June 30, 2012

What we learn about Scientology from the Katie Holmes/Tom Cruise divorce.

Holmes seeks sole custody of the couple's 6-year-old child Suri, who has supposedly been raised under principles of Scientology:
Suri is apparently treated as an adult, free to make decisions on her clothes, make-up and diet.

Scientology expert Rick Ross explained to the Daily Mail's Alison Boshoff last year: 'Scientologists treat kids as if they are individuals capable of making their own decisions.'

Indeed, Tom echoed this approach in an interview in 2010.

'I say to Suri, "I really want you to eat this protein if you’re going to have that sugar,"' he said.

'She looks at me and she goes: "Dad, I don’t think you should try to force me to do something I don’t want to do."'...

Just last week, an evening of pizza and ice-cream with her mother ended in tears when Katie took her daughter's cone away.
If we assume, for the purposes of discussion, that Cruise follows a religion-based approach to child rearing, involving maximum autonomy, and Holmes now objects to that and wants to raise the child according to more conventional decision-making and discipline by the parent, how much of a factor should that play in determining custody? Should Cruise's ideas about child-rearing have more weight or less weight because they are premised on religion?

That is, imagine Cruise2, a man with the same approach to child-rearing, arrived at through religion-free thought processes — philosophy, common sense, personal experience.... While you're at it, imagine Cruise3, with the same notions of child-rearing, premised on religious beliefs, with a much more conventional religion. Let's make Cruise3 a mainstream Protestant who has come to a serious conclusion about children, individual autonomy, and free choice based on a deep commitment to the teachings of Jesus.

ADDED: USF lawprof Paul L. McKaskle emails:
My course materials on Comparative Civil Liberties (a comparison of European and American law about freedom of expression, association and privacy) discuss this issue. A European Court of Human Rights held that religion cannot be a factor in deciding custody (Hoffmann v. Austria, [1994] 17 E.H.R.R. 293) where the mother and father were married in the Catholic Church but the mother converted to Jehovah's Witness and the Austrian Courts denied her custody for that reason. As to what would happen in the United States (at least as of 2009, the date of the course materials) the course materials summarize as follows:
“On the issue of whether the religion of one parent can be dispositive of the issue of custody, there is little law in the United States. The issue has never reached the U.S. Supreme Court. In California, two older intermediate appellate court cases involving a Jehovah's Witness parent come to opposite results. In Wilson v. Wilson, 137 P.2d 700 (1943) the religious issue appeared to be the dominant factor in the trial court's decision to give custody to the father, who was not a Jehovah's Witness. The appellate court affirmed. In Cory v. Cory, 161 P.2d 385 (1945), the appellate court (without mentioning Wilson, supra) reversed the trial court which had awarded the father custody in preference to the mother, primarily on the basis that the mother was a Jehovah's Witness. (The trial court's reasons were mostly directed at whether the children should be allowed to pledge allegiance to the flag at school, which the father wanted and the mother did not.... Neither case was reviewed by the California Supreme Court, so, technically, a trial court in California could follow either case. There was a third California case, Quiner v. Quiner, 59 Cal.Rptr. 503 (1967), in which the trial court refused to give custody to the mother who belonged to a religious sect (the Exclusive Brethren) in which voluntary association with non-members of the sect or any activities outside the family were strictly forbidden. This meant, according to the trial court, that the child, inter alia, could not attend movies, have school friends outside the sect, engage in school athletics or even have a record player. The Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, reversed and awarded custody to the mother on the grounds that her religion should not be a factor in awarding custody (citing Cory, supra, but not mentioning Wilson, supra.). The California Supreme Court granted a hearing on the case on its own motion. This is an extremely rare occurrence in California, but it had the effect of vacating the Court of Appeals opinion so that it [is no longer] precedent. According to the attorney for the mother, after the hearing was granted the Clerk of the Supreme Court contacted both him and opposing counsel on several occasions and said the Chief Justice (Roger Traynor at the time) “wanted the case settled.” The parties did settle shortly thereafter and the further review in the Supreme Court was dismissed. (That did not restore the Court of Appeals opinion, however. Once it had been vacated it was no longer precedent.)”
[The Quiner case has been cited in law review articles on the topic–written by non-California judges, lawyers or students–under the erroneous assumption that the case is good law because it is published with a citation in the West Publishing Company's California Reporter. West publishes Court of Appeal cases in the California Reporter when they are first filed and they remain there even if they have subsequently been vacated. But such a case does not appear in the Official Reporter and, even though there is an "unofficial" citation available for such a case (as is set out above) it can no longer be cited as authority.]

