By Anna Schecter
Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise's settlement is now final and neither of them has publicly addressed reports that the Church of Scientology-and the future role of Scientology in their daughter Suri’s life-was a cause of the split.
One former Church of Scientology official is speaking out about what he said he witnessed at the time of Cruise’s 2001 divorce from actress Nicole Kidman.
Marty Rathbun, who worked at the church for 27 years before leaving in 2004, said that he believes church officials used Scientology doctrine to turn Kidman’s children against her.
“It was more than implied….[Kidman] was somebody that they shouldn't open up with, they shouldn't communicate with, and they shouldn't spend much time with,” said Rathbun in an interview airing Thursday, July 17 at 10pm/9c on NBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams.
Rathbun said he spent countless hours working with Cruise at the church’s celebrity center in California starting in late 2001. He said he was conducting counseling sessions with Cruise that the church calls "auditing.”
“[Cruise] and I were intensively at it, you know, auditing several hours a day over several months,” he said.
When Cruise’s children were with their father at the church, they were often in the hands of the Church of Scientology staff, according to Rathbun.
“And they were being indoctrinated, and they were reporting to Tom on how that was going in my presence,” Rathbun said.
Rathbun claims church officials suggested to Cruise and Kidman’s children, then six and nine years old, that their mother was a “suppressive person,” which the church’s website, Scientology.org, defines as “a person who seeks to suppress other people in their vicinity.”
“A Suppressive Person will goof up or vilify any effort to help anybody and particularly knife with violence anything calculated to make human beings more powerful or more intelligent. The "suppressive person" is also known as the "anti-social personality." Within this category one finds Napoleon, Hitler, the unrepentant killer and the drug lord,” according to the official Church of Scientology's website, Scientology.org.
Rathbun said the Church of Scientology closely monitors the communication of high profile members and orders members to sever ties with suppressive people, particularly those who are critical of the church.
“That person could be your son, it could be your daughter, it could be your father, it could be your mother. It doesn't matter,” Rathbun said.
Rathbun said these policies came into play with regards to Kidman’s children, Conner and Isabella. “They were being steered toward and indoctrinated toward coming to the conclusion that Nicole was a suppressive person,” he said.
The Church of Scientology has denied that any such conversations with Kidman’s children took place. It has said that it has no policy that requires members to sever ties with relatives who do not believe in the religion. On the church's website, Scientology.org, it says that, "A Scientologist can have trouble making spiritual progress in his auditing or training if he is connected to someone who is suppressive...[and] as a last resort, when all attempts to handle have failed, one 'disconnects' from or stops communicating with the person."
The church declined to comment on the divorce of Cruise and Holmes, saying it would be “inappropriate.”
Kidman’s publicist did not respond to requests for comment on this story. A representative for Cruise told Rock Center that Rathbun is not a reliable source.
"He is a bitter ex-Scientologist who spends most of his time attacking Scientology and using Tom Cruise's name to get attention for his bigoted diatribe. If he "audited" Mr. Cruise, he is violating the privilege of that position by discussing it," said Bert Fields, Cruise's representative.
Of the Church of Scientology's role in influencing Kidman and Cruise's children, Fields said, "It is absolutely false that Mr. Cruise, or anyone else to his knowledge, did or said anything to lessen Connor and Bella's communication or relationship with their mother. On the contrary, Mr. Cruise did all he could to encourage that relationship."
In a letter to NBC News, Gary Soter, an attorney for the Church of Scientology, wrote that Rathbun is an unreliable source and a liar. Soter described Rathbun as “a defrocked ex-communicated apostate.”
Soter wrote that Rathbun is a self-promoter who is “shamelessly” exploiting a tragic personal matter to forward his own anti-Scientology agenda and to profit from it.
Scientology’s online publication FreedomMag.org contains numerous allegations against Rathbun, including charges of violent and psychotic behavior.
Rathbun admits to violent behavior against other members of the church while still a member himself, but says it was part of the culture within the church, which the church denies.
One of the posts on FreedomMag.org asserts that church officials ultimately fired Rathbun from the church for bad behavior and had to “clean up his mess.”
When asked about the allegations against him, Rathbun replied, “Then why was I assigned by the Chairman of the Board to audit Tom Cruise during the last four years of my involvement at the Church of Scientology?”
Karen Russo contributed to this report.
Editor's Note: Kate Snow's full report airs Thursday, July 12 at 10pm/9c on NBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams.