Tom Cruise and Suri: Scientology's Heartbreaking Double Standard?
Are some Scientologists different from others?
It’s been only two weeks since Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes reached a quickie divorce settlement, but during that time Cruise has swiftly carved out a new life as single dad to his 6-year-old daughter, Suri.
After finishing his latest movie, Oblivion, in California, Cruise sped to Manhattan for a three-day reunion with his daughter beginning July 3, taking her on a helicopter ride to the Hamptons before flying off to London for pre-production work on his next film, All You Need Is Kill.
It seemed proof of his lawyer Bert Fields' claim that Cruise would have "significant contact" with the girl, though she will be based in New York with her mother.
It’s an arrangement most people would find normal, unless you’re among the numbers of Scientologists and ex-Scientologists who say that if Cruise were a typical church member, he’d be forbidden to see or speak to Katie again -- and would be discouraged from staying in contact with Suri.
Karen De La Carriere, the ex-wife of the president of Scientology and a protege of L. Ron Hubbard with decades of experience inside the organization, says she was never allowed contact with her son, Alexander Jentzsch, after leaving the church in 2010. She had hoped for a reconciliation until she learned July 5 that he had died at age 27 on July 3 at the Sylmar, Calif., home of Maureen and Jeffrey Evans, Alexander’s ex-wife’s family, Scientologists, who De La Carriere says refused her access to the body and any information about her dead son. Calls to the Evans family for comment were not returned.
So why was De La Carriere, according to her account, kept by Alexander’s in-laws from viewing her son's body at the morgue or retrieving his ashes whereas Cruise can see Suri despite the fact his ex-wife has made it clear she is returning to her Catholic roots?
The answers may lie in Scientology’s "disconnection” policy -- as some call it -- and how much the organization manages its application to members’ lives. De La Carriere and other ex-church members who spoke to The Hollywood Reporter hope that Holmes’ surprise decision to file for divorce from Cruise on June 28 and the shockingly swift settlement agreement the couple signed July 8 will shine a spotlight on these questions.
The concept of disconnection is described by former Scientologists as the forced separation from family members who have left the organization. The policy has been recounted in often anguished detail in the media and online by numerous former Scientologists who have lost contact with loved ones. Scientology spokespeople say De La Carriere and other ex-Scientologists who have criticized the church in statements to THR are “defrocked apostates” who are not telling the truth.
The policy, as described by defectors, involves ordering members to cut all contact with family and friends who have left the church, criticized it or are involved in activities that the church opposes. The shunned are called “suppressive persons” in Scientology jargon.
“Disconnection is the main weapon of Scientology,” says Samantha Domingo, 45, the ex-wife of Placido Domingo Jr., son of the famed tenor and a respected musician in his own right. Domingo, who joined the church at 21 and left in 2009, says that within 48 hours of her informing the church she was leaving, she was declared a “suppressive person” and longtime friends in the Scientology community in East Grinstead, England, began “crossing the street” to avoid her.
Her marriage eventually cracked under the strain, and the Domingos divorced.
“My children received Facebook messages from their friends saying they weren’t allowed to talk to them anymore and they had to disconnect,” says Domingo, whose children were 8, 11 and 13 at the time. “My husband, who had stayed in the church, was called in and ordered to disconnect from me or be excommunicated.”
Domingo says she did what Katie Holmes did.
“I walked out of there holding my kids tightly by the hand,” she says. “If I had left them in the church with their father, I might not have seen them again. If my kids had been older and decided to stay, they would have been ordered to disconnect from me. Katie knows all this.”