Everything I know about Scientology, I learnt from Leah Remini, an actress who was raised in Scientology from the age of nine, but ended up leaving the Church in 2013. Since then, Remini has committed herself to exposing Scientology for what it really is, and, hopefully, helping as many people escape it as she can.
I always thought that Scientology was a bit loopy - one of those quirky groups that hands you doomsday flyers on Queen Street, not helped by its often bizarre celebrity spokespeople, the likes of Tom Cruise and John Travolta. But it wasn’t until I started watching Remini’s TV show, Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, that I began to realise there was much more to it.
Scientology and the Aftermath told the stories of countless family members being forced to “disconnect” from each other, because of Scientology’s policy that none of its members can have relationships with “SP”s (Suppressive Persons). Leah and her co-host Mike Rinder interviewed ex-Scientologists and journalists who alleged they’d been stalked and harassed by Scientology - cameras planted on their street, actors planted in their neighbourhood to dig up dirt on them, cars following them wherever they went.
They interviewed adults who were allegedly physically and sexually abused within the Church as children, and when they spoke out, were dismissed and ignored. They interviewed women who were apparently coerced into having abortions by the Church. They spoke to adults who grew up in Scientology, and were sent to “educational camps” as children, which they later said were actually hard labour camps that employed the use of corporal punishment. They told the stories of missing people who had started to question the Church and hadn’t been seen in years. They told stories of devoted parishioners who lost their life savings to Scientology, as the Church kept demanding more and more money. They told the stories of people who reported they had been forced into imprisonment in a dilapidated building in California, aptly named “The Hole.”
The list of horrendous experiences people report suffering at the hands of Scientology is long, but Leah and Mike are committed to telling every story that they can. Scientology and the Aftermath is no longer on air, but their new podcast, Scientology: Fair Game, is available for free wherever you listen to podcasts.
So far, they have interviewed Paulette Cooper, a journalist and Holocaust survivor who said she was the victim of law suits, smear campaigns, harassment and stalking, Karen de LaCarriere, who wasn’t even notified when her Scientologist son died, and Ron Miscavige, father of the leader of Scientology, who has been completely cut off from his son, in accordance with Scientology policy, among others.
In New Zealand, Scientology has been an established religious group since 1955, with somewhere between 315 and 30,000 followers, depending on whether you believe the 2016 Census or the New Zealand spokesperson for Scientology.
In my view, Scientology isn’t a hokey celebrity fad or a punchline to a joke; it’s a cult. It’s great that Leah Remini is shining a light into hidden, seemingly dark, places.Support Villainesse