Tragedy. On the Tuesday, January 3, episode of Scientology and the Aftermath, Leah Remini was still in Clearwater, Florida, where the Church of Scientology is headquartered. There, she spoke to Aaron Smith-Levin, a 29-year veteran of the church whose relationship with his twin was allegedly destroyed by the practice of “disconnection,” or cutting off contact from a person who leaves the community. Watch an emotional scene from the episode in the video above.
Aaron was willing to speak out, but his wife was not. Her parents were still in the church and already were refusing to see their own grandkids, who live across the street, so she wasn’t willing to put even more of a wedge between them. His mom, too, was present for his interview but wouldn’t speak on camera.
After learning as a kid that the church had “won the war” against the IRS and become tax-exempt, Aaron became involved with Scientology and began working on becoming an “auditor.” According to Aaron, auditors interrogate parishioners, who are connected to a lie detector of sorts. He and his twin trained from 8:30 every morning to 10 every night for three years, and by age 14, they were experts.
Church leader David Miscavige chose to update the certification requirements after Aaron’s brother, Collin, became the first person to get a perfect score. The new requirements were much harder, and 14-year-old Collin couldn’t complete them again. In shame, he fled to his father’s house in Minnesota.
While in Clearwater, Leah took time to go to the beach, and mentioned that when she was a Scientologist, she never had fun or took vacations. They were pressured to work and be perfect constantly, she said. Perhaps that explains Collin’s apparent choice to leave, or in the church’s jargon, “blow.”
Anyone who “blows” is seen as more or less a criminal.
Knowledge Is Power
Collin and Aaron’s mom followed him to Minnesota, took him back to Clearwater, and made the young boy submit to interrogation about his “crimes” and bad behavior, Aaron said. He had gone from the best auditor in the church to someone who spent hours a day being audited.
Then, he was sent to Philadelphia as “a nothing” and “a failure.” Their mom didn’t go with him. At only 15, he was by himself. He got a GED, enrolled in college and started writing papers about what he saw as the cult he had escaped. When Aaron found out, he wrote an internal report called a “knowledge report” about his own twin brother.
Aaron and his mother turned their backs on Collin then. They believed they were doing what was best for him, and he would come back to the church.
Collin was in a car accident and died before that ever happened. Aaron and his mom hadn’t been speaking to Collin at the time.
Declarations of Independence
Aaron’s commanding officer told him not to go to Collin’s funeral because he was “just a suppressive person.” Aaron worried Collin wouldn’t have wanted him there anyway, but their dad assured him that Collin adored him.
While retelling the story, Aaron began to sob uncontrollably.
A few years later, he and his mom both started doubting the church’s teachings. Aaron said she was “declared,” which means she was kicked out. In order to not lose his job, Aaron pretended not to be in contact with her, but when his kids’ nanny found out Aaron and his mom were still speaking, she did what he had done to Collin: She wrote a knowledge report on him. He was kicked out of the church, which left his wife jobless and his kids with no school.
As shocking as it was to be turned in by the nanny, Aaron isn’t upset about it now.
“As much tragedy has happened … our life is much better now,” he told the camera before urging anyone inside of the church not to stay in it just because they were afraid. He assured viewers that life outside of the church is still beautiful, in spite of everything.
The Church of Scientology has issued the following statement about the 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: What do you make of Aaron’s story?
Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath airs on A&E Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET.