With A&E’s Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath providing viewers with a look at the alleged practices of the Church of Scientology, a top spokesperson for the religion took to 20/20 on the Friday, January 6, episode to assert its side, claiming that attacks on the religion are discriminatory and often profit-motivated.
Here’s what we learned from Dan Harris’ 20/20 interview with Monique Yingling, an attorney for the church, in addition to interviews with Leah Remini and several former members of the church, with those individuals being viewed as “disconnected” from Scientology (using the religion’s term for ex-members who cut ties with the church).
1. The Church of Scientology has had tax-exempt status from the IRS since 1993 as a religious organization, something Remini is pushing for revocation of. Church officials did not bat an eye. “No, not concerned,” Yingling said. “[There is] no basis at all the IRS would attempt to revoke tax-exempt status.”
2. Ultimately, Remini wanted to see criminal “prosecution” applied to the church’s activities. The King of Queens actress, who jokingly called herself in the interview a “crappy has-been” actress, was supporting herself financially on disparaging the religion, its attorney said. “Leah Remini seems to be making a career out of attacking Scientology,” Yingling said. Much of the recent anti-Scientology media coverage was “false, completely exaggerated, or made up, yes,” Yingling said.
3. A former childhood Scientology member, Serge Gil, described an intense psychological conditioning process while under the age of 18, in which he felt his sexuality was incorporated inappropriately. Gil’s leaving the church contributed to estrangement from his devout Scientology family, including his father and sister, who both recorded video interviews for the church, calling him a liar. “We lived the hell,” Serge said of growing up Scientologist.
4. The church responded to Serge’s claims by stating that inappropriate interaction with children doesn’t happen. “The church has very, very strict protocols on how children [are interacted with],” Yingling said. Asked about the church’s “confessional” questioning with underage youths, Yingling said, “It would be never be used in an appropriate manner by the church.”
5. The church didn’t deny some of its controversial practices, as Yingling said; these include shunning members who may have had relationships with people who denounced the church, and “bull-baiting” adolescents and teenagers, or a conditioning process to prevent its members from responding emotionally to provocations. As for Scientology’s long opposition to psychiatry, Yingling said, “Psychiatry has caused a lot of deaths.”
6. A video crew of Scientologists called Squirrel Busters was allegedly dispatched to monitor one of the church’s disconnected former members, Marty Rathbun. “Squirrel” is a negative Scientology term applied to people who practice the beliefs inconsistently.
The Church of Scientology has issued the following statement about Remini’s A&E show: “Leah Remini is doing this show for the money, just as she profited from her book. In addition, she attempted to extort the church by first demanding $500,000, followed by an additional $1 million, because the church invoked its First Amendment right to respond to her false claims with the truth. This shows the extent Leah Remini is willing to go to in order to distort the truth about Scientology. For the church’s perspective and the truth about the bullies she now supports, go to www.leahreminiaftermath.com.”
Tell Us: Did your feelings change about Scientology after watching this program?
20/20 airs on ABC Fridays at 10 p.m. ET.