After 30 years as a devout Scientologist, actress Leah Remini abruptly left the church in July 2013 and she didn’t go quietly. After the recent release of HBO’s explosive Scientology documentary “Going Clear,” Remini’s story is now more relevant than ever.
At the time of her exit from the church, Remini explained her departure was because “no one is going to tell me how I need to think, no one is going to tell me who I can, and cannot, talk to.”
The “Old School” and “King of Queens” actress allegedly called it quits after years of questioning the religion’s
treatment of followers under the leadership of David Miscavige.
“It all began when Leah questioned the validity of excommunication of people,” a source told PageSix of her decision at the time. “She is stepping back from a regime she thinks is corrupt. She thinks no religion should tear apart a family or abuse someone under the umbrella of ‘religion.'”
Remini reportedly spoke out about the mysterious disappearance of Miscavige’s wife, Shelly, who has reportedly only been seen once since 2006.
Another PageSix source explained, “Because Leah threatened to call the police to find Shelly, she was put through ‘Security Checking,’ her family was put through it, and her friends.”
The Page Six source says that as a result of her outspoken questioning, the former co-host of “The Talk” “was put through ‘thought modification’ for five years,” but, “When they tried this with her again earlier this year, she said, ‘Enough.'”
Mike Rinder, a former Scientologist who was featured in “Going Clear” and runs a blog about the religion, said at the time that Remini “will no longer tolerate the squirrelling and human rights abuses perpetrated in the church… As a result, the church has lost one of its most effective supporters — both in the public relations arena and their bank balances.”
“I believe that people should be able to question things,” the 44-year-old actress explained to People magazine at the time of her departure. “I believe that people should value family, and value friendships, and hold those things sacrosanct. That for me, that’s what I’m about. It wouldn’t matter what it was, simply because no one is going to tell me how I need to think, no one is going to tell me who I can, and cannot, talk to.”
Remini’s mother, husband, and daughter were also practicing Scientologists. The actress had been a member of the church for three decades after her mother became a Scientologist in the 1970s, rising through Scientology’s ranks to achieve Operating Thetan Level Five, with three more rungs to climb until reaching the highest spiritual rank, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“We went from a middle-class lifestyle [in Brooklyn, N.Y.] to living in a roach-infested motel with six other girls off a freeway in Clearwater,” Remini recalled to BuzzFeed of her family’s transition to the Church’s compound in Florida, before her 10th birthday. “We were separated from our mother. We had to sign billion-year contracts we didn’t understand. And we kept saying, ‘Why are you doing this to us? Why are we here?'”
Remini’s mother had moved the family to Florida at the urging of her stepfather, who abandoned the family before they entered the Clearwater compound’s gates.
“We were working from morning until night with barely any schooling,” Remini told Buzzfeed. “There was no saying no. There was no being tired. There was no, ‘I’m a little girl who just lost her father and everything I’ve ever known.’ There was only, ‘Get it done.’ If the church needed a ballroom wall knocked down, you made it happen because there were heavy repercussions if you didn’t. And although that was horrendous for a child to deal with, at the same time, it gave me my work ethic.”
Despite her history with the church, “I’m not about to shut up,” Remini told People, adding, “We stand united, my family and I, and I think that says a lot about who we are, and what we’re about.”
But not all of Remini’s famous Scientology friends were as supportive as her family during the transition.
Alley, who told Stern that she recently reached the OT-7 level in the church’s hierarchy of achievements, continued about Remini: “She left the religion and she was very critical. That’s just sort of water under the bridge. I didn’t shun her, but if a lot of people are rejecting you, at some point you gotta ask, ‘What am I doing?’ I mean, that’s what I would have asked myself.”
Others, however, were more supportive of the actress’ decision to leave.
Oscar-winning writer/director Paul Haggis, a former Scientologist who is featured in “Going Clear” and has publicly criticised the church, wrote an open letter thanking the actress in The Hollywood Reporter:
“I read some things that really disturbed me. First was the way Leah was being attacked by her celebrity ‘friends,’ who were disparaging her character. What was new to me was the report that Leah had run afoul of the church by challenging Scientology’s leader, David Miscavige, who is held to be infallible…
I can’t express how much I admire Leah. Her parents, family and close friends were almost all Scientologists; the stakes for her were so much higher than for me. Her decision to leave was so much braver… I will forever be grateful to her.”
Read the full letter here.
Following her difficult departure from the church, Remini released a statement thanking fans for their support:
“I wish to share my sincere and heartfelt appreciation for the overwhelming positive response I have received from the media, my colleagues, and from fans around the world. I am truly grateful and thankful for all your support.”
After watching HBO Scientology documentary “Going Clear” for the first time on Sunday night, Remini tweeted:
She also gave an official quote to Scientology blogger Tony Ortega:
“I wanted to thank the people who are in it and have worked so hard. You, Mike Rinder, Marty Rathbun, Marc Headley, Tom DeVocht, Lawrence Wright, Alex Gibney, and HBO. And Paul Haggis in particular for what he wrote on your website the other day. What Paul wrote is so exactly right.”
Remini later tweeted links to her posts on Instagram:
Read Scientology’s lengthy response to “Going Clear” here.
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