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Leah Remini once believed in it. Tom Cruise still believes in it. The "it" would be the mysterious and sometimes devious Church of Scientology. Unless you are on the inside, the beliefs system of Scientologists is a curious matter. Try as you might to understand it, some things are better left alone. But, if you would like to broaden your horizons and learn a little something something about what all the fuss is about, take a journey into Scientology. Read on and learn 10 things you most likely did not know about the place that John Travolta calls home.
They Honor Their Founder
At one of the Church of Scientology’s storefronts on Hollywood Boulevard, the Church has ingeniously found a way to repurpose its founder L. Ron Hubbard’s reams of pulp-fiction novels. (Hubbard was a pulp writer, particularly of westerns, long before he founded a religion.) A window display on the street reveals the covers of dozens of Hubbard’s oaters and flying-saucer pulps…but re-published so that the cover of each book resembles the poster for Marvel’s The Avengers.
No One Gets in For Free
Scientology prides itself on taking any comers. If you are new to Los Angeles and have only a few bucks in your pocket and no prospects, the Church will take you in and give you food and shelter. The fillip to this is that in order to accept this, you have to do work for the church. And in an economic structure seemingly Xeroxed from the Reconstruction South, and its newly re-enslaved slaves, the workers are put in debt to the church that they can never pay off through their church work. And so, near the majestic Franklin Avenue Celebrity Center, there are rows and rows of rooms where church workers live…as miserably indentured as the potential suicides who make iPads in China’s Foxcomm.
Family isn’t Forever
Scarlett de Boer, the beautiful daughter of Australia’s President of their Church of Scientology, was disowned by her famous mother when she left the church and left home. Shortly after, her father, also a church functionary, disowned her as well. Defiant and unrepentant, the famous Aussie parents treat her as a dead woman to this day.
Debunked Urban Legend
It would seem that the most famous urban legend regarding the Church of Scientology is not true; that is to say, even the most assiduous critics of the church cannot verify it. Many have said that Aldous Huxley, the brilliant novelist and author of Brave New World, made a bet with L. Ron Hubbard that they both could create a successful religion—and the man who achieved Godhead first won. It’s a cool idea, but neither Hubbard nor Huxley biographers can verify it.
Video Leaks Happen Here Too!
Despite their tight security, Scientology’s occasional pieces of filmed material for insiders leak. A long piece of video featuring a typically charismatic Tom Cruise talking in mind-blowing, acronym filled Scientology jargon, burned up the Internet. These leaks are few and far between, however. I was able to see a Scientology intro training film at the end of the last century. In it, prominent Scientologists of that moment, like Isaac Hayes, Kirstie Alley and John Travolta, appear. Among the more remarkable segments of this gobsmacking piece of cinema: a narrator booms “Scientology has reconciled evolution and creationism!”—at which point a bearded man in a white robes pets a tiny spider monkey, then flings him into the Garden of Eden to go get busy. At the climax, a Scientology salesman walks toward the camera and says, “With everything you’ve learned here today, you can walk out of here and never again be part of the Church of Scientology! You can also…drive your car…into a brick wall. You can also…blow your brains out. It’d be stupid. But you can do it!”
No Negative Energy Allowed
The device that the auditors of the Church of Scientology use to determine your “engrams”—that is to say, particles of negative energy (bad spiritual material)—is literally two metal cans attached by string to a meter. You are asked questions, and whether or not the needle bounces upon your response to the question determines the number of “engrams” in your body. If the needle is entirely unresponsive to your responses, an auditor may literally wrench your arm—as in, give you an Indian rope burn—to make the needle jump. The amount of needle-jumps determines the amount of engrams in your person which determines the amount of “course work” (study) you need to do at the church, which determines the amount of money you need to pay the Church of Scientology.
“Dianetics” is Bland
Considering all the sinister shadows surrounding Scientology, one might think that its scriptural text, L. Ron Hubbard’s “Dianetics,” would have some very dark ideas indeed in store for the human race. On the contrary, the book is a bland, fifties style self-help book, somewhat similar to Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, that offers such suggestions as always brushing your teeth before going to work, and giving the boss a firm handshake on the first day.
Too Many Disputes
Paul Haggis, the Academy Award-winning filmmaker of Crash and Million Dollar Baby, left the church after several disputes, particularly in regard to the church’s homophobia (though Haggis himself is, by all accounts, straight). On a press tour for his recent film Third Person, Haggis opined that some time soon, he would be embroiled in a scandal that had nothing to do with the church-- in his eyes, a familiar, ineluctable church technique to smear an apostate.
