By Dorothy Le —
There is no other religion that garners more intrigue and controversy than Scientology. Long before it has been trampled on by celebrities through the media and dissected through survival documentaries, the religion has held a certain mystique for those on the outside looking in. Certainly, it is the staunch rules and regulations that raise curiosity, but more recently, testimonies by former members reveal their doubts on the legitimacy of Scientology.
The number of negative testimonies from former members have surpassed positive ones from current members. Among the videos and books available, there are several commonalities running through them all—which reveal reasons why former members had no choice but to defy the religious authorities in order to escape to what they call “freedom.”
Probably the most well known documentary about escaping Scientology is from survivor, Jenna Miscavige Hill, in her book “Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape.” She recalls in her book having to sign a contract at the age of 7, promising to serve the Church for the next billion years (the religion believes that members return lifetime after lifetime to new bodies).
Families were discouraged from seeing one another, and Hill was only allowed to see her parents an hour each night. Young children were also required to perform manual labor, including building renovations and construction, cleaning the swimming pool, weeding, and digging irrigation trenches. They were even given salt and potassium pills to keep from overheating.
Because Hill is the niece of current Scientology leader, David Miscavige, she went through and endured heavier repercussions for escaping. In 2008, she gave an interview with Nightline where she discussed her book and life growing up in Scientology, and all of a sudden, found herself being followed. “They have what’s called a Fair Game policy, where if someone speaks out against Scientology, they are considered an enemy of Scientology,” explains Jenna. “You can do anything to someone who is considered an enemy. Since I’ve left, people have followed me but no one has tried to physically assault me. I won’t let them intimidate me.”
Not only in suburban areas, but Scientology also holds a powerful presence in Hollywood. One departure that made the biggest splash across all media outlets was the Katie Holmes-Tom Cruise divorce in 2012. Holmes, who was raised Catholic, began studying Scientology when she and Cruise started dating. As the actor was a prominent and dominating figure in the religious organization, many observed how quickly Holmes had transformed since converting to Scientology throughout their six years of marriage. More than just her lack of movie roles and waif thin frame, Holmes appeared more rigid and vacant during public appearances.
In an exclusive interview with Daily Mail Online, Ron Miscavige, the father of David, shared that what prompted Holmes to leave the religion was when church members moved into their Los Angeles home in order to better cater to Cruise. “That didn’t sit so well with Katie, of course, and it hurt the marriage,” he states. “She and Tom had big differences about the way life should be lived.” What Holmes feared the most was the consequences of leaving the religion in the future and losing their daughter due to the disconnection policy. Cruise’s ex wife, Nicole Kidman, also experienced alienation from her two children after leaving the church. Soon after the divorce, Holmes returned to her Catholic faith.
The latest celebrity to leave Scientology is actress Leah Remini. After more than 30 years in the religion, Remini made the decision to split in 2013 and detailed her journey in her memoir, Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology. Her reason was the same as Holmes in that she didn’t want her daughter, Sofia, to become engulfed by the religion’s principles. Once the plan for the memoir was announced, the infamously defensive Church of Scientology slammed Remini’s book, calling it an attempt to gain publicity and relevance.
Not only did the actress split from the church, but she also filed a missing person report for Shelly, wife of leader David Miscavige, who has not been seen in public since 2006. Soon after the report, Remini was interrogated by the Church for questioning her whereabouts. As a source states, “When you ask a question, like, ‘Where is Shelly?’ you are immediately hauled in, interrogated and asked, ‘Why are you asking, who are you connected to, are you going on the Internet?’”
Despite being threatened by the Church, Remini remains staunch on her decision. “I believe that people should be able to question things,” the actress told People magazine. “I believe that people should value family, and value friendships, and hold those things sacrosanct. That for me, that’s what I’m about. It wouldn’t matter what it was, simply because no one is going to tell me how I need to think, no one is going to tell me who I can, and cannot, talk to.”