behind Katie’s decision to divorce Top Gun idol Cruise.

    The actress, who will look to friend Victoria Beckham for support, is also desperate to save Suri from the Scientology religion followed by her three times-wed husband.

    Katie, raised as a Catholic, is said to have been secretly plotting the split for weeks.

    While Cruise was away filming, she whisked Suri to New York from their Beverly Hills home and rented an apartment in the Big Apple for her and the little girl to move into.

    Citing “irreconcilable differences,” she hired a hot-shot lawyer to end the five-year marriage — and is seeking sole custody of her daughter.

    She is thought to have a better chance in New York as Scientologists are rife in powerful positions in Los Angeles and Californian courts are more inclined to favour joint custody deals.

    But last night reports claimed Cruise, who turns 50 on Tuesday, is set to fight back by launching rival divorce proceedings and demanding they be heard in LA.

    His lawyers will insist Katie does not meet residency requirements to file in New York because although the couple have a plush property in the city, their “full-time” home is in California.

    A source told a US celebrity website: “At the same time, Tom will file for divorce in California and will request joint custody of Suri.

    “There is absolutely no way he is going to let Katie have sole custody.

    “The lines are being drawn and this is going to shape up as a very contentious custody battle.”

    The three issues of the in-law war, Suri’s future and Scientology are intertwined.

    Cruise’s mum Mary Lee, sister Cass and adopted children Isabella, 19, and Connor, 17, all live in the couple’s Beverly Hills mansion.

    They are Scientologists and Cass helped to home-school Isabella and Connor.

    A source close to Cruise and Katie said: “Katie has found the set-up extremely suffocating at times. One of the main things she and Tom fought over was his family.

    “His mum was always around everywhere they went and so were his sister and kids. They all lived in the same mansion. But even though the house is huge it just became too much for Katie.”

    Another source said Katie was “terrified” at how Suri would turn out if she was inducted into Scientology.

    Cruise — said to have been “completely shocked” by Katie’s announcement of her divorce action on Friday — went to ground in Iceland’s capital Reykjavik yesterday.

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    The Mission: Impossible hero is in the country filming scenes for his new movie Oblivion. He is flying between Reykjavik and the set by helicopter — and looked haunted when spotted.

    Isabella and Connor are with him. And the lad has been happily tweeting about his adventures there, which have included whitewater rafting, cliff jumping and grilling hot dog sausages in a volcanic crater.

    But his tweets stopped as soon as Katie, who played tomboy Joey Potter in TV series Dawson’s Creek, went public on her divorce plans.

    Friends believe this proved Cruise, along with Connor, was taken totally by surprise. The source said: “It will take time for Tom to get his head around it all.”

    A former pal of Cruise told last night how Katie made her move because Suri was about to begin learning and practising Scientology — a movement founded in 1952 by sci-fi writer L Ron Hubbard and also followed by Grease star John Travolta.

    Marc Headley, 39, was a confidant of the star at the controversial religion’s Gold Base HQ in Gilman Hot Springs, California, before he quit the cult.

    He described the religion’s “security checks” in which ethics officers probe followers using a device called an e-meter, which claims to use electrical energy to measure emotional shifts. Marc said: “Suri has just turned six and that is when Scientology children first endure child security checks. They are rigorous interrogations that are terrifying, especially to children. She would also be tested by the e-meter.

    “I wouldn’t want my children or anyone’s children to go through this ordeal. They would bark at Suri, ‘Did you steal?’ or “Did you lie?’ She is only six. This is why Katie is choosing to escape now.

    “The fact that Katie has gone aggressively for sole custody is to save Suri from Scientology. She knows if Tom has his way, the girl will be home-schooled by the cult.

    “Katie can see how badly it turned out for Isabella and Connor.

    “She has seen they have no relationship with their mother, Nicole Kidman, and she’s terrified of that happening to her.” Married dad-of-two Marc, claimed Katie was HAND-PICKED to be Cruise’s wife by the Church of Scientology. He said the relationship was orchestrated by Scientology leader David Miscavige, 52, who was Cruise’s best man at their wedding near Rome.

    He added: “The Church recruited Katie to be Tom’s wife.”

    Katie is said to have rented the New York pad despite having a home there. It is thought she wanted her own place.


    MyView BY SAMANTHA DOMINGO, Ex Scientologist

    DIVORCE isn’t controversial in Scientology if both parties remain in the religion. But it gets very messy if one leaves — as I did. My husband and I were given Scientology-style counselling before our divorce. As you’re questioned you hold electrodes hooked to an “e-meter” with a dial while an auditor interprets its movements. After two weeks we were exhausted. When I left Scientology I spoke about my awful experiences, including being coerced into an abortion.
    My ex-husband was then told to disconnect from me and to only contact our kids through a lawyer. If Katie leaves Scientology and Tom remains in it, things could get difficult. I’ve no doubt the church will do all it can to keep them both under control.

    read the rest of this article and see the photos at:


  3. The school at the centre of Cruise split

    Insiders claim Katie Holmes filed for divorce to prevent the Church of Scientology educating her daughter

    by Guy Adams, The Independent July 3, 2012

    Katie Holmes filed for divorce from Tom Cruise in an attempt to prevent her six-year-old daughter being educated at schools with links to the Church of Scientology, multiple sources claimed yesterday, adding to evidence that the controversial faith lies at the centre of the couple's split.

    The blockbuster legal battle, which became public on Friday, has highlighted disagreements between Holmes and Cruise over their child Suri's relationship with the New Village Leadership Academy in Calabasas. The school educates children using "study technology", a technique created by Scientology's founder, L Ron Hubbard.

    Holmes, 33, was raised a Catholic and is said to have concerns about Suri's religious upbringing. The Academy – which Suri was seen at in 2009, and again late last year – is officially secular, and employs "study technology" as just one of a range of educational methods. But several members of its teaching staff are Scientologists. The school is also considered a feeder to the Delphian School in Oregon, a $42,000-a-year boarding school which counts Tom Cruise and his ex-wife Nicole Kidman's adopted children Connor and Isabella, 17 and 19, among alumni. Up to half of its pupils are members of the church.

    "[Suri] is coming to an age where she gets educated enough to get locked into the faith," Marty Rathbun, a former senior executive in Scientology told The Independent yesterday. "That's why there's almost certainly truth in the consideration that schools have started coming into play in all this."

    Since news of the divorce broke, Holmes is said to have enrolled her daughter at a Catholic elementary school in Manhattan.

    Cruise is Scientology's most celebrated member. He and Holmes were married in 2006, at a ceremony presided over by the church's leader, David Miscavige. But they are said to have had growing disagreements over how the faith should be applied to rearing their child.

    "Scientologists believe in reincarnation, that infants are essentially ancient adults being in children's bodies," a source familiar with the dispute said. "Tom treats Suri as a little adult. Katie takes the opposite view: that she deserves a childhood."

    Importantly, Suri has reached the age at which church members begin being "audited", a form of counselling at the centre of Scientology. A "security check" devised by Hubbard for use on six to 12-year-olds requires them to be asked personal questions while attached to an "e-meter", measuring electrical charges carried by their body. The list of questions includes: "have you ever gotten yourself dirty on purpose?" And: "have you ever told bad stories about someone?"

    Holmes is apparently anxious to prevent her child from being subjected to any such "check". She is therefore reported to be seeking sole custody of Suri, a move that would give her the right to determine her religious upbringing and where she is educated. The actress filed for divorce in New York, while Cruise, 49, has counter-filed in Los Angeles. Both jurisdictions will take a similar view regarding the distribution of the couple's $275m fortune, but New York courts tend to grant sole custody, while joint custody arrangements are more common in California.

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    Holmes is perhaps also anxious to prevent history from repeating itself. When Cruise divorced Kidman, he secured a joint-custody agreement. The couple's children grew up as members of the church and today have a relatively distant relationship with their mother, who is not a Scientologist.

    Mr Rathbun says he "audited" Cruise at Scientology's headquarters in Los Angeles between 2001 and 2003, when the actor was divorcing Kidman, and claims to have witnessed this process. He said he saw Connor and Isabella, who were six and eight-years-old at the time, being introduced to auditing.

    "Everyone was thrilled to see Connor playing on an e-meter," he said.

    The church did not respond to queries about that affair yesterday. But in the past, it has attacked Mr Rathbun's credibility, describing him as a "liar", a "criminal" and an "apostate".

    Elsewhere, it was reported that Holmes was anxious to stave off an imminent effort to enrol Suri in the Sea Org, the church's clergy, which requires recruits to sign a billion-year contract.

    But expert sources poured cold water on those particular claims, pointing out that the Sea Org does not typically welcome new members until their teenage years. Mr Rathbun said, however, that schools which employ "study technology" – an educational technique that revolves around rigid study programmes, repeated use of dictionaries and a strong emphasis on building clay models – can provide a long-term path to membership in the organisation.

    "In the old days these schools would use study tech as a small part of a traditional curriculum," he said. "Now things have evolved, to the point where you hear of pupils are being assigned 'lower ethics conditions' and told to do auditing and getting an education which revolves around how to be 'good' Scientologists. Many of them are becoming a recruiting ground for the Sea Org."

    The church has yet to comment on its role in the divorce, except to deny extravagant reports carried by the British tabloids that yesterday suggested that it had hired private investigators to follow Holmes around New York. Behind the scenes, a damage-limitation exercise is afoot. But it is hampered by the unfortunate absence of Jessica Davis, a church employee who has been its leading point of contact with Holmes for many years. The wife of Tommy Davis, Scientology's spokesman, she has been ill for some time. As a result, a church source said, "David Miscavige lost his lines of communication with Holmes some time ago".


  5. Lachlan Murdoch with Rupert on Scientology being weird cult

    by JULIE POWER, Great Lakes Advocate July 4, 2012

    Rupert Murdoch's eldest son Lachlan Murdoch has issued a statement claiming he "comes close" to sharing his father's views on Scientology.

    In his own statement, Lachlan Murdoch denied that he'd ever thought about joining the group, allegations that arose following reports that movie star Tom Cruise – perhaps Scientology's most famous member – tried to convert him.

    "I can confirm, on the record, that I have never considered or close to considered becoming a Scientologist in any way or at any time.

    "The premise of the story is entirely wrong. I probably come close to sharing my father's views about the religion, but I resist tweeting them," Lachlan Murdoch said in a statement published in The Telegraph in the United Kingdom.

    Lachlan's father, News Ltd's chairman, Rupert Murdoch, this week described the Church of Scientology as a "weird cult"' on Twitter, giving hope to those fighting to reverse Scientology's status in Australia as a tax-exempt religion.

    Mr Murdoch was the most "significant figure" to have come out against Scientology, said Nick Xenophon, the independent South Australian senator who has championed the fight against Scientology in Australia. He "wholeheartedly congratulated" News Ltd's chairman for his comments.

    "For every high profile Scientology bust up like Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes [which prompted Mr Murdoch's comments on Twitter] there are hundreds of unreported cases where people's lives are ruined because they've tried to break away from Scientology.

    "To have someone as powerful as Rupert Murdoch take on Scientology would give some comfort to the people whose lives have been ruined by it and are trying to escape it, " he said.

    Senator Xenophon said he hoped the government's new Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, which is being established, would apply a test to Scientology and other religions to check that they weren't doing more harm than good.

    Former cult member David Ayliffe said Australia should follow France and outlaw Scientology as a religion. The Australian High Court ruled in 1983 that Scientology was a religion and, as such, was entitled to tax exempt status.

    The 2011 Census data reveals just 2163 Australians call themselves Scientologists. By contrast, there are 65,000 self-described Jedi Faith Masters.


  6. Katie Might Be Able to Leave Tom — but Divorcing Scientology Won’t Be Easy

    by Eliza Shapiro, The Daily Beast July 4, 2012

    Leaving a highly secretive and close-knit group like Scientology might not be as easy as checking the “irreconcilable differences” box.

    Since news broke that Katie Holmes filed for divorce from Tom Cruise, her husband of nearly six years, speculation has been rampant that she wants out of Scientology—and she wants to take daughter Suri with her.

    Steve Hassan, an “exit counselor” who says he’s worked with “countless” people trying to leave the Church of Scientology, says the church has a history of blackmailing members into staying within the fold by threatening to divulge intimate details they’ve shared in “auditing sessions.” These are counseling sessions in which one member coaches another to “clear,” or rid himself, of any negative forces that interfere with devotion to the church. Hassan says people he’s worked with have described the church as strong-arming “members to give up their children.”