Do They Condone Murder?
Several punitive deaths have been reported as having been committed by the Church of Scientology in other countries. The one most notable for having taken place in the United States is of church member Lisa McPherson. An “FAQ” description on the web site www.lisamcpherson.org reports:
On December 5, 1995, Lisa McPherson was dead on arrival at a hospital 45 minutes north of Clearwater Florida. According to the coroner's report, Lisa was underweight, severely dehydrated, and had bruises and bug bites. Scientologists chose to pass three hospitals en route to New Port Richey Hospital, where Scientologist Dr. David Minkoff was on duty. They could have gone to Morton Plant Hospital, only six minutes away. Lisa's last address was listed by the police as 210 S. Ft. Harrison in Clearwater Florida, which is the Fort Harrison Hotel, a Scientology property. Lisa had been a Scientologist from the age of 18 to her death at age 36.
It’s a Pricey Ride to the Top
Ex-members of the Church of Scientology aver that members ascend a ladder of awareness, with each consecutive step becoming more and more expensive to attain. The last, highest pinnacle of learning climaxes with a debriefing that takes place aboard a ship for a reported $300,000. (The skipper-hatted L. Ron Hubbard was a fan of all things nautical.) It is reported that the final piece of wisdom a Scientologist attains is the knowledge that Hubbard is, in fact, himself, personally, God.
Leah Remini's exposition and open attitude toward discussing what amounted to an institutionalized cult, Scientology, will be a seminal moment for the pseudo religion. Unlike many other escaped victims of the Church of Scientology, the down to earth, King of Queens actress presented her personal voyage as a warning to others. Her voice was heard.
Further Beliefs Exposed by Leah Remini
Leah Remini, best known for her role as Carrie Heffernan on The King of Queens, turned her back on the Church, after 30 years as a Scientologist. Remini’s willingness to be honest about her own flaws, and her understanding of how the Church would attempt to discredit her, took some transparency out of her answers during her interview with Dan Harris on 20/20. Scientology has a mold of demeaning renegades, such as former Church spokesman Mike Rinder and Remini, with ad hominem attacks. “I know my former Church and how they deal with people who tell their story, and so I wanted to be the one to say it,” Remini told Harris. The Church of Scientology rebutted Remini’s allegations by criticizing her as blaming others for her own weaknesses and presenting misleading accounts of the events that occurred to propel her own agenda. In a statement the Church said: "She needs to move on with her life instead of pathetically exploiting her former religion, her former friends, and other celebrities for money and attention to appear relevant again.” Remini dedicates part of her new book, Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology, to criticizing her own personal faults, saying she pushed people around and was a bad mother, she told 20/20. She said she made the revelations preempt scathing personal criticism she expected from the Church in retaliation to her criticism. Here are 10 beliefs we learned about the Church of Scientology from Leah Remini’s interview with ABC’s 20/20.
All members must sign a billion-year contract. Scientologists believe in reincarnation, which – in theory – allows members to serve again and again after every lifetime. Leah Remini, who joined the Church as a young teenager, only lasted one year before almost being kicked out due to a mildly inappropriate incident with her boyfriend at the time. She was brought up on ethics charges for consenting with her boyfriend to graze her breast over her shirt. In accordance with Scientology beliefs, members are expected to return to the Sea Org when they are reborn; the Sea Org's motto is "We Come Back." Members must sign a symbolic billion-year "religious commitment," pledging to "get ethics in on this planet and the universe.”
Drug Free And Silent Childbirth
The scientology Church believes women should endure childbirth drug-free and in silence. In direct disobedience to this precedent, Lean Remini opted for medication when giving birth to her daughter. In her interview she states: “I was going to attempt to do it for my Church, but when you start feeling a baby coming out of your vagina – if there was a rock, I would hit myself on the head with it … So I got that epidural as quickly as possible.” It’s not unreasonable to suggest the possibilities of enduring one of mankind’s most painful processes without making a peep are both highly unlikely and unfair. According to the Church, this is all about providing the best possible environment for the birthing mother and her new baby.
