Tom and Katie divorce: Scientology in the spotlight

News that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were getting divorced was fodder for glossy celebrity magazines, but there was also a key religion angle to the story because Cruise’s long-standing involvement in Scientology was central to the marriage and the media coverage.


Scientology always has a high profile owing to its many celebrity adherents, but recent headlines have not always been good news for the church.

In 2011, a lengthy New Yorker article profiled the defection of director and screenwriter Paul Haggis, for example, and revealed that the FBI is investigating Scientology on human trafficking allegations. The Feb. 14, 2011, New Yorker piece was 24,000 words long and in the course of profiling Haggis provided an extensive and detailed narrative on the origins and beliefs of the Church of Scientology. The controversial movement keeps many aspects of its doctrines and practices secret, so the article was an unusual window into Scientology.

The Cruise-Holmes split provided yet another insight into Scientology, via another headline-grabbing controversy.

As Washington Post story noted, Scientology does not have a doctrine against divorce and founder L. Ron Hubbard was married three times. An ABC News story quoted Stephen Kent, a religion professor at the University of Alberta, as saying that rather than focusing on divorce, the church concentrates on improving couples’ relationships through therapy. “Church members believe that tension in a marriage comes from ‘overts’ and ‘withholds,’ unstated, undiscussed issues or problems. Communication is therefore a good way to rebuild a marriage that’s crumbling,” Kent said.

It is also worth noting that following the divorce, Holmes returned to the Catholic faith, registering as a parishioner at a church in New York.

In his 2013 book Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Science of Belief, author Lawrence Wright includes a lengthy analogy of Cruise’s relationship with scientology.

In light of the Cruise-Holmes divorce filing, CNN’s Belief blog posted answers to some basic questions about Scientology and highlighted some of the church’s most famous adherents.

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