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This is the BBC. This podcast is supported by advertising outside the UK. BBC sounds, music, radio, podcasts, Hello, can you see me now?

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Hello, I'm Larry Through and this is grounded with Larry through my podcast series for Radio four in which I get to talk to all sorts of people I've been itching to meet and speaking to them remotely via the Internet.

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I'm Louis.

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I'm I'm your host. You know who you are, love. Yes. Welcome. Welcome with everyone. Guest host and production team each dialing in from their own homes.

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The bearded man is Paul and Paul and Catherine in Green. Hi, how are you?

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Today's guest is Leah Remini, actor, presenter, winner of two Primetime Emmy Awards and for 30 years, a member of the controversial Church of Scientology before leaving in 2013 and becoming one of its fiercest critics, it is recording my vote yes.

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OK, Scientology, as you may or may not know, was created in the early 1950s by American sci fi writer L. Ron Hubbard and numbers among its adherents, John Travolta and Tom Cruise. I have a long time fascination with the subject of Scientology, and in 2015 I made my own Scientology documentary. Among the church's hallmarks are its secrecy about aspects of its beliefs and its aggressive tactics against perceived enemies and journalists.

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Something Lere has plenty of experience of. The church has dismissed her as a spoiled, entitled diva who regurgitates tired myths that have been repeatedly debunked. Some strong language ahead. So fasten your seatbelts. Thanks for doing this, Leah. It is my absolute pleasure. I want to start by saying congratulations on your recent Emmy win. Thank you, sir. Which is your second, I believe, for your series, Scientology, the aftermath.

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Is that good? Yes, that's correct. How did that go? Was it fun? Yeah. You know, dealing with Scientology is always fun.

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Well, winning awards for dealing with them has a fun side to it.

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It is for the people who are speaking up, because as you well know, because you've dealt with the Church of Scientology, what people receive for telling the truth about Scientology is they get fair gamed, which is a series of attacks from Scientology and their operatives that attempt to not only discredit but destroy the person's life. So the award is to them an acknowledgement in some way for what they have to deal with after it's something that gives and keeps giving. You cannot just speak about the abuses of Scientology and go on with your life.

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They forever will. Fair game.

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You know, we've gone in at the deep end, which is great. I love the deep end. It's one of my favorite places to swim. I have some, as you mentioned previous with Scientology.

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We did a little bit of legal tangoing. So I think before we get too far into it, we should acknowledge there are legal perils that can lie ahead. For anyone who discusses Scientology candidly and in your series, you could have elegantly deal with a lot of it by having a card that comes up at the beginning of each episode. You just give them a blanket denial or a blanket dismissal of everything that you're about to say, right? Sure. Which is another good way of dealing with it in your book as well.

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I was struck that you kind of get in the punch first by saying, I cheated, I've lied, I've been an asshole. And I mean, I'm paraphrasing.

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Sure, because you knew that they would come back with whatever they had in order to attack you.

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Truth. And the other part of it was that I was never claiming, nor do I claim it today, that I'm a perfect person.

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We certainly every episode have asked somebody from the Church of Scientology to come on and speak to us face to face, as you have with your documentary film, my Scientology movie. And they never answer to those. They just tried to attack and discredit you and your film. They did it with my book. They're doing it with the podcast. We can't take that as a compliment because they've been doing this for decades.

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Before we dig into that. Winning an Emmy is obviously a big deal. And you're in the the heart of Hollywood. And Scientology is often described as the Hollywood religion. Famously, when you won your last Emmy for the series Scientology The Aftermath, it was said that Elisabeth Moss was in the audience.

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I guess you'd been nominated for her role in The Handmaid's Tale. And it was alleged that she left during your acceptance speech. Do you know if that was the case? And also just when you won the other night, was there any sense of that being Scientologists there? And was there any kind of ripple of, oh, there's a small contingent here for whom this is uncomfortable?

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Well, just a few things that I want to cover with what you said. Scientology is not known as the Hollywood religion because that is their PR line. That's what they want to be known as. There are more non Scientologists in Hollywood than there are Scientologists. Scientologists are a very small number in general. I think the numbers are 40000 worldwide and that's including staff members. So they're not as powerful as they want to appear.

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Second, I think what you're referring to, I think we were at the Critics Choice Awards and she was sitting at another table and I could see her. And when my categories coming up, she conveniently left the room. It was the whole category that she left for and then came back. I've been in in homes. I've been in Chelsea Handler's home where Laura Prepon was there, saw me and ran literally ran away from me.

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And this is the kind of thing that goes on, Nora, people who might not be familiar to UK audiences, but she was in that 70s Show, is that right?

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Right. Yeah. Who's a Scientologist? She orange is the new black.

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But the point being, she would have been advised that Leah, having left Scientology, is an espere suppressive person, an enemy, and just to be in proximity to you would think you would be dangerous, dangerous to her life.

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They could kind of catch cooties from you, correct? Not cosmic ones.

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Yes. I think it's literally like body Seaton's threatens. I'm not trying to trivialize it. Do they imagine that you're just gonna have a bad influence because you'll have a bad attitude?

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Because sometimes there's an actual metaphysical dimension to it where they are entities, you know, that I that I went up the bridge.

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Right. You know that I'm a. Scientologist, how did you get 085 operating Phaethon five for people who don't know, that's very far up, right?

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Yeah, it goes up to 88, but now they're reinventing because what's happening is Scientologists are spending millions of dollars and every day of their life, sacrificing time with their families, sacrificing, living a good life to give all of their money to Scientology. Because Scientology has a price list, as you know, it's not free. It's not faith based. They don't believe in God.

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Well, people who have been kind to it say, well, it's kind of modeled on Buddhism, like in the sense that there isn't a God and you reincarnate. And so the idea is to achieve enlightenment through learning lessons through multiple lifetimes, but actually are trying to become a God according to one analysis of it.

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Well, Scientologists believe that they are the elite of the world, and the mission of Scientology is to get 80 percent of the planet to be Scientologists.

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You mentioned that 85 operating Satan five. How much would you say it costs to get to 85 because you pay for services and then there's donations, which in theory are optional, although they may or may not be.

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Right.

