LOS ANGELES, California, July 6, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A former leader in the Church of Scientology is warning that a messy divorce between movie stars Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes could “blow Scientology wide open.” In addition to concerns about harassment and abuse, the cult has faced numerous allegations of coercing members into committing abortions.

As news of the impending divorce fills the Hollywood gossip pages, Marty Rathbun, who was the second most powerful leader in the cult until he left in 2004 to become an “independent Scientologist,” is urging Cruise to acquiesce to Holmes’ demands rather than engage her in a public custody battle over their six-year-old daughter Suri.

“Katie could blow Scientology wide open. If Tom’s smart, he won’t fight her on anything, even custody. He should just try to settle his way out of it,” Rathbun told The Hollywood Reporter.

“She could press this sole-custody issue and litigate it, and that would be the biggest nightmare in the Church of Scientology’s history,” he added. “It would be a circus they couldn’t survive.”

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For pro-life advocates, the biggest question mark around the organization surrounds allegations of coerced abortions centering on the cult’s elite Sea Organization, whose members must sign a billion-year contract to serve Scientology for millions of lifetimes. Members are forbidden from having children.

In 2010, the St. Petersburg Times reported that they had uncovered over a dozen women who said they had been pressured into abortion while members of Sea Org.

“I was pounded for two days by the top person in my organization ... about how the baby wasn’t a baby yet, it was just tissue and it wouldn’t matter if I aborted the baby,” said Laura Diekman, who joined Sea Org when she was 12 and became pregnant shortly after she wed another scientologist at the age of 16.

In May, Sam Domingo, 45, a former Sea Org member from Britain, revealed that she had been coerced into an abortion after she became pregnant with her first husband.

“I was told in no uncertain terms this was not to be — and to have an abortion as it was for the greater good,” she told The Sun.

“An ‘ethics officer’ helped arrange an abortion at a free clinic and I was given a week off to recover and then I was back on post as if nothing had happened,” she said.

Scientology leaders have responded to the allegations by claiming that the cult does not have a position on abortion. “At no time has any Church staff member been ‘forced’ to obtain an abortion,” spokesman Tommy Davis told The Tampa Bay Times in 2010.

Holmes filed for a divorce from her husband of five years in New York on June 29. Though she has not revealed her reasons, pundits and former Scientologists have speculated that Holmes did not want Suri raised in the cult after seeing how it affected Cruise’s two teenage children, who were adopted by him and Nicole Kidman in a former marriage.

Cruise is the most prominent member of the cult, which has long been known for courting celebrities. Church of Scientology chairman David Miscavige was Cruise’s best man at his marriage to Holmes in 2006.

“[Suri’s] at the age where the kids get indoctrinated,” Marc Headley, a former Scientology leader who left the cult in 2005 with help from police, told The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s like, playtime over. You’re a Scientologist now. And they really de-emphasize the family. Katie becomes a lot less important as a mother. It’s all about the organization over the individual.”