    Holmes, says Hassan, “has a right to be concerned about her daughter.”

    Suri is now 6 years old, the age when kids reportedly start becoming more involved in Scientology, and being subjected to a process called “sec checking,” which the Village Voice describes as an interrogation to make sure kids and their parents aren’t “hiding any covert hostilities to the organization.” The extensive list of questions allegedly includes what founder L. Ron Hubbard dubbed “the most potent” query: “What has somebody told you not to tell?”

    Marty Rathbun, who left the church in 2004 and describes himself as an “independent Scientologist,” says getting out can mean losing “every business contact you ever made, every friend you ever had, and every family contact you ever had.” A person who leaves the church is categorized as a “suppressed person,” he says, and an official shunning policy called “disconnect” is immediately enforced.

    Multiple messages left with the Church of Scientology International in Los Angeles were not returned, nor were emails and phone calls to Cruise’s representatives.

    Short of going into the witness-protection program, how can Holmes disentangle herself and her daughter from the Church of Scientology?

    Ex-Scientologist Sasha Zbitnoff, 40, says a good first step is finding others who’ve made the leap. He says he was raised in the church, but when he was 20 years old, he started questioning the ethics of Hubbard and his teachings, and eventually decided to leave. “You become a lemming in a big scary world,” says Zbitnoff of making the transition. At the time, he sought out other ex-members to share stories and feel connected.

    A network of former Scientologists has blossomed on websites like the Ex Scientologist Message Board, which contains bountiful advice for Holmes. “Do not sign anything that stops you talking about Scientology!!!!!” reads one entry.

    Some former Scientologists say it takes years of talking to others with similar stories to understand the experience. Once out of the church, old habits die hard. Zbitnoff says that his first relationship after leaving Scientology was essentially a replication of what he had learned in the church; he instinctively saw friends and family outside the relationship as a potential threat.

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    Holmes appears to have already started building a new network of associates, reverting to her old, pre-Cruise public-relations firm and firing her old security detail. Leslie Sloane, Holmes’s agent, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

    David Bromley, a professor of religion at Virginia Commonwealth University, says the process for leaving the church is fairly extensive and often involves “burning bridges ... and breaking up friendships and families.”

    Hassan says he tries to have ex-members identify the difference between their church “identities and real identities.” He asks his patients to remember what they did before they joined their groups in order to reconnect with their former selves. A “basic” session with Hassan is typically 25 hours spread over multiple daily sessions. Hassan himself is a former member of the Unification Church, also known as the Moonies, a group he left only after his family intervened, hiring an agent to “deprogram” him. During his two and a half years in the church, he says, he was a “total fanatic.”

    Experts say deprogramming, in which friends or family forcibly remove loved ones from religious groups, was popular in the 1970s. But after a series of high-profile allegations of kidnapping, it’s now rarely done. Peter Farrell, a former Scientologist who joined the church as an adult, says, “Leaving was a very scary experience.” After Farrell spent most of his life savings, including his children’s college savings, on auditing sessions and classes offered by the church, his wife hired Hassan to intervene. Farrell is currently a veterinarian outside Albany. “Katie is scared with really good reason,” he said of Holmes.

    James Richardson, a sociologist at the University of Nevada, says that when members express skepticism or decide to leave, the church attempts to isolate them from the group to prevent their doubts from spreading. Jeff Hawkins, a member of the church for 35 years, says he tried to make it simple. “I said, ‘I want to leave.’” He says he was then put in a “three-month program of security checks and hard labor,” involving weeding and trimming trees at a Scientology center in California.

    Hassan says he’s worked with patients who have had “psychotic breakdowns” after leaving Scientology, and others who have been left in financial ruin after spending their life savings on courses and auditing fees. He says he’s skeptical about Holmes’s chances of making a tidy exit from the church: “I hope she’s getting good advice.”


  8. Katie Holmes is Biggest Nightmare in Scientology History, Say Experts

    by Dana Kennedy, Hollywood Reporter July 4, 2012

    In filing for divorce from Tom Cruise -- and apparently blindsiding him -- amid indications she doesn’t want her daughter raised a Scientologist and is seeking sole custody, Katie Holmes has made it clear that she is taking a very different tack from Nicole Kidman, who split up with Cruise in 2001.

    Kidman effectively lost the two children she adopted with Cruise when the kids chose to live with their father after the divorce. She has said it was the kids’ decision to stay with Cruise but has never explained why.

    "With Katie, it's like she’s taking a leaf from [Church of Scientology founder]  L. Ron Hubbard's own playbook," says Marc Headley, an ex-Scientologist who fled the church with the help of police in 2005 after years spent working closely with Cruise and his close friend, Scientology's powerful and feared chairman, David Miscavige. "Hubbard always said, 'Attack, don’t defend.' "

    Holmes appears more aggressive and fearless than those who have taken steps to distance themselves from the church or have "blown" -- Scientology parlance for leaving the church -- according to one-time key members of the church who have left, many after years of soul searching, and endured what they claim was often harassment, intimidation and being cut off from their families.

    But some of Holmes’ apparent courage could stem from the fact that many of the high-ranking Scientologists who ran interference for Cruise during his marriage to Kidman and often discouraged or intimidated mainstream media from reporting on Scientology have left the church. A number of them are now actively working against Miscavige and Cruise by spilling church secrets to the very reporters they once threatened.
    Even Jenna Miscavige Hill, David Miscavige's niece, who left the church in 2005, issued astatement Tuesday in support of Holmes and any concern she has over her daughter's involvement in the church.

    "My experience in growing up in Scientology is that it is both mentally and at times physically abusive," Jenna said. "I was allowed to see my parents only once a week at best -- sometimes not for years. We got a lousy education from unqualified teachers, forced labor, long hours, forced confessions, being held in rooms, not to mention the mental anguish of trying to figure out all of the conflicting information they force upon you as a young child. ... As a mother myself, I offer my support to Katie and wish for her all the strength she will need to do what is best for her and her daughter."

    Still, Holmes’ decision to file for divorce from Cruise in New York state and ask for sole legal custody and primary physical custody of their 6-year-old daughter, Suri, sent a strong message, ex-members say, that she isn’t cowed by Cruise and his reputation as a prominent member of what has long been considered a powerful and litigious organization. Holmes has hired Allan Mayefsky, a high-powered matrimonial lawyer with experience handling difficult divorces who is known to play cases out in the media, as well as New Jersey divorce lawyer Jonathan Wolfe.

    Requests for comment from Holmes attorneys were not immediately returned.

    "Katie ambushed Tom Cruise and in so doing outwitted some of the most controlling people on Earth," says Karen De La Carriere, who was once one of the most powerful executives in Scientology and was married to Heber Jentzsch, Scientology's longtime president who mysteriously hasn't been seen in years. De La Carriere shocked the church by leaving in 2010 and telling secrets in anti-Miscavige blogs -- including her claim that she was kept for six months against her will at the secretive church base camp near Hemet, Calif.

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    "I have no doubt that she’s being tailed by them. It's par for the course. But she had to have planned this very carefully, right down to using disposable cell phones and laptops to throw people off her trail. It had to have been a very cloak-and-dagger operation."

    A former Scientologist with close ties to members of Cruise's family says his adopted daughter Isabella worked for Holmes at her clothing line, Holmes and Yang, and was abruptly fired about two months ago.

    "There was never any trouble between them," says the source. "Bella called Katie ‘Mom.’ She was fired out of the blue, and once Katie filed for divorce, it all made sense. This was a carefully planned ambush. Katie didn’t want Bella working for her anymore because she was Tom’s kid."

    Backed by her family, according to sources, especially her father, who is a divorce attorney, and perhaps emboldened by the increasing critiques and exposés of the church by former top members, Holmes is standing up to Scientology in a way that was almost unthinkable in 2001.

    "This was a very bold move on Katie’s part, but at the same time she knows these are different times and she has more support," says De La Carriere, who joined the church’s elite and secretive Sea Organization in the early 1970s at the invitation of the Hubbard, who died in 1986, and is the last surviving top "auditor" to be trained by him. (Auditing is a form of counseling central to Scientology philosophy.)

    "By filing for sole custody of Suri, she’s making it very clear she’s not going to let what happened with Nicole Kidman happen to her," says De La Carriere.

    Holmes has the advantage of going up against an organization that has been significantly weakened during the past decade, as an increasing number of high-level Scientologists such as Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder have defected. Together, Rathbun and Rinder were considered the second- and third-most powerful church officials under Miscavige and took care of troublesome legal and media issues, among them Cruise’s divorce from Kidman. The pair have been described as one of the church’s most effective weapons by ex-Scientologists and in many media accounts.

    "They don’t have the resources or the people to help them attack the way they used to because so many key people have blown," says Amy Scobee, whose mother signed her over to Scientology when she was 15 and who went on to run the church’s Celebrity Centres before leaving in 2005 because she did not like Miscavige. Scobee also knew Cruise well and hired his household staff (who were Scientologists) when he was married to Kidman.

    "Marty and Mike are irreplaceable," says Scobee. "They were tough. They understood Scientology, and they knew how to take care of business. Scientology can hire all the lawyers they want now, but they won’t hold a candle to Marty and Mike. The people Miscavige needs to help him with the Tom and Katie mess are now on the outside working against them."

    In response to previous reports in The Hollywood Reporter that cited Scobee’s accounts of her experiences, the church attacked her credibility, saying she was dismissed from the church for gross malfeasance.

    Hundreds of people including high-level leaders have left -- or tried to leave -- the Church of Scientology, especially in the past six to seven years, as dissatisfaction with Miscavige has intensified. Many defectors, most of whom remain loyal to Hubbard’s legacy and teachings, have accused Miscavige -- variously in the press, in books and, in the case of Headley, in a lawsuit filed in 2009 -- of being violent, of abusing adult and child labor laws at the Hemet base camp and of focusing too much on fund-raising.

    Even Rupert Murdoch tweeted this week that the church was "evil" and "creepy" in a move some saw as proof that the media should no longer fear reporting about the church.

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    Fox News' Geraldo Rivera followed the boss’ tweet with one of his own on Monday, asking, "Does Scientology have special program to provide cover for closeted gay superstars?"

    Holmes has not commented yet on why she decided to file for divorce from Cruise, but the actor's camp has indicated it was Holmes’ decision. Cruise issued a statement saying he was "deeply saddened."

    In contrast, Kidman has said that she was the one who was shocked by Cruise’s divorce petition in 2000, though she never took to Scientology during their 10-year marriage. She told Vanity Fair in 2002 that she was so upset by Cruise dumping her that she lay "crying in the fetal position on the floor" at one point.

    Unlike Kidman, who kept quiet during her divorce from Cruise and has rarely commented publicly about it since, Holmes already has made a statement of sorts by filing her petition in New York and saying she wants full legal custody and primary residential custody of their Suri.

    "Katie could blow Scientology wide open," says Rathbun, who was in the church for 22 years before leaving in late 2004. Rathbun, who calls himself an "independent Scientologist" and writes a candidblog popular with former members, was Cruise’s auditor and handled Cruise’s divorce from Kidman.

    "If Tom’s smart, he won’t fight her on anything, even custody. He should just try to settle his way out of it," says Rathbun. "She could press this sole-custody issue and litigate it, and that would be the biggest nightmare in the Church of Scientology’s history. It would be a circus they couldn’t survive."

    When THR cited Rathbun’s experience with Scientology in a previous article, the church also attacked his credibility, focusing partly on alleged personal transgressions.

    In a statement regarding the defectors who spoke on the record to THR, Gary Soter, a Calabasas, Calif.-based attorney representing the organization, said: "All of these people are ex-communicated self-promoters who are sadly exploiting a private family matter for their own personal financial gain. The Church stands by its previous statements with respect to all of them. They cannot be believed given they have acquired no firsthand knowledge of the Church for many years and have a record of making false and/or misleading statements about the Church."

    Says Headley, who was once the head of film and video production for Scientology: "The church may be underestimating Katie. She knows how to play Tom, and she’s been doing it brilliantly. She knows he’s locked down up in Iceland shooting his movie and he can’t fly back to the U.S. to handle this."

    Cruise was filming Oblivion in Iceland but flew back to the U.S. on Tuesday, his 50th birthday. His longtime lawyer Bert Fields did not respond to requests for comment, but it has been reported that Cruise has hired Dennis Wasser to represent him in the divorce -- the same attorney who represented him in the split from Kidman.

