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Leah Remini continues her crusade against her former religion across season 3 of her Emmy-winning docuseries Scientology and the Aftermath (premiering Tuesday, Nov. 27 at 9 p.m. on A&E), which probes into the organization’s tax exemption, its ties to the Nation of Islam, and the alleged disappearance of Shelly Miscavige. Read on for EW’s full season preview with the actress-activist and her co-host (and former high-ranking Scientology senior executive) Mike Rinder — as well as the Church of Scientology’s response.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where’s season 3 taking us?
LEAH REMINI: We’re approaching season 3 a little bit differently because, like our viewers, Mike and I have been working diligently to try to effect some change. It’s been trying and devastating and, in some ways, eye-opening. I’m still unraveling, almost five years out of Scientology, and I’m still learning what was actually going on and what is the true underbelly of Scientology. It got to a point for us where we’re like, we [couldn’t] keep doing it emotionally. We’d leave interviewing somebody for eight hours devastated for them [and] within hours of the actual show airing, there’d be a hate website from Scientology on that person or private investigators showing up at their house. The madness doesn’t end just because we’re not rolling on it. These are people’s real lives, so we keep getting asked the same question: How does this keep happening?
So, we had to follow [Scientology leader] David Miscavige’s words and follow the money. We’re trying to not only show the public how they get away with doing the things they do to people, but why? Who made this possible? And that’s really the IRS. They bullied the IRS into giving them tax-exempt status. We’re trying to let the IRS know that we know that it’s time they took some frickin’ responsibility for what they allow by giving this organization tax-exempt money to do these things.
MIKE RINDER: The theory of tax exemption is that you provide a benefit to society that the government would otherwise have to provide…. it’s very hard to understand how an organization such as this is qualified to have tax-exempt status and provide any sort of benefit to the public at large. There’s an enormous amount of money taken in by Scientology. They’ve accumulated at least $3 billion worth of cash and assets. That’s a lot of money that doesn’t match up to an organization that is doing a lot of good to benefit society, so that’s the broader context of what it means to follow the money.
What are you doing about it?
REMINI: We’re trying to let the IRS know that we know that they know [about the alleged abuses]. And it’s time they took some frickin’ responsibility for what they allow by giving this organization tax-exempt money to do these things.
RINDER: We ultimately address issues of, where is law enforcement and how did Scientology gain tax-exempt status, is it warranted, and should that tax-exempt status be reviewed? Should law enforcement and elected officials be doing something about what this big picture discloses about the abuses of Scientology?
Why should this concern people?
RINDER: Those taxes go to a pool that provides services to the public for roads, transportation, defense, etc. Your dollars are effectively subsidizing Scientology [practices of] hiring private investigators to harass people. Your tax dollars are subsidizing that. It’s something everyone in the United States should be concerned about.
And you can speak from experience, because you were doing this as the director of the Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs.
RINDER: I speak from experience of when I was inside and outside: I engaged in these activities when I was in Scientology, and I’ve been on the receiving end since I’ve been out.
Would you say you’ve made progress on moving the needle on changing that in season 3?
REMINI: This is the season where the FBI, the IRS, they need to start watching, because we figured, well, you didn’t maybe get it the first two seasons…. We’re hoping this is a season where the IRS, the FBI, and the local police start understanding that they have to do something, so we’re presenting our case to them. This [season] is dedicated to the authorities.
You also discuss your belief that Miscavige’s wife, Shelly, has disappeared.
REMINI: We’re doing a show about the theories of where Shelly is, and [someone] also reached out to [us] who has a family member at Gold Base [the church’s de facto international headquarters]. We got some answers, I can tell you that!
You said over the summer that the attacks from the church are worse than ever this year. How so?
REMINI: It’s a collective: it’s hearing from past contributors of our show, contributors that have not even been on our show that [Scientology] thinks are going to be on our show…. They’re harassing people on a daily basis, literally sending people to their homes, calling their businesses saying they’re under some kind of investigation, they’re taking out ads, hiring private investigators…. They’re writing letters to our advertisers, to Disney…. They really know no bounds, they’re just firing anything and everything they can. They’ve been trying to silence us and the contributors.
Has the #MeToo movement changed how you’ve approached season 3? Because this show was detailing alleged sex abuse in the church before that movement blew up. Have you seen more women file abuse claims against Scientology?
REMINI: Not yet…. I think people are still scared to come forward. What you need are victims who are willing to come forward. You have an organization that has $3 billion to destroy your life, [and if] you’re somebody thinking about coming forward you’re like, this is what I have to look forward to? Private investigators at my house, threatening me? [That] can scare people against speaking out.
What Scientology has done is, it is cleverly hiding behind these very real things, these organizations and movements that have real victims behind them, and they’re using that…. We’re hoping that with this season the authorities see this or that people are incensed enough to put pressure on their local congressman or congresswoman, the FBI, the local police.
You’re also exploring the connection of Scientology and the Nation of Islam, right?
REMINI: When I was in Scientology, I was approached to help make its introduction to the Nation of Islam. I had no idea what the Nation of Islam was…. David Miscavige [was] doing nothing in the black communities and [we] wanted to bridge that gap. I was more than happy to help because I agree: the majority of Scientologists are white…. I had no idea I was helping two sinister organizations connect. I had no idea what [Nation of Islam leader] Louis Farrakhan stood for, [like] the hatred for Jews…. and then you have Scientology, which hates anybody who isn’t a Scientologist. I feel partly responsible for this connection [so] we’re doing a special on them.
Scientology lawyers tell EW that “the Church earned its [tax] exemption” after a rigorous examination by the IRS. They deride Remini’s charge of “bullying” as “farcical.” The Miscaviges’ lawyer asserts that the Los Angeles Police Department concluded that Shelly Miscavige was not missing “and that Ms. Remini’s false ‘missing person’ report was ‘un-founded.'” The Church denies the allegations of fomenting religious divisions and accuses Remini of spreading “vitriolic religious hate and bigotry” that risks instigating violence. The Church also states it has, along with “individual Scientologists,” exercised its “First Amendment rights by complaining to advertisers about their support of this disgustingly bigoted show which spreads lies and incites violent” and will “continue to do so as long as A&E and Disney turn a blind eye to their effort to profit by spreading lies and religious hate.” In a July 2018 letter to EW, the church’s lawyers further said the church has not followed Ms. Remini, nor does it harass former members. Scientology points viewers to www.scientology.tv for more information.
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