Last week, actress Leah Remini's exit from the controversial, scandal-fraught Church of Scientology was made public. Her departure came following a long, difficult journey that began after an innocent question. A question, mind you, she asked at Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' wedding. Leah simply asked where her friend Shelly was. Michele 'Shelly' Miscavige, wife of David Miscavige, the leader of Scientology, has not been seen in public since August 2007.
Although Leah has yet to make a public statement about why she left Scientology, her sister Nicole Remini has. Nicole, now living in Minnesota with her family, is also a former member of the church.
On Monday, Nicole sat down with myTalk 107.1 host Colleen Lindstrom for an exclusive, in-depth conversation about her own experience in the church, as well as that of her sister and her family.
The entire conversation will be published over the course of the next few days, but here are some of the more shocking parts of Nicole's side of the story.
Leah and Nicole aren't the only members of the family to leave the church.
Everybody left... when this all came down, everybody had to make a choice whether they were going to stick by Leah or stick by the church. So they all left at the same time.
They all had to make a choice of what they were going to do. This is how we are as a family. We stick together. It's just not an option. So, for my family, staying in Scientology under the circumstances was not an option. Choosing the church over Leah was never going to happen. You think about it, if they'd made the other choice, they lose their granddaughter. And me, I'm connected to Leah. My mom then can't be connected to me.
I think it was hardest for my mom. She's the highest level on the bridge. OT VIII ['Bridge' refers to 'The Bridge to Total Freedom', a series of levels churchgoers attain through a process known as 'auditing' to achieve spiritual awareness. OT VIII is the highest level]. And I think my dad is like OT VII. So, it's really, really hard for them. They lost all their friends. I mean, literally, there have been meetings about disconnecting from them.
About that question Leah asked at Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' wedding... Where is Shelly Miscavige?
She's been curious for years! Where the hell is [Shelly]? You know? This is how I see it playing out. Shelly's going to come out of the woodwork because in my world, I feel like they have her somewhere, wherever they have her. She's probably paid to be quiet, and I have a feeling they are going to have to do something to bring her out of the woodwork because this is the primary question that everybody's leading with. This is all Leah asked, and this is what it's turned into?
Nicole claims Kirstie Alley herself organized a group of top Scientologists to discuss how best to 'disconnect' (shun) Leah.
Scientology is actually contacting her network of people. Kirstie organized a gathering of people at Melinda [Brownstone]'s house and was tweeting about it [Melinda Brownstone was a longtime friend of Leah's and the godmother of her daughter Sofia]. What kind of bully does that?
The basis of Scientology is standing true to your own belief and holding onto your integrity and morals. There's nothing about allowing people to hang on to their own integrity in this. When you're saying it's either Leah or us, there's no integrity in that. When you're threatening people with all they know, there's no integrity in that.
Leah is being treated like a Suppressive Person (SP) (basically the worst thing you could be labeled as a Scientologist. SP's are often 'disconnected' [shunned] from friends and family still in the church).
You know what, Leah hasn't been declared a Suppressive Person. She hasn't been declared, or... nobody said she was a Suppressive Person. Because when you get declared, you actually have to sign something. And she has not signed anything.
Leah isn't declared, she's not an SP. Which is per policy as in forcing people to disconnect. That right there. They're breaking their own rules right there to do what works for them right now. That's the David Miscavige way.
Nicole even alleges the church misled her into joining the Sea Org (the controversial religious order within the church that serves much like a priesthood and requires members to sign a 'billion year contract' of service).
I wanted to be a gymnast, I was on the high school gymnastics team, and when we went out [to Scientology headquarters in Clearwater, Florida], I mean, they basically sold us a bill of goods: "Absolutely you can still be a gymnast, you can go at night, you can go on the weekends..." When I got there, I asked if we could look into gymnastic schools for me, and they were like, "Uh, no, like do you not know what this is?" and it was really, really, really run like a military base.
The full story has yet to be told and much more shocking revelations are likely in the coming days/weeks.
She was kind of going, "am I crazy?" I believe she was just searching for some sort of validation. This whole thing is so blown out of proportion, and Leah tried to fix it. I think it's because she's a Remini and she rocked the boat. She questioned some big wigs, and they know how connected she is, but there's a lot of things will start coming out that are absolute LIES. We're kind of expecting it, but you know where it's coming from. How stupid are you? Why are you doing this?
This week is going to be ugly. There's more to come out. The press just isn't letting it go. She's just hanging in there. She's in good spirits. This too shall pass. Soon this will be old news, as long as the church lets it go. Which I don't think will happen. That would be the smartest thing to do.
Look for more of Nicole's exclusive conversation throughout the week only on myTalk1071.com.