    When asked if the church is advising Cruise in this matter, Soter responded: "The Church doesn't comment on any individual parishioner or his or her spiritual journey. This is a private matter, and it is inappropriate for comment. The Church has respected and will continue to respect the privacy of both parties during this difficult period."

    Two former Scientologists who say they have a connection to both a member of the Holmes family and people still inside the church claim that Holmes’ family has been wary of Scientology from the start.

    One reason for their concern might have been that it is a common Scientology practice to order members to cut off or "disconnect" from family members who disapprove of the church.
    "Katie was monitored as if she lived under the Stasi," says Rathbun. "It was not quite as bad for Nicole. But that’s how it is now."

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  11. Because of Rathbun’s former status in Scientology, he says he is the go-to guy for people leaving the church. He told THR he got information about how Holmes has been spied on and reported on by Scientologists from people who defected as recently as three months ago.

    His well-read, no-holds-barred blog also contains detailed comments by many of them, a number of whom state their names.

    "Church members are required to report on one another, especially if they see any infractions to the way the church believes you should lead your life," says Rathbun. "Tom’s personal staff including his sisters are much more afraid of Miscavige than they are of Tom. They’ve reported every detail of Tom’s life to Miscavige for 15 years. Katie was always being watched. So is Tom."

    But even if Scientology is in a more precarious state than it was 10 years ago, these former members do not expect the church to necessarily abandon its trademark moves when it comes to trying to crush what it sees as the opposition. Nor does the church necessarily realize how the 24-hour news cycle and breaking-news gossip sites like TMZ have made some of its practices more transparent, ex-members say.

    "Scientology is going to do to Katie what they always do in these situations," says Headley, who wrote 2009's Blown for Good: Behind the Iron Curtain of Scientology. "They’re going to put a thousand private investigators on her tail and dig through her garbage and talk to her staff even though they don’t have any real dirt on her."

    Adds Headley: "Scientologists don’t know the world has changed. Miscavige lives in a bubble. They are still using Hubbard’s playbook for strategy that was written in the 1950s and doesn’t work too well in the age of the Internet."

    On the allegations that Holmes has been being followed by the organization, Soter wrote: "There is no truth whatsoever to the reports that the Church of Scientology has sent anyone to follow Katie Holmes. The cars and individuals widely reported in the media as looking suspicious were not sent by the Church.

    "We understand that the media has now confirmed that the 'suspicious' men outside of Katie Holmes’ residence were actually working for Katie Holmes (see, e.g. latest Inside Edition report)," he wrote. "Yet, one of the people that you interviewed confidently reported on his blog that the Church had hired security guards to follow Katie Holmes and that the Church and its attorneys were engaged in artful lying. I would consider any republication of alleged information from these sources to be made in reckless disregard of the truth."

    Rathbun, Rinder, De La Carriere, Scobee and Headley told THR they are still sometimes confronted, threatened or followed by people sent by the church years after having left Scientology. All of them, as well as other ex-Scientologists who did not want to go on the record, say they have been disconnected from family members.

    Says Rinder: "What Katie is doing is going to drive a wedge in a door that Scientology was trying to keep closed. She is going to stir up a media frenzy, and a lot of people are going to find out what a lot of us have known for years."
    Scobee says that the impending divorce -- Cruise’s third -- will be an embarrassment to Scientology. "The church is supposed to be about people improving their lives," she says. "It’s supposed to help people with their marriages, not get divorced three times."

    De La Carriere says Holmes may be legitimately scared for her daughter because she claims Scientology deliberately turned the two adopted children of Cruise and Kidman against Kidman during and after the divorce.  

    One anti-Scientology activist who has worked with church members after they left the organization recalls that Kidman called him during her divorce from Cruise.

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  12. "Nicole reached out to us because there was really no one else to go to," the source says. "It was very different back then, and she didn’t have anyone to go to for help and answers."

    Rathbun says Cruise was a "total gentleman" during his divorce from Kidman, and they split everything 50-50, including custody of their adopted daughter Isabella and son Connor.

    But Rathbun says that then the organization, including all the staff members who work in Cruise’s Los Angeles home, began to quietly turn the kids against Kidman.  

    Rathbun says he witnessed Tommy Davis, head of the church’s Celebrity Centre and the son of actress Anne Archer, feeding Isabella and Connor Cruise false information about their mother so as to turn them against her.

    "Tommy told them over and over again their mother was a sociopath, and after a while they believed him," Rathbun says. "They had daily sessions with Tommy. I was there. I saw it."
    A number of former Scientology members say Holmes must know that as Suri gets older, the church might start exerting more of an influence on her.

    "She’s at the age where the kids get indoctrinated," says Headley. "It’s like, playtime over. You’re a Scientologist now. And they really de-emphasize the family. Katie becomes a lot less important as a mother. It’s all about the organization over the individual."
    Soter compared the religious training of children to the practice in Catholicism of beginning to receive Holy Communion at age 7.

    "Parents may choose to begin educating their children about religion at any time, much as in any other religion," his statement said. "There is nothing unusual here."

    Headley, who began working 100-hour weeks at the Sea Org base in Hemet when he was 16, often for no pay, was shunned by his Scientologist mother when he left in 2005. 

    "You're either in or out when it comes to Scientology," says Headley. "That’s why Katie is making custody such an issue in the divorce petition. If you’re out, the way she seems to be, they want to cut you off from everyone, including your kids."

    Rinder says his biggest regret about leaving is that his son, daughter, mother, sister, sister-in-law, brother-in-law and several nieces and nephews refuse to speak to him.

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  13. Rinder’s 34-year-old daughter works at the Sea Org base near Hemet, where Miscavige has ruled in recent years that no one can marry or have children. His son, 29, works at the Clearwater, Fla., base, from which Rinder was turned away recently and accused of trespassing when he tried to see his son, who may have cancer.

    "I feel bad because I put them there -- they were born in the Sea Org," says Rinder. "They’ve been in it their whole lives. At the same time, they’re adults now, and I wish they’d come to their senses."

    Rinder’s children might not, as he says, "come to their senses" as Scientology forbids reading stories about the church on the Internet. 
    But despite the enormous amount of negative reports online about Scientology -- whether written by ex-members, church opponents or investigative journalists such as Lawrence Wright of The New Yorker, Tony Ortega of The Village Voice or the staff at The Tampa Bay Times -- none of it has really seemed to stick to the church, Rinder says.

    Ortega, for example, writes about Scientology at least once a week and broke the news last week that Miscavige’s father, Ron, and a niece of Hubbard escaped from the Sea Org base camp in Hemet sometime this spring after decades with the church.

    “I think Tom and Katie, along with Rupert Murdoch’s tweet, is what is going to open the floodgates,” says Rinder. “Murdoch basically telling all his own reporters that it’s open season on Scientology. It means Rupert isn’t scared of them and their reputation for litigiousness. That’s not good news for Scientology.”

    It is good news theoretically for Holmes, who might be more successful holding on to Suri after her divorce than Kidman was with her two adopted children if she wins the press over to her side and is able to force some transparency in her divorce negotiations with Cruise.


  14. Tom Cruise's Year at the Seminary

    by Michael Daly, The Daily Beast July 9, 2012

    Long before he embraced Scientology, Cruise studied for the priesthood. Michael Daly talks to the priests who instructed the future star about his surprising religious leap.

    Before Tom Cruise was a Scientologist, he was as devout a Roman Catholic as was his now estranged wife, Katie Holmes.

    And just in time for Cruise’s 50th birthday and just as his third marriage was unraveling, the priest who recruited him for the seminary more than three decades ago mailed him a photo.

    “I found an address online in Los Angeles,” says Father Ric Schneider of the Order of Friars Minor. “Probably an agent, I guess.”

    Father Ric took the photo of Cruise at the age of 14, when the man who is now the most famous of Scientologists was still among the best of Catholics and known by his family name, Mapother.

    Not that Father Ric was sending Cruise a message. The priest just thought the star might enjoy this captured memory of him in earth shoes and an unbuttoned shirt, standing beside another boy by a pond. A smiling Cruise is holding a radio-controlled boat the boys built in the hobby shop at St. Francis Seminary just outside Cincinnati in Mt. Health, Ohio.

    “A cute little kid,” Father Ric says.

    Cruise, like most of his classmates at St. Francis, attended the seminary more for the education than out of any serious thought of becoming a priest. But they had all shared the devout routine of those headed for ordination.

    “You went to daily Mass, you went to morning prayer, you went to evening prayer, you prayed before meals, you prayed after meals,” Cruise’s classmate Don Weller recalls. “He was well indoctrinated ... For him to totally shut himself off was just amazing.”

    Cruise went to the seminary after hearing Father Ric give a talk at St. Raphael the Archangel school in Louisville, Ky. Cruise’s mother had moved there with her son and three daughters after leaving his father. The departure had been preplanned, with the mother instructing her children to have their bags packed and hidden but ready. The father is said to have followed his family to Louisville and sought a reconciliation that was not forthcoming. The couple divorced shortly after Cruise’s 13th birthday.

    The next step for Cruise was to have been his father’s alma mater, St. Xavier High School, in Louisville. He saw an alternative when Father Ric ended his talk at St. Raphael’s by asking if anybody was interested in attending the seminary.

    Cruise—then still Mapother—expressed interest. Father Ric visited the boy’s home and spoke to the mother.

    “Nice home, nothing fancy,” the priest recalls.

    The priest administered the usual IQ test to determine if a candidate was likely capable of college-prep-level studies.

    “He just made it,” Father Ric says.

    As with all recruits, Father Ric drove Cruise up to the seminary on a Friday to get a firsthand look. Cruise attended class on Saturday and stayed there through Sunday, when Father Ric drove him back home. Cruise liked it well enough that he decided he wanted to enroll.

    He did not strike Father Ric as somebody likely to become a priest.

    “It was pretty obvious,” Father Ric says. “I think he went there to get an education. I didn’t get a sense he was serious about the priesthood or the religious life.”

    The priest adds, “He might just have wanted to get away from it all.”

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    In the fall of 1976, Cruise joined 67 other freshmen at the seminary.

    The Superior, the friar in charge, was Father John Boehman. He remembers Cruise as “basically a good kid” who was always smiling, but also “one of the ones more likely to get into trouble.”

    “If he could trip somebody or do something like that, it would be right down his alley,” Father John says.

    Cruise hardly seemed the stuff of a future movie star, with modest stature and in sore need of an orthodontist. One of his snaggled front teeth was chipped.

    “His teeth were different than they are today,” Father John notes.

    Cruise was not among the top students in academics. The instructor who appeared to make the biggest impression on him was Father Aubert Grieser, former chaplain to the New Mexico School for the Deaf and a passionate musician who prized three small stones he took from Beethoven’s grave and whose own compositions included a four-movement Mass, “Wa Ma Wa Ta,” that blended Gregorian chants with pop sounds.

    Father Aubert, the speech and drama teacher, would get students up on the stage and push them to overcome whatever was inhibiting them from letting go.

    “I think he did more for Tom Cruise than maybe anybody else did at that time to help him,” Father Hilarion Kistner says of Father Aubert. “He could just bring somebody out of themselves, get over their inhibitions and act and sing.”

    At St. Francis, Cruise played soccer and basketball for the Saints, where his teammate Weller remembers the future star could sometimes be “a little bit of a jerk. He was overcompensating for his height and his musculature. The upperclassmen kept him in his place.”

    Cruise shared with the others the bonds of working, playing, eating, and praying together, as well as sharing a dormitory and living under a code that was strict, though not harsh. But he did not seem to form any deep friendships.

    “I don’t think he was particularly close to really anybody,” Weller says. “Basically more of a loner, I guess.”

    But even then, Cruise showed the cockiness that would animate many of his starring roles.

    “That’s what he was as a freshman in high school,” Weller says. “He had that kind of persona. But he wasn’t big enough to make it stick, and he kind of became a little bit of a whipping boy.”

    Weller goes on to say, “He was always trying to prove something.”

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    Cruise did not return after his freshman year, enrolling instead at St. Xavier’s in Louisville. The friars and his seminary classmates were not surprised, as whatever calling he had seemed decidedly secular. The only reason for leaving he has ever voiced was, “I started to realize I love women too much to give all that up.”

