Former Scientology Exec Mike Rinder Explains Tom Cruise’s Influence Over Church

Mike Rinder was senior executive of the Church of Scientology and its elite inner circle, the Sea Organization, until he became one of its highest profile defectors in 2007. On Wednesday, he joined Megyn for an exclusive interview to discuss his new book, A Billion Years: My Escape From a Life in the Highest Ranks of Scientology, in which he details rising through the ranks of Scientology – from becoming the international spokesperson and helping negotiate the organization’s controversial tax exempt status to engaging with celebrity members.

As the Church of Scientology’s most famous face, Tom Cruise brings a lot of notoriety to the organization. According to Rinder, he also commands a lot of influence over it – and he says you don’t have to look much further than his divorce from his first wife, Scientology member Mimi Rogers, and subsequent marriage to non-member Nicole Kidman to see how.

How Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman Met

It’s known that Cruise and Kidman first met on the set of their 1990 film Days of Thunder, in which they played love interests, and were married by the end of the year. What’s less known is how that relationship came to be.

When the two first met, Cruise was still married to Rogers. According to Rinder, their divorce was “facilitated” by David Miscavige, the leader of the Church of Scientology and the so-called captain of the Sea Org, and his “henchman” Greg Wilhere.

“I wasn’t there for the conversations that happened; I just see the results,” Rinder explained to Megyn. “I am pretty sure that Mimi was convinced that being able to bring Nicole into the Scientology fold as an up-and-coming superstar was the greatest good and that, you know, her marriage to Tom was less important than the achievement of the overall aims of Scientology.”

Nicole Kidman and Scientology

Unlike Rogers and Cruise, Kidman was not a Scientologist. As Rinder described, the Academy Award winner was “very quickly indoctrinated” and brought to Scientology’s international headquarters in Riverside, CA, to be “fast-tracked” into the church. Becoming a member, he said, was likely a condition of their relationship. “No good Scientologist would marry someone who was not a Scientologist,” Rinder noted. “And that relationship would not last.”

While Rinder does not know if Scientology ultimately played a role in the couple’s divorce (they split in 2001 after 11 years of marriage), he says there was always a “fear” within the organization that the actress would be “influenced” by her late father, who was a psychiatrist. “To Scientologists, psychiatry is the devil – I mean, literally, the incarnate evil of planet earth is psychiatry,” Rinder explained. “Had she not been Nicole Kidman… she would not have been allowed to be involved in Scientology.”

In fact, he believes that if anyone other than Cruise was interested in her, the relationship would never have been. “If a regular old run-of-the-mill guy walking down the street walks into a Church of Scientology and says, ‘I want to pay you for some auditing’ and they fill out all the forms you have to fill out, all the information about your life, and it turns out that your father is a psychiatrist, you will not be allowed.” Kidman, however, was accepted.

The ’Cult’ of Scientology

Despite being welcomed into the church, Rinder says she was “never much of a match when it came to the Scientology stuff” in part because she has a more reserved demeanor. “Tom is jumping on Oprah’s couch and yelling at Matt Lauer and going borneo about Scientology,” he noted. Kidman never displayed the same public enthusiasm, which likely worked against her.

Using Cruise’s infamous on-air argument with then-Today Show host Matt Lauer about Brooke Shields taking antidepressants as an example, Rinder explained that the “mindset” of a Scientologist is ‘I know better’ – period.  “That is the definition of a cult member,” Rinder said. “It doesn’t matter what evidence there is, and it doesn’t matter what anybody else has to say about their experience … the defining thing is they are absolutely convinced that they’re right and that anybody that says they’re not is either uninformed, ignorant, stupid, has it in for them, or whatever the disparaging term is.”

You can check out Megyn’s entire interview with Rinder by tuning in to episode 400 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.