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Right. What do you think is the least you could pay without being in the Sea Org like part of the clergy to get to 85?

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Well, the Sea Org people don't pay anything. They pay with their lives. Right. Sign up to live communally, work for Scientology, live with Scientology bases, get fed by Scientology to close by Scientology. So they work and live at Scientology. So for giving up their lives, they're supposed to get Scientology for free. But parishioners pay for Scientology as you go as reverend, you have to prepay for services in Scientology. I think the number is 400000.

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Just bottom line, people wonder, well, it's for rich people. No, people live and work for Scientology to pay for Scientology service.

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Hundred thousand dollars. You need a lot more than that because you were making various donations. If you have a totted up, how much you spent inside?

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No, because honestly, it would make me cry. I mean, honestly, I think about my daughter, her future. Thank God I'm in a business where I can make money and do what I love to do, which is perform and act and as well do what I'm doing now. So, yes, I've given millions and just straight donations, but I the amount of money that the Scientology cost hundreds of thousands as well for me, for my mother, for my stepfather, for my husband.

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And all of that money that I've paid is just sitting there in a Scientology account and there's no way to get that money back.

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One thing on the OT levels, right. Famously at O3, you learn a secret about the universe, correct? It cannot be revealed to anyone outside of Scientology. Like, I kind of love that because it's it's so childish on one level and then on another level you like. Well, religions are weird in general. And in Catholicism, there's some funny beliefs, I'm sure, across the board, Mormons, Hindus, Muslims, you name it. And Scientology has this, I guess, wacky belief, among other things, that when you get O3, you can't reveal it, that if you reveal the secret, it could actually drive the uninitiated insane.

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That's what else Ron Hubbard says. Or you can die of cancer if you learn the secret before you are prepared.

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Would it be dangerous to reveal the secret or would it be bigoted? Would they say, like, you're trivializing what we do? I made a decision in my film not to say what happens 023, kind of because I thought, well, maybe that's fair enough.

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You know, listen, you can you can believe whatever you want to believe, right? That's totally fine. But where there's a distinction between real religion and Scientology is you can walk into any Catholic Church, sit there, pray no one's going to ask you for money.

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They may ask you, but no one's going to judge you. If you pass the collection, they pass a basket around Louis.

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They don't have sales offices that they body Rucha it physically. It's one of their friends. And yeah, exactly. Meaning they physically move your body into a salesroom and they call your credit card companies for you to get your credit cards up and they will bang on the tables and they will accuse you of caring not for mankind for future generations until you give the money. I don't know of any church who does that. If you leave Catholicism, you don't have a group of people showing up at your doorstep.

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You are not put on a lie detector test and asked if you've looked on the Internet, if you've read a book that's criticizing Catholicism or any religion that you're talking about. Also, none of those religions or faiths have a dedicated department in it that goes after people who leave and speak out or who file a police report.

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Or who make a film. Do you know of any other organization that does this? Maybe the Mafia. OK, well, I wouldn't insult the Mafia and put them in this. Really think I said that slightly facetiously. You think it would be unfair to the Mafia?

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I think the Mafia would be offended if there was one. Yes. And I'm not being facetious, really.

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Do you think and I'm not trying to pick an argument because basically I'd love to argue with you, Louis. OK, so just on the Mafia question, the mafia kill people would be one difference when you're involved in the Mafia.

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Right. There's a kind of an agreed upon. This is what we do, right? We do this. We do this. We do this. You borrow money from the Mafia. You go against the rules of the Mafia. They're going to be consequences. Right. So you know the game. You know the rules. This is a religion with tax exemption and the rules aren't maybe clear when you go in.

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I would rather hang out with the Mafia than Scientology. Shall we say what happens in 03 or how do you feel? Listen, I have no problem because here's the thing. I want to save people from ever doing this because Scientologists like me believed that these would be the answers right to my own personal power and at the same time helping the planet on O3. You find out that your whole body is made up of other spirits called body thieves. And feinting just means spirit, right?

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So your whole body is comprised of body statements.

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And when you get to this level and Scientology starts speaking to these body things like demons, no, they're just spirits that somehow attach themselves to human beings.

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And we are now comprised of this. We are thinking thoughts that are not our thoughts, but really the body feelings, thoughts, if we're sick, if we have cancer and they were people at one time, apparently they were people at one time living on some planet. Xinyu was this ruler who took people into aircrafts that look like aircraft, like DC 10 planes, and he flew them to Earth, which was then called Teagasc.

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Yes.

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And you read this, by the way. And when I say you read this, you are given a security clearance and you have to show up every day and basically counsel these body things. But you have to go up to a room, a secure room. You have to have a briefcase of which you only know the password. You open up the briefcase, you turn the briefcase around. These books are connected to a sensor which is so valuable that valuable.

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So he unhooks it. He scans your security lanyard, which is on your neck. He scans it, he scans that it's out, he puts it in the briefcase, locks it, turns it around. It has to be attached to your body, the briefcase. You have to pee with it. You have to eat with it. Then you go into a secure room in Scientology. You open the thing and you read it. You're being filmed and you have to read what it says there.

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And then if you have any disagreement with it, you were sent to another room and you were sat down and they ask you what every word is that you don't understand because you can't possibly have disagreement with it. You just don't understand because it's sacred text. It's so sacred that if you don't get it, there's something really wrong with you.

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And it literally spells out this cosmic narrative about Xenu. And coming to Earth is a prison planet for captured souls called statins. And they were put into volcanoes and blown up.

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And Louis, you are made up of funny things right now. Yeah, I think I'm clear. Well, you might be clear, but that doesn't mean you don't have body things because that's on the ozone levels, which is higher than clear.

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You're right. So even if you're clear, it's like an ever receding horizon.

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I went into a there's a mission in Los Feliz. Have you been here? It's fairly new. My sister used to work there. Yeah, really.

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And I just thought I was making my movie. It's been a few hours in the city as a journalist for various meetings, but I've never actually gone in to have the experience of being a civilian right undercover. What struck me was it's a bit like walking onto a well used car.

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Lot may be unkind, but the hard sales are so busy trying not to be unkind. I'm trying not to do you a favor.

