Yesterday, RadarOnline, one of several online tabs trying to churn out incremental stories about the celebrity story of the year, grabbed for attention by quoting two lawyers who said it was unlikely that Tom Cruise’s Scientology would be allowed as an issue in his divorce with Katie Holmes.
Aside from the fact that it was obvious Radar’s two “experts” didn’t know the first thing about Scientology, our own legal expert tells us that they’re flat out wrong anyway — family court is different than civil court, he says, and the religion of a parent can become an issue when a judge is trying to decide which parent should take custody.
After the jump: our legal expert, Scott Pilutik, a Manhattan attorney with a deep understanding of Scientology history, fills us in on how New York’s family court may indeed be forced to consider the religious question of Suri’s upbringing.
Scott Pilutik: As a general matter, religious content is off limits in US courts — but there’s a lot Radar’s attorneys aren’t taking into account.
First, unlike other civil courts, family courts often find themselves inquiring into content they perhaps shouldn’t; this is because family courts can’t simply end a case with a dismissal, they’re always forced to choose between a set of predetermined, often unattractive options. Family courts are often called on to decide which parent’s preferences should prevail where a dispute exists regarding in which religion the child should be raised.
Second, because the key legal question in custody battles is the Best Interests of the Child, there’s not much that’s off-base (and especially because there are fewer appeals in divorce/family courts, courts are generally less concerned about being reversed on appeal). A Jehovah’s Witness parent does not have a constitutionally protected religious interest that extends to denying their child a life-saving blood transfusion, for example, even though they enjoy that right themselves. A parent’s religious free exercise interest with respect to their child collides with the free exercise interest of the other parent, for one, and with the child’s as well.
Consequently, questions about Scientology can easily become relevant and justiciable to the extent they adversely effect Suri. And Suri herself may, or rather likely will, have a say in this. Which raises another interesting issue — what happens if the court orders a psychiatrist to examine Suri? It’s a strong possibility in a contested custody case.
Wow, that’s a great question, Scott. Imagine the reaction back at Scientology’s HQ if Suri is ordered to have a psychiatric evaluation — opposing psychiatry as the worst thing on earth is one of Scientology’s central tenets.
As always, we’re indebted to Scott for his insights, and we’ll keep him on speed dial as this situation develops.
If Radar’s piece was wrong, it wasn’t stupid. Honors for dumbest thing written yesterday about the TomKat situation was easily won by the Daily Mail, with this piece of drivel, “Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ divorce ‘won’t be recognized by church of Scientology’“
Relying on Scientology’s farcical websites for information (always a really bad idea), Daily Mail writer Louise Boyle actually uttered the following tripe:
According to the official website, marriage is considered essential to family life along with the belief that the religion will strengthen bonds between partners.
Scientologists also claim that people who follow the religion are more likely to stay married.
Anyone who actually knows anything about Scientology, of course, knows that church members divorce each other about as often as Catholics take communion.
If you’re new to Scientology, try to keep this in mind: Scientologists, if they do nothing else, think big. They consider themselves immortal beings who have lived countless lives over trillions of years, and they plan to take over the planet, and the galaxy, as they live countless more lives. Their current lives are trivial and momentary, and if they end up marrying several different times, it is less important than that they serve Scientology as it works to expand and assume control. If you want to understand why Scientologists do what they do, you must keep those facts in mind.
To them, a divorce is nothing. It’s eternity that counts.
*What Katie Holmes is sparing Suri: Scientology’s interrogation of children
*Scientology defections: Hubbard’s granddaughter and Miscavige’s father
*Scientology’s disgrace: An open letter to Tom Cruise
*When Baby Suri was embarrassed, and Scientology looked for revenge
Rupert Murdoch Calls Scientology a Cult!
This morning, the Australian media mogul caught Twitter users by surprise with this observation…
We’ve noticed recently that Murdoch’s news minions have been getting less shy about taking on David Miscavige’s church. The Fox affiliate in Oklahoma City, for example, has been putting intense pressure on Scientology’s bogus drug treatment center there, Narconon Arrowhead.
Murdoch is right that Scientology is very weird, that a lot of money is involved, and that Tom Cruise has been elevated by Miscavige so that he appears, at least, to be a kind of secondary pope (something that longtime dedicated Sea Org members were not really very thrilled about).
If Murdoch takes the gloves off, will other conservative news organizations — which tend to be shy about taking on Scientology — follow suit?
As one wag put it, if a war between Murdoch and Scientology really does develop, everybody wins.
