As we wait to see how nasty the Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes divorce becomes, we asked Tom’s former Scientology auditor and legal affairs adviser, Marty Rathbun, to speak to us about the last time Cruise was in this position.
In 2001, Cruise and Nicole Kidman ended their 10-year marriage, and it was Rathbun’s job to bring the actor back into the church.
What the public didn’t know at the time was that Kidman had been successful at keeping Tom almost entirely out of the church during their marriage, which is part of the reason that Scientology spied on his every move with the use of one of his employees. Once the couple split, however, Rathbun was tasked with luring Tom back into the fold. (He did such a good job, by 2004 Cruise was a rabid Scientologist.)
Rathbun was once Scientology’s second most powerful executive, worked closely with church leader David Miscavige for more than 20 years, and personally audited Tom Cruise. He knew both men very well, and talked to us about his fears that Cruise will let Miscavige influence him on his divorce strategy.
Cruise is generally portrayed as having been cruel to Kidman in February 2001 when he notified her through an attorney that he was divorcing her. (The couple had just renewed their vows in December 2000. They had met in 1989 while filming Days of Thunder and were married on December 24, 1990.) But Rathbun says that as he began working to get Cruise back into the church, the actor told him that he wanted to be fair and split things 50/50 with Kidman, including custody of their two adopted children, Isabella and Connor.
(Rathbun regularly tells reporters that he will never reveal what Cruise told him during auditing sessions — likening it to a religious confessional — but in this case, Rathbun says he can talk about what he and Cruise discussed outside of auditing sessions as he acted as Cruise’s legal affairs adviser. Rathbun left Scientology in 2004 and, after spending several years out of sight, resurfaced and began blogging about the church in 2009, harshly criticizing Miscavige and encouraging members to leave the organization and become “independent Scientologists.”)
Over several months in 2001, Cruise and Kidman worked out a way to split up their combined worth of about $350 million. They also agreed to share custody of Isabella and Connor, but the children effectively came more under Cruise’s control as they lived with him while Kidman lived in Australia. Isabella and Connor got Scientology training and are church members today.
Rathbun, meanwhile, says that with the legal issues solved, Cruise could concentrate on his commitment to the church. He audited Cruise as the actor became very close with church leader Miscavige, and spent increasing time with him at Scientology’s international base, east of Los Angeles.
But Miscavige, Rathbun says, wasn’t happy with how things had gone down, and blamed Rathbun for not convincing Cruise to be more aggressive in the divorce case.
“Miscavige came to me and said, ‘You’re a son of a bitch. You fucked Tom over on that divorce. If I was on that he could have got $80 to $100 million more’,” Rathbun says.
Rathbun thought it was bad advice then, and it’s bad advice now.
“I look at this now, [Katie Holmes suing for divorce,] and I think Tom should make this go away as quietly as possible,” he says. “He should punt and let her have everything she wants.”
Rathbun says Cruise simply isn’t in the same position he was eleven years ago.
“When we were handling the Nicole divorce, she started to raise the specter of wanting the kids more than half the time. She hinted through her attorney that Scientology was going to be an issue. So we went in hard. ‘Go ahead, bring it,’ we said. And she backed off,” Rathbun says.
“Tom may think he can do that now, and if he does, he’s had it. Because 2012 is not 2001. The landscape has changed drastically.”
A litany of disasters has rocked Scientology in the last four years — the devastating 2008 leak of an internal church video interview of Cruise, the attempt by the church to suppress the video and the resulting rise of the Anonymous movement, major exposes by the Tampa Bay Times in 2009 and 2011 about Miscavige’s treatment of employees (“The Truth Rundown“) and obsession with fundraising (“The Money Machine“), and this year’s embarrassing debacle when the church sued former employee Debbie Cook.
And, as we wrote earlier, there are Katie’s own concerns about Scientology, which numerous news organizations are reporting is her main motivation for the split — to get her six-year-old daughter away from any further church indoctrination.
“It was a big deal to Tom and Miscavige when Connor would play with an e-meter,” Rathbun says, referring to when Tom and Nicole’s adopted son was Suri’s age.
“But that would have scared Katie,” he says.
Rathbun suggests that Tom Cruise could handle things badly if Miscavige is involved.