On a related issue, the power of a divorced parent to raise children in his or her religion, the courts have reached conflicting results. Some courts have held this power is vested exclusively in the custodial parent. See, e.g., Marjorie G. v. Stephen G., 592 N.Y.S.2d 209 (1992). More courts have held that even the non-custodial parent has the right to expose the children to his or her own religion. See, e.g., Felton v. Felton, 418 N.E.2d 606 (Mass. 1981); Mentry v. Mentry, 142 Cal. App. 3d 260 (1983).

I realize this doesn't answer your question of what should the law be. I think it can be an allowable a factor, analogous to Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158 (1944) which held that the state may intervene in protecting the health or safety of a minor despite parental religious beliefs. In my opinion the oddball grant of "autonomy" has a bearing on the child's health. And, of course, if there is joint custody, the mother certainly has an equal right to impose her child-rearing approaches (as long as they were not dangerous) while she has custody.

(In the now vacated Quiner case, when the appellate court reversed and gave the mother custody, it did grant the father some visiting rights which, presumably, would allow the son to associate with others not a member of The Exclusive Brethren during such time-including, of course, his father-and engage in non sect-related activities-including going to movies with his father, for example. All of this, of course, would be completely contrary to the teachings of the sect.)


ndspinelli said...

For those old enough to remember the Coptics in Florida, what turned the public against their religion was a documentary showing their kids[2nd, 3rd graders] blowing weed. let's be honest, all religions are not equal.

David said...

" Let's make Cruise3 a mainstream Protestant who has come to a serious conclusion about children, individual autonomy, and free choice based on a deep commitment to the teachings of Jesus."

Didn't your parents have a pretty noninvasive philosophy professor? I think this is a great way to raise kids, as long as you can be vigilant about dangerous or self destructive choices, especially at very young ages. When they get to a certain age, they are going to be making their own choices, no matter what the parent does, so they might as well start learning this young in a relatively safe environment.

Was the Cruise home a safe environment?

This should be another fun pre-nuptial agreement challenge, unless Cruise is even stupider than he seems.

edutcher said...

I remember in Sociology, the Puritans treated their kids like adults and, if they didn't do what they were told, they got smacked.

Somehow, I have a feeling their system may have worked better.

The only reason I have reservations is that whole witch thing.

David said...

Was the Cruise home a safe environment?

Sounds like sitting in the path of a cruise missile would be a safer environment.

PS The kid's 6 and she does makeup?

Anonymous said...

Exactly as David asks, was the Cruise home a safe one? Do mainstream religions provide a safer environment than cults?

I agree that once a child gets to a certain age they will do as they want. We all hope they will fall back onto what we taught them as children, but what if we teach them nothing when they are children? They do not recognize anyone as an authority figure, trust only their own judgment?

What if they haven't developed good judgment in childhood?

David said...

To answer the question they should have no more or less weight because they are faith based. That's my common sense answer. I suppose there's a "free exercise" issue here but I've done my last law school exam.

But . . . . I say any free exercise right belongs to the kid, not the parent. The court must look to the welfare of the child, and if the parent's idea of free exercise is detrimental to the child, it must be taken into account. The child is not a religious artifact or object for the parent's use in worship or practice of the parent's religion.

Goddess of the Classroom said...

According to what we know about cognitive development, children CAN'T reason until they reach the age of about 10, and even then are subject more strongly to impulse and immediate gratification than rational choice.
Children need limits, and they need to know that those boundaries are firm.

traditionalguy said...

ndspinelli....What Coptics in Florida? The Coptics are the strictest child rearers around.

The let the child be the adult game is a luxory that fails to tech a child boundaries it needs to learn...we always called it the Montessori method.

