The actress was brought into the church as an 8-year-old after her mother converted. During a 2015 20/20 interview, Remini talked about her experience growing up as a Scientologist.
“The mission is to save the planet and because Scientologists view children as spiritual beings, you’re not treated as a kid. You’re given a lot of responsibility, and so your ego becomes extremely inflated,” the King of Queens alum claimed to ABC News’ Dan Harris at the time.
Remini’s decision to leave Scientology ultimately came down to her then-9-year-old daughter, Sofia. “She was getting to the age where the acclimations into the church would have to start,” the Old School actress told BuzzFeed in 2014, adding that she didn’t want to repeat her own mother’s mistakes.
“I grew up resenting my mother because she was never home. My mom thought she was doing something good; she thought she was helping the planet. That’s what the church tells you,” Remini explained. “I was saying ‘family first,’ but I wasn’t showing that. I didn’t like the message that sent my daughter.”
The New York native has never shied away from speaking publicly about her history with Scientology. In 2015, the organization fired back.
“Given Leah Remini’s insatiable desire for attention, it comes as no surprise that for two years she has been incapable of moving on with her life and remains obsessed with shamelessly exploiting her former religion in a pathetic attempt to get publicity,” a spokesperson for the Church of Scientology told Us Weekly at the time.
Despite the backlash, the Handsome actress didn’t stop talking about her experience. She penned a 2015 memoir titled Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology and produced the A&E docuseries Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.
When the Emmy-winning series concluded in 2019 after three seasons, the Church of Scientology released a statement to Us denouncing the content. “Finally, A&E pulled the plug on Leah Remini’s hate machine,” the statement read, claiming the show was full of “lies, distortions and exhortations to hate and bigotry.”
Although Remini told The Hollywood Reporter in 2019 that she wasn’t sure if making the docuseries helped her heal, she does feel a responsibility to speak out about her experiences — and about other members of the religion. When Laura Prepon left Scientology in 2021 without much fanfare, Remini was critical of how the That ‘70s Show alum handled her exit.
“For those of us who were in the public eye and who were speaking on behalf of Scientology, getting people into Scientology, I feel that we have a responsibility to do the work when we find out that none of those things we were doing was not only [not] helpful, but damaging and very harmful to people’s lives,” the “Scientology: Fair Game” podcaster said during a September 2021 interview with Daily Blast Live.
Scroll through for a timeline of Remini’s battle with the Church of Scientology over the years: