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Scientology seeks to respect privacy of Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes

July 11, 2012 |  7:42 am

More photos: Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes

Representatives for Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise have said they are pleased by the private divorce settlement reached over the weekend, but the Church of Scientology is withholding any comment in an effort to "respect their privacy."

Holmes will have primary custody of her 6-year-old daughter, Suri, with Cruise under the terms of the settlement. But the "Mission: Impossible" star will still have a "meaningful relationship" with his child.

The agreement provides Cruise with visitation rights but gives Holmes the lead role in choosing how Suri will be educated, a source said Monday.

PHOTOS: Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes through the years

With a prenuptial agreement governing the distribution of assets, talks between lawyers for Cruise, a prominent member of the Church of Scientology, and Holmes, who was raised Roman Catholic, centered on the role of Scientology in the upbringing of Suri, according to a source familiar with the negotiations but not authorized to discuss them publicly.

Holmes wanted guarantees in the settlement to ensure nothing is done while their daughter is with Cruise that would "alienate" Suri from her, the sources said.

Cruise and Holmes appeared to refer to the religious component of their split in a joint statement: "We want to keep matters affecting our family private and express our respect for each other's commitment to each of our respective beliefs and support each other's roles as parents," they said.

PHOTOS: Celebrity splits of 2012

The Church of Scientology released a statement to CNN saying the divorce was a family matter.

"With respect to Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes divorce, the church has no comment," a spokeswoman told CNN. "Please direct any questions to their representatives. This is and always was a private family matter and the church will continue to respect their privacy."

But experts in so-called spiritual custody disputes said that although family law judges try to ensure the interests of children are protected in matters, such as medical care and housing, they give both parents broad leeway in choosing a religious upbringing.

PHOTOS: Famous members of Scientology

"The general rule is the courts will defer unless the consequences are really detrimental to the health of the child — a threat of immediate and substantial harm," said Jeffrey Shulman, a professor of law at Georgetown University who has written extensively about the issue and believes the standard doesn't protect children sufficiently.

In the case of Cruise and Scientology, a judge could intervene if the religion was used to turn Suri away from Holmes because she was not an adherent, Shulman said.

 "The courts could say to Cruise, 'You cannot conduct yourself in a way that alienates the child from Katie Holmes,' " he said. "But mere doctrine may not be enough for the court to do that."

Courts won't rule on the merits of a particular religion, New York lawyer Malcolm Taub said.

"They would not say that Scientology is not a valid religion, so we're going to award [sole spiritual custody] to Katie Holmes," Taub said.

The confidential deal was hammered out over the weekend in New York and announced Monday, 11 days after Holmes took the entertainment industry and reportedly her husband by surprise with the filing of divorce papers in Manhattan.


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— Richard Winton and Shelby Grad

Photo: Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes in Feb. 2012. Credit: Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez/AFP/Getty Images