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I'll tell you exactly what I'm trying to do. I'm trying not to use black and white thinking. And, you know, in your book, which I really enjoyed, by the way, troublemaker, I recommend it. But in your book, Towards The End, you mention how you try and see the world in shades of gray. Right. You give a little call to arms about extending empathy and generosity, which I really appreciate it.

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And I tend to think that I can see you've been in the trenches with Scientology and been fired at, harassed, lost millions of dollars. I can absolutely see why, you know, but that's not the reason.

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Louis, I admire what you're trying to do. But at the same time, we have to know what is right and what is wrong and lying to people, destroying families to physically abuse your staff and justify and to use millions and millions and millions of dollars a year of tax exempt money to discredit, harass and destroy people's lives is wrong.

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And so I find amazing is they don't give services to people who have had any experience of psychoactive drugs. Right. And so when I went into this mission in Los Feliz, one of the questions was, have you used whatever it was, LSD and various drugs? I said no. And then there was one or two I said yes to. And they like, oh, we need to go and check on this. Basically, if you've had any experience of psychosis or serious mental illness or psychiatric drugs, it's game over.

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Well, you're not going to help you.

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You're absolutely right. They don't because they actually don't know how. To help people who really need help, what they do is certainly for me and people who are raised its right, you are dominated into this belief system and as you go on and on, you become not only abused, but in an abusive person.

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And so what you see in your movie when you are confronted by what's your name? Catherine Fraser. Catherine Frazier. Right. You see the way she was talking to you, that is the way we are all raised in Scientology, being talked to like that on a daily basis. So we not only learn to accept that this is all justified by people in the Sea Org.

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Right. I mean, this is the way I was dealt with as a child by Sea Org members, because, remember, your Scientology character is illegal.

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Can I just just to save us a huge headache of the Church of Scientology disputes these characterizations.

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Do you think that did it? I think they do dispute that. Well, they dispute everything that you think.

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They've dialed some of it back.

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Some of the what they've done is they now have gone to what's the most acceptable truth, religious bigotry. Let's go with that. And so now that's all they do is they say I'm a bigot. Anybody who supports the program or anything having to do with the truth of Scientology are bigots. This is the only organization on the planet that has made zero mistakes. You understand they have done nothing wrong in its history since 1950. They have never done anything wrong.

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They've never done anything wrong. Isn't it interesting? What are you going to say about going into the mission, though? I did that little form where I interacted with her a bit. She made me fill out the questionnaire. Anyway, this is a big, self-serving anecdote because she said, oh, you're quite high on the tone scale. Like, I thought she was going to nag me and say, oh, you're in big trouble. You need to get on some serious heavy services because you're struggling.

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I could see, but actually because I think I ticked a few boxes like, do you whistle in the shower? You know, they're really random. Some of the questions, maybe she just thought that would be the way to my heart.

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But she said, like, you're actually doing quite well in life, but we can lift you up further.

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And then she said, well, that's a sales technique. Which services do you want to do? And I was like, well, I'm going to think about it is what I recommend. I said, let me give it some thought. And then she said, So it'll just be the copy of Dianetics then. That'll be 1895. But it was too embarrassing to say, would you? So I bought the Dianetics, which is called The Hard Clothes.

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That's a sales technique where you just act as if the person said they were going to buy it and it worked.

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I mean, when people used to call me for a quote for car insurance, I wouldn't give them an out. I would say, do you want Tuesday or Thursday? I have to say at five. And they were like, I didn't even ask to come in. But that's a sales technique. That's like I said, they have sales departments. They're all given quotas every day. You have to sell this many books. You have to do this many times.

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You let that poor girl go home that night.

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Maybe I helped her out to other things. And that one is correct me if I'm wrong. In Scientology, they're not really allowed to describe doctrine or evangelize in the conventional way of like, here's what we believe in. This is sort of what we do.

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No, no, no. As a Scientologist, we're all taught what to say to the public and we all say the same thing. You can't just say what you want to say. You have to be drilled on how to sell Scientology to the public. There's policies as courses on it. They're mandatory courses.

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That was part of our job as Scientologists was to learn how to sell Scientology to the public and to anybody that we met on the subject of 023 and Xenu and the slightly weird sci fi police that are at the heart of Scientology. When John Sweeney did his Panorama famous Panorama piece and he interviewed you, did he not ask about that?

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He was asking about David Miscavige beating people. And before we were allowed to be in the room with Sweeney, we were all given a pack on him called a dead agent pack. This was filled with lies about him, about his life. And so they told us how to respond to him. I remember the indoctrination is anybody who is attacking your religion is likened to Hitler and the most evil in the world and certainly the Nazi card quite a lot.

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But yeah, they go to like we like the Jews and you're like the Nazis.

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It's kind of their go to rhetorical position and also, yes, the the religious bigotry. And, you know, we're a new religion. So, of course, we're going to get attacked. I mean, that's an easy write out because most people would agree that people should believe what they want to believe. But there is a big difference between that and what Scientology is and does.

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John went into the bathroom because he was quite rattled. The attacks that were coming from us, the celebrities and Mike Rinder and Tommy Davis were snickering in the back and they were ridiculing him and he went into the back, Tommy Davis and Mike Rinder with the PR handlers.

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Well, they were not only PR, but they work directly for David Miscavige and Oza, the Office of Special Affairs, which is the Department of Scientology that is solely dedicated to showing people who are speaking out. And they were snickering and laughing. And I and I said, guys, come on this. I don't know if this is, like, good. I knocked on the door and I said, are you OK? And Mike and Tommy pulled me aside and they said, What the fuck are you doing?

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There's a shit. Hopefully jump out the window. Like, that is Scientology mentality. And I was part of it. I was part of it for a long time. So here I am doing this work partly to make up for the work I didn't do and for the things that I did do by putting my name on this organization.

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But that's a good place to go back a bit. How did you come into Scientology? You weren't exactly born into it, right?

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My mother got into it when I was very young. You were years eight.

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She was introduced not by your father, but by her boyfriend, Dennis, is that right? Correct. Do you know how Dennis had got into it?

