Never has a former member of the Church of Scientology been as vocal as Leah Remini has proven to be in the months following her very public defection from the controversial organization.
In a new, startlingly frank interview with Buzzfeed, Remini opened up on her experiences with the Church like never before, hoping to clear up the facts surrounding her decision to leave in light of the Church’s aggressive smear campaign, spearheaded by former friend Kirstie Alley.
“I don’t want to be known as this bitter, ex-Scientologist,” she tells the website. “I’m not trying to bash anybody and I’m not trying to be controversial. I just want people to know the truth.”
What follows are the eight biggest reveals about Remini’s decades-spanning involvement with the Church:
1. Remini and her family moved onto the Church’s compound in Clearwater, Fla. just before she turned 10
“We went from a middle-class lifestyle [in Brooklyn, N.Y.] to living in a roach-infested motel with six other girls off a freeway in Clearwater,” she says. Her stepfather convinced her mother Vicki to move Remini and her two sisters to the Sunshine State, but he never followed.
2. Once on the compound, Remini and her family were put straight to work
“We were working from morning until night with barely any schooling,” she says. “There was no saying no. There was no being tired. There was no, ‘I’m a little girl who just lost her father and everything I’ve ever known.’ There was only, ‘Get it done.'”
3. Remini’s mother moved her daughters to L.A. in 1983
Pregnant with her fifth child, Vicki tired of living conditions she and her children were forced to endure and fled, living on a friend’s floor. The decision, however, had nothing to do with Remini wanting to be an actress.
4. Remini dropped out of public school as a teenager
In L.A., Remini had trouble adjusting to public school, finally convincing Vicki to let her drop out of public school as she would still be receiving her education at The Church of Scientology. “She didn’t feel like I was missing out on a real education,” Remini admits. “The only thing that mattered was that we were taking courses — and not taking drugs.”
5. The biggest factor in Remini decision to leave the Church: Her daughter Sofia
“She was getting to the age where the acclimation into the Church would have to start,” she says of the process, which would have started with her nine-year-old daughter being audited, forcing her to answer questions including, “Have you ever pretended to be ill?” “Have you ever decided you didn’t like some member of your family?” “Have you ever been a coward?”
6. Scientology’s “Church First” mantra was too much for Remini to handle
“In my house, it’s family first — but I was spending most of my time at the Church,” she admits. “So, I was saying ‘family first,’ but I wasn’t showing that. I didn’t like the message that sent my daughter.” Remini attempted to change this aspect of the Church by appealing to long-time friends, all of whom opposed her idea: “That showed me everything the Church taught me was a lie.”
7. Upon leaving, Remini developed a newfound clarity on how the Church has warped her thinking
“In the Church, you’re taught that everybody is lost,” she says. “They say they’re loving, caring, non-judgmental people, but secretly, they were judging the world for not believing what they believed. To me, that is not a spiritual person. That’s a judgmental person and that is the person that I was. I was a hypocrite, and the worst thing you can be in this world is a hypocrite.”
8. Most Scientologists don’t drink — at all
“There’s no going to dinner with friends and having a glass of wine — I never did that in my adult life. I always thought people who had a glass of wine at dinner were alcoholics,” Remini reveals. “It was so crazy to me because you can’t get counseling the next day at the Church if you’ve had a drink, so most Scientologists don’t drink. Not that that’s a bad thing, but it also prevents you from having fun because your mindset is to wake up early and go to the Church every single day. There’s a lot of work required to retain your place in the Church.”
What do you think of Remini’s revelations about Scientology?