A FORMER Church of Scientology member has warned actress Katie Holmes what to expect if she speaks out against the religion following her separation from Tom Cruise.
Speaking at Dublin Offlines, a conference held by ex-Scientologists on Saturday, Samantha Domingo claimed that attempting to leave the church could provoke a very strong reaction from the organisation.
Ms Domingo spent 20 years in the organisation before leaving in 2009, following the breakdown of her marriage to musician and fellow Scientologist Plácido Domingo jnr.
When she spoke publicly of her experiences, Ms Domingo says the church pressured her ex-husband to disconnect from her and to only communicate with their three daughters through an attorney.
The threat of having details from their church-based marriage counselling exposed exacerbated the couple's difficulties, she added, until the musician also defected.
"I hope Tom and Katie haven't had marriage counselling because if they have, OSA will have those files," said Ms Domingo, who still practises Scientology independently of the church.
Her presentation focused on aspects of the organisation which she believes ruins lives.
"Forced disconnection is the destruction of families, it's the destruction of years of friendship, the loss of children and the loss of parents."
Almost half of those attending the event, the first of its kind in Ireland, disguised themselves with a colourful mix of balaclavas, bandanas, veils and the Guy Fawkes masks favoured by "hacktivist" protester collective Anonymous, whose members had travelled from France, Germany and the UK to attend and support the event.
Many guests filing into the conference were filmed by two people outside the venue, the Teachers' Club in Dublin's Parnell Square.
Former Scientologist Pete Griffiths, the event's chief organiser, believed it was a surveillance tactic by Scientology intelligence operatives and that similar conferences had been scuppered in the past through the church's interference.
Jamie DeWolf, a great-grandson of Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard, was one of several guest speakers who spoke of the church's alleged intimidation techniques.
Animatedly outlining his family's difficulties with the religious organisation through several generations, he described Mr Hubbard as a "hustler" whose theology created "a pyramid scam that sells secrets".
It was a sentiment echoed by academic critics and other former Scientologists who spoke. They included Gerry Armstrong, once Mr Hubbard's personal archivist, who left the organisation after finding troubling discrepancies between Mr Hubbard's claims and his official records.
Another was David Edgar Love, who gave an emotional account of abuses he claims to have witnessed at a Canadian branch of Narconon, a Scientology-related drug-treatment programme, which was shut down by Québec health officials in April.
Of the 15 speakers present, several maintained that the religion is struggling to survive in the face of high-profile defections and praised those gathered for having the courage to share their experiences. The Church of Scientology routinely refutes such claims and maintains that protesters are perpetrating religious bigotry.
"That's the power of conferences like these," said Mr DeWolf. "Once you pull the curtain back, they have no more power."