Leah Remini and her family did a brave thing. They turned their backs on something that had been an integral part of their lives for decades, all because they felt that it was no longer the right thing to do.
Ordinarily, this is the kind of choice and behavior that is applauded by almost everyone. But Leah Remini left the Church of Scientology. Why is that a big deal?
When you are involved in an organization like that, which insulates itself from outside influence, it gets to the point where almost all of your friends are fellow believers -- in this case, Scientologists. And the Church of Scientology has a shunning policy for anyone who leaves the Church. So leaving means doing so with the full knowledge that almost all the people you know will no longer even speak to you.
On her new television show, Leah Remini: It's All Relative, the family's departure from Scientology is discussed in the very first episode.
"If you leave Scientology publicly, you, uh, have to be shunned… and that is the sad truth of it," Remini explains on the show. "In the church of Scientology, it is, you are not allowed to speak to anyone who's left the church in any way."
“You look through your phone [and] you’re like, ‘Oh I can’t call this person,’” she said.
@LeahRemini TY for your courage. People need to know more about shunning and how it affects people.Your family is very strong & inspiring
— Lady Sparlock (@Lady_Sparlock) July 11, 2014
Remini's split with Scientology began when she did something the Church frowns upon. She questioned church leader David Miscavige. This is the same David Miscavige who was Tom Cruise's best man when he married Katie Holmes. Some of Miscavige's own family have left Scientology.
Remini specifically asked questions about the whereabouts of Miscavige's wife, who has not been seen for some time. There are all sorts of rumors about Shelly Miscavige, and Remini wanted answers. She filed a missing persons report for Shelly. The blowback from the Church against Remini was swift. Leah left, and she hasn't remained quiet since then.
"I believe that people should be able to question things,” she said. “I believe that people should value family, and value friendships, and hold those things sacrosanct. That for me, that's what I'm about. It wouldn't matter what it was, simply because no one is going to tell me how I need to think, no one is going to tell me who I can, and cannot, talk to."
Leah's experience with Scientology is similar to the experiences of others who leave certain churches. Some churches practice an aggressive form of shunning, whereby church members are not allowed to even speak to someone who has left or been forced out of the church.
Jehovah's Witnesses are one example. When a Witness leaves the church, their former friends are forbidden to have anything to do with them. This proscription even extends to any family not living with the outcast person.
And the grounds for ouster from the Witness church includes such "infractions" as ongoing acceptance of blood transfusions or ongoing use of medical procedures that contain any blood fragments, such as treatments for hemophilia.
This policy has been at the center of international legal battles for Witnesses, but their policy remains unchanged.
Leah Remini -- and anyone else who faces this challenge in life -- has a hard road ahead of them, no matter how much money they make.
Image via YouTube