The Judeo-Christian teachings are that failing to give a child correction proves the parent hates the child.

Scientology is not a religion. It's a mind control cult based upon an obvious deception started by a sci-fi writer who started it to prove how dumb people really are.

So it is no wonder that Cruise hates the lost child.

David said...

I have no idea whether the Cruise home is a safe environment. A girl wearing makeup at six strikes me as a bad idea but it's not an idea that should permit a court to decline parental rights. It's not the court's job to enforce conventional norms, just to assure that the child is safe. Crack can give us his views on whether any child of Scientilogy is safe, but if we are going to decide custody based on funny notions, how about all that wafers and wine and body stuff? That sounds pretty weird to some people. Gotta protect the little nippers from being alcoholic cannibals, right?

Can Of Cheese for Hunter said...

"...she [Katie] was immediately sent on an intensive and lengthy study course about Scientology, the religion founded by sci-fi author L Ron Hubbard in 1954, which holds that humans are descended from an exiled race of aliens called Thetans."

What would Thetans eat?

David said...

NO . . . MORE . . . LAW . . . EXAMS!

rhhardin said...

I'd go with the parent that lets you play outside.

edutcher said...

AllieOop said...

Exactly as David asks, was the Cruise home a safe one? Do mainstream religions provide a safer environment than cults?

Scientology doesn't make you live in a compound or something, IIRC. You live your life and associate with other people.

That said, a lot of their ideas may well just be bad, but the same can be said of all the Lefty child-rearing crazes of the 50s and 60s.

SunnyJ said...

How about we raise our children to think, not accept prescribed idealogies at all? Faith is not about robotic singular thought...I'm a Christian myself as I understand that Jesus questioned every day and right up to the moment on the cross. I am a believer by choice..not a slave.

Kids are natural scientists...we should be teaching physics first and then the rest, as kids are natural students of the physics of the natural world. They understand pulleys, levers, friction, the path of least resistance (listening mom and dad). Why pick a fight about cookies for breakfast when you serve waffles/pancakes etc. and it's the same chemistry in a different form? At 2 I let my daughter have the cookie and my 78 yr old hired man peeled a beautiful orange and admired it, smelled it, ate each piece with great pleasure telling stories of his childhood and the Christmas of a fresh orange in his stocking...within seconds she's left the cookie and sitting on the step with him eating the orange. She's 20 now and we laugh and cry as she picks up an orange and remembers and enjoys! Parenting isn't about cloning and controlling...be there, model, show and talk your thought process, say no when your own thoughtful process says to and move on to pick your battles carefully.

Come on people, think for yourselves...teach your children to think for themselves and they will choose belief systems that make sense for them in the long run...

Curious George said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MadisonMan said...

Tom Cruise has divorced all of his wives when they reached the age of 33.

Scientology certainly is not safe for a child who requires medication to maintain a stable brain chemistry. That is well known. I'd yank Suri from Cruise and place her with Katie H just for that reason.

Jeremy Perkins' Mom can tell you why.

ndspinelli said...

traditionalguy, this was a schism called the Zion Coptic Church which came from Jamaica to Florida and considered ganga a sacrament. It was back in the 70's.

Krumhorn said...

I would surely flunk this exam, because my blue book would be full of CruiseAssHole and CruiseColdBastid. I'm sorry, but if you can't keep Nicole or Katie in your bed, then maybe that's why Suri's gerbils always had that peculiar uncuddly smell.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the Rastafarians, Spinelli.

Anonymous said...

Edutcher, my parents raised me, a lefty as you always describe me. Guess what, they were conservative Christians.

Ann Althouse said...

"Didn't your parents have a pretty noninvasive philosophy professor? I think this is a great way to raise kids, as long as you can be vigilant about dangerous or self destructive choices, especially at very young ages. When they get to a certain age, they are going to be making their own choices, no matter what the parent does, so they might as well start learning this young in a relatively safe environment."

Yes, but I didn't have $3 million worth of clothes when I was 6.

There's noninterference and getting the child to take responsibility, and that's different from giving the child everything she demands.

