Katie Holmes 'Brilliant' in Divorce Strategy, Say Ex-Scientologists
No one from either Tom Cruise's team or Katie Holmes' camp was talking on the record Monday after the couple announced they had reached what has to be one of the quickest celebrity divorce negotiations in history.
Although it seemed as if Holmes had pulled off what many were predicting last week -- the actress succeeded in strong-arming an organization that has been known in the past for getting its own way against everyone from Nicole Kidman to the IRS -- speculation that the split could force even more revelations about the secretive Church of Scientology to come to light as a result of a lengthy divorce trial have been dashed.
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One burning question remained after Cruise and Holmes said they had come to an agreement about the end of their five-year marriage and custody of their 6-year-old daughter, Suri: Will Holmes, as predicted by formerly top-ranking Scientologists, state that her decision to file for divorce from Cruise had nothing to do with Scientology?
The answer? It's complicated. People will be watching to see if any statement either side makes beyond their joint and vague statement Monday about "respecting each other's beliefs" addresses Scientology and if anything in the settlement specifically restricts what Holmes can say about the organization.
Marty Rathbun, a Scientologist for 22 years and considered the second-most powerful figure in the organization until he left in late 2004, told the Village Voice on Sunday that he foresaw a speedy settlement that would secretly give Holmes everything she wanted as long as she stated publicly that Scientology had nothing to do with why she wanted out of the marriage.
So far, Holmes hasn't commented. And that's been just part of what Mike Rinder -- once the brains behind Scientology's handling of the media until he himself left the group in 2007 -- calls a dazzling strategy.
"Katie's been brilliant, absolutely brilliant," Rinder told The Hollywood Reporter on Monday after the settlement was announced. "She hasn't made one statement."
A source close to Holmes' legal team says the 33-year-old actress is "very relieved" that a settlement has been reached. "Katie is glad that this situation has been resolved so swiftly and amicably."
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Holmes reportedly got what she wanted; Suri will live with her in New York, though Cruise will be allowed significant visitation. Holmes' representative, attorney Jonathan Wolfe, says the real details of the settlement are being kept under wraps.
“There are numerous inaccuracies in the reports regarding the purported contents of the agreement reached between the parties," he said. "The agreement is confidential, and its terms will not be disclosed.”
Rinder speculates that if Holmes does say her divorce petition had nothing to do with Scientology, she runs the risk of losing her new Lifetime-ready image of a gutsy mom, an image burnished by reports in media outlets ranging from Extra ("Katie's brave face") to the New York Daily News, which described her as a "mother trying to save her daughter from the clutches of Scientology."
Instead she could be seen as having caved to the organization.
Holmes indirectly put unprecedented pressure on Scientology this past week after her divorce petition resulted in a flood of stories indicating she was probably leaving Cruise because she didn't want Suri raised as a Scientologist.
"If she does [disavow Scientology as a factor in the divorce], it will look terrible, and I think it would be a terrible mistake," says Rinder, who says to watch for a spin on the divorce that will come from an "indirect source."
"Tom's publicist will be walking right in line with all the big celebrity glossies like Us Weekly and the shows like Entertainment Tonight and leaking to them that the divorce had nothing to do with Scientology," Rinder says. "That way Katie doesn't have to say anything directly, but Tom Cruise and the Church of Scientology get to save face."
But will that offset the spotlight news of the divorce has put on Scientology?
"If word comes out that the divorce was not about Scientology, people will buy it hook, line and sinker," says Rinder. "That's just how it is. People tend to believe what you tell them."
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Jefferson Hawkins, who was with the Church of Scientology for 35 years and served as its head of marketing, says he thinks the damage done in just the past week is one more black eye that the embattled group might not survive.
"We're seeing the beginning of the final collapse of Scientology," Hawkins suggested in a conversation with THR. "The Cruise divorce is eventually going to go away," but Hawkins predicts an acceleration of the departure of church members.
Rathbun also says he believes lawyers for both sides carefully crafted the statement about the couple's "respect for each other's commitment to each of our respective beliefs" in the hope that it will soften perceived speculation that Holmes was leaving Cruise because she didn't want their daughter raised a Scientologist.
"I'm not sure it will work, though," Rathbun says. "I think the international media that's been scrutinizing all of this are going to press for more specific answers about why Katie wanted to leave Tom."
Rathbun says he wishes he could speak directly to Cruise and urge him to leave the Church of Scientology and join what he calls the blossoming movement of independent Scientologists like Rathbun, Rinder and others who still believe in L. Ron Hubbard's core "technology" but oppose current church leader David Miscavige.
An attorney representing the Church of Scientology has given recent statements calling Rathbun and Rinder apostates with no credibility.
"I could get [Cruise] out of there in 15 minutes," Rathbun says. "He could join the hundreds of people who have left the church and lead happy, rewarding lives without being browbeaten and made to feel guilty and at blame for everything. He just needs to take a step back from his relationship with Miscavige and see how poisonous it is."
Rathbun says he has the perfect solution for Cruise to exit the church and repair his image.
"Decide to leave the church and hold a quick, 15-minute press conference," says Rathbun. "He'll be a hero. People will love him for it."