Though she's known for bringing laughs with comedic performances in The King of Queens and Old School, Leah Remini's latest project deals with very serious subject matter.
In a new A&E docu-series which she executive produced, Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, Remini interviews former members of the Church of Scientology about their experiences as followers and their lives after leaving the religion.
Remini faced a backlash since publicly parting ways with the organization in 2013, and she hopes to send a message to the church with her series. "You’re not gonna continue to lie to people and abuse people and take their money and their lives," she says in the show. "If I can stop one, then I’m gonna do it.”
Here are seven major allegations from Tuesday's premiere episode.
1. Statutory rape went unreported to the police
Amy Scobee, who said she was in charge of Celebrity Centres, didn’t go to high school and became a member at 14. She alleged that she was taken advantage of by her boss, who was 35 at the time.
“He was married,” she said, “and he had me stay back when everybody else left, and basically we had sex. This was statutory rape, and I was too afraid to tell anyone about it.”
Scobee said her boss told his wife about the incident and the couple told the Church, but the Church did not inform Scobee's parents or police. Scobee also said that, because of the practices of the religion, she absorbed the blame.
“And they indoctrinated in me that if anything serious goes on, it’s handled internally,” she shared. “It happened to me, so therefore I must’ve done something that caused it.”
In a statement to USA TODAY, the Church says it informed A&E prior to broadcast that the claim is false.
2. Scientologists take judicial matters into their own hands
In response to Scobee’s confession, Mike Rinder, who says he was the international spokesman for Scientology for 20 years, alleged that the church breeds distrust of the judicial system.
“You’re also indoctrinated in Scientology to believe that the justice system is corrupt,” he said, “that it doesn’t do anything to ever resolve the problem. That Scientology is where the answers lie, to even a child molester.”
3. Leader David Miscavige is physically abusive
Scobee described the Church's leader as “a very angry man." She said, "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.”
4. Letters are written to families so members won’t be reported missing
Scobee said Scientologists are taught that “the church is first, and family is a distraction.” She said congregants write to family members so they won't be reported as missing.
“They're called ‘good roads fair weather’ letters,” she said, “so that they don’t file missing persons reports on you or go to the media because they haven’t heard from their children, or something like that.”
5. Scobee was ordered to swarm Tom Cruise with Scientologists
“We went to extremes to make celebrities happy,” Scobee said, “and it was mainly Tom Cruise.” She said it was her job “to surround Tom Cruise with Scientologists on staff.”
“I had to hire an executive housekeeper, a maid, a cook,” she said. “They wanted him to only be in Scientology 100%.” Scobee said she witnessed members of The Sea Organization, described on the religion's website as "composed of the singularly most dedicated Scientologists — individuals who have committed their lives to the volunteer service of their religion" cleaning his house and folding his laundry. .
6. Security guards keep members from fleeing
After growing defiant, Scobee was sent to Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF) in 2003, which she described as a place “for Sea Org members who get in big trouble.”
“You run everywhere you go,” she said. “You do hard manual labor. You call everybody 'sir.' You have no communication in and no communication out within that group.”
Scobee escaped RPF with her husband, Mat, after he stood up to a security guard. “I said, ‘Unless you want to shoot me in the (expletive) head, we’re out of here.’”
7. Members are relentless when encouraging disconnection
Remini called disconnection the Church’s “biggest weapon.” The process, defined in the series as cutting off “all contact with someone critical of the Church of Scientology,” can keep families apart. Once Scobee was free, she aimed to connect with her mom, Bonny Elliott, who was still an active Scientologist, before other members would encourage disconnection.
While she was visiting her mom, Scobee said an ethics officer paid Elliott a visit, so Scobee hid in another room.
“What he was telling me,” Elliott said, “was that my daughter was evil and everything she touched was poison, and that she’d done so much damage to the church and that I should have nothing to do with her.” Though Elliott initially chose the Church, she and her daughter were able to make up before she died.
Excerpts of letters from the Church were shared throughout the episode, refuting the claims made by Scobee and Rinder. The church called Scobee “a pathological liar.” Of Rinder it said, "The real story is that evidence has never been produced because it doesn’t exist. What does exist are the sworn statements of people with first-hand knowledge of the alleged encounters, all of whom unambiguously refute the manufactured tales of Mike Rinder.”
The Church further refuted the claims in a statement provided to USA TODAY.
"Leah Remini is doing this show for the money, just as she profited from her book. In addition, she attempted to extort the Church by first demanding $500,000, followed by an additional $1 million, because the Church invoked its First Amendment right to respond to her false claims with the truth. This shows the extent Leah Remini is willing to go to in order to distort the truth about Scientology."