This week’s episode of Scientology and the Aftermath was supposedly prompted by accusations that host and former church member Leah Remini has “incited hate crimes” against the organization. Eager to find out more, she and fellow defector Mike Rinder paid a visit to one of the people who supposedly committed the hate crimes that Remini incited. Here’s what she – and we – learned from her visit with the Brandon Reisdorf and his family, as well as three journalists who’ve spent their careers writing about, and allegedly enduring harassment, from the organization.
1. Scientology’s beef with psychiatry is apparently a personal one
Brandon Reisdorf was born into a family of Scientologists – but he didn’t grow up one. His parents, Lois and Gary Reisdorf, were both members of the Sea Org when they met; his mother was even part of of L. Ron Hubbard’s Commodore’s Messenger Organization, a group of elite churchgoers.
In 1982, Lois and Gary left the organization to start a family and moved back to her home country of South Africa. They raised three sons outside the Church for a number of years, though Scientology had an allure to the boys. Both Brandon and his brother Craig ended up joining of their own volition; Gary and Lois decided to play by the institution’s rules so they wouldn’t be seen as “potential trouble sources.” When Brandon began to exhibit signs that he was having mental and emotional problems, however, they found themselves resistant to sending him to a mental health professional because of what they had supposedly learned from Hubbard – that psychiatry (and the entire mental health profession) is the “enemy.”
Scientology’s beef with psychiatry has allegedly been a personal one since the early 1950s, when Hubbard was going through a divorce from his first wife, Sara. She had reportedly consulted with doctors, who believed the founder was “hopelessly insane” and suggested he should be in a sanatorium. He was not amused, to say the least, and his writings are full of criticisms of psychiatry, which he attempted to redefine as “an antisocial enemy of the people” in 1971. The Church’s website calls the practice an “elaborate and deadly hoax,” and states that “the marketing of antidepressants has … reached nightmarish proportions” and that such drugs cause “explosively violent episodes.”
2. The “Introspection Rundown” is Scientology’s psychiatric alternative
So what’s a Scientologist with depression, anxiety or more serious mental health problems supposed to do? Scientologists who are going through a particularly rough time – what psychiatric professionals would call a psychotic break – supposedly should go through the “Introspection Rundown,” which allegedly requires participants to submit themselves to the control of a “Case Supervisor.” During the rundown, participants are supposedly isolated “from all sources of potential spiritual upset” including family and friends, but “specifically consent to Church members being with [them] 24 hours a day” for as long as the supervisor believes their case requires.
The show claims that Brandon Reisdorf spent weeks in isolation, and that his only contact with other human beings were during daily intense auditing sessions. As their other son Craig was rapidly becoming a devout Scientologist, and Lois’ own parents still being members themselves, they agreed to submit to security checks, or sec-checks, which are said to be auditing sessions focusing specifically on a person’s crimes against the Church itself. They claim that they spent $30,000 on sec-checks alone. But the couple says that they were eventually declared “suppressive persons” and their offspring were told they had to disconnect from them. Per their story, Craig agreed – and Brandon refused.
3. The organization viewed Brandon’s defacing of a church as a “hate crime”
When Brandon’s brother disconnected from him and his parents, the former didn’t take the news well; after suffering a breakdown, he threw a hammer through the window of a Scientology building. He was then hospitalized in the local psych ward, where doctors determined that he suffered from bipolar disorder. Despite his anger at the organzation, he was still convinced that psychiatric drugs are poison and refused to be medicated until a court order was issued. He eventually began to feel better; after 19 days, he was released from the hospital. When he walked out, the police were waiting for him.
The organization had filed charges against Brandon, accusing him of a hate crime because he had vandalized a church. According to his parents, the Church wanted to brand him a criminal because, Gary and Lois suggested, his mental break was evidence that their solution makes things worse. They also claimed that the Church created an attack website which detailed the hate-crime charges and so that he would immediately be discredited in the eyes of Scientologists.
4. This is apparently all Aftermath‘s fault
According to Scientology and the Aftermath, the Church offered to resolve the charges out of court if Brandon would blame the hammer incident on anti-Scientology rhetoric. His lawyer was sent a letter that requested his client admit that he had read anti-Scientology books – like Remini’s Troublemaker – which had incited him to vandalize the Church. He refused. There’s now a felony on his record which he says has “destroyed” his life.
“It’s not true,” Brandon tells Remini. He hasn’t read Remini’s book, he says, because he’s lived it. The show’s host says she’s enraged, claiming the Church had “prevented him from getting the real medical help that he needed” by giving him unsolicited medical advice. As for their accusation that she incites hate crimes? “This is taking it to a level that is so fucking vile to me as a person that I feel like I’m going to have to hire a fucking lawyer,” she says.
5. Learning about the secret behind Scientology before you’re ready will supposedly kill you
On another note, last night’s episode also featured three journalists who have spent a big portion of their careers reporting on the Church: John Sweeney, who directed a BBC documentary on the subject; Mark Bunker, who has been blogging about the Church for years; and Tony Ortega, formerly of the Village Voice.
Sweeney recalls interviewing Remini back when she was still a high-profile celebrity Scientologist, and he Church’s spokesman at the time, Tommy Davis, was allegedly present for the interview. He supposedly balked when Sweeney asked her about Xenu, an intergalactic being who traveled to Earth 75 million years ago and per the religion’s mythology, encased the souls of humanity. At the time, Remini pretended to have no knowledge of what Sweeney was talking about – because, the show claims, disclosing confidential Scientology theology would have gotten her fined to the tune of $100,000.
Plus, Remini says, Scientology teaches its members that learning about Xenu before reaching OT III – the level on the Bridge to Total Freedom – will literally kill you. Hubbard was a sci-fi writer before he was the founder of a religion; he alleged that this story holds the “secrets of a disaster which resulted in the decay of life as we know it in this sector of the galaxy.”
The Church of Scientology has requested that we include the statement below in this recap:
“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.”