    Weller stayed and in a sign of changing times his was the last class to graduate before the seminary closed. Weller says that the boy they knew as Mapother left his former classmates with no sense of where life might take him.

    They were astonished when he began to appear on screen, with a new name and new teeth but that same cockiness, now big enough via the magic of film to make it stick.

    “We were stunned: ‘Oh my God, that’s Mapother!’?” Weller recalls. “None of us had any idea that’s what he’d grow up to be.”

    When the speech and drama teacher Father Aubert saw Risky Business, he suggested to a TV interviewer that Cruise had lost a little too much inhibition.

    “Tommy was such a fine young man,” Father Frank Jasper recalls Father Aubert saying. “And now it’s disgusting. He’s making these dirty movies and jumping all over the furniture in his underwear. It’s totally disgusting!”

    The classmates might have understood if such attitudes had combined with general changes in society to nudge Cruise into lapsing from his faith. Total rejection was something else.

    “With only 68 people in the whole class, you got to know everybody pretty well,” Weller says. “To see him go over to Scientology was really kind of a shocker.”

    Just before the Cruise-Holmes break-up, Weller attended a St. Francis Seminary reunion, the shuttered institution being among those that have escaped any public manifestations of the sex-abuse scandals that have rocked the church. Father Ric put on a slide show during a pizza party. The long-ago photo of the two boys holding the radio-controlled boat flashed on the screen.

    “Somebody said, ‘Oh, there’s Tom!’” Father Ric recalls.

    Afterward, he decided to mail a copy to Cruise. And, by the kind of fortuitous chance for which Franciscans have a knack, it should have arrived just as the star was arriving at a bleak 50th birthday.

    His wife had slipped away from him with their daughter just as his mother had slipped away from his father with him. Holmes fled after taking full measure of what it might mean for a child to be raised in Scientology rather than in the faith that she and the seminarian turned star shared before they met. Her escape was managed by her father, who, along with the rest of her family, remains a prominent fixture at Christ the King parish in her native Toledo, Ohio.

    As for Cruise, he should know that in the true spirit of his former faith, he retains the very best wishes of all the friars.


  17. Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes amicably settle divorce, attorney says

    By Alan Duke, CNN July 9, 2012

    Los Angeles (CNN) -- Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes "amicably settled" their divorce just two weeks after Holmes filed for it, an attorney told CNN Monday.

    While no details of their agreement are public, the former couple said they are "working together" in the "best interests" of their young daughter.

    In the June 28 divorce filing, Holmes sought sole custody of 6-year-old Suri. Holmes and Cruise have been married for five years.

    "We are thrilled for Katie and her family and are excited to watch as she embarks on the next chapter of her life," said Holmes' attorney Jonathan Wolfe.

    Wolfe thanked Cruise's lawyers "for their professionalism and diligence that helped bring about this speedy resolution."

    Another one of Holmes' attorneys, Allan Mayefsky, said the divorce was "amicably settled."

    "The terms of the settlement are confidential," Mayefsky said. "The parties have issued a joint statement regarding this resolution. We will have no further comment."

    That statement, prepared jointly by Cruise, 50, and Holmes, 33, was sent to CNN by Cruise publicist Amanda Lundberg.

    "We are committed to working together as parents to accomplishing what is in our daughter Suri's best interests," the statement said. "We want to keep matters affecting our family private and express our respect for each other's commitment to each of our respective beliefs and support each other's roles as parents."


  18. Tom Cruise's former Scientology auditor speaks about Cruise/Kidman divorce

    By Anna Schecter Rock Center MSNB July 11, 2012

    Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise's settlement is now final and neither of them has publicly addressed reports that the Church of Scientology-and the future role of Scientology in their daughter Suri’s life-was a cause of the split.

    One former Church of Scientology official is speaking out about what he said he witnessed at the time of Cruise’s 2001 divorce from actress Nicole Kidman.

    Marty Rathbun, who worked at the church for 27 years before leaving in 2004, said that he believes church officials used Scientology doctrine to turn Kidman’s children against her.

    “It was more than implied….[Kidman] was somebody that they shouldn't open up with, they shouldn't communicate with, and they shouldn't spend much time with,” said Rathbun in an interview airing Thursday, July 17 at 10pm/9c on NBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams.

    Rathbun said he spent countless hours working with Cruise at the church’s celebrity center in California starting in late 2001. He said he was conducting counseling sessions with Cruise that the church calls "auditing.”

    “[Cruise] and I were intensively at it, you know, auditing several hours a day over several months,” he said.

    When Cruise’s children were with their father at the church, they were often in the hands of the Church of Scientology staff, according to Rathbun.

    “And they were being indoctrinated, and they were reporting to Tom on how that was going in my presence,” Rathbun said.

    Rathbun claims church officials suggested to Cruise and Kidman’s children, then six and nine years old, that their mother was a “suppressive person,” which the church’s website, Scientology.org, defines as “a person who seeks to suppress other people in their vicinity.”

    “A Suppressive Person will goof up or vilify any effort to help anybody and particularly knife with violence anything calculated to make human beings more powerful or more intelligent. The "suppressive person" is also known as the "anti-social personality." Within this category one finds Napoleon, Hitler, the unrepentant killer and the drug lord,” according to the official Church of Scientology's website, Scientology.org.

    Rathbun said the Church of Scientology closely monitors the communication of high profile members and orders members to sever ties with suppressive people, particularly those who are critical of the church.

    “That person could be your son, it could be your daughter, it could be your father, it could be your mother. It doesn't matter,” Rathbun said.

    Rathbun said these policies came into play with regards to Kidman’s children, Conner and Isabella. “They were being steered toward and indoctrinated toward coming to the conclusion that Nicole was a suppressive person,” he said.

    The Church of Scientology has denied that any such conversations with Kidman’s children took place. It has said that it has no policy that requires members to sever ties with relatives who do not believe in the religion. On the church's website, Scientology.org, it says that, "A Scientologist can have trouble making spiritual progress in his auditing or training if he is connected to someone who is suppressive...[and] as a last resort, when all attempts to handle have failed, one 'disconnects' from or stops communicating with the person."

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    The church declined to comment on the divorce of Cruise and Holmes, saying it would be “inappropriate.”

    Kidman’s publicist did not respond to requests for comment on this story. A representative for Cruise told Rock Center that Rathbun is not a reliable source.

    "He is a bitter ex-Scientologist who spends most of his time attacking Scientology and using Tom Cruise's name to get attention for his bigoted diatribe. If he "audited" Mr. Cruise, he is violating the privilege of that position by discussing it," said Bert Fields, Cruise's representative.

    Of the Church of Scientology's role in influencing Kidman and Cruise's children, Fields said, "It is absolutely false that Mr. Cruise, or anyone else to his knowledge, did or said anything to lessen Connor and Bella's communication or relationship with their mother. On the contrary, Mr. Cruise did all he could to encourage that relationship."

    In a letter to NBC News, Gary Soter, an attorney for the Church of Scientology, wrote that Rathbun is an unreliable source and a liar. Soter described Rathbun as “a defrocked ex-communicated apostate.”

    Soter wrote that Rathbun is a self-promoter who is “shamelessly” exploiting a tragic personal matter to forward his own anti-Scientology agenda and to profit from it.

    Scientology’s online publication FreedomMag.org contains numerous allegations against Rathbun, including charges of violent and psychotic behavior.

    Rathbun admits to violent behavior against other members of the church while still a member himself, but says it was part of the culture within the church, which the church denies.

    One of the posts on FreedomMag.org asserts that church officials ultimately fired Rathbun from the church for bad behavior and had to “clean up his mess.”

    When asked about the allegations against him, Rathbun replied, “Then why was I assigned by the Chairman of the Board to audit Tom Cruise during the last four years of my involvement at the Church of Scientology?”

    Karen Russo contributed to this report.

    Editor's Note: Kate Snow's full report airs Thursday, July 12 at 10pm/9c on NBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams.


  20. Scientology storm: Tom Cruise, bride auditions and Haggis' outrage

    By Matt Donnelly, Los Angeles Times September 3, 2012

    The Church of Scientology and Tom Cruise are certainly laboring this holiday weekend.

    An explosive new report contends the organization auditioned potential brides for Cruise following his 2001 split from Nicole Kidman -- one that's been backed up by a famous detractor of the religion.

    On Saturday, Vanity Fair magazine released a cover story titled "What Katie Didn't Know," an expose claiming an effort on the part of the church to find and vet partners for Cruise, a title that eventually went to his now ex-wife Katie Holmes.

    Reportedly executed by Scientology leader David Miscavige's wife, Shelly, the search for a new bride began in 2004 (presumably after Cruise's split from his "Vanilla Sky" costar Penelope Cruz), with an objective to find an eligible actress in the congregation.

    Those who met the criteria were told the church was filming a new training video for members, and were reportedly called in to audition for the nonexistent roles. They were asked, among other questions, "What do you think of Tom Cruise?"

    A former head of Scientology's in-house media studio, Marc Headly, told the magazine that he had seen several audition tapes and implied that the line of questioning served to benefit Cruise and his religion.

    "It’s not like you only have to please your husband -- you have to toe the line for Scientology," Headly said.

    But Headly is nowhere near the star of this account. The article identifies an actress and former Scientologist named Nazanin Boniadi, an Iranian-born beauty who was allegedly chosen by Shelly Miscavige for Cruise, whom he dated for two months.

    From November 2004 to January 2005, the story claims, Boniadi was placed in seclusion, given a credit card for expenses and policed heavily by church officials via Cruise. She had little contact with Tom, though the article said she'd moved in with the actor and occupied a bedroom in his house.

    As things deteriorated in January, due in part to Boniadi's reported refusal to indulge Cruise in public displays of affection, she was moved into L.A.'s swanky Scientology Centre, then to an affiliated center in Florida -- where she was made to clean toilets with a tooth brush and dig ditches, the article said.

    We'd call that a bad breakup. A Cruise rep is calling the whole report a lie.

    "Lies in a different font are still lies - designed to sell magazines," Tom's rep said in a statement, meaning the magazine is slumming it with such fare.

    The bombshell report marinated through Monday morning, when Vanity Fair got a supporter in Paul Haggis -- the Hollywood director who memorably blasted Scientology, of which he is a former member, to the New Yorker.

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    Haggis said he's known about Boniadi for three years, and is horrified by the church's treatment of the "General Hospital" player.

    "Naz was embarrassed by her unwitting involvement in this incident and never wanted it to come out, so I kept silent," Haggis wrote in an email to Showbiz 411.

    "However I was deeply disturbed by how the highest ranking members of a church could so easily justify using one of their members."

    The "Crash" director also makes the dizzying accusation that Boniadi is only one example of such treatment.

    "This story will draw attention because of our fascination with celebrity. Most of the others are just ordinary people whose stories, if told, would not appear in a magazine," he said, "they live in fear of retribution, legal, financial or personal, even some famous ones."

    And still, one more player in the fold: Katie Holmes. The teen soap star would go on to date Cruise three months after the story says Boniadi was sent packing. The one who would marry Cruise in 2006 and divorce him only weeks ago.

    She's the face smiling from Vanity Fair's cover, the same who's been bounding around New York Cityas a single mom (she and Cruise share 6-year-old Suri). Single indeed, but we'd hardly call this free.


  22. Documentary examines Scientologys sway

    British film probes links to Tom Cruise, other Hollywood stars

    BY POSTMEDIA NEWS Calgary Herald JUNE 18, 2013

    An explosive new documentary is pulling back the curtain on the controversial Church of Scientology’s grip on some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, RadarOnline.com reports.

    Mark (Marty) Rathbun — former inspector general of the church — speaks out in the new documentary that has aired in Britain called Scientologists at War. Rathbun outlines how the church’s leader, David Miscavige, had him work on a top-secret project in the 1990s to help Tom Cruise.

    Cruise star has been outspoken in defending the religion and has been actively involved in the church. Rathbun says it was he who lured Cruise’s Vanilla Sky co-star, and ex-girlfriend, Penelope Cruz into their sphere.

    Scientology even audited the Spanish star during the duo’s three-year relationship, Rathbun says. An “audit” is a Scientology term for a deep personal interview.

    “Cruise started making some noises about getting some help (from the Church of Scientology, and) Miscavige had me drop everything,” Rathbun told the Channel 4 exposé, which provides a rare look behind Scientology’s activities.

