Leah Remini was on ABC’s 20/20 last night discussing her new book about her life in Scientology and her departure from the church several years ago. The whole interview is pretty interesting, beginning with her early life in the church as a teenaged Sea Org member all the way through her time at the upper echelons of the Scientology culture when she was personally acquainted with Tom Cruise and David Miscavige. If you’ve seen the Going Clear documentary or read the non-fiction book it was based on, most of what she has to say won’t be surprising but it is still appalling to hear first hand how the church treats some of its most loyal and (from a publicity standpoint) valuable members.
What’s interesting though is that the schism between Remini and the church began at the same time that Cruise was receiving a lot of attention for his public courtship of Katie Holmes, years before she left the church. Specifically, Remini was critical of how highly Cruise was valued by Miscavige since she thought that as the head of the religion Miscavige shouldn’t be as enamored of Cruise as he was. She also felt that Cruise was “damaging Scientology” with his public antics at the time; the couch-jumping, attacking Brooke Shields for speaking out about her postpartum depression, insulting Matt Lauer on live television, etc. She filed internal complaints called “knowledge reports” about her feelings that Cruise should redirect his focus to just acting. Frankly, I think most of us not in Scientology would say that Remini was right on the money with most of these criticisms, but within the church she began to be punished, which led her to question the church and start researching what people outside Scientology had to say about it, and ultimately she and her entire family made the decision to leave the church together.
The interview also touches on, but doesn’t explore, the disappearance of Shelly Miscavige, David Miscavige’s wife. She’s not been seen in public in either eight or ten years, depending on the source, and while there are theories as to where she is there’s no confirmation. Remini famously filed a missing persons report on her, and while the police say that they spoke to her and confirmed she was not missing, there’s still a lot of suspicion regarding what happened to her.
Leah Remini is only one of a growing number of people who have left Scientology after decades in the church in recent years, some of them extremely high ranking members. While many people are looking to governments to crack down on L. Ron Hubbard’s religion, it seems that internal machinations may end up doing more damage to the church’s public image than external forces ever could.