Former Scientologist speaks out concerning renewed interest
PADUCAH — A cult or a religion?
It's a debate about the Church of Scientology that's gaining renewed interest with this week's divorce of actors Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise.
Former high-level Scientologists claim the move is Holmes' way of trying to break free from the church. It's an ordeal one local man, Tom Padgett, said he understands.
Former church members say if an insider tries to break free, it can turn ugly, especially if children are involved. The case with Holmes and Cruise seems to have gone smoothly.
However, Padgett said that's not always the case. He was a member for nine years from 1978 to 1987 and now calls Scientology a cult.
"People don't get up in he morning and say, 'You know what? I'm going to join a cult today.' It just doesn't happen," Padgett said.
His now former wife is the one who recruited him.
"I can't say that I have shame. I have regret. I wish things were different."
Odd behavior by members, demands for donations and strict rules led Padgett to leave.
"You initially get involved in it, it's a self help kind of philosophy," he said. "Then, as the years drag on, they draw you more and more into the mythology and it eventually becomes hard to swallow."
What followed was a 10-year legal battle with his wife over the custody of their children.
"Well, I don't want to disconnect from my children. She did want them away from me because I was a declared enemy by the Church of Scientology."
Padgett and others speculate Holmes' divorce from Cruise is because she didn't want to submit their child to Scientology indoctrination. That's something Padgett didn't want his kids to face, either.
He added that it's important people pay close attention to the national headlines the church is making recently.
"I'd like to say I'm a better person for it but given the choice of having to go through that again, I would like to have been educated as the public is now, back then," Padgett said.
Padgett said members of the Church of Scientology harassed him during his court battle and the the entire experience took a toll on him emotionally and financially.
The judge ruled in his ex-wife's favor and he was not allowed to see his children until they were grown teens. However, he said he has a good relationship with his children, who are now adults.