    Rathbun says Cruise “became number one priority” and he soon found himself the emotional crutch to the star of Jerry Maguire, Top Gun and other hits.

    “I helped him on his divorce from Nicole (Kidman) and then I was auditing him and I was helping him get Penelope auditing,” Rathbun said. “I was helping him in all aspects of his life.”

    Scientologists say auditing clears negativity to reach a plateau of spiritual awareness and access untapped potential. Miscavige was Cruise’s best man at his wedding to Katie Holmes.

    “(But) once Miscavige was able to hobnob with Cruise again, he was done with me,” Rathbun said. “(Miscavige) actually tried to denigrate me a little bit in Tom’s eyes. I was (Cruise’s) biggest opinion leader, having salvaged his marriage, his kids, his family life — even his career. It was crazy. Miscavige had to try and undermine me in front of Cruise.”

    In a 2012 Vanity Fair story, writer Maureen Orth said Cruise and Cruz split because the Oscar-winning actress would not give up her Buddhist beliefs and adapt to the Church of Scientology.

    Miscavige called Cruz a “dilettante.”

    The Scientologists have fired back and called Rathbun “an anti-Scientologist, desperate and delusional.”

    Amy Scobee, a former church executive — who once ran the Celebrity Centre sector — has said she and other influential staffers were assembled to establish Cruise’s $35 million home with Kidman and their children, Isabella and Connor, in Pacific Palisades, Calif.

    “It was a confidential project that I was not allowed to discuss with any other staff member … it was being run directly by Miscavige and his wife,” said Scobee, who left the church in 2005.

    “To that effect, it was a privilege: an honour to set him and Nicole up,” Scobee said. “But the clear goal was to ensure that he was set up with Scientologists only around him.

    “Now that I am out of the church, I have discovered that it is against the law, because the church was using members to give him special favours. Members working for him, directly. Putting together his sound theatre, cooking, various work.”

    Scobee said Cruise turned over some aspects of his life to the church — including, Rathbun revealed, his private confessions.

    “I audited a number of intensives of confessionals on Tom Cruise from July through November 2001,” Rathbun says in the documentary.

    “By order of Miscavige, many of those sessions were secretly recorded by a well-concealed video camera and voice recorder system built into the VIP auditing room at Celebrity Center International.”


  23. Alanna Mastersons Dad Calls Connor Cruise Worst Person in the World for Her to Date

    by Tony Ortega, The Underground Bunker July 7, 2013

    The Underground Bunker has teamed with Australia’s biggest-selling magazine, Woman’s Day, to bring you a report that should send some reverberations through Scientology celebrity culture.
    In its newest edition, which hit store shelves in Australia a few hours ago, Woman’s Day has published a photograph taken last month showing actress Alanna Masterson, 24, and the son of Tom Cruise, Connor, 18, on a recent lunch date.

    The magazine and the Bunker teamed up to ask Alanna’s father, Joe Reaiche, for his thoughts on his daughter spending time with Connor.

    Reaiche is a former Australian rugby star who now lives on Long Island. When he left Scientology behind in 2005, his entire family cut off ties with him, including Alanna and her half-brother, That ’70s Show actor Danny Masterson.

    Reaiche’s views on Alanna spending time with Connor Cruise were not very salutary.

    “I worry that she will see this as some sort of validation of Scientology that she is now going out with him and she gets access to Tom Cruise and his lavish lifestyle,” Reaiche says. “Connor is the worst person in the world for her to date, because while she’s dating him there is no hope that anyone will open up her mind to see Scientology for the scam it really is. I call Tom the Prince of Darkness — he’s got a warped view of Scientology and I don’t want my daughter anywhere near him.” ...

    read the rest, including links at:


  24. Makers of Scientology Documentary Call on Tom Cruise and John Travolta to Address 'Abuses'


    The makers of one of Sundance's most buzzed-about films are putting the heat on John Travolta and Tom Cruise.

    At a TimesTalk panel on Monday to discuss the controversial documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, director Alex Gibney was joined by writer Lawrence Wright, who wrote the 2013 book the film is based on, and two well-known critics of Scientology featured in the film: former church member Paul Haggis (the writer/director of Crash) and Mike Rinder, a former head of Scientology's Office of Special Affairs.

    Scientology has slammed the documentary as "dishonest" and based on accounts by "admitted liars and professional anti-Scientologists." In a statement to PEOPLE on Tuesday, the Church blasts the film as "propaganda" and says it has "long fought against the kind of bigotry and religious hatred that Mr. Gibney and [Wright] aim to incite."

    Moderator Logan Hill first brought up the film's depiction of Scientology's most famous members, saying, "I was struck by the film's focus on Travolta and Cruise. It seemed designed to and really put specific pressure on Travolta and Cruise to either reform or apostatize."

    Director Gibney explained why they were included in the documentary.

    "The fact is they are the front of the church. They are the reason a lot of people join, particularly Tom Cruise now. They have a recruiting power that's enormous. To put in the film the fact that they are abusing the power they have by not talking out about the church or not even exploring the abuses I thought was absolutely necessary. Otherwise, you have a lot of innocent people that are tumbling into the church on that account."

    The Church calls claims that Travolta and Cruise are used to recruit members – or hold any special recruiting power – "ridiculous".

    "Certainly Mr. Cruise and Mr. Travolta are prominent Scientologists but that is due to their prominence as celebrities and their professional accomplishments," the Church spokesperson tells PEOPLE. "They hold no position within the Church. They are parishioners who like other parishioners are busy with their careers and families. This is no different than other religions who have prominent members."

    Gibney went on to discuss Cruise's relationship with Scientology, including what the documentary claims is the church's involvement in his marriage with Nicole Kidman.

    "[Scientology leader] David Miscavige was terrified that he was losing control of Tom Cruise because Tom Cruise is the greatest rainmaker for Scientology. Miscavige was afraid that Nicole Kidman was slowly taking Tom away from the church, so there was a concerted effort to get him back."

    The Church spokesperson calls this assertion "utterly ludicrous" and "insulting" to Miscavige.

    Pulitzer Prize winner Wright urged that intervention by Travolta and Cruise is the only way to curb what he calls Scientology's abuse of power.

    "The reason we are calling out Cruise and Travolta is they have the capacity, the power, to change it. There are only two ways that you can address the abuses that are going on in Scientology. One is to re-examine the tax exemption. But some of those celebrity megaphones, if they were turned around in the other direction they could make a difference. They should make a difference. I'd like to see Tom Cruise stand up and say it's time for David Miscavige to answer his accusers."

    Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief airs at 8pm on March 29 on HBO.

    You can watch the TimesTalk at the link below, and read Scientology's full response on its website at http://www.freedommag.org/hbo/


  25. Are TV Networks Scared of Scientology

    by Lloyd Grove, The Daily Beast March 5, 2015

    Of all the roadblocks Alex Gibney encountered making his documentary on Scientology, the most surprising was the mainstream networks’ resistance to supplying clips.
    When Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney was putting the finishing touches on Going Clear—his expose of the Church of Scientology that premieres March 29 on HBO—he asked for permission from America’s broadcast and cable networks to use some of their Scientology-related material in his movie.

    Even though he was willing to pay for the privilege, he says their answer was unanimous: No.

    “One of the experiences we had,” Gibney said on Wednesday during a lunch with journalists at HBO’s Midtown Manhattan headquarters, “is that when we went to license footage from the major networks they all declined to license it to us for legal reasons…One of the reasons is that the Church is so litigious and so aggressive in threatening to keep stuff from being in the media.”

    Gibney added: “I found that interesting…that this somehow was too perilous to touch, because the Church beats its breast and says, ‘If you show that material, we’re going to sue you.’”

    The irony, Gibney said, is that when he was making Mea Maxima Culpa, the searing 2012 documentary about the 2,000-year-old, 1.2 billion-member Roman Catholic Church and its arrogant cover-up of priestly pedophilia, he had no trouble securing licenses from U.S. networks.

    The 62-year-old Church of Scientology, by contrast, has an estimated 55,000 members worldwide (though it officially claims 10 million) and yet it is apparently more formidable than the Vatican.

    This, after all, is a wealthy organization that, while banned as a fraudulent cult in Germany and restricted in operating in other countries, won U.S. designation as a legitimate religion—and tax-exempt status—from the Internal Revenue Service in 1993 after filing some 1,400 lawsuits against the nominally terrifying agency, many of them against IRS employees personally in a full-court press of intimidating tactics.

    The Church dropped its litigation after the beleaguered IRS caved.

    Concerning the networks’ decision to stiff him, “it was either intimidation or they did a risk-reward analysis,” Gibney told me. “I don’t know, because they wouldn’t tell us why except for ‘legal reasons.’ But I do find it interesting that I was able to license all sorts of clips about the Catholic Church but not things regarding the Church of Scientology. It shows the power of the Church’s litigious strategy to threaten lawsuits and get people to back down.”

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  26. Gibney said his complaint applies to all the U.S. networks, including CNN, where—ironically—he has placed several of his documentaries and is an executive producer of the CNN series Death Row Stories. Network spokespeople contacted by The Daily Beast declined to comment on Gibney’s allegations of spinelessness, but one person agreed to answer them if identified only as a “network news insider.”

    “It’s silly,” this person said, describing Gibney as “a disgruntled, unhappy filmmaker who didn’t get the footage he wanted…We cover Scientology, and we do have archives that we keep exclusively for our own use, like all networks do. We don’t have to license footage.”

    Still, Gibney didn’t sound particularly disgruntled, since the networks’ alleged timidity didn’t hamper his documentary, on which he collaborated with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright, on whose book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, the film is based.

    Despite the networks’ refusals, Gibney said, “we put it in anyway via ‘fair use’ ”—a free speech doctrine that allows the limited use of copyrighted material, without obtaining permission from the copyright holder, for journalistic and other purposes.

    Still, Gibney blames the media outlets for their apparent reluctance to anger Scientology officials and possibly provoke time-consuming and expensive court cases.

    “I think they owe the public more rigor than that,” he said of the networks. “This is a subject that is of huge interest and importance.”

    Gibney himself has felt the sting of the Church and its supporters for making his movie, including full-page newpaper ads attacking his integrity, a pro-Scientology video, ominously titled “Exterminating” Gibney’s Propaganda, and stacks of demand letters from high-powered law firms representing the Church and its adherents.

    “I’ve got many cards and letters,” Gibney said with a grin.


  27. Tom Katie and Suri A Scientology Story

    by Marlow Stern, The Daily Beast March 6, 2015

    Two subjects from the documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief open up about the faith’s most famous practitioner, Tom Cruise, and his Katie Holmes dilemma.
    People always knew Tom Cruise was a Scientologist, but they didn’t know the extent of it. That all changed in January 2008, when a video was released on YouTube featuring Cruise in a black turtleneck proselytizing like a man possessed.

    The nine-minute video, shown at a 2004 International Association of Scientologists meeting, is set to the Mission: Impossible theme and reportedly was used to attract new converts to the faith.

    “I think it’s a privilege to call yourself a Scientologist, and it’s something you have to earn, because a Scientologist does,” says a committed Cruise. “He or she has the ability to create new and better realities and improve conditions.”

    He adds, “Being a Scientologist, when you drive past an accident, it’s not like anyone else. When you drive past, you know you have to do something about it because you know you’re the only one that can really help.”

    For the first time, people saw Cruise for who he really is.

    But there’s more. In Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney’s HBO documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, in theaters March 13 (and on HBO March 29), a large portion of it is devoted to Cruise—Scientology’s most recognizable face.

    The film claims that Cruise’s second wife, Nicole Kidman, was labeled a “Potential Trouble Source” (PTS) by Scientology head David Miscavige after she convinced her husband to distance himself from the faith during their marriage. And during the filming of Eyes Wide Shut, Cruise even allegedly refused to return Miscavige’s phone calls—which infuriated the Scientology chief, according to the film. So, the film claims that Miscavige tasked Marty Rathbun, formerly the second-highest-ranking official in the Church of Scientology (he left in 2004), to break up the marriage. “I was to facilitate the breakup with Nicole Kidman,” Rathbun says in the film.

    Rathbun (and the film) further alleges that the Church of Scientology waged a covert campaign to split the couple, including wiretapping Kidman’s phone, auditing Cruise around the clock, and turning the couple’s adopted children, Connor and Isabella, against their mother. Cruise divorced Kidman in 2001, and then became more active within the Church of Scientology, receiving the church’s Freedom Medal of Valor in 2004.

