The fifth episode of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath‘s second season focused on David Miscavige — head of the Church of Scientology since L. Ron Hubbard’s death in 1986 — and his rise to power.
Remini and her partner, former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder, alleged that Miscavige has spent the years following Hubbard’s death pushing out high-ranking church officials including the creator’s widow, Mary Sue Hubbard, and more than 20 other executives (Rinder included).
The first person interviewed was 32-year Scientologist John “JB” Brousseau, who left the church in 2010 after serving as L. Ron Hubbard’s personal driver and later a right-hand man to Miscavige, whom he said began asserting his authority even before Hubbard’s death.
“I observed him dismantling and putting himself gradually into a position where he was the seniormost person, aside from LRH, and I saw Miscavige becoming more and more authoritative and more and more able to remove people, regardless of position,” he said.
Among the things Brousseau said he observed were Miscavige secretly recording a meeting with Mary Sue Hubbard that eventually led to her losing her power in the church, and Miscavige removing Hubbard’s second-in-command Pat Broeker from power following Hubbard’s death.
“Ultimately that put him in the position where there was no one else in the way, and now he was chairman of the board of Religious Technology Center, the top of RTC, and he was where he wanted to be,” Brousseau said. “David Miscavige was the one. He was now invincible.”
Brousseau also touched on the disappearance of Miscavige’s wife, Shelly, who has not been seen in public since 2005 (the church maintains she is not missing), and “the Hole,” aka the Scientology building where church executives are allegedly imprisoned. Brousseau said he was the one who put bars on the doors of the Hole and blocked the windows from opening all the way, and though the church denies its existence, Rinder said he has official church correspondence addressed to him there.
“People were, myself included, in that little prison for months, some for years,” Rinder said.
Brousseau said the tipping point that caused him to have a crisis of conscience and leave the church in 2010 was when the ex-wives of former Scientology executives appeared on Anderson Cooper 360 to deny the claims of Miscavige’s physical abuse their husbands had made — including Rinder’s now-ex-wife — but Brousseau said he had witnessed the abuse firsthand.
“I had decided in my mind…that this guy is really a psychopathic individual in how he deals with people. There was that turning point where I stopped rationalizing in my mind…the walls just came down for me,” Brousseau said.
In response to Brousseau’s comments, the Church of Scientology wrote to A&E, “Brousseau’s staff history reveals his character as evasive, sneaky and untrustworthy. … [He has] hawked his lies to anti-Scientology writers.”
The second person profiled was former security chief Gary “Jackson” Morehead, a 30-year member who left in 1997 and outlined the different security precautions taken on the base at which he was posted.
“The security system was by design to keep people out, but eventually it became to keep them in,” Morehead said. No one on the base could get out, or even call 911, Morehead said, and he eventually helped create the “Blow Drill,” or the procedures taken to find and retrieve an escaped Sea Org member.
Morehead said he left the church after he was encouraged by higher-ups to convince his wife to get an abortion, a claim the church denies. Morehead said he was separated from his wife and subjected to security checks, and his wife was told negative things about him and that he was interested in bestiality.
The church disputed Morehead’s claims, writing, “By his own admission, [Morehead] was never an executive or ‘high ranking’ staff member and the tales he spins are false and unsubstantiated and continue to change and morph.”
Morehead teared up multiple times, first discussing the abortion and later thinking about his complicity in some of the church’s actions.
“I thought I was doing a world of good by doing what I did,” he said.
Remini moved to comfort Morehead, who’d joined the church at age 11 and began his first security post at 16.
“We did it because we thought we were doing something decent,” she told him. “When I look at you, I just see a young kid at 16, I see a young boy wanting to do the right thing and being forced into a cult, and we were all part of it and we all believed that. I just want you to know that you’re a good person, you just didn’t know.”
Later, Remini said, “He was earnestly doing his job thinking that he was protecting the planet. … That’s what they all believed. This is the game that Scientology plays. This is David Miscavige following Scientology policy. Is it true that David Miscavige is bad? Yes. But if David Miscavige wasn’t there they would grab [someone else] and he would carry on the same legacy because that is what Scientology teaches.”
The Church of Scientology challenges the credibility and statements of the contributors appearing in the series, and wrote in a letter to the network, “neither John Brousseau nor Gary Morehead is a credible source when it comes to their former religion.”
(Read the Church of Scientology’s statement in response to allegations here.)