As a 54-year-old action hero, Tom Cruise has a few tricks up his sleeves: elevator shoes, and a snazzy little spiritual practice known as Scientology. Much like Motorola Sidekicks and Juicy Couture zip-ups, L. Ron Hubbard’s controversial church appeared to peak in the 2000s, thanks to a star-studded roster of worshippers. Despite boasting a theological doctrine that is at odds with both modern science and human reason, the house that Hubbard built has welcomed such luminaries as John Travolta, Christopher Reeve, and Will and Jada Pinkett Smith.
Unfortunately, like a celebrity marriage arranged by church officials, these relationships have almost unanimously led to messy breakups. In 2015, King of Queens actress and ex-church member Leah Remini went public about her own Scientology separation. Remini, whose “Operating Thetan 3” level in the institution allowed her access to secret L. Ron Hubbard documents, described his writings as “some crazy shit”, and started to cool off on the religion after Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise’s uncomfortable wedding. But since Scientology prohibits members from talking to those of little faith, Remini feared the personal fallout caused by her departure. These fears came to fruition when Remini was quickly smeared by the Church of Scientology, which hand-delivered a packet of anti-Remini materials to 20/20 in preparation for the actress’s big tell-all interview. Remini was forced to pick up the pieces of her reputation without the help of her newly estranged friends, many of whom chose to mirror the church’s cold shoulder.
But among all of Remini’s allegations, the most fascinating concerned Scientology’s golden boy, Tom Cruise. “Being critical of Tom Cruise is being critical of Scientology itself,” she told 20/20 last year. “You are a person who is anti the aims and goals of Scientology. You are evil.” As countless fellow stars have jumped from Scientology’s creepy, sinking ship, Cruise has stood by the religion, arguably to his own personal and professional detriment. Tom Cruise is the Kellyanne Conway of Scientology.
While Cruise is inarguably the celebrity face of the declining brand, he’s mostly remained mum about all that thetan mumbo jumbo. Rare exceptions include a YouTube video of Cruise proselytizing among converts, which was shown at a 2004 International Association of Scientologists meeting. Over the course of the nine-minute video, Cruise reveals his cult-like dedication to the cause. “I think it’s a privilege to call yourself a Scientologist, and it’s something you have to earn, because a Scientologist does,” says a committed Cruise. “He or she has the ability to create new and better realities and improve conditions.” He adds, “Being a Scientologist, when you drive past an accident, it’s not like anyone else. When you drive past, you know you have to do something about it because you know you’re the only one that can really help.”
Cruise’s reticence about publicly discussing his not-so-private faith is most likely due to the fact that talking about Scientology makes him sound like a raving narcissist. Given the clear and present threat to his public image, it’s hard to say why the actor was recently driven to break his silence. On the red carpet for his latest film, Jack Reacher 2: Never Go Back, Cruise opened up about Scientology. And unfortunately for both the star and his publicist, Cruise can never go back.
The actor’s remarks, from calling Scientology a “beautiful religion” to boasting about being a member of the faith “for over 30 years,” can be most accurately characterized as glowing. “It's something that has helped me incredibly in my life,” he declared. “It’s something, you know, without it, I wouldn’t be where I am… I’m incredibly proud.” Unlike his Jack Reacher sequel, Cruise’s relationship with Scientology has been closely watched and widely discussed. In the past, a more open, jumpier Cruise credited Hubbard’s methods with helping him overcome his dyslexia. In return for this off-brand method of treatment, Cruise has apparently allowed the church to basically run his life.
According to the incendiary Scientology documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, the Church has continuously over-reached its non-existent boundaries with celebrity clientele. When Cruise’s second wife, Nicole Kidman, attempted to distance her husband from the faith, she was allegedly labeled a “Suppressive Person” by Scientology head David Miscavige. The documentary claims that the religion proceeded to wage an all-out war against Kidman, tapping her phones and attempting to turn her children against her. Miscavige allegedly tasked Marty Rathbun, formerly the second-highest-ranking official in the Church of Scientology, with the crucial task of dismantling the celebrity marriage. “I was to facilitate the breakup with Nicole Kidman,” Rathbun says in the film.
After Cruise and Kidman divorced in 2001, the star and his Church continued their search for a more compliant, and even more height-inappropriate partner. Cruise ultimately landed on Katie Holmes, his soon to be third ex-wife. Once Cruise and Holmes started going steady, the actress was assigned a Scientology handler to accompany her on press tours and monitor her interviews. The made-for-propaganda TV couple married in 2006 in a Scientologist wedding, with matchmaker extraordinaire Miscavige serving as Cruise’s best man.
Like so many women attempting to ignore a glaring red flag, Holmes gave her husband’s religion a shot but was reportedly overwhelmed by the intensity of both Cruise and his church buddies. When Cruise and Holmes split in 2012, it was amidst rumors that the star feared her husband was planning to ship their daughter Suri off to Sea Org—an elite training division of the Church that requires its members to sign a “billion-year contract.” According to the ensuing divorce deposition, when lawyers asked Cruise if Holmes left him “in part to protect Suri from Scientology,” Cruise first said he found the question “offensive” and that “there is no reason to protect my daughter from my religion,” before admitting, “Did [Holmes] say that? That was one of my assertions, yes.”
But while Holmes and Cruise ultimately agreed to disagree about the age of the universe and the legitimacy of psychiatry, Scientology has continued to differentiate their parenting styles to disastrous effect. While Holmes prefers a hands-on approach, including such adventures as picking Suri up from school and taking her outside, Cruise appears to parent exclusively from within the confines of his own home. The last time Cruise was photographed with his daughter Suri was around three years ago, when he took her to Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park in Florida. Cruise might have an original excuse for spurning his spawn, but his “divorced daddy takes you to Disney World routine” is downright cliché. According to an InTouch update from early June 2015, Cruise hasn’t seen his ten-year-old daughter IRL since she was seven. “They used to Skype and text, but that trailed off drastically,” a source told the gossip mag. In other words, Cruise has more contact with Siri than Suri.
“Disconnection”—or the severing of all ties between a Scientologist and an “antagonistic person”—is a common theme within Scientology. According to the official Scientology website, this extreme practice is defined as when “all spiritual advancement gained from Scientology may well be lost because one is continually invalidated by an antagonistic person who wants nothing more than to do harm to the person. In order to resolve this situation, one either ‘handles’ the other person’s antagonism with true data about Scientology and the Church or, as a last resort, when all attempts to handle have failed, one ‘disconnects’ from or stops communicating with the person.” In other words, Cruise may be under direct orders not to associate with Holmes and Suri, two well-known ex-members of the Church of Scientology.
While we do not know whether Cruise has entirely disconnected from his daughter, the InTouch report concluded with the frightening observation that “Tom eats, breathes and sleeps Scientology”—a notion that his latest comments seem to corroborate. Given Cruise’s inability to make any statement about Scientology that doesn’t sound like Stockholm Syndrome, it’s difficult to suss out just how deeply his ties to the church go. Then again, if Holmes’s rumored five-year divorce clause against publicly discussing Cruise or Scientology is actually a thing, there’s still hope for an upcoming tell-all. It might be too late for Tom Cruise, but Katie Holmes’s explosive memoir could very well save 2016.