'Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath' Examines Family Dynamics in the Church

A former third-generation Scientologist recounts the hardships and tragedies that caused family conflicts and led to her leaving the church.
Courtesy of Amanda Demme

The third episode of season two of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath assessed family dynamics existing within the Church. Despite suffering from hardships that include depression and suicidal thoughts, families are dedicated to placing the utmost importance on their religion.

Throughout the episode, Remini and her Aftermath partner Mike Rinder explained that Scientology can be difficult to walk away from, for those who've known nothing of life without the Church's influence.

Elizabeth Gale, the daughter of Marie Gale, a public Scientologist spokesperson of the Citizen Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), detailed the timeline of her doubts about her religion. Gale describes her and her brother Phillip as being born into a "perfect Scientology family," because of her mother’s important role and their family’s dedication to practicing traditional customs.

Recalling the emotional triggers that stimulated her doubts, Gale outlined Phillip’s accident that occurred when he was four. After breaking his arm, Phillip was required to undergo a surgical procedure. After surgery, her family noticed Phillip acting differently, with mood swings and tantrums. Marie attributed his behavioral change to her acting as a "restimulator." 

According to L. Ron Hubbard’s book, Dianetics, a child’s misbehavior is the mother’s fault, because she activates bad memories in her child for what she did when the child was in the womb. When a child reaches the age of eight, the memories need to be "cleared."  

Following dianetics protocol, Phillip was sent to Delphi Academy, a Scientology boarding school to learn the proper customs of being a Scientologist.

“She believed that she had to give him the best chance by giving him away from her to the next best place,” explains Gale of her mother’s decision to send Phillip away.

Phillip excelled as a student, whereas Gale struggled with being away. "I probably called home crying every day," recounts Gale.

In 1995, Gale learned that her father died of a sudden heart attack. Marie refused to discuss it or unveil a sympathetic response, for it was considered wrongful by the Church.

Unable to cope with her emotions, Gale stopped going to school and moved to LA with her mother, where she began attending Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre International. She recounts her mother leaving her to be cared for by a stranger so that she could work at the Sea Org, a claim her mother has argued to be false. 

“She’s basically saying, ‘I’m done being a mom,’“ explains Gale. Although Gale signed a contract to join the Sea Org at the age of 14, her feelings of abandonment led her to a suicide attempt. Gale recalls feeling "hopeless" and the pressure of having a path "too set in stone," describing the Sea Org as a "prison sentence."

“You’re told the outcome is you’re going to be happy and perfect. I just never felt that way, overall genuinely happy,” said Gale.

After her suicide attempt, Marie visited Gale in the hospital, only for Gale to learn that it was because of the Church’s orders and thus assuring she wouldn’t be put in the hands of psychiatrists, something the CCH fights against.

Gale began to question her religion, unsure as to why her mother would have to consistently leave her own children and why she failed to receive any love after her father’s death.

Meanwhile, Phillip began facing similar doubts and struggles. After graduating and attending MIT at the age of 15, he moved to Los Angeles to work for Earthlink. It was there that he began dating a girlfriend who didn’t follow Scientology. After consistently being approached about his dedication to his church, Phillip returned to MIT, only to suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts.

At age 19, Phillip jumped from the 15th floor of the Green Building on campus and fell to his death, leaving a suicide note that said his family had nothing to do with his decision, only his struggling mind. His death took place on the same day as L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday, a renowned celebratory day for the Church of Scientology.

It was later discovered that prior to his death, Phillip had joined an anti-Scientology newsgroup online and was anonymously interviewed by the Boston Herald. Marie contacted the group, blaming her son's death on their negative influence and citing that "he made his own decision," for his suicide had nothing to do with Scientology.

After 24 years, Gale left Scientology in 2007. Despite raising a family in an Oregon home, once occupied by her family's ancestors, Gale's distance from Scientology resulted in an estrangement from her mother. While her mother and stepfather informed her that her children would be in Scientology whether they "liked it or not," Gale vowed to give her children the free life she was raised to believe she couldn’t have.

“I knew I wouldn’t inherit this anymore, but I had to pick. I picked my children,” said Gale.

Of Gale's story, Remini notes, “In the end, this family lost it all. The whole family has disintegrated, because of Scientology."

The Church of Scientology challenges the credibility and statements of the contributors appearing in the series, and A&E provides information from the Church regarding claims made in each episode online.

(Read the Church of Scientology's statement in response to allegations here.)

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