For example, I wanted to take dance lessons and my sister wanted to learn piano. We were not given those things.

William said...

The child is preternaturally beautiful and will grow up wealthy among people who, whatever their eccentricities, love her. I think these facts will trump any deficits in the child rearing philosophy of her parents. Suri will have one the more privileged lives of the twenty first century. I suppose she'll develop a few neuroses, but her life will have its compensations.... Well, Chaz Bono was a cute kid, so it's possible to screw things up, but with this many high cards, it's very difficult to lose the game.

MayBee said...

I don't blame Katie for trying, because Nicole Kidman has been pretty much shut out of the lives of her kids with Cruise.

I'm not sure I would agree that Suri is being allowed to make her own decisions if she is entering the age where she will go through the auditing and clearing process. The church will tell her the decisions she has to make. What is important in her day to day life is that she not be taken up with negative emotions and anger.

Anyway, no it shouldn't matter that it is a religion that he has based his parenting style on, but it perhaps should matter if he has a history of shunning people the church wants him to shun-- like ex wives.

amnyc said...

In general, courts should not use religious beliefs as a way of determining the best interest of the child.

However, there may be specific beliefs which are objectively harmful to the child and should be taken into consideration for custody decisions.

If this article is true, then Kate has a legitimate argument for getting sole custody:


(tl;dr version: now that Suri is 6, she is obligated to be "audited" by being connected to an e-meter and asked a series of highly personal and invasive questions and penalized for showing any signs of dissent or non-cooperation.)

Martha said...

The Suri captured in paparazzi photos acts much younger than the way one would expect a normal 6 year old to act. Suri is invariably being carried by her mother in the manner a baby or toddler would be carried or she is photographed having a temper tantrum. She may be decked out in high heels and lipstick but still infantilized.

Wonder if a child psychiatrist evaluation will be mandated by the Court.

ndspinelli said...

It was Rastaesque w/ganga as a sacrament, but they called themselves Coptics. Chrissakes, look it up! They turned Florida upside down w/ their Coptic religion until the Feds dropped the hammer on them. They were white hippies. Edutcher would have them executed.

David R. Graham said...

"Let's make Cruise3 a mainstream Protestant who has come to a serious conclusion about children, individual autonomy, and free choice based on a deep commitment to the teachings of Jesus."

"mainstream Protestant" is comparable to "settled science" and "climate change" in linguistic, discursive and any other kind of usefulness from precision. Zero.

Jesus taught but there are no "teachings of Jesus.". We have today from any figure only descriptors, no prescriptors. Who would present descriptions as prescriptions, especially for religious purposes, is demonic and any who follow them, revere them, deserve the reward demons get.

Theology is phenomenological and dialectical. It is neither fixed, abstract, local nor one-sided.

Jacques Cuze said...

If you google for volokh bests interests religion, you can see that Eugene Volokh has written on this issue from a free speech standpoint, and also demonstrating that the "best interests of the child" `standard' is used by judges to violate our civil rights and impose any behavior the judge prefers.


(I believe that's a fair summary, but it's been sometime since I looked at it.)

Jacques Cuze said...

Parent-Child Speech And Child Custody Speech Restrictions

Eugene Volokh

The “best interests of the child” test—the normal rule applied in custody disputes between two parents—leaves family court judges ample room to consider a parent’s ideology. Parents have had their rights limited or denied partly based on their advocacy of atheism, racism, homosexuality, adultery, nonmarital sex, Communism, Nazism, pacifism and disrespect for the flag, fundamentalism, polygamy, and religions that make it hard for children to “fit in the western way of life in this society.”

Courts have also penalized or enjoined speech that expressly or implicitly criticizes the other parent, even when the speech has a broader ideological dimension. One parent, for instance, was ordered to “make sure that there is nothing in the religious upbringing or teaching that the minor child is exposed to that can be considered homophobic,” because the other parent was homosexual. Another mother was stripped of custody partly because she accurately told her 12-year-old daughter that her ex-husband, who had raised the daughter from birth, wasn’t in fact the girl’s biological father.