    I spoke with two of the subjects in Gibney’s film, Mike Rinder and Tony Ortega, about all things Cruise. Rinder was a second-generation Scientologist who, from 1982 to 2007, served on the board of directors of Church of Scientology International and was its executive director of the Office of Special Affairs—a self-described “fixer” responsible for putting out legal and PR fires. He left Scientology in 2007 after a dispute with Miscavige. Ortega is a journalist who’s been covering Scientology religiously since 1995, nailing several scoops while at The Village Voice. He started The Underground Bunker blog, which focuses on Scientology coverage, and is the executive editor of The Raw Story website.

    There is a prevailing (albeit unsubstantiated) theory that many celebrity Scientologists are in the closet. But both Rinder and Ortega insist that this is not the case with Cruise.

    “Tom’s not gay,” Rinder tells The Daily Beast. “Tom’s not gay,” echoes Ortega. “Anybody that really reports on Tom Cruise and has good sourcing will tell you he’s not gay.”

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  28. Following his split from Kidman and his rededication to Scientology, Cruise began dating Katie Holmes in April 2005. One month later, the notorious “couch-jumping incident” on Oprah occurred. Around that time, Holmes was reportedly assigned a Scientology handler, Jessica Rodriguez (now Jessica Feshbach). Rodriguez, a high-ranking member of the Church of Scientology, reportedly accompanied Holmes on the Batman Begins press tour that summer and oversaw her interviews. Co-star Morgan Freeman was allegedly “disgusted” by how Cruise was treating Holmes.

    “Jessica was answering questions for Katie in interviews, and it was really, really weird,” says Ortega. “Like Nicole before her, Katie made the effort initially to become a Scientologist herself, and then escaped later.”

    When Cruise and Holmes split in June 2012, tabloid reports began circulating that it was over Holmes’s fear that Cruise would ship their daughter, Suri, off to Sea Org—a hardcore, incredibly strict faction within the Church of Scientology. Rinder's parents joined Scientology when he was six, and he later enlisted in Sea Org as a teenager.

    “Suri was about to turn 6, which is the age where some people start in Sea Org,” says Ortega. “That was a household where Isabella and Connor were around, and so Katie would have seen their activities in Scientology, would have seen them going for questioning, so she had a good example of what Scientologists go through. I think it did concern her that Suri was about to be the age where they were going to have to make a decision.”

    Ortega spent lots of time interviewing John Brousseau, a former high-ranking member of the Church of Scientology—and Miscavige’s brother-in-law for a number of years—who left the faith in 2010. Brousseau claimed he was effectively assigned to Cruise, catering to his every whim and fancy.

    “Brousseau renovated Tom’s automobiles, he renovated his hangar, he worked on Tom’s houses. There was nobody closer to David and Tom than John Brousseau,” says Ortega. “I asked him what the relationship was like, because I assumed Miscavige was star-struck and is keeping this guy. And Brousseau said, ‘You’ve got it backwards. Tom Cruise worships Miscavige like a God.’ Tom has so completely bought into the idea that he and Dave are the only big beings on Earth, and the rest of us don’t realize that we’re on a prison planet. It’s like we’re all in The Matrix, and they’re the only two people who have taken the pill.”

    “That is how they think,” adds Rinder. “Miscavige isn’t holding anything over Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise is enthralled by Miscavige, and holds him in God-like status. And yes, it’s hurting his career.”

    Indeed, Gibney’s eye-opening documentary-exposé may do plenty of damage to Brand Cruise, with its entire final half-hour dedicated to the actor’s alleged actions within the Church of Scientology. It will be interesting to see how Cruise responds.

    “I don’t see how Tom Cruise can remain silent,” says Rinder. “I think he has got to get engaged in this, and as soon as that happens, it’s a slippery slope. Because he’s got problems. If he opens his mouth, it’s going to turn into an avalanche on him.”


  29. Cruise Controlled

    During the multi-country press tour for Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, not even Jon Stewart has dared ask Tom Cruise about Scientology.


    During the media blitz for Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation over the past two weeks, Tom Cruise has seemingly been everywhere. In London, he participated in a live interview at the British Film Institute with the presenter Alex Zane, the movie’s director, Christopher McQuarrie, and a handful of his fellow cast members. In New York, he faced off with Jimmy Fallon in a lip-sync battle onThe Tonight Show and attended the Monday night premiere in Times Square. And, on Tuesday afternoon, the actor recorded an appearance on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, where he discussed his exercise regimen, the importance of a healthy diet, and how he still has all his own hair at 53.

    Stewart, who during his career has won two Peabody Awards for public service and the Orwell Award for “distinguished contribution to honesty and clarity in public language,” represented the most challenging interviewer Cruise has faced on the tour, during a challenging year for the actor. In April, HBO broadcast Alex Gibney’s documentary Going Clear, a film based on the book of the same title by Lawrence Wright exploring the Church of Scientology, of which Cruise is a high-profile member. The movie alleges, among other things, that the actor personally profited from slave labor (church members who were paid 40 cents an hour to outfit the star’s airplane hangar and motorcycle), and that his former girlfriend, the actress Nazanin Boniadi, was punished by the Church by being forced to do menial work after telling a friend about her relationship troubles with Cruise. For Cruise “not to address the allegations of abuse,” Gibney said in January, “seems to me palpably irresponsible.” But in The Daily Show interview, as with all of Cruise’s other appearances, Scientology wasn’t mentioned.

    Cruise has still made no official response to Going Clear, which was recently nominated for seven Emmy Awards. During the media tour for Rogue Nation, not a single interviewer has asked him a question that in any way deviates from the approved topics regarding the film. At the BFI event, questions were selected from thousands submitted via a Twitter hashtag, #AskMissionImpossible, and carefully curated. On The Tonight Show, Cruise mimed along to The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” and Meat Loaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” before being tasked by Fallon to take part in an impromptu duet of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” in which the pair serenaded an audience member. On The Daily Show, Stewart simply asked Cruise how many hours a day he should put in at the gym to achieve action-hero level fitness, and expressed his admiration for Cruise’s movies. “Edge of Tomorrow, that’s such a good film,” he said. “I’ve seen that film like 10 times. It’s my son’s favorite.”

    Most promotional media tours are tightly regimented—actors typically prefer to discuss their current projects over past works, and dislike being asked personal questions. But the release of Rogue Nation represents the first time Cruise has granted interviews or made public appearances since the premiere of Going Clear at the Sundance Film Festival in January. The allegations about Scientology in the movie are numerous, but the most serious of them charge that the church operates a prison camp of sorts called the Rehabilitation Project Force, keeps blackmail files based on auditing records from its high-profile congregants, and isolates members from their friends and family, often forcing them to “disconnect” from people who disapprove of the Church or leave it. (The organization has repeatedly denied that any of this is true.)

    continued below

  30. At the very least Cruise is the highest-profile advocate for an institution that’s been repeatedly charged with human-rights abuses over the past few decades. If Wright and Gibney’s accounts are accurate, he’s the second most-powerful person in Scientology, and he’s completely insulated from even the most irreverent television personalities in the country asking him questions about it.

    Part of the problem is the byzantine structure of the entertainment industry. The Daily Show is broadcast on Comedy Central, which is owned by Viacom. Viacom also owns Paramount Pictures, the studio behind the Mission Impossiblefranchise. In 2005, Comedy Central felt Paramount’s wrath after airing an episode of South Park titled “Trapped in the Closet,” which parodied Cruise and Scientology. The episode was scheduled to air again in 2006, but was reportedly yanked after Cruise threatened to pull out of the publicity tour for Mission Impossible III (Cruise’s representative denied he did any such thing). Coincidentally, the only Daily Show mention of Scientology that can be found online is from 2005, when then-correspondent Stephen Colbert briefly detailed its rumored theology in a skit referring to Cruise’s appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. (Colbert went on to criticize the Church several times on The Colbert Report, which was also broadcast on Comedy Central, and even interviewed Lawrence Wright about Going Clear in 2013.)

    The question for Jon Stewart, then, is why bother giving a huge movie star a meaningless six-minute spot to promote a movie at all? Stewart leaves The Daily Show next week after 16 years hosting the show, during which time he’s been lauded for his incisive interviews with everyone from President Obama to Pervez Musharraf to Angelina Jolie. In 2008, The New York Times asked if he was the most trusted man in America, writing that The Daily Show offers insight that often eludes mainstream news, “speaking truth to power in blunt, sometimes profane language.” In his interviews over the years, Stewart has lambasted Senator John McCain for agreeing to speak at Liberty University, criticized Al Gore for selling his television station to a network funded by oil money, and accused Judith Miller of deliberately favoring the Bush administration in her reporting leading up to the Iraq War. Why devote precious time in one of his final episodes to helping a controversial actor promote a movie that doesn’t need the boost?

    A representative for The Daily Show hasn’t responded to questions about whether Stewart was limited in the subjects he was allowed to address regarding the Cruise interview. But the interview by itself is telling. In May, USA Today asked if Going Clear might have the potential to “ruin Tom Cruise’s summer.” Apparently not: Tom Cruise as an institution depends on a degree of complicity between the people who profit from his movies and the people who pay to see them, with everyone involved agreeing not to ask too many tough questions and ruin the fun. The fact that reporters and television entertainers also buy into this deal is disappointing, even if it isn’t ultimately so surprising.


  31. Tom Cruise’s Nightmare Scientology Wedding: Leah Remini Opens Up About Her 'Reprogramming'

    The former Scientologist said Cruise's antics are part of what forced her to defect from the organization.

    By Anna Silman / Salon November 2, 2015

    In a revealing interview with “20/20,” “King of Queens” star Leah Remini opened up about her break with Scientology in 2013, explaining that part of her decision to leave the organization grew out of her discomfort with the attention it lavished on its star member Tom Cruise, who she felt was embrarassing the church with his frequent public antics.

    “I was saying that I didn’t think he was becoming of Scientologists, jumping on couches and attacking Matt Lauer, to attacking Brooke Shields,” she explained. “What the hell is this guy doing? We need to rein it in. We need to stop all this. And he just needs to be an actor.”

    Remini details a story of Scientology officials inviting her to Tom Cruise’s home one night to teach him salsa dancing. When she got there, Cruise and his new girlfriend Katie Holmes were making out, and Remini joked that they ought to “get a fricking room.” The officials then filed a “knowledge report” (basically an official complaint) about Remini, which the actress was forced to deal with in auditing sessions.

    As she explains, she was “immediately dealt with” after the “incident,” with the organization implying that “the only reason you’re saying these things is because you have your own transgressions.”

    “You immediately become guilty,” she added. “Being critical of Tom Cruise is being critical of Scientology itself. You are a person who is anti the aims and goals of Scientology, you are evil.”

    Remini says she became increasingly dismayed by the attention heaped on Cruise, culminating in Cruise and Holmes’ wedding, in which the organization repeatedly tried to separate her from her close friend Jennifer Lopez.

    “They were trying to extract me,” says Remini. “I could only assume because they wanted to make Jennifer a Scientologist, maybe I was barring that road for them.”

    continued below

  32. Remini also expressed concern that Scientology leader David Miscavige was there without his wife Shelly (who has all but disappeared from the public eye since 2007), which led Remini to file a wide-ranging knowledge report about various wedding guests. She did so, the report explains, because she was still hoping to save Scientology from those who were bringing it down—in her view, Tom Cruise and David Miscavige.

    A Scientology spokesperson dismissed Remini’s "20/20" claims as “ridiculous and stupid.”
    Remini explained that Katie Holmes and a number of other guests also filed knowledge reports about her behavior at the wedding, which lead Remini to be sent to the Scientology headquarters at Clearwater to undergo “reprogramming” for “three or four months, from nine in the morning until ten at night.” In a statement to “20/20,” Holmes apologized, saying, “I regret having upset Leah in the past and wish her only the best in the future.”

    Fighting off tears, Remini expressed her gratitude toward Holmes.

    “It makes me emotional because at the time Katie and this particular crew were writing reports, it caused me a lot of time and pain and my family being reprogrammed,” she explains. “At the time I was fighting with her for lack of a better word within the church and now I know really what she was going through. At the time I was thinking of myself and my family and what we were going through, and although painful, I had no idea she was going through probably a lot more.”

