Round two of the battle between Leah Remini and the Church of Scientology begins Tuesday (A&E, 9 p.m. ET/PT) with the return of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.
Despite pushback from the Church of Scientology, Remini forges ahead with 10 new episodes and an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Informational Series or Special.
“These people’s stories are important to be told, and exposing the abuses of Scientology is something I feel is the right thing to do, having been in it most of my life and having promoted it and supported it,” says Remini, a church member until 2013 and author of Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology. “There’s a lot of people out there who have lost a lot because of Scientology, and they deserve to be heard.”
“Nothing about A&E’s Leah Remini ‘docuseries’ is honest. The singular goal of the program is to make money and boost ratings by spreading salacious lies to promote A&E’s ugly brand of religious intolerance, bigotry and hatred,” the church said in a letter to USA TODAY from spokeswoman Karin Pouw.
The show’s November premiere drew 2.1 million same-day viewers, making it the network’s largest launch of an original series in more than two years at the time.
Remini has found others to share their stories for Season 2 of her hour-long series, in spite of, she says, being made a pariah among celebrity Scientologists.
“Their job is to avoid me at all costs,” she says. “They just make sure, through their publicists, if I’m on one side of the room that they’re on another side of the room. Or they don’t show up to an event that they’re scheduled to be at if they know I’m gonna be there. That’s just the way it’s gotten.”
Remini delves into how Scientology policies affect members in the show’s second season.
“I think people would be shocked to know that when people go through a traumatic experience — like being raped or molested — that Scientology punishes the victim and makes them responsible for what had happened to them,” says Remini. In a statement from the church, the organization says the accusation that it condones sexual abuse is “false and defamatory.”
The first episode features women who claim to have been molested while employees of the church, Remini says. The topic of suicide will also be covered this season.
“They don’t believe in therapies other than Scientology, so people dealing with real mental issues don’t often get the help that they need,” Remini claims. The church refutes this: “We do not treat those who are mentally ill; we encourage such individuals to be examined by a competent doctor.”
The church says it has been targeted because of Remini’s Aftermath. “To date, the Church has been subjected to more than 500 threats — including death threats, dangerous acts of vandalism and bullying directed at everyday parishioners — inspired by Leah Remini and her A&E show,” Pouw’s letter reads. “The violence provoked falls directly at the feet of A&E CEO Nancy Dubuc, President Paul Buccieri and (executive VP) Rob Sharenow, who should be ashamed for spreading bigotry and religious intolerance.” (A&E couldn’t be reached for comment).
“Sadly, as everyone knows from a number of recent tragic events, including those over the weekend in Virginia, we live in a volatile time of accelerated hate, bigotry and intolerance,” the letter continues. “A&E’s airing of salacious, unvetted falsehoods about the Church is reckless and irresponsible. The incendiary hate and bigotry they are fostering has no place in a tolerant America.”
The church has also posted a statement about Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath here.