Andrew Morton Revisits the Casting of Katie Holmes
Andrew Morton has written for the New York Post a lengthy reprise of what he knows so well — Tom Cruise’s relationships.
Morton’s 2008 biography of Cruise detailed how the actor had been elevated to virtually the second man in control of Scientology by his best friend, church leader David Miscavige. The book also reported how, after Cruise’s marriage to Nicole Kidman and short relationship with Penelope Cruz, numerous young actresses were “auditioned” by the church for the role of Tom’s next wife.
Early in today’s piece, Morton seems to tip his cap to our reporting on Scientology’s “sec checking” of children, which may be one thing Katie wants to get Suri away from before she gets any older.
Hey, thanks for that, Andrew. But we have to take issue with one other item in your article.
Like Morton, we’ve also done some reporting on the auditioning of women to pick out his third wife. Unfortunately, the women who took part in that still aren’t talking about it publicly because they were required to sign multiple non-disclosure agreements with Cruise and the church before they were allowed to date him.
It’s our belief that this is where the urban legend about a “five-year marriage contract” grew, which Morton suggests in today’s article is the reason why Katie Holmes is now, after five years of marriage, suing for divorce.
Not only do we think this urban legend grew out of the signing of non-disclosure agreements, we’ve talked to Morton’s source on this, and he admits now that he misunderstood the nature of those contracts that these women were signing.
While Katie might have a complex prenup which does reward her the longer she stayed married to Tom, the notion of a “five-year marriage contract” is spurious, in our opinion.
Scientology Exile Looks Lovely: Debbie and Wayne in the Caribbean
Greetings from Guadeloupe! Wish you were here!
As Debbie Cook’s infamous New Year’s Eve e-mail continues to shake the Church of Scientology to its foundations, Cook herself appears to be enjoying her exile to the French island of Guadeloupe, as portrayed in her husband Wayne Baumgarten’s travel blog.
One of our tipsters alerted us that the couple is keeping a travelogue going at a new website, waynebaumgarten.com, where they’re posting lovely photos of their trip.
“We sold our beloved burgandy BMW, rented out our house to a long term leaser, packed up our stuff and hit the road. I moved from my big old powerhouse workstation to my laptop and Debbie and I set up to keep as many customers as we could that we could properly look after by phone and email,” Wayne writes as he kicks off the site.
There’s no mention of Scientology, of course — the couple has agreed never again to discuss their lives in the church publicly.
But that doesn’t mean they can’t share with the world their search for a new home in the French island of Guadeloupe…
Looks lovely, and Wayne and Debbie look refreshed and healthier than I’ve ever seen them.
Scientology Sunday Funnies!
Just about every day, we receive the latest wacky and tacky fundraising mailers put out by Scientology orgs around the world. Thank you, tipsters, for forwarding them to us! On Sundays, we love to reveal them to you.
Buffalo! Oh, how I wish I could have dashed up there yesterday for this momentous event. These empty Ideal Orgs are all over the place!
Another interesting flier from South Africa, and notable for a couple of key reasons. First, it’s for once not about the Ideal Org nonsense but, in this case, a fundraiser for the International Association of Scientologists. Second, if you look at the lower left corner, you’ll see the logo for “30 by 30” — a recent initiative to raise $30 million for the IAS by June 30, which we wrote about on Friday. As our tipster pointed out to us, the silly skits and themed parties are now multiplying and metastasizing so that church members just can’t escape them…
Church members are still being hit up with come-ons about slick auditing gurus who can help get them up to the next level of Scientology enlightenment. These never fail to creep me out…
Marty Rathbun beat me to this one, which has John Allender — the former ringleader of the Squirrel Busters — as Spartan general Lysander from the movie 300. Speaking of Marty, I just received a copy of his new book, and I’ll be reading it and then reviewing it before too long.
A hearty thanks to our tipsters who keep bringing us these wacky fliers.
Commenters of the Week
Although it seems ages ago, we started out the week with a look at how Denver’s police chief, Robert White, got played like a violin by Scientology leader David Miscavige, who convinced White to say ever such sweet things about the church at its Ideal Org opening in that city.
Rebecca reflected our own disappointment in local politicians who allow themselves to get used in this manner…
I wish public officials would be a bit more discerning before lending their name to Scientology for promotion. Scientology excels at schmoozing and bullshitting their way into free advertising on a regular basis. Unfortunately, others may be harmed as a result of this publicity when someone goes to Narconon, for instance, as a result of a recommendation from a trusted source of information. Wake up and do some research, Robert White!