“They fought with Nicole to keep the kids in Scientology,” Rathbun says. “If they’re thinking like that now, then they’re going to fight this. If Tom is still as close to Miscavige as he has been in the past, then he may be driven to fight hard.”
Given the current climate of intense criticism of Scientology in popular culture, that kind of aggressive approach could be an utter disaster for the church and for Cruise.
“I think he’d be an idiot not to let her be the primary caretaker, as long as he gets visitation rights,” Rathbun says.
*What Katie Holmes is sparing Suri: Scientology’s interrogation of kids
*Scientology defections: Hubbard’s granddaughter and Miscavige’s dad
*Scientology’s disgrace: our open letter to Tom Cruise
Scientology Offers Classic Denial about Following Katie Holmes
We have no idea if Katie Holmes is being dogged by Scientology operatives, as TMZ reported.
And we have no idea if the goons the Daily News photographed yesterday who were tailing Katie are, indeed, working for the church.
We only wanted to point out that the denial that came from the church is a classic of the form, and we thought it might be useful to draw on a little history to put it into context.
Here’s what the Daily News reports that it was told…
“There is no truth whatsoever to the TMZ.com report (or any other report) that the Church of Scientology has sent anyone to follow or surveil Katie Holmes,” Gary Soter, a lawyer for the Church of Scientology International, told The News in an email.
Now, let’s take a look at what Mike Rinder, who used to oversee surveillance operations for the church when he was executive director of Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs, had to say about such denials…
In the video, Rinder describes how he would instruct private investigator Dave Lubow to get information on a target. The interviewer, Mark Bunker, points out that when Lubow or his other private eyes trailing someone are asked who they work for, they tend to give the name of an attorney — Eliot Abelson, for example. Rinder explains how this was a sham, and a way to keep the operation at “arm’s length” from the church.
As we found in a story we did in October about a man, Robert Almblad, who was under intense surveillance by Lubow, he couldn’t get Lubow to admit that he was working for Scientology:
At one point, Almblad confronted Lubow when he was at a neighbor’s house. He wanted the neighbor to know who was behind the surveillance and strange questions. But when he was challenged, Lubow said he worked for Abelson, the attorney. “I asked him, who does Abelson work for? He said Abelson works for the RTC.” But Lubow wouldn’t explain to the neighbor what that was, Almblad says.
The RTC is the Religious Technology Center, a controlling entity of Scientology — but not, technically, the Church of Scientology International (CSI), which it controls.
It’s a cute trick. Gary Soter can say that CSI — “the Church of Scientology” — has not hired goons to follow Katie Holmes, but that doesn’t mean that the RTC (which controls CSI) has not, through an attorney and that attorney’s private dick, hired beefy thugs to tail the actress.
See how that works?
In Ireland, a Summit About Scientology’s Abuses
This group, and more, put on a conference in Dublin about Scientology that got some good coverage in the press there. From the Irish Times…
When she spoke publicly of her experiences, Ms Domingo says the church pressured her ex-husband to disconnect from her and to only communicate with their three daughters through an attorney.
The threat of having details from their church-based marriage counselling exposed exacerbated the couple’s difficulties, she added, until the musician also defected.
“I hope Tom and Katie haven’t had marriage counselling because if they have, OSA will have those files,” said Ms Domingo, who still practises Scientology independently of the church….
Almost half of those attending the event, the first of its kind in Ireland, disguised themselves with a colourful mix of balaclavas, bandanas, veils and the Guy Fawkes masks favoured by “hacktivist” protester collective Anonymous, whose members had travelled from France, Germany and the UK to attend and support the event.
Many guests filing into the conference were filmed by two people outside the venue, the Teachers’ Club in Dublin’s Parnell Square.
Former Scientologist Pete Griffiths, the event’s chief organiser, believed it was a surveillance tactic by Scientology intelligence operatives and that similar conferences had been scuppered in the past through the church’s interference.
David Love posted this photo at Facebook…
That’s Griffiths holding the sign, then, to the right, Christman, Love, Armstrong, and DeWolf.
Edited videos from the conference should be up soon.
Please check our Facebook author page for updates and schedules as we continue to keep an eye on many different things happening in the world of Scientology.
Tony Ortega has been the editor in chief of the Village Voice since March, 2007. He started writing about Scientology in 1995. You can catch his alerts at Twitter (@VoiceTonyO), at his Facebook author page, on Pinterest, 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.