The internet is abuzz with further speculation on the abrupt divorce news from Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise. Many think Scientology is to blame, with some former members of the church saying that Katie is removing their 6-year-old daughter Suri from the church, “making it very clear she’s not going to let what happened with Nicole Kidman happen to her.”
Katie “has always been more of a Catholic than a Scientologist,” a source tells PEOPLE, and the parenting decisions on education and religion for Suri may have influenced her move for sole custody.
The Top Gun star, who has not yet answered Katie’s divorce filing, is a longtime Scientologist, and his older children with Nicole Kidman – Bella, 19, and Connor, 17 – were raised in the controversial church.
So what is life like for a child being raised in Scientology?
From the very beginning, Scientologists encourage a pregnant woman to have a “quiet birth” to prevent negative emotions and fears from being recorded in a child’s subconscious mind. Tom told GQ in 2006, “It’s really about respecting the woman. You want to keep things as calm as possible.”
While breastfeeding is deemed fine, church founder L. Ron Hubbard personally developed a recipe consisting of barley water, milk and corn syrup for infants. Hubbard says it is “a healthy, natural alternative to store-bought ‘formulas,’ ” says Scientology spokesperson Karin Pouw.
After birth, a naming ceremony is held for the child. The infant is welcomed by the congregation, and their parents and godparents pledge to care for the child and allow them their own chosen path in life.
As children grow up, they’re encouraged to make independent decisions.
“Everything needs to be positive and open so a child can experiment and go away from learning situations with positive thoughts and ambitions,” says a Florida church member who has studied alongside Cruise, adding, “Children should never be held back or discouraged from following their bliss. Parents should not get in the way of what a child wants to do.”
On Scientology handbook states, “Children are not dogs. The sweetness and love of a child is preserved only so long as he can exert his own self-determinism.” In his 1950 book Dianetics, Hubbard wrote, “A child needs all the love and affection it can possibly get.”
What about saying “no” to a child being raised in Scientology?
“It’s not true that a child can do anything he or she wants to do,” a Scientology spokesperson says. “Parents who are Scientologists most certainly instruct their children in things they many or may not do and could certainly say ‘no.’ ”
Parents are encouraged to react in a calm manner when a child is injured. Actress Leah Remini, Tom’s friend and a fellow Scientologist has told PEOPLE, “We just give them a second and try not to gasp. You console them, but you don’t do the initial ‘Aaah!’ They might not react as much if your reaction isn’t as big. It’s about letting them be self-determined but in a safe environment.”
Schools exist that use the church’s “study technology” teaching method, developed by Hubbard, which encourages hands-on learning. Up to this point, Suri has been home-schooled.
Older kids start undergoing “confessional auditing,” or “sec checks,” a central part of Scientology. These involved members answering questions while hooked up to “e-meters” that register lie-detecting impulses.
According to Village Voice and Paulette Cooper, author of The Scandal of Scientology, children can begin the “sec checks” around Suri’s age, answering questions such as, “Have you done anything you are ashamed of?,” and, “Have you ever decided you did not like some member of your family?,” and “Have you ever gotten yourself dirty on purpose?”
Do you think Scientology plays a role in Katie’s decision to divorce Tom?