Leah Remini on Scientology: It’s not a religion, it’s a cult
Actress Leah Remini recently expressed glee that her new documentary series, “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath” has been renewed for a second season. “I’m happy that the series and I get to continue revealing the abuses of this organization,” Remini said in a phone interview with the Inquirer.
Remini is known for her nine-season stint in “The King of Queens,” as well as her controversial split in 2013 with the Church of Scientology, whose members include fellow celebrities like Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kirstie Alley. She was straightforward about leaving the group that she was part of since she was a child.
“It’s a cult,” she said without hesitation. “Everything in Scientology is written down in thousands of pages of policies that you have to follow; you’re not allowed to think for yourself … There’s no questioning.”
Remini, 46, spoke with a number of ex-members, who related experiences of abuse, for the new show (airing on cable channel CI, 9 p.m., starting April 16). She still has friends in the organization, who are kept from communicating with her: “They’re literally not allowed to talk to me. I’ve seen friends, my godchildren walking down the streets … and they turn the other way. But, again, that’s the policy of Scientology … this is a mind-controlling cult. Any organization that dictates who you can and cannot speak to, including your own mother [or] children, is not a religion. I don’t compare cults to religions.”
The actress, who also appeared in “Cheers” and “Saved by the Bell,” wrote a book about her exodus, “Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology,” in 2015.
The Inquirer contacted the Philippine chapter of the group for comment on the show’s airing, but had yet to receive a reply at press time.
The docu series’ original channel, A&E, showed disclaimers onscreen during airings of “Scientology and the Aftermath,” brief statements by the church that contest some of the allegations of Remini’s interviewees.
Excerpts from the chat:
What exactly was your reason for leaving Scientology? It was a series of things. It took me six years to get out. I was trying to ask this organization of the allegations I was hearing in the news, in social media, and on the Internet. And I was being punished for asking questions.
I don’t think that people should … [be punished] for asking questions about religious organizations. It became more and more difficult for me to stay in something that didn’t allow me to think for myself.
And I was seeing families torn apart. I was seeing people’s lives being destroyed, and I could no longer subscribe to it.
What are your regrets about things you could’ve done while you were still a member? I [couldn’t] grow and heal. You’re not allowed to talk about things that you feel might be hurting your life, or those that are bothering you. Scientology tells you what to talk about, and what you’re going to deal with, mentally and spiritually.
Looking back, I don’t regret any of it, because I wouldn’t be here now [without it]. I feel that it was supposed to be my path to go through something like this, so that I can do what I love to do, which is help people … and that’s always been in my heart. I don’t regret it in a certain way, because I’m here now.
How would you explain the allegations about “mind control?” It starts at a young age. As soon as a child can read, they start brainwashing them into believing that they aren’t children … that they’re old spirits in little bodies. And their parents … they’re [just] parents [in] this lifetime … and that’s not [supposed to be] a big deal.
What’s important is the Church of Scientology and the work it’s doing. So, children at an early age start to depend on the church to be their “parents.” [Science fiction author] L. Ron Hubbard is their god. Their parents aren’t that important … that Scientology is everything.
You were a member since you were young—but how about the affiliation of older celebrities like Tom Cruise?
I guess it starts with whomever got him in, with whatever ailment he had, he believed that Scientology saved his life. He lives in a bubble. Like most Scientologists, you’re not allowed to look on the Internet. You’re not allowed to read books or watch programs against [it].
When you’re a celebrity like Tom, you’re surrounded by Scientologists. He’s not even allowed [to have] magazines around him, in case there’s something bad about Scientology. He lives in a world that lacks real information. He gets great power from the church. The church runs his life and feeds his ego. He believes that he is saving the planet. And that’s what keeps them in.
What abuses did you witness? The abuses that I’ve witnessed firsthand—being indoctrinated to sensual content at a very early age. I’ve witnessed that over and over again … for myself, for my sister. Anybody who is in Scientology very early on isn’t expected to [react] to sexual content that is inappropriate for children, which creates an environment that’s very dangerous and leads to abuses.
I know that the people who said they were beaten weren’t lying. Over and over, it’s the same story. I know the policy that allows abuses to occur, but I didn’t have to go far. It’s in the church’s writings. And the fact that they wanted me to shun my family when I refused to stop talking to people I call my friends, just because they left the church.
What can be done legally to help people? People can believe what they want to believe, as long as it isn’t hurting others. But when you’re abusing people and saying that that’s not happening, and then trying to destroy people’s lives [for] telling the truth, what I want to see happen is for the agencies responsible for protecting our children and our citizens to do something about it.
Do you have acting projects right now? I have a comedy for NBC, “What About Barb,” [inspired by] a movie called “What About Bob,” with Richard Dreyfuss. It’s funny, and we’re having a great time. Yes, I continue to act. I still love acting. But this [series] is something that is in my heart. It’s something I’m very passionate about.
Can Tom Cruise help end the abuses? Tom has the power to help a lot of people. He could do something about it. If he wanted to, Tom could end it all.
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