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Rerun Tuesday: ‘Leah Remini’ participants tell us what the series has meant to them

We have another week to get through before new episodes of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath start running again. So we thought we’d tide you over on another rerun Tuesday with a special treat.

Last week, we polled you, our readers, about which of this season’s episodes was your favorite. We also sent that question to some of the people who have appeared on the show this season, and asked them what it’s been like since they were featured.

And after we check in with them, we have another item: A moving piece by a woman whose life has been touched by Aftermath. We think you’re going to find her story sadly familiar. OK, here we go.



Mirriam Francis, episode 1, “Thetans in young bodies”…

The support since doing the show has been amazing, and I’ve connected up with some great “second gens.” That’s been really healing in processing the past through shared stories and information. The episode that affected me the most deeply was Elizabeth Gale’s story with regard to the mental process of separation between mother and child. How the teachings of Scientology create that gap. That was so profoundly real and heart breaking for me from my own personal experience. It was so raw and beautifully communicated. Marie sharing Aaron Poulin’s story was also incredibly brave and heart breaking. I grew up with Aaron and his death was kept incredibly quiet. His story being told allowed me to come to peace with it in a way. In the same way that a funeral would. I’m still finding my way and processing things as I go. But I’ve felt really empowered. I may never get a resolution through the legal system. I’ve been pursuing my case since 2012 and it’s a long process. This show has given me a sense of justice for the first time. I can’t thank everyone involved enough for that.


Marie Bilheimer, episode 2, “The ultimate failure of Scientology”…

I knew the show would have an impact on others, but it’s been on an even higher scale than I could imagine. I’m thankful I could honor Aaron and give another voice to this movement. Hopefully I’ve helped to prevent others from going down this same path. I really can’t pick a favorite episode. We’ve all experienced varying degrees of the same thing and know when you hear the other stories, that what they are telling is true, because it’s exactly how each circumstance would have been treated. My heart broke for Saina and Mirriam, they both also knew Aaron. Saina was quite close to him at one point. We privately reconnected. Since leaving the Sea Org I’d never even spoken to any of Aaron’s former friends, a form of closure that wasn’t allowed due to the secrecy required from the church. It has been comforting to share with her and for both of us to be able to lean on one and other. The show has created this bond between the contributors that can never be broken.


Liz Gale, episode 3, “The perfect Scientology family”…

As far as real life changes, I am sorry to say, our beautiful Chandler Ranch was sold. My boys will never get the land their ancestors sacrificed everything on the Oregon Trail and then for six generations to protect. It makes me sick to my stomach to know that, to avoid paying capital taxes to the IRS, my mother will be able to write a fat check to the Church of Scientology as a write off. Perhaps it will buy her back into David Miscavige’s good graces and make up for the shitstorms her children have brought to the church over the years. As for me and my little family – my two boys, Justin and I – well, we are still in transition. We ended up being evicted from the property due to the rushed sale. We couldn’t get all our belongings, but we did get our pets and necessities. It has been a challenge since then. We are currently living in a mobile home on a friends’ property, unsure of where we will go next or what we will do. We are looking for a new home, a new future, a new path and, of course, financial stability. [And readers can lend a hand here — Ed.] I’m also trying to cut myself some slack. I’ve had some really hard days where it’s been hard to concentrate with anxiety through the roof. The last two years of my life was the most awful, anxious, depressed period I have gone through. And if you know my story, you know that’s not a light statement. I’m feeling better, but I suspect it will take time to fully heal, if it’s even possible to recover fully.


Bruce Hines, special episode 1, “The Bridge to Total Freedom”…

Since I appeared on the show, things have stayed pretty much the same. I’m glad to have done the show and to contribute in my own small way in educating people. As with the first season, I love how the show airs the heartbreak and abuse that people experience in their participation in that organization. It reaches a lot of people that otherwise would likely be only minimally informed. I recall how in earlier shows that I participated in (Nightline, 360, Dateline, and others), after talking for hours in front of the camera, a minute or two of things I said got included in the edit. The editing of Aftermath is effective, especially the way other footage and quotes from Hubbard get interspersed. I have liked all of the episodes this season. I was, of course, moved by Jackson’s emotional recounting of his life while inside. The girls who were in the children’s organization in LA and on the ranch outside LA were moving, especially because my own son, and my former stepson who is now disconnected, were raised in the Sea Org at those places (and at the Int ranch, which was just as bizarre).


Gary “Jackson” Morehead, episode 4, “The rise of David Misavige”…

As predicted the church rolled out 16 people to spew their character assassination of me. Then they rolled out family. I felt honored so many people took their time to spit on me. I was confused though because how can so many staff, guards and church “executives” have so much to say about someone who had no position of authority? I was just a lonely guard who opened and closed gates! I have heard from so many people over the last few weeks, from all over the world. Australia, UK and many from just down the street from where I once resided on Hwy 79 in Gilman Hot Springs. I even found out staff at Gold still ask locals I know about me in hopes of getting the latest scoop on me, as recent as a few months ago. Yet I was someone of no importance and at such a low level they find it important to keep track of me. Seeing my friends brought back a lot of good and bad memories. Now you ask an unfair question: A favorite episode? Don’t have one really. I’m not saying this to be PC either… each and every one had their equal bomb like impact on me.