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I don't. They both got into it. They both got interested in it was being sold, as I think for yourself were helping the planet. You know, as time goes on where the only answer were the only people doing anything about anything, about man's ills, about crime, about you were growing up.

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Whereabouts was it? Brooklyn, Brooklyn, New York. And my mother was starting to have me and my sister do these training routines, communication courses, learning to speak to each other and people. And we were told then that we were Scientologists in another lifetime and this would have been the 70s.

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Right. What sort of work did your mum do? Was you teach Nun? My mother was a mom. She was just a mom, full time mum. And what did Dennis do?

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Dennis was a, I think, a waiter. Is he still alive? Still alive. He sent us to the Sea Org in Florida. And then he left my mother pregnant with my little sister. And so we were in the Sea Org for a year in Clearwater, Florida. The Sea Org.

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We may already have explained this, but just to remind people, the Sea Org is the dedicated clergy, the people who work for very tiny amounts of money and sign a billion year contract because they so believe in the mission of clearing the planet. Yeah. So he became CEO of members for a year.

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What do you think your mum was there anything in your mum that made her susceptible to it?

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People think that getting into a cult like Scientology, weak minded loser, I mean, is just the opposite. You're somebody who's searching for a better life for yourself, a better planet, a mission. You want to do good for the world. You want to do good for yourself, for your family.

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And so she wants people who want a mission and people who are inclined to self-sacrifice and they're being offered a code of conduct is a step by step process by which we will make the world a better place, eliminate war crime, insanity and all the rest of it. I wondered whether and it's something you mentioned in your book, some people who are more likely to get caught up in Scientology are people without a university or college education.

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Right. Do you think that's true? Yes, because I'm usually born into it. And so Scientology doesn't promote the importance of an education and certainly really looked out at a higher education. I have an 8th grade education. Most Scientologists don't have an education other than a Scientology one. L. Ron Hubbard says over and over that your education is Scientology can match any degree in the outside world, you know, more than any doctor, any psychologist. And so you're you kind of get raised with this idea.

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First of all, grandey have ideas about yourself that are untrue and unfounded. You believe you're better than everyone else.

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Do you think there are any doctors or physicians?

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That is very rare. Very rare.

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So your mum wanted to make the world a better place. You got into it. She got you into it. Were you conscious in the early days of it being a little weird or different from what your friends were doing?

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It was a trial. I felt special that made me feel special because they were telling me that I was special. They were telling me, you've come back, you decided to come back and be born into a Scientology family. So you're very able. Yeah, you know, we all want to feel special and growing up like that and feeling like somebody didn't get me or I was having trouble in my life, it was because they were non Scientologists. It always excused away any issues that I might have had or been treated in me.

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Like I said, I was raised to be abused, receive it and give it so it was never my fault in that way when you said you chose to come back.

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Another thing that just occurred to me is that historically Scientology has been accused of having a cavalier at best and maybe coercive attitude towards abortion in the sense that if you're in the Sea Org. Certainly historically, you were encouraged to terminate the pregnancy and whether that was to do with the idea that the fate and the soul did not enter the fetus or the child until the child might be relatively old or at least maybe one or two years old. Is there anything in that?

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Do you think you're asking me questions like I wasn't a Scientologist? And look, I'm guessing I was a Scientologist or I am asking you, though, is that the case?

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No, it is Inditex that L. Ron Hubbard claims that the body is just a body. Right. And they teach you that, you know, would you be upset if you got rid of this chair? Like, you have to look at this fetus as a chair. There's nothing there. There's no spirit there. So it's totally OK to abort. And because when you're in the sewer, they don't allow children anymore in the sewer. So that's why so many abortions happened.

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Hi, this is Louis, just to say the Church of Scientology has written to us, and perhaps not surprisingly, says it denies all the allegations made in this podcast. It says any suggestion it coerces members to have abortions in the Sea Org is both offensive and false. But it did go on to confirm that if members of the Sea Org wanted to start a family that he or she is asked to leave the religious order, although they may, of course, continue as members of the church.

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The church also denies that it places pressure on members to donate large sums of money, claiming instead that parishioners generously and voluntarily donate to Scientology to support the church's religious mission and its social betterment programs. And they also deny that the church has a fair game policy, written or otherwise.

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Just to remind you, you're listening to Grounded with me Louis Through. And my guest is Leah Remini, not just a scourge of the Church of Scientology, but also an actor. Let's talk a little bit about show business.

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And you go to L.A. and then you're a jobbing actor going out for auditions.

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But I was also selling car insurance. I was I was working for Scientology companies. I work for a graphic arts company. I was working and paying off my debt for the year that I was in Scientology, Sea Org for the training courses to be a single CEO. Remember when I left? They charge me for those courses.

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It's called a free loader Bill. When you leave.

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Yeah, I believe it was 20000 dollars at 16 years old.

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But having been educated and grown up in it, at no point were you thinking, like, this is silly. Like you still totally now.

[00:30:28]

Yeah. And, you know, I had parents that were sending me to Scientology to be raised. So, you know, Scientology parents don't raise their children. They send them to Scientology to be raised. So to me, I was like, I have to pay this freeloaders that off. If I had a freeloaders that I wasn't considered in good standing with Scientology. So I thought that I had to pay it, which I did.

[00:30:47]

You're very well known through the TV show The King of Queens, of super successful sitcom that you started with, Kevin James. I'm just wondering, how easy did you find it becoming successful? Like how much of a struggle was that?

[00:31:01]

It's a struggle, but it was probably the best time of my life because I was overcoming obstacles. You know, I didn't have a Screen Actors Guild card. And then I got that. And then I was working a regular job and going on auditions and going back to my job and doing Scientology courses. At the same time. I was really very busy as a young person trying to achieve my goals and doing it for myself. If I wanted a car, my mother said, save up and buy a damn car, wash your car.

[00:31:29]

You want to license, go get yourself there. Basically, you know, I was going after my dreams and it's difficult. And it took a long time to get your first series. You think this is it? And that gets cancelled. And it's not easy in L.A. anyway.

[00:31:44]

Scientology kind of sells itself to many of the young hopefuls who flock there to break into movies and TV.