Scientia wonders if something could actually be done about it…
There should be a well-publicised name-and-shame site (maybe in a FBI Most Wanted style) to expose cretins like White, who clearly haven’t even enough of a brain cell to put the word “Scientology” into Google. Their profiles should remain until they publicly apologise for supporting an abusive, totalitarian organisation that violates some of the most basic human rights.
Our Sunday post also featured some South African fliers that reimagined local Scientology leaders as The Avengers, prompting Bradley Greenwood to say…
I am embarrassed to say, but “Iron Woman Gonsalves,” decked-out in her dominatrix gear, makes me “oily”.
On Tuesday, we revealed that accused Canadian murderer Luka Magnotta had written about his obsession with Tom Cruise and his dedication to Scientology in a 2009 blog post.
Once again, our readers cautioned us about reading too much into Magnotta’s interest in Scientology. Wrote Frolix8…
I don’t know if we can fairly blame Scientology for Magnottas’ actions. I do think we can draw the conclusion that Scientology attracts people who have the types of problems that he has/had per his need to be accepted, well liked, and well known.
Anon anon song also speculated that Magnotta was more interested in Tom Cruise than the church…
Unless demonstrated otherwise, I tend to believe Magnotta’s involvement with Scientology was a by-product of his infatuation with Tom Cruise; a way to feel closer to his idol, perhaps an opportunistic means to one day meet him. His cut-and-paste jobs in his posts kind of indicate that he didn’t have that much experience with the church other than the initial love-bombing and delusional promises rendered to Scientology newcomers.
Friday morning, we revealed our big scoop: we’d learned that Scientology has suffered two recent and very embarrassing defections from its California international base — a granddaughter of L. Ron Hubbard, Roanne Horwich, and Ron Miscavige Sr., father to Scientology’s leader, David Miscavige.
It’s always good to hear from Patty Moher…
I’m so happy you broke this story! The Indies and exes have built quite the “underground railroad” to help get people out and to a safe place to decompress from all the mindfuckery that goes with being a Scientologist. It’s great to see blows like this and I’m pretty sure that there will be more announcements as time goes on.
John P. naturally put things in a larger context…
Yes, this is stunning news. It would be particularly interesting to know how these high-profile defectors left as well as why. One has to believe that security has been tighter than ever in the wake of earlier defections and of reports about the “Hole.” So it’s unlikely that two separate incidents of people just charging out the gate actually occurred. They had to have “routed out,” in a process that was probably under way for years. It’s unfortunately unlikely that any of these folks will speak out.
And it’s always great to get some wisdom from illustrious ex-Scientologist Jefferson Hawkins…
Tony, the news of Ron, Becky and Roanne blowing the Base was very welcome indeed. I heard about it a few days ago on the underground rumor line. Ron and Becky were (and are) dear friends, and they were on my short list of people I most wanted to see leave the Base. Ron Miscavige is nothing like his son — he is a very talented man with a great sense of humor. I worked with Becky in the Marketing department for many years and her sunny disposition helped to brighten the darkness. I didn’t know Roanne that well, but I am very glad to see she has left. I hope her mother follows soon (although I’m sure they have her under 24-hour watch about now). I am so glad to hear these people are out — made my day.
As to the planned “Golden Age of Tech II,” this already sounds like a disaster. The original Golden Age of Tech was very unpopular, although, of course, no one was allowed to complain without having to report to the internal Thought Police. Everyone was required to re-train — even if they had been trained by Hubbard himself. Training times were extended, and auditor training came to a virtual standstill. Those who did re-train were forced into a rote, mechanical auditing style that was sheer torture. I am sure he will now talk about how the earlier materials were all full of errors and thus everyone has to re-train, once again, from the ground up. As for the “Mark VIII E-Meter” I am sure that he will go on and on about what a revolutionary meter it is and how everyone will be required to buy one as it is “so vital.” So vital, in fact, that he has kept them in a warehouse for the last 8 years. So vital that he will sell it to them for $4,000 when it cost something like $350 or less to make.
With the dwindling membership, I predict this “new release” will be a disaster and will only serve to drive even more people away from the cult.
In light of all the defections, Jgg asked a rather cheeky question…
Will David Miscavige quit next?
Later that day, news broke that Katie Holmes had filed for divorce in New York while Tom Cruise was filming in Iceland. We quickly put up a short post to let folks know what a bad week it was turning out to be for Scientology.
SFF was quick with this quip…
With three ex-wives now Tom really is an honorary Sea Org member.
