By Anna Schecter
Though Katie Holmes has not addressed reports that Scientology was a reason she split with Tom Cruise, a former Church of Scientology spokesman said some families, including his own, were torn apart when one spouse wanted to leave the religion.
“My wife, my son, my daughter, my mother….they disconnected from me. They will not communicate with me,” said Mike Rinder in an interview with Kate Snow airing on Thursday, July 12 at 10pm/9c on NBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams.
Rinder joined the church as a child in Australia and rose to be Scientology’s international spokesman before he left the church in 2007.
He said he had been unhappy inside the church for a long time, but was afraid to leave because he said the church encouraged members to cut ties with relatives who want to leave.
“Part of that environment is keeping track of how people think…it’s a crime to …think bad thoughts about what’s going on and people will turn you in. Even your spouse will turn you in or your children will turn you in and then you’ll be in trouble,” he said.
When he finally decided to leave, he said he called his wife of 31 years and their two children and asked them to join him.
“The first thing that I did was I contacted them and said, 'Okay, I'm done. I'm gone. I'm in Virginia. Please come and join me.' And the answer was, ‘F-you.’ Literally,” he said.
In addition to losing his family, Rinder said he has been harassed by the church, an assertion the church denies.
“They've had private investigators follow me for months and months and months, everywhere I went,” he said.
In 1998, Rinder was on the other side of the fence, defending Scientology in an interview with Dateline.
"There isn't and hasn't been any effort which has been taken to quote silence critics," said Rinder to Dateline in 1998.
Today, Rinder says he frequently lied to the public in his role as a church spokesman.
The Church of Scientology says it does not encourage members to cut ties with relatives who have left the church.
In a letter to NBC News, an attorney for the church wrote that Rinder is, “untrustworthy, unreliable and biased,” adding that he is a self-promoter who is using a tragic personal matter to forward his own anti-Scientology agenda. The church denies following or harassing Rinder after he left the church.
The church has said Rinder abandoned his wife and their two children and has accused him of being violent towards his ex-wife and other members of the church.
NBC News could not reach Rinder’s ex-wife for comment.
Rinder said at times he was violent towards some church members prior to his separation from the Church of Scientology, but said it was all part of the environment inside the church.
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