[00:31:49]

Now, as it was that I was a person who was giving lectures as a step. Right. Like we can crack this for you. In fact, they placed ads in the industry magazines, I think. Yes. Were they kind of in any sense holding your hand through this? Were they prepping you? How were they involved in your professional life at that point?

[00:32:07]

Well, they weren't involved in my professional life. I mean, I was doing Scientology courses and then I was going to a real acting class. They were advising you on.

[00:32:14]

You need to approach auditions in a different way. So it was only until I got my series where they really interested in letting me into the celebrity center, you know, which is geared towards celebrities. But even then, you can't be exposed to this person or that person because you're like on the bottom tier of celebrity here.

[00:32:31]

So there's a special building on, frankly, on the edge of Hollywood called the Celebrity Centre, which they say it's for artists.

[00:32:38]

Right. But it's kind of weird that they call it the celebrity centre.

[00:32:41]

It seems to my mind that they're advertising a kind of caste system, you know, like, oh, if you're famous enough, you get better facilities.

[00:32:50]

Well, there's a policy and there's policies on celebrity centres and how they should be run and who they're geared towards. And L. Ron Hubbard wanted to infiltrate, you know, the arts. And you could again look it up. I mean, Ron Hubbard says this is who we should target. I mean, he had a whole target list of Danny Kaye. Danny Kaye was a big one.

[00:33:08]

Again, it's about infiltrating industry. It's about infiltrating. They're doing it today with politics. It's just getting Scientologists into positions of power. And there's even a policy that says that infiltrate real government agencies, infiltrate organizations that are doing the war. They are trying to infiltrate all areas to gain power for themselves.

[00:33:31]

It's such a great example of kind of the extremes of black and white thinking. You know, the idea that if you really believe that you've got the keys to the Magic Kingdom, the answer, the panacea to all the ills that have afflicted mankind for eternity, then what would you stop at?

[00:33:46]

Like, what would you not do in order? To guarantee that that was spread across the world, they are responsible for the largest infiltration of government agencies in American history.

[00:33:55]

Can you footnote that remark like what do you mean by the largest? They infiltrated and broke into government agencies, 11 Scientologist, including Mary Sue Hubbard, went to prison for those operations, Snow White.

[00:34:07]

Let's talk a little bit about. So then in the 90s, you know, I lived in New York in the 90s and I remember the whole must see TV phenomenon. It was like a golden age of certain kind of sitcom. Right. Do you remember? Do you remember? You were there. You were part of it because you you auditioned for the role of Monica on Friends, is that right?

[00:34:25]

Yeah. So that wasn't so fun for me because I didn't get that. And that was NBC slogan. We were on CBS, but ultimately I ended up on King of Queens, which was amazing. And we had amazing nine years on September 1998.

[00:34:40]

I didn't watch it much at the time. I was living in the U.K. By that time, like 90, I'd moved back. I watched a couple just to prep for this. Right. And it was really it was something very sweet about being thrown back into that time and space. The episode I happened to watch, there was a through line about your father getting his first cell phone and he's so excited about it that he just sits in the coffee shop waiting for it to ring.

[00:35:02]

Yeah.

[00:35:02]

It's also a plotline that involves picking up photographs at a pharmacy and getting the wrong people's photographs and then getting an insight into their lives.

[00:35:11]

But those are two things that feel so different now, like the idea of a little flip phone and the idea of picking up photos just seemed like it was a million years of how excited you were to like, go to the store and get your pictures and flip through them.

[00:35:25]

And but also that would have been a time when you could rely on getting millions of viewers to a network show and you would be part of the conversation, right? Sure. So it must have felt like you were in the middle of something exciting.

[00:35:38]

No. Yeah, it was amazing. I mean, it was my first real series that were past season two. We got our houses for our parents and we had our children. We got married on our economy.

[00:35:53]

And like so many you and Angelo, your husband. Yeah, well, actually, I'm talking about me and Kevin. We were married, but I'm saying we're like able to do the things that we always dreamed of doing for our families. And Kevin got married and I got married. I had a baby. He had babies, like so many amazing things, you know, through that a decade.

[00:36:12]

You know, I tried to write for sitcoms for a brief period in the 90s. I wrote a spec script for news radio.

[00:36:20]

Remember news? Oh, yeah. We had Phil Hartman. Yeah. And Andy Dick, more attorney and a little someone called Joe Rogan, who went on to fame in the podcast world. Sure. He played the kind of handyman. It didn't really lead anywhere.

[00:36:35]

That was my little glimpse of that world. And if you were a young writer of a certain type who wanted to be funny and be close to show business, but not really a performer, that's where you wanted to be was like, oh, there writing on those TV shows completely.

[00:36:48]

It's an amazing experience. You really become unlike film where when you get a film, you're like, all right, you show up at two o'clock, you know, you show up to your trailer kind of by yourself. You can't really move around that much like. Right. Go to the sex and then listen to this guy has to go. So just talk to this camera. You know, it's just not as fun. Were sitcom nasu all together all the time.

[00:37:13]

You know, you're on the stage together. Your crew is together all the time. And so it really becomes a family in that way where you're together. It's just very different, which is why I prefer to do sitcoms and multicamera. And then the audience coming in is the most amazing because Moldavians you're on a on a soundstage, right?

[00:37:31]

So the soundstage with an audience, with an audience. And it's so it's all in a little family, in a cocoon of show business.

[00:37:38]

It's just the most amazing work. And if I have my choice, I would do that with Kevin James again in some capacity.

[00:37:45]

Were you the only Scientologist in that middle class family? Probably the only Scientologists in most rooms in Hollywood, yes.

[00:37:52]

So did people talk to you, you know, when you're a Scientologist and no one else is? Were you encouraged by, you know, your friends in Scientology to recruit anyone in or to talk about it on set and say, hey, why don't you get Kevin James down to the celebrity centre?

[00:38:06]

Well, to get onto the ozone levels and I said you have to have a security clearance. And that was one of the questions that I was asked is why are you not promoting Scientology more and why have you not gotten Kevin James into Scientology? Are you being a bad example? Why is he not reaching? That's constant. That's constant. Tom Cruise held a meeting for everybody, basically yelled at all of us and told us we're not doing enough.

