Leah Remini has made it her mission to expose what she sees as the dangers, hypocrisy, absurdity, and cruelty of Scientology since leaving the church in 2013. By doing so, she joined a growing list of celebrity ex-Scientologists. She has hosted a documentary TV series, written a book, conducted interviews, and held a Reddit AMA, among other things.
As a 30-year member of the church when she left, Remini's October 2015 interview on ABC's 20/20 provided an unprecedented amount of new information. In the interview, she dropped incendiary facts about Scientology, dishing on everything from how she was brought into the church as a child to the secretive organization's relationship with Tom Cruise. Since then, she has only continued to reveal more.
While longtime Scientology critics will understand what Remini is talking about, those new to the behind-the-scenes drama inherent to the church might be shocked. After all, it's not every religion that separates children from parents, charges members hundreds of thousands of dollars to learn basic doctrine, and idolizes celebrities as high priests. But that's reportedly what Scientology does - and Remini isn't afraid of the consequences of telling all.
Remini was brought into the Church of Scientology at the age of 9 when her family joined. According to her, the church sees children as existing on a higher spiritual plane. Children are immediately given a comprehensive education in the doctrine of the church, including rote memorization of L. Ron Hubbard quotes.
"Because Scientologists view children as spiritual beings, you're not treated as a kid, so you're given lots of responsibility," Remini said on 20/20. "Your ego becomes extremely inflated." She also explained how children are so indoctrinated that they often stay when parents leave or are expelled, breaking off all contact.
Other Scientology defectors have made similar claims, including church leader David Miscavige's niece, Jenna Miscavige Hill, who was forced to sign one of the church's infamous billion-year contracts at the age of 7 years old. However, she also outlines the church's allegedly abusive behavior, such as forcing children to perform manual labor.
Remini's mother moved her and her sister to Clearwater, Florida, home of the Scientology facility known as "Flag Land Base." There, still a child, she joined the Sea Organization, Scientology's militaristic religious order. She signed the billion-year contract, donned a sailor's uniform, and was forced into service.
Remini pulls no punches describing the living hell she was plunged into, describing "roach-infested" living quarters and harsh manual labor. "It could go from working in a laundry room to working industrial sanders," Remini said. "I would try to start a mutiny because I felt we deserved better rooms."
She spent two years working in these conditions before her mother moved to Los Angeles. The church claims the Sea Org no longer accepts children for entry.
During her Reddit AMA, Remini replied to /u/welsh_dragon_roar's question, "If all Scientology's secrets were revealed tomorrow, which do you think would be most shocking?" with a startling revelation. Remini explains: "When you reach the top of The Bridge (OTP 8) you will be told that God is a lie for LRH, and there are more levels ahead, that will cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars."
She continued, emphasizing the scope of the Church: "There is no end to Scientology."
Despite being a fairly new religion, Scientology has what some might call an old-fashioned view of intimate relations before marriage. Hubbard referred to sex as "The Second Dynamic" and developed a complex system of numbers to quantify sexual urges.
Remini was told, in no uncertain terms, not to have intercourse or any physical contact before marriage. After being caught letting her then boyfriend "go like this" over her shirt, she was reprimanded. Church ethics officers reportedly threatened to place her in the Rehabilitation Project Force - a punishment she says requires you to wear only black clothing, run wherever you go, and address other Scientologists as "sir."