This is April Snow. We noticed that she posted this story to Facebook the other day, and we thought our readers would want to see it. It speaks for itself…

I didn’t ask to be raised in Scientology and personally parted ways with the organization over nine years ago, but those factors do not make me immune to the practice of disconnection. Any group that is hurting me emotionally on this level is not a group I want anything to do with. I apologize for the lengthy post but feel the need to elaborate:

My parents met at a Scientology church in the 1970s. They are still Scientologists, and one of my brothers is a member of the Sea Organization (a religious order comprised of the most dedicated Scientologists.) I grew up around many wonderful people with noble intentions to engender: “A civilization without insanity, without criminals and without war, where the able can prosper and honest beings can have rights, and where man is free to rise to greater heights.” Those are the aims of Scientology, according to L. Ron Hubbard, and they spoke to my parents – a couple of peace-loving hippies.

Scientology was central to everything I knew. I was active at our church in Hollywood, and learned Hubbard’s study technology in school. I got my GED at age 15, and joined the Sea Organization like many of my peers, where I continued my religious studies while living and working at the church. I left the Sea Organization about a year after I joined, and I eventually left the church in my twenties to do some soul-searching, like many young adults. I explained things openly in an interview at the church that ended amicably. This seemed OK until a friend of mine was named a “suppressive person” and excommunicated from the church.

I know this probably sounds a bit “secret society” and sinister to an outsider, so let me attempt to explain from the church’s perspective what this means. The organization believes that Scientologists can have trouble making spiritual progress if they’re connected to someone considered a “suppressive person” (SP.) This personality is defined as “a person who seeks to suppress, or squash, any betterment activity or group.” The belief is that such people oppose Scientology’s aims of helping others become more able, and improving conditions in society. Being declared a “suppressive person” results in expulsion from the church and loss of fellowship with other Scientologists – a practice commonly referred to as “disconnection.”

I began getting social and ecclesiastical pressure put on me to disconnect from my friend (Nora Beth Crest) around 2013. I explained that I wasn’t a Scientologist (It had already been years since I’d denounced my affiliation with the church) and I didn’t see a reason to ostracize a good friend and wonderful person, whose only “crime” as far as I could tell, was speaking negatively about the church. At the time, this friend was a closeted lesbian, and her experience with the church surrounding her sexuality had been extremely unpleasant. That’s another story for another time but I’ll say that my own personal allegiance on the matter stood with her. When I refused to disconnect from her – a number of my friends stopped speaking to me. This would become commonplace. It’s pretty painful to lose age-old friendships. In the past few years, as more and more of my friends have been declared SP, the number of friends who’ve disconnected from me has grown.

Most recently, after I made a Facebook post to defend my friend Marie Bilheimer’s right to tell her story on Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, the fallout included hundreds of supposed friends disconnecting from me; my brother speaking hatefully towards me and treating me like his enemy; and my own father choosing to stop communicating with me. He didn’t even talk to me first – simply deleted me from Facebook, and will not pick up my calls or respond to my texts. It has been devastatingly painful for me. I’m a generally happy person but I’ve been suffering loss and grief as though someone close to me has died – breaking into tears daily, isolating, binge-eating, and lacking the energy to get up and do daily activities.

Ironically, the creed of Scientology says that, “all men have inalienable rights to think freely, talk freely, write freely their own opinions, and counter or utter or write upon the opinions of others.” And that “no agency less than God, has the power to suspend or set aside these rights.” There is an inherent contradiction here that can’t be ignored. The Church of Scientology uses the fear of expulsion and disconnection to censor negative opinions about the church. And sadly, a great number of parishioners follow the rules of disconnection as they believe their spiritual freedom is at stake. And moreover, many of them also rely greatly on the community and can’t afford the loss of status with friends, clients, employers, and so forth.

A great number of people have quietly confided in me their fears surrounding the church of Scientology and I feel a sense of responsibility to say for all of us what most are too afraid to say. I am speaking up not just for myself but for each person I know who sacrifices their voice to keep their family.

I sincerely love my family who are still active members of Scientology, and I value the handful of Scientologist friends who’ve stuck by me over the last month. To those who haven’t jumped ship, I’m sorry if my words hurt you or our respective relationships. I love you for having the decency to stand by me and stick up for me but I can’t continue trying to “keep the peace” because it’s not in any way peaceful.

I know that this organization is filled with many humanitarians, and wonderful people. I know you. You want to help people, help yourselves, and help the world. But the policies of this organization are hurting people, hurting families, censoring individuals from telling the truth when they’ve experienced trauma or hurt, and bullying people into silence.

Something is not right. And if you’re honest with yourself, you can see that. If you can’t see it, ask yourself if you are getting the whole picture. Critical thinking involves looking objectively at an issue from all angles and forming your own judgment. Please do your research before you defend an oppressive organization.

For the record, although I don’t personally connect with the beliefs of Scientology, I trust that each individual can decide for themselves what makes them feel better, happier, and more fulfilled. This is not about beliefs. This is about using fear to censor and bully people – about enforcing policies that divide families.

— April Snow


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,892 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 38 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,101 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 1,875 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,649 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 1,995 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,489 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,529 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,241 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 767 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,856 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 1,996 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,316 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,291 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 647 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 4,949 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,055 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis for 1,458 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,331 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 912 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,417 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,661 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,770 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on October 3, 2017 at 07:00

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

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 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


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