    “Seeing her and Suri out there in the world and her being able to be with her daughter and live her life, I’m touched by it,” continues Remini, who says she left the organization in part to free her own 11-year-old daughter from its clutches. “I’m touched by it because I now know she did what she did, leaving in the way she did because she had to protect her daughter which in a way connects us.”

    Remini’s tell-all memoir Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology comes out on Tuesday.


  33. A 'Troublemaker' Leaves Her Life In Scientology


    In 2013, the actor Leah Remini left the Church of Scientology after more than 30 years. Her new memoir,Troublemaker, might make her the most famous former Scientologist to publicly criticize the religion. (The Church calls the book "revisionist history.")

    The story starts when Remini was nine, growing up in Brooklyn. Her dad had just left, and her mom got a new boyfriend. He was a Scientologist. Her mom joined the church, too.

    When Remini and her sister got into fights, her mother suggested they go to Scientology classes and learn how to communicate. Remini says she liked being treated like an adult at the Scientology center. "As a kid, I think, it offered structure, I think we loved that there was structure to these courses. And then the second part of that was, we were told that you're a spiritual being, and you're very powerful, and you're not a child."

    Then in the early 1980s, Remini, her sister, and her mother moved to Florida, where Remini worked to join an order within Scientology known as the Sea Organization, or Sea Org.

    "We were living in a run-down motel off of a freeway in Clearwater, Fla.," Remini tells NPR's Kelly McEvers. "We lived in dorms with other children. It was roach-infested; oftentimes we didn't eat if we didn't wake up when meals were being served. But again, you're a child that all of a sudden has this independence, so in one way, it was scary ... but it was also, we felt independent, and we were in charge of ourselves. We didn't have an education other than Scientology education, so we were kids living on our own."

    At first it was a struggle. But she eventually landed a lead role on a big sitcom, The King of Queens, which ran for nine years. As a celebrity, Remini was able to ascend to the upper levels of the church; in a 2002 interview she said it had helped with her confidence and career. She took hours of classes every day, and continued to do auditing, or counseling sessions, which both cost money. "During my thirty-plus years in Scientology," Remini writes in the book, "I spent close to $2 million for services and training, and donated roughly $3 million to church causes."

    But Remini started doubting whether those donations were going toward a good cause, as the Church of Scientology told her. She wanted to see what critics of the church were saying. But, she tells McEvers, she knew could be questioned for that.

    Interview Highlights

    On her fear of punishment and why she stayed in Scientology

    You don't really look on the internet, you don't watch Nightlines or Datelines and 20/20s critical of the church. And if you do, you have to go in and you have to deal with why you were looking at those things ... Now from there, you would be taken off of what you were doing in the Church, and then you would be put into a security checking ... it's sort of like a lie-detector test, and you're hooked up to that and you're asked a series of questions: Do you have evil intentions towards your church? Are you talking to certain enemies to our church? And you're just interrogated.

    continued below

  34. This is an extremist organization — there's no half-in, half-out. You have to 100% be on board, or you're considered an enemy to your group. I wasn't ready to walk out the door and say goodbye to my mother, my sister, my brother-in-law, all my friends — most of my friends were Scientologists. Everybody.

    On attending the wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, and asking about the whereabouts of Shelley Miscavige, the wife of Scientology leader David Miscavige

    People were scattering any time I asked about Shelly Miscavige, who I considered a friend. And when I say, "Where's Shelly?" at a very public event, I was basically told I didn't have the rank to ask such a question. And that is not something that sits right with me. And then it just kind of went downhill from there.

    On her final decision to leave the church

    It was six years until I actually left, six to seven years. I was trying to work within the system. I knew that my questioning would lead to my family being investigated, which was what started to happen. I'm a person who has to be right — this is one place that I was hoping to be wrong. I spent my whole life in it. My mother spent her whole life in it. I got my husband into it. So I did not want to be right, here.

    Honestly, I didn't want to be right ... I spent my whole life in it. My mother spent her whole life in it. My stepfather, my sister. I got my husband into it. So I did not want to be right, here.

    At the end, they had us all in different rooms, interrogating us all, and asking us not to talk to each other about what we were doing in those rooms. And we got together, and we said, we need to stick together as a family, and we need to stop. And we all decided as a family, that was enough.

    On how hard it was to leave Scientology

    You know, I'm looking at my phone, to invite my friends to my daughter's birthday party, and I'm like, oh, can't. Oh, can't. Oh, oh, she can't talk to me. She can't talk to me. And, you know, I saw my goddaughter at my local coffee shop and I couldn't go and embrace her because her mother can't really talk to me. So it was part of our everyday life, it gave a sense of purpose. And that is taken away. That part was hard.

    But then I started going to therapy, which is, you know, taboo to that church. And I started reading books, and going, oh my god, there's other things in the world, things that actually do help people. There's good people in the world, it's not that us-against-them mentality. There's good in the world. And that's what's been amazing. So yes, there was a short-term heartbreak, and finding your new everyday normal, but filling it with family and friends who are not judging you on your religious beliefs, or how much money you donated, or how much time you spent — it's so much more fulfilling.

    continued below

  35. A representative for Tom Cruise did not respond to our request for comment, but the Church of Scientology directed us to a response online and sent us a statement, excerpted below, in which a spokesperson disputed much of Remini's account of events.

    On Remini's comments regarding conditions at Scientology facilities in Clearwater, Fla.

    This is a false, mischaracterization of her time in the religious order. In the first place, she was not there for long and the conditions were not as she claims. The Church follows all laws and the facilities she stayed in received regular inspections by the Pinellas County Health Department. All licenses were maintained in good standing during the entire period that Ms. Remini was in Clearwater.

    On the church's policy of "Disconnection"

    Ms. Remini knows that the Church's practice of disconnection is a voluntary practice (spelled out at www.scientology.org) designed to help members remove themselves from abusive and hostile relationships. The Church's disconnection policy is similar to that of the Jewish faith of shunning. There is no policy in Scientology that requires Church members to disconnect from anyone, let alone family and friends who simply have different beliefs.

    On Remini's concern about the cost of church courses

    As with most religions, donations by parishioners are the primary source of financial support for Churches of Scientology. As with all religions, donations vary depending on each member's means.

    On Remini's concern about the church's handling of funds for charitable work

    All funds donated for the purposes of humanitarian and relief endeavors are used to support those efforts. ...They are well documented and a matter of public record.

    On Remini's concern about the whereabouts of Shelly Miscavige

    This claim is false, thoroughly debunked by the Los Angeles Police Department. Ms. Remini has been harassing the Church about this matter for some years. Mrs. Miscavige is not now and has never been "missing."


  36. Scientology 'life coach' to John Travolta and Tom Cruise's children tells how she was forced to spend THREE YEARS in 'prison' for kissing a girl and escaped the Church by downing a bottle of bleach

    By CHRIS WHITE FOR DAILY MAIL March 21, 2016

    'I kissed a Scientology girl and liked it - then I was forced to go to Scientology jail!'

    A former top female Scientologist, who worked with the Church's biggest names including John Travolta and Tom Cruise's children, claims that she was forced to spend three years in Scientology 'prison' because she kissed a girl, Daily Mail Online can reveal exclusively.

    Nora Crest, Nora Sova at the time, was a friend of the stars and worked at Los Angeles Celebrity Centre, building up a close rapport with Cruise's kids and Travolta. She helped work through their Scientology courses and acted as a 'life counselor' to the stars.

    But she says that all changed when she kissed another girl - and liked it. Even though it never went any further than kissing, Nora was put into the Rehabilitation Project Force [RPF].

    Former members refer to this as the equivalent of a 'Scientology prison'.

    The now 39-year-old claims that she was ordered to work for a pittance and endured horrific injuries, including three broken ribs, while working and living in squalid conditions.

    Scientology's founder L. Ron Hubbard classified homosexuality as an 'illness' and a 'sexual perversion' and said the Church should help to 'cure' homosexuals.

    Nora is the first person to ever speak out after having a homosexual experience in the Church and says the 'cure' is actually years in the RPF, which is for people who have violated expectations or policies.

    They are sent to secret bases to do arduous 80-hour week 'hard labor' for months, and sometimes, years on end.

    It culminated with Nora trying to escape several times - but always getting caught and made to return - before downing a bottle of bleach in 'let me leave or die' desperation.

    'It was the most horrific time of my life. I was battered and bruised, pushed around and nearly died trying to leave the Church and all because I had the audacity to desire another woman.

    'I was brainwashed into believing I'd done wrong and had to live in horrific conditions for three years before I was finally allowed to leave. This can't be allowed to happen to another person, hence why I'm speaking out.

    'Homosexuality in the Church is the lowest of the low, you're treated like scum,' says Nora.

    Daily Mail Online has reached out to the Church of Scientology for comment on this article but has yet to receive a response.

    The 39-year-old is now happily married with two children and credits husband Cameron for 'saving her life', but never believed that her faith in Scientology would nearly kill her.

    Before her punishment, Nora was a high flying member of the Sea Org, a hardcore group for dedicated members who sign a billion-year contract tying them to the Church.

    Both her parents, Kathy Thomas and Constantine Panfilous Sova, were heavily involved in the Church and eager for Nora to be an active member from an early age.

    At 18, she was working as a teacher in a Scientology School in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, and had just joined the Sea Org.

    'My father decided that there was no other path in life. Even at an early age, he was trying to get me to recall past lives, which is what Scientologists believe in,' she says.

    'But I loved normal things like basketball and soccer. I had a plan to go to college and be a sports broadcaster.

    'But I eventually took a job at 18 at the Lewis Carroll Academy of the Arts teaching PE and reading. It was a Scientology school, and in the eyes of the Church, you're fully qualified if you've graduated from High School.

    continued below

  37. 'I did it to please my dad and the Church. When you're a Scientologist, you want to show your dedication, and that it is at the heart of everything you do.

    'I was doing more and more courses and had reached the "State of Clear" by the age of 14, which is really young. They say your mind is then free of unwanted emotions, but it basically means you've been fully brainwashed.

    'They convinced me that, as I was doing so well, then I must have been a Sea Org member in another life, so it was my duty to do it again.'

    In 1996, Nora began working as a Church recruiter in Los Angeles before completing courses and intensive training to be a Word Clearer. This allowed her to deliver Study Tech, which is an intensive form of learning devised by founder Hubbard where students are made to understand every single word of a text, so that there are no apparent barriers to study.

    That's when Tom and Nicole were going through a separation and we were ordered never to speak of her and she was a bad person. l also worked Lisa Marie Presley's daughter Riley. She was lovely.

    Nora was given a trusted position at the Celebrity Center in Los Angeles where she helped stars and their children to study Hubbard's scriptures using an E-Meter, ' an electronic instrument that measures mental state and change of state in individuals and assists the precision and speed of auditing', according to the Scientology website.

    'I would work with celebrities on a one-on-one capacity. I was Word Clearing John Travolta as he was having trouble with a specific policy that LRH [L. Ron Hubbard] had written.

    'I used an E-meter to guide him to words that he didn't understand. The meter helped me look for a reaction if they didn't understand a word.

    'The needle would flicker if he didn't understand and I'd use a dictionary to help him and he'd have to repeat it until the needle flowed like a sweeping hand of a clock. He was very nice and apologized 20 times for helping him,' says Nora.

    'I worked with Tom Cruise's kids Connor and Isabella - they were only little and I was working with them during the summer time when they were off school, they were fun and very sweet.

    'That's when Tom and Nicole were going through a separation and we were ordered never to speak of her and she was a bad person. l also worked Lisa Marie Presley's daughter Riley. She was lovely.'

    Even though Nora was a respected worker, she says that she was forced to live in a cockroach- and rat-infested accommodation block with other Sea Org members, who were all earning only a pittance.

    After dating a couple of guys - but never having full sex in fear of the Sea Org's strict 'no sex before marriage' rule - she found herself sharing a room with another girl.

    Scientologists Support Nora

    LAURA DIECKMAN, a former Scientologist who was on RPF with Nora.

    'In terms of Nora, I knew her both before the RPF and while on the RPF. A couple of months after I arrived to the RPF, Nora gulped some bleach and was offloaded within about 24 hours. I heard about this [as I was another RPF-er] and actually a couple of years later did so myself as I knew this was a "quick" way out of the RPF. As someone else that was in the RPF, I can tell you 100% she was struggling and resorted to the bleach to get out of there.'

    CHRIS SHELTON, a high ranking Scientologist

    'Nora was a Sea Org member in Los Angeles at the same time I was and I bumped in to her quite a few times. She was a word clearer at the Celebrity Center International, which was in many ways a whole different world from the Pacifica Base where I worked, even though we were literally only a few miles apart. Celebrity Center was always thought to be a fun place to work, but I soon learned that this was just a facade and the executives over there ran things in a ridiculously angry way while always putting a smile on for the public and celebrities that organization caters to.

    continued below

  38. It's sort of the most extreme example of the duplicity that runs rampant throughout Scientology.'

    'A few months later I got sick and [the girl] said she'd give me a Scientology 'nerve assist', which means laying your hands on critical nerves along the spine to get the body going again. It felt nice and comforting, she then offered to tuck me into bed, and leaned down and kissed me on the mouth.

    'It was more than a peck. It was a very explosive moment in my mind. I didn't know what was happening and how I was feeling, but I liked it, and we continued to kiss over the next few months, but never anything more,' says Nora.

    'We didn't engage in sex before marriage, as we knew how strict it was. I didn't want to get into trouble, I even got myself a boyfriend to hide what we were doing.

    'I was completing major courses in Scientology, I thought this was my life and didn't want to screw it up.'

    It wasn't long though before other Sea Org members realized what was happening and Nora was ordered to see her chief officer for, what Nora calls, an 'intense interrogation.'

    She says: 'They recorded everything and said I was destroying the Sea Org morale, it was too much for everyone, so I confessed to everything, I felt so guilty. I was then told I wouldn't be on my job anymore and they were going to work out what to do with me. They did the same with [the girl].

    'We were put on cleaning and construction work for three months before they sent me to RPF in March 2000, which is when my hell began.'

    RPF was a rundown building in west Los Angeles where inmates were made to believe they'd done wrong against the Church and work over 80 hours a week for only $50 a month.

    Nora explains: 'It was the culture where every minute of every day, hundreds of people were watching you, judging you, making sure you didn't step out of line. We were sleeping in dorms where there were at least 33 women on bunk beds, three beds high.

    'If I put my hand on the shoulder of a woman, spoke to a woman, or anytime I was nice to a woman, I'd get a report. We had three meals a day, where you have 20 minutes to gather your food and eat it, and 30 minutes to do your hygiene.

    'You get numbed by nudity and have no privacy. You get used to going to the toilet and five people watch you. The rooms had bugs and cockroaches; the bunks were dirty mattresses with rusty springs dating back to the 50s.

    'Disgusting conditions become the norm and you think that's what you deserve and that you are what they say you are: a worthless piece of s**t.

    'You spoke only when you were spoken to. All outside communication was heavily vetted, so if my mom wrote a letter they would cross things out or I'd be interrogated asking why she said a certain thing. We got $11.25 a week and had to buy everything with that including hygiene products.

    'If you wanted a snack you had to buy it yourself. You'd go to the canteen and they'd charge you $1 for a coke or $2 for a protein bar. That'd leave with you hardly anything for the rest of the week.

    'You're required to run all day, every day. If you need the bathroom you have to run there. Your uniform consists of black jeans, grey shirts, a belt and steel toe-capped boots, as everyone worked on construction in some form. I worked for the electrical unit, even though I had no knowledge, and was given various challenges that you had to complete in a certain time.

    We would stand in an empty trash can while various people poured buckets of iced water over your head and were shouting at you about what crap you were. After they were done with you, you were made to clean up all the mess.

    'For example, I'd have to put down five junction boxes in a minute, if I missed the target, I'd have to
    'Take A Lap', which meant going down to the basement of the facility and running a quarter mile.

    continued below

  39. 'If they didn't want you to take the time to do that, they'd make you do fifty sit-ups or push-ups on the spot every time you missed the target.

    'We would also be thrown 'overboard', which stemmed from people being punished on other bases where they'd be thrown into a lake or pool of water.

    'As we didn't have any water near us, we would stand in an empty trash can while various people poured buckets of iced water over your head and were shouting at you about what crap you were. After they were done with you, you were made to clean up all the mess.'

    'Every Tuesday they would serve hamburgers and fries for lunch. It was the one thing, besides cold scrambled eggs for breakfast, that we had consistently.

    'We'd be made to wait in line for the food to be distributed, there'd be around 250 people. When the doors opened, there was large stands of burger and fries and people would be diving at them, it was like a scene from Lord of the Flies, elbowing, punching each other, ripping hamburgers from one another, screaming in each others' faces, then running off with the food to corners of the room like rabid animals and eating it quickly.

    'It was a fight for life in there, every single day.'

    During her time working on construction, Nora says that she suffered a number of injuries, including three broken ribs and two herniated discs.

    'I was doing a Scientology routine where you learn to use verbal and physical commands to move a person from one wall across the room to the other. I was working with a man in his 40s and over 200 pounds in weight.

    'He was becoming increasingly frustrated with not being able to move me across the room and became suddenly violent, picking me up off the ground and slamming my whole body repeatedly into the concrete wall. Two of my ribs on the left side dislocated from my frame, and cracked, and one on the right fractured. I had no pain medication or anti-inflammatory and I was still made to work,' says Nora.

    I then went into a utility cupboard and saw a massive bottle of industrial strength bleach and so drank a hefty cap full, around the equivalent of a quarter cup. I fell backwards, my whole body was convulsing, my throat started to swell.

    'Then while doing construction on a new accommodation block, I was breaking down a pony wall with a sledge hammer. After swinging the hammer for 20 minutes I collapsed and couldn't move. I was unable to walk unaided and hunched like a 95-year-old.

    'After I could stand for more than ten minutes on my own I was put back to work - ten to 15 hours a day.
    After all this, I was adamant I wanted leave, but they made it virtually impossible for me.'

    After two years in the RPF, literally battered and bruised, Nora tried to quit.

    'They said I could leave but interrogated me with thousands of questions - are you a secret FBI agent? Do you want to harm the Church? Over and over again.

    'The only way you can leave officially is if you go up against a board of your fellow Sea Org members, who you've been close to for so long, and prove to them that you're not fit enough to be in the Sea Org anymore, you have to say you're so pathetic that you're not worthy of it,' she says.

    'I had to tell them i was a degraded human being, unable to help me or anyone else, I was a terrible person and they should please kick me out.

    'It was one of the worst days of my life and I had to wait for three months for their decision while being convinced to stay on a daily basis. They're telling me that I'm useless and I'm only ever going to be a hooker on the outside, I'd have nothing.

    'They threatened to split my family up and that I could never speak to my mother or sister. Ultimately, I changed my mind and decided to stay, they'd broken me again.'

    continued below

  40. But the final straw came only a few months later, in November 2002, when she was punished for laughing and joking with another female.

    'I was put in the laundry unit and we were having fun, someone saw this and thought I was trying to seduce her, so they ordered me to do a confessional with an E-Meter, which would show if I'm telling the truth. I was asked all these questions if i'd kissed her, touched her, talked naughty words to her. I started laughing. I put down the E-Meter and said: "This isn't Scientology", and tried to leave the room, but they were stopping me. More and more people came into the room.

    'I was trying to get to the door and got five feet from it, but they were grabbing all parts of me and dragging me down. At one point, I had 13 people on my body and was pinned to the floor. I couldn't move, I was screaming, but I somehow managed to break free an arm and open the door and wrangle free.

    'I was being kicked and punched, my face was covered in blood, but I just ran. Not thinking straight, I didn't run to the police, instead I ran to the security at the base, who held me there until an RPF officer came to see me. Next day, I was told by the commanding officer that I was a piece of s**t and would be heavily punished.

    'I was made to scrub walls, but I was crying hysterically even as I was working. I thought there was no escape, I even tried to cut my wrists with scissors, but they were so blunt that I couldn't do it, I really thought that I was so inept I couldn't even kill myself properly.

    'I then went into a utility cupboard and saw a massive bottle of industrial strength bleach and so drank a hefty cap full, around the equivalent of a quarter cup. I fell backwards, my whole body was convulsing, my throat started to swell. When they found me, they got a gallon of milk and put me in a room and made me drink it.

    'They then got a Scientology doctor, who escorted me to a hospital and made sure I stuck to the true story before we went inside, that I was not depressed and drank bleach by accident. The doctor didn't believe me and kept asking the same questions, but I stuck to the story.

    'When I was released from hospital, they took me to a building and I was forced to sign a waiver that I wasn't ever going to sue the Church, say bad things, never criticize it. I said it all to camera. I didn't care, I just wanted to go home. They then drove me to Eagle Rock in LA where my mom lived. I was just so relieved to see her. But I didn't tell my mom what really happened for five years.'

    Now on the outside, Nora found that she didn't know a thing about normal life and had no hope of getting a job. Thankfully, a few months later she met her future husband Cameron, who understood her plight as an ex-Sea Org member himself. The pair married in 2005 and have two boys - Landon, seven, and Nick, nine.

    Nora adds: 'I felt like I'd literally let the whole planet down because I had left the Sea Org. It took years for that massive guilt to lift. When I discovered the truth about Scientology, I realized the sad truth, nothing I did there had actually made a difference in the world at all. I had zero impact in the lives of anyone on the planet. It was all lies.

    'I'd never used a phone or done normal things. The hardest part was not acting like a Sea Org member. When I found a job, I'd never leave my desk, my boss had to order me to take lunch. I would eat my food really quickly, it was natural, even though I wasn't on a time scale. I could go for a walk, I was allowed to speak to anyone, it was weird trying to be a human being again.

    'I don't think I would have coped without Cameron by my side. I can safely say that marrying my husband and having children saved my life.'


  41. Shining a spotlight on Scientology benefits all the world’s followers

    by LORNA DUECK, Opinion, Special to The Globe and Mail May 10, 2016

    I wouldn’t be surprised if actor Tom Cruise’s control and tenacity comes from his indoctrination in the Church of Scientology. Religion can transform people from the inside out. Mr. Cruise’s confidence embodies the forbearance training a millionaire can purchase in the Scientology cult.

    There are at least eight (expensive) levels of “thetan” presence that Scientology implants into its devotees, and the result is a forceful presence which allows you a “tone 40” command or possibly more. I am usually mesmerized by Mr. Cruise on screen, I think he’s got at least a “tone 40,” and now I can speculate from whence it came.

    This revelation is thanks to the Canadian premiere of My Scientology Movie, by director John Dower and Louis Theroux, which screened at Toronto’s Hot Docs festival on Sunday. The film is captivating, hilarious and frightening as it pushes how far the boundaries for religious freedom can go.
    The documentary embeds Mr. Theroux into a recreation of Scientology techniques with a former inspector general of the faith, Marty Rathbun. Over his 27 years as a Scientology devotee, Mr. Rathbun held the highest rank of ecclesiology, unsuccessfully tried to reform the belief, and now writes and counsels on exiting the faith.

    Mr. Theroux is a British celebrity journalist whose sweetly invasive style feigns a curious soul trying to figure out how the secretive leader of Scientology, David Miscavige, operates. For me, the documentary evoked the ancient words about Jesus in Matthew 9, where people curious for a better life had swarmed the rabbi: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

    I have no problem with Mr. Cruise employing mind-control techniques for his own uses, but Scientology, wrapped in the guise of a religiously structured church, is a system accountable to scrutiny.

    If more filmmakers turned their camera on religion, like My Scientology Movie has done, we’d have a better world. The Oscar-winning best picture Spotlight, recounting the sins of the Christian church’s pedophilia scandal, spoke up for the helpless in a profound way. Open storytelling which examines the beliefs that shape Islamic State will be part of the future to peace. As Mr. Theroux intones in his documentary, “It may be every religion carries its own DNA for its destruction.”

    Harassed and helpless, that timeless phrase which describes people’s search for health and wholeness, requires not less religion, but better understanding of what is in the DNA of our religions. Charles Taylor, writing in A Secular Age, documents how we’ve reinvented our spiritual search and advises, “We are just at the beginning of a new age of religious searching, whose outcome no one can foresee.”

    Maybe the ways of Mr. Miscavige and his disciples are exactly that, fruit of the new age, people out on a path to belong somewhere with a hope to improve their lives? To make sense of it means we need to do the deliberate personal work of religious education. Schools and places of worship should be strengthened for the search, not shuttered. Book clubs, family discussions, media, all of it needs to engage the spiritual.

    A solid education, an open education, is a good thing for what is ultimately a most private connection between people and God.