It's been more than a decade since Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman finalized their divorce -- but even as Cruise's split with Katie Holmes dominates headlines, Kidman's estrangement from Bella and Connor, her kids with Cruise, remains a source of curiosity for many.
And while geographical distance (Kidman lives in Australia and Nashville, Tenn., while Bella, 19, and Connor, 17, are in Los Angeles) and Kidman's own growing family with second husband Keith Urban have been the unofficial explanations for the sad rift, several former members of the Church of Scientology claim something more sinister is at work.
Karen De La Carriere, ex-wife of former Scientology president Heber Jentzsch, tells the Hollywood Reporter: "By filing for sole custody of Suri, [Holmes is] making it very clear she's not going to let what happened with Nicole Kidman happen to her." De La Carriere goes on to claim that members of the church deliberately turned Bella and Connor against their mom during and after the 45-year-old actress' 2001 split from Cruise, 50.
Former Scientologist leader Marty Rathbun adds to THR that members of the organization, including staffers who worked in the family's L.A. home, campaigned against Kidman in front of the kids. In fact, Rathbun claims he observed Tommy Davis, who heads the church's Celebrity Centre, feeding "false information" to young Bella and Connor. "Tommy told them over and over again their mother was a sociopath, and after a while they believed him," Rathbun claims. "They had daily sessions with Tommy. I was there. I saw it."
An anti-Scientology activist adds to the site that a helpless Kidman called him during the divorce for advice. "Nicole reached out to us because there was really no one else to go to," the source says. "It was very different back then, and she didn't have anyone to go to for help and answers."
"You're either in or out when it comes to Scientology," another expert tells THR. "That's why Katie is making custody such an issue in the divorce petition. If you're out, the way she seems to be, they want to cut you off from everyone, including your kids."
An attorney for the Church of Scientology told THR of the various detractors: "All of these people are excommunicated self-promoters who are sadly exploiting a private family matter for their own personal financial gain. . . . They cannot be believed given they have acquired no firsthand knowledge of the church for many years and have a record of making false and/or misleading statements about the church."
Kidman has not been photographed with Bella and Connor for several years.
"They live with Tom, which was their choice," Kidman (also mom to Sunday and Faith Urban) said of her older kids in a late 2010 interview. "I'd love them to live with us, but what can you do?"
In May, Bella told Australia's New Idea magazine: "I love my mom. She's my mom. She's great . . . I see her sometimes and I speak to her."