Leah Remini Leaves Scientology After Questioning David Miscavige's Leadership

10:14 AM PST 07/11/2013 by Erin Carlson
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

UPDATED: In a statement to THR, the "King of Queens" actress shares her "heartfelt appreciation" for "the overwhelming positive response" she has received since her exit.

Leah Remini is leaving Scientology after questioning its treatment of church members and the controversial, allegedly autocratic leadership of David Miscavige, The Hollywood Reporter confirms.

Remini, who starred on the CBS sitcom King of Queens and, more recently, ABC's short-lived Family Tools, has quit following years of scrutiny in which she was alleged to have repeatedly been interrogated and forced to undergo "thought modification." 

"I wish to share my sincere and heartfelt appreciation for the overwhelming positive response I have received from the media, my colleagues, and fans from around the world.  I am truly grateful and thankful for all your support," the actress said in a statement released to THR.

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In a report on Thursday, The New York Post quoted a source as saying, "It all began when Leah questioned the validity of excommunication of people. She is stepping back from a regime she thinks is corrupt. She thinks no religion should tear apart a family or abuse someone under the umbrella of ‘religion.'"

A Church of Scientology representative, asked for comment by The Hollywood Reporter, said "The Church respects the privacy of parishioners and has no comment about any individual Church member."

Earlier this week, Mike Rinder -- a former high-ranking Scientologist who left the religion and now operates a blog dedicated to airing its dirty laundry -- wrote that Miscavige began overseeing "heavy-handed efforts to force her into line" after she asked why the leader's wife, Shelly, was not present at the November 2006 wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Rinder reports that Tommy Davis, then head of the Scientology Celebrity Centre, told Remini: "You don’t have the f---ing rank to ask about Shelly."

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The Church of Scientology has denounced Rinder as unreliable and has repeatedly cautioned reporters about relying on him as a source. (A Scientology spokesperson emailed THR after this story was published to say that, "The allegations of 'interrogations' and 'thought modification' are absurd and pure nonsense, as are all the statements made about the Church’s leader, Mr. David Miscavige. Under the 25-year leadership of Mr. Miscavige, following in the footsteps of our Founder, L. Ron Hubbard, the Church is enjoying tremendous expansion as shown in our new Churches opening in six continents and the many new parishioners joining their congregations.")

Shelly Miscavige, a member of the church's Sea Org, an elite order headquartered near Los Angeles and in Clearwater, Fla., has reportedly not been sighted publicly since 2007, according to a post on writer Tony Ortega's Scientology-focused website, The Underground Bunker. (The Scientology spokesperson also told THR that, "Any statement about her, a private person, is inappropriate for publication," and that her attorney previously has denied that she is missing.]

Remini, 43, has been a member of the church for some three decades, and her mother became a Scientologist in the 1970s, Rinder said. She "remains convinced of the value of L. Ron Hubbard’s work, but will no longer tolerate the squirreling and human rights abuses perpetrated in the church. Nor will she allow anyone to tell her who she can and cannot talk to or associate with. As a result, the church has lost one of its most effective supporters – both in the public relations arena and their bank balances," he wrote.

According to Ortega, the actress had risen through Scientology's ranks to achieve Operating Thetan Level Five, with three more rungs to climb until reaching the highest spiritual rank. Her husband, restaurateur Angelo Pagan, is a Scientologist. They have a nine-year-old daughter, Sofia.

The Post reported that the church investigated the Brooklyn-born Remini and her family and that she was subjected to "thought modification" over a five-year period. She is considering the idea of speaking out publicly about her experience, the paper said.

Once a fierce defender of Scientology, Remini said in a 2001 interview with CNN, "If somebody is going to get turned off about something because of what they read or heard, then that person's not smart enough to even enter a church. If you're really against something, then know what you're against."

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In a series of stories on the religion practiced by Cruise and John Travolta, among other celebrities, The Hollywood Reporter spoke with former members who provided insight on attempts to brand Nicole Kidman a "suppressive person" following her divorce from Cruise and badmouth the actress to her two adopted children with the actor in an apparent strategy to cut out Kidman from their lives. Other much less famous members who left the church have been "excommunicated" from Scientology, their still-practicing family members encouraged to cut off all ties. The church repeatedly has denied these allegations.

Earlier this year, The Hollywood Reporter published an excerpt from Lawrence Wright's book Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief, and held a sold-out Q&A with the author in L.A., where he called upon the religion's "celebrity pitchmen" to use their "moral authority" to bring about reform in the church. The church was highly critical of Wright's book and denied many of its assertions.

In response to a question on whether Scientology had the capacity to reform itself after more than three decades of rule under Miscavige -- leadership that Wright argues in his book is abusive and detrimental to the overall health of the church -- the writer predicted a "reckoning" is coming for the religion. 

Besides Kidman, other recent high-profile departures have included Holmes, Paul Haggis and Jason Beghe.

Email: Erin.Carlson@THR.com

Twitter: @ErinLCarlson

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