'Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath' Examines Parental Abandonment, Severing Family Ties

Ex-Scientologists Mimi Faust and Christi Gordon tell Remini how their mothers abandoned them as children to join the Sea Org.
Courtesy of Amanda Demme

The seventh episode of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath delved deeper into the view of family in Scientology, particularly when it comes to the members of the Church's Sea Organization.

Explained Remini's partner, former Scientology spokesperson Mike Rinder, "Family, in the Sea Org, is something that is given lip service but isn't considered to be important. If you are married, you're unmarried, if you have kids, if you don't, if your parents are dead, if they're alive, all of that is completely irrelevant to are you doing your job in the Sea Organization? Are you doing the greatest good and absolutely nothing else?"

Remini described Scientology's eight dynamics, which separates a person's life into eight parts, including self, family, groups/job, mankind, living things, infinity/God. In making any life decision, a Scientologist will consider what will do the greatest good for the greatest number of dynamics.

"Do I pick my child, who doesn't want to be in Scientology? That's one dynamic in comparison to mankind," Remini said of the typical process. "To sacrifice one for the betterment of the survival of mankind, not just this lifetime, but for eternity."

Rinder and Remini visited Mimi Faust, whose mother joined the Sea Org when Faust was 9 years old. She uprooted Faust from her life in Atlanta, separating her from her sister and brother and moving first to Florida and then to the "Big Blue" Scientology center in Los Angeles. In school with fellow children of Scientologists, she said she was taunted with racist slurs and spit on. At 13 years old, she said she was told to either sign her own billion-year contract with the Sea Org, or she'd be kicked out of the dorm in which she was living with her mother. When she refused, she was kicked out immediately—she had to leave the building by 7 p.m. that day and was not even given bus fare.

"My mother did not utter one word. She watched me walk out of that building and said nothing," Faust recalled. "The feeling of abandonment right in your face like that is terrible. It was terrible."

Faust had lost contact with her brother and sister and didn't have contact with her father, and ended up going to a friend's house. At a loss for what to do, she went back to her Scientologist-owned school the next Monday. She spent a night with a different friend every night, and no one knew she was homeless.

The Church denied forcibly removing Faust from Big Blue, and asserted that Faust was not homeless, rather she lived with a family that her mom arranged for.

Faust next saw her mother four years later, at 17, when she was living with a friend's family. Her mom called and asked to see her, so she went to Big Blue and waited in an office when she said four Sea Org members and her mother locked her in the room told her to sign a billion-year contract. But after she screamed and yelled, they let her out. She didn't see her again for another 10 years when she tried a final time to repair her relationship with her mom. They spent quality time together but eventually fought when Faust confronted her mother about abandoning her.

She was conflicted a few years later when she learned that her mother had stage four pancreatic cancer. A Sea Org chaperone was with her mother in the hospital when Faust came to visit, and wouldn't let them be alone until her mother passed away. Now, as a mother, Faust said she would never let her 7-year-old daughter join Scientology.

"As long as I'm on this Earth, that is not happening," she said. "In my experience, Scientology tears families apart. If you can't keep a mother and child together, how are you supposed to unite the planet? Does that make any sense to you? Because it doesn't make any sense to me at all."

The Church denies driving families apart, instead asserting that through increased communication, it helps its members improve family relationships. 

The next person Remini and Rinder met with was Christi Gordon, whose mother joined Scientology after she was born. Throughout her childhood, Gordon began to resent her mother because she knew she and her sister were not their mother's biggest priority—they were not the greatest good. When Gordon and her sister were 10 and 11, they moved to Los Angeles with their mother, but the girls were sent to live with the Cadet Org, where she said they worked for no pay and didn't get schooling, and her mother went to the Sea Org.

After their mother was quickly disqualified, they went to public school again, until their mother re-joined the Sea Org in Clearwater, Florida and they re-joined the Cadet Org. Their mother was shortly thereafter disqualified again but remained a committed Scientologist.

"My mother thought she put us in the safest place on the planet because that's what they told her, but what I found was pretty awful," Gordon said. She and her sister asked to leave the Cadet Org, which is considered a suppressive act, so they were eventually punished and sent to the Rehabilitation Project Force, or the RPF, a program for Sea Org members who have allegedly violated expectations or policies.

"That was worse," Gordon said. "The work got harder. Mostly it was the verbal abuse, I think, that was harder, that we were degraded beings and worthless, and that my mother would be better off without us." 

After being found unfit for their Sea Org duties, Gordon and her sister were asked to leave and moved back in with their mother. But yet again, Gordon and her sister joined the Sea Org for a final attempt, and she eventually left at 17.

"We just did hard labor. So at that point, something in me snapped," she said, and she left with nothing. "I realized that I would rather be homeless and on my own than living with this, this life with these people that I realized didn't care about me and never had."

The Church said that Gordon left voluntarily after making arrangements with her mother.

Remini framed Gordon and Faust's parental abandonment this way: "Scientologists believe in more than one lifetime, so what does this one lifetime mean? What does this one kid mean for eternity? That's why it's so easy for a Scientologist, Sea Org member or not, to let go of this kind of minor relationship that's like s— in comparison to what Scientology is doing."

Later in life, Gordon found her mother living on the streets ranting about L. Ron Hubbard, and tried to take her to the hospital. If they got her psychiatric treatment, she couldn't go back to Scientology—but her family decided to place her under full-time psychiatric care.

"She wouldn't speak to us for a long time. We just, to her, kicked her when she was down and handed her over to the enemy," Gordon said. "There's not a moment that goes by that I don't think about what Scientology robbed us of and it doesn't go away. It's every single day. If people could just see behind the curtain and just see that Scientology did nothing but create complete destruction of my childhood, of my entire family, this is what they're doing. There's none of it that was an accident. Their policies caused this." She continued, "It's what they have done to everyone—destroying families and robbing them of everything. There's nothing they don't want from you."

(The Church of Scientology challenges the credibility and statements of the contributors appearing in the series. Read the Church's statement in response to the allegations contained in this episode here.)