Courts have also restricted a parent’s religious speech when such speech was seen as inconsistent with the religious education that the custodial parent was providing. The cases generally rest on the theory (sometimes pure speculation, sometimes based on some evidence in the record) that the children will be made confused and unhappy by the contradictory teachings, and will be less likely to take their parents’ authority seriously.

This article argues these restrictions are generally unconstitutional, except when they’re narrowly focused on preventing one parent from undermining the child’s relationship with the other. But in the process the article makes several observations that may be helpful whether or not readers endorse this proposal: (1) The best interests test lets courts engage in a wide range of viewpoint-based speech restrictions. (2) The First Amendment is implicated not only when courts issue orders restricting parents’ speech, but also when courts make custody or visitation decisions based on such speech. (3) Even when the cases involve religious speech, the Free Speech Clause is probably a stronger barrier to the judge’s penalizing the speech than are the Religion Clauses. (4) If parents in intact families have First Amendment rights to speak to their children, without the government’s restricting the speech under a “best interests” standard, then parents in broken families generally deserve the same rights. (5) Parents in intact families should indeed be free to speak to their children—but not primarily because of their self-expression rights, or their children’s interests in hearing the parents’ views. Rather, the main reason to protect parental speech rights is that today’s child listeners will grow up into the next generation’s adult speakers. (6) Attempts to allow restrictions only when the speech imminently threatens likely psychological harm (or even causes actual psychological harm) to children may seem appealing, but will likely prove unhelpful.

Jacques Cuze said...

According to TMZ...

TMZ broke the story ... Katie filed divorce docs in NYC, in large part because she wants sole legal custody of Suri and New York courts are way more likely to grant Katie sole legal custody and control over child-rearing decisions than California courts.

If Scientology is as dangerous as some here claim, the whole thing should be shut down.

If it's not, the court should not be deciding this on a case by case, child by child basis.

There are other ways to protect Siri then to strip her of her father.

David said...

The First Amendment should only be understood to protect those religions recognized as such in 1789.

(A little consitutional humor to end our constitutiona week.)

Joe said...

This is all faintly absurd. It's pretty obvious to me that this was an arranged marriage and Katie very likely agreed to not ask for sole custody when the marriage ended after five years.

The question isn't about esoterica of religion, but whether a couple can sign a pre-nup of the nature the two most likely signed.

One twist will be whether Suri is, in fact, Tom Cruise's biological child.

Paul said...

Go to the gettos and see what happens when children get more 'individual autonomy' without parent supervision.

Wanna know what happens most of the time?

OUT OF CONTROL GANGS with very little empathy for anyone but themselves.

Tom Cruise is a real good actor but in everything else he is an self-important idiot.

Blue@9 said...

I personally think it sounds like a retarded way of child-rearing (young children are simply not equipped to make good decisions for themselves-- even the law recognizes this), but whatever. The worst that will happen to this kid is she'll become a skanky drug addict by 18.

Penny said...

Many years ago now, I met and got to know this wonderful, three-generation family who were ODD, by nearly anyone's standards. But mine, apparently. lol

The kids were home schooled, before it became popular. The family had multiple little businesses, and every member of the family from the very proper, New England matriarch grandmother to the hippie parents, to the teen daughters was an equal partner. Each had a voice in their family business, none more powerful than another. How can you determine that really, so I never worried if that was true or not.

Have to say that they ALL took their personal power very seriously, when they weren't being the most delightful extended family I ever met. Each and every one of them knew how to have a whole heckuva lot of fun.

As far as I know, they were all Godless, and full up, good souls.

Just talking about them makes me smile. And miss them!

Jose_K said...

Scientology is not a religion.

Skyler said...

It doesn't matter what Tom Cruise wants. When Katie has custody she can instruct their children in whatever religion she wants. It's a part of the first amendment and the law allows each parent to do this, no matter what the other parent is teaching.

TMink said...

Was he a Scientologist when they married? The she should be fracked. But she is a woman, so she will get custody and no consequences for marrying a menbo.


Synova said...

Even small children can be respected and allowed to make decisions about what they want and don't want.

This hardly means they should be allowed to make ALL the decisions about what they want or don't want.

Frankly... that can wait until they're paying their own bills.