[00:38:30]

Everybody meaning who? The seven celebrities in Scientology.

[00:38:34]

So that was you. Correct. Jenna Elfman, Washita Body Elfman. Yeah. Giovanni Ribisi, Kirstie Alley, John probably John Travolta was.

[00:38:43]

Now Kirstie for some reason wasn't really allowed in Tom's camp. I mean, I think for all the. Reasons Tom also wasn't a fan of John's either. What about Isaac Hayes? I believe Isaac Hayes was allowed in Tom's cab. What about top session bassist Billy Sheehan? No. Do you know who I'm talking about? Yes, of course I did.

[00:39:02]

But he I just like how they always mention him on the back of, like, Dianetics.

[00:39:07]

I don't know. They everybody is like a sheesha, some other kind. What about Juliette Lewis? Juliette Lewis was not in the Tom camp. You have to be approved to be in Tom's camp. I mean, I wasn't approved until I gave it another million.

[00:39:19]

So let me ask you this. When you became successful and you got a regular spot on this hit show, did that change your relationship with Scientology?

[00:39:28]

Were you viewed as a more valuable asset at that point? Oh, yes, definitely. Then I was allowed in the part of Celebrity Center that Tom walks through. Before that, I was told I couldn't come in. I had to wait, hang on.

[00:39:41]

Because I've been in the celebrity center and they have Sunday brunches where people, members of the public can go there. You are not in the private section up.

[00:39:50]

So you're saying, I thought I was in there all this time and I wasn't really in the sorry.

[00:39:54]

It's like there's a business lounge at the airport and then there's a first class lounge and you're like the business lounge was like a hellhole compared with this total.

[00:40:02]

There's literally champagne. Yes. Glowing, yes.

[00:40:06]

Is that what it's like in the Celebrity Center private section?

[00:40:09]

Yes. There's a private private parking. See, there's private parking, but then there's private private party. There's an entrance but that there's a real entrance.

[00:40:18]

And what's it like inside magic? It's just Tom Cruise sitting in a little room on his own, eating in order.

[00:40:27]

So it's you get let in into the main underground parking. Then there's another gate. Then that goes directly to the VIP security and they let you in. And so there's a private private. Then you walk into this little area. That's where the private sauna is for the celebrities that are doing the purification rundown, you know, detoxing their bodies of sunburns from former lifetime.

[00:40:53]

It's a sauna, but it's a lot of niacin and sitting in a sauna.

[00:40:56]

And Hubbard thought this was purging all the drugs you might have taken out of your body, is that right? Yes.

[00:41:02]

But also any radiation that you received from watching television, you say this with the sense of ironic contempt, but you were the one who believed this total for like 20, what, 30 years.

[00:41:14]

This is science coming from Dianetics and Ron Hubbard.

[00:41:17]

So and at the time, you thought it was kosher, you thought, this is great. I feel much better now. Not only do I think it was kosher, I was selling it to people. Not when you were famous, though, surely. Oh, totally.

[00:41:27]

I was donating thousands of dollars for people to go through this program. I've done it several times, paid for my husband to do it several times. So I totally believed in it. Of course, again, because I was a child, I was raised in it and I believed it wholeheartedly. And I was running around being an asshole, selling something just to be diabolical. I really believe that was helping people.

[00:41:48]

You could sense that you were kind of moving up the ranks as far as how Scientology viewed you, was there any part of you that felt mercenary on their part or hicky, you know, like, oh, why am I suddenly so much better just because I'm successful?

[00:42:02]

No, again, there's a little girl who wanted to be special that's made me feel special. When I got to park in that parking lot, I would call ahead and say, I'd like a bean burrito with a slight of sour cream and an iced tea and carafe of coffee with a side of espresso to put in that carafe. And it was brought down to me on a tray. I felt very special and I felt that I was contributing to my church by volunteering and by giving millions of dollars.

[00:42:31]

And I felt like this made me special. And you get high on that kind of love bombing and that kind of like we get you, Leah, and you're doing so much work for us. You deserve this kind of treatment. You know, you can get caught up in that.

[00:42:46]

So when you got to 083 and they brought out this special document and revealed that you were covered in body thetas, you didn't think, Oh my God, this is what I did.

[00:42:56]

And I even said that to my mother. My mother, by the way is 088.

[00:42:59]

So you pretended to your hands or whoever you said.

[00:43:02]

Oh I guess I didn't, I didn't pretend. No, I said, this is nuts. And what did they say? Read it again, come into the other room. And they started to say, what's the word? And I mean, like all 35 definitions of it. And the derivation, they believe that if you are disagreeing with something, there's something you don't understand or you're a criminal. And so my choice so my mother said to me, pulled me into another room and said, are you ready to leave Scientology?

[00:43:28]

Leave as that's your choice and you would lose everything. And at that point, I would have lost everything. So you just kind of get with the program because at every turn you're asked, are you ready to leave? Then you have to agree. The other thing that's told to you is you don't have to believe it. Just do it. What is the meter say, does he get to believe the meter? That's what you're taught a very young age, that you don't need to believe it.

[00:43:54]

You just need to do it. And if the meter you know, you've seen the meter. Yes. Detector, you just need to believe the meter. So you just have to believe or you could leave and lose all your family, all your friends, your job. Probably work for a Scientologist. There's many ramifications.

[00:44:11]

So what's striking is just talking to you is that Tom Cruise has a big role not just in Scientology, but also in your well, your complete disillusionment with Scientology and your decision to leave. Correct. You were friendly with him for a time like you for a while.

[00:44:27]

You were basically going to his house all the time for dinners and movies and Halloween. Did he have a girlfriend or a wife at that time?

[00:44:36]

At that time, he was dating Katie Holmes.

[00:44:38]

And so you would hang out and what do what? It's hard to imagine Tom Cruise relaxing.

[00:44:44]

No, no. He was, you know, on. But that can be said for me to, you know, in a social setting, you know, on and just sit around and chat. Yeah. We watch a movie, eat dinner. But I was noticing that there were, you know, high ranking Sea Org members, people who work for Scientology and David Miscavige at his home, which is really not allowed because it's not for the policy of Hubbard.

