The second season of Leah Remini’s Emmy-nominated Scientology and the Aftermath has now debuted on A&E and the first episode was a heavy punch in the gut to anyone with a heart or an ounce of humanity. The stories that Saina Kamula and Mirriam Frances told were horrifying and unfortuantely, are not isolated or singular instances. This, of course, is the point of telling these stories in the first place. Leah’s show is a call to action to all of us to step up and do something. We can’t change the past, but we can certainly act to stop these abuses in the future but only if we are aware of what the supposed “church” of Scientology is really all about.
This past week, before and after the premiere, Scientology and its enablers took to social media, Reddit and other forums in a vain attempt to denounce Leah and the guests on her show as liars and bitter apostates, a strategy that did not work in Season 1 and frankly, has never worked. Anyone with an ounce of common sense can look at what was portrayed in Season 1 and now what is rolling out in Season 2 and see that Scientology is a group that condones sexual and psychological abuses because its members are under the horribly mistaken notion that the philosophy and mission of Scientology are more important than the well being of its members, even its children. This is a pretty sick way of looking at the world and as a former member, I know because I used to be there.
Last year, I posted a video laying out five reasons Scientology and the Aftermath is more important than you may realize. A link to that video is below. Now here are five more reasons that Season 2 is even more important than Season 1.
1. By providing a broad and safe platform to speak out, the show provides an opportunity for not just exposure but also catharsis and healing for Scientology’s victims.
When someone undergoes a traumatic experience, they can often feel that they are alone, that no one else could possibly understand. This is made even worse when they are in a cult environment where people in authority are not to be questioned and victims are often not believed and even punished for trying to tell the truth of what happened to them.
I believe that one of the most healing things a victim of abuse can do is speak out publicly against that abuse, expose it to the world for what it is and in the process, find out that they have more love and support and care from the big wide world than they ever dreamed possible.
For myself personally, I found that my fears of rejection, disbelief and derision were mostly baseless while the understanding, support and friendship I received from so many was validating and very helpful. Not that the Church of Scientology hasn’t taken their potshots at me, but because of shows like Scientology and the Aftermath exposing so much to so many, no one believed the church’s nonsensical claims. I was able to shed many of the fears I had and put Scientology’s lies and claims into a more proper perspective. I don’t presume to speak for everyone who has been on Leah’s show, but I think many of them would agree with me that it helps depower the Church of Scientology when its victims can take back their power in a public forum.
As Mirriam stated in the show, “Scientology has controlled me my entire life and I’m just not willing to give them that control anymore; and to anyone who has been in a similar situation to me or has been raised similarly to me, we have to do something. If we don’t anything, they will continue to control us.”
And Saina said “I feel like being here is helping me take back my power. It’s helping me feel less helpless and less hopeless.”
2. It’s loudly demanding justice be delivered to Scientology for its long history of crimes and abuses.
Some of Scientology’s enablers claim that because the Church of Scientology has not been successfully prosecuted for its crimes, it is therefore blameless and guiltless. In fact, this is a disingenous claim of incredible ignorance given the testimonials of hundreds, even thousands of Scientologists who have borne witness to what they saw, experienced and in some cases, took part in that were, without question, criminal acts. These run the gamut from destroying evidence in a criminal investigation, kidnapping, unlawful restraint, stalking, harassment, invasion of privacy, libel and slander and the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, in the legal arena, there are many factors that make it difficult or even impossible for victims to get the justice they deserve. There are statues of limitations on most crimes, including sexual assault and pedophilia, yet it can take victims of such crimes years to come to terms with what happened to them, much less start speaking out to the police about it.
The side with the most money often wins because that side can afford to drag out the legal process for years or even decades. We have watched the Church of Scientology do this very thing, applying L. Ron Hubbard’s policies to the letter on such matters. With a nearly infinite legal war chest, the Church of Scientology has invested a great deal in its own legal protections, including influence with local, state and national government and law enforcement officials. Having gained religious status in the 1950s, the Church also hides behind the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution, as do other abusive and destructive cults. Taking Scientology on legally is a daunting task.
However, the place where the Church of Scientology falls down again and again is in the court of public opinion. Here they have no recourse to legal machinations and their pathetic attempts to demean and invalidate their critics are so obviously exaggerations, innuendo and just outright lies, that no one believes anything they say. Nor should they, since the people who write the Church’s press statements, hate websites and tweets have no moral compass. They have given themselves over to an extremist belief system which says their side is all good and anyone who opposes them is all bad. There can be no tolerance, no middle ground and at no time can the Church of Scientology ever be wrong. To call this unreasonable is an understatement of magnitude. The actual term is fanatacism.
What Leah is doing in this new season is using this public outrage and groundswell of righteous anger against Scientology to bring more pressure on elected officials and our representatives in government to get off their asses and do something to stop Scientology’s abuses. This doesn’t require destroying Scientology as a subject – it requires enforcing existing laws and civil protections to take away Scientology’s completely bogus tax exemption and take its leaders to task for the Church’s civil and human rights violations. Only in this way can permanent change be made within the Church and its members be guaranteed the human rights they claim to be fighting for but can’t seem to enforce within their own ranks.
3. It’s exposing more than just disconnection, the rotten core of Scientology’s harmful policies, but also the numerous other aspects of Scientology practice which are just as bad or worse to individual members.
