Daily Notifications
Sign up for free emails to receive the feature story every morning in your inbox at


Shifting gears: Leah Remini talks about tonight’s two-hour special on Jehovah’s Witnesses

Tonight, Leah Remini and her co-star Mike Rinder tack into uncharted territory. Before the third season of their Emmy-winning A&E series Scientology and the Aftermath begins in two weeks, they are airing tonight at 9 pm Eastern a two-hour special on another subject entirely.

“The reason why Mike and I did this was because we were asked to. Even as early as Season One we had so many people asking, ‘Will you cover the Jehovah’s Witnesses? They’re very similar.’ It just became too overwhelming to ignore,” Leah told us yesterday.

“We asked A&E, can we use one of our special episodes to do a show on Jehovah’s Witnesses, and they said yes.”

Leah grew up in Scientology and spent more than 30 years in it. Her personal familiarity with its arcane ideas is one of the things that gives her show its strength. We asked her if she was concerned about taking on a subject she was less familiar with — an offshoot of Christianity that grew out of a 19th century doomsday movement that is known in popular culture for knocking on doors and eschewing blood transfusions. How did she approach it?


“When I sat down with Alex Gibney when he was making Going Clear, I asked him, what’s his film about? He said ‘I don’t know what it’s about until I talk to the people it’s about.’ And that’s how you do a documentary,” Leah answered. “And that’s what Mike and I did. We shut up and listened. Like in Scientology, you have to be in it to truly understand it. So we didn’t do a lot of talking here. We did a lot of listening.”

And repeatedly, she says, they heard about how similar the two groups were, even though they came from such completely different traditions.

“The people we talked to, they drew parallels to Scientology. Scientology has disconnection, Jehovah’s Witnesses has shunning, the shunning of parents and children. And it’s not spelled out as clearly as it is in Scientology’s policies, but the Jehovah’s Witnesses also suggest not going to the police. You need two witnesses for rapes — they cite scripture and twist it, using what they want to use. I mean, who has two witnesses to a rape? What child has a witness to being molested? They think they can handle it internally.”

A $35 million court verdict awarded by a Montana jury in September brought a lot of recent attention to allegations that the organization keeps its members from reporting child abuse to the police.

“The Jehovah’s Witnesses are ruled by eight men in upstate New York, mainly white, who decide what the rules are and how they’re going to use the Bible to justify whatever they’re sending out to the lower level executives, called Elders, who are in charge of individual congregations. So someone goes to an Elder and says my husband is beating me. Well, you need to pray on it, she’s told.”

Scientology is a tiny organization that has always lied about its true size, claiming that it has millions of members when today it probably has fewer than 20,000 active members. Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, really does have something like 8 million people. We know how much A&E has been flooded with angry letters from Scientology and its attorneys — how did the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization react to this episode being made?

“We asked if they would appear on the show or talk to me or Mike or anything, and they just referred me to their website,” Leah says.

If the organization has not reacted, Leah says she has been hearing from some Jehovah’s Witnesses on social media. “We’re being called apostates, that our careers are in the dumps — but it’s by individual members, not the church itself. They’re offended that we’re likening it to a cult mentality. But they’re attacking something they haven’t even seen yet, just like culty people,” she says. “I’m not saying Jehovah’s Witnesses is a cult per se, but certainly, the behavior being exhibited by Jehovah’s Witnesses is very similar to Scientology — which is a cult. They are very similar to Scientology in how they react to people talking about them in a way they don’t want to be talked about.”

In her show on Scientology, Leah has been pretty careful to focus on the organization’s practices rather than its beliefs.

“It’s one thing to have a belief system that gets you through a bad time. But when you have policies that force you to shun your wife or daughter — I don’t think a church should be preaching that families disown each other. And they celebrate parents who allow their children to die,” she says, referring to Jehovah’s Witnesses extreme policies about blood transfusion. “It’s hard for me that anyone would liken that to a Christian organization. But it’s hard to see it when you’re in it. In Scientology, I always thought I was in something that was helping the world. It turned out I was in a cult that was hurting people, and it saddens me.”

We asked her if the people who appear on her show will have to worry about retaliation, the way Scientology whistle-blowers do.

“They were very courageous. Completely. And there will be repercussions to their actions. They just wanted to tell their stories, and we wanted to listen,” she says. “Each of them, they have levels of pain and hurt, and it was really painful to listen to. A lot of them don’t have their families. And they have nothing to gain from talking to us. Any criticism of them will be met with defense from me.”

We asked if there was anything else she wanted our readers to know about tonight’s show.

“I really want people to understand that this isn’t something we set out to do. We were asked to do it, and we gave up an A&E special to make a show about this.”


Scientology’s celebrities and ‘Ideal Orgs’ — now with comments!

[The Big Three: Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Kirstie Alley]

We’re building landing pages about David Miscavige’s favorite playthings, including celebrities and ‘Ideal Orgs.’ We’re hoping you’ll join in and help us gather as much information as we can about them, in order to build a record and maintain a watch as Scientology continues its inexorable decline — and yes, we finally have comments working on these new pages! Head on over and help us with links and photos and comments.

Scientology’s celebrities, from A to Z! Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Scientology’s ‘Ideal Orgs,’ from one end of the planet to the other! Help us build up pages about each these worldwide locations!

Today’s Ideal Mission: Baton Rouge, Louisiana!



Now on sale: Twice the Miss Lovely!

Our new book with Paulette Cooper, Battlefield Scientology: Exposing L. Ron Hubbard’s dangerous ‘religion’ is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. What a pleasure it is for us to work with her on this after we wrote about her ordeal as a victim of Scientology’s “Fair Game” campaigns in our 2015 book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, which is also on sale in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions.



[ONE year ago] Sexual harassment allegations strike a blow against a Scientology political ally in Florida
[TWO years ago] Scientology saw a tempting target in a Tampa pastor gaining fame for her compassion
[THREE years ago] Why it was Scientology leader David Miscavige who declared Lisa McPherson ‘Clear’
[FOUR years ago] Scientology Photoshopping, Part 2: A mystery disappearance on the yacht Apollo
[SIX years ago] Lay Off Xenu: An Ex-Scientologist’s Plea


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,267 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,900 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,380 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 443 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 331 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,506 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,280 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,054 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,400 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 10,966 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 6,886 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,053 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,634 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,894 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,934 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,646 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,172 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,261 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,401 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,721 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,577 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,696 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,052 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,354 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,460 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,863 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,734 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,317 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,822 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,066 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,175 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on November 13, 2018 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, 1995-2017 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2017), 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 | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates

Join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email