8:02am PT by THR staff
Leah Remini on Her Battle With Scientology: "I'm Not Going to Allow the Church to Bully People"
Leah Remini is not giving up her fight against the Church of Scientology.
The actress, who is starring in an upcoming A&E docuseries titled Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, appears on Ellen DeGeneres' show Wednesday, where she talks about feeling a responsibility to speak out on behalf of the church's "victims."
"I was watching high executives, former executives of the church leaving and speaking out about abuses and things that they've experienced while working for the church, and I saw how the church reacted," the actress said. "I felt I had a responsibility to say, 'I'm not going to allow you to bully these people who were very brave to come out and tell their stories.' And that's for executives, but there are just average parishioners like me who leave and speak out about what they've experienced, and they lose their family. And so the church goes after their family to shun their family, oftentimes. I'm very lucky that that didn't happen to me. My family chose me."
Remini, who left the church in 2013, also wrote a best-selling book about her experiences, Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology.
She called A&E and the people who appear in her show — former Scientology members who also speak out about their "abuse, heartbreak and harassment," according to A&E — "very brave...because there are repercussions to speaking out." For example, Remini said, she's been "followed" since leaving the church.
"But again, my story pales in comparison to what happened to other people, how people are bullied into silence," she said. "We don't have $3 billion to protect ourselves, so what I have is I'm an actress, and I'm able to speak, and I'm able to give a voice to people who might not have an Ellen to go on. I feel lucky and I feel blessed. That's kind of what my path is right now."
Remini said there are a few reasons that many other Hollywood stars — and others — end up staying in the church.
"The church does have all your secrets from when you were a child, but that isn't the reason why people don't leave the church," she said. "They don't leave the church because they actually believe what they're doing is good. It's very hard for me to attack something that I believed in, and I believed in it wholeheartedly all my life, so it's a difficult position to be in. They believe that they have the answers to life, to help mankind. So, they choose often the church, believing they're saving their family anyway. So I'm not going to sit back and just go on with my life and allow the church — who has $3 billion — to bully people, bully victims."
DeGeneres also questioned whether Scientology is accurately classified as a religion.
"They claim that they have the technology to get you to the highest enlightenment of that spiritual side of you and to be the best part of you. There's a lot of things that are good in Scientology, because I wouldn't have been in it. And that's the thing, a lot of people trivialize this thing, like, 'Oh, it's Xenu and it's a volcano and it's jumping on couches and acting crazy.' These people are victims. We've been victimized. We believed in something because it starts out very normal," Remini said. "You could be a better Leah, I could be a better mother, I could be a better sister, I could be a better friend — not to you, because I've been fantastic," she quipped to DeGeneres, "but we all want those things. What Scientology offers is a bigger game. You're part of an elite group saving the planet."
When DeGeneres noted that "everyone is trying to be a better version of themselves," Remini noted, "Yes but Scientology says it's the only way."
The church has previously shot down Remini's statements in a web post and released this statement when the show's trailer debuted: "Desperate for attention with an acting career stuck in a nearly decade-long tailspin, Leah Remini needs to move on with her life. Instead, she seeks publicity by maliciously spreading lies about the church using the same handful of bitter zealots who were kicked out years ago for chronic dishonesty and corruption and whose false claims the Church refuted years ago, including through judicial decisions."
Watch the interview below.
Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath premieres at 10 p.m., Nov. 29, on A&E.