Season 1 concentrated heavily on Scientology’s practice of shunning, or what they call disconnection. This authoritarian practice uses emotional blackmail to keep its members in line since every Scientologist knows that if they start thinking for themselves, are critical of the church or its leadership or demand restitution of wrongs, they will be the ones in the crosshairs and they will be the ones who are ostracized and forcefully separated from their family, friends and business associates. Leah documented many instances of this and the stories were heartbreaking.
But it’s not just disconnection. L. Ron Hubbard, David Miscavige and various other church executives over the years have written and enforced rules which call for mandatory abortions, blatant human rights violations such as false imprisonment and have coerced church members to lie under oath, tamper with evidence in criminal investigatons and carry out campaigns of terror against former members. As mentioned earlier, the treatment of children brought up in Scientology and especially in the Sea Organization has been amongst some of the most egregious of Scientology’s crimes.
In this season, this dark underbelly of Scientology is being exposed. We’ve seen some of this already in the season opener and there is so much more to come.
4. It’s educating the viewers in such a way that they can see it’s not just Scientology, but that there are many abusive and destructive cults and groups out there.
It’s been said by many cult education experts and therapists that one of the best ways to get a member of a high control group to begin to see what they are part of is to talk about and educate them about other coercive groups and the methods they use. By doing this, the person doesn’t feel personally attacked or become defensive and is willing to listen to how those high control groups work and even participate in the conversation. Slowly but almost surely it will begin to dawn on them that perhaps some of the methods and controls that are used on them are awfully similar to what they are reading about in these other groups. This is sometimes the beginning of the end for their membership in their group. This tactic has been successfully used on Scientologists and many others.
There are thousands of destructive cults and high control groups in the world today, across all spectrums of life. These include not just religious groups but also gets in to politics, sports, acting classes, martial arts groups and anywhere that a strong leader is able to exert undue influence in such a way as to victimize the group members and enrich or empower himself or herself.
By showing what the Church of Scientology does and how its members are able to forgive even the most egregious abuses because they are following an extremist belief system, this can open the eyes of viewers who may be involved in other high control groups. I know that in the time that I’ve been doing work on this, I’ve heard from members of many other such groups who said that the exposure of Scientology got them thinking about their own membership and gave them strength to break away from it. Leah’s show is surely doing the same.
5. It shows that speaking truth to power matters and can make a difference.
The people who have come forward on Scientology and the Aftermath are heroes. They have risked a lot to speak out. Not only are they opening themselves up to public ridicule and humilation but also derision and attacks from the Church of Scientology, which is infamous for attempting to ruin the personal and professional lives of anyone who crosses it. That reputation is well deserved. The church wastes no time getting up hate websites and attack videos against anyone who tells the truth about their experiences in Scientology. It is no small thing to take a stand and one always hopes that in doing so, it will make a difference and the risks will all be worth it.
In the case of Scientology and the Aftermath, this is certainly paying off. But here’s the thing. Everything I just said applies just as much to the Scientology critics who have been working for many years, decades in fact, to bring justice to Scientology. All of them took enormous risks to speak out, even when they did so anonymously, trying to help those who are caught up in its lies to find the truth and to help ex-members recover from their experience. Sometimes there were even casualties. Not all of those OG critics are still with us today. Back in the 1980s, 90s and early 2000s, their efforts were frustrated and difficult because they didn’t have the fame or fortune to reach the large audiences necessary to make the big difference they wanted to make. However, it needs to be said that none of the work of any of these people, from Gerry Armstrong and Paulette Cooper to Larry Wolersheim and Bent Corydon to Tory Christman and Bob Minton to Anonymous in 2008, none of it was in vain. As much as I want to, it would be impossible, literally impossible, for me to name everyone who deserves to be acknowledged for their sacrifices, hard work, blood, sweat and tears. The list is just too damn long but every single one of them are heroes.
When Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief premiered on HBO in 2015, Alex Gibney and Lawrence Wright reached 5.5 million viewers, the second most watched documentary on HBO in the past decade and winner of an Emmy for Best Documentary as well as a 2015 Peabody Award and Best Documentary from the Writers Guild of America. Since that time it has reached millions more.
Now Leah has brought this fight into the mainstream on international television for two straight seasons. Where the internet allowed the OG critics to reach hundreds or thousands, cable and streaming TV has brought the truth to literally millions every episode. This is simply unprecedented exposure but I doubt that Going Clear or Scientology and the Aftermath would even have been possible had everyone who spoke before not done the work they did in their time and place.
The voice of every single ex-Scientologist and critic has led to this. All of the information, the testimonials, the court records, the exposed confidential Church scriptures and policies – all of it has enabled the stories that are being told now to be told at all. They all spoke truth to power and we are now benefitting from the collective work of all of these brave souls. Personally, I want to thank every single one of them, because I wouldn’t be here today doing this if it weren’t for what they did before me.
When we step back and look at Scientology today, we see an organization on the ropes. Actually, I’ve gone so far as to say that it’s already dead and it just doesn’t know it. Behind its glittery facades, gilded stage presentations and renovated buildings is a rotten shell of an organization that is being abandoned in droves by all but the most willfully ignorant or those who are being emotionally blackmailed to stay because their family and friends would abandon them if they left. As time marches forward and more of the abuses are exposed, Scientology will do one of two things: it will reform and change its evil ways or it will continue to collapse into utter irrelevance, just another forgotten religious cult started by a megalomaniac and run into the ground by its own harsh practices and human rights violations. Either way, Scientology and the Aftermath will have played a major role. Leah, Mike and everyone connected with the show should be proud of the work they are doing. It is far more important than many people realize.
Thank you for watching.