Leah Remini on Her Challenging Childhood in Scientology: I Was Cleaning Hotel Rooms at Age 13
By Mike Miller and Johnny Dodd
Leah Remini is now one of the most high-profile and outspoken critics of the Church of Scientology, but when she was first introduced to the religion, she found comfort in both the structure and the freedom the church brought to her childhood.
What began as a "normal" middle-class upbringing in Bensonhurst, New York, changed for Remini at young age when her parents divorced. When her mother started dating a Scientologist, the new religion "was introduced to our household pretty quickly," the actress tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story.
While she jokes that initially she couldn't even pronounce the name of her new faith, she soon found herself benefiting from some of the religion's tenets. "Almost immediately my mother became a little more open and less the mother who was always yelling at you. She told my sister [Nicole, then 10], and me that we were spiritual beings and we were going to start learning to communicate and not attack each other. As a kid, it's very empowering," Remini explains.
At only 13, Remini and Nicole were invited to move into the church's special Sea Org headquarters in Clearwater, Florida – home to Scientology's most dedicated members. The pair were separated from their pregnant mother and signed a "billion-year" contract of allegiance to the Sea Org, Remini says....
Remini claims she and her sister lived in a roach-infested motel room with six other girls. The star dropped out of school in eighth grade and was assigned manual labor for 12 hours a day, including cleaning hotel rooms.
"We were being used as laborers," she tells PEOPLE. (Scientology, which in a statement has called Remini's entire book "revisionist history," says that "allegation is false" and maintains that the facility was in good standing with the local health department.)....
The Reminis moved to L.A. But despite escaping the rigidity of Sea Org life, Remini says, the family was still "scraping to get by, living on a friend's floor, trying to get our own apartment and paying for Scientology [courses]."
Leah Remini Opens up to PEOPLE About Leaving Scientology: 'It's Like a Rebirth'
by Patrick Gomez and Johnny Dodd
11/03/2015 Leah Remini is opening up about her three decades in Scientology and why she decided to leave....
When Leah Remini made the momentous decision to leave the Church of Scientology in 2013, she knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
The former King of Queens actress, 45, had been introduced to the religion by her mother at the age of 8, and had been a member for 35 years. As a teen, she even spent a year living – and doing manual labor, including cleaning hotel rooms – at the church’s Sea Org headquarters in Clearwater, Florida, which is reserved for Scientology’s most dedicated members....
Remini also began educating herself about the criticisms faced by the church (all of which are refuted by church officials) and made the difficult decision to leave despite the fear she could lose any relationship with her family, including her mom, Vicki Marshall, and her husband, Angelo Pagán.
But that didn't happen. Her family followed her lead and left with her....
The Church of Scientology denies nearly all of Remini's claims....