[00:45:10]

In what way? You're not allowed to fraternize with parishioners. Why not your members? It's just against the policy of Scientology.

[00:45:17]

So but would they say, oh, we're not here fraternizing, we are here on post?

[00:45:21]

That's what they said to me. And I was like, what does that mean? I understand what that means. It doesn't make sense.

[00:45:25]

I've never seen this because as far as you were concerned, they were there like his personal retinue to cater to his every whim.

[00:45:32]

Yes, exactly. And they started to write reports on me, internal reports on me as I was socializing. Saying what?

[00:45:40]

That I had the audacity to question Tom about something or make a joke that made Tom look foolish and remember anything specific. I mean, a face once when he was abusing one of his staff members over cookies and they were there watching.

[00:45:53]

Well, that one's in Europe. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:45:56]

Another time I was making out with Katie in front of everybody. And I was very uncomfortable because I'm not a fan of, like, public displays of affection, especially with Tom.

[00:46:04]

And I go, hey, get a fucking room where I was written up for that.

[00:46:08]

It's like jumping on the Tom Cruise. Famously, when you got engaged to Katie Holmes, he jumped up and down on the sofa in a very excited way. And some people thought he looked it was over the top.

[00:46:19]

No, most people thought he was crazy. So I and I said that to my counselor and Scientology and I was written up for that and then sent into interrogations for that, told the story about the cookie dough.

[00:46:31]

He just wanted to make chocolate chip cookies and there wasn't something available readily to him. He had to maybe walk, you know, from here to there.

[00:46:40]

I wouldn't have to tell the anecdote for you got the dough had been laid out in that kind of loaf. Yeah. So he really wasn't making the cookies.

[00:46:47]

It was just he just had to I guess it's on a cookie tray. It was like I already said, yeah. Put it on the tray and squeeze it into little individual cookies and put it on the tree. But he couldn't find the lump of dough, right. Correct. Someone had left it either in the right place or he'd forgotten where it was. Right. So in your telling, yeah.

[00:47:04]

He starts saying, where the fuck is my cookie dough? Yeah. Yeah. Which I like just because of the contrast between it's sort of homey old SP1 kind of activity.

[00:47:16]

Like we're going to make chocolate chip cookies guys and then having a rage because you can't find the dough and we're going to play hide and go seek and I mean like, you know, librettos.

[00:47:25]

And I got written up for that because I was the naysayer because you were in fancy shoes and you didn't want to do it.

[00:47:32]

Well, I didn't want to play Hiawassee. You know, I was going to Tom's house. I was like I was like, oh, this is big fancy Hollywood party, you know?

[00:47:38]

And I'm going to be like, but you were still friendly with Tom. So why didn't you say to Tom, Look, this is weird and then be written up for that?

[00:47:44]

Listen, I think Tom is a victim like the rest of us. I don't actually hate Tom, but I don't understand how he continues to be.

[00:47:55]

Can I say just to converse legally, Tom Cruise no doubt disputes these anecdotes. Yes, of course. How are you doing for energy? Are you OK? I noticed you looking up to the right of fitting, right?

[00:48:05]

Because I've started work tomorrow, so I have people waiting for me. OK, yes.

[00:48:09]

Did you feed them? Do we deal with the wedding? And Shelly, your eventual breach with Scientology came through the wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. In a way, it was the beginning.

[00:48:20]

It was I was friends with Shelly Miscavige. David Miscavige is why he was called CLV assistant. And so she would be with David Savage everywhere he went.

[00:48:31]

This is being called The Wedding of the Century, chairman of the board. Right. That's what David Miscavige calls himself and that's how he signs off policies and letters. You know, CLB chairman of the board, Mr. David Savage. And Charlie was not at the wedding.

[00:48:45]

And that was seemed very odd to me being. Shelly has been at every public event and private event, and it's her job as her post in life and she was not there. I asked for Shelly was and everybody scattered. I was told that I didn't have the rank to ask where Shelly was. I thought that was insane. That started the ball rolling. I'm sad to say that it took me six years to leave. After that, I wasn't looking on the Internet.

[00:49:10]

I wasn't doing the things that Scientology told me not to do, watching movies, reading Time magazine. But then I started to look and I started not only to look, but then I would go into Scientology and say, what about this? What about that? Now I'm hearing about these abuses. Now I'm hearing about all of these things and I want answers. And instead, what happened to me was I was interrogated at my expense. Once again, I was asked what my crimes were, what are my evil intentions towards Miscavige, Scientology, mankind.

[00:49:40]

And they wanted names and dates of people that I was talking to and also the people who were outside Scientology, who were critical of Scientology, who were helping you.

[00:49:48]

And they were talking about the abuses. They were going to the authorities. They were trying to get people out of Scientology. They were trying to save people. And I was seeing what Scientology was doing in return, which I thought was not becoming of a church. I said that even if these things are lies, why are we putting their confidential confessionary? The wedding?

[00:50:10]

It was said that because you'd gone there with your friend Jaylo, Jennifer Lopez, and they sort of encouraged you to invite her. Is that right?

[00:50:17]

They invited Jennifer through me and Marc Anthony.

[00:50:19]

And then what Scientology is saying is that it's all to do with moving chairs. Like what is that all about? Like at the wedding?

[00:50:26]

OK, they were trying to separate Jennifer and me and Mark and my husband for some reason. And Jennifer, when we went to the reception, saw that we were not sitting together and said, well, the your friends, you know, asked them if, you know, you could pull up a seat here.

[00:50:39]

So the upshot was that you were viewed as having kind of made a hash of the occasion. I put a crimp in the wedding of the century by creating diversion pressures about where you're going to sit.

[00:50:50]

Actually, what I did was I went up to Tom's assistant, one of the thirty, and I whisper in her ear, Jennifer, wondering why we're all sitting together if it's a problem. She's asking if maybe we'd just be at your table or and if not, no problem. She was like, oh, let me check on that, you know? Well, that didn't happen. So it didn't ruin anything. But I was severely punished for that.

[00:51:13]

And I couldn't tell Jennifer that that was happening.

[00:51:16]

You're still friends with Jennifer, correct? Of course.