Do Not Mess With Tom Cruise
Two Church officials invited her over to Tom Cruise’s house because “Tom wants you to come over and teach him salsa dancing.” She and her long-time husband, Angelo Pagan, were more than willing to do the Church this favor. Remini recalls that when she and her husband arrived to the premises they were welcomed by the site of Cruise – who was all over his new girlfriend, Katie Holmes. “He was like, forcibly kissing Kate,” Remini stated. “I said, ‘Hey, get a frickin’ room,’ and I was written up for that.” It’s simple, when it comes to Tom Cruise and Scientology – if you’re a member, it’s probably best to keep your opinions about Tom Cruise to yourself.
You Must Choose the Church Over Family
When Remini chose to leave the Church in 2013, after holding a membership of 30 years, her mother, sister, and husband left Scientology along with her. When a person leaves Scientology and their family members stay, the Church often encourages family members that chose to stay to disconnect and cut off communications with their offending non-believer relative. A Scientologist can have trouble making spiritual progress in his auditing or training if he is connected to someone who is suppressive or who is antagonistic to Scientology or its tenets. All spiritual advancement gained from Scientology may well be lost because one is continually invalidated by an antagonistic person who wants nothing more than to do harm to the person. In order to resolve this situation, one either “handles” the other person’s antagonism with true data about Scientology and the Church or, as a last resort, when all attempts to handle have failed, one “disconnects” from or stops communicating with the person.
Remini’s mother was responsible for her initial involvement with Scientology. Vicki Marshall, after divorcing her husband, found new meaning in the religion and signed herself and her daughters for the Sea Org – a group who volunteers for the Church. By the eighth grade, Leah was stopped attending regular school, and instead, studied Scientology full-time. Additionally, she was doing hard labor, ordered by the Sea Org. Remini recalls her living/working conditions as rundown and “roach infested.” Lawrence Wright wrote in The New Yorker in 2011 that the Sea Org used small children drawn from Scientology families for what the article described as forced child labor. The article described extremely inhumane conditions, with children spending years in the Sea Org, sequestered from mainstream life.
Your Celebrity Friends Aren’t Safe
In 2006, Remini was invited to Cruise’s wedding to Holmes. The Church urged Remini to bring her friends, Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony with her. Naturally, she assumed the Church wanted to recruit them. During the wedding Remini was written up and accused of ruining the wedding, because she sat next to her friends Lopez and Anthony.
Do Not Ask About Michele Miscavige
In the same incident of the 2006 wedding, an additional reason Remini was written up was because she kept asking about the whereabouts of Michele "Shelly" Miscavige – Scientology leader David Miscavige’s wife, who wasn’t present at the wedding. She has not made a public appearance since August 2007 and this has become the source of speculation concerning how Scientology treats its member. It's speculated that Michele is living on a 500-acre compound about 90 minutes outside of Los Angeles. Additionally, it is though Michele is likely to have endured months of auditing, “re-programming” and menial labor in an effort to instill her with sufficient levels of “clarity” after her perceived insubordination. There is a debate among former Scientologists as to whether or not Michele is being held at Twin Peaks—which is monitored by armed guards and surrounded by spiked fences—against her will.
Celebrity Marketing Tool
Scientology seems to be the religion of choice for many Hollywood stars. The Church recruits celebrities because it needs them in order to spread the word and recruit. Celebrities are their best marketing tool. Remini, Cruise, and John Travolta have appeared in several videos for the Church. Recruiting Scientologist celebrities and getting them to endorse Scientology to the public at large has always been very important to the Church of Scientology. Scientology has had a written program governing celebrity recruitment since at least 1955, when L. Ron Hubbard created "Project Celebrity," offering rewards to Scientologists who recruited targeted celebrities.
Tools of Life
Remini said of the religion, “It has tools that a very, very helpful to you in your life, to you as an actor.” What she is referring to is clear communication, doggedness, and persistence – all things she draws upon when focused on her acting career. In light of her struggles at Sea Org, Remini took those teachings to the heart and found them useful when it came to her career. “I walked into a room where some people might cower in front of a casting director – I wasn’t.”
The Church keeps knowledge reports on all members, especially with celebrities, to keep them in check from leaving and use for defamation in case they should decide to leave, and potentially damage the Church’s reputation. The Church keeps detailed, extensive files on its members, and write-ups members file against each other when they think an individual is engaging in behavior that is harmful to the Church. It also audits members through counseling sessions in which members are encouraged to divulge their personal issues, secrets, and discuss knowledge reports about them.