And Marc Headley tantalized us with this claim for credit…
Do you think sending Katie’s father a copy of my book was a good idea? Maybe…
This observation by Stoic-1 seemed to hit the mark…
He’s such a good example that you can have money, fame, looks and professional success but they don’t keep your life from becoming a total wreck. The poor guy seems so lost in the trappings he forgot to be a real person, come back to being real Tom. The OT powerz aren’t helping.
While CanuckXenu asked a great question about Katie’s control by Scientology…
Wasn’t Katie’s handler Jessica Feshbach, Mrs. Tommy Davis? I know she’s sick, so she obviously hasn’t been around over the past year or so to “handle” Katie. Maybe the lack of constant cult indoctrination allowed real life and common sense to creep into Katie’s world for the first time.
It seems like when Jessica was around, Jessica was always around, so Katie was either with Jessica or Tom and never had a moment where she could think for herself, away from cult members. Does anyone know if the cult assigned her another handler after Jessica (and, effectively Tommy) went missing?
Yesterday, we posted a story after canvassing several of our ex-Scientologists sources: if Katie is trying to get Suri out of the church before she gets in too deep, what is it that a 6-year-old faces in Scientology? With the help of our sources we turned up a 50-year-old L. Ron Hubbard policy (still in effect) for interrogating children, beginning at six years of age. It’s a disturbing document.
Freespirit expressed her support for Holmes…
I have a lot of respect for Katie now. I’m behind her 1,000 percent. she’s up against Tom Cruise and David Miscavige on this and the whole machine of Corporate Scientology that they command. She will need a lot of support and I hope the media and others don’t buy into the Black Pr dribble which we can expect to come out of them in their attempts to paint her as an unfit mother or something just as ridiculous.
RadioPaul1 was also disgusted by the Hubbard security check…
Anyone who would willingly submit their child to this crap needs help. I can see more easily now how people disconnect from their children, they long ago handed them over to the cult to be subjected to this kind abuse.
sara cut to the quick…
Looks like an Inquisition for children …
And wannabeclear was similarly repulsed by the idea of interrogating kids…
A couple of the articles I saw yesterday talked about their differences in parenting styles, saying that Katie was more strict and Tom was much more laid back, preferring to treat Suri like a little adult. That was the big honking Scientology flag right there. I hope she gets sole custody because subjecting a six year old to that “sec check” mind fuck is unconscionable.
Mimi The Great may have captured the feeling best…
I’m not sure if it gets more repulsive than manipulating, deceiving and using children in such a way. If for no other reason, this cruelty must end!
And finally, DeckardCain reminded us that jokes based on Tom’s infamous 2004 9-minute video just never get old…
I guess Tom Cruise has finally seen an SP.
Another big post here at Scientology Watching Central. Thanks for sticking with us as we try to sift through all the entheta enturbulating the galaxy.
Please check our Facebook author page for updates and schedules. We were working on several significant stories when the TomKat hurricane hit, so things are a bit out of sorts at the moment. Those of you e-mailing me about Marty Rathbun’s book, I’ll be getting to it as soon as I can.
Tony Ortega has been the editor in chief of the Village Voice since March, 2007. He started writing about Scientology in 1995. You can reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you ask nicely he’ll put you on his mailing list for notifications of new stories. You can also catch his alerts at Twitter (@VoiceTonyO), at his Facebook author page, on Pinterest, a Tumblr, and even this new Google Plus doohickey.
New readers might want to check out our primer, “What is Scientology?” Another good overview is our series from last summer, “Top 25 People Crippling Scientology.” At the top of every story, you’ll see the “Scientology” category which, if you click on it, will bring up all of our most recent stories.
As for hot subjects we’ve covered here, you may have heard about Debbie Cook, the former church official who rebelled and was sued by Scientology. You might have also heard about the Super Power Building, Scientology’s “Mecca,” whose secrets were revealed here. We also reported how Scientology spied on its own most precious object, Tom Cruise. (We wrote Tom an open letter that he has yet to respond to.) Have you seen a Scientology ad on TV lately? We debunked some of the claims in that 2-minute commercial you might have seen while watching Glee or American Idol.
Other stories have looked at Scientology’s policy of “disconnection” that is tearing families apart. You may also have heard something about the Sea Org experiences of the Paris sisters, Valeska and Melissa, and their friend Ramana Dienes-Browning. We’ve also featured Paulette Cooper, who wrote about Scientology back in the day, and Janet Reitman, Hugh Urban, and the team at the Tampa Bay Times, who write about it today. And there’s plenty more coming.