[00:51:19]

When you finally basically on Neerja leaving, it's kind of the climax of your book. They said, well, Miscavige sends himself down, which is kind of unprecedented. Everything I've heard about Scientology is that he doesn't dirty his hands with dealing with things like this. But evidently, you must have been a huge upset when they viewed you as a huge asset for him to have come down not once but twice to talk to you and say we're going to fix this.

[00:51:43]

But it didn't work.

[00:51:44]

I wasn't that impressed. But I mean, no, it didn't work. I had hoped honestly, remember, these are my primary caretakers. I still see them as people that I want to make it right with that. I was hoping we all hope that these things were untrue, that these things weren't happening. I started asking him about people going broke for Scientology and, you know, why are we not giving refunds when people ask and why are we charging so much?

[00:52:10]

And you mentioned Tom Cruise as well, right? You said that he was a suppressive person.

[00:52:14]

I said that Tom was textbook. Whatever Hubbard says about people who abuse power and that Tom, I did not feel was a good example of Scientology or Scientology technology. And why was he using Tom as the mouthpiece for Scientology? I said he's jumping on couches. He's calling Matt Lauer glib. He's attacking Brooke. I mean, is he really the poster boy for and you ready for Miscavige? He said, I know. I got to tell you to shut the fuck up.

[00:52:41]

He's a liar. He's telling me what?

[00:52:43]

To look into all these financial things you're talking about. Right. And he didn't what he did was he sent me to get interrogate.

[00:52:51]

So I, I have to go. I could no longer be part of something that I was now opening my eyes to what people have been telling me for years. And I am again one of the lucky ones. I'm able to have a career that doesn't require or education, and I'm lucky enough to do what I'm doing and to continue to explore Scientology. But I'm one of the lucky ones and my family here with me and not everybody gets that. And so for that, I'm blessed.

[00:53:22]

I will continue the work. And so their tax exempt status is from them or before a prison for the crime that they've committed.

[00:53:30]

I would ask you about Shirley, but I think you've got to go. Have you got to go? Well, yeah. The answer to Shirley is she still has not been seen. The last time David Miscavige, his wife, she's still his wife. Right. They're not divorced.

[00:53:41]

So now we've seen in public with 2007, I think at her father's funeral, nobody has seen her.

[00:53:46]

And it's said that she's up at a Scientology facility in Arrowhead in the woods up in San Bernardino County.

[00:53:54]

But anyway, yeah, so we have not seen her and I've done what I can do, not being a family member.

[00:54:00]

You think she's being held against her will? I think most of your members are held against their will. They have no access to the outside world. But that's such a big statement to me. Even if Shelley tried to call nine one one, there's no access to no one on these bases. It goes to their own security every time somebody does escape, like my assistant Valerie, who escaped to the trunk of a car of a of an actor. Who was that obvious?

[00:54:24]

Is that Valerie? They're with you, huh? Wow. Yeah. They no longer allow actors to drive their cars onto the base.

[00:54:31]

The police said they went to see her. Is that right? That's what they said and said that they'd met with her.

[00:54:36]

In the end, when I asked for details, did you actually see her? They could. They did not answer. They said if you want to know any more information, you could file public information, which I did. They refused to give me the information. And so my only recourse was to hire a lawyer. And I was already 40000 dollars in with the lawyer to get to this point.

[00:54:57]

So in terms of what they're doing against you at the moment, there's copious videos attacking your show and press releases, your written up on various Scientology websites. I have a tiny one somewhere. I'm almost offended at how little they seem to worry about me of a very low profile on the very Scientology websites dedicated to people leave you with Suppressive. You have quite a lot, which I think is a feather in your cap. I mean up to three series.

[00:55:25]

I mean, I guess that's what I mean.

[00:55:28]

They continue to try to go after my job. They're attacking Mike, his daughter, my future co-host on the show, Mike Rinder. Yes. And they have written letters to every advertiser that we've ever had on our program. But I do have to go, my love, because these people have been waiting.

[00:55:45]

We just need to make sure I should have checked that you were recording. I'm sure you I'm sorry to if we made you late for the fitting. It's a pleasure talking to you. And you too, sweetheart. I look forward to speaking again soon. OK, bye. You guys say thank you. Thank you. All right, baby.

[00:56:02]

Asked to comment on the allegations in this podcast, the Church of Scientology sent us this response. The entire podcast you are presenting is a fraud, the claims that are being made are false. The claims cannot be substantiated since nothing that is alluded to ever happened. There is a real story of Scientology and it is a magnificent story is valorise so that everyone can sort out the audio.

[00:56:29]

Hi. Hi, Valerie. You kind of featured in that a little bit.

[00:56:33]

I know you were in the trunk of a car being smuggled off. Where?

[00:56:37]

No, not being smuggled. I jumped in. I didn't know who the person was that was driving the vehicle. I don't know where they were going. It was just the only vehicle that was unlocked. And it ended up when he pop the trunk.

[00:56:50]

I scared the shit out of him, you know, a body that I was like up.

[00:56:55]

It was in Burbank. How long you were in the Sea Org? I joined when I was 15. So 23 years where we posted the flag in Clearwater, Florida. Yeah. You still call it flag, though, like you're still in it.

[00:57:10]

Well, listening to you guys for, like an hour and a half or whatever, I was like, oh my God. Yeah, yeah. Just all comes back. Pretty crazy. Yeah.

[00:57:21]

Thank you for that little insight. I'm going to switch my audio off now. What do you want to see what you need to do.

[00:57:26]

I just need to sign this. This has been grounded with me. Louis, through my guest today has been actor, campaigner and thorn in the side of Scientology, Leah Remini. Next week's guest is singer, songwriter and all round performer F Twiggs.

[00:57:44]

This has been a momentous production for BBC Sounds and Radio four. It was produced remotely by Catherine Mannan, Molly Schneider and Paul Kobrick.

[00:57:58]

A new podcast series from BBC Radio four in the first stage of a poltergeist haunting the entity will confine itself to making noise as if its testing its victims. The Battersea Poltergeist. My name's Shirley Hitchins, I'm 15 years old, I live with my mum, dad, brother Grun. And don't subscribe to the fantasy poltergeist on BBC Sounds.