The divorce of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes is one of the biggest Hollywood breakups in recent years. While the world will never really know the true reasons for their split, questions continue to swirl about the role that Scientology played in the collapse of the stars' marriage.
Cruise, 50, and Holmes, 33, have been the subject of international headlines ever since the actress filed for divorce and sole custody of their daughter, Suri, in New York on June 28, 2012.
Cruise was reportedly blindsided by his young wife's actions. She began contacting attorneys using a disposable cell phone so that Cruise would not be aware of the conversations.
Both stars have remained silent about the split, except for one joint statement in which Cruise and Holmes said they were working together to settle their differences in the best interest of their six-year-old daughter. Yet speculation about the breakup has centred on Cruise's active membership in the Church of Scientology.
According to Us Weekly, Holmes and Cruise "fought viciously" over how to raise their daughter. At one point, Holmes had been attending Scientology classes three times a week, but stopped going a year and a half ago.
Even, so, according to a report in theLos Angeles Times on July 12, the Church of Scientology had no direct input in the couple's divorce settlement, which was announced July 9.
The public, of course, may never know the full details. But Holmes is not the first person to distance herself from Scientology.
In February of 2009, Oscar-winning director and screenwriter Paul Haggis left the organization after being an active member for more than three decades.
"I was in a cult for thirty-four years," Haggis said in an article that appeared in The New Yorker.
"Everyone else could see it. I don't know why I couldn't," he said.
Actress Nicole Kidman also left Scientology after her divorce from Cruise in August 2001.
"It's a fanatical organization," said Mick Wenlock, a former Scientologist.
During a conversation with CTV's Canada AM on Thursday, Wenlock described how he stumbled onto the Church of Scientology when he was 23 years old.
"I was in Edinburgh and I was working at as a railway signal installer," Wenlock said during a phone call from Denver, Colo.
After a bender one day, Wenlock saw a sign about Scientology in the pub where he was drinking and decided to investigate.
Wenlock soon joined the Sea Organization, or Sea Org, a unit comprising Scientology's most dedicated members. But after 13 years Wenlock and his Scientologist wife left the organization.
"You just start to realize that it doesn't all make sense," said Wenlock.
"The only religious order that you could compare it to would be the Jesuits, and I mean no disrespect to them," he said.
"Sea Org runs everything…It's ubiquitous. Its tentacles are into everything," he added.
Based on the ideas of L. Ron Hubbard, the Church of Scientology was first incorporated in 1953 in Camden, New Jersey. Hubbard established the movement as a successor to his earlier self-help system called Dianetics.
Scientology's purpose was to teach people how to get in touch with their true natures. But Hubbard's theories on reincarnation and his belief that all Earthlings have lived on other planets have attracted criticism from skeptics.
The so-called cult has also been slammed for financially defrauding and abusing its members and for charging exorbitant fees for its spiritual services.
Wenlock said he, too, was asked to pay a large sum of money when he left Scientology. That split came after Wenlock objected to a fund-raising initiative for the organization in Norway.
"I refused to raise money for them," said Wenlock.
"They wanted me to pay over tons of money that we didn't have. They decided they could do without me. I was happy to oblige," he said.
Astra Woodcraft, another ex-Scientologist, was also asked to pay US$89,000 for classes she was forced to take upon her exit from the group.
That fact and others details about Woodcraft's time as a Scientologist were revealed in a recent article in Newsweek magazine by reporter Abigail Pesta.
Woodcraft became a member of Scientology after her mother joined the organization. Woodcraft was just 7 years old at the time -- a year older than Suri Cruise is now.
Today Woodcraft has a website called Ex Scientology Kids, which gives an insider's view into the controversial organization.
In Pesta's article, Woodcraft describes a childhood filled with chores such as cleaning floors and washing toilets. She also revealed how she was educated as a young Scientologist.
"She went to a Scientology school where the teachers read from Hubbard's book. She didn't consider it much of an education," said Pesta.
Woodcraft also described the organization's negative view on children.
"They were considered a distraction," said Pesta.
However, Woodcraft's most disturbing revelations involved her fractured relationship with her mother, who is still a member of the organization.
Woodcraft's father had left Scientology and helped her to get out.
Woodcraft's sister also left the movement with the help of her father. But Woodcraft's relationship with her mother was lost.
"Her mother became so dedicated to Scientology that she lost her children," said Pesta.
"That's a terrible blow to bear for a child," she said.