Leah Remini isn't afraid of being criticized by the Church of Scientology for her A&E docuseries, just her latest project to explore the lingering ramifications of her 2013 departure from the church.
The church has responded to Remini's statements in a web post, and when the trailer for Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath debuted, it released the following statement: "Desperate for attention with an acting career stuck in a nearly decade-long tailspin, Leah Remini needs to move on with her life. Instead, she seeks publicity by maliciously spreading lies about the church using the same handful of bitter zealots who were kicked out years ago for chronic dishonesty and corruption and whoseclaims the Church refuted years ago, including through judicial decisions."
Remini is shown reading part of a similar statement in a clip from the series, which premieres on A&E on Tuesday, and the church released an additional statement to Today, saying in part, "Leah Remini needs to move on with her life and career and stop blaming the Church and others for all of her personal and professional setbacks. Most of all, she needs to quit promoting hatred and religious intolerance as a means to line her pockets."
When asked in an interview on Monday's Today, what she says to the church's latest accusation, that she's in it for the money, Remini was defiant: "I'm not going to get a dime. I've given millions to the church and they've amassed $3 billion so I think that speaks for itself."
She also thought it was telling how the church seems to respond the same way when it's criticized. "It's not just me; it's anyone who's spoken out. Everyone's called a liar … everyone's called the same thing, and I'm in good company," she said. "They did it to Anderson Cooper. They did it to Alex Gibney … Paul Haggis. I'm in good company, and I think it says a lot more about the organization than it does about me."
Indeed, Remini said that her docuseries, beyond being a cash grab, is aimed at "the victims" of Scientology.
"It's for the people who have spoken out, but it's also for the people who maybe just don't have the strength to fight. Maybe they feel like they don't have a voice," she told Today's Savannah Guthrie. "I just really want to give people strength - and it's not just with this organization, it's with any bully. I just hope that that's what the message is."
The actress went on to say that those who are outside of the church aren't as familiar with its policies, including how to deal with those who've left, as those who are inside the organization. So when the church says it doesn't disconnect families or people, "they're sly," Remini claimed.
"They're right in that there is no policy of disconnection as it's categorized in the press because the press doesn't know. If you're not in it your whole life, you don't actually know the inner workings of their policies. And their policy is very specific about how you deal with someone who has spoken out about the church of Scientology," Remini says. And there is no option but to disconnect or you will get kicked out of the church. Now for members who are in it every day for their whole lives, this is an everyday proposition. … The dedication it takes to be a Scientologist is a lot. And it's not easy to just walk away. … You're leaving everything you've ever known. You're giving up your whole life, because that's what it takes to be a Scientologist, and then you're going to be losing your family because most of your family and friends are Scientologists."
Remini added that while it was tough to take on the church through her docuseries, she thinks the project is "the right thing to do."
"And I'm not talking about myself, I'm talking about its victims," she said. "I feel it's an important message, and I feel this is the path I'm supposed to be on in my life."
The Church of Scientology has issued this response:
"Leah Remini is in it for the money and now tries to pretend otherwise. Her claim on Today that, 'I'm not going to get a dime,' as executive producer of her new reality TV show is disingenuous. Ms. Remini obviously is being compensated for this show, just as she profited from her book. In addition, she recently 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 herclaims with the truth. This shows the extent Leah Remini is willing to go to in order to distort the truth about Scientology.
Further, her claim that she doesn't like 'bullies' is hypocritical because she has aligned herself with a handful of self-admitted violent bullies still bitter after having been expelled from the Church years ago. Like Ms. Remini, these individuals also seek to exploit their former religion to make a buck. For the truth, go to scientologynews.org/leah-remini-show."
Nov. 28, 5 p.m. This story has been updated with the Church of Scientology's response to Remini's Today interview.