This week's episode of A&E's Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath saw the host and fellow former Scientologist Mike Rinder traveling to Colorado to meet with Marc and Claire Headley, the former Sea Org executives who left the Church in 2005. Here's five things we learned from last night's episode.
1. "Whoever controls the public relations, controls the world."
The show details how Marc Headley signed his billion-year contract when he was just 15, and was sent to work at Golden Era Productions, the Church's audio/video production company which puts out the organization's promotional materials. By the time he was in his Twenties, Marc was producing major Scientology events, where the Church's successes were celebrated in videos that are apparently full of jaw-dropping statistics. For example, according to those videos, Scientology's "drug rehabilitation" program had successfully reduced drug consumption by double-digits. And once its "study technology" was implemented into under-achieving schools, the videos claimed that students were averaging A+ grades in just a week.
"[The statistics] made me continue to give up my money and my time," Remini says. But after leaving the Church in 2013, she now claims that many of those statistics were wildly inflated or outright "lies."
Headley explained that he would come up with possible stories to highlight in the videos, but since the goal was to "make it look like Scientology was expanding," he claims that numbers were a priority. If twenty-five people involved in a project , he alleges that the number would become "dozens," then "scores" of people, and so on. "The events are not a documentary, they are a commercial," Marc says about the films he helped to make during his 15 years at Golden Era Productions. He cites an L. Ron Hubbard policy letter that allegedly says: "Whoever controls the public relations, controls the world."
2. There's pressures for couple to marry – which doesn't guarantee they'll see each other
According to Marc and his wife Claire, who joined the Sea Org at age 16, the organization frowns upon pre-marital sex – but they claim that their Church's outlook on marriage isn't much more supportive. When the couple tied the knot, they say in the show that they didn't get to live as a normal married couple until they left the Church in 2005. For many years, they had completely opposite schedules and didn't even get to eat meals together. They allege that the Sea Org treats marriage as a requirement in order to engage in sexual relations, but the requirements needed for sustaining said unions are not considered a priority.
3. Former Sea Org members have alleged that they were forced to abort pregnancies
"If you were in the Sea Org and you got pregnant, you were expected to get an abortion," Rinder claims on Scientology and the Aftermath, and dozens of women who have since left the Sea Org have attested to such alleged policies for some "elite" clergy members. They have said that the Church views children as a distraction from "Clearing" the planet – and it's awfully hard to take care of them when, per claims by former members, folks are working nearly 100 hours per week.
Claire Headley says that she was coerced into aborting two pregnancies during her time in the Sea Org; while she was not physically dragged or held down, Claire said the supposed risks that came with refusing — like being forcibly separated from her spouse and kicked out of the organization — meant she felt that she didn't have a choice. Claire alleges that she could think of 50 women she knew personally who were forced to terminate their pregnancies, and one woman in particular who had six abortions at last count. According to Headley, these women were expected to report to work the next morning, business as usual.
4. There is a "blow drill" for Sea Org members who fly the coop
"Seeing that there were no results [in the videos' numbers] — that was the final nail in the coffin for me," Marc Headley says regarding his decision to "blow" the organization. He "escaped" before Claire and then found a way to get her a cellphone so she could call him if and when she decided to leave as well, an incredible story that he details in his 2010 memoir, Blown for Good.
According to Claire, stories of escaped Sea Org members were fairly common on Gold Base, but they rarely got very far before being caught. Scientology & the Aftermath claims that as soon as the Church learns a Sea Org member has flown the coop, a "blow drill" is issued in hopes of finding the person before they slip away for good. This "military-style" recovery effort includes locating and monitoring any immediate family members, searching the surrounding areas especially in remote locations where there aren't many populated places to go; and patrolling nearby bus stations and airports.
"They know that the longer you're gone, the less likely it is that you'll be recovered," the Headleys claim.
5. Remini claims to have been watched closely during production of Scientology and the Aftermath
Despite keeping the production pretty low-profile, the show alleges that Remini was being surveilled throughout filming. At the start of this week's episode, upon their arrival in Colorado, Remini and Rinder immediately noticed two cars lying in wait and preparing to follow them from the airport. One driver, upon being confronted, said he worked for TMZ before hastily zipping away.
Later, Rinder was shown angrily confronting a suspected private investigator who had been loitering around their hotel. The Church of Scientology has surveilled him off and on since leaving the Church, Rinder alleges, and as the guy who was once tasked with "Fair Gaming" Scientology's enemies, he knows what to expect.
As for Remini: "It doesn't intimidate me," she said. "It makes me want to retaliate."
A spokesperson from the Church of Scientology was contacted about this article and responded with the statement below:
"Leah Remini is doing this for the money and now tries to pretend otherwise. Ms. Remini is being compensated for this show, just as she profited from her book. In addition, she attempted to extort the Church by first demanding $500,000, followed by an additional $1 million, because the Church invoked its First Amendment right to respond to her false claims with the truth. This shows the extent Leah Remini is willing to go to in order to distort the truth about Scientology.
"Remini has repeatedly disparaged and exploited her former faith for profit and attention through a series of failed publicity stunts, culminating in her reality TV show featuring [former members] who have been telling differing versions of the same false tales of abuse for years. Many of their allegations have been reviewed and discredited in courts of law. The source for Tuesday’s episode, Marc Headley, admitted under oath to having been paid for stories on Scientology by supermarket tabloids."