Katie Holmes 'Biggest Nightmare' in Scientology History, Say Experts

 Getty Images

UPDATED

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.

PHOTOS: 19 of Hollywood's All-Time Shortest Marriages

"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 a statement Tuesday in support of Holmes and any concern she has over her daughter's involvement in the church.

STORY: Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes: The Fallout Continues

"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. "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.

STORY: Rupert Murdoch Attacks Tom Cruise, Calls Scientology 'Creepy, Maybe Evil'

"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 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.)

comments powered by Disqus