TV star Leah Remini, who famously left The Church of Scientology in 2013, shone a very bright spotlight on the secretive organization in her A&E documentary series, Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.
Despite claims by the church that she was producing the series for fame and money, Remini (and former Scientology bigwig Mike Rinder) plugged on through 10 solid episodes, interviewing former Scientology members and exposing their alleged stories of abuse, trauma, family destruction and financial ruin at the hands of the church. For her part, Remini came clean about her past and told eyebrow-raising tales about the inner workings of the religion.
In dozens of monologues peppered with s- and f-bombs, Remini also admits she was a victim of the Scientology “brainwashing,” saying that she was raised into it and didn’t know any differently. To this day, the former King of Queens star still has difficulty acclimatizing to life outside the church, and she even questions her own day-to-day thought processes. After a lifetime of Scientology, Remini has been born anew.
READ MORE: South Park trolls White House, Church of Scientology and more with billboards
The series, she claims, is her apology for promoting Scientology in the public sphere, and the exposure of the church isn’t meant to be malicious, but rather a wake-up call to those considering it or “trapped” in the religion. The allegations made by Remini and the guests on Aftermath are shocking, and if proven true in a court of law, we could be witnessing the final death throes of Scientology. (Remini and Rinder say they’ve started legal proceedings against the church, but can’t reveal any details.)
Here are some of the most shocking revelations about the church, as told in Remini’s series. (The Church of Scientology vehemently denies any stories of abuse, blackmail, psychological torture or family abandonment. The Church of Scientology also strongly disagrees with everything presented in Aftermath.)
1. Tom Cruise’s wedding to Katie Holmes was the catalyst for Remini’s departure from Scientology
Cruise and Holmes were wed in November 2006, and Cruise’s best man was Scientology leader David Miscavige. (He was also his best man at his wedding to Nicole Kidman.) Remini was invited as a guest and pressured to bring “high-profile” friends. Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony ended up accompanying her, and according to Remini, Cruise and Holmes were reluctant to let them leave.
Remini recalled how bizarre it was that Miscavige didn’t bring his wife, Shelly, to the wedding, since it was one of biggest Scientology fêtes of the year, perhaps the decade. It led her to question Shelly’s whereabouts to senior officials, and ultimately got her “written up” for her indiscretions. Holmes reportedly accused Remini of “disrupting the party” and “setting a poor example to others,” without clarifying exactly what she’d done wrong.
“In my mind, I’m a parishioner but I’m also just a human being asking where another human being was,” said Remini on Aftermath. “The response that I didn’t have f**king rank to be asking about a human being, it spoke to the person in me that doesn’t like to be bullied. And that’s what started me questioning the church more and more.”
2. Recruiting celebrities is one of Scientology’s biggest priorities
Some big-name Scientologist celebrities — aside from Cruise — include John Travolta, Kirstie Alley (who famously feuded with Remini after her departure from the church), Juliette Lewis, Elisabeth Moss, Nancy Cartwright (the voice of Bart Simpson) and Laura Prepon.
Former high-ranking Scientology executive Amy Scobee, assigned to the religion’s Celebrity Centre, appeared on Aftermath and revealed that one of the organization’s highest priorities is to bring celebrities into the fold, and once they’re in, to shower them with praise and affection to keep them there. The goal is to make them into “walking success stories of Scientology.”
“The Church of Scientology is a business,” said Remini. “And like any business, they like to have a celebrity selling it.”
3. David Miscavige allegedly physically attacked members of the church, and no one really knows where his wife is
Multiple former Scientology members appeared on Aftermath and admitted they’d been physically abused and attacked directly by Miscavige. At times, they allege, the attacks were completely unprovoked.
“If you said something that didn’t please him he would go off on you. If you were a man he would likely hit you, punch you, knock you down, choke you,” said Scobee.
As for Shelly Miscavige, her whereabouts are unknown, despite Remini’s attempts to find out. She hasn’t appeared in public since 2007, leading Remini to speculate that she’s either dead or being hidden away somewhere. Remini filed a missing persons report with the LAPD in August 2013. The police promptly classified the report as “unfounded,” and said that their detectives met with Shelly in person. There has been no mention or report about Shelly since then.
4. Scientology members pay thousands of dollars to take courses offered by the church
As you get higher in the Scientology church, you’re expected to consistently take courses (beginner courses cost around $650, escalating into the thousands as you get higher) to reach the “OT Levels” (Operating Thetan levels). Not only that, but you’re shelling out big dough for “audits” ($800 per hour) and Dianetics books (a package of books costs, on average, $4,000) along the way. Scientology consistently updates the course material, so even if you reach the top, chances are you’re looking at additional courses and more spending.
“There is no other religion that I know of that requires two-and-a-half hours of your day, a quarter of a million dollars minimum, and at least 40 years of your life,” said Remini.
Don’t even think about telling anyone about your belief in Xenu, either. That’s considered “confidential information” to Scientologists, and Remini said that there’s a $100,000 fine any time someone reveals details about Scientology teachings and beliefs to anyone outside the organization.
5. If someone joins the Sea Organization (an arm of Scientology), they sign a billion-year contract
Known colloquially as The Sea Org, according to Scientology it’s a “fraternal religious order, comprising the church’s most dedicated members.” It differs from being a regular Scientology parishioner in that it’s usually reserved for the “upper echelons” of Scientology, and members get free room and board. In order to become a part of the Sea Org, you must sign away your life (and your many, many following lifetimes) to a billion-year contract. Yes, that’s billion with a “B.”
The Sea Org allegedly recruits children from the ages of 12 – 18, and you must have parental permission to join. However, if you allow your child to become a part of the Sea Org, you are signing away all parental rights.
6. The church frequently follows and monitors ex-Scientologists, journalists covering Scientology, or anyone saying negative things about the religion
This isn’t really a shocking new fact, since Scientology’s practices have been well documented, but what’s jarring is how far the religious organization will go, and what methodology they’ll use to bring someone down once they’ve “disconnected” from the church. Remini, Rinder and several others recounted on Aftermath how private investigators and other agents affiliated with Scientology would follow them endlessly, try to destroy their careers and even threaten their extended family.
Rinder himself admitted to behaving in such a way while he was a high-ranking member of the church; he would tail people in his car and be involved in plans to ruin their lives. Now disconnected from Scientology, Rinder says he’s consistently been in the crosshairs. The church has made a website titled “Who Is Michael Rinder?” (This is a common technique Scientology uses. Here is a page — in the exact same design format as Rinder’s — dedicated to criticizing Remini’s show.) On the site, Rinder is called “a vicious wife beater,” a “deadbeat,” and a “father from hell.” None of those declarations has been proven.
7. Scientologists don’t believe in any legal or judicial processes outside of the church
“You’re indoctrinated in Scientology to believe that the justice system is corrupt,” said Rinder. “It doesn’t do anything to ever resolve the problem. Scientology is where the answers lie, to even a child molester.”
Indeed, the Scientology website seems to support this statement, crediting Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard with the discovery of true ethics and justice.
“Merely setting down rules has never appreciably led to improvement, and it was not until L. Ron Hubbard defined and codified the subject that there was any workable technology of ethics and justice for increased happiness, prosperity and survival.”
Scobee revealed in Aftermath that Scientologists are taught that when bad things happen, it’s the result of their “past” crimes, even if the case involves rape or sexual assault. The solution to these problems is to study more Scientology, thereby paying more into the organization.
(As reported above, Remini and Rinder are working to bring a legal case against the church, but as of this writing, there has been no update on the proceedings. It’s also unknown at this time if Remini plans to produce another season of Aftermath.)