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Leah Remini, Vocal Scientology Critic, Files Suit Against Church


The actress Leah Remini, a former longtime member of the Church of Scientology who has been highly critical of the organization since leaving it in 2013, filed suit against the church this week seeking to end what she said were the “mob-style tactics” it had used to harass and defame her.

The lawsuit, which was filed on Wednesday in Superior Court in Los Angeles County, lists the church as a defendant along with its Religious Technology Center, which the church describes as an organization formed to preserve, maintain and protect the religion; and David Miscavige, the chairman of the center’s board and the leader of the church.

“For 17 years, Scientology and David Miscavige have subjected me to what I believe to be psychological torture, defamation, surveillance, harassment, and intimidation, significantly impacting my life and career,” Ms. Remini said in a statement on social media announcing the lawsuit. “I believe I am not the first person targeted by Scientology and its operations, but I intend to be the last.”

The lawsuit says that she has been “under constant threat and assault” as a result of her public departure from Scientology. She is seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages for economic and psychological harm.

In a statement, the church called the lawsuit “ludicrous and the allegations pure lunacy,” and described the move as Ms. Remini’s “latest act of blatant harassment and attempt to prevent truthful free speech.”

During her three-decade acting career, Ms. Remini, 53, has appeared in dozens of TV shows, most notably as Carrie Heffernan in nine seasons of the CBS sitcom “The King of Queens.”

The lawsuit is a culmination of a decade of criticism of Scientology by Ms. Remini, who has used her platforms to expose what she and many other former members say are the darker sides of the church, including the disappearance from public view of her friend Shelly Miscavige, Mr. Miscavige’s wife.

Ms. Remini published “Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology,” a book about her experiences, in 2015, and hosted and produced an Emmy Award-winning documentary TV series “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath,” which ran for three seasons starting in 2016.

The lawsuit details the decades that Ms. Remini spent in Scientology and the events that led to her departure after what she says was a yearslong period of abuse. When she was 8, she “effectively lost” her mother to Scientology, the lawsuit says. When she was 13, she was forced to join the Sea Organization, or Sea Org, the corps of members who keep the church running, the lawsuit said.

She was forced to sign a billion-year contract, in keeping with the church’s belief that Scientologists are immortal, and to perform manual labor, study the teachings of the church’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, and undergo training that included “verbally, physically, and sexually abusive” practices, the lawsuit says.

Some of the allegations involved a process known as a “truth rundown” that is meant to erase a Scientologist’s memories and implant new ones. The lawsuit says that Ms. Remini was sent to a facility in Florida for a truth rundown and that, “after months of psychological torture,” she was “nearing the point of psychotic breakdown.”

After reporting an abuse allegation at a Scientology studio in Riverside, Calif., she left the organization in 2013.

Shortly after she left the church, Ms. Remini filed a missing persons report about Ms. Miscavige, who has not been seen in public since 2007, the lawsuit said. The Los Angeles Police Department closed that investigation in 2014, saying that detectives had “personally made contact” with Ms. Miscavige and her lawyer.

The lawsuit said that Ms. Remini was designated a “suppressive person,” or someone who leaves the church and is deemed its enemy by seeking to damage the church or Scientologists. That could include reporting crimes committed by Scientologists to civil authorities, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit says that, in addition to physical stalking and harassment, the church and the other defendants had conducted a decade-long “mass coordinated social media effort” against Ms. Remini, using hundreds of Scientology-run websites and social media accounts “to spread false and malicious information about her.”

“People who share what they’ve experienced in Scientology, and those who tell their stories and advocate for them,” Ms. Remini wrote on Twitter, “should be free to do so without fearing retaliation from a cult with tax exemption and billions in assets.”



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