Tonight, A&E airs the “season finale” of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, the eighth episode (including a “Reddit AMA” special) but actually not the final installment of what has turned out to be an extraordinary hit for the cable network.
A week from tonight another Reddit special will air, and like the last time Leah will have some special guests with her. We know who they are, but we figure they’ll be teased at the end of tonight’s show, so we’ll just hang on until then.
As for tonight’s excitement, the episode opens with Leah reading from a letter sent by Scientology’s Karin Pouw on September 9 that blames her, among other things, for inciting a “hate crime” committed by a young man named Brandon Reisdorf.
(That’s the same letter we made public on November 22, and that Leah reacted to by hiring an attorney and making a demand of $1.5 million for defaming her. The church ignored her demand, which she made as a shot across the bow of the litigious organization.)
Leah and Mike are in Los Angeles to meet with Brandon’s parents, Lois and Gary Reisdorf.
If you’ve been reading Lois’s interesting series about her days in the Sea Org at Mike Rinder’s website, you know that she has been out of Scientology a long time, but kept herself away from the church’s controversies and wasn’t really aware of the major defections by top former executives and other things that have been happening in recent years. She and Gary had tried to keep “low profile,” in order to stay connected to Lois’s South African Scientology family. But that low profile approach made the family vulnerable: Two of their three sons, Brandon and Craig, got sucked into Scientology and joined staff at the San Diego org.
Brandon, the family reveals, had mental health issues. He had an undiagnosed bipolar condition, and the family handled it by putting him through Scientology’s Introspection Rundown. Yes, the notorious crackpot procedure that L. Ron Hubbard came up with in the 1970s, and which has produced numerous disasters since then, including the death of Lisa McPherson in 1995, and a more recent case of the shocking mistreatment of a woman in Arkansas.
“Brandon came back worse than when he went in,” Gary tells Leah.
Meanwhile, Lois and Gary were connected to some of Gary’s family, who were declared. And they were turned in by their own son Craig, which resulted in Lois and Gary getting declared. That forced a big decision on their sons Craig and Brandon.
Brandon decided to stay with his family, but Craig chose the church. Craig followed policy and cut off all contact with the rest of his family.
Brandon took it hard — and his undiagnosed bipolar condition got worse.
In a manic episode, Brandon drove to Los Angeles and threw a hammer through a window at the Los Angeles Org. He drove away in his mother’s car, but he was soon stopped by police.
As Gary Reisdorf points out, if this were a legitimate religious organization, it would probably be happy just to be made whole with enough money to cover the damages, and would probably try to find a way to help the troubled young man who had thrown a hammer through their window.
But this is Scientology. Instead of trying to help Brandon (after it was Scientology that had misdiagnosed him, Leah points out) the church pressed for felony charges against Brandon instead. (Meanwhile, Brandon finally got the mental health care he needed.)
Oh, and it gets worse, of course. Scientology pressed charges under hate crime legislation that makes it a felony to throw a hammer through the window of “a place of worship.” We doubt anyone was around to ask prosecutors who they thought was being “worshipped” at the Scientology Los Angeles org.
In his interview with Leah and Mike, Brandon talks about how hard it was for him to get through his jail stay and then find his way as a person with a felony on his record. Brandon’s interview is a strong capper to this segment.
The episode then shifts to some fine footage of John Sweeney and Mark Bunker talking about how filming Scientology comes with risks and some odd rewards, too. And speaking of odd, the show also has on a reporter we think you’ll recognize.
Once again, we look forward to joining you tonight as we live-blog the show in the comments section. Let’s have fun!
UPDATE: In response to this story, Lois Reisdorf sent over this interesting account…
There have been a number of comments questioning, in a kind way, why did we send Brandon back to Scientology rather than to psychiatric professionals. That is a very good question and one that both Gary and I struggle with. I think there were a number of contributing factors.
— We were both indoctrinated into Scientology beliefs since birth about how great Scientology was and at the same time how horrible psychiatry was. Yes, we quit actively participating in Scientology 35 years ago. Although we knew this spiritual “mecca” would never be obtained thru Scientology, we did feel that the lower levels had some basis of spiritual betterment. With neither one of us ever suffering from mental issues and didn’t even have any friends with issues, psychiatry or even the medications used were never a part of our lives.
— Lois’ father was a highly trained Scientologist and practiced it until he passed away in 2007. Gary’s father was also highly trained and also kept auditing until he passed in 1992. We had great respect for our parents and their choices even though Scientology was not for us. In hindsight, it should have been questioned, not given respect.
— Even though we did not participate in Scientology, it was more of “there are some good things, but something is wrong with the upper levels”.
— Neither Gary nor I were tech trained and just considered the Introspection R/D was a simple, good, lower level where the person was given healthy food, vitamins, and had a chance to remove themselves from the tensions of everyday life. We should have researched it but just accepted that it wasn’t harmful. We did not actually know that he would be put on this rundown, it was in the hands of the case supervisor. But at the time we would not have questioned it and to be honest, at the time we did not know what was involved in that rundown, neither of us were tech trained and had never experienced someone in it before.
— We were completely unaware of any of the evils of Scientology, only of David Miscavige kicking us out and taking over. We had never heard of Ortega, didn’t know Mike or Marty had a blog. Never heard of Lisa McPherson or the other atrocities of the church. It was the last thing on our minds. There wasn’t an Internet when we left in 1982 and we just tried to keep it out of our lives. Only when we were under the threat of losing our children unless we got with their program, did we start to research, online and in books, what went on in Scientology for the past 35 years.
— If we were to have gone to psychiatry as the solution for Brandon originally, we would have been declared then and there and lost Craig back then. Again, in hindsight that would have been an excellent outcome.
But to address the big elephant in the room, I don’t think we can adequately put a finger on why? We made mistakes but as someone commented, love of our children was our total motivation. Would we do things differently with the knowledge we have now? A hundred percent, yes.
The good thing is that we have Brandon, Brett and Jessie in our lives and Brandon is doing great now. Brett and Jessie are in the process of adopting a child who we love dearly. We are doing our utmost to get our lost son Craig back in our lives.
Go here to start making your plans.
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Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.
The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)
Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts
Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ
Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield