Family Law

Splitting Scientology Couples Sometimes Pressured to Use In-House Divorce Lawyers, Ex-Members Say

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High-profile divorce proceedings involving Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are shining a light on how Scientology deals with divorcing couples.

The New York Times spoke with several former Scientologists about their experiences. They told the newspaper that the church sometimes pressures divorcing couples to use in-house lawyers, though in-house chaplains first try to keep marriages intact through in-house counseling sessions.

Actress and photographer Carmen Llywelyn told the Times about her divorce from Jason Lee of My Name Is Earl. She told of a counseling session in which she and her then-husband were hooked up to a device called an E-meter, said to be able to detect unexpressed thoughts. A chaplain questioned the couple until the E-meter needle is flat, indicating all bad thoughts have been unloaded, she said. The idea is that couples will put aside their differences after the process.

When the process didn’t work, Llywelyn told the Times, she was assigned an in-house lawyer. “Scientologists aren’t allowed to sue each other,” she said, because of a policy to keep disputes out of the public eye.

The Rev. Ann Pearce, a spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology of Washington State, told the newspaper that the ultimate dissolution of marriage is “something that’s taken up in a legal court,” as in other religions.

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