LEAH REMINI’S FIGHT AGAINST SCIENTOLOGY
Leah Remini’s FIGHT AGAINST SCIENTOLOGY Four years after walking away from the controversial religion, the actress opens up about how she’s moving on—and why she’ll never stop fighting back against the church she claims wants to silence her
The actress opens up about why she’ll never stop fighting back against the church she claims wants to silence her.
Loften. Remini forever.her ReminiSofiaeah own“Remini’sWhenis thinksIt’s 13—thewaslife a changedI whenfact aboutwas daughterage her lucky,”I age, was thinking doing—she’ssays The about King very whatof eighth grader when Queens her star, family who was an moved to Clearwater, Florida, to join Sea Org, Scientology’s clergy-like order for its most dedicated members. “She doesn’t know what it means to get up and start working from 7 in the morning to 10 at night with virtually no schooling. It’s very difficult to hear your child say, ‘I hate my school’ when things get rough. I’m like, ‘I wish I had a school.’” Remini, 47, left the Church of Scientology four years ago—and has since become one of its most vocal critics. (The church has denounced her as a liar and publicity seeker, and said her account of child labour and other claims about the organisation are false.)
Her 2015 memoir, Troublemaker, was a bestseller and she shares fellow ex- Scientologists’ stories, including allegations of abuse within the church, on her Emmy-nominated Foxtel docu-series Leah Remini: Scientology and the
Aftermath, now in its second season. (She’ll soon reunite with her King of
Queens co-star Kevin James in the Nine Network sitcom Kevin Can Wait.) She’s also still grappling with the aftermath of her own 30 years in Scientology, from dealing with church officials calling her “pathetic” to finding new structure for her life with husband Angelo Pagán, 59, and Sofia. “I’m finally at peace knowing who I am and who I want to be,” she says. “I just want to be happy—and
to help people. I’m one of the lucky ones.”
Remini says one big reason she’s lucky is that her husband, her mother, Vicki, and other family members left Scientology with her, while others who leave Scientology have had family members who stay within the church feel forced to “disconnect” from them. (The church says no-one is forced to cut off contact, and disconnection is a choice.) “These people who are speaking to us [for her docu-series], they’re getting bullied by Scientology, their children are disconnecting, their parents are disconnecting, and I just hope that I’ve helped even one person to not give up their lives for an ideology,” she says.
Remini contends Scientologists no longer speak to her: “It’s losing all your friends, and not just me—my daughter was raised with a lot of my friends’ children, and my mother has lost all of her friends of 40 years.” During her last years in Scientology she became disillusioned as she questioned disconnection and other church policies, from the cost of classes and donations (she estimates she gave $US5 million to the church) to the actions of church leader David Miscavige. She says the church hypocritically treats celebrities and their families differently—like her friend Jennifer Lopez’s father, who is a Scientologist. “The [practice] of Scientology says her father should be disconnecting from her because she’s connected to me. And that hasn’t happened. They do it to everybody else who is not a big name.” Scientology denies that it distinguishes among its parishioners based on their fame.
The church came out swinging when Remini left and began publicly critiquing its practices. “It is Remini who is the attacker,” a Scientology spokesperson wrote in response to this story. “Her whole anti- Scientology shtick was scripted and choreographed by her, casting herself in her drama as the ‘victim’ so she could cash in on her false narrative while savaging her friends and those who helped her most of her life.”
After her show premiered, the church created websites claiming to “expose Leah’s lies” and included a video of her long-estranged father, George, criticising her for not helping him when he had cancer. Remini says her father, who split from their mother when she and her sister, Nicole, were toddlers and has essentially never had a relationship with her, “only made a video because [he] is desperate for attention” and isn’t a Scientologist. Still, nothing about the church’s reaction surprised Remini. “You can leave Scientology; you just can’t publicly leave Scientology,” she says. “If you publicly leave Scientology— and I’m not exaggerating— their [practice is] to ‘never defend, attack.’ To destroy, utterly, the person’s life, to attack the victims and try to discredit anyone [who speaks] out.” Despite this she remains steadfast. “If they’re going to come for me, they’re going to come,” she says. “I’m not afraid of it. I think it’s disgusting and the more they do it, the more they expose who they really are.” She adds, “I would like to be the face of resistance to abuse.”
Yet Remini concedes life after Scientology has been challenging. “It’s a learning process; it’s changing the way you think,” she says. “My real friends came forward. Ironically, not one of them was a Scientologist.” One of those closest relationships is with Lopez. “She’s so proud of me, she’s there for me,” Remini says. “She’s an amazing friend.” Remini is seeing a therapist—though her former church opposes psychiatry. “It still feels weird that I’m not being reported on constantly,” says Remini. “I have that guilty conscience. If I make the most minor transgression” of a Scientology rule, like being rude or losing her temper, “I call my therapist and go, ‘I should be punished for this; I need you to reprimand me.’ She’s like, ‘No, that’s not what therapy is.’ ”
SUPPORT SYSTEM “I’m in a place of calm and growth,” says Remini (left, at daughter Sofia’s 2015 Catholic baptism; right, on Instagram recently with Sofia and husband Angelo Pagán). “I have a really strong family unit,” says Remini. “Many are not so fortun
Before walking away in 2013, Remini (with Scientologists Kelly Preston, far left, Danny Masterson and Erika of Christensen at a 2